by Carlos Antonio Piñón
April 19, 2013
If I learned anything at all over the past four years, it is the importance of individual expression through art, especially literature. Literature in particular expresses an extensive range of radical ideas and raw emotions that engulf the minds of teenagers and adults alike. It is in literature where I find my true north as if nothing else matters. However, I was not always such an avid advocate for the written word. In fact, there was a time in my life in which I lived among a herd of restless sheep, with no shepherd to guide my way.
Luckily, my aimless existence did not last long. In 2011, I was placed in Ms. Coleman's sophomore American Literature class. During one class period, Ms. Coleman was explaining how African American youth used to have to endure the harsh conditions while growing up in America. She then asked the class a question that never left my mind: what are you fighting for? If these young people risked their lives for equality, then what is your purpose? This lingered on my mind for endless nights. While I struggled to find my identity, there was one individual who helped me do so—and much, much more.
I remember the first time I saw Mr. Fine. It was the day Ms. Coleman yelled passionately at the class for failing to annotate a book about Fredrick Douglass. In the midst of the situation, I was unaware of what was in store for me. Shortly after, Ms. Coleman introduced our student teacher for the rest of the year, Mr. Fine. With everything that was going on in my life, I can honestly confess that he has become one of the greatest influences in my life.
The first piece of literature we read with Mr. Fine was Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, now one of my favorite authors. For every chapter, we would complete an assignment called a "Response to Reading," or "RTR." In every "RTR," we had to formulate an essential question. An essential question is a question that is not answerable with a simple 'yes' or 'no' response. Its aim is to provoke deeper thinking. Once we chose our essential question, we were supposed to also choose any quote, and then respond in whichever way we felt most appropriate. I wrote. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Everything that went on, everything that was eating me up on the inside, every single tiny little atom that floated around in my brain was on the tips of my fingers, and I wrote. I was able to express myself and I felt free. Mr. Fine even told me that I had a talent. It was this major discovery that went on to become integral in my life.
I have dealt with disappointment before, and now I have learned to harness that raw emotion for better use in writing. In my time as a student at Lane Tech, I have learned so much more than I could have ever expected from my English classes. Every year since American Literature, I have continued my newfound love for writing, and just recently, I reached my 100-piece milestone. I could not feel more proud of myself because it was a goal that meant something to me. Mr. Fine literally saved my life by giving it a direction. He has influenced me so much that I aspire to be a literature teacher, like Mr. Fine. I want to be as inspirational to someone else, as he was to me, because deep down we all need someone to believe in us.
I visited the School of the Art Institute of Chicago on Saturday to tour their ArtBash, displaying current freshmen artwork. While there, I kept in mind the lessons I have learned in the English classes here at Lane Tech. As I walked into SAIC, my dream university, I kept close with me all of the effort I exerted in order to prove that I belong at such a beautiful place. Even as I pre-registered for "Intro to Creative Writing," I held dear the importance of individual expression through art, especially literature. One day, I am going to change the world as a teacher one student at a time; and through it all, I will always remember the exceptional experiences I have obtained.