In our roles as photojournalists and reporters, we’re often asked to speak to groups or have students shadow us. Seldom, however, do we get to know the impact of our words or interactions. This time, though, I had the opportunity to have my work reflected back to me, and I have to tell you: Those kids out there — it’s breathtaking how perceptive they are.
Logan Zimmerman, 15, is a ninth-grader at Foothills School of Arts and Sciences. For several weeks, all six of the school’s ninth-graders sought out a mentor to help them produce a project aligned with an interest or skill or career option. (One student wrote and self-published a novel, for instance, and a several students wrote and performed songs; one wrote and performed a one-person play.)
Because Logan’s interests are so varied, she chose five mentors. I was one of them. We talked about how I fell into my profession, what my work has come to be and why I love what I do.
“What I learned was that all of these (mentors) started with an idea, a want,” she said at her presentation. “Some of those wants already existed, some didn’t. But they pursued those wants.”
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She was worried that she’d be pigeonholed into a job that wouldn’t let her express her creativity, but she found overlap in the jobs of her mentors. And she discovered that there are a lot more opportunities out there than advertised.
“(My mentors) found a way to integrate their hobbies and passions into their careers and earn money from it,” she said. “But it’s not as easy as it may sound. … Making a path for yourself isn’t going to be easy.”
I loved listening to Logan talk about her wide-ranging interests, her curiosity about the world, her unique perceptions. There were uncertainties and insecurities, to be sure — as there will always be. But there was also incredible wisdom, and as I listened to her speak, I realized I was learning from her, even as I was supposed to be passing on some kind of wisdom to her.
Perhaps mine is that of years of experience, and hers is of a world of possibility. But in the end, we all meet on common ground.
Logan’s project was making a painting that expressed a feeling about each mentor and what they do. She displayed them and talked about each. This is what my painting expresses: “Everyone has a story to tell.”
Indeed. She knows. She really knows.
She knows parts of my story; she knows the secret of everyone’s story. And I know a part of hers. Because she has a story to tell, too, even at 15.
“(My story) is not very interesting yet, like some people my age,” she says. “Mine will get more interesting. I’m really hoping it will.”