As thousands of new students prepared to close the first chapter of their Brookdale journey this month, eight Brookdalians were busy writing one final scene.
First-year students Abner Betancourt, Kimberly Fawcett, Sarah Higgins, Olha Kika, Yaef Martinez, Phillip Roland, Ryan Sydor and Mike Walsh were invited to perform in front of a capacity crowd of friends, family, faculty and colleagues on Dec. 7 during the college’s first ever Write Night program, held in the Performing Arts Center’s (PAC) Black Box Theater in Lincroft.
The event, spearheaded by English professor Donna Flinn, featured oral readings of outstanding personal essays written by first-year Brookdale students during the Fall 2017 semester.
“These are first-semester students majoring in a variety of subjects, from criminal justice to business administration, who simply have wonderful stories to tell,” said Flinn. “They work so hard throughout the year, writing and revising and rewriting these stories, and what we heard tonight in the end result of all that work. These students inspire me and they inspire my colleagues every day, and they deserved some time in the spotlight.”
The program offered a wide range of gripping, comical, harrowing and heartwarming tales, from Roland’s first attempt at skydiving and Walsh’s encounter with an inspirational police officer to Higgins’ work in the world of sports medicine and Kika’s near-death experience in the mountains of Siberia.
“My first thought was, ‘I want to leave. I don’t want to die here,'” said Kika, describing how she and a group of classmates were nearly swept away by a mountainside flood during a group hiking trip. “It was a good lesson. Sometimes unpredictable things happen to us. I should have been better prepared for the harsh conditions of Siberia. The mountains do not forgive a frivolous attitude. In addition, I appreciate my life even more.”
Bettancourt wrote passionately about a former high school teacher, who had inspired him to overcome his struggles with mathematics and continue on to the college level. Reading his essay, Bettancourt relayed some words of advice from his former mentor.
“Failure is an event, not a person,” he said. “And yesterday ended last night.”
Martinez and Fawcett both read from essays about their mothers, each of whom had overcome unique challenges to emigrate to the United States. In her essay “Together Once Gain,” Martinez wrote about her emotional reunion with her mother in the United States after long years of separation. In “2,904 Miles Later,” Fawcett traced her mother’s steps from Ecuador to the Bronx, where she worked two jobs and put herself through college in an effort to build a better life for her family.
“Her favorite line ever was, ‘It’s not going to do itself. But start it,'” said Fawcett. “She’s the most hard-working, selfless person I have ever met. She was at the bottom and strived for the top; nothing could stop her from getting there. Her determination and hard work is so inspiring. I am beyond lucky she traveled those 2,904 and miles.”
Sydor, a business administration major, later read from his essay “An A-Minus Sounds Pretty Good to Me,” which detailed his experience competing for a championship as a member of the Middletown North High School football team. While the team suffered a heartbreaking loss, Sydor said he learned valuable lessons about acceptance, dedication and the nature of success. Following the event, Sydor said those were many of the same reasons he chose to participate in Write Night.
“I wasn’t going to do this, actually, but I thought about it and realized that I would only get this chance once, so I figured I would take advantage,” said Sydor. “It turned out pretty good.”
The event was attended by a wide range of faculty and Write Night supporters, including Humanities Institute dean Carl Calendar; English professors Richard ‘Tim’ Burke, Bettejane Bolan Kenney, Deborah DeBlasio, Marcia Krefetz-Levine, Margaret Natter, Nancy Noe, Donna Pope and John “Jack” Ryan; PAC supervisor Sherri Vanderspiegel; and associate speech professor Howard Miller, who coached each of the students on their presentations prior to the program.
Brookdale photography student Tom Smith also worked with art department staff to create free portraits for each student to take home.
Learn more about Brookdale’s English and creative writing courses here.
Check out more photos from Write Night 2017 here.