School

My Graduation :)

This past weekend I graduated from high school! The official ceremony was really nice and afterwards we had a party at my house. The entire day was perfect- I celebrated with lots of family, friends, and teachers.

Another exciting thing about the day is that I spoke at the graduation ceremony because I was the valedictorian! I was nervous while speaking in front of the 5000 people there, but people said I didn’t sound or look nervous. I hadn’t let anyone read my speech before the ceremony for several reasons. First of all, I wanted it to be a surprise, especially to my family. And I also didn’t want anyone suggesting that I change or edit parts. It’s not that I didn’t think that people wouldn’t have valid points or couldn’t improve the quality of the speech, but rather that I wanted it to simply communicate my thoughts and message. It was important to me to deliver a speech that was authentic, a speech that recognized both the faults and positive aspects of the education system. In the end, I wrote a speech I’m really proud of, and it got positive feedback from people at graduation.

Now that graduation is over, I’m sharing the speech here in case others want to read it :) I hope you had a wonderful start to your summer!

Valedictorian Speech by Amilia

Family, friends, administrators, and teachers, thank you for joining us today as we celebrate the end of one stage of life and the start of a new.

As I started thinking about what I wanted to say today and what it really meant to be the valedictorian, I read a speech given by a young woman for her valedictory address. This student, Erica Goldson*, spoke about the broken American education system and said that being valedictorian does not mean that you are “any more intelligent than [your] peers” but rather that you were simply the best at “working the system.” She asserted that the only thing students learn in school is how to memorize facts robotically and that students do not learn critical thinking skills or how to leave high school and face the outside world.

In many ways, I agree with her speech and feel that much of what she said applies to me. I am speaking here today partially because I worked very hard the past four years and made school a priority. But I am also at the top of my class because I chose classes just because they would boost my GPA, because I am good at rote memorization, and because I test well. I played the game and I succeeded. But I know that my GPA really doesn’t define me, or any of us, because class ranking does not reveal how hard a worker you are, how special you are, how smart you are, what your talents are, or what you believe in. I agree with Ms. Goldson that as students, we need to “use our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity,” and I hope that those of you who dream of becoming teachers will fight for these changes in our education system.

I know that many of you feel that you have had a similar experience to Ms. Goldson’s- that you haven’t truly learned anything the past four years and are now graduating feeling discouraged and disappointed. And to those of you who feel that way, I hope you go out into the world excited to learn and grow in a way that you weren’t able to in high school. But overall, my personal high school experience has been a positive one, and I have learned a tremendous amount because of the amazing, life-changing teachers I have been blessed to have the past four years.

Many of my teachers have invested a tremendous amount of time and energy in my classmates and me, and the life lessons they taught me will remain long after I forget how to interpret standard error, whether inverted images are real or virtual, or what the difference is between Frederick the First and Frederick William the First. A physics teacher’s excitement over rocket launches and a statistics teacher’s love of math has taught me to always be energetic and passionate about what you do. Through his stories about attending Pearl Jam concerts around the country, an English teacher taught me the importance of pushing yourself outside your comfort zone in order to find out who you are and who you can be. My conversations with another English teacher taught me the importance of always questioning what it is that you believe. A history teacher’s story Fridays showed me the impact you can have by encouraging others and by always living out your life according to your faith. These teachers, and the many other talented, inspiring ones I have been lucky to have, have made a lasting impression on my life and are one of the reasons I am confident to leave high school and face the next stage of my life.

I have heard many people say negative things about our generation- that we are lazy or entitled. And while that may be true for some, in my experience I have not found a situation where a select few define the many. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for others in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.** This class is filled with some of the most talented, most brilliant, and hardest-working people I have ever met- students who have spent countless hours perfecting paintings, memorizing monologues, practicing sports, studying, and helping others. I know students who have worked part-time jobs, multiple part-time jobs, or full-time jobs to save for college or provide for their families, students who have spent the past years, or are spending this next year, doing mission work and helping others. This class of 2012 is incredible- I am thankful that I have been lucky enough to be friends with some of you, and wish I could have gotten to know many of you better. I have high hopes for this class as we go out into the world.

In these next few years, and for the rest of your lives, I hope you find something you believe in and can have faith in- a faith you don’t hold because your family or friends do, but because you’ve questioned and searched and come out with even stronger convictions.

I hope you leave your comfort zone and meet people who are different from you- people who are of different ethnicities, faiths, and orientations. I hope that they challenge you and any prejudices you may have held.

I hope you never reach a point in your life when you think that your best years are behind you- the best years of your life are always ahead of you if you’re hopeful and refuse to fall into complacency.

In a society focused on outer image and materialism, I hope you rebel against the culture and cultivate inner beauty.

I hope you keep your family and friends close. I know that I have only gotten through life because of my supportive and encouraging family. My step-dad taught me that your past doesn’t define your future, and my mom has taught me the true meaning of strength and love. My family consists of people who may or may not be blood-related to me, but who have all had a hand in raising me and for that I will be forever grateful.

And finally, I hope that you live with passion and joy- as though the world really is going to end on December 21st. Because, as I have learned from my photography class this year, you only live once. I hope that you always live a life that you’re proud of. Thank you.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

*Read Erica Goldson’s speech here

**1 Timothy 4:12

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Airplane Girl and Oreo Truffles

Yesterday was the day I heard whether or not I was accepted early into Brown University.

I knew I would hear at 4pm and all day was counting down to the hour. I kept praying that God would give me peace over whatever the decision was.

As 4pm neared, I sat on the couch, waiting. I painted my nails to pass the time. I peed. I ate a granola bar. I sat there, feeling dizzy and slightly panicked.

My sister was sitting next to me. She was the only one who knew I was going to hear from Brown yesterday (she had 4:00 B written on her hand…in “code” so no one would know…cute :).

She turned to me and said “two minutes!”

I was flipping out and asked “What if it’s TERRIBLE news???”

She said “There’s no such thing as terrible news. Just good news, and not so good news.” <– she’s pretty smart that girl.

I tried to keep that in mind as I logged in to my Brown account. I had to click through many links before finally reading the letter.

“After a careful evaluation of your credentials, the Board of Admission has voted to postpone a final decision on your application.”

Sigh. I wish I could have said it was good news. But alas, not so good news it is.

I felt a lot of things after seeing that. Disappointment, frustration, rejection, sadness, anger, discouragement.

I was frustrated that I put so much time and energy into the application, an application that I thought was really strong, only to be rejected. I was disappointed that I didn’t get in, and that I now have to complete a lot of other applications to other colleges. I felt really discouraged, feeling that not getting in to Brown means I won’t get in anywhere. And I felt a little bit angry at God that I didn’t get in.

Me: Hey God, I was supposed to get in. Brown is perfect for me!

God: Umm I may not think so! You asked my opinion!

Me: I don’t like your opinion.

God: Well I don’t like your nailpolish.

Me: Well I don’t like the Old Testament!

God: Well your handwriting is messy!

Yeah…God and I have issues sometime. Or maybe it’s just me that has issues ;)

<Insert picture of yummy goody to diffuse the tension>  ;)

I’m feeling better about this now. Still upset, but ready to send in my other applications and be done with this whole process.

One thing that makes things a little easier is a story I heard when I was visiting Harvard this summer.

I visited Harvard with my grandparents, and we met up with a family friend who is the head of undergraduate physics. We were talking about how schools are so selective, and he told us about a girl he had met who had applied to the school. He said he was sure she’d get in because not only was she brilliant, but she had built her own airplane and flown it. But she wasn’t accepted to Harvard. And she was wait-listed at MIT. Uhh yeah, crazy! She eventually got in to MIT, and after her freshmen year was voted the Freshman of the Year. Things worked out for Airplane Girl, hopefully they’ll work out for me, too.

As I’m going through all this college stuff, I’m trying to stay positive, listen to God (we’re good now :), and remember Airplane Girl.

So, what do you do when you get disappointing news? You do something fun. Like make Oreo Truffles! I had these for the first time several years ago and thought they were absolutely incredible. I made them for my teachers for a little Christmas present and they all loved them! They couldn’t be easier to make..or more delicious to eat :)

Oreo Truffles

Ingredients:

1 Package Double Stuffed Oreos (I was tempted to use those crazy new triple stacker oreos, but resisted…next time ;)

8 oz. block cream cheese

1 package white or milk chocolate bark coating

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Almond flavoring (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, blend oreos until they make a coarse, coffee-like mixture.
  2. Mix oreos with softened block of cream cheese until if forms a smooth, cohesive mixture. Mix in a teaspoon or two of almond flavoring if you desire (NOT almond extract. You can use almond extract, but use much much less).
  3. Roll into small balls, placing them on wax paper or aluminum foil-lined cookie sheets.
  4. Refridgerate overnight, or put in the freezer for an hour.
  5. Melt the chocolate bark. I use milk chocolate bark, but find that it’s a little too sweet, so I mixed in some semi-sweet chocolate chips. It made the chocolate perfectly sweet, but does make the chocolate crack a little bit when hardened.
  6. Place the balls back on the cookie sheet to cool.
  7. Can be made several nights in advance. Store in the fridge.

Makes about 35-40 oreo truffles, depending on what size you make them.

Enjoy!

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College Craziness

I’ve been working really hard on college applications so I thought I would share a little bit about the college tours I went on this summer!

My grandparents and I stayed in Boston for a couple of days this summer and looked at colleges. We all had a really good time having this mini vacation together. The first school we saw was Boston College (photo above). The school is a Jesuit school and the focus on spirituality and wanting the students there to grow spiritually and intellectually really appealed to me. The campus was really nice and the architecture was beautiful.

I think this building is the art building…it’s nice looking anyways!

The second college we looked at was Tufts. Tufts has some pretty neat programs, had a nice campus, and is only 15 minutes away from downtown Boston (huge plus in my book!) I felt it lacked the same feel as Boston College, though. I’m not sure I’m going to apply there (I better figure out soon!)

Tuft’s mascot is an elephant. Umm win.

You can see the Boston skyline from campus which is really cool. I <3 Boston.

The final college we saw was Brown. I love Brown. It’s my first choice. They have no set curriculum, allowing students to choose exactly what classes they want to take. They also have a partnership with RISD so I could take photography classes there which would be really awesome!

This modern looking building is the brand new art building. Drool.

I really liked Brown’s campus. It definitely has the campus feel while still being a part of Providence, which is a pretty neat city! I’m applying early to Brown (meaning I’ll know in December if I’m in or not and if I’m in, I have to go there). Their application is loooong. Not only do I have to fill out the entire Common Ap (which has one essay), but they have a supplementary application with like 6 short answer questions and another essay. I’ve been really lucky with all the help I’ve received while working on my application. A teacher at my grandma’s school helped me with formatting my resume, my mom and grandma both helped me on the essays, and my teachers have written really nice letters of recommendation. Tonight I wrote my final essay! I’m going to have several people look at it and critique it but after that I’ll be ready to send in my application!

The last thing I have to do is decide on what portfolio pieces I am going to send in. Brown allows you to choose 10 pieces of artwork to send in for them to look at and I decided to send 10 of my photographs. I went to National Portfolio Day at Watkins College of Art in Nashville today. A ton of art schools were there and they reviewed your portfolios. I met with 4 different schools (I was there the entire time..from 12 to 4. And I was standing the whole time. My back hurt so bad!) and they gave me ok feedback. The School of Art Institute of Chicago didn’t give me any feedback at all which was annoying. I met with an art school from Oregon and that guy was at least somewhat helpful. The woman from Watkins was mildly insulting. And then lastly I met with a guy from Washington University in St. Louis. He was really nice and encouraging while still being constructive. I think I’ll probably apply there. So overall, I’m happy I went for the experience but was disappointed with the lack of constructive criticism. I would have loved to have been told specific things I could work on or change in my photographs…oh well! On Tuesday I’m meeting with the art teachers at Ensworth so they can help me. I think they’ll be able to give me much better feedback and help me out more. So hopefully by Wednesday I’ll know exactly what pictures I want to send, get them printed at school, and mail them off! I never though I’d be finished with this application!

The last couple of weeks at school were really stressful because the end of the quarter was nearing- I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get everything done. Somehow, I managed. This is our fall break right now (meaning we have Monday and Tuesday off…woohoo!). The next week is going to be really busy as well but hopefully things will start to slow down, at least a little bit.

I’ve been putting a lot of time into this blog. I probably don’t have the time to be doing that…I should be focusing on schoolwork and such…but this blog is one of the only things in my life now that isn’t stressful so it’s definitely a nice outlet to have. I’m really excited about the 12 weeks of Christmas Cookie Recipe thing I joined…I’ve been trying to decide what cookies to share this week! I’ve been too busy to make dinner lately but I have a lot of ideas that I want to try as soon as I get the chance.

So I’ll leave you with one final picture :)

While my grandparents and I were in Boston, we ate at the North End. We went to Mike’s Pastries and got canolies after dinner. Oh my goodness they were so good! You have to go to Mike’s if you’re in Boston- they have every kind of canoli you could imagine plus a ton of other pastries and gellato. Yummy yummy goodness! Maybe I’ll make canolies one of these days :)

Have a great week!

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Peanut Butter Pretzel Chocolate Chunk Cookies


I joined film club at school! I’m really excited about it because I love watching movies and want to be able to be exposed to a lot of different movies. We had our first meeting the other day and watched Memento. I’ve watched that movie three times now and I still get confused! It’s shot in flashbacks and the whole story is told backwards. They use a mixture of black and white and color shots and it’s just really intriguing.

I wanted to make cookies to bring to film club and decided on these delicious peanut butter pretzel chocolate chunk cookies! I may have mentioned before that I’m not really a fan of peanut butter cookies- most of them taste kinda dry to me and I don’t like how most of them are flat. But I found a recipe for puffy peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips on How Sweet it Is and knew I had to try them! I started gathering the ingredients and realized that I didn’t have any chocolate chips but I had a bunch of Dove chocolate I knew I wasn’t going to eat (I love Dove chocolate but I’d rather eat baked goods than plain chocolate), so I cut them up and used them in these cookies! Then I decided to mix in pretzels to add a salty crunch!

Honestly I think these are some of the best cookies I have ever made which is saying something! They finished baking around 11pm and I was just standing in the kitchen munching on the warm, delicious cookies.  The cookie itself was so soft and delicious and the Dove chocolate chunks made it just spectacular. I loved the salt from the pretzels and the crunch it added. I will absolutely make these again! I got great reviews from everyone who had them (I made a ton so I gave a lot away at school). I would totally recommend that you make these. And SOON!

Oh and I took these pictures with a 50mm Canon macro lens I borrowed from my photography class. Oh my goodness! I LOVE this lens! I would absolutely buy it if I had you know…like $300 to spare. But I’m definitely going to be borrowing this a lot this year!

Peanut Butter Pretzel Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Recipe from How Sweet It Is 

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoons baking soda

8 tablespoons of salted butter, melted and cooled

6 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, melted and cooled

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups chopped Dove chocolate pieces (or chocolate chunks if you don’t have Dove)

1 cup pretzel pieces (use the square waffle pretzels)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add butter and peanut butter to a microwave safe bowl, and heat in 30 second intervals until melted. Let cool completely.
  2. Unwrap the pieces of Dove chocolate and cut each square into 4 pieces. Break each pretzel into 3-4 pieces each and set both of these aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda. In a large bowl, cream together the cooled butter and peanut butter along with the sugars until well combined. Mix in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla until combined. Gradually add in the flour mixture and mix until dough forms. The dough is really dry so you may need to use your hands to get it completely formed. Stir in the chocolate chunks and pretzel pieces.
  4. Use a 1 tbs. ice cream scoop to form the dough into balls. Place them on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for 10-11 minutes (keep them soft!)
  5. Let them cool completely and enjoy! Or stuff hot, gooey cookies into your mouth and imagine you’re in heaven :)

Note: The original recipe says it makes 18 cookies. But I got about 24. It just depends on the size you make them.

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Alright…School.

I really truly had one of the greatest summers ever and I am so grateful for everything I got to do and experience. Even after I got home and wasn’t doing anything, I enjoyed just relaxing. I didn’t really want school to start because a lot of times it can be not so enjoyable and stressful. But school started again…as it does every year. And, you know what? It’s gone pretty well so far! For the first year in a long time, I don’t have a teacher that I sense is going to be bad- so far I like all of them!

It doesn’t really feel like school has started yet. This weekend feels like it’s just part of my summer vacation :) Thursday was my first day and it was a half day. After school, Celina and I went out and got pedicures! A pedicure was my birthday present for her (in June) but because summer was so busy, it hadn’t happened yet. We decided to do it for the start of school! It was a lot of fun and I love how my toenails turned out. Oh if anyone in the Spring Hill area needs/wants a place to get their nails done, I would totally recommend Luxy Salon in the Crossings. I’ve been there twice now and they’re always really nice and do a great job!

See my super awesome tan line on my feet? I know you’re jealous.

So that night, my family went to the fair! It was so much fun :) I had been planning on going to the fair just to take pictures and eat food. And that I did! I also caught part of a very interesting hypnotist show!

Mmm…funnel cake :) So tasty!

To see all my fair pictures go to http://www.amiliaphotography.com/?p=766 :)

Friday was our first full day of school…and it went well too :) Some things aren’t great yet…I don’t know where to sit in some of my classes and I don’t feel motivated to do any homework..but I’m hoping everything will start feeling more normal soon. Friday evening I returned to the fair with my friends and rode some rides! That was pretty awesome too :) Oh and I had a deep fried oreo which was super yummy!

Then on Saturday I baked banana bread and went and saw The Help at the movies. So yeah…still feels like I’m doing things in summer mode! Even as this year gets going and school becomes more hectic, I’m hoping to maintain a positive attitude. I would love it if I liked my senior year!

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