BY DEB AND TIM SMITH
As we waited in the Mendon Library on a chilly spring afternoon, we were a little bit nervous about meeting Emma for the first time. The whole scenario was covered with a coating of Covid. We all have our stories of how life has been altered in this era of the pandemic and here is one of ours. We had been working with Emma Rizzella-Roberts since the beginning of the school year, but every bit of our contact had been through electronic communications. What had brought Emma and us together? Here’s the scoop.
Back in September of 2020 we knew that our third book What’s in a Name? would be publishing in the spring of 2021 and one of the steps in the process is creating a cover. We had come up with the covers of our first two books and we thought we’d try something different.
We contacted the art department at HF-L and asked if they might have a student who would be interested in designing a cover for us. We envisioned the process as a mutually symbiotic endeavor whereby the student could add to her resume the fact that she had done the cover for an internationally published book and we would be blessed with a cover for our third book.
Things actually worked out just as we had hoped. When Emma sent us her resume to help us work on this article, the fact that she had designed our cover was literally the very first achievement she lists. And the cover she came up with… oh my God, we were thrilled beyond our wildest dreams! While it looks good in black and white, the actual color version will really blow you away.
Through the course of the year, various correspondences went back and forth between us and Emma, as well as her teachers and school counselor. These messages collectively conveyed the conclusion that Emma was one uniquely talented and creative young woman and we decided that when the book came out we wanted to share her story with the community.
To that end, Emma sent us her resume which happened to include her senior essay. She actually didn’t even realize the letter was attached to the resume which was fortuitous for us. Her essay absolutely blew us away and we immediately said to each other, “This should be the heart of our Emma article.” So with Emma’s blessing, we will close our article with her essay.
Emma definitely enjoyed a rich high school experience. Her volunteer efforts included middle school tutoring, manning the Chow Hut, and fundraising for the Wilmot Cancer Institute. Her extracurricular activities included Interact Club, the Gay-Straight Alliance and Green Team.
Her academic achievements included Spanish Honor Society, National Honor Society and she also maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout every one of her high school art classes. Oh, and lest you fear she’s not quite well rounded enough, how about we throw in the facts that she participated on the varsity swim team and spent 250 high school hours playing the violin!
In preparing to write this, we contacted Emma’s school counselor Patrice Tate for some additional input. We told her, “We’ve seen the artwork, we’ve reviewed the resume, and we’ve read the senior essay. What can you tell us about Emma that would not show up in a resume?”
Patrice’s response came in the form of a bulleted list of descriptors. It’s truly an amazing list for an amazing kid. Initially we thought about how we would take all of this input and turn it into a few paragraphs, but then we came to the conclusion that it might be more impactful left in Patrice’s bullet-list format. So, buckle up, brace yourself, and prepare to be wowed by the Emma Rizzella-Roberts review. She is…
- positive and focused
- determined and resilient
- she can set a goal and not only achieve it – but surpass it!
- well-rounded and creative
- sweet and honest
- self-proclaimed introvert
- strong moral character with a supportive family
- independent and a good self-advocate
- great energy and always kind
Please allow us to extend our gracious thanks to Patrice Tate for her contribution to this piece. And now, without further adieu, we will close with the senior essay of Emma Rizzella-Roberts:
A buzz pierced out from the speakers through the crowded halls of the school. Students emerged excitedly from the classrooms, and bounced toward the cafeteria. As was my wont, I toddled behind them. Upon finding a lone lunch table, I plopped myself down in a seat and began to shuffle through my bag, trying my best to appear oblivious to my isolation. My fingers gently brushed against the spiral rings of a worn old sketch book hiding between the folders. I hauled it out of my bag and cracked it open. The cream-colored papers welcomed me with open arms and a warm smile crept over my face. I grasped my beloved pencil and flipped to a blank sheet. I began to draw.
Too often have I felt like a third wheel with my peers; my language is clumsy and my compulsion to dither on topics magnifies my lack of skill. So, rather than bear the awkwardness of interacting with my peers, I turned to creating in my sketchbooks. There, I felt at ease making conversation between pencil and paper, where I poured my ideas and feelings into my own world, filled with my own characters. Splotches of ink and color on the toothy, cream paper were representations of my state of mind. Through harsh inky lines, I revealed my anger and frustration. Fluid, watery brushstrokes told of my quiet peace. And through light, fluffy whimsical graphite marks, I expressed lighthearted joy.
This tattered, old sketchbook of mine is one of many I filled with art work. These books are my good friends. They were there when I needed them. They provided me with solace as I faced lonely days of negotiating the awkwardness of middle school. This invention helped me conjure the courage to emerge from my wall-flower existence in middle school to start my journey of where and how I fit in the actual world. As I honed my drawing skills, my peers took notice of my work, some of them sharing a love of imagination. We began conversations and from those interactions, they got to know the oddball that is me. Soon, I connected with more and more people who loved to do the same things I do. And, like each sketchbook in my room, each one of them has a different personality. By the time I reached my junior year in high school, I no longer sat alone at the lunch table. Instead, I was laughing and chatting with my friends in the art room. On occasion, when I see someone sitting alone at a table, I remember the feelings of loneliness and how I found comfort in my art. Pulling a chair next to them, I plopped down besides my classmate. I began to talk.