The “Big Gets”
On April 8th, local journalist Ginny Ryan came in to speak to The Eagle Express Journalism team. She shared her story and taught us about the power of emotional storytelling in Journalism. She challenged us to look within ourselves and find a defining moment or story—a moment of realization, a turning point, a revelation, something that shows how we’ve have gotten to this point in life, our identity, our journey—and write. This issue of The Eagle Express is dedicated to telling and honoring these powerful and important narratives within us.
Notes and advice from Ms. Ryan’s presentation:
“Writing and telling our stories changes the way we store information in our minds and hearts. So where to start? In the newsroom, we refer to the "big gets,” which usually means the big interview or scoop. Everyone wants the “big get” news.
Here are the big gets for your own story:
Get Uncomfortable! That might be really hard… and that’s good! I had to get uncomfortable to discover my story. The story we tell ourselves often protects us from pain— but it can also imprison you.
Be willing to Get Ugly. Don't let scars scare you- they represent your survival. I've learned far more from my failures than wins.
Get Deeper! The stuff that makes us tick excites us or drives us isn’t always obvious. Often, it’s buried under a whole bunch of other stuff. Start peeling away those layers to get deep!
Get Quiet. Life is so noisy; mute your phone. We all have an inner voice. Many times the only way to hear our inner voice is to get quiet. What’s that inner voice really telling us? What don’t we want to hear?
Get Real! Don’t hide the truth. For me, that was the essential first step. I wasn’t being honest about my story. I wasn’t telling the right story. Once I did, it all started to make sense. This is who am, this is how I got here. Your story is your own personal legend. Don’t be afraid to be real. Share your feelings— don’t bury the emotion—because therein lies the connection to the reader or listener.
You feel it. They feel it. And they will remember. That is yours and yours alone and it cuts to the heart of authenticity.”
-Ginny Ryan, April 2021
By Jerome English
On Friday, March 13th, I was sitting in the locker room after baseball practice. My coach was talking to my team and me about the start of the COVID-19 situation and if it will affect the season from happening. When we all heard what he was saying, we all were in shock that we possibly might not have a baseball season. Later in the day, when I got home and just coming from practice, my coach texted the baseball team group chat telling us that we will not have a season and all schools will be closing down because of COVID-19 and the pandemic that was just starting. When I heard the news, I was devastated. I couldn’t believe that there would not be any school, or we would not have seasoned at all and canceled all spring sports at the time. I was so worried about school and baseball I didn’t realize how covid-19 would impact the world. During COVID-19, there were setbacks for a lot of people and businesses.
People began to lose their jobs, and companies began to shut down. People were getting sick. There were numerous amounts of death COVID-19 cost. During the time Covid-19 impacted my life a lot: I didn’t go outside at all, I was in my room pretty much so I started to gain weight and got out of shape. The most significant impact was school. When the schools shut down, it was bizarre because I never experienced something like that. It was hard trying to learn because we had to get used to a whole new learning system, and my grades started to drop when we started online school. I wasn’t used to having so much freedom, teachers would give out assignments, and I would play my video games instead of doing the work. The teachers even had a hard time teaching the students because they had to teach a class full of kids through a computer screen. The students are used to the teacher being in class getting one-on-one help, but now they have to deal with just being taught through a computer screen. COVID-19 impacted education a lot because many students were having a hard time learning, and most students like me didn’t do the work and did whatever they wanted.
Out of all the things that happened during COVID-19, it made me realize that we take life for granted. One day everyone was outside living everyday life and enjoying life, and the next day everyday living was gone from us. I learned that we need to take advantage of the opportunity the world has given us. This pandemic taught me to work hard every day and appreciate life because it could be taken from us one day. I’ve learned to become a better person and become more knowledgeable about the world. It’s a cold world, and unless you know how to deal with things the right way, you will never succeed. I feel like the pandemic was a minor setback for a major comeback, and I am learning to improve myself every day.
Reality and Resilience
By Yasir Mungani
It was 3:00 am on February 27th, 2014 when my mother frantically woke me up and told me to lock her, my father, and my siblings inside our one-bedroom apartment. She told me to hide as three police officers made their way up the stairs. I was not a target of ethnic discrimination since I was not of age. At that moment, I felt no fear, and I knew my role was to protect my family. However, that changed once I walked away with the key in hand. I asked myself, what will become of my family? Now, as I begin my college application process, I catch myself asking the same question. What will become of my family?
Kenya is home to many Somali refugees, who were either born and raised there or fled Somalia due to the civil war, tribal conflict, and political chaos. After several terrorist attacks by Al-Shabab (a Somali Jihadist militant group operating in East Africa) on Kenyan territory, four major police forces wreaked havoc upon the Somali suburb of Eastleigh, Nairobi. My family lived in fear as we became subject to hate crimes and abuse — physical, sexual, and institutional — by the police forces became a part of the life of every Somali in Kenya. As I look back, I realize that some part of my identity has always put me at risk, whether it was my ethnicity back in Kenya or my racial and religious identity in America.
Miraculously, our six-year process of coming to America with a family sponsorship saved us right before things got a lot worse. I do not know how many more times I could bear to watch my father empty his pockets for corrupt policemen. This was my father’s attempt to delay potential relocation, prevent the splitting of my family in camps, and protect my mother and sister from the pervasive rape culture among the policemen.
To my surprise, the challenges we endured did not stop once we arrived in the United States. My father’s being the sole provider for the family, his battle with unemployment tested our strength as a family. Though it was heartbreaking to see my father convince himself he failed to shield us from harm, for my father, I could not sit around and let him believe he failed, none of us could. I got my first job at the age of 14, then my siblings and mother followed. We took the baton as a family and showed resilience and we’ve been better for it ever since.
My lack of access to formal education as a kid forced me into a mindset that I will carry for the rest of my life. I learned to not take anything for granted, ever. As a result, I am my biggest supporter, motivator, and critic. My parents only need to provide the bare minimum, have high expectations, the rest is up to me. In just six years, I went from not knowing how to read or write to being a top student in my class and working as a pharmacy technician.
I always stutter when I am asked “where are you from?” Though my answer varies from time to time, the real answer is my motherland, Somalia, of which I know so little but love so much. I was born as a refugee in Kenya, only to later seek refuge from the only place I had ever known. Then I arrived in the United States and found myself treated as an outcast in the place that was supposed to be my new home. If it weren’t for my family, I’d not only be lost within myself but also lost in this vast world. So the real question is, without them, what would’ve become of me?
Far From Where I Was Born
By Leida Nunez
I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I grew up in place called Lloren Torrez where I went through a lot of mental and emotional abuse. The only thing that gave me hope is my mother, my world and my universe Sabrina Rodriguez. Growing up in Puerto Rico isn’t for the weak and it definitely made me the person I am today. I can remember everything that happened like it was yesterday! From my mom being physically abused and beaten to hearing gunshots every five minutes or every time my home got shot up here and in PR. I remember having to stop eating because my mom was screaming at me and my siblings to get on the floor. My mother had enough and decided to leave everything behind in Puerto Rico so that my siblings and I could have a better life.
When we got to Rochester, NY my aunt picked us up and we stayed at her house for 27 days till she kicked us out and told us to go live at a shelter but my mom found us a home the same day. My father wasn’t really in the picture so my mom’s oldest son took over the father role. I looked up to my brother! He joined a baseball travel team and the first time I saw him play I fell in love with the sport of baseball and joined the league too. Sports became more than just sports for me, they became my outlet and my peace because when I played sports nothing else mattered to me. I have always been passionate about sports. After falling in love with baseball I proceeded to try volleyball and basketball and I really started to enjoy them.
Puerto Rico wasn’t the only place where I went through some traumatic things. On July 17th, 2016 I lost my aunt. She was murdered in her home on her birthday and I completely lost myself again because she was always a big support system! Two days later my house got swatted because they were looking for my uncle and when they caught him he had a trial and now is serving 47 to life. That was also something that affected me because I love my uncle because he is the first person to ever believe in me and tell me that I’m going to be great and that he’ll be seeing me on tv from wherever he’s at.
When my uncle went to jail and my aunt passed, I decided that I want to get into criminal justice when I go to college because I’ve seen people get killed and when the justice system fails to do their job, a family suffers. I've always said that I’ll get a scholarship for one of the sports I play so that I can go to college and prove to my family that there's more than just the streets and that I’m living proof that just because you grow up seeing guns doesn’t mean you have to pick them up.
Being a lawyer is a great fit because I have the attitude to get my point across and eventually persuade the person to think how I'm thinking. Based on my career research the career that interest me is being a lawyer because I feel like I wouldn’t get tired of arguing and meeting new people and understanding what they have been through because there's so much more than just arguing with someone. You have to understand what made the person what they are and why they are that way. I'm not doing just for me but for my mom and my little sister because they are everything I have. That no matter what they see, who they are or where they were born they can do anything because if you work hard you can accomplish everything.
By Anielys Garcia
Before I begin, I should tell you everything that has led up to this very moment. I am a lower-middle class 17 year old Latina who lives in an unsafe neighborhood with my single mother and a younger sister. I attend a public high school in the Rochester City School District, one of the poorest districts in NYS with extremely low graduation rates. I believe that your home, the people you associate yourself with and school play some of the biggest roles in how your character is built.
I was lucky enough to have been raised in a household where education is the #1 priority. My mom didn’t attend college which would make me a first generation college student. My education was just as important for her as it was for me. I’d always come home with good grades and all types of awards. As a kid it was amusing being rewarded for doing well in school but as I moved into high school it became more of a burden. Learning was a chore rather than something I enjoyed. My mom worked too much to notice all the accomplishments I made and I began to lose interest in the things I learned. I eventually surrounded myself with people who had no intentions of even passing their grade. I stopped paying attention, started skipping class and finished all of my work last minute because all I cared about was exceeding my mother’s expectations by bringing home the good grades.
Fast forward a few years. It’s 2020 and I still feel the same way about school except with even less motivation to succeed. It’s hard to enjoy and comprehend school through a computer screen, especially with no human interaction. I had no interest in school, and all I knew was that I needed to do well in order to get into a good college.
Now remember in the beginning of this writing piece when I said that the people that you associate with play a big role in how your character’s built? I only realized this when I lost someone very close to me. Her name is Jaquayla Young and she was murdered on September 19th, 2020. It’s sad to say that something this tragic was the one thing that changed my whole perspective on life but let me explain. She was one of the few friends I had who helped me get through high school. She was always on top of me about my work and getting to class. Being that I was a sophomore and she a senior, I looked up to her. See, although I did the work I was never really dedicated to it, never wanted it enough. I only did it to satisfy my mom but never really sat down to understand why this was so important. I think about Jaquayla every day and with that comes this sense of relief to know that she did everything in her power to be successful and be great. That’s something I aspire to be.
Everything I’ve done, everyone I’ve been around, everything I’ve seen. It all has led up to this very moment, sitting at my computer excited to be writing this because within the next few months I’ll be an aspiring college student, ready to take on one obstacle at a time while helping others do so as well. Everyone needs someone like Jaquayla in their life; I’d like to be that person for someone.
Motivation, Belief, and Hope
By Dyanna Garcia
The accomplishments, events, and realizations I experienced has molded me into the person I am. My first time being recognized for my intelligence was in 7th grade, my first year attending Henry Hudson (#28). I was told by my math teachers that they recorded my test scores and by the next year I will be moved to Advanced and Regents classes. I was so excited to come home and share the news with my family and they were even more excited for me. When the new school year came around and it was the start of 8th grade I received my schedule. Sure enough, I was taking classes such as Algebra 1 and Living Environment Regents. Even though they were tough to learn and understand I put in the hard work and dedication to make it to the end of the year with an overall 4.0 GPA, all Regents exams passed, and received a “student of the year” award from my history teacher. These accomplishments at a young age made me want to strive for even more without even being asked. I knew I wanted to be successful and that I had to be prepared for the hard work to come.
After graduating from middle school, I attended Northeast High school for my 9th and 10th grade years. In these years, I maintained an overall 4.0 GPA, I received high honor roll every marking period, did volunteer services for the homeless, passed all my Regents exams, and joined the school's Math League. I then transferred to East High school for my 11th and 12th grade years because I found an interest in and passion for the medical field. East High School offered many programs and opportunities in which I wanted to participate. I kept up my good grades and test scores along with joining the varsity softball team, attending Math League. I also received two recognition awards from Ibero, for Excellence in Academics in both 11th and 12th grade. When COVID-19 happened three quarters into 2020, we were all sent home. Even though I wasn’t able to focus as well, communicate as easily, or be as motivated as I was, I still passed my junior year with high honor roll.
Now that my senior year is here and we are still virtual I’m proud to say that my accomplishments and hard work have begun to pay off. I am on a great path and I’ve found happiness inside myself for what I have achieved. I’ve found motivation, belief, and hope within myself. This has taught me that I can be whoever I want to be with hard work and determination.
By Deziree Garrick
Our cities across the country were organized in a meticulous way that not only promoted, but ensured the survival of segregation. In the 21st century, it seems that there is little that can be done about the socio-economic gap between residents of urban and suburban communities. However, fixing urban educational school systems would alleviate much of the gap between the two worlds.
I live in Rochester, New York. I am a student at East High school, a school that is within the Rochester City School District. The borders between my school district and the surrounding suburban districts are the most segregated school district borders in the country. The median household income of a resident in Rochester is $30,000, while in Pittsford, NY, just across the city border, the median household income is $106,000 - a $75,000 difference. My own experience with these inequities is why fixing urban educational systems is a necessary goal for me.
It is important to note that I am a part of a small fraction of students in the RCSD, who take the opportunities given to them, and use them to advance our education. Through these various avenues of advancement, inequity between urban and suburban schools became apparent. Over the course of my high school career, I participated in Math League. An example of an inequity I observed year after year, was when we competed, to the best of our ability yet realized our skills were far less than our suburban peers. Our lack of prowess made me wonder why we were so far behind these students, who were the same age as us. When I would ask my teachers why this educational gap existed, the recurring answer was “the curriculum” and preparation for Regents exams instead of deep meaningful understanding.
Fixing the inequitable urban educational systems is such an important initiative because it has a direct impact on the socioeconomic status of residents in urban areas. If students are not receiving the resources they need in order to be successful from their current educational system, that system must be changed. There are many students who are disproportionately affected by opportunity gaps. These gaps take a mental toll on the minds of urban youth who begin to subconsciously believe that they are less than their suburban counterparts. In reality, they are just as capable, but have not been afforded the same abundance of resources to encourage and ensure the success that their suburban peers have.
I will be a leader in addressing these inequities by completing degrees in African American Studies, Psychology, and Educational Leadership. I will be culturally responsive in rewriting the educational curriculum for urban districts and implement content that have real-life connections for every student. I would ensure that the curriculum being taught, accurately reflects the culture of the students who are being taught. When students know their own history and know about the achievements and struggles based on their ancestry, students are encouraged and want to learn more.
I have constantly compared myself to my suburban peers and wondered why my education was not as enriched as theirs. My first-hand experience with inequity is my motivation to fix the urban educational systems within our communities. I am invested in the revitalization of urban educational programs because I want to see my country be more equitable and inclusive. When we have equity and inclusion, our country will be at its best. We will be a less divided nation, ultimately more prosperous, and a new precedent will be set for generations to come by achieving equity and celebrating diversity.
Scenes from the Movie of Life
By Davyon Johnson
Looking into the past of a story seems like such a privilege to me. The childhood years of my
existence seem like looking into a fictional story. Which I think is wonderful because whether your story is good or bad, you have a tale that you’ve gone through that does not exist anymore.
My childhood, although in most eyes wouldn’t seem to be unique or exquisite, was like heaven on earth for me. As a kid, and as a human, that just got into the world everything felt boundless, even still this existence feels so surreal, and I don’t understand how, or why this is happening.
It’s hard for me to focus on one specific story or event in my life because there are so many being created every millisecond, the countless events of happiness, sadness, anger, pain, this life feels like one big expression of some sort. Like something that is just happening, like the itch on my arm or the curiosity that sparks in my brain for a second. One thing that I cannot fathom as one single human being is that my story is 1 of 7 billion other humans, which reside on 1 of 100 billion other planets. To think in the long term the human story is a story in itself which makes me a part of that story.
This entire experience that I’m having is my story, although there are small events that happen throughout this story, the story isn’t finished. Feels like watching a movie before my eyes, events throughout movies are hard hitting for sure but the movie doesn’t stop until it’s finished telling the whole story, which makes the small events and scenes feel pointless. There’s even sometimes where I’ll watch a scene in a movie and say, “They could’ve left that out, haha,” because after seeing the full story you see that everything is so much bigger than that one event. All the events together make this huge package of a story.
Just like my story, I'm just a scene in a movie. Humans are just a scene in the movie, this planet is just a scene in the movie, and I love the good and bad in these movies because without them there wouldn’t be a movie. Not a movie worthwhile anyway. I’ve never seen a good movie where it’s sad the entire time or happy the entire time. Changes in the story are what make it worth experiencing and watching.
Driven to Help
By Boni Hassan
My mom said to always help people any way you can either by giving them money or food. Around October 2020 when I was going home from work I was at the transit center. I had food and money on me and I gave this man the food and some money so he wouldn’t starve. I gave him everything I had just to help him. It felt good because I knew he wasn’t going another night starving and he can buy more food with the money I gave him.
I want to do more by studying in the medical field. I took all 4 classes of biomedical in high school to get ready for college, studying the medical field, getting my understanding of it right now and more understanding of it in college. I want to help save lives and I’m going to enjoy it because I know that I’m saving people's lives, people’s loved ones and they are going to be happy, grateful and I’m going to be happy knowing that I saved their lives. I know I won’t be able to save everyone's lives but I will do the best that I can to help them, save them.
I was drawn to the medical field because even though it can be stressful and hard for everyone, they still help people and the patients are happy and they all respect everyone there. They are like a family, everyone is nice to each other and help each other out and I want to be a part of it and that kind of community. I wouldn’t mind where I end up in the medical field. I just want to help people, make a difference in their lives by saving their lives.
I am interested in learning more about Pathology. I learned about Pathology from my biomedical teacher and the visitors from the U of R. There were two visitors that are pathologists: they are analyzing blood samples and tissue to help the doctors find out what the patient has and help treat the patient. Pathology interests me because even though they don’t get to meet the patients, they are in the lab all day and although people don’t really know about them, the pathologist still knows that they are helping the patients along with the doctors. I’ll be happy with that because even though I’m analyzing tissue or blood I still know that I’m helping save lives by giving what I know from the tissue or from the blood to the nurse and doctors so they can help with the patient. I'll love my job every moment of it because I'm helping people.