Send Te'Zariah to NY Times Camp

Dear Friends & Family,

Many of you know or have met Te’Zariah, but for those of you that haven’t had the pleasure yet, I’d like to tell you a little bit about this wonderful young lady.

I met Te’Zariah in 2015 when about three weeks into the school year, I became her math teacher. It was a joy to see Te’Zariah’s smiling face everyday. She was an eager student and even though I quickly found out that she preferred reading and writing (especially writing) to math; she was one of my top students. 

As I got to know her, I discovered that Te’Zariah had a lot in common with my youngest daughter, Jillian. They were both in the eighth grade, they both loved to sing and they both could often be found engrossed in a book when they should have been doing other things (like math ). The girls’ birthdays were exactly one week apart and they were the same size – tiny.

Six weeks into the year, Jillian transferred to the school where I was teaching. I mentioned to Te’Zariah that my daughter was going to be in her choir class and it would be nice if she could help her get adjusted. The way that Jillian tells it, it was the first day of choir and this smiling girl walked up to her and said “Are you Jillian? We are supposed to be friends.” Ever since that day, that’s what they have been – best friends. 

When I met Te’Zariah, she lived with her grandmother, Ms. Roberts. Te’Zariah had been five years old when the courts determined that her parents were not capable of safely caring for her, so Ms. Roberts travelled a thousand miles to very literally rescue her young granddaughter and bring her back to Texas to live. Even though Ms. Roberts was single and disabled (from a recent battle with brain cancer), she was very resourceful and worked hard to provide a stable home full of love, family and an emphasis on education. 

Te’Zariah spoke often of the books that she and her Grandma read together, the road trip adventures and the expectations that they both had for her future. Te’Zariah loved to write; filling notebooks with her stories and she dreamed of attending a college in New York with a great creative writing program that she and her grandmother discovered on the Internet. 

Early in 2016, Te’Zariah confided in me that her grandmother was receiving hospice services. Ms. Roberts had been battling multiple myeloma for months, but this time, the cancer was not to be defeated. As the school year was winding down and my eighth grade students were beginning to think about passing the STAAR tests and moving up to high school, Te’Zariah’s world was about to be turned upside down (again). 

Te’Zariah began spending most weekends with our family and by the time that Ms. Roberts passed away on Easter weekend, Te’Zariah had become part of our family. She stayed with us for the last two months of school so that she could finish out her middle school experience in her school with her friends (and as little disruption to her routine, as possible.)

Te’Zariah lives with her aunt and four cousins now, but she will always be part of our family, too. She spends one or two weekend days with us every three weeks. Jillian and her “extra sister” love to go to the movies, shop, and hang out at the fabulous new downtown library. They dream about the future and compare college info that is overflowing both of their mailboxes.

Te’Zariah is never without her writing notebook - in my earliest memories of her in my classroom, she was always trying to finish her work early so that she could write in one of those notebooks.  She has multiple stories going all the time and she is taking both journalism and creative writing in high school (in addition to English). A few weeks ago, I ran across a summer creative writing academy  that I thought Te’Zariah might be interested in — at THE NEW YORK TIMES!

“The program is geared towards students eager to discover their passions, try something new and prepare for college. From site visits and excursions to lectures by expert practitioners, the Explorations program is curated to give students a newfound sense of direction for their future studies by shedding light on a diverse selection of subject material.”

I told Te’Zariah that it was a long shot for her to get in, but that I would help her find the funds if she was accepted. (There was financial aid available, but the deadline to apply had passed.) Te’Zariah wasted no time and submitted her application, including a writing sample and transcript, that same day, and then she waited…

…not exactly patiently. (I received many texts from her during this excruciating waiting time asking if I thought she would get in, if there were any projects that she could do for me to earn some money, and generally just getting more and more excited at the possibility of going to New York and working with “real writers”.)

Finally, we got the word - SHE WAS ACCEPTED! 

So this is a request for your help to send the sweetest, most deserving girl to New York City to attend an incredible writing camp for two weeks this summer. The academy is expensive, but I feel confident that we (all of us that know her and love her and anyone else that is touched by her story) can pull this off.

The program costs including Tuition,
Room, Board and Student Activities: $5,750

Additional materials fee for course: $195

Roundtrip flight from Texas to New York: $400-$600

Thank you so much for reading and for any help that you can provide - we will keep you updated on how it's going.

Bari E
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Bari Jamieson Etheredge 
Austin, TX
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