Jacky Mo: The Autobiography

Hello everyone. My name is Jack Morton and I am a junior at Hebron Academy. I enjoy the discussions we have in Ms. Waterman’s Honors American Literature class.  My favorite books in this class are The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and I love to make connections between the books that we’ve read. Honors American Literature is one of my favorite classes out of every class that I have taken in my entire life. Using the skills I learned in this class I was able to write a critical essay about Morality in modern times vs. Puritan times that earned an Honorable Mention in the 2017 Maine Scholastic Writing Awards.

I love to play hockey and also enjoy playing lacrosse and soccer. I like to watch the Montreal Canadiens and even wrote a narrative essay about the Habs. Honors American Literature was a challenging class, but I enjoyed it because it made me a better writer and I got to sit next to my some of my best friends: Dan Halloran (@daniel2ez34) and Quinn Woods (@qwoods333).

Just chilling with my dawg #fly #honorsstudents #NickandGatsby

credit to Quinn Woods as an additional contributor to this autobiography and Daniel Halloran for the photo + comment

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A Better Future

Humans have a tendency, a will unlike any other creature, to constantly strive towards improving our life and making a better future for ourselves and the next generations.  An example of this is the quintessential “American Dream,” an idea that is deeply explored in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby.  Gatsby is always chasing this “American Dream” and Nick’s final comment about Gatsby expresses Gatsby’s chase and the human nature that presents itself in Gatsby’s quest for a better future.

The first part of Nick’s final observation is a specific reference to Gatsby’s “American Dream.”  Early in the novel Nick sees Gatsby staring at a “green light” and reaching out for it.  Throughout the story we learn that the “green light” is the light on Daisy Buchanan’s dock.  We also learn that Gatsby’s dream is to finally be worthy of Daisy’s love and win her over.  When Nick says that “Gatsby believed in the green light” he means that Gatsby believes that we can achieve our dream future and that it is eating for us, we just have to work to get it.  Nick continues by qualifying the “green light” as the “orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.”  This is again showing that Gatsby believed that we can build and work in order to realize our wildest dreams.  However, Nick starts to both stray away from Gatsby specifically and point out how difficult and/or impossible it is to achieve that end game.  The fact that he describes the dream as “reced[ing] before us”  serves to demonstrate the fact that this better future may be an illusion or figment of our imagination.  It seems as if he is asking that if we are always chasing and it still gets further, is it ever attainable?

Even though Nick hints that the future we are seeking may never get closer, but actually get further away, he realizes that humans will never stop chasing it.  Our human nature is to ‘run faster’ and ‘stretch out are arms farther’ in pursuit of our desires.  Nick acknowledges that we will never be satisfied until we get what we want.  Mankind will work tirelessly and with ever increasing intensity in order to achieve our goals.  His final words liken our endless struggle towards a better future to a boat beating on against the current.  He ends by saying how the current bears us ‘back ceaselessly into our past.’  This is suggesting that the current, our dreams, will go against us and metaphorically transport us back in time to when we first came up with these dreams and to how we felt in those moments.  This is certainly true for Gatsby.  As he does everything he can to win Daisy from Tom, he becomes increasingly obsessed with redoing the past.  He wants so desperately for his better future to a re-run of how he felt when Daisy became the true object of his dream to move up in the world.

Nick’s final words in the story reveal the tireless nature in which Gatsby and mankind work to achieve dreams of a better version of life.  When we as humans discover or come up with an idea of a better version of ourselves, we will do everything in our power and give maximal effort until we no longer physically can, or we achieve it.  Despite this, the illusion of the better future that is in our heads is not always attainable and can lead to a negative result in which we lose sight of the present and are stuck in a past vision.

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Death Dies: Connection Between The Road (pp. 161-201) and “Death, be not proud”

Death is a topic that has intrigued and bewildered humans for thousands of years.  It’s mystery and the questions that it raises have given way to hundreds of answers and theories and speculation as to what happens after death.  In Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road, and the poem “Death, be not proud,” by John Donne, the topic of death is explored in similar ways.  Both pieces of literature talk about how in reality, death does not have as much power as it seems, and that it is much more ephemeral than it is commonly thought to be.

In the section of The Road from pages 161-201, the main characters come across an old man who somehow, despite his seemingly weak and frail nature, has been able to avoid death for much longer than would be expected.  He talks about death and how it is not as powerful as it might seem.  He says how after everyone is dead, death does not exist.  He says it will be there with nothing to do, and that its “days would be numbered too” (173).  This concept that death has no real power or purpose once people are dead is extremely similar to the message in the poem “Death, be not proud.”  The message in the poem is that death has no real power and that it is dependent on so many other factors.  Like the old man in McCarthy’s novel, the poem says how once someone is dead, death is pointless and will cease to exist, simply put: death will die.

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The Effect of the Weight They Carry

People can carry weights of impossible magnitude that far outweigh any physical thing in this world.  In Tim O’Brien’s novel The Things They Carried, the characters carry many things.  As soldiers they must carry the weight of numerous weapons and supplies needed to fight a war in the middle of the jungle.  However, this wight, while significantly heavy, is non-existent compared to the weights they carry emotionally and mentally.  The soldiers in The Things They Carried bear the weights of the friends that died, the guilt and blame that comes with the responsibility of protecting each other, and the wight of the mental changes that war inflicts.

One of the most devastating weights that the soldiers in O’Brien’s novel carry is bestowed upon them when they lose a comrade because of war.  The weight of loss that soldiers experience is more intense than that of normal loss because it happens right in front of them and in gruesome manner.  Also, the soldiers feel a sense of responsibility towards protecting each other, so when they are unable to do so they force themselves to carry the weights of blame and guilt because they feel that they let their comrades down.  For example, when Curt Lemon dies, Rat Kiley is severely weighed down because of the way in which Lemon died.  One minute he was there, the next minute he was pulverized and bits of him were hanging from the trees.  The sudden and horrific nature of Lemon’s death is what weighs most on Rat Kiley and the other soldiers.  Kiley is unable to carry this weight and act normally at the same time.  This is why he mutilates the baby buffalo later on.  The weight of Lemon’s terrible death is too much for him to be able to cope with it normally and it reduces his sensitivity and reactivity towards death and suffering, allowing him to carry out terrible acts like killing the baby buffalo.  In other instances, the weight brought on by a fellow soldier’s death is guilt and self-blame.  For instance, this is the weight that Jimmy Cross carries every time one of his platoon members dies.  He blames himself when Ted Lavender dies because he was thinking about his old girlfriend.  Even though there is very little he could have done to save Lavender, the responsibility for the lives of his men that he carries as their Lieutenant means that he also carries the blame for their deaths.

The heaviest weight the soldiers in The Things They Carried carry is the emotional weights that they acquire because of the war.  Whenever they lose a comrade, their emotional burden gets bigger.  They carry the blame and responsibility, in their minds, for their buddies’ deaths and deal with the added load in different ways.  This changes how they function and carries significant impact on the rest of their lives.  Norman Bowker carries an emptiness in his life after returning from the war and is unable to rid himself of the blame from Kiowa’s death.  This is a big reason why he ends up killing himself.  He could not carry that weight anymore.  This and the other examples of the soldiers’ inability to carry the weight that they gain shows how heavy the weights that they carry emotionally and mentally truly are.  What they physically carry is, by comparison, lighter than air.

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The Essentials of Academic Success at Hebron

Over the course of my academic career at Hebron Academy, I have learned a great deal.  A significant portion of what I learned was because of the tireless efforts of the exceptional teachers and illuminating classes that I was lucky enough to experience.  However, regardless of how excellent the lectures I heard were or how effective the teachers’ methods, to find the respectable amount of academic success that I have had here I had to learn how to be able to further my understanding on my own.  In the past three years here, I have discovered multiple little tricks and tips on how to do just that.  Here I will share the three most important things that I have come to incorporate in my school routine that have helped me achieve academic success.

The first is something that might come as a surprise to some, as it is the exact opposite of what your parents, teachers and other responsible adults will tell you.  In order to start your path to academic triumph you must stay up as late as possible.  This will be hard to do at first and  will not get any easier.  As you fight off the poisonous urge to lay your head against your pillow and escape to weightless oblivion, your mind will start to clear itself and you will be able to reach new levels of understanding and be able to work much more efficiently and effectively.  It will be difficult, but extremely beneficial in the long run.

The second most important thing you must do is skip breakfast whenever possible and occasionally skip lunch as well.  You will begin to experience enhanced hunger.  This will enable you to work much more quickly than ever before as your brain will receive the energy that would have been used to digest the food in your stomach.  By skipping these meals, your brain will also be fueled by the need for fuel and be able to process and retain information much faster.  To get the most out of this step, whenever you skip lunch, you should be doing work instead; on the other hand, you could also be doing the third key to academic success instead.

The third key is to play video games as often and for as long as you can, preferably on an Xbox One, but a PlayStation will work as well.  Playing video games will help relax your mind and body so that you can perform at your maximum potential in the classroom.  As you play the games, your subconscious will be going over the information you have learned and basically do your studying for you.

These three keys to academic success are very exclusive pieces of information that can help you become a great student.  In order for them to work however, they must be followed religiously, otherwise you are just wasting your time.

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Just Do It Already!

The letter that represents my greatest mistakes is the letter P.  P stands for Procrastination.  Many times throughout my life I have procrastinated a school project or chore and it has come back to bite me.  Even though I had done it in the past, I would just keep putting it off until the absolute last minute.  I never learned because I had always been able to finish it in time.  Here’s the story of when I finally couldn’t make up for it.

In the week and a half before my paper was due, I thought about it little to none.  I’ll start it tomorrow, I thought to myself.  Tomorrow grew into the next day and then the day after that.  As the due date drew nearer my lackadaisical attitude continued.  Finally, it was the night before.  After my practice and afternoon snack, I sat at my desk to begin my homework.  I should have finally started writing my paper then, but I did math instead.  A couple hours later I thought I was done with my homework, but wait, my paper!  Already 9:00 in the evening I began to say to myself that I really should just sit down and grind this paper out.  Then, I saw a twitter notification pop up on another tab.  I’ll just check twitter for a couple minutes then start my paper, I thought to myself.  The minutes went by slowly at first then flew by, before I knew it it was 10:30.

“Goodnight Jack,” my mother said as she opened my bedroom door and came in to my room.

“‘Night Mom,” I replied, standing up to hug her goodnight.

“Make sure you get some sleep,” she said before closing my door and walking down the hallway to her room.

I said to myself, “I’ll write it in bed.”  I went to the bathroom to wash my face, brush my teeth, and get ready for bed.  I crawled into my bed with my laptop to finally start my paper.  I put my headphones on to listen to some music to help me focus.  I couldn’t though.  I’ll watch one episode on Netflix I said, to get my mind off of it for a little while.  What was I thinking! My mind had been off of it for a long while, I needed to just start writing.  Anyways, after one episode, it was nearly midnight and my word doc was still blank save for my name and date in the top left corner.  I was starting to feel tired.  As I tried to turn coherent thoughts and ideas into words on my computer, my eyelids started to feel heavier.  I forced them open, mentally slapping myself awake.  It only lasted a couple minutes before they were drooping again.  Again, I tried to fight off the fatigue.  However, it was a fight I was destined to lose.  My body and mind, exhausted from intense athletic practices all week and a not-so-healthy sleep schedule, started to give out on me.  I was only halfway done with my paper.

I dreamt I heard a distant noise.  It was getting closer, louder, I jolted awake to the sound of my alarm blaring in my face.  I scrambled to turn it off, hitting the snooze button and then the off switch.  I rubbed my eyes and upon opening them saw my laptop next to me.  Crap! my essay!  I couldn’t possibly finish it.  I screamed at myself in my head, What the heck Jack, why didn’t you just do it already! 

Walking to English class, I felt a pit of anxiety in my stomach.  Entering the door, I saw everyone else with their crisp, white, freshly printed essay.  I sat down, opened my bag and prayed that some magic fairy had typed up and printed an essay and snuck it into my backpack while I wasn’t looking.  This, sadly, had not occurred.

“Where’s your essay Jack?” my teacher questioned.

“Uuugh, I didn’t exactly finish it?” I replied softly.  He had really asked me in front of everybody.  I had not expected that.  I was embarassed and I could feel my face flushing as my peers chuckled at my situation.  I felt ashamed and guilty.  I was supposed to be a good student.  I should have just written it.  Why didn’t I just do it when I had the chance?  Instead, I had let my teacher, myself, and all those who put their faith in me.  I couldn’t let this happen again.  I had to show willpower and discipline if I was going to achieve my goals.  Procrastinating would not get me very far in life.  I would, from now on, focus and do my work when I had the chance. Otherwise, well, I don’t want to think about otherwise.

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Intangible Things I Carry

Eyes glued to the television, nearly none of the plush sofa behind me is being used, absorbing every flash of movement, every light and image that dances across the screen.  Thud…Thud…Thud..Thud.ThudThud.  My heart begins to race as the game clock ticks down to zero.

Everybody carries many things, especially intangible things.  Intangible things are feelings, thoughts, responsibilities, emotions, interests, ideas, and such.  One such intangible thing that I carry is love and adoration for the sport of hockey and the Montréal Canadiens.  I don’t know how to explain it, or why I carry it.  Maybe it is because of the speed, intensity, and excitement that hockey itself carries.  Or, maybe it is because of the emotions that are triggered when I step on the ice and skate those first few warm-up laps.  It could be a response to how hockey engages the competitive spirit ingrained in my being.  The thought of working with my teammates and helping achieve a joint goal also weighs upon my shoulders, but it is a light burden, not a heavy one.  I relish the responsibility that is placed in me every time I jump over the boards for my shift.

The other half of hockey that I carry is my passion for the Montréal Canadiens, the most storied and celebrated franchise in the NHL.  The reason why I carry this passion is much easier to trace back than the reason for why I love hockey.  My mother is from Montréal and my earliest memory of my family in Montréal is watching Canadiens’ games on Saturday night.  Since then, my obsession with the Canadiens has only grown.  As I sit here writing this now, I realize that my passion for hockey could stem from these early memories.  Either way, the Canadiens have always been something that I can fall back upon and take a break from the mental stresses of school and everyday life.

Hockey and the Montréal Canadiens, although they seem like leisure activities, have significantly influenced my life and who I am today.  Hockey is the reason for my attendance at Hebron Academy.  My hometown school does not have a hockey team.  During my eighth grade year, I made the life-changing decision to go to Hebron for my high-school career, instead of just going to Oxford Hills.  I needed to be able to play hockey.  I yearned to continue to carry it, even though it would require a lot more work and big changes in my life.  Moreover, the Canadiens serve as an escape from my day’s stress and relax and calm me, even when they lose.

The red jerseys rush up the ice.  My body flies into the air, losing all inhibition.  I anticipate the last buzzer and the Montréal goal horn signifying a win. The game is almost over, but I will still carry it forever.

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The Power of Words in a Fight

Words can be as strong as steel.  They can be as soft as fur.  They transport you through decades and across continents.  The best authors manipulate words so that your heart begins to race and you hold your breadkth unwittingly.  You feel the characters’ pain and rage and misery.  You feel their jubilation and excitement and bliss.  The words on the page weave a web of circumstance that fills the room.  The tension and intensity, calm and tranquility become genuinely palpable.  In Stephen Crane’s novella Maggie: Girl of the Streets, the magic of the words spring to life and one of the greatest examples of this is the bar fight scene between Pete and Jimmie.  The description of the struggle between them generates an expanding excitement that radiates from the pages and permeates throughout the room.  Crane’s use of increasingly intense words and vivid figurative language, specifically simile and metaphor, is the cause of the mounting tension in the scene.

In order to build the excitement of the conflict in the scene, Crane makes use of progressively harsher words in both sound and meaning.  The chapter opens with a calm and orderly description of the bar.  Crane describes the bar from the street as, “call[ing] seductively to passengers to enter,” (Crane 50).  This is personification of the saloon and the use of the word “seductively” suggests a relaxed environment for customers.  In the description of the inside of the bar, Crane lists the, “pyramids of shimmering glasses that were never disturbed,” and “Lemons, oranges and paper napkins, arranged with mathematical precision,” (Crane 50).  These narrations set a scene of an orderly and calm environment.  These descriptions of a relaxing and ordered nature are set up for the chaos that will come with the impending brawl.  

Crane does not just burst into the raucous fight scene, alternatively, he builds the anticipation.  The first disruption to the placid portrayal of the bar is when Jimmie enters.  The doors are “swung open and crashed against the siding,” (Crane 50).  This occurrence, although slight, is the first change in mood and causes a disturbance in the bar that generates a feeling of anticipation.  Jimmie and his buddy further disturb the environment by “conversing loudly in tones of contempt.”  Their loud, obnoxious presence slowly builds a foreboding expectation.  Pete is aggravated by their actions and “put[s] down the bottle with a bang.”  This is another ripple in the formerly still waters of the bar.  Crane’s use of  words like “bang” and “crash” is onomatopoeia and helps escalate the intensity of the scene.

Figurative language also plays a part in developing the action and energy in the scene.  In the beginning, there is little use of simile and metaphor.  This lends itself to a more bland description and this contributes to the still environment of the bar at the onset of the scene.  After the tension has begun to mount and Jimmie and his companion are confronted by Pete, Crane uses a multitude of similes and metaphor in order to enhance the description of the actions, and subsequently the excitement and tension in the scene.  The first is when he says, “Jimmie suddenly leaned forward with his head on one side.  He snarled like a wild animal,” (Crane 52).  The comparison of Jimmie to a wild animal serves to amplify the qualities of the new environment.  They are no longer acting like civilized human beings, but are acting like “wild animals.”  This is further shown in metaphors such as, “ the glare of a panther came into Pete’s eyes,” or similes like, “they bristled like three roosters,” (Crane 53).  These comparisons to animalistic traits signify how they have completely changed their demeanor.  The bar no longer has a relaxing environment, but one of ferocious vigor and excitement.  This fis further intensified by Crane’s similes comparing the boys to tools of fighting and war.  He says, “their clenched fists moved like eager weapons,” (Crane 53).  He also compares them to frigates getting ready for battle.  This shows the difference in words and expressions from the beginning of the chapter to the midst of the melee.

Crane uses a change in word choice and increase in literary devices in order to show the mounting tension of the bar fight scene.  The words slowly build up and change in order to properly describe how the mood of the scene escalates.  He extracts the most out of each word in order to portray this change.  Crane combines this with specific similes and metaphors that enhance the escalation and tension.

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Pearl’s Impact on Hester

Pearl is a convoluted character, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book The Scarlet Letter, with a lot of controversy surrounding her true demeanor and purpose.  She is the daughter of Hester Prynne, a woman who has been convicted of adultery and must wear a scarlet letter on her chest for the rest of her life.  Through Hawthorne’s words we see that Pearl has multiple facets to her personality.  At times she is a wonderful, intelligent, child who redeems Hester and allows her to move on from the negative impacts that the scarlet letter has.  At other times, glimpses of a darker nature can be seen as she seemingly afflicts Hester’s emotions knowingly.  However Pearl is a child who, like any other child, loves her mother.  Pearl’s impact on Hester’s life is a positive one in the end because despite the fact that she acts mischievously and accentuates Hester’s letter at times, she also brings joy into Hester’s life and keeps her on a righteous path.

Pearl is an impish child sometimes, which can reflect badly on Hester as well as intensify the pain that Hester feels because of her sin and consequent donning of the scarlet letter.  For this reason, a reader could interpret Pearl as the embodiment of Hester’s sin and a destructive force in her life, even though she is just a small child.  In one instance in the text, Hawthorne demonstrates one of Pearl’s unfortunate tendencies to defy the expectations and wishes of adults, especially Hester.  In this case, Hester is trying to show Reverend Wilson, Governor Bellingham, and others that she is worthy of keeping and raising Pearl to be a good worshiper of God.  Reverend Wilson poses Pearl the question of who made her. Pearl responds,  “with many ungracious refusals to answer good Mr. Wilson’s question, the child finally announced that she had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses” (Hawthorne 100).   This response makes it seem as if Hester did not, or can not, raise her child to be a faithful worshiper.  If Hester is deemed unworthy of this task then Pearl, her only joy in this world, will be taken away from her.  

Additionally, the way in which Pearl “ungraciously refuses” to answer Reverend Wilson gives the impression that Pearl is not only not being raised as a good Puritan, but also as an ill-behaved child.  While some readers would argue that this is Pearl acting as a destructive force in her mother’s life, Pearl is actually just a defiant child who doesn’t wholly understand what she is doing.  Pearl also amplifies the effect of the scarlet letter on Hester Prynne.  For example, as they are walking through an old cemetery, Pearl stops to gather prickly burrs and,  “taking a handful of these, she arranged them along the lines of the scarlet letter that decorated the maternal bosom, to which the burrs, as their nature was, tenaciously adhered” (Hawthorne 120).   Here, it is as if Pearl is adding another layer of pain and torment to the suffering the scarlet letter has brought to her mother.  Each time her mother is reminded of her letter it is painful.  When Pearl attaches these burrs to her mother’s letter, it is directly reminding her of her sin and all the pain that has come about because of it.  This is Pearl’s dark side coming through because she is aware of the significance and effect that the letter has on her mother, yet she does it anyway.  The way the burrs “tenaciously adhere” is identical to the way that the letter has tenaciously adhered to Hester.  When Pearl attaches the burrs she is only reinforcing this adhesion.  Pearl isn’t trying to enhance her mother’s pain by doing this, she is just a playful child who doesn’t realize that what she is doing is causing her mother great pain.

In spite of her negative actions, Pearl is a source of joy and a moral compass for Hester.  Pearl is the only thing that matters in Hester’s life after the scarlet letter.  When Hester takes Pearl with her to Governor Bellingham’s to discuss Hester’s custody of Pearl she is adamant about keeping her child.  After Pearl puts Hester in a bad light with her unfavorable response to Reverend Wilson’s question, Hester is forced to argue with everything she’s got saying, “‘God gave me the child!’  cried she. ‘He gave her, in requital of all things else, which ye had taken from me. She is my happiness!’” (Hawthorne 101).  Hester is begging the governor and reverend to keep Pearl.  Pearl is the only thing that Hester cares about.  She argues that God gave her this child as compensation for the fact that everything else in her life had been taken away from her because of her adultery and the punishment that she was given.  With Pearl representing everything that Hester cares about, it is inevitable that she come to be her happiness and joy.  

Furthermore, because Pearl is the only thing that matters in Hester’s life, she is also the only thing keeping Hester from losing faith and turning to Satan.  After Hester, with the help of Dimmsdale, convinces Governor Bellingham and Reverend Wilson that she is fit to keep Pearl, she is confronted by Mistress Hibbins, a witch.  Ms. Hibbins invites Hester to join her in the forest at night to which Hester replies, “Had they taken her from me, I would willingly have gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black Man’s book” (Hawthorne 105), thus illustrating how Hester would be lost without Pearl.  If Pearl had been taken from Hester and given to another family to be raised, Hester would have given in and joined ranks with the Devil.  However, because of what Pearl means to Hester and the fact that she has been allowed to raise her, Hester is kept on a righteous path.  

Pearl has moments where she negatively affects Hester and moments when she is a positive influence in Hester’s life.  Her roguish personality leads to her reminding Hester of her sin and consequently causing Hester pain and torment.  However, she is still a child and although she realizes that her actions and the scarlet letter cause Hester pain, she is not fully capable of understanding why.  More notably, she is the source of Hester’s joy.  Because Pearl is Hester’s only occupation, she is the cause of Hester’s moods both good and bad.  Also, she keeps Hester focused on doing good for Pearl’s sake.  Pearl has a positive impact on Hester’s life, bringing her joy and keeping her from collapsing under the weight of her sin, even though at times her childish ways can hurt Hester.

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About Me!

Hey guys! My name is Christian and I am in 11th grade. I am a junior proctor, and live in Atwood. My favorite sport is soccer, and I really like the beach. I really enjoy analytics writing as opposed to creative writing, and like to write argumentative papers of the books we read in class. Before Maine, I lived in Mexico for five years, and before Mexico I was moving around the United States and the Caribbean.

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