Summer Hess is trying to inspire North Central High School students to write compelling and, hopefully, lucrative college essays.
The 29-year-old earned scholarships with her prose, so she volunteered to pass along her techniques.
“I remember back to when I was in high school; I remember how intimidating it was to write my college essays, but I guess I had a knack for it,” Hess said. With NC students, “I talk about how you can read in a textbook how to do it, but to have someone in front of you who’s excited about it, that’s different.”
Most colleges and universities require an essay as part of the entrance application. Usually a school wants students to write a personal essay in response to a prompt, such as, “Describe a significant experience in your life.”
Hess, who has a Master of Fine Arts degree in nonfiction from Eastern Washington University, and is at the college working toward her master’s in Spanish and poetry, said she’s using more of a literary approach to writing the personal essays.
“We are using plot, voice, diction and metaphor to tell their story about why they want to go to a particular college,” Hess said. “It’s been neat to see them go from groaning and moaning to putting their ideas and missions on paper. Yes, it’s high pressure, but it’s exciting.”
North Central teacher Jim Creasman said he feels fortunate Hess volunteered to help his students.
“I’ve looked at quite a few not-very-good essays. And we don’t have any class that gives them that insight,” he said. “She’s great with the students.”
Hess has been working with about 60 creative writing students during class time and will continue working with students after school until Nov. 30.
Senior Brianna Norman said Hess has helped. “It’s her passion for what she’s doing that’s rubbing off on me, I guess. It got me to be more open to ideas, better wrap my head around ideas.”
Taylor Brown, another senior, said of Hess, “With her success and her guidance, I think that will help a lot. I really didn’t have any direction.”
She added, “I think this is a great program, and I hope it expands because I think it will really help seniors.”
In fact, Hess is working with two volunteers to develop a website, projectperna.org. The name refers to an application’s “personal narrative.”
“The launch of Project Perna’s website would mean that students in other parts of Spokane and all over the country could benefit from the workshops,” Hess said. The goal of the website is to put “our lesson plans online, publish our students’ narratives and share the approach we take to writing college essays.”