Student writes service-inspired short story

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January 31, 2011

11:32 PM

When Julia Powers ’13 submitted her short story to ‘The Collegiate Scholar’ she didn’t expect anything to happen. For a rising sophomore in college, being published was still a dream, not necessarily an attainable reality.

“They just e-mailed me in December and were like ‘It’s been chosen,’” Powers said. “I was surprised, mainly because I am generally not a short story writer.”

Powers’ short story, “The Well-Red Ray,” was published in the December 2010 issue of The Collegiate Scholar, the national literary magazine of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. The NSCS is a national collegiate honor society with more than 750,000 members and more than 270 chapters across the country.

The collegiate honor society provides students with numerous opportunities including scholarships and the chance to submit entries to its literary magazine. NSCS is the nation’s only interdisciplinary honor society that admits first- and second-year college students as a part of its organization.

“NSCS is happy to provide members with an opportunity to be published,” Steve Loflin, CEO and founder of NSCS said in a press release. “We hope that Powers’s work will inspire other members to share their creativity with the NSCS community.”

The literary magazine, published three times a year, is available online. Although Powers did not believe many would read her story, she said being published in a national magazine was a moment of pride for herself and her entire family.

“It’s entirely online,” Powers said. “It’s on my resume, but other than that I don’t think a lot of people will see it. I have been in high school literary magazines which won national awards, but never in anything national. My mother was overly excited and put it on her Facebook page.”

Although she said short stories are normally not her forte, Powers wrote “The Well-Red Ray” as an assignment for her Introduction to Creative Writing course last spring.

“I fell in love with writing in seventh grade when I did this summer program at Duke [University],” Powers said. “I had many individual conferences wtih the professor, and he was like ‘you are a writer.’”

The inspiration for her story came from a spring break service trip Powers participated in with her church to Camden, N.J., a city with an exceptionally high crime rate.

Urban Promise, the program about Powers worked with while in the city of Camden, provides summer and after-school programs for students in elementary and middle school students. These programs are designed to keep at-risk kids students engaged — and to give them hope for a better and brighter future.

“While on the trip, we had a panel of alumni [of the program] talk to us about how some of them have managed to go to college and help their parents financially,” Powers said. “When they talked to us about that it really pointed out that they were in this very rough city and that they were still normal, funny and confident.”

One particular member of the alumni panel caught Powers’s attention and inspired the main character in her short story.

“This one guy, he had this whole air of confidence,” Powers said. “He talked very eloquently during the panel. He was only a junior in high school, but he said he was planning to apply to Stanford [University].”

In the story, Ray, a student at Princeton, goes on a service trip to Camden for spring break, but what readers and his fellow students don’t realize until the final page of the story is that Ray is from Camden.

“You realize on the last page really that his father was murdered and that he has had an extremely hard life,” Powers said. “All of his classmates on the trip just didn’t know. My goal was to point out that any situation of poverty and crime is more than just a statistic. It’s people’s home; it’s their life, their past.”

Powers will be returning and leading the service trip to Camden this spring break. While her first trip to Camden was an eye opening experience, she said she is unsure of what the next trip will bring.

“I don’t know what to expect this year,” Powers said. “I was kind of in a daze last year. I would hope to engage more with the people on the trip this time around.”

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