People, Presence, and Perseverance: My Experience at the Vanderbilt Summer Academy

At the Opening Ceremonies of Vanderbilt Summer Academy, we were introduced to three words that would guide our experiences during the three-week intensive academic program: People, Presence, and Perseverance. Throughout the three weeks spent in my Novel Writing class, I met some of the most amazing people, became acclimated to dorm life, wrote and outlined my novel, and created and presented a novel pitch—experiences and memories I would not have had without the National English Honor Society‘s Junior Summer Study Stipend award.

1. People

The first and most prominent word that guided my Vanderbilt Summer Academy experience was people. The interests and lives of my classmates were incredibly diverse. Each day, we spent a significant amount of time outlining and writing our novels. Throughout the course of the program we also completed three rounds of peer edits. My professor paired us based on factors like writing style, narration, and character development. Through these peer edits, I learned more about my personal writing style and was able to further develop my narration and characters. We also spent a considerable amount of time in small groups discussing the writing process during our themed days, such as Character Day, Dialogue Day, Setting Day, and Plot Day. Each class was an opportunity to learn and thrive in an academic environment and our professor and teacher’s assistant worked exceptionally hard to encourage us to step outside of our comfort zone and learn more about ourselves and our writing style.

Vanderbilt Summer AcademyPart of our Professionalism Unit devoted class time to discussing the practical side of writing as a career and included experienced authors as guest speakers. As a part of this unit, we learned how to write a query letter and an elevator pitch, how to be recognized by an agent, and the step-by-step process of becoming a published author. On the last day of class, we presented our novel pitches, which gave us the opportunity to collect constructive feedback from classmates regarding our pitch style and novel outline.

Vanderbilt Summer Academy

Proctor group on a photo scavenger hunt

Outside of class, we were structured into “proctor groups,” small residential groups led by a college student that provided a sense of community and family similar to college dorm life. My proctor group, twelve of the most supportive and kind girls I have ever met, was certainly one of the highlights of my Vanderbilt Summer Academy experience. My proctor leader, Bianca, was always available for guidance, advice, and laughter during free time.

I will remain lifelong friends with the people I met during Vanderbilt Summer Academy. While we are spread across the country, we have shared experiences and created memories I will carry with me forever.

2. Presence

The second word to guide my experience was presence, a concept introduced to remind us to live in the moment and not through our phone screens. However, the term grew to inspire me to stay present and active in my writing. In our class we were introduced to our “Censors,” the name of our inner critics. Class time was spent trying to counteract our Censors in order to reach full creative reign of our writing styles. Every morning we spent 20 minutes writing our stream of consciousness, an exercise meant to deplete our brains of negativity while encouraging more intentional writing. I feel that presence was most applicable to my class time because it encouraged me to consciously recognize themes and tropes in my work, to appreciate valuable class contributions, and to understand the worth of each memory and experience.

3. Perseverance

Throughout my 19 days at Vanderbilt, I probably applied the term perseverance most often pertaining to my comfort zone. My professor encouraged me to break down barriers I had created within my writing style. As someone who loves writing in first person, it was a difficult but ultimately rewarding decision to explore different perspectives in my novel. After working on an exercise completed in second person, I decided to write the entirety of my prologue from that perspective. This decision ultimately developed a theme that hopefully is enticing and interesting to my readers.

Venderbilt Summer Academy

Proctor group before a camp dance

During these three weeks I developed as a writer, a friend, and a human being, and all I can say is thank you! Thank you to the friends I made. Thank you to Bianca and my proctor group. Thank you to my wonderful professor and teacher’s assistant. And thank you to the National English Honor Society for enabling me to pursue this life-changing opportunity. I will be starting an education major at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, in the fall and I owe a large portion of that to NEHS. The Junior Summer Study Stipend allowed me to further explore the campus and learn about the wonderful programs there.

2017 Junior Summer Study Stipend

The Junior Summer Study Stipend is presented to members of National English Honor Society (NEHS) who are high school juniors, rising to the senior class in the fall of 2017. This award is intended to support students who have been selected for or who will be attending a summer learning program that is related to English studies in a direct way. Up to two awards for $750 will be offered each year.

Submissions will be accepted through Monday, May 1, 11:59 p.m. Central Daylight Time (CDT).

Junior Study Stipend Submission Criteria and Details


Olivia Horne
2016 Junior Summer Study Stipend Recipient
Cyber Scholar Chapter
Florida Virtual School, Orlando, FL

Junior Summer Study Program Facilitates Immense Personal Growth

St. Paul Advanced Junior Summer Study ProgramI began my summer at the St. Paul’s Advanced Studies Program (ASP), Concord, NH, with one goal: to do something that challenged or scared me every day. I, like many of my peers, fall into routines. I tend to gravitate toward the same groups of people, sports, and clubs at my high school. This summer, I promised myself I would take advantage of every opportunity that came my way during this five-week-long junior summer study program, and to be bolder than I had ever been before.

No two days were alike at St. Paul’s. A typical day included breakfast at seven, a non-denominational chapel service at eight, and then classes from eight-thirty to one. Following class, we would attend lunch and then have some free time until recreation at three, and then we ended our night with study hours from seven to ten. Although that was the basic structure, the variety that took place within that structure is what made the experience truly unique. Chapel was thought-provoking and fun, with a different presenter and theme every day. The topics discussed ranged from self-improvement to broadening your world view to happiness, and every day I learned a valuable lesson. Class was broken into 3 blocks, each about an hour long. We alternated every other day between 3 blocks of our major course and 2 blocks of our major course with one block of Writing Workshop.

Junior Summer Junior Study CohortWriting Workshop was an interesting and beneficial experience. It gave me a great opportunity to receive feedback on my work from my peers, specifically on my college essay. We discussed writing tools and techniques that made essays successful, and had nightly reading assignments that supplemented in-class discussions.

My Forbidden Fictions course was unlike any classroom experience I have ever had. We read challenging texts and had very involved classroom discussions. Classes began with a reflection of discussion points we had thought of independently during our reading from the previous night, and these ideas were what fueled discussions on the text that could last three to four hours. The thought-provoking conversations I was immersed in were not exclusive to just a few members of the class—everyone had a say. For example, even during our heated debate in our Lolita unit about whether or not Humbert Humbert was capable of loving Dolores Haze, no one was disrespectful when they did not agree. We went back and forth for hours with textual evidence to support our opinions, and through this civil, in-depth debate everyone gained a deeper understanding of all of the components of the text. I took away from this class a newfound confidence in sharing my opinion, and our engaging conversations reminded me why I love literature so much.

Summer Study Program ActivitiesThis summer I was presented with at least one opportunity to try something new every day. Whether it was rowing for the first time, talking to a new peer, making a bold statement in a class discussion, or going to any number of various evening events, I was never bored. I tried talking to as many people as I could, and it did not take long to realize how amazingly diverse and accepting the community was. People from all different backgrounds chose to spend their summer at ASP for one purpose: to learn solely for the sake of learning.

The students who attended ASP were wildly passionate about everything they did, and many, like me, wanted to be completely invested in the experience. During a conversation in the dining hall one night, for example, the point was brought up that unlike our normal high schools, everyone at Saint Paul’s wanted to dive headfirst into every opportunity that came their way during their time here. You never had to ask if someone was going to a Diversity Alliance meeting, an Open Mic night, or the infamous student-alumni soccer game—the answer was always yes. The community at ASP is one that facilitates immense personal growth, and for me that meant stepping out of my comfort zone and challenging myself. I would not trade my phenomenal learning experience surrounded by so many fantastic peers, teachers, and interns for anything.

2017 Junior Summer Study Stipend

The Junior Summer Study Stipend is presented to members of National English Honor Society (NEHS) who are high school juniors, rising to the senior class in the fall of 2017. This award is intended to support students who have been selected for or who will be attending a summer learning program that is related to English studies in a direct way. Up to two awards for $750 will be offered each year.

Submissions will be accepted between Monday, April 3 and Monday, May 1, 2017, 11:59 p.m. CDT.

Submission Criteria and Details


Olivia Montine
2016 Junior Summer Study Stipend Recipient
Nashua High School South Chapter
Nashua High School South, Nashua, NH

NEHS Member Honored as 2016 National Student Poet

National English Honor Society (NEHS) was proud to learn of the national recognition Maya Eashwaran, a member of the Milton High School Chapter, received. Her blog details her wonderful accomplishment of being named a 2016 National Student Poet:

My name is Maya Eashwaran, and I am the 2016 National Student Poet for the Southeast! I am a senior at Milton High School in Milton, GA, and a member of my school’s chapter of NEHS.

The National Student Poets program is the nation’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work and is presented by three sponsors: the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. As a 2016 National Student Poet, I have been honored with so many amazing opportunities, like meeting First Lady Michelle Obama, traveling to the Dodge Poetry Festival, and speaking at the National Writing Project plenary in Atlanta. I also have the honor of working with four other National Student Poet recipients from around the country and am constantly inspired by their work and their dedication to the arts.

Poetry, to me, is the most expressive and alive form of art. It provides me with the tools to speak freely about my heritage and my beliefs and gives me a platform for artistic expression. It allows me to construct worlds out of words and has taught me so much about the place of art and writing in society.

As a National Student Poet, I have the amazing opportunity to construct and implement a service project focusing on engaging new communities with poetry in my region. I’m so excited to reach out and spread my love of poetry with my community!

Please visit the National Student Poets program website to learn more. I highly recommend the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards to any high school student interested in the visual and literary arts! Applications for the 2018 Scholastic Awards will open in September.


Maya EashwaranMaya Eashwaran
2016 National Student Poet—Southeast
Milton High School Chapter
Milton High School, Milton, GA