This blog post was written by Senior Communications Advisor & Editor, Molly MacDermot. Girls Write Now mentee Jada Fitzpatrick was featured in The New York Times and will receive the coveted New York Times Scholarship, with substantial financial backing each semester and a summer job at the Times. Jada said “the secret world of poetry” helped her through hard times and will prepare her for “perhaps her biggest journey, from a homeless shelter to a dormitory.” Girls Write Now congratulates Jada on her recent win. Please join us at the Girls Write Now Awards on May 17, where Jada will be performing with her mentor Linda Kleinbub and honorees who believe in the next generation of women writers.
Mentee Jada Fitzpatrick still remembers the moment she knew writing was going to change her life for the better. Jada was sitting alongside her mentor, Linda Kleinbub, a freelance writer and journalist, at a Girls Write Now writing workshop, where mentor-mentee pairs hone their skills, listen to experts in the field, and support each other as a community. The workshop inspired Jada. “I told myself, I’m going to write each day,” Jada tells us.
The New York Times is acknowledging Jada’s dedication to her craft by awarding her the fiercely competitive and highly coveted New York Times College Scholarship. From a pool of 1,000 applicants, Jada and nine other high-achieving high school seniors whose family income is at the poverty level, will receive up to $15,000 per semester toward tuition, a laptop, and the incredible opportunity of getting a summer job at The New York Times. Jada is valedictorian in her class at Preparatory Academy for Writers, located in Springfield Gardens, Queens.
“We were both elated,” Linda says when she and Jada heard the news. They were also reflective of the journey that led them to this point.
Linda remembers: “When Jada told me about the final interview for the New York Times Scholarship, I thought she might be nervous and I asked if she wanted me to come along for moral support. On a cold rainy morning we met at a diner near the New York Times building. We had planned to have breakfast but when Jada arrived she had flu-like symptoms, felt terrible, and only had a cup of tea. She wanted to have the interview postponed because she felt her illness would prevent her from being her best. The cup of tea must have helped because she decided to go ahead with the interview.”
Linda has been a solid support figure in Jada’s life, mentoring Jada every step of the way, from writing alongside her at Girls Write Now workshops, encouraging her through the college application, to nudging her to apply for The Princeton University Summer Journalism Program. Linda says: “Jada wasn’t going to apply at first but I said, ‘What do you have to lose?’ — and she got in!”
Linda and Jada’s special bond was particularly helpful this year. Jada’s life took a sudden turn when she had to move with her mother, sister and brother to a housing shelter, commuting two hours to school each way. “My parents were having a tough time and we had to go to a shelter.” While the commute is arduous, Jada is grateful she didn’t have to change schools. “I made my friends and I developed relationships with my teachers, so I didn’t want to go to a different school, even if it was closer to where I’m staying.”
Jada does her homework during the commute and says her favorite subject is English.
Linda and Jada meet once a week for their pair session, no matter the distance. “We meet all over, “ Linda tells us during a recent pair check-in session with Girls Write Now. “I’ve been to the Bronx to meet Jada. Sometimes we have dinner after a workshop and write then. I’ve gone to her school when she has a free period, and we write then. We’re making it work.”
Jada and Linda recently submitted pieces to (R)evolution: The Girls Write Now 2016 Anthology, which will be released by She Writes Press and they will perform at The Girls Write Now Awards on May 17th, flanked by honorees who believe in the next generation of women writers. “I mostly work off my random bursts of inspiration,” Jada says. “I try to get inspiration from mundane things — things I take for granted, like the beauty of walking in the city. I wrote a piece called “Dirty, White Converse.” There is a story behind every spec of dirt,” Jada says. With support from Girls Write Now, Jada submitted her work to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and won Honorable Mention.
Jada will attend Connecticut College in the fall. “I am excited at the prospect of beginning a new chapter of my life in college — and to have Linda by my side,” she says. “Jada continues to grow as both a writer and a confident young woman. Her positive attitude always amazes me,” Linda adds. “She’s like the daughter I never had.”
Jada and Linda will perform at the Girls Write Now Awards on May 17th, where we honor the leaders who are writing the world. Honorees include Jenni Konner of HBO’s Girls and LennyLetter.com, Janet Mock of Redefining Realness, the forthcoming Firsts: A Memoir of the Twenties Experience and MSNBC host for So! POPular, and John Osborn, CEO of BBDO who led the creative team behind the new Barbie campaign “Imagine the Possibilities.” Buy tickets for the evening and hear from this wonderful mentor and mentee pair.