In middle school I spent hours scrolling through Instagram. I liked looking at my friends posts and receiving likes from people when I posted something myself. It was innocent at first, but as I approached the last week of my eighth grade year, Instagram became the battleground for the final confrontation I had with a middle school bully. For privacy purposes, I will call her Ann.
Ann and I had been feuding at school for about two years, but we never had an actual argument that consisted of more than just a few insults passed along through mutual friends or a mean remark that was met with a sneer. We had blocked each other on Instagram, so we couldn’t communicate there either, or so I thought.
One day, Ann had done something particularly nefarious during the school day. I won’t get into details, but I went home that day feeling very angry and hurt. Because of this, I did what any young girl looking for an escape would do: I took to Instagram.
After about five minutes of scrolling, I came across a picture a friend had posted with Ann in it. The caption read something along the lines of, “I am so ugly lol.” Still feeling angry from the events that had unfolded earlier that day, I decided to comment on the photo. I wrote that my friend sounded like Ann because Ann would often say she was not good looking to garner compliments (and many young people are guilty of this).
What I did not expect is that Ann would reply to my comment. Within the next 30 minutes, we had started an entire comment chain on this Instagram photo, pouring out all of our pent-up anger towards each other, for the entire world to see. After a while, we stopped, and I am not sure if either of us felt any better. Eventually I just wanted both of our comments on that photo to disappear, so I would never have to look at them again.
Sadly, they did not disappear. The photo was left up for a couple more months before it was deleted, along with the comments. However, my mother had printed out screenshots of the comments to keep because they contained some pretty cruel comments. In one comment, for example, Ann told me, “I hope you kill yourself.”
While the whole incident eventually died out, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else had taken a screenshot of the post and its comments. I began to fear that someone would bring it up when I went to to high school, that this baggage would follow me to my new school. If my mother had a copy of what happened that day on Instagram, then surely someone else could have one as well. This incident really taught me to think about what I post about on social media because even if you delete something, it might not always disappear.
by Rebecca Darugar, Liz Levine, and Brancey Mora, 826NYC and 826 National
by Rebecca Darugar, Liz Levine, and Brancey Mora, 826NYC and 826 National
Invite students to write about their personal experiences with social media and online platforms with this lesson from 826NYC.
PRESENTED BY 826 NATIONAL AND COMMON SENSE MEDIA True Connections features young writers from around the country exploring their relationship with the internet, with social media, and with the digital world in general. From essays about internet addiction to explorations of digital disconnections, True Connections gives young writers the chance to ask big questions about what it means to strike a balance between real life and online life, and to remain true to oneself in both.
by Ella, 826 Valencia
A persuasive argument for co-ed teams in the face of gender stereotypes, supported by results from primary research conducted by the author.
by Maria, Grade 12, 826 Boston
In this public narrative, a student makes the case for creating community change by building youth centers in her neighborhood.
by Fahima Dahir, 826 MSP
A poem about the strength and limitations of language and shared culture.
by Cayden, 826DC
This poem lists all of the pieces that make up the writer's whole.
by Christopher, Bryan, & Jahir, 826CHI
In an exchange of letters, three students across one city share stories about where they came from and the places that matter most.
by Sammie, Grade 9, 826 MSP
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, a freshman at South High School in Minneapolis thanks care workers for supporting our local and national communities during this global pandemic.
by Renée, 826NYC
A persuasive letter detailing to the recipient the pointlessness of writing a persuasive letter. A helpful example for reluctant writers.
by Jabari, Grade 8, 826 Valencia
A poem about wanting more from life.
by Melody Marcano, 826 Boston
In this poem, a student reflects on their roots and their desire to grow.
by Arielle B., Grade 8
This poem invites readers to remember that people are often going through more than choose to show.
by Katya Torres, The 826 Dallas Project
This bilingual poem explores the harrowing story of a boy working while in school to save his mother.
by Roger, 826 Valencia
An essay in English and Spanish that traces connections between two movements in modern American history for the rights of people of color.
by Natalie, 826CHI
Weaving together Spanish and English, a student shares the discovery of a family secret.
by Sebastian Cendejas, 826CHI
A student reflects on how much Chicago means to them.
by Samuel Wang, Grade 10, 826NYC
A poem about the complexity of love exchanged during the holidays.
by Anthony, 826DC
This poem gives insight to what it's like growing up Black in America.
by Terry Velasquez, Grade 12, The Bronx, NY
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, a student shares gratitude for the dedication of nurses and gives “credit where credit is due.”
by Pia, 826NYC
A student reimagines food justice: Fruit Woman must convince Junk Food Man and Cheesecake Boy to eat their fruits and vegetables.
by Cindy, 826LA
A student compellingly argues that immigrants deserve respect and to be free of discrimination.
by Lesly, 826 Valencia
A sports poem about the losing blues.
by Djeneba, 826michigan
A student’s manifesto!
by Tylor, 826NYC
A lean but essential checklist for readers to determine if they are awake.
by Henry, Matthew, & Santiago, 826CHI
A compilation of letters written by three students across one city filled with thoughts on books, sports, music, family, and musings on Valentine’s Day.
by Diego, 826CHI
On the funniest day of this student’s life…
by Camille, 826LA
A student finds her wings in unexpected places in this piece about the transition to college.
by Jesus Sanchez, The 826 Dallas Project
This creative short horror piece explores the mysteries and danger of a night in the woods.
by Rockelle Rodd, Grade 11, 826NYC
This poem uses analogies to describe all of the pieces of the writer's personal history.
by Tammy Fong, 826NYC
A soccer-filled, feud-fueled memoir.
by David & Daniel, 826CHI
In this heartfelt exchange of letters, two students bond over food, videos games, and some scary adventures.
by Earl Williams Jr., The 826 Dallas Project
A powerful poetic piece about the experience of being Black in America.
by Calvin, 826michigan
A student professes love—to a jalapeño!
by Quardasha Mitchell, The 826 Dallas Project
In this compelling poem, the author navigates her relationship with America as a young African-American woman.
by Lola, 826 Valencia
A poem that portrays the arc of a love story told through the gift of a cigarette lighter.
by 826NYC students
This collaborative poem explores the many sides and senses of laughter.
by Elizabeth W, 826 Valencia
Even though we may look different, we remain united with one another.
by Khloe Fewster, 826 Valencia
This poem uses repetition to give advice for when you're feeling unsure of yourself.
by Karina Centeno, Grade 12, 826 Dallas Project
This poem takes an honest look at two sides of the writer's culture.
by Xaria, 826 Valencia
An argument against the wage gap that prevails in the U.S. and across the globe.
by Jeremy Hsiao, 826 National
From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poem reminds activists that "to change everything, we need everyone."
by Ryker, 826michigan
Liner notes that showcase the meaning and musicality of the Jimmy Ruffin song “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.”
by Sarah X. Age 18, 826Boston
A rousing public narrative from an author coming to terms with their identity as a young Chinese American woman and what they represent: the community of Boston's Chinatown.
by Jason, 826 Valencia
A student reports on the death of a college student from Bernal Heights, San Francisco, who neighbors believe was killed due to racial profiling.
by Julianna Cruz, 826 Dallas Project
This narrative piece contemplates the struggle of immigrants during the pandemic.
by Ryan, Grade 12, 826 Boston
In this public narrative, a student illustrates the hardships his uncle has faced to argue for a path to citizenship.
by Jeff, 826CHI
In this piece, a student describes Christmas as a holiday best spent together.
by Piya, 826 Valencia
A demand to the public stop to buying ivory that seeks to explain the devastating effects of poaching on elephant and rhino populations.
by Charles, 826 MSP
A student reflects on his life, stemming from the life of his father.
by Jahruwach Hamilton, 826NYC
In this rousing poem, a student asserts her strength and worth as a woman.
by Jonas K., 826 National
A student explores the paradox of how technology is used amongst teenagers.
by Jordan, 826 New Orleans
Crawfish, crayfish, or mudbugs. Whatever you call them, the writer of this poem doesn't like them.
by Jazlyn Moses, 826 National
One student explores their online persona and the lasting importance of conscientious social media practices.
by Mariah Valenzuela, Minneapolis, MN
From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poet uses her voice to speak up for those who have been silenced in the indigenous community.
by Steysi Hailee, 826LA
A student reflects on a small moment and single sacrifice that transformed her outlook on giving.
by Kyla Edwards, 826 New Orleans
This creative short story explores a snapshot of what a future New Orleans might look like amid climate change.
by Anonymous, Grade 8, 826 Boston
In this poem, a student reflects on identity.
by Aniah, 826 MSP
A student is lifted up by the dance of her ancestors.
by Cristina, 826CHI
A student recounts separation with a beloved friend through a nostalgic lens.
by Augustus Griffith Jr., 826 National
From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poem explores the aftermath and lasting impacts of school shootings.
by Gabriela T., 826 Valencia
In this resolution inspired by the "Include Someone" lesson and Cartoon Network storyboard, we learn that inclusive leaders take action—they don't wait for others to make a difference.
by Kaitlyn, 826NYC
A middle school student firmly protests the flavor and quality of her school’s lunches.
by Luke, 826 Valencia
An essay shared in English and Spanish discusses the effects of global warming on penguins and their source of nutrients, krill.
by Kayla Wayne, Grade 11, 826NYC
In this poem, a student reflects on their first encounter with forced assimilation.
by Jason, 826michigan
Making bottle flipping look like child's play, this piece outlines rules for the new, competitive Fantasy Sport "Pencils".
by Keyshana, Grade 11, 826CHI
Black strength, beauty, and pride soar in this poem as a student discusses overcoming brutality and discrimination.
by Alexis G., Grade 11
In this narrative, the author uses vibrant language to explore their identity, in all its complexity, through different landscapes.
by Dayana Alvarado, 826CHI
A student shares finding home in two places: Mexico and Chicago.
by Marco, 826LA
A screenplay about a plane crash and an epic journey to Mexico, with a twist!
by Andy, 826CHI
In this memoir, a few friends bond over a rare Pokémon Go catch.
by Luis, 826LA
This student writes a letter to a hero with a sweet double kick: Jackie Chan!
by Sergio M, 826 Valencia
A smile isn’t always what it seems.
by William, 826LA
A teen discovers the power of books to transport him to another world, and shares his excitement about becoming a published author.
by Isabella, 826NYC
This poet rejects judgement based on the color of one’s skin.
by Oriel, 826NYC
In this poem, an echoing question strikes a chord and reveals the tragic loss held within systemic injustice.
by Soraya, 826NYC
This student’s powerful piece reveals the essence of racial injustice.
by Kailyn Espinosa, 826NYC
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, a student shares how essential workers’ courage and compassion center her during these hectic times.
by Itzel Medina Luna, 826 Valencia
In this poem from the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, a student walks through her neighborhood searching for hidden stories.
by Regina, 826LA
From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poem expresses the realization that a cage is not the only obstacle to a bird's freedom.
by Jasmine J, 826 Valencia
A student reflects on her origins to deconstruct social borders and seize her boundless future.
by Franny, 826CHI
A student spins through space and a treasure trove of memories in this poem.
by Victor, 826CHI
An epic memoir about an epic volleyball match! Who will win: the teachers or the students?
by Helen, Grade 12, 826 MSP
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, a senior at South High School in Minneapolis offers words of support to healthcare workers across the country, including her own mom.
by Isaiah, 826 New Orleans
This student reveals the mysterious origin story of the king cake. Hint: it includes Big Freedia, DJ Chicken Wing, and a massive party.
by Raheem, 826 New Orleans
A student compares themself to the place they live, New Orleans, as both evolve through great obstacles.
by Reuben & Giselle, 826CHI
Two students write to each other about where they came from, what they love, and a few mishaps along the way in an exchange of letters.
by Leydi Di Villanueva, The 826 Dallas Project
This creative narrative imagines how the coronavirus views humanity during the pandemic.
by Arianny, 826 Boston
A poem that celebrates being Latino
by Salome Maldonando, 826CHI
A poem about unrequited love.
by Isabel, 826 Boston
From the forthcoming anthology, Poets in Revolt!, this poem features a student battling with the voices constricting her freedom.
by Gilbert, 826LA
One teen writes a letter to his 14-year-old self, citing his past fears but looking towards his present, a brighter future.
by Cora B., Grade 8
This narrative uses nature imagery, to help the reader walk through a day in the speaker's shoes
by Mercury, 826CHI
A student explores the representation of LGBTQIA+ minorities and youth in US pop culture.
by Jizelle Villegas, Grade 12, 826 Dallas Project
The stunning and vulnerable poem processes feelings of loss, grief, and hope for the future.
by Elsy, 826LA
Song lyrics about memories of cake and pizza, friendship, and giving 1,000 opinions.
by Rafael, 826CHI
A student remembers an afternoon adventure around town and explores what Chicago and community mean to him.
by Henry F., Grade 12, 826CHI
In this poem, a student reflects on identity.
by Eva, 826 Valencia
A student celebrates the journey of discovering whom to love.
by Matthew Inoa, 826 NYC
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, a student describes how essential workers are the pulse of New York, fueling the city’s hope.
by Kevin, 826NYC
An informational briefing on a horrible incident in the year 5176 that changed the hoverboarding industry forever.
by Laila, 826CHI
A memoir about losing a parent—and a community’s support.
by Calvin, 826michigan
A laugh-out-loud personal narrative about a crush. Has your heart ever beat so fast it might get a speeding ticket and a $500 fine?
by Kevin G, 826 Valencia
This narrative calls us to see the world through the perspectives of others.
by Anjum, 826CHI
A shout-out poem to some things missed (Hyderabad) and celebrated (Mom).
Amara, 826 New Orleans
An ode celebrating an important figure in this student’s life.
by Mya, 826CHI
A piece packed with vivid description about taking risks at an ice rink.
by Jazmine & Vanessa, 826CHI
Over a series of letters, two compassionate and resilient students develop a deep friendship sealed in writing.
by Corazón, 826 New Orleans
In this essay, a student threads their identity across cultures, histories, and places, engaging with legacies of violence and the movement of people.
by Jack, 826 Valencia
An argument against the overconsumption of sugar outlines the ways its effects are anything but sweet.
by Justis Porter, age 16, 826 Boston
A neighborhood ode filled with sights and sounds of the poet's street.
by Jiaxi, 826CHI
A student’s worldview is forever altered after a lesson on the Segregation Era and Jim Crow.
by Vivian, 826CHI
A narrative about loving to run—and learning to never quit!
by Jamie, 826 Valencia
A metaphorical poem about frustrations, from homework to homelessness.
by Sharoya Bracey, 826NYC
In this memoir, the narrator recounts the struggle of being the bigger person in a very small space.
by Riti Shrestha, 826NYC
In this poem, metaphor is used to describe who the narrator is.
by Chelsea, 826NYC
An acrostic poem about the Black Lives Matter movement.
by Curtis, 826michigan
A rhyming (inverse) ode to a very irritating noise.
by Iliana, 826CHI
A student searches for answers in their community.
by Michaiah Anderson, The 826 Dallas Project
In this personal narrative, a student describes their family origins with an intimate point of view
by Alondra, 826CHI
An epic story of a princess who seeks acceptance among the stars.
by Byanna & Kayla, 826CHI
Two students across one city bond by writing letters to each other about the people they love most.
by Jennifer Alcocer, The 826 Dallas Project
This personal narrative addresses the struggles of students graduating high school during the pandemic.
by Sabrin, Grade 9, 826 MSP
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, 9th grader Sabrin discusses how she feels both happy and sad, and thanks nurses nationwide for bringing her peace through their work.
by Yazmine-Gizelle, 826DC
This poem uses a fundamental poetry technique, repetition, to share the writer's future plans.
by Navayah, 826 MSP
Through redefining a label, a student reclaims a piece of their identity.
by Evelyn Escamilla, 826 Valencia
This poem uses metaphors and similes to describe happiness.
by Pretty S, 826 Valencia
Glimpse into the mind of a student who considers artistic influences in her life.
by Luciana, Grade 10, 826 MSP
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, a sophomore at South High School in Minneapolis gives thanks to Children’s Hospital employees.
by Maggie Munday Odom, Kailua, HI
This poem personifies Earth as a mother coping with the brutalities of climate change.
by Luis, 826LA
A rap song dedicated to the Marvel comic writer Stan Lee and his inspired creations like the Hulk, Deadpool, Iron Man, and The Fantastic Four.
by Rey, Grade 9, 826 MSP
Aliens give this student superpowers to help him fulfill his greatest dream.
by Joanne H, 826 Valencia
In this poem, a student’s experiences in two countries meld together as she seeks out her true home.
by David, 826CHI
A student writes about the smell, taste, and pace of their neighborhood.
by Savannah, 826NYC
Using dialogue and detailed description, this poet investigates whose voices are heard and whose voices are left behind when injustice occurs.
by Johnny Vasquez, 826 MSP
A family interview reveals a mother's painful past and shines a light on her persistence.
by Jin, 826LA
This student says thank you to her Mom, her hero, for a life full love and beef noodles!
by Kayla, 826 Boston
This poem offers a very-real answer to "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
by Kalyn Jackson, 826 New Orleans
Through this short story, Kalyn explores ideas of home and change in an altered world.
by Elizabeth W., 826 Valencia
A persuasive piece for women and girls to unite and cultivate a culture of body image positivity.
by Caroline, 826 Valencia
A student explores U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe’s decision to kneel in protest during the national anthem.
by Shayne Williams
Discover what one student experiences when they tuck their phone away for a whole day.
by Tala, Grade 10, 826 MSP
In this letter from the Essential Words lesson, 10th grader Tala asks essential workers what motivates them to keep going during these difficult times, offering her own views on hope for the future.
by Numan Khan, age 16, 826 Boston
A bilingual "I am" poem filled with conviction and courage.
by Duanté, 826 Valencia
A personal narrative about race and identity.
by Kiara, 826CHI
In this personal narrative, a student explores growing up young and black in Chicago.
by Sabrin, 826 MSP
The written word is a powerful tool, and this poem shares a few reasons why the author continues to write.
by Emmanuel J., 826NYC
An avid basketball fan discusses the rise of the Golden State Warriors through its individual players.
by Izzy T., 826 Valencia
A student reflects on memories of home and what binds her special community together.
by Aphra, 826CHI
A student considers realistic happy endings and the representation of LGBTQIA youth through the analysis of two webcomics.
by Angel, 826CHI
A student writes about the transformative experience of changing schools.
by Vanessa Ramon-Ibarra, 826DC
Living in the digital world can create unwanted attachments, as one student laments.
by Soeun Lee, Grade 8, Tenafly, New Jersey
In this poem, a student observes a dove's flight and reflects on their ability to soar.
by Sharon, 826CHI
A memoir about finding true friendship.