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NYU Personal essay - Duty Six - an event in your life and how it changed you or someone close to you

sopelartey 1 / 1  
Nov 26, 2018   #1
Describe an event in your life and how it changed you or someone close to you. This event can be dramatic and/or comedic; major or minor.

The assignment should be written as a short story.


When I came forward to be a Prefect, I was prepared to sacrifice anything. I was willing to give up my time and my energy, but nothing could have prepared me for the choice I had to make one Friday night.

I glanced at my watch for what felt like the hundredth time: almost six o'clock. It was barely thirty minutes to dinner, and Seyi and Neso hadn't shown up. "The lovely Duty Six," I murmured to myself. How did we even get stuck with this job again? Oh, yeah. Chinenye had cooked up some story about her team getting too much work and I had fallen for the bait. Note to self: develop resistance to teary-eyed girls. Ah, let me introduce you to the dreaded Duty Six: meal patrol. For some reason unknown to science, high school students in Nigeria possess certain amount of inertia which prevents them from heading to the dining hall when the bell goes off for mealtime. Due to this said inertia, a net force- that would be prefects- are required to enable them move to another location. While we make students go early, we end up late as a result. And on few occasions, when we miss the meals,hungry. Getting too much work? How did I even believe that story? My self-pity monologue was interrupted by footsteps: Neso and Seyi were here.

"Finally. Could we hurry up with the rounds?" The sun was setting and everywhere was getting dark. "Hey, Sope. Were our classes as dirty as these back then?" I couldn't even remember. We went through all the classrooms and ensured that all the students had gone to dinner. "All done," Seyi shouted from across the hall. "Can we go now?" Neso whined. What is worse than having Duty Six? Having Duty Six on a Friday night. With soggy beans for lunch, Friday rice was our only hope to satisfy the craving, and we couldn't make our way to the dining hall because there was still a light on in the junior block. "Almost." During our last rounds, I noticed a light on in a junior classroom. First-years: always forgetting to turn off the lights. when I approached the classroom to shut off the light, I saw a student standing in the doorway. "Guys."

I looked at the boy as his shaky voice said, 'It wasn't on purpose.' However, I noticed something in his hand: a money bill. Yep, definitely not having dinner today. "Is this why we're waiting? Can't you just send him off and-" "Oh." "Yeah." Crying boy, money bill, three prefects- this was about to be a long night. My duty team members approached. "How did you get this into school?" Through the sobs, the story came out: he had resumed school and forgot to hand over his spare change to his mother.

"What are we going to do?", Seyi asked. We knew exactly what was meant to happen. We would confiscate the money, take his name down, submit it to the disciplinary staff, and they would take care of the rest. However, that didn't seem like what to do today. "Please,"he said, "I forgot to give it back to my mum today."I looked at his tear-streaked face. How old was he: eleven, twelve? "You know what this means, don't you?" Seyi asked. Everyone did. He would be suspended from school and sent home immediately. All because he forgot.

Among the three of us, there were disagreements on this issue. "He said he didn't mean to, Neso." I said, looking at Seyi for support. She barely shrugged."So? Oh, what do you expect him to say? 'Hey! I smuggled some money to school, don't tell anyone'? What should we do? How do we know if he is lying? After all, people say anything to get out of trouble, and there are the rules." I knew all of this, but in that instance, things were quite unclear. I glanced at the boy's ID: Harold Amako; Eleven years old; First-year student. There was no way to be sure that this boy was innocent. Lies could be very convincing, but I could not bear the thought of reporting him if he was saying the truth. What if he was telling the truth? "Why don't we let him off?", Seyi asked. "Why? Because he's cute?" I had no idea what to say to Neso. All I could offer was silence. "Give me the money and go". I watched Obinna stare at us. What did his face show? Fear, confusion, relief? All I could see was gratitude. Once he was far enough, we set out to the dining hall.

As we walked out of the classroom block, we saw the throng of students leaving the dining hall. "There goes our dinner, I guess." Walking to the dormitory, I felt a mix of emotions. Firstly, I was hungry (I still longed for my dinner). More importantly, I wondered if I had done the right thing. As we walked back to class, Neso asked, "Sope, what did we just do?" The answer did not come immediately, and definitely not at once. It came when that boy appeared at Seyi's class to thank her for believing in him. It came when Harold's mother approached me on visiting day and told me that she had been the one to ask him to hold that money for her. It came when Harold gave Neso a hug on the day of his graduation.

victoria_003 3 / 4  
Nov 27, 2018   #2
Hi there!
I really liked reading about the story of what happened in this essay, but overall it feels more like reading a story from a book than reading a personalized essay. I would suggest changing it so it sounds less like narration, and more like something that you've experienced first hand, which you have. Reading this made me believe that you were speaking about a scenario you weren't a part of, which isn't true.

Other than that, I think that this is a very good story and I enjoyed reading it. I hope I helped!

Best of luck!
OP sopelartey 1 / 1  
Nov 27, 2018   #3
Ahhh I get you. I will make changes to it. Thanks for the help though. The only problem is that I don't really know how to make it more personal.
Holt - / 7,546 2001  
Nov 27, 2018   #4
@sopelartey I am very confused about the goings on in your essay. You see, you are writing this story coming from the assumption that the reader is all too familiar with the Nigerian boarding school system, which we aren't. Now, I am not sure if you are writing this for an English class in your Nigerian school or if you are writing this for an English class as an ESL student. If you are the latter, then this essay will not work very well for you.

An effective short story is one that remembers that the backstory is just as important as the main story. For this creative story, set up the scene first. Explain what a prefect is, at the start, not in the middle of the story. You have to do that because the whole premise of the story relies on your duty as a prefect. Connect your duty with the manner that a Nigerian boarding school is run. You could, for example, say:

In a Nigerian boarding school, becoming a prefect is considered a tremendous honor. It is a position of leadership that is assigned only to the most responsible senior students in the school. I was in my Third year of high school when I stepped into this role. It was a role that unwittingly would help me become an adult and learn how to properly lead people. I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was Friday evening and I was part of the Duty Six. Ready to rustle up the late comers to dinner. That's what the Duty Six was all about. As a part of this team, I was assigned to....Then it happened. I saw a light on...

I am not sure if my example is a very good one as I only based it on what you have already written. What I would like to highlight though, is that you need to set the scene and explain the background of the events before you delve into dialogue and actual action. That way the short story becomes interesting and develops a better reason for its comedic or dramatic narrative.

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