Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.
-Joseph Campbell

When I was in eighth grade, pain came in layers. On the bottom was my experience with
cancer, the trauma it caused, the existential dread that I could never find an answer for; then there
was my parents divorce, which felt like it would never end; on the top was my failing schoolwork, my
inability to focus, and the feeling of being hated by my teachers. Each layer weighed down the
others, making the others even harder to carry. If I kept this up, I would’ve crumbled. Luckily, I found

At Fusion, I finally felt like I mattered. My teachers were patient and kind, giving me the
attention I sorely needed. For the first time, I wasn’t focusing on what I was doing wrong, but the
things I did right. I wasn’t just taking notes, I was learning. My lead teacher, mentor, and overall
favorite person Alaine helped me face my trauma and accept the things I couldn’t control, and
encouraged me to continue with my writing. I really don’t know who I’d be without her.

During my time at Fusion, I’ve spoken at Columbia University, and had my poetry published
in a book about overcoming childhood trauma. I’ve become a speechwriter for the Leukemia
Lymphoma Society, when before I couldn’t even say the word “cancer” out loud. This year I was
nominated for the LLS Student of the Year award, and won the LLS Mission Focus Award, Without
Fusion, I would never have done any of this.

As my high school years end, my college years begin. I’ve been accepted to Bard College,
and plan to further pursue my love of writing there. I don’t know what the future holds after that, but I
know that no matter what happens, I can handle it. After all I’ve conquered, I know nothing can stop


Vanessa Shapiro, Fusion Senior, 2017

blog comments powered by Disqus