Writing class members pursue their dreams

By Regina Villiers. Originally published August 11, 2004 in The Suburban Life, added August 22, 2020.

The fourth-grade newspaper class in Sellman’s 30 Day Program are, from left: kneeling, Lizzy Frabell, Ashleigh Lyones, Angela Pancost, John Boehm, Miranda Bryan, David Tensmeyer, Drew Campbell and Matt Reckman; second row, Carrie Bounds, Mark McCoy, Sean Derenthal, Matthew Hylton, Laura Tate and Clair Gerdsen; third row, Jonathan Woodhouse, Chris Justice, Eli Maiman, Michael Winters, Regina Villiers, Sofia Sotelo, Megan Freshly Jay Johnston, and Tom Hurst.

     One of the most rewarding work experiences of my life was the period when I helped Dianna Bartles with a fourth grade writing class in the 30 Day program at Sellman School in Madeira.

     We taught the class for five years to a total of 100 students, most of them outstanding kids, who wiggled their way into my heart and settled there, never to leave.  Many remember me too.  They write to me.  They send me their school pictures.  And one or two (you know who you are!)  are like family.  We get together once a year or more.  We go to lunch.  We hang out.

     The second of the classes graduated from high school this past June, and they’re headed to college.  All year, I intended to write a column about them.  In our class, they wrote and published a book about themselves, about their goals and dreams, predicting what they’d be when they grew up.  I had a rosy scenario in my head.  Dianna and I would have a reunion with them at the high school.  We’d sit down and talk about their goals in fourth grade and their dreams now.  We’d see how many came true, and I’d write about it.

     But the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote that the “best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley.”  My plans went so “a-gley” that they never got off the ground, nor was the reunion ever scheduled.  The end of school approached.  Things were too “busy” there, and then the seniors graduated and scattered.  No reunion.

     No problem, I said.  We’d do it this summer.  Dianna and I would get them together, on our own.

     But that didn’t happen either.  Logistics interfered.  Summer kept going rapidly.  

     Undaunted, I decided I’d do it anyway, all by myself, with whoever I could contact.

     Last week, we finally had our “reunion” at Coffee Please.  Sofia Sotelo, Eli Maiman and I sat there drinking coffee and talking for almost two hours.  We had a great time, just the three of us.  We pored over the class roll and the book they had written in fourth grade.

     Eight members of our class did not graduate from Madeira High.  They either moved away, or they transferred to other schools.  They were Carrie Bounds, John Boehm, Megan Freshly, Matthew Hylton, Ashleigh Lyons, Mark McCoy, Laura Tate and Jonathan Woodhouse.

     Of the 14 of our group who graduated there, four were in the group of top seniors with a grade point average of 4.0 or above, proving what I’ve always said:  They were the elite of the school.  The four “elite” are Eli Maiman, Sofia Sotelo, Michael Winters and Chris Justice.

     Sofia is going to Miami University in Oxford to major in English. She plans to be an English teacher, a worthy goal, I think.  Garrison Keilor of National Public Radio would think so too.  She can become a member of his “Professional Organization of English Majors” on his radio show.

     Sofia’s fourth-grade predictions for herself came close.  She predicted she’d be a soccer player.  She played soccer in high school but was better in basketball, where she was one of the top players on Madeira’s excellent team.  She predicted that she would make straight A’s throughout school.  She always has.  She predicted that she would teach and also write a novel.  She will probably do both.

     Eli has never wavered in his dream and his love of music.  In fourth grade, he was a Beatles fan and he predicted he’d grow up to have his own band, the Crickets, and that he’d write songs such as “You Can’t Buy MY Glove,” “She’s Got a Cricket to Hide” and “The Stool On the Hill.”  (His sense of humor was as big as his talent.)

     Eli has grown up to have his own band, “Patchwork,” and they have a gig coming up Aug. 21 at Madison Theater in Covington.  You can go hear them.  And you should.  His bank is composed of Justin Kennedy on bass, Jake Bartone on drums.  Joe Bartone sings and plays guitar.  And Eli plays lead guitar.

     Eli has studied with Phil Willis at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and he is going to Berlee College of Music in Boston to get a degree in guitar performance.  On the practical side, he will also pursue a degree in music engineer production, which makes me and possibly his parents feel a tad easier.  I know a lot of jazz musicians, really good ones.  They’re wonderful, but the gigs, like writing assignments, are not always bountiful.

     Michael Winters made his predictions with precision, and like a 4.0 student, he has made them all come true.  He predicted he’d be a soccer player.  He was on the Madeira High team that won the state title the pas year.

     But Michael has always been a scholar.  His other early dream was to write novels.  He will leave Aug. 18 for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he will major in sports journalism.  I couldn’t be happier, both for his goals and his chosen college.  I have a good friend in the English Department there.  I also have a longtime love affair with Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.

    Tom Hurst, who was a writer and reader in fourth grade, is going to Bowling Green State University for a degree in film studies.

     The other students and the colleges they have chosen:  Miranda Bryan, Colorado College; Drew Campbell, OSU; Sean Derenthal, Brigham Young; Lizzy Frabell, Notre Dame College; Claire Gertsen, Elon University in North Carolina; Jay Johnston, UC; Chris Justice, OSU; Matt Reckman, UC; David Tensmeyer, Brigham Young; and Angela Pancoast, UC.

     Good luck, Sofia, Eli, Michael, Tom and all the others.  Play our music, Eli, Write your novels Michael.  I’ll be following your progress.  Hold on to your dreams no matter what comes.