A men­tor re­mem­bered

The Compass - - CLASSIFIED - Melissa Jenk­ins

Here I am, about to start my fifth month at The Com­pass. For the last two I have given read­ers the chance to glance into my new life as a de­vel­op­ing jour­nal­ist and the blunt truths that have come along with it.

I had a pretty sig­nif­i­cant flash­back this week that helped me re­cover mem­o­ries of how I be­gan writ­ing.

Many read­ers know that I grew up in Car­bon­ear, but it’s less known that I spent the first 11 years of my life in Scarborough, On­tario where I at­tended St. Malachy, a small but strict Catholic school.

It was there I learned the struc­ture of the English lan­guage and the im­por­tance of speak­ing and writ­ing cor­rectly. In other words, I spoke re­ally slow and ac­cu­rately an­nun­ci­ated ev­ery­thing.

That skill proved to be dif­fi­cult when I moved to Car­bon­ear in 1997 and the chil­dren in my class teased me about my ac­cent (or lack-there-of as I like to call it) and how slow I spoke. I could barely un­der­stand my class­mates with their odd jar­gon and quick wit, but I learned to keep up.

High school was when my writ­ing be­gan to take shape.

In 2001, Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate of­fered their first ad­vanced writ­ing and English class for Grade 10 stu­dents and I was among the priv­i­leged group.

My teacher was Eileen Fur­long, a stern but ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent teacher.

She had an odd sense of hu­mour which led to some in­ter­est­ing Hal­loween cos­tumes, in­clud­ing wear­ing a photo of a goat and shak­ing a stick — ob­vi­ously Billy (Wil­liam) Shake­speare. It of­ten mim­icked my own hu­mour but I rarely ap­plauded her for the comic re­lief to an oth­er­wise mo­not­o­nous school day.

I used to think she hated my work but the rea­son is only be­com­ing clear now, 12 years later. Just like my first month work- ing here, she would take apart my writ­ing piece by piece and in the end I ad­vanced my gram­mar knowl­edge ten-fold.

It is ob­vi­ous now Ms. Fur­long was crit­i­cal of my writ­ing be­cause she saw my po­ten­tial and wanted me to do the best she be­lieved I could.

I fin­ished Grade 10 English with a 97 per cent and writ­ing with a 93 per cent and I know the way she an­a­lyzed my pa­pers and ham­mered in­for­ma­tion into my brain helped me get there.

I be­lieve she is one of the rea­sons my for­mer col­lege pro­fes­sor re­ferred to me as his “hu­man dic­tionary.”

I also be­lieve Ms. Fur­long helped crack me out of my shell and into a world of imag­i­na­tion, al­lit­er­a­tion and even a lit­tle con­tro­versy. And now, I’m proud to say, I share a sense of hu­mour with my for­mer men­tor.

It is only now that I have re­al­ized the peo­ple from my life — from grade school un­til now — have helped mold me as a writer, and ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence I live will con­tinue to ig­nite new sto­ries, mem­o­ries and feel­ings that will hope­fully help make my mark in this in­dus­try.

Melissa Jenk­ins is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass news­pa­per in Car­bon­ear. She can be

reached at melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

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