Justin Mariner

Junior Year

Memories and Metaphor

Eleventh grade was mostly straightforward, from start to finish; especially for English class. This year, I had the choice between going forward with English class by taking AP English 11 or dropping slightly lower than Magnet Honors English and taking Honors English 11. Continuing my philosophy I built the previous year, I reserved AP classes for only classes that I find interest in. Because of this, English class was a breeze compared to the past two years - no summer assignments, no projects nearly as rigorous as in Magnet, and far less stories. This is the first year that I was able to put my philosophy of only focusing on interesting classes to the test, and I feel that decision has benefitted me greatly. I no longer felt nearly as overwhelmed as the two years prior and I was able to put all my efforts toward my singular AP class: Calculus BC. This class wasn’t nearly as easy for me as AP Computer Science last year, but I definitely gave it my all and aced the exam as well. This was in part because I gave myself more time to get work done during school by taking only seven classes, allowing for a study block; this took even more weight off my shoulders because I had ample time to complete my homework during the school day. Most importantly this year, I was finally able to find who I really was and stopped worrying so much about meeting the high expectations of the Math and Science Academy (MSA). To nobody’s surprise, the Academy continued their trend of making my class the “lab rats” by having us test new mandatory classes; this year, the class was a general technology (STEM) class that covered: technical drawing, drafting, and modeling; photo and video editing; and material science; and this was split between three teachers, switching between each quarter and returning to the start at the fourth quarter. In my opinion, this class was a mess and was not as well-planned-out as it could’ve been; most of the teachers only had general guidelines for how their portion of this class was to be taught and were expected to simplify their topic enough to teach in one quarter. Also this year, I further continued my hobby of taking up programming projects for friends: from a suggestion, I made my first online multiplayer game, which was a versus mode for Tetris; and later in the year, an online chess game with some creative twists for the MSA’s Symposium. And by the end of the year, I was committed to a technology project with a group of friends: we were tasked to create a sort of live video broadcast to function as morning announcements; we were taking instruction for this directly from Dr. Askew (see last prompt on my college essay for more details). This endeavor strongly built who I am now by allowing me to dedicate so much of my time to an extracurricular project such as this.

The combination of by dislike for poems and most of my readings this year being poems led to me enjoying very few stories this year. Regardless, I was still able to read what is now what of my favorite stories, even more so than Animal Farm was during my Freshman year. The novel in question was The Great Gatsby; not only was it an easy read for me, the story was incredible as well. To this day, I still reference some of the many motifs of this story: “golden girl” and “old sport”, to name a couple. This is surely one story that will never leave my mind. On the other hand, I strongly disliked The Scarlet Letter and I can’t really pinpoint for what reason. At this point in my school life, I had fully pushed free-reading out of my habits in favor of spending free time doing homework.

Two of the biggest English projects from this school year were a persuasive essay arguing a viewpoint of my choice and a presentation on the theme of The Great Gatsby. My topic of choice for the persuasive essay was “net neutrality” and I argued that the Internet should be considered a utility, like water or electricity; or a common carrier, like phone companies. While I enjoyed researching this topic and writing about it, I found difficulty in finding enough information on this topic. I still enjoyed the guidance my English teacher, Mr. Finnegan, gave all of us; he was dedicated to reading everybody’s essays as we completed each paragraph and made sure to proof them for us, too. On the other hand, I enjoyed working on a group project detailing the theme of The Great Gatsby, which was “the decline of the American dream.” Despite my group members not quite being as helpful as they could’ve, I managed to handle most of the project myself, and when presentation time came around, my group stepped up and nailed it with me.

By the end of this third year of high school, I felt extremely comfortable with how I was handling myself and I finally began feeling like I know what I’m doing in school. This year was filled with many supportive teachers, incredible projects, and even better accomplishments; and it definitely prepared me for the final stretch Senior year.


The original assignment was a literary analysis on the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald about the decline of the American Dream through the advancement of technology. In order to create this essay, the teacher offered a simple outline template that was optional and left it up to the students to determine how to use it. After outlining, the teacher had the students write a single paragraph for each assignment so that they could be proofread and revised appropriately. In the end the paragraphs were put together and edited for flow and continuity. I chose this writing to be a part of my portfolio because I feel like it was one of by best writings and because the story was great.