Justin Mariner

Freshman Year

Memories and Metaphor

Ninth grade was the opening to many things. I was welcomed with was an interesting nickname with an even more interesting backstory. On the first day of school I wore a shirt saying “Virginia Tech” but the strap from my backpack was covering the word “Tech.” A classmate, Jonah Lapira, decided my nickname that would stick forever: “Virginia.” I saw no reason to argue his logic: my shirt ended up saying “Virginia” right where a nametag would go, so obviously that was actually my name. Jonah soon ended up being one of my closest friends for all of high school. Freshman year also showed me what it really takes to succeed in high school, especially in the Math and Science Academy (MSA). I was not ready for high school, so I made some pretty bad mistakes. I started off my year by putting off my Magnet English summer assignment until after school started, giving a very negative first impression to my new classmates and teachers. But a member of my group for the project based on that summer assignment was Jonah, and he and the other group members, who he already knew from middle school, helped me every step of the way. While initially I felt like my time in high school had already been ruined, I came to realize how beneficial it has been for me to learn my lesson as soon as I got to high school. I quickly learned that the workload in high school was going to be exponentially greater than I had ever imagined and soon got myself back on track. On the other hand, I found myself spending an incredible amount of my study block time teaching myself to write programs on my school-issued TI-84 calculator. I eventually created a tic-tac-toe game after probably a couple months of work which really spiked my interest for programming, especially in unconventional settings like a calculator. Additionally, this year was a new beginning for the MSA as well: they hosted their first ever Symposium, tasking ever Academy student to create a project for a science fair. This was a great experience: it gave me the opportunity to work on an extensive group project entirely outside of school, and naturally I worked with Jonah on this as well. This fortified our everlasting friendship, as we continued to work together for the following three Symposiums.

Out of all the stories I worked my way through during this year, both Animal Farm and Romeo and Juliet have still not left my mind to this day. Despite Romeo and Juliet being my first taste of the usually-confusing playwright Shakespeare, the story, and not to mention the modernized skit of a scene from the play, definitely stand out in my memory. On the other hand, Animal Farm managed to leave an even more everlasting impression on me due to how well it portrayed the Russian Revolution and how graciously George Orwell brought humor and parody into the story. On top of that, I continued to read almost daily and became a frequent visitor of the school library, going on to read an entire series titled Alex Rider. Thanks to that habit of reading, I can’t recall any particular work that I had a problem with. My English teacher for this year, Mrs. Styron, definitely brought an incredible amount of livelihood to a class that I initially thought to be boring.

While almost all of the projects throughout this year were group projects, leaving very few personal writing projects, my writing skills still greatly improved. There was an extreme variety of writing genres, too; from an APA style research paper, to dialog for a skit, to an analysis of satire in Animal Farm. The APA research definitely was a pain in the neck due to how strict APA can be but I persevered and completed it well. The satirical analysis paper, on the other hand, allowed much more freedom in how it was written, giving me a great chance to work on my writing skills. Despite my usual procrastination, I completed all of my projects throughout this school year and enjoyed doing so.

All in all, my English teacher and classmates were an incredible welcome to the high school life. Freshman year really built my personality and self-confidence and left a lasting impact on my life.


The original assignment asks to explain what makes Animal Farm an allegorical satire of the Russian Revolution. I had to choose three satirical devices, pick out examples of each one from the novel, and mention what part of the Revolution it alludes to. I chose this writing because it was the longest and most detailed writing from this year and it was about one of my favorite stories.