Common Read 2021

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First Year Experience &
Common Read Program Coordinator
Maria Buchta

2021 Events

Three Hills We Climb
3 different climbs at 3 different times with Professor McMenamin-Balano.

Share your Narrative Essay Contest

Norwalk Community College’s Common Read Program’s mission is to provide first-year students with a shared, enjoyable, academic experience that introduces them to an educational community where intellectual discourse is fostered and valued.

The 2021 Common read selection is Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb.

2021 Common Read - The Hill We Climb, Inaugural Poem by Amanda Gorman

In their First Year Experience (FYE) classes, students completed activities related to the themes presented in the poem.  Students were able to express their intepretation of the poem via art, song, music, rhyme and more! 

Click into the boxes below to view FYE students’ work. 

Share your Narrative Essay Contest

Students were also able to participate in a Share Your Narrative Common Read Essay Contest. Students needed to respond to one of the prompts below in less than 2 pages.

Prompt Option #1
Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” is a poem of reflection and inspiration. She claims of recent events “that even as we grieved, we grew, even as we hurt, we hoped, that even as we tired, we tried.” Gorman added her voice to the global conversation. Now it is your turn. Please write a personal essay about one way in which you have been influenced by current events. How have you overcome your own personal struggles? Let your voice be part of the “we” of Gorman’s poetry.

Prompt Option #2
In “The Hill We Climb,” Amanda Gorman asks that we “let love be our legacy” instead of 2020 going down in history as only a time of trial. She claims, “being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.” Do you agree? Please write a personal essay about how you or someone dear to you has overcome challenges and is making a positive impact.

Submission details:
Deadline:  Monday, October 11, 2021
Email to: or
Prizes: 1st prize $100, 2nd prize $75, 3rd prize $50 and inclusion in one of the many NCC publications.

Share your Narrative Essay Winners

                                                                                                                        When we think about life, we remember the past and try to imagine our future, but the truth is our main focus should be in the present since this is the time in which we make our choices and that defines our future. And guess what? Our choices are done, in the past tense. With that said, seven months ago I made the boldest decision that has been defining my life ever since, moving from Brazil to a different country with no intention of living in the USA, and here I am in my second week of freshman year in college.

Generally, people are always afraid of what’s to come, but as I said before a decision defines the present time in the past. By all means, living in America has been one of the things I have wanted the most since I was in middle school, but at that time my parents would make my choices and now they try to do their best to make my choices work out. Going to college in the US meant I had to detach from the people I love and leave the place that I called home for eighteen years of my life. Still, after seven months all I can think about is how hard I fought to be in the place that I am right now, and nothing is going to stop me from getting my doctorate degree and my license to work as a Healthcare Professional in this area. Somehow, just by starting my college path, which may seem simple for the ones who always knew how education works in the US but not for people that grew up in another country, I am already making that work and will continue for a long period of time.

In addition, once I heard people telling me that the place I was born did not define who I was, and that it would be the place I grew up. Although this may be true to some people, I felt different than that, I have always felt a greater connection with this country, and for me now everything is new to discover and understand the reality of living here. If I had stayed there, I could picture exactly what my life would be, always the same, taking care of people in a small town where everybody knew each other, and for sure that is not what I wanted. I have the urge to see things happening, to do stuff that I didn’t think was possible, to meet new people, make connections and discover a new version of myself.

Leaving was not an act of rebellion but an act of self-care, noticing that I am the one holding the power of my life, I am the one who goes to sleep and wakes up with me every day, for this reason I made the choice to change my address and as written by Amanda Gorman in The Hill We Climb “found the power to author a new chapter.” I started this chapter asking for happiness and mindfulness, and I discovered that I am happy keeping myself company, even though I miss being around my friends or young adults. As a matter of fact for the past seven months I only spent time with my family and their friends. Now I know that my company might be one of the best to be around.

Given these points, every change in my life will have a different impact and living right now is what takes me to old or new places and will make me learn so many new things that may or may not add to my life. Being away from the people I love is not the easiest thing to do but I always remember myself what made me choose to be where I am now. All there is left to do is finding the balance between being away and being the best version of oneself.

When I was 7, my 3rd grade teacher gave each student in the classroom a brand-new pencil case. She had placed several pens, pencils, and erasers in them. While the rest of my classmates excitedly began to use their new materials, I went and gently placed them in my bookbag. “this”, I said, “will be used for when I get to college”. In my 12th Christmas, baby Jesus sent me a case of 62 colorful pencils and 30 scented markers. With my face all lit up like the Christmas tree, I imagined the limitless amounts of drawings I could make with them…in college. As I turned 14, my dad yelled at me for having stored boxes of toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, and expired Listerine bottles that I would collect from my dentist appointments, to save for college. Eventually, it was the moment of truth. As I waited anxiously for the responses of the 14 different schools I had applied to, I felt a rush of victory flowing through my veins. When I finally received my letters, I had gotten 11 yes’s and 3 no’s. I eventually didn’t feel victorious, instead, I had nothing but fear and disappointment flowing through my veins. Even though I had great scholarships I was still missing a large sum of money. I wasn’t going be able to go to college. What I didn’t know was that you can only plan so much of your life because there are uncontrollable circumstances that can affect our journey.  However, we do have control of one thing; how we react to these wavy circumstances.

 For the next 2 years, I had rapidly changed from waking up at 7 am, to sleeping way after 2 pm. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays all looked like the same day with no clear direction. My energetic and hopeful semblance had changed to that of Eeyore’s from Winnie the Pooh. I could have been his long-lost sister. I had no peace. I had spent my whole life preparing for college, but it all fell like a pile of Jenga bricks caused by one wrong move. A move that caused my whole future to change. However, I got back up and decided to do the last thing I imagined ever doing as an art major seeker, getting a real estate license. It made me feel better, however, I still had many questions; Did I really spend my whole life preparing for something that I can’t do? Why couldn’t it be different? It wasn’t until an encounter I had with my friend that caused me to understand one of the greatest lessons I have learned this year.

 After not seeing each other in over a year due to the pandemic, my best friend and I planned a meet up at the mall. She then revealed to me how she was dealing with stress because the pandemic affected her last two semesters in college. Her mother then called her in the middle of our chat and asked if she had gotten her nurse licensing exam results yet. As she clicked a link on her phone, I saw her eyes begin to tear up. I heard a faint group of words come out of her mouth; I didn’t pass. She began to weep as she told me how she had received a great job opportunity at the hospital and the only requirement left to do was submit her nursing license. She then proceeded to overthink. “What if the hospital gives my position away? I knew I should have studied more; do you think I should have waited a little bit more before taking my exam?  I worked so hard all these years! This year was especially hard. I should have passed! I should have studied more!”  It was then when I realized, those same questions and those similar cries where the ones that I had experience 1 year prior to the pandemic. While I didn’t have anything in my hand to wipe her tears away, I had something better. I comforted my friend by sharing with her what I had learned through those 2 years of wandering directionless. I explained how I too was afraid of my future, and how I had experienced the fear of not knowing what it would look like. Slowly but surely, I saw he breathing rate diminish, and her face loosened up. I lastly shared something that made her gain security. Trust God and the process of all things. “You did your part, go take the exam again, do your best, study hard, but take breaks. Leave the rest to God.” then I told her, it’s okay if she failed again. It’s okay if it doesn’t work out.

After our conversation, I went home and laid on my bed. I felt a great satisfaction knowing my friend was at peace, and that I was there to help her. It was like everything was perfectly orchestrated for us to have this moment. I learned 2 important things about that event. First, I was stronger than I had been 4 years ago, when I graduated high school. I had grown in that desert. I found out how my faith was weak and my insecurities were big. Secondly, I learned that everything happens for a reason and sitting around complaining, wondering in the past and in my failures, will not change the future. I learned to trust the process, because there will always be circumstances that disables us from reaching our dreams. But that doesn’t mean to stop dreaming. The pandemic hit my friend at her finest moment of her career. The fact that I wasn’t reborn into the Kardashian family limited my ability to pay for college. Overall, I learned to be grateful. All the struggles, all the annoyances, all the good and the bad, I receive with gratitude. At the end of the day, all those circumstances make me who I am. It’s important to share the struggles we have lived through. Even if the story doesn’t end with a clear victory. Little do we know that struggle, that fear, that problem we had faced, can help someone who is living through it in the present. Little do we know that it can help someone find the light in the darkness. Little do we know that it will allow them to dance in the rain, as they wait patiently for the sun to shine, clearing the path that leads them straight to the finish line.

The Coronavirus Pandemic is a current event has made a major impact in my life. Frustrations has grown between workers and customers because masks make it harder for people to understand each other. Part of interacting with people is being able to understand what they say and see their emotions. Masks really make it difficult for us to see people’s emotions. In addition, it makes it harder for us to make and continue a conversation in general because we don’t understand each other sometimes. Another issue is that masks get annoying after wearing it for a long while. My ears sometimes begin to hurt because the ear loops irritate my ear after a while. After touching your mask too much, the top part starts to develop a ball of cotton candy that makes your nose itchy. Exercising with a mask is also a big pain.

The pandemic has also made it harder for us to do basic personal business as well. Being able to speak to a representative at a bank before the pandemic was very convenient as you can walk in and speak to one at any time. Now, you have to make appointments that can be days or weeks away. This makes doing personal business much tougher as we cannot do anything whenever we want to. We now have to set aside time in advance and be better at managing our time effectively. This isn’t an issue with just banks, but with the DMV as well. Businesses such as banks and the DMV have to follow social distancing guidelines in order for us to be safe. This as a result creates long lines when making appointments because only a limited number of appointments can be set during a certain time frame compared to before the pandemic. Having to keep track of numerous appointments can be painful, especially if you miss one.

In New York City, in order to be able to dine in a restaurant, you need to present proof of vaccination. I find this extra step to be annoying, as this just complicates the process of doing business. Some restaurants, notably McDonald’s, don’t allow their customers to dine in, which is a pain for people who bike around the city, walk, or use public transportation. This is also a much bigger issue in the winter as eating outside in the cold is never comfortable. It also makes it inconvenient for drivers as eating inside your vehicle makes your interior of your vehicle dirty, as well as leaving a smell of whatever you ate.

We have much worse things to worry about in life and having to deal with these annoyances due to the pandemic makes our quality of life worse. In addition, we know that this pandemic is far from being over, which makes us even more frustrated when doing business because we’re tired of having to wear these masks. There is no easy solution to this current event, but one thing is certain that we must listen to the science and follow every preventative measure to not get infected by the covid-19 virus. The end of the pandemic will come once a minimal amount of people become infected, which means that we should continue to wear masks, get vaccinated, practice good hygiene, and stay six feet apart from each other.  If only certain people do it, then this pandemic will be long from being over, and our quality of life will continue to dwindle. We must deal with these annoyances until the end of tunnel is met.

Common Read Book Club Challenge

NCC’s students started their own book club! Join them in reading fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Books are provided by SGA or as a free e-book. For every book club meeting you participate in, your name will be added once into the end of year raffle for a chance to win a MacBook Air!

Keep an eye out for the dates of all five meet-ups and end of year Reader’s Breakfast!

Our club meets five times, but the “Hill to Climb” is to read all 10 books!

Book List:
1. Of Human Bondage – W. Somerset Maugham
2. A Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime – Mark Haddon
3. Factfulness – Hans Rosling
4. Becoming – Michelle Obama
5. Hamilton: The Revolution – Lin-Manuel Miranda
6. The Sun and Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur
7. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
8. Beneath a Scarlet Sky – Mark T. Sullivan
9. I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson
10. The Hill We Climb – Amanda Gorman
11. Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

Contact SGA at:

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