While eighth-grader Chloe Young admits she can be shy in new or unfamiliar surroundings, my first impression is of a strong young woman who is comfortable speaking her mind and expressing her curiosities. Chloe was born in Virginia but has been in Momence for as long as she can remember. She considers attending school in Momence a rich experience filled with friends. But Chloe adds that this wasn’t always the case, and it took her time to gain comfort and confidence.
BY BARRY ENGELHARDT
Chloe has always been drawn to the arts in its various forms. She smirks as she suggests her favorite subjects are physical education, lunch, and art. Chloe quickly adds English to the list, channeling the more creative aspects. “I do like writing a lot, typing quickly, making a story. I like to see how it comes out,” says Chloe. She admits that sometimes she gets lost in her stories, unsure where her characters should go, suggesting that it can be difficult to focus with so many ideas and options in her imagination. “Sometimes, I can get distracted,” Chloe admits in a way that feels more like a gift than a challenge.
I do like writing a lot, making a story. I like to see how it comes out.
While narrowing down her endless creativity can sometimes be difficult, there are other times when she can effortlessly channel her imagination, and the stories all but write themselves. “When it’s a single, short story about these characters, it just happens,” adds Chloe with a knowing glance.
Chloe also enjoys music and shares that while many students have been playing their instruments for years, she decided to pick up the flute and join the band at the beginning of her eighth-grade year. She adds that her best friend plays the flute, so she also decided to try it. As a result, Chloe learned she enjoys making music while spending time with her best friend. While she’s still settling in, she considers the experience to be pretty special.
While playing in the band has been a new adventure, art has always been Chloe’s favorite subject. She doesn’t care to use people as her subjects, instead focusing on nature, trying to capture the complex beauty of a tree’s changing leaves or the movement of the ocean’s waves, preferring watercolor paints.
“During summer school, I ripped up a bunch of tiny construction papers of various colors and put it onto paper to form a flower,” says Chloe. She describes the power and simple beauty of using countless, individually—as she says—’meaningless little pieces of paper’ to form a beautiful landscape in detail.
As we discuss the beauty of landscapes, I pause and look around. We’re in the Momence Library, with walls lined with countless art pieces centering around posing as the letter M. Curious about the project, I recently learned these letters were chosen and placed to channel how complex and unique something as simple as the letter M could be using various styles and perspectives.
Looking around, I quickly see the project’s intent in real-time: students coming and going, all the same, yet all so different. I look back at Chloe as she continues to express art’s impact on her life and her ability to find comfort and creativity within its countless examples. The subject transitions, and she casually admits she is nervous about starting high school, repeating that new surroundings can cause her to be shy. At home, my wife is about to transition jobs and recently expressed similar concerns, causing me to realize that while more familiar, it never gets easier. We’re all similar, yet different.
I know my wife will excel just as I know Chloe will. Both are storytellers. Both will write their next chapter in real time, filled with excitement, adventure, an occasional struggle, and boundless creativity. Chloe is a reminder of the richness to be found in a courageous approach to life.