by Hazel Crowley
Window into a Student's Life
It’s the night before this article’s deadline. I’ve just lost an hour, entranced by a video game called Cuphead. I’m following a 1930s-esque grinning mug cartoon as it battles a boxing frog and spitting potato, all to a feisty ragtime beat and…I’m confused. This is one of Solenn Minogue’s favorite pastimes?
Before this assignment, I’d never interacted with eighth-grader Solenn Minogue. Sure, I’d seen her perform micro-sketches of Back to the Future and Star Wars at the Elementary•Middle School variety show, heard her rock the chorus of Come Together and Won’t Back Down as lead singer of the MilkBrake Band, listened to her advocate for educational field trips (and make puns) while running for student council, and admired her powerful, determined stride across campus—but, despite her busy six-year Landmark career, we had never spoken.
Confident, Poised, and Self-Aware
So, when we sat down, I was immediately struck by Solenn’s profound sense of personal style. In quick succession, she introduced me to several favorite characters (relatable yet unique individuals like Izuku Midoriya, the protagonist of the manga comic, My Hero Academia) and passions (karate, synchronized swimming, all things retro/steampunk), and I was privileged to gain a nuanced take on each. Equally, I was impressed by Solenn’s poise and self-awareness. She spoke candidly about being bullied at a former school to the extent that she ran away, only to be chased down by the police. Solenn credits Landmark teachers with providing the supportive environment that has turned her into a book lover (evident from her correspondence with award-winning author Gary Schmidt), and she commends their kindness. “Even on off days, they’re nice!” She also acknowledges her close connection to family and praises their ongoing encouragement.
Our second interview was in the space where Solenn meets daily with tutor Bella Jackson. It’s just another cubicle, yet the sense of comfort and connection is palpable. A dog bobblehead on an upper shelf makes Solenn bounce and smile throughout. A Post-It on the wall commemorates a heroic Scrabble win for Solenn (and devastating loss for Ms. Jackson). A copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is presented eagerly for show-and-tell. It’s a dress-down day and Solenn is wearing a Cuphead t-shirt.
Where Skills and Intelligence Meet
While Solenn agrees she has made academic gains at Landmark, she says she prefers to stay “next to the curtain, not behind it but not in front of it either.” Bella quickly rebuts: “I admire how true to yourself you are, Solenn. And how hard you work. It’s exciting because you’re on an upward trajectory where your skills and your intelligence are bound to meet.”
My Cuphead research culminated in a discovery—impressively, each graphic is hand drawn AND the music is performed by a 13-piece band. It’s also insanely challenging, making it the perfect match for Solenn—a fiercely independent explorer who has gathered so many projects, interests, and companions around her that she’ll never feel alone. And likely, it will be adventures of exactly this kind that she pursues and creates throughout her life. I can’t wait.
Article originally published in The Lantern, Fall 2018/Winter 2019.