Daian Martinez

In the Middle

Mentor: Bob Krut

My project, In the Middle, is inspired by the events of last summer when I interacted with a group of middle-school students during a week-long camp. The moments spent with them were bittersweet as I learned about the minutiae of their lives: exciting first days of school, cringy failures that seem funny in hindsight, or their favorite cafeteria food. But I also ached for every negative experience that made them feel small and invisible. At such a young age, middle-school students were familiar with social anxiety, mental burnout, bullying, body image, and loneliness that made them feel small and invisible. Their feelings were not foreign to me, but I was alarmed by the age at which the students were exposed to rather damaging and emotionally draining experiences. I realized that many of the struggles of these middle-schoolers were connected to their social lives on online platforms, such as social media or text messaging. Moved by the encounter, I plan to write ten vignettes that portray the premature experiences of middle school students growing up in a fast-paced and technology-defined society. My project will add a contemporary dimension to the familiar tropes of growing pains and lost innocence, and I hope it creates awareness about the problems affecting contemporary youth.