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Silas Bastow


Age: 16 years old

Grade: 10th (Sophomore)


Hi! My name is Silas Bastow, and I’m a 10th grader currently enrolled at Alpena High School. I recently partook in an Advanced Learning For Teens course through Empowered Learners, which was instructed by Mitchel Dipzinski. The course focused on normalizing identity related topics through literature, and lasted 6 weeks.

Being an openly gay teen in a rural town like Alpena can make life difficult at times. Identity related issues aren’t prioritized in most schools, making this course one of the best I’ve taken by far. I learned that even everyday language can be discriminatory towards others, and that it’s always important to be aware when conversing. If I ever did make a mistake though, I now know how to identify it and correct myself which overall will continue to improve my language skills for years to come.

During the duration of the course, we read “If I Was Your Girl” by Meredith Russo. This compelling young adult novel told the story of a transgender teenage girl living a passing or “normal” life in south-eastern America. As a class, we discussed the book weekly and were asked to answer captivating questions, expanding our knowledge and improving upon identifying the importance of context in a story.

I think my favorite part of the course though was our instructor, Mitchel. Not only did he do an immaculate job of teaching the content, he made it intriguing and fun as well. As we were discussing sensitive topics, Mitchel went above and beyond to guarantee that everyone felt safe and comfortable with the content being discussed. Overall, I think the course could not have possibly been as good as it was without Mitchel instructing.

In the end, the only criticism I’d pose would be to expand upon the duration of the course. I loved every second I spent taking the class, and feel as though it opened my eyes and changed my perspective on the world.


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