At 6 a.m. on a recent morning, while most of her classmates were still fast asleep, Springs School 8th-grader Gresa Shoshi was wide awake. She was thinking about how advertising and marketing pressures kids to make sure they have “the look.”
She was not obsessing about her own looks, fashion sense or popularity. She was mulling a way to guide other kids away from unimportant concerns.
In bed with her laptop, Gresa set about writing a plea to her peers to ignore such anxiety-inducing burdens. Her advice is posted on her online advice column, “Asking Grace.”
“These days, it’s all about ‘the look,’” she wrote. “Don’t let something like worrying about fitting in control your life. I honestly like to stick out than to fit in. It makes me feel original.”
Gresa, a precocious 13-year-old with an earnest interest in people, is hoping to syndicate her efforts the way “Dear Abby” and “Ask Amy” have for more adult oriented problems.
Through her online blog (AskingGrace.blogspot.com), Gresa has started sharing her advice on some of the issues she encounters in the hallways of school every day. She hopes to reach a wider audience by finding a publication to carry her column.
“She is quite a personality,” her teacher Sue Ellen O’Connor said. “We were coming up with projects for the journalism club and she said she wanted to write an advice column. I think it’s a great idea for her.”
The root of Ms. Shoshi’s interest in advising others, she said, goes back to the time her family fled its native Kosovo during the war there in the mid-1990s. She saw the suffering of others and, while growing up here in the comparative calm and safety of the U.S., developed a keen interest in helping those less fortunate than she.
“I wish I could just show other kids that, no matter what their problem is, we don’t have it that bad here,” she said. “You can make so many messes in your life, but there is always a way to clean them up. I just seem to be able to find the way to do that well.”
Her “Asking Grace” blog has given her the opportunity to start stretching her philosophical legs and honing her editorial voice. The other kids in the Springs School journalism club have penned a few problems for her to solve, just as readers of a syndicated column will hopefully do someday. One was from a student who was being bullied. “Everyone has probably gotten bullied before but the key is to do something about the problem,” she wrote in response to one query by “Nervous 6th Grader.” She suggested ignoring the bully, or asking the bully to stop, or taking the matter to an adult.
Her style, which Ms. O’Connor says is all her own, is sophisticated beyond her years but hints of her youth.
“Wow, that is a drag,” she starts another column, in response to a plea for advice on how to invite a limited number of friends to a party without hurting others’ feelings. “I can understand that the others may feel a bit hurt by this but you can always assure them that there will be other parties and next time they’ll be invited.”
Facing down bullies; choosing friends; handling the dangers of the internet—whatever the topic, Gresa wants any future advice seekers to know she will be there to help.
“I can offer moral support from someone who can sympathize with their problems,” Gresa said. “With problems like this, it’s always up to you to address it, but I can be the training wheels.”