Beauty in Each and Every Step

Langley summer read author talks with students

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Beauty in Each and Every Step

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Caroline Castagna, Reporter
Andrew Forsthoefel told hundreds of Langley students that they were beautiful last Thursday, October 11
. Forsthoefel, the author of this year’s Langley Read for 11th and 12th graders, “Walking to Listen”, visited the school last Thursday. Back in 2011, Andrew Forsthoefel began his walk across the country from Pennsylvania to California. He set out with a recorder, some supplies and a sign that read, “walking to listen”. While walking on highways, rural roads, and through cities, Forsthoefel recorded stories and advice from the people he met along the way in his book, “Walking to Listen.”

Every one of us has a story, a history, a family, people we care about, people we are worried about, it’s so easy to forget that,” he said.

Forsthoefel began his day at Langley with two, thirty-minute talks addressing upperclassman with the lessons he learned from his walk.

“I think ‘Walking To Listen’ was relevant to a lot of us, seniors who are deciding where we want to go, and what we want to do,” Senior Michelle Ascrizzi said. “It’s reassuring to know that you’ll always figure it out as you go.”

These lectures were followed by four break-out sessions where smaller groups of students met in the library to interact more closely with the author. In these listening sessions, he stressed the importance of human connection.

“I think students seem to be really frightened of opening up, and connecting with one another in the deep vulnerable, and human way,” Forsthoefel said.

Senior Nina Talwar agrees.

“Sitting down to see another person as another person, not just as ‘someone who’s not your friend’ or ‘someone who’s in another friend group’ is something that high-schoolers could really benefit from,” Talwar said.

After reading “Walking to Listen” ninth grade English Teacher Vivian Jewell reached out to Forsthoefel. She originally planned Forsthoefel’s visit as an event to re-energize the student body about the Langley read.

“I had a very limited goal. My goal was always about the Langley read,” she said. “What Andrew gave the community was a lot more.”

Jewell attended the listening sessions.

“I saw students go up to Andrew, and he simply listened to them, and they would break into tears because someone was listening to them,” Jewell said.

She feels Langley has already benefited from Forsthoefel’s visit.

“I’ve noticed even today, the day after Andrew’s been here, my conversations with my colleagues are lasting a little longer. They are a little more meaningful,” Jewell said.

High school wasn’t too long ago for Forsthoefel, being 30, and in his book, “Walking to Listen” Forsthoefel recalls his own high school experience.

“I had some sort of fun times there, but also struggles of not knowing how to share what’s going on with me and my truth,” he said.

Forsthoefel’s parents divorced before high school started, and he found some solace in school.

“In some ways, high school provided an escape from the pain,” Forsthoefel said, “I was at boarding school so I could kind of ignore it, get away from it and I liked that because feeling pain is hard.”

Before his visit to Langley Forsthoefel went to Tower Hill (Wilmington, DE). Spending time at, high schools talking about his book, he has noticed some trends among the students.

“I see a lot of anxiety and depression,” Forsthoefel said, “I think those [feelings] are of symptoms of this unwillingness and inability to connect in a deep and personal way.”

Forsthoefel knows that high school can be hard.

“These struggles that we go through have the highest potential for connection. They are our humanness, and in High School, it’s hard to remember that sometimes,” Forsthoefel said.

After his walk and his time among diverse people with different experiences, Forsthoefel has some advice for those interested in embarking on a walk themselves.

“I could not have walked across America alone,” he said. The author continued to say that he didn’t walk across the country with just one other person to accompany , but many different people.

“I was walking with a whole nation of people,” he said.

All in all, Forsthoefel hopes students walk away knowing that they are important, and the importance of human interaction.

“Don’t walk alone–don’t,” Forsthoefel said. “Don’t bother trying. It’s impossible.”

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