The following article was written by one of the most influential teachers I’ve ever had — Dr. Sean Cassel. Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me and write this amazing article. I wouldn’t be here without you!
Autumn Wells isn’t your typical teenager. Her long-term goal has a faint familiarity that many teenagers’ do, “to be happy and to be comfortable,” but the fabric that makes her unique lies in the avenue she plans to take to ultimately be happy.
“I’m going to Drexel so I’m going to be in college in the city. I’m going to try to do the same thing I’m doing with my blog, but I’ll be doing it in the city so I’ll have more people around to talk to and interview.”
One small step here. An even bigger step there. And before you know it, the scope and scale of Autumn’s plan begin to grow and the picture becomes clearer. She wants to be successful and defines it by being able to “change people’s lives using [her] platform.”
“I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I want to tell people’s stories. Meet more people. Once I’m older, I’ll have more ways to get around and travel.”
It all started with a typical teenage job at McDonald’s and an observation about the people that she worked and interacted with, but it quickly grew into a creative outlet for her writing and human curiosity.
“It started with my job at McDonald’s — one of the easiest, lowest paying jobs you can get. There are so many different kinds of people. It started with just wanting to interview them, but then it just expanded from there.”
Autumn was able to see the uniqueness of everybody, and not in a cliche, post-card or motivational poster kind of way. She was able to see that each person she encountered had a story to tell, but not everyone had the venue. So she created one. From there, Autumn’s blog — aptly titled (Extra)Ordinary People — became a place where she told people’s stories with the type of mature precision that even many seasoned journalists might not be able to accomplish.
So what now?
“I’m working with artists at Seneca and half the profit of the items we sell go to people in need. I’d like to keep doing that on a larger scale. I want to support local artists and also donate money to people who need it.”
Autumn’s love of writing isn’t completely atypical for a teenager, but her passion and long-term goals don’t end with writing a blog. She has greater aspirations to make a greater impact on the world.
“I kind of always liked writing because it’s easier for me to get across what I’m trying to say in writing, but I want to move towards film too where I have a different platform to share my message.”
In her own way, and in her own voice, Autumn’s inspiration comes from everywhere — from Ellen Degeneres to her brother to those she encounters on a daily basis.
“I really admire Ellen Degeneres because she uses her platform to help people. She gets people’s stories out there and helps them out by representing people who arent that famous. I also admire my brother because he manages his diabetes and never complains, is super polite, maybe the nicest kid you’ll ever meet.”
From her own lens, Autumn values the importance of listening to people. When she’s choosing who to interview, Autumn knows when there’s more than meets the eye.
“Sometimes I get a feeling that there’s more going on than they’re letting on, and other times I know there’s more to people. I get kind of curious.”
Her motivation is simple.
“It really helps me understand why people are the way they are.”
So in conducting this interview with Autumn, I wanted to show those reading this who she really is. When interviewing someone with more experience in the process, it can be a bit intimidating, but Autumn was open and honest — key traits she thinks make great writers. Great journalists are also able to read people and adapt, something Autumn also does extremely well.
“I adapt to different people — sense the energy in the room, who people are. That’s why some teachers get a different impression of me than others. One common thing they would all say is that I’m not scared to be myself, not worried too much about what other people think, generally compassionate.”
Because Autumn is not afraid to be herself, it allows others to be comfortable enough to be themselves. This is why she is able to get people to open up during interviews, and this is why her teachers, myself included, appreciate her as a student. She is willing to stick up for what she believes is right, own her mistakes when they occur, and appreciate those around her for what makes them who they are.
The interview ended with some sound advice:
“Listen to people. There’s so much going on and we tend to forget that everyone has a backstory. It’s easy to get annoyed and not be empathetic, but I want people to think about others.”
Not bad for a typical teenager. Heck, not bad for a wise adult. If we could all follow this advice then maybe, just maybe, the next encounter you have with an ordinary person just might be extraordinary.