Portrait Project


Each year we ask our classmates a straightforward, simple question taken from the last lines of a poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Mary Oliver. We share with you intimate and candid responses to this question, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself
  out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out
  of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and
  forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her
  enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and
  thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open,
  and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
  how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down
  in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how
  to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Send Comments/Questions.
Read people's comments about the Portrait Project.

2015 Student Leaders: Katy Lankester, Ashley Ng, Tat Sarkar, Jamie Wilkie

Class of 2015

David Askaryan

A few times every year in elementary school, a bunch of students would get suckered into selling candy…

Read More >>

Sarah Assayag

I would become the first colony settler on Earth 2.0…

Read More >>

Jackie Bernhelm

Growing up, there was this girl: Adriana. She was better than me at everything…

Read More >>

Minh Chau

I will live each day like it is everyone else's last.…

Read More >>

Nneka Ezeigwe

'Where are you from?' is a question I struggle to answer.…

Read More >>

Shaan Gandhi

Every physician and medical student remembers the first patient who died on his or her watch.…

Read More >>

Asaf Gilboa

"My Beautiful Girls, I'm writing this letter from the hospital,…

Read More >>

Sundus Husain

"Courage," I thought, "it's a toy pistol."…

Read More >>

Katy Lankester

I spent most of my childhood in a place that cared a lot about appearances…

Read More >>

Josh Latson

Some children are afraid of the dark, or spiders, or broccoli. I was always afraid of not being remembered…

Read More >>

Linda Li

It was the 2012 presidential campaign season. I had been knocking on doors …

Read More >>

Soline Miniere

I raise my voice, disagreeing strongly with my classmates. I realize that I have not been listened to.…

Read More >>

Adam Nathan

"Hit!" 24 paddles across four boats enter the glassy water in silent fury. …

Read More >>

Ashley Ng

My dad isn't so smart. School-smart, that is…

Read More >>

Nagi Otgonshar

Another blackout. Another dark evening in Khovd…

Read More >>

Astghik Poladyan

I believe harmony improves lives.…

Read More >>

Scott Quigley

Smoke billowed from the North Tower.…

Read More >>

Caitlin Roman

Balanced on the trapeze platform thirty feet in the air…

Read More >>

Tat Sarkar

He was riding his bicycle at the same speed with the moving tram…

Read More >>

Wyatt Smith

My father kneeled in chicken manure and drew a black streak with a pencil…

Read More >>

Derrick Snyder

As a sixteen-year-old, the thought of replacing air conditioning with cow manure was unfathomable.…

Read More >>

Constança Oliveira e Sousa

I didn't have much, but I had a sewing kit and some sheets …

Read More >>

Paolo Tosato

Over time I have come to realize that talents are rare and precious.…

Read More >>

Keima Ueno

I stand with my mother in the doorway …

Read More >>

Dan Vallone

Help kids to look up …

Read More >>

Jamie Wilkie

At age ten, my dad and I bought a run-down 1965 Volkswagen Beetle.…

Read More >>

Suzanne Willis

No more pretenses. It has taken me a long time to get here. …

Read More >>

Jen Wu

I will make time.…

Read More >>

Sue Yang

Before my first visit back to Shanghai, before we moved to Detroit…

Read More >>

Hugh Yoon

My younger sister suffers from an acute mental disability…

Read More >>

Chao Zeng

My first job involved working onboard of the trains between Shanghai and Zhengzhou …

Read More >>

Helen Ruiqi Zhang

I want to live my life with a big heart, and a small ego. …

Read More >>