We visited Edwin Markham Middle School and spoke with Willow Manley, an eighth-grade student, to learn about what drives her love of reading and writing. 

Willow Manley enjoys helping others in times of need, a skill she developed with the help of her mom.

Willow loves to read and write, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that her favorite subject is English. It’s just one of the many reasons why she joined Markham’s Project LIT Watts — an afterschool book club that aims to get students excited about reading by focusing on diverse, high-interest, culturally relevant books. She recently finished reading “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio and is currently reading “The Skin I’m In” by Sharon G. Flake. She’s even looking to order more books online. Willow feels that Markham teachers encourage her to hone her reading and writing skills. She says they also check for completed assignments and check for comprehension. And it’s not just Markham teachers who care; all school staff check-in with students. Willow appreciates how well Markham staff know students and how relatable they can be.

Apart from being a Medical Magnet student, Willow is a member of MESA (Math, Engineering, Science, Achievement). Here she gets to build bridges and towers, work on specific scenarios and identify solutions to problems, and work in teams. She’s also taking on a new challenge. All Markham eighth-grade students were offered the opportunity to participate in an afterschool college-level course next semester offered through the Los Angeles Southwest College (LASC). This is the third year that the course will be offered at Markham, and Willow will join her peers in taking the course, which will be led by an LASC professor.

Willow has shown that she excels academically, and she excels athletically, too. For the last three years, Willow has been a star athlete through the Boys and Girls Club at Markham. She’s played on the girl’s football and volleyball teams, which each progressed to district competitions. She also is a member of the dance team and the basketball team. This fall, Willow also enjoyed participating in Camp Ubuntu — a three-day retreat in the Angeles National Forest offered through the Harold Robinson Foundation. She joined such activities as hiking, arts, and crafts, ropes courses, writing workshops, music and dance therapy, yoga and meditation, campfires and more! She especially appreciated building trust and respect with her peers. Below, you can see Willow engaging in a trust activity at Camp Ubuntu.

As for college, Willow is very interested in attending an out-of-state college like Harvard University, the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, or a college in Texas. She hopes to study Psychology. Her interest stems from her connection to her mother. Willow’s mom is a travel nurse and seeing how compassionate and understanding her mom is towards her patients has allowed Willow to pull from that strength and share that same compassion with her friends at school. Willow appreciates all the advice offered by her mom. She feels that having a support system has been helpful to her when she lends an ear for her friends during times of need. She says, “I like receiving and giving advice when it is needed.”