Ani Wilcenski earns spot in competitive humanities program

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BY Molly Congdon
Gazette Reporter
CLIFTON PARK — Shenendehowa junior Ani Wilcenski will be spending her summer a little differently from her classmates.

She was recently admitted to the Telluride Association Summer Program, a seminar-based program focusing on the humanities. Students are able to take college-level courses for three hours each day for the six-week duration of the program.

The application process was anything but simple. Candidates had to write six essays and fill out a lengthy form. If a review panel judged the essays worthy, the applicant moved into the semifinalist category, most commonly known as the interview stage. This, however, is no ordinary interview; it puts the mental capacities of the students to the test. “They wanted to see how you think,” Wilcenski said. This included questions such as:

u How do you read?

u What is your thought process like when you analyze a poem?

Wilcenski met her interviewer at Panera for two hours, and apparently made a good impression. She was one of 64 finalists from across the world selected to take part in the program; Wilcenski will be at Cornell partaking in her top choice seminar, “Mapping Fictions of American Identity.”

“We will analyze the time period from 1840 to 1940, read literature and study art from that time and analyze gender norms to develop a composite narrative about how the country developed,” she said.

Wilcenski already knows where she will be looking to head off to college after she finishes her high school career at Shenendehowa — she wants to be in the big city, New York. “NYU is my top choice,” she said. “I want to major in English literature; I want something with a strong liberal arts core.”

Wilcenski and her family moved to Clifton Park from Guilderland when she was starting sixth grade. Her father, Ed, is a lawyer and her mother, Christine, is a stay-at-home mom as well as Wilcenski’s greatest inspiration. “My mom is my world,” she said. “I couldn’t give her enough to repay what she has given me; I wouldn’t be anything that I am today if my mom hadn’t pushed me to do them.”

Her brother, Bryan, is now a seventh-grader.

Her extracurricular list is quite extensive.

Keeping busy
She currently is vice president of the Environmental Club. “We go through the recyclables everyday and get the things that are returnable and then we fund eco-friendly things around the school,” Wilcenski said. “It doesn’t get enough visibility at school because no one wants to do it, but it’s really made me so much more aware of environmental conservation and what we put into the world and do for it, it’s our responsibility.”

Next year she will be the president of the History Club. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise since she recently wrote a paper on Roger Tawny, chief justice of the United States when the Supreme Court issued the Dred Scott decision, and how that pro-slavery, anti-black ruling not only shaped his legacy but also the trajectory of the United States as a whole. This piece won her the Abner Doubleday Civil War Roundtable Award at the New York State History Competition, where students wrote a response to the prompt: Leadership and Legacy Throughout History.

She has a love for U.S. history in particular. “Last year I took AP U.S. History and had a really awesome teacher; I got very interested in the social side of history and developing an understanding of history that wasn’t just pure facts,” Wilcenski said. “Understanding the way people interacted and how that has shaped the way our country is today; there’s more to it than dates and figures. There’s a concrete aspect to it that relates to our lives more than we can ever really think.”

Her free time is spent reading magical realism of authors like Flannery O’Connor and Gabriel Garcia Marquez as well as feminist publications such as Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique”; exploring German expressionist art, which served as a huge inspiration for Tim Burton; playing classical and jazz piano; tutoring Latin; and volunteering at Saratoga Bridges at Sib Shops, working with the siblings of children who have disabilities — sometimes in those homes they feel unappreciated because their sibling gets more of the attention.

One day, if all goes according to plan, her passions will intersect; in fact, in many ways they already have fused together. “I want to be a professor of some kind,” Wilcenski said. “I think in many ways English, provides the opportunity to develop those passions. If you can write and draw from a wide range of interests it makes your viewpoint that much more informed. In my writing, I try to draw from my fields to make a perspective that is well-rounded and comes from a place of actual knowledge and information rather than just my own personal views.”

Six questions
for Ani Wilcenski
Q: What is the food you couldn’t live without?

A: Chipotle or octopus. Grilled octopus is probably my favorite food.
Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: “Beloved.”
Q: What is your favorite ice cream?
A: Peanut Butter Pandemonium.
Q: If you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be?
A: A tiger or a lion, a nice one that wasn’t bloodthirsty.
Q: Where is your favorite place to go to relax?
A: The ocean; anywhere near the water.
Q: Favorite season?
A: Fall.