She won the English award that year, and I remember the entire auditorium cheering loudly for her, with teachers nodding their heads and smiling with pride. She was everything I wanted to be in three years.
I did end up giving two speeches in front of the school -- once my junior year, and once my senior year. And I never won a single award at school, but I did end up going to the same college as she did. And I did rediscover my passion for writing in high school, though I never won any prestigious writing awards.
After Tara graduated early from Columbia (magna cum laude, natch), she started to pursue her music career. Now, she is professionally known as Tara Priya.
It wasn't my intention to write about Tara Priya on the day of Amy Winehouse's death, but now I consider it fitting because Tara considers Amy to be one of her greatest influences.
I'm no expert on music (much less widely accepted "good" music), but Tara's EP has been on repeat on my playlist for the past two weeks. It's catchy, genuine, and heartfelt music. At the very least, you'll see why I was both intimidated and in awe as a 15-year-old freshman, sitting next to that confident senior with the brunette curls, who seemed ready to conquer the world.
You can listen to her EP and download it for only $3 here. I've also attached her new music video, "Rollin'." Hopefully it brings a bit a soulful joy to your heart amidst all the tragedy in this world.