I didn't have many friends in elementary school. I wasn't aware of it at the time. I was just a happy kid, happy to grow up with both of my loving parents and occasionally nice siblings. Like any kid, I had no concrete aspirations. One day I’d want to be a lawyer, the next it was a bus driver or a school teacher. I was the “good apple” in class. I almost never got in trouble and thought following the rules was the most important thing and that if I didn’t have an A or 5 gold stars, my life was over. But boy, did that change.
I remember how much I hated vegetables. My parents tried to win me over with that story about having super strength after eating vegetables for so long. I started slowly with broccoli and cheese. It was alright. But what really took the trophy was potato soup, which is still my favorite vegetable dish today (sometimes I cheat and add bacon bits and cheese). Nevertheless, I could eat it all day.
She wrote my recommendation to get into duPont Manual’s Journalism & Communications magnet. When I was accepted, I couldn’t help but think that it was all because of her. But I never got a chance to tell her how great Manual was. She died the next year. It’s almost as if she was kept here a little longer to help me succeed; to be the teacher and friend I needed, because without her, I probably wouldn’t have written this.
My life has changed so much since I’ve been at Manual. I came for creative writing, stayed for digital design, and continued forward with photography. Since my visit to New York my freshmen year, things have been different. I can’t say why because I do not know. All I know for sure is that the boy who went was not the same boy who came back.
So now, here I am; In a house of four, in that same house on Hill Street. I have more friends than I could have imagined back then. I'm confident and comfortable with who I am. I’m Robert Spencer, photographer and designer for New Roots and commission.
Attending Manual showed me how to challenge boundaries and rules and instructions, and how to think for myself. By the time my freshman year (2014-2015) was over, I had quit going days without talking, and had actually joined a band.
Through Manual, I met Cicada Hoyt and Robert Spencer. Cicada’s mom is the founder and executive director of New Roots, although I didn’t know it at the time. Robert Spencer became my best friend, and now works with me as an intern at New Roots.
My second major step into Louisville’s community was joining the band. At all of our shows, I see people who are involved in many different communities in many prolific ways, and I’m in awe of every single one of them. The music scene in Louisville is outstanding and deeply intriguing. It really is a scene, and that status is hard to put into words. It’s like it doesn’t exist until suddenly you find your personal lynchpin, and suddenly it’s everywhere all at once. Louisville’s music scene has spread into every nook and cranny of the city, and it’s beautiful.
My third step happened--and almost didn’t happen--towards the end of sophomore year. I was looking for a summer job, and I planned to work at Paul’s Fruit Market. I was going to work there until I graduated from high school or got fired--preferably the former.
However, one day, I got an email from Karyn Moskowitz about an internship opening at New Roots made possible by the Mayor’s Summerworks program. Originally I declined the offer due to convenience of transportation and the safety of working at Paul’s. However, within ten minutes of hitting send, I regretted it. I quickly typed up a retraction email, and hit send for the second or third time as my gut squirmed. And finally, I received an email in response, and that was it. As long as I filled out a packet of bureaucratic paperwork, I’d be working at New Roots.