Traumatic experience leads FHS grad to writing award

An experience being robbed at gunpoint later led one Frenship High School graduate to a state award for her writing.

Laura Zak graduated in 2006 from FHS, and last spring from Texas Tech with a degree in English.

For a month in June of 2009, she volunteered in Costa Rica, where she taught English to elementary students at a public school.

“The first week I was there, I was robbed at gunpoint,” she said. The incident happened at 5:30 p.m. only a block from her host family’s home.

Afterward, she said she was very afraid, and felt like just coming home to Texas.

“I didn’t feel comfortable walking alone – really since then. But especially in Costa Rica,” she said. “But I had a great support system. I stayed with a host family, and they were very helpful.”

She said she also made a close friend in Costa Rica who helped her to get past the incident.

Despite the robbery, Zak describes her experience volunteering in Costa Rica as “very positive.”

“The school was pretty well off for Costa Rican schools, but it still didn’t have very good sanitation,” she said. The students, however, were cheerful and eager to learn.

As a writer, Zak said she knows she wants to empower people by exploring her own experiences. She wants people to learn and heal through her writing.
She wrote about the robbery in an honors thesis she wrote during her final year at Tech.

This month, she was notified that her essay had won the undergraduate non-fiction prize given by the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers.

Zak said those who have read the essay noted how honest it is, relating to the different stages she went through in coping with the trauma. She said perhaps that is what the judges liked about her writing.

Because she won, she had the opportunity to read her essay, “which was very cool,” she said. She hopes the award will also get her one step further ahead in the writing world.

This semester, she is taking a graduate course at Tech, but hopes to enroll in a graduate program a little further from home. She is specifically applying to the University of Montana, University of Minnesota, Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College. She wants to master in creative writing and teach at the collegiate level.

Zak said she first knew she wanted to be a writer after taking classes in the eighth grade with Kristina Janeway, who currently is an English teacher at Terra Vista Middle School.

“I had a really amazing English teacher, Mrs. Janeway,” she said. “She encouraged me to keep writing … and I’ve been writing since.”

You must be logged in to post a comment.