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Anonymous Letters: A senior WISE project

By Denebola
Published: November 2008

By Ellie Crowley

Over the past two months, senior Maggie Hollander has received over 200 letters, all unsigned. She has undertaken an original WISE project, inspired by an exercise created by South teacher David Bloom for his senior acting class. “He asked our class to do what I’m asking of Newton South: write a letter to someone saying something you’ve always wanted to tell him or her, Hollander said.  She was moved by the fact that she felt that she could relate to most of the situations her peers had experienced. “Unique situations, ones I had felt so alone in, were in fact far more common than I’d ever imagined, Hollander said.
She wanted to communicate to a larger community that although on the surface people seem completely different, the situations and emotions people experience are very similar. Hollander constructed a WISE project to achieve this goal and asked South students to submit their letters to Unsigned-Letters.com. The letters contain sentiments from anonymous authors to anonymous recipients, saying things the author has never felt they have been able to tell the person. These letters are supposed to serve as a release for the author and provide comfort by showing the reader that someone else has gone through the same situation before.

“The title of the book is Unsigned, Sealed…Delivered? because the question on my mind is, does writing it all down, seeing it in ink, make a difference, ‘Ëœdeliver’ us from our secrets? And if the project encourages even just one person to tell the subject of their letter how they feel, then it has more than served its purpose, Hollander said. So far in her project, Hollander has only encountered a few issues, regarding the anonymity and content of submitted letters. Some faculty did express fears that the letters wouldn’t be fully anonymous, that kids could read letters and immediately know who wrote them, Hollander said. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, there will be several teachers and faculty members who check over the book during the editing process (although the only details that will be changed are ones that make it clear who wrote the letter), including Maria Weiner, who runs the WISE program, Bloom, and Emma Leslie, Hollander’s WISE mentor.

Hollander also expressed hopes that the people reading the project will focus on trying to relate to the letters, as opposed to trying to guess the authors. Regarding the content of the letters, Hollander has had to disregard many of the 200 she has received because they did not conform to the guidelines detailed on the website.

“By unusable I just mean they wrote me something post-secret style that is not written to a specific person, or they made it far too specific, or plagiarized, or just decided to send in something as a joke, Hollander said. Discounting these unusable letters, Hollander has received about 35 non-NSHS letters from states all over the country and about 120 letters from South students.

For the culmination of the project, Hollander hopes to compile all the letters into a book, write an introduction and conclusion, and put the finished product in the Newton South library, where students will be able to access it. Hollander finishes collecting letters on December 1, but students can submit last-minute letters up to two weeks after the official deadline.

She encourages students to write a letter and liberate themselves, but she cautions that it must be done for the right reasons. “Do not write a letter because your friends did it, or because I’m asking you to or for any reason or person other than yourself. Do it for you. That’s why I wrote one.

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