The student profiles by Kate Fishman that appear in the pages of this newspaper each week are so well-written, the reader may not realize the writer is herself a student. Even more impressive, she’d only written a few profiles before she began writing the column. “I was worried at first if I could make a coherent piece, but I think I’ve gotten a pretty good sense of how to do it now,” she says. “I try not to be formulaic.”
A senior at New Paltz High School, Fishman has gone through school with basically the same group of her peers since kindergarten. Even so, she doesn’t always know a lot about the person she’s writing about before interviewing them. Initially she found her subjects through Facebook messages, but lately, she says, students have been approaching her. “And that’s been really cool, because I get to talk with all these people who I didn’t really know well before. And they’re super interesting people! So that’s been a lot of fun for me.”
The student writer for New Paltz Times is recommended each year by New Paltz High School English teacher, Joel Neden. He says Fishman was the perfect candidate, having excelled in his journalism class last year. “Kate is a fantastic writer. I think she has the capacity to put the way she sees the world into writing. And that’s not something all students can do.”
Neden says they’ve discussed different writing strategies that Fishman can utilize in writing her profiles. “I talked to her about the expectations she can set for herself, and how to make every piece of writing a little bit different. And she noticed that a lot of students seem to have similar responses, so she tries to use her own questioning to elicit different responses and more complicated answers.”
Fishman is a quiet student in class, Neden says, “but she’s always thinking. Kate is not a student to get lost on social media; she really thrives in a learning environment. And she lives in the moment. I think writing is something that comes innately to her. Kate understands music and culture, and I think her engagement with music has contributed to her work as a writer. She’s a creative individual and she channels her creativity in many ways.”
Fishman’s artistic interests include modern dance. She’s practiced the art form since age four at the Barefoot Dance Center in West Park, where she’s currently a member of the company and choreographs performances, too. Although she considers herself shy and introverted, Fishman says she’s always loved performing, and she enjoys the sense of community at the dance center.
She’s not certain at this point what career path she’ll take, but majoring in English is likely, with a possible minor in sociology. Still in the process of reviewing her options for college, she’d like to attend a smaller university, leaning toward Oberlin College in Ohio, Middlebury College in Vermont or Amherst in Massachusetts. Each of the prospective schools is close enough to New Paltz to come back and visit family and friends, but having lived most of her life in the region — she was actually born in San Francisco but the family moved to New Paltz when she was a few years old — the idea of experiencing a new place out of state is appealing.
“One thing I’m looking for is a place that doesn’t have gen-ed requirements. I’ve already taken AP chemistry and European history, and wonder, ‘do I need to take the same thing again.’ I like the whole concept of distribution requirements, where you have a lot of choice in terms of classes as long as you fulfill the requirements of the discipline.”
Fishman was named a Commended Student in the 2017 National Merit Scholar program, scoring among the top five percent of the more than 1.6 million students who took the qualifying test in their junior year. She’s also a member of the Youth for Unity and Interact clubs at school.
Last summer she attended the University of Iowa’s Young Writers’ Studio program for high school students. The immersive program is an offshoot of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop that so many writers who go on to become professionals have attended. Her focus there was on poetry. “That’s probably my favorite form of writing,” Fishman says. “But when I first took a journalism class, I thought it wouldn’t be as creative as other types of writing, and it turned out to be so interesting and I learned that there are so many ways to approach it. And in reading other people’s writing, I’ve discovered that the more creative you can be in your thought process when you’re applying it to something more structured, the better it sounds if you have a sense of another way of using language.”
So she’s leaving her options open, saying only that she knows she’ll continue to write in some form. “To some degree, I really enjoy all of it,” she says. “I just like writing.”