Stotan: (n.) 1. A cross between a Stoic and Titan.  2. A person of great physical strength.  3. A name given to a person who triumphs over a weakening to emerge stronger than before.

"Okay," Ashley asked the class. "Who here has had a Stotan moment?"

I looked up from my wooden desk where I had been doodling little smiley faces before her voice caught my attention. She and Mike were standing at the front of the room anxiously awaiting a response from the class.

It was mid-November, and it was the last period of the day. For me, it was Honors Communication Arts, which is why Ashley and Mike were leading us in a discussion of our latest novel, "Stotan!" by Chris Crutcher.

For the final project, each of us had been required to find a partner and teach the class for a day, complete with a game and discussion questions. Today, it was Ashley and Mike's turn, and so far, they weren't doing that great. Silence filled the classroom. No one spoke a word, and Ashley looked uncomfortable.

"Okay, I, uh, I've had a Stotan moment," Ashley said, her voice nervous.

"I don't know how many of you read my extended memoir paper, but I wrote about something that was challenging to me, that I had to overcome so I could become stronger."

I looked at her in disbelief. Here was one of the prettiest, smartest girls in school saying that she actually had problems. In the back of my mind, an angry voice whispered,

"What's the worst she's had to go through? Deciding who will be her boyfriend today? Or maybe what shade of lip gloss will bring out her lips is the hardest decision."

I shut my eyes and gently shook my head, attempting to clear it, as Ashley continued.

"My extended memoir was about my depression and you know the medication I had to take," She said, a perky note still in her voice. She even smiled at us, as if it was no big deal that she had dealt with these problems.

My God, I thought. Here is one of the nicest, sweetest people I have ever met, admitting to us that she was depressed and that she had to take medication for it. Yet she is still smiling and she doesn't mind admitting it to the entire class that she had problems! How could I have ever judged her? Just because she's smarter, prettier, and thinner than I am, I wouldn't give her hardly a chance.

I looked up again, to see Ashley still grinning at us all. Despite her mostly cool exterior, I knew that she was hiding behind her smile. She had just exposed herself to us, and I could tell she was desperately hoping that someone would become vulnerable as well.

She looked to Mike, and finding no support, turned back to us.

"So, have any of you ever had one of those moments?"

I've had plenty of Stotan moments, I thought to myself. I've had to overcome a lot in order to be as strong as I am today. A Stotan is someone who is extremely strong, I think, and everyone says I'm pretty strong. But do I want to let myself be vulnerable and exposed like Ashley just was?

Again, I gazed at Ashley, and I could tell she was really starting to get nervous. A voice, somewhat older and wiser than mine, said slowly,

"Sometimes, in order to be strong, you must allow yourself a moment of weakness."

I shut my eyes and I knew what I had to do.

"I've had a moment."

My voice cut through the silence like a knife slicing butter. Ashley's face lit up.

"What's your moment, Ashley?"
( we both have the same name - interesting don't you think?)

I took a deep breath.

"I wrote about depression in my extended memoir, too. But you know, I think my entire eighth grade year was a Stotan moment. I was depressed and my therapist wasn't a big help, but I wasn't allowed to be on medication. I think the worst Stotan moment I had was, in my memoir, talking about how I overcame self-mutilation. And you know, I don't have a problem talking about being depressed, but it's not so easy to talk about the cutting."

My voice cracked and I couldn't finish. Suddenly, Ashley rushed over to me and gave me a hug. The entire class of twenty-some students was silent, and I held my breath. Could they truly understand what an impact this had been on my life? Or how much it took out of me to admit that for a year, I had had an addiction to hurting myself? Not all of them had read my memoir, but surely they didn't need details?

Ashley broke off the hug, and I saw that she was crying.

"Overcoming that truly makes you a Stotan," she said, her voice shaky. I looked around the room, at the faces of my peers, and not one was covered with hate or pity, but compassion and awe. Then other hands began to shoot up into the air, from other people wanting to share their own stories of personal triumph and ascension into strength.

When the bell rang at 2:45 that school day, twenty-odd students had all shared moments of strength and weakness. And all had proven to be Stotans.

Written by Ashley P., Age 15 --- Kansas