When my teacher asked those who were interested to raise their hands, I stuck mine in my pockets.
Was I interested? Yes. But I didn’t feel like I could do it. I had already tried once before, about five years earlier. I wasn’t sure if it was that I was a poor test taker or just stupid, but I felt like–for whatever reason–I wouldn’t be able to keep up in an advanced class.
In elementary school, the Extended Learning Program (ELP) was something that all of my friends were part of. I wanted to be in it so badly, and I applied in third grade, but my test scores didn’t meet the standard. When we got to Jr. High School, everyone in ELP went straight into advanced courses. I was left in the general classes, and it made me feel inadequate.
Looking back on it now, I’m happy I was in those general classes. I had wonderful teachers and I made some great friends. But I remember how desperately I wanted to join my other friends in the more rigorous courses. That chance finally came in eighth grade. Everyone would be allowed to apply for Advanced English. Your past grades and test scores wouldn’t matter–they would only judge you on your application essay.
My English teacher told us about the program and in my mind, I wanted to try again. But I remembered how I hadn’t made it the last time. I had been barred from ELP because, in my head, I just wasn’t smart enough. What had changed since then?
My teacher walked around the room, placing packets of information down on the desks of each student who had their hand in the air. The packets included all of the information about how to apply for the Advanced English course and what would be required. After she had handed out the materials to everyone who had their hands raised, she walked past my desk and dropped a packet in front of me. She bent down and quickly said, “You can do this.”
I was shocked. Her words were contrary to everything I believed about myself. But I accepted her challenge. I applied for the Advanced English course and I made it in.
I’m very grateful for that English teacher. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see that she saw a potential inside of me. She saw me for who I could become–or maybe even for who I was. Either way, she saw who I couldn’t see. What’s more is that she did something about it. She encouraged me to push myself and reach my full potential.
You couldn’t ask for a better teacher and friend.
With all of that said, I know that my story isn’t entirely unique. As a matter of fact, it’s one that I’ve seen reflected in Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games books. I think that it’s safe to say that Katniss was a lot like me at the start of the books. She didn’t necessarily see her full potential. When she enters the games for the first time, she has no intention of blossoming into a leader and a voice for the people.
But there was someone who did see something in her.
His job, as he said, was to help her “make an impression.” From setting her ablaze on the chariots to creating a stunning wedding gown, he was trying to send a message. When the Capitol looked at her they saw power, intelligence, and majesty. But have you considered that maybe that message wasn’t meant for the Capitol? Maybe the message was meant for the girl wearing the dresses. Maybe he wanted her to see her own sense of power. Maybe he wanted her to see her own intelligence. Maybe he wanted to make an impression on her.
By the time you finish Mockingjay, you realize that he was part of the revolution the entire time. He always wanted Katniss to rise up and become a symbol of freedom. Why else did he ask to be part of the team for District 12? He saw what she could become, and he did something about it.
“I’m still betting on you.” There’s a reason why those words resonate with fans. It’s because he isn’t so much betting as he is believing. He believed in Katniss and what she stood for, and he helped her believe as well.
Cinna is that friend who tells you that you can do hard things even if you don’t think you can. Cinna is that friend who reminds you that you were missed at school the day before because you’re loved. Cinna is that friend who makes you look good because he makes you happy. He’s the one who steers you toward a purpose and gives you a reason to keep fighting. He’s the one who’s willing to put everything on the line so that you can succeed, even if it means sacrifice.
You see, Cinna did make an impression, but it had nothing to do with the dresses and gowns. It didn’t have anything to do with the fire or even the symbols of the revolution. Instead, it had everything to do with what was inside. He helped Katniss see her potential and then he helped her get there.
You couldn’t ask for a better friend.