One student, named Hughes (I think), had moved to West Seattle from Oklahoma. One had to be unusually ingratiating and aggressive to find friends among the little snobs who banded together at West Seattle High. I suppose that's standard for a high school. Hughes was shy, a stranger, just one of many of the 2,000 students passing through, unnoticed, lonely, and probably miserable.
One day he read aloud a theme he had written—we had to read our work along to get credit. It was a true story about an evening some older boys had taken him to a whorehouse. He had been fourteen at the time, and he was candid about his fears, his attempts to appear courageous and confident to the older boys, his eventual panic and running away. We were a bit apprehensive when he finished. That story could have gotten him thrown out of most classes in the school. McKensie broke the silence with applause. She raved approval, and we realized we had just heard a special moment in a person's life, offered in honesty and generosity, and we better damn well appreciate it. It may have been the most important lesson I ever learned, maybe the most important lesson one can teach. You are someone and you have a right to your life. Too simple? Already covered by the Constitution? Try to find someone who teaches it. Try to find a student who knows it so well he or she doesn't need it confirmed.
- Richard Hugo, in his essay "In Defense of Creative-Writing Classes" from The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing.