CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Brittany Menjivar is a member of the Class of 2017 at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Brittany Menjivar is a member of the Class of 2017 at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington.

From a young age, Brittany Menjivar has loved telling stories. She learned to read at the age of three, and was always making up imaginative worlds to play in, either by filming her sister acting something out or using her Barbies to tell a story.

Since then, her interest in storytelling has remained constant, but the mediums in which she does so have been evolving. In elementary and middle school she wrote lots of stories, and during high school at the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, where she is now a senior, she even finished a few full manuscripts of novels.

Her sophomore year, she got interested in poetry after attending the “Shakespeare’s Sisters Seminar” at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where she studied female poets, and in 2016 won a school-wide contest for a poem that she wrote about a someone visiting the site of the drunk-driving crash that had killed their friend. She has coordinated Holy Cross’s “Poem in Your Pocket Day” throughout her time at the school.

“Poetry is a good way of expressing your opinions of the world,” she said.

Recently, Menjivar has started writing songs, since she also plays three instruments – the ukulele, the flute, and the melodica. She writes for a website called The Young Folks, where she interviews bands and writes reviews of music. While fiction is generally her genre of choice, she said she enjoys being able to conduct interviews, because “every person is a character with an interesting backstory and future.”

“It’s been eye-opening,” she said. “You find out everyone has something interesting to say if you just ask the right questions.”

Menjivar is the editor in chief of both the newspaper and literary magazine at Holy Cross. For her senior internship, she will be working at the Washington Post.

Outside of school, Menjivar serves as a member of the Teen Advisory Group for the Montgomery County Library System, where she helps plan library events and writes book reviews for the library’s teen website. One of the things she enjoys most is the opportunity to read novels before they are published, and send them back to the publisher with comments and suggestions.

Menjivar is constantly striving to improve herself. She has gone through phases where she has tried to write one poem per day, or write down one new thing that she learned that day.

“I’m really into expanding my reach of knowledge…being able to speak about different topics,” she said, adding that while she loves literature and film, “I want to be able to have intellectual and thoughtful conversations on other topics.”

Next year, she will be going to Yale and double majoring in English and film, which she got interested in during her International Baccalaureate film class at Holy Cross. She learned that “there are so many ways you can bring a story to life as a director.”

While she had thought about going into screenwriting, she realized that every element of a film is important to the story, including the music, the colors, and the shot angles. Instead of just handing over a script and letting someone else interpret it, “I want to be the one making everything happen,” she said.

And when she says, “everything,” she means it, because one of her goals is to write a novel and then direct a movie about it.

She is on her way to that goal, after co-writing the spring 2016 Performing Arts production at Holy Cross, which was an original adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Then, she also performed as the Queen of Hearts in the play.

Through acting and through writing, “you get to step inside someone else’s shoes for a while and see life from another perspective,” Menjivar said.

While she began writing simply because she enjoyed it, Menjivar said she has come to see how it can have an impact on society and be a tool for social change.

She doesn’t want to teach readers a lesson in a pedantic way, she said, rather, she wants to “present them with characters that will help them empathize with others…and see issues in the world.”