A sampling of notes from my students and their parents over the years...

Photo credit:   FictionChick

Photo credit:  FictionChick

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Subject line:  I got into Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Penn!

Hey Clarissa, this is Brian.

I just wanted to tell you that I got into all my top choices and to thank you for tutoring me this summer.

My essays were awesome. I think they were a HUGE reason why I got in where I did.

Thanks again,

Brian L.


the moment you realize...

Summer Sun
by Laura, age 10
Rays of sunlight tickle my eyes as I spike a volleyball into the sizzling sand. Later, as I lie in the shade of an umbrella tree, the waves swing endlessly back and forth like a blue silk hammock, singing me to sleep.

I awake at the faint tinkling of an ice cream truck... 


Wow I have a gift

Laura grew up to become a TV writer.

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From my client who graduated from Harvard Medical School, founded a multinational company, and pioneered in her field:

Thank you for your many, many gifts. You changed all our lives and brought out my children's gifts when we moved here for refuge and safety. You brought joy and turned our world into one of creating. With each child, you have done something they deeply needed. I cannot thank you enough. They would not be whom they are without you.

Instead of hiring a therapist, I felt that the better choice was to have my daughter work with you. The research illuminates that creating a narrative (in this case through poetry), being listened to, receiving positive attention and creating an identity not based on trauma or loss but on positive aspects of self and giving back is more beneficial. I can manage her emotional life but rebuilding her is hugely important. That is it. You helped her in ways no one else could have. You do with all your students. You are truly brilliant at this.

My son is at the moment giving me a discourse on literary oppression. He has a lot to say about this.  Before you, he didn’t really like reading--just math, art, writing, and sports.  Interesting change.

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Seven years after graduating from my program...

Hi Clarissa!

Thank you! I am great; the kids are all great.

We were all together here in Boston for Christmas. Rachel is back in Dublin for school. Samantha returns tomorrow. 

Yesterday someone asked me how I raised my children to be so nice and so loving. In describing my parenting I thought it was essential I talked about you and how gifted you are at bringing out so much from each person you teach. I think you had a major impact on my children and me. You are truly gifted in what you do. We talk about you often. 

It would be fantastic to see you and catch up sometime!

Please use my words of thanks in any way. They are just an encapsulation of the magic you create--life-changing magic of the very best kind.

Warmest regards,



This e-mail is from Sarah. I helped her son Andy with his law school applications.



I just got home from a New Year’s party. Your e-mail is the best New Year’s gift I got. Thanks a million. I wish Andy had come to you sooner.


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Words cannot describe the special place you have in my heart. For the eight or so years I have known you, you have been an angel in my life, selflessly guiding me through my greatest successes and toughest challenges, and I thank you a thousand times for never giving up on me. Your passionate curiosity and desire for knowledge have inspired me as have your ceaseless will to help others be the best they can be. Your own success and perpetual happiness have inspired me to strive for greatness and keep holding on tight to my own dreams and goals. Not only do I want to thank you for your role in getting me where I am today, but also for the time you spent making me tea, encouraging me to read a good book, filling my mind with fascinating tidbits and ideas between assignments, and picking me up when I was down. You are a true friend and I am beyond blessed to have you in my life.  

I know I may not always do an amazing job of showing it, but I want you to know how truly grateful I am. I know that the past few years have been filled with assignments and papers and late night college applications, but I want you to know that I will forever cherish the memories of bouncing story ideas off of you and weaving worlds to create new worlds and characters, all while sipping tea and enjoying one of your delicious meals. I love to tell stories, and having someone equally passionate and also one of the most brilliant and giving people I know is something that I may never be blessed with again. So I hope we are creating together until we are both in wheelchairs. Thank you for inspiring a lifetime of stories. 

♥  MaCall

I taught MaCall since she was a little girl, and now she’s nationally recognized in five areas:  writing, rhythmic gymnastics, dance, acting, and social entrepreneurship. She also spoke at TED.


Clarissa, I truly am in awe. I have chills. This is poetic and brilliant and beautiful all in one. 

This is what I was praying for! You have a gift and we are so blessed that you share this with others and that we found our way to you. 

Thank you for being a part of both of my girls' growth from middle school to law school. I know there will be many more times in the future where I hope you will be willing to work with them. I’m so happy. 

LEXI was so inspired by you! 


*        *        *

So many people have their lives changed by happenstance - meeting that one person.  I think you are that person for your students and their parents.

From a client whose children I taught from middle school to college

From a parent:  Got it. So far, we'll be missing Friday the 21st. Any chance of make-ups (or is there any extra time on your schedule yet)? Judging from our recent communications, probably not, but maybe I can convince you to re-consider...


When you spent more time with the kids, there was a tremendous amount of growth. I told you that I consider you responsible for transforming Adam from a reluctant reader into a student who was described (after just 10 months of working with you) as a student whose greatest talent was reading. I told everyone I knew about you and how you changed Adam's life for the better.

Now I understand that you have had to re-evaluate your schedule. However, I wonder if it might be possible that your finest work is not really with the children who would be super stars without even having seen  you...  I suspect that your true gift (both to yourself and to the world around you) has been to transform reluctant readers and poor writers into children who are true achievers.

Anyone can work with the kids who really want to learn, Clarissa. You're better than that. You are the light that brightened Adam's soul (and who began to make Ivan shine). 

I really love what you did for Adam, and I think that you could even take him to a new level of passion. I think that it would take, from you, only a gentle nudge to make Ivan into a kid who will make you proud. He's on the edge right now – proud of his publications, ready for greatness, but also in clear danger of sloughing off the edge into nowhere-land. Lila is an enigma – in the hands of a lesser teacher than you, she will falter. With you, she could be fabulous. And Theo is just putty waiting for you to create a writer and a thinker in your own image. He is a brilliant child, and no better pupil could you find.

I'll totally understand if what I am saying doesn't resonate with you. However, I think that you're more than a [insert celebrity name here]-type college admissions coach. You are a teacher. A great teacher. And I want you back so that I can secure for all of my children the very best that they can be.

I'll totally understand if what I am saying doesn't resonate with you. However, I think that you're more than a [insert celebrity name here]-type college admissions coach. You are a teacher. A great teacher. And I want you back so that I can secure for all of my children the very best that they can be.

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First of all, I just want to thank you again for the incredible work you are doing with Ryan. I was getting his writing samples together tonight and reading over his work, and I find I am moved to tears. His writing is so beautiful. You are an outstanding writing instructor—the very best! We are so lucky to have you working with our son, and he is making huge strides. He is a gifted writer and is really learning his craft with you. I am glad I decided on home-schooling Ryan. This is so much more productive than what he would be getting in a regular class.

Thanks again,

Ryan later became one of the 14 finalists in an international writing-for-TV contest.

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A hilarious text from my student regarding the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Less than 5% of over 300,000 global entries win gold keys.

I won 2 gold keys and 4 honorable mentions!!!

I won a gold key for the essay my teacher gave me an 80% on!!!!!


Photo by Diana Robinson

Photo by Diana Robinson

Dear Clarissa,

I would like to thank you so much for being a mentor, friend, and even at times, a mother to me. You’ve always been there for me, supported me, and pushed me, even when I haven’t deserved it. You have inspired me in every way imaginable, and I am convinced that I wouldn’t be half the writer (or person) today if it weren’t for you. Everything you are is what I ultimately aspire to be. You are like a rare jewel that sometimes is found in a sea of worthless rocks. You are to be treasured and never forgotten. Your life is dedicated to others, and you rarely have any time for yourself. You have helped me realize what it is like to strive for goals, help others, and achieve ultimate happiness. You are perfect!!! So, in a nutshell, thank you for being a golden light that illuminated the right way down my dark path. This year, I really hope that you can pamper yourself and spend a little time for you. You deserve it more than anyone I know. Merry Christmas!

P.S. The abstract star on your card's cover not only represents the star that guided the wise men to Jesus, but also the star with which you have been guiding me in my life. 

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As it is with most people, writing was not Matt’s strength when he came to me. However, after a few years of practice, NYU told him that his was the top screenplay they received. He is now the Executive Producer for two major Condé Nast magazines and was also nominated for the James Beard Award for Visual Storytelling.

I just thought I’d let you know about some updates on my poetry. In the last month I have heard back from several poetry websites. The American Society of Poets sent me an email informing me that one of my poems, “Friends is such a lonely word,” has been chosen as one of their top 100 love poems, as well as poem of the day about a month ago. That was pretty cool. Also, poetry.com sent me an email asking for me to submit another poem (because I have been published with them before), to be put in another book with a one-page biography about me included. AND! I just finished a new poem. I'll send it to you when it's finalized. I hope all is well!


P.S.  As for the Antigone/Doll’s House essay you helped me with...Mrs. K. loved it. At the end of the rough draft she put “NICE WORK!” When I went up to her to confirm these words, she responded by saying, “Yes, Matt—it’s correct. You've got the groove!” She then performed a little dance for me, which was supposed to illustrate that I “had the groove” apparently.

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Dear Clarissa,

Thank you so much for meeting with us today. It was absolutely amazing to see what you were able to coax out of the kids. As I mentioned, we drove right from class to brunch with my in-laws. I read them what the children had written and they couldn't believe it!

When I read them Kendall's piece, my mother-in-law said she got goose bumps!!!

Brad and I are so excited to get the kids started in your program. Better yet, Conor and Kendall are also really excited about the possibilities...

Brad and I feel honored that you have accepted Conor and Kendall into your writing program. A whole new world is out there and we’re eager to explore it!

See you Thursday.

Barbara Perrin, CFO of Helistream, Inc.


Ten months later, Kendall found herself one of six in the nation to win a medal for her novel at Carnegie Hall in June 2008.

See Kendall on the front page of the OC Register.

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From a novel editor at Scholastic to my student Kendall:

Dear Kendall,

I wanted to write and congratulate you directly on winning a Silver Medal in this year’s PUSH Novel Contest. The other judges and I were completely enchanted by MISS LAVENDER VENUMN, and were incredibly impressed when we realized it was the work of a seventh grade – your talent and humor surpass that of 99% of the adults we get submissions from here at Scholastic.   

Very shortly, you will hear from the people at the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, who will let you know about the awards ceremony and other details about winning a Scholastic Art & Writing Award. Although I can’t offer you a shot at publication right now, I encourage you to keep working on your novel. When it’s finished, I would be happy to take a look at it.

Once again, congratulations on a remarkable achievement. I have no doubt that you have a great future as a writer, and am happy to have been able to give it some recognition.


David L.
Executive Editorial Director, PUSH / Scholastic


Hi Clarissa –

It was so nice to hear from you! I tried calling you back, but apparently I have an old number for you. I need to get updated contact information from you.

Of course you are welcome to use Whitney’s “Moose” piece. That is very exciting. The kids have really grown, and now Ryan is in high school. The time the kids have spent with you has proven to be one of the very best and most educational in their child development. They have both grown into confident writers, and what’s more, they really enjoy writing. They built an important foundation working with you, and now it is paying off for them. 

We cannot thank you enough!

It would be great to catch up with you and hear about what you are doing. Let me know your phone numbers. The kids say “hi”!


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I hope you have a very merry Christmas! As you know, I’m so grateful to have you in my life…and I’m very thankful to have someone as positively influential as you guiding me through some of my toughest times. You are truly a blessing to me, and I thank God often for allowing our paths to cross. I had a wonderful time traveling Europe with you last summer. It was so amazing to be able to share those experiences with you, and I’m so fortunate to have had that opportunity. Your light shines through everything you do, and you are a beautiful person, inside and out. I hope you understand how much of an inspiration you have been to me for all the time I’ve known you. Beyond sharing your own light, you have also helped me to see all the light in the world, and that quality is beautiful as well as uncommon. 
Thank you for teaching me how to write.  
Thank you for being a one-of-a-kind mentor.  
Thank you for changing my life.

Merry Christmas!

MaCall xxo

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

The following three e-mails are all from the same parent...

Clarissa, thanks for your lesson last week. David seemed very inspired. He told me he finally found someone to guide him in a way he understands.  

He told me he will eat PB&J sandwiches everyday and not buy any clothing to help pay for the tutoring fee...I am happy he is motivated and inspired by you. 
Thanks! You did a good job!--Cybele

Clarissa, you are super great! I like the way you teach. This spirit is what David needs to explore his entire potential....--Cybele

Clarissa, thanks for your sharp insight. You pinpoint David’s shortcomings well. He needs your help to guide him to explore his talent.--Cybele

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Hi Clarissa --

What an impressive flyer! Thanks so much for all the information. There is much more to your tutoring program than I had imagined. I spoke to Sara about working with you and she is very interested. She's not a person to volunteer for extra work, so this is a very good sign.

My husband, Scott, and I also discussed your program. We both feel it would be a perfect fit for Sara at this point in her life, as it would coincide with both her aptitude and interest. She seems to be getting a lot from her English class now, but I know there is much more that could be tapped.


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Dear Clarissa,

It’s been awhile hasn't it? I just wanted to let you know that I got an e-mail from the dudes at Merlyn’s Pen. They said that unfortunately they didn't choose me. But I did get the honorable mention!  

I guess the only reason they couldn't use it is because the way it flows makes it more suitable to a movie than a TV series. They're also going to mention it tomorrow on their website or something like that. I also wanted to let you know that I'm going to finish this book even if it kills me.


One of the 14 finalists in the world for a writing-for-TV contest.

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Hi Clarissa! 

Thank you! I've enjoyed catching up on reading MaCall’s writing. I can really see her growth over the years. Rich and I will always be grateful for all that our children have learned from you.

Rich and Lori Manor
Aircraft Sales, Aviation Marketing Group

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Kevin’s work is truly unbelievable and I am really really proud. I like his “Crash of the World” story and encouraged him to keep it up.

We are so proud of his winning the writing contest we bought ten extra copies to give out to our friends, family, and his class.

Yunteng Huang, PhD

Photo credit:  Persephone Reads

Photo credit:  Persephone Reads

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From the editor of the L.A. Times to my student:

Dear Meaghan,

Just wanted to drop you a note that I received your poetry submission. You should be quite proud of your poems, they are quite beautiful.

Unfortunately, The Kids’ Reading Room is for younger kids. Occasionally, I will publish something written by a 12-year-old, but I am afraid that 13 is out of the age range.  

I know this must be frustrating for you, but I am currently at work researching publishing avenues for older kids. Many older kids are sending me their work and it is disappointing to me not to be able to publish it.

Warmest regards,


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From a parent whose son became the second kid in history to get an adult contract with the L.A. Times:


Got it. So far, we'll be missing Friday the 21st. Any chance of make-ups (or is there any extra time on your schedule yet)? Judging from our recent communications, probably not, but maybe I can convince you to re-consider...

When you spent more time with the kids, there was a tremendous amount of growth. I told you that I consider you responsible for transforming Alex from a reluctant reader into a student who was described (after just 10 months of working with you) as a student whose greatest talent was reading.  

I told everyone I knew about you and how you changed Alex's life for the better. You are the light that brightened Alex's soul (and who began to make Isaac shine).


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Thank you so much. 

I always appreciate your comments…straightforward and positive. I feel better! Have you considered being a life coach? 



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Hi Miss Ngo,

I want to thank you for the great job you are doing. I know you have put a lot of time and effort into teaching the girls. 

I am especially impressed by your skills in finding leads and getting the girls involved in activities in an expansive yet methodical manner.


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A referral letter from an old student to a new one (who later became a Carnegie Hall winner):


To follow up on our conversation, here is the contact information for Clarissa Ngo. She helps with Harvard Admissions and is full of great ideas. 

She had a great way of teaching, and Ryan and Whitney still benefit every year by what they learned. In fact, she has been their best writing teacher to date and they have learned more from her than anybody. 

I just had her work with Whitney in the summers but was able to have Ryan spend his entire home school year with her as his English teacher. 

He won writing contests, had his poetry published and wrote a screenplay and was a top 14 finalist for the BBC’s contest for a new adventure film in India. Here is her contact information.


Photo Credit:  For more wonderful printables, please see  MakeBeliefsComix.com

Photo Credit:  For more wonderful printables, please see MakeBeliefsComix.com

Dear Clarissa,

Thank you very much for all you have done with all three boys. We are so proud of Haitham, and we will order a few back issues tomorrow.

We leave for Europe on Wednesday, returning around August 31st. Salma will follow up with you regarding next year’s schedule. Enjoy your summer.


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From a 12-year-old girl who learned to be proud of herself. In the end, Cayley was one of the less than 1% of kids around the world who are accepted into Stone Soup Magazine, which has been hailed as "The New Yorker for the pre-teen set."

Oh and I forgot to tell you, the Stone Soup people sent me a letter in the mail saying that I am in the MAYBE file...

And the cool thing is out of all of the people who send them stuff only 5% get in the maybe file... And I'm part of that 5%.  

Now they are just telling me to send in my picture and stuff.

I am so proud of myself.


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Dear Mrs. C,
I have just received Haitham’s poetry submissions for the Los Angeles Times’ Kids’ Reading Room feature that runs in the Sunday Comics Part 1. Please thank him for us. They are quite extraordinary.
Jennifer, Features Editor


Thanks Clarissa!

Isaac is simply glowing with pride!



The text I received from Michael when he got into Dartmouth:
Hey Clarissa, I got in!!! Ahhh!!! Thanks for helping me. My mom is very excited, btw, cuz I know you're probably gonna ask me that. Anyway, just wanted to let you know. There are some more forms I have to fill out, we can talk about it next time we have class. --Michael

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Hi Clarissa,
I haven’t spoken with you in a long time! How have you been? Are you still super busy? How is your family? I hope all is well.

I wanted to thank you again for all that you've helped me with throughout these recent years. I love it at Dartmouth and don't think I could have gotten without your help. I have benefited greatly from your teaching and still use many of the things I've learned from you. I bought the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (as you suggested) and started reading it. I love it so far and truly believe that those who want to succeed should read it. I recommended it to my girlfriend and after she read the first chapter she went out and bought a copy for herself!  

After working with you, my writing improved dramatically. For me there was always this hump in writing papers and you helped me get over that hump. I recently wrote my first paper in my first writing class here at Dartmouth, and I think it has traces of your teaching—from the title and thesis to the conclusion.

If it weren't for your teaching, I'd still be writing at the level of a middle-schooler. 


Michael, Dartmouth Class of 2010

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Thank you, Clarissa. You are truly amazing. The one thing we are sure of is that we want to continue learning with you!