Her Way with Words, Part 2
“Each of them learned to read quite well by adulthood by becoming interested in something of passionate curiosity to them. While many of them were left back and had to repeat grades, they became better readers by reading a lot in a narrow area of interest,” Fink said.
Long said she entered college wanting to be an economist, which she felt played to her strength in math, but she later found the confidence to follow her passion for literature as well.
Long said she has been “in awe of my peers” at Wellesley, not only because it takes her longer to write papers, but because her classmates are able to “devour novels in mere hours,” she said.
But, Long said, her slow reading pace also has been beneficial, since it means she reads with more appreciation. And the hours she spent learning to read by listening blossomed into a love of book and poetry readings.
“It doesn’t shock me that she would be able to overcome hardships and setbacks,” said Wellesley English professor Kathryn Lynch, who had Long as a student in two Chaucer classes. “She has an amazing ability to be able to balance responsibilities.”
During her freshman year at Wellesley, Long began volunteering at the medium-security Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Framingham, helping female prisoners publish a magazine and start a book club.
“She’s been a positive influence here,” said Pam MacEachern, director of classification and treatment at the prison. “It certainly says a lot about her character to keep a level of classes and then finding time to come in and help inmates.”
The magazine, Behind the Walls, gives incarcerated women the opportunity to write about current events. Book club discussions focus on changes occurring in the fictional characters’ lives. “It’s been a really powerful way to have people address their own problems,” Long said.
Long isn’t above breaking away from her studies. She makes a brief appearance as an extra in Mona Lisa Smile, a new movie starring Julia Roberts that was partially shot on the Wellesley campus. Long attended a special screening with her Wellesley friends during a visit home over the Christmas holiday.
She is also a collegiate fencer who competed at the 2002 NCAA Regionals and Junior Olympics.
“‘Narrow’ is not a word for her,” said Alexandra May, a friend at Wellesley.
“I think the reason I like Heather so much is, not only is she very driven and so scholarly, she can be a lot of fun too,” May said. “I can tease her about the fact that Alan Greenspan is her hero.”
Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press.