Nine Brilliant Student Essays on Honoring Your Roots

Read winning essays from our fall 2019 student writing contest.


For the fall 2019 student writing contest, we invited students to read the YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” by Kayla DeVault. Like the author, students reflected on their heritage and how connected they felt to different parts of their identities. Students then wrote about their heritage, family stories, how they honor their identities, and more.


The Winners

From the hundreds of essays written, these nine were chosen as winners. Be sure to read the author’s response to the essay winners, literary gems and clever titles that caught our eye, and even more essays on identity in our Gallery of Voices.

Middle School Winner: Susanna Audi

High School Winner: Keon Tindle

High School Winner: Cherry Guo

University Winner: Madison Greene

Powerful Voice: Mariela Alschuler

Powerful Voice: Reese Martin

Powerful Voice: Mia De Haan

Powerful Voice: Laura Delgado

Powerful Voice: Rowan Burba

From the Author, Kayla DeVault: Response to All Student Writers and Essay Winners

Gallery of Voices: More Essays on Identity

Literary Gems

Titles We Loved


MIDDLE SCHOOL WINNER

Susanna Audi

Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, N.Y.

Susanna Audi

BRAZIL: MY HEART’S HOME

Saudades. No word in the English language sums up the meaning of this Portuguese term: a deep feeling of longing that makes your heart ache and pound like a drum inside your chest. I feel saudades for Brazil, its unique culture, and my Brazilian family. When I’m in my second home, Bahia, Brazil, I’m a butterfly emerging from its cocoon—colorful, radiant, and ready to explore the world. I see coconut trees waving at the turquoise waves that are clear as glass. I smell the familiar scent of burning incense. I hear the rhythm of samba on hand-beaten drums, and I feel my grandma’s delicate fingers rub my back as I savor the mouth-watering taste of freshly made doce de leite.  Although I’m here for only two precious weeks a year, I feel a magnetic connection to my father’s homeland, my heart’s home.

My grandfather or vovô, Evandro, was born in Brazil to a family who had immigrated from Lebanon and was struggling to make ends meet. His parents couldn’t afford to send him to college, so he remained at home and sold encyclopedias door-to-door. My vovô eventually started a small motorcycle parts company that grew so much that he was able to send my father to the U.S. at age sixteen. My father worked hard in school, overcoming language barriers and homesickness. Even though he has lived in America for most of his life, he has always cherished his Brazilian roots. 

I’ve been raised with my father’s native language, foods, and customs. At home, I bake Brazilian snacks, such as the traditional cheese bread, pão de queijo, which is crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. My family indulges in the same sweet treats that my father would sneak from the cupboard as a child. Two relaxing customs we share are listening to Brazilian music while we eat breakfast on weekends and having conversations in Portuguese during meals. These parts of my upbringing bring diversity and flavor to my identity. 

Living in the U.S. makes me feel isolated from my Brazilian family and even more distant from Brazilian culture. It’s hard to maintain both American and Brazilian lifestyles since they are so different. In Brazil, there are no strangers; we treat everybody like family, regardless if that person works at the local shoe store or the diner. We embrace each other with loving hugs and exchange kisses on the cheeks whenever we meet. In the U.S., people prefer to shake hands. Another difference is that I never come out of Starbucks in New York with a new friend. How could I when most people sit with their eyes glued to their laptop screens? Life seems so rushed. To me, Brazilians are all about friendships, family, and enjoying life. They are much more relaxed, compared to the stressed and materialistic average American. 

As Kayla DeVault says in her YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself,” “It doesn’t matter how many pieces make up my whole: rather, it’s my relationship with those pieces that matters—and that I must maintain.”  I often ask myself if I can be both American and Brazilian. Do I have to choose one culture over the other? I realize that I shouldn’t think of them as two different cultures; instead, I should think of them as two important, coexisting parts of my identity. Indeed, I feel very lucky for the full and flavorful life I have as a Brazilian American. 

Susanna Audi is an eighth-grader who lives in the suburbs of New York. Susanna loves painting with watercolors, cooking Brazilian snacks, and playing the cello. On weekends, she enjoys babysitting and plays several sports including lacrosse, soccer, and basketball. Susanna would love to start her own creative design business someday. 


High School Winner

Keon Tindle

Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

Keon Tindle

Walking Through the Forest of Culture

What are my roots? To most people, my roots only go as far as the eye can see. In a world where categorization and prejudice run rampant, the constant reminder is that I am Black. My past is a living juxtaposition: my father’s father is a descendant of the enslaved and oppressed and his wife’s forefathers held the whips and tightened the chains. Luckily for me, racial hatred turned to love. A passion that burned brighter than any cross, a love purer than any poison. This is the past I know so well. From the slave ship to the heart of Saint Louis, my roots aren’t very long, but they are deeply entrenched in Amerikkkan history.

This country was made off of the backs of my brothers and sisters, many of whom have gone unrecognized in the grand scheme of things. From a young age, White children are told stories of heroes—explorers, politicians, freedom fighters, and settlers whose sweat and determination tamed the animalistic lands of America. They’re given hope and power through their past because when they look in the mirror they see these heroes. But what about me? My stories are conveniently left out of the textbooks; I have never been the son of a king or a powerful African leader, just expensive cargo to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. It seems we, as a people, never truly left the ship.

Even now, we’re chained to the whitewashed image of Black history. I can never truly experience the Black tradition because there are multiple perspectives. The truth is clouded and lost due to the lack of documentation and pervasive amount of fabrication. How am I supposed to connect to my heritage? America tells me to celebrate the strength of my ancestors, the strength of the slaves, to praise something they helped create. The Afrocentrics tell me to become one with the motherland, celebrate the culture I was pulled away from. However, native Africans make it clear I’ll never truly belong.

Even the honorable Elijah Muhammad tells me to keep my chin pointed to the clouds, to distrust the creation of Yakub, and to take my place among the rest of Allah’s children. Most people don’t have the luxury of “identifying with all of the pieces of [themselves],” as Kayla DeVault says in the YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” 

They’re forced to do research and to formulate their own ideas of who they are rather than follow the traditions of an elder. For some, their past works as a guide. A walk through life that has been refined over generations. Others, however, are forced to struggle through the dark maze of life. Hands dragging across the walls in an attempt to not lose their way. As a result, their minds create stories and artwork from every cut and scratch of the barriers’ surface. Gaining direction from the irrelevant, finding patterns in the illogical. 

So what are my roots? My roots are my branches, not where I come from but where this life will take me. The only constant is my outstretched arms pointed towards the light. A life based on the hope that my branches will sprout leaves that will fall and litter the path for the next generation.

Keon Tindle is unapologetically Black and embraces his African American background. Keon is an esports competitor, musician, and producer, and especially enjoys the craft of pairing history with hip-hop music. He is always ecstatic to dabble in new creative outlets and hopes to pursue a career in neuroscience research.


High School Winner

Cherry Guo

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Va.

Cherry Guo

Tying the Knot

The kitchen smells like onions and raw meat, neither unpleasant nor pleasant. Nainai’s house slippers slap against our kitchen floor as she bustles around, preparing fillings for zongzi: red bean paste, cooked peanuts, and marinated pork. I clap my pudgy hands together, delighted by the festivities. 

Nainai methodically folds the bamboo leaves into cones, fills them up with rice, and binds the zongzi together with string that she breaks between her teeth. I try to follow suit, but when I try to tie the zongzi together, half the rice spills out. Tired from my lack of progress, I abandon Nainai for my parents, who are setting up the mahjong table. 

After raising me to the age of ten, my grandparents returned to China. They dropped back into their lives like they had never left, like they hadn’t shaped my entire upbringing. Under their influence, my first language was not English, but Chinese. 

At school, my friends cajoled me into saying Chinese words for them and I did so reluctantly, the out-of-place syllables tasting strange on my palate. At home, I slowly stopped speaking Chinese, embarrassed by the way my tongue mangled English words when I spoke to classmates. One particular memory continually plagues me. “It’s Civil War, silly. Why do you pronounce “L” with an ‘R’?” Civil. Civil. Civil.

At dinner, my dad asked us to speak Chinese. I refused, defiantly asking my brother in English to pass the green beans. I began constructing false narratives around my silence. Why would I use my speech to celebrate a culture of foot binding and feudalism? In truth, I was afraid. I was afraid that when I opened my mouth to ask for the potatoes, I wouldn’t be able to conjure up the right words. I was afraid I would sound like a foreigner in my own home. If I refused to speak, I could pretend that my silence was a choice.

In Kayla DeVault’s YES! article “Native and European – How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” she insists that “Simply saying “I am this” isn’t enough. To truly honor my heritage, I found I must understand and participate in it.” And for the first time, I wonder if my silence has stolen my cultural identity. 

I decide to take it back.

Unlike DeVault, I have no means of travel. Instead, my reclamation starts with collecting phrases: a string of words from my dad when he speaks to Nainai over the phone, seven characters from two Chinese classmates walking down the hall, another couple of words from my younger sister’s Chinese cartoons. 

The summer before my senior year marks the eighth year of my grandparents’ return to China. Once again, I am in the kitchen, this time surrounded by my parents and siblings. The bamboo leaves and pot of rice sit in front of me. We all stand, looking at each other expectantly. No one knows how to make zongzi. We crowd around the iPad, consulting Google. Together, we learn how to shape the leaves and pack the rice down. 

The gap in knowledge bothers me. Does it still count as honoring a family tradition when I follow the directions given by a nameless pair of hands on YouTube rather than hearing Nainai’s voice in my mind? 

Instead of breaking the string with my teeth like Nainai had shown me, I use scissors to cut the string—like I had done with my ties to Chinese language and culture all those years ago. And now, I’m left with the severed string that I must hurriedly tie around the bamboo leaf before the rice falls out of my zongzi.

Cherry Guo is a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. Cherry rows for her school’s crew team and plays the viola in her school orchestra. She spends what little free time she has eating pretzel crisps and listening to podcasts about philosophy.


University Winner

Madison Greene

Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Madison Greene

Carrying the Torch

I have been called a pizza bagel–the combination of a Catholic Italian and an Ashkenazi Jew. Over time, I have discovered the difficulty of discretely identifying the ratio of pizza to bagel. It is even more arduous when the pizza and the bagel have theologies that inherently contradict each other. Therefore, in a society that emphasizes fine lines and exact distinctions, my identity itself becomes a contradiction.  

In the winter, my family tops our Christmas tree with the Star of David. I’ve recited the Lord’s Prayer; I’ve prayed in Hebrew. I attended preschool at a church, and my brother was a preschooler in a synagogue. Every week at Sunday morning mass, my maternal family donates money to the collection basket during the offertory. My paternal family has donated authentic Holocaust photographs to a local Jewish heritage museum. Growing up, none of this was contradictory; in fact, it all seemed complementary. My Jewish and Catholic identities did not cancel each other out but rather merged together.

However, the compatibility of my Catholic-Jewish identities was in upheaval when I decided to become acquainted with the Jewish community on campus. While attending Hillel events, I felt insecure because I did not share many of the experiences and knowledge of other Jewish students. Despite this insecurity, I continued to participateuntil a good friend of mine told me that I was not Jewish enough because of my Catholic mother. She also said that families like mine were responsible for the faltering of Jewish culture. I wanted my identity to be validated. Instead, it was rejected. I withdrew and avoided not only my Jewish identity but also my identity as a whole.

I soon realized that this friend and I look at my situation using different filters. My Catholic-Jewish identities have evolved into a codependent relationship, and I am entitled to unapologetically embrace and explore both aspects of my identity. I realized that even without my friend’s validation of my identity, I still exist just the same. Any discredit of my Catholic-Jewish identities does not eliminate my blended nature. So, after a few months of avoiding my Jewish identity, I chose to embrace my roots; I resumed participating in the Jewish community on campus, and I have not stopped since.

Kayla DeVault’s YES! article “Native and European – How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” describes the obligation to one’s ancestral chain. The best way to fulfill this duty is to fully dedicate oneself to understanding the traditions that accompany those cultural origins. In this generation, my mother’s Catholic-Italian maiden name has no men to carry it on to the next generation. It is difficult to trace my last name past the mid-1900s because my Jewish ancestors shortened our surname to make it sound less Semitic, to be less vulnerable to persecution. Given the progressive fading of my family’s surnames, how do I continue the legacies of both family lines?

On behalf of my ancestors and for the sake of the generations still to come, I feel obligated to blend and simultaneously honor my Jewish and Catholic heritage to ensure that both prevail. 

Now I know that whether I am sitting next to my Jewish father at my young cousin’s baptism, or whether I am sitting at the Passover Seder table with my mother’s Catholic parents, it is up to me to keep both flames of my ancestry burning bright. The least I can do is hold each family’s candle in my hands. Imagine the tremendous blaze I could create if I brought the flames of my two families together.

Madison Greene is a Communication Studies major at Kent State University. Madison is also pursuing a minor in Digital Media Production. She is currently the president of her sorority.


Powerful Voice Winner

Mariela Alschuler

Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, N.Y.


Behind My Skin

My roots go deeper than the ground I stand on. My family is from all over the world with extended branches that reach over whole countries and vast oceans.

Though I am from these branches, sometimes I never see them. My Dominican roots are obvious when I go to my abuela’s house for holidays. My family dances to Spanish music. I fill my plate with platanos fritos and my favorite rice and beans. I feel like a Dominican American girl. Maybe it’s the food. Maybe it’s the music. Or maybe it’s just the way that my whole family—aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins— laugh and talk and banter in my grandparents’ small, beautiful apartment.

Even though I am blood to this family, I stick out like a sore thumb. I stick out for my broken Spanish, my light skin, my soft, high-pitched voice and how I do my hair. I feel like I don’t belong to my beautiful, colorful family, a disordered array of painted jars on a shelf.

If my Dominican family is like a disorganized and vibrant shelf of colors, then my European family is a neat and sparse one with just a hint of color. For Christmas in New York, there are dozens of us crammed in the small apartment. For Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, there are rarely more than twelve people in the grandiose, pristine house that looks like something out of House Beautiful. I adore my grandparent’s house. It is expansive and neatly painted white. After growing up in a small house on a school campus and visiting my other grandparents’ small apartment in New York, I thought that their house was the greatest thing in the world. I would race up the stairs, then slide down the banister. I would sip Grandma’s “fancy” gingerbread tea, loving the feeling of sophistication. There, I could forget about the struggles of my Dominican family. I was the granddaughter of a wealthy, Jewish, Massachusetts couple rather than the granddaughter of a working-class second-generation Dominican abuela and abuelo from the Bronx.  

I don’t fit in with my European family either. My dark skin and my wild hair don’t belong in this tidy family. In Massachusetts, the branches of my Dominican family, no matter how strong and extensive, are invisible. The same way my European roots are lost when I am in New York.

So what am I? For years I have asked myself this question. Wondering why I couldn’t have a simple garden of a family rather than the jungle that I easily get lost in. As Kayla DeVault says in her YES! article “Native and European—How can I honor all parts of myself?,” “Simply saying ‘I am this’ isn’t enough.” And it isn’t. My race, color, and ethnicity do not make up who I am. I am still a daughter. A sister. A cousin. A friend. My mixed identity does not make me less whole, less human. I may have lightly tanned skin and my lips may not form Spanish words neatly, but behind my skin is bright color and music. There is warm gingerbread tea and golden platanos fritos. There is Spanish singing from my abuelo’s speaker and “young people” songs that play from my headphones. There is a little, cozy apartment and a large, exquisite house. Behind my skin is more than what you can see. Behind my skin is what makes me me. 

Mariela Alschuler is a seventh-grader at Ethical Culture Fieldston School and lives in the Bronx, New York. When she’s not in school, Mariela likes to read, write, do gymnastics, watch Netflix, and spend time with her friends and family. She hopes to be a doctor and writer when she grows up.


Powerful Voice Winner

Reese Martin

University Liggett School, Grosse Point Woods, Mich.

Reese Martin

A True Irishman?

Similar to Kayla Devault in her YES! article “Native and European-How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself,” I hold holistic pride in my cultural identity. As a descendant of Irish immigrants, my childhood was filled with Irish folk music, laughter, and all things green. I remember being a toddler, sitting on my Popo’s lap wearing a shiny green, slightly obnoxious, beaded shamrock necklace. There, in the living room, I was surrounded by shamrocks hanging on the walls and decorations spread throughout, courtesy of my grandmother who always went overboard. My father and his siblings were Irish fanatics, as well. My aunt, whom I loved spending time with as a child, was notorious for wild face painting, ear-splitting music, and crazy outfits on St. Patrick’s Day. The holiday typically started in Detroit’s historic Corktown for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the promise of authentic Irish corned beef and soda bread at the Baile Corcaigh Irish Restaurant following the festivities. Charlie Taylor, a local Irish musician, belted folk songs from Baile Corcaigh’s makeshift stage. It was one of the few days a year my father and his large family came together. Although my aunt and grandparents have passed, our family’s Irish pride is eternal.

There was, however, one peculiar thing about our Irish heritage— none of my family looked classic Irish. My father and his five siblings have nearly black eyes and fairly dark skin, not the typical Irish traits of blue eyes and light skin. DeVault wrote, “When I was older, the questions came, which made me question myself.” I fell into a similar predicament, questioning my heritage. It truly came as a shock when a couple of my paternal aunts and several cousins took DNA tests through 23andMe and AncestryDNA. The results revealed the largest percentage of our ethnicity was Lebanese and Middle Eastern, not Irish.

Lebanese.

It felt like a punch to the gut. I was clueless on how to move forward. According to the numbers, we possessed an insignificant amount of Irish blood. How was it possible to be wrong about such a huge part of my identity? Not only was I confused about my culture and history, but I also experienced a great deal of shame—not of my newfound Middle Eastern heritage, but the lack of Irish DNA, which I had previously held so close and felt so proud of. It felt as though I was betraying the memory of my late grandparents and aunt.

Even amidst my confusion, I found this new heritage intriguing; I was excited to explore all that my newly found Lebanese culture had to offer: unique foods, unfamiliar traditions, and new geography. In addition to the familiar boiled and mashed potatoes, my family now eats hummus and shawarma. I also know more about the basic facts, history, and government of Lebanon. One thing dampens my enthusiasm, however. I wonder how I can fully develop a love for my newly discovered culture without being too deliberate and appearing to be insensitive to cultural appropriation.

It is here, in the depths of uncertainty and intrigue, I relate most to DeVault’s question, “How do I honor all parts of myself?” Although my Irish ancestry may not be as authentic as I once believed, I still feel a strong connection to the Irish culture. I’ve found that to truly honor all pieces of my identity, I must be willing to accept every aspect of my ancestry. I don’t need to reject Lebanese ethnicity, nor disregard the Irish memories of my childhood. I am allowed to be everything all at once. At the end of the day, with both Irish culture and Lebanese heritage, I am still simply and perfectly me.

Reese Martin is a junior at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. Reese plays hockey and soccer, swims competitively and is a violinist in her school orchestra. She enjoys volunteering, especially peer tutoring and reading with young children.


Powerful Voice Winner

Rowan Burba

Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

Saluting Shadows

On the floor, a murdered woman lays bloody and dead. Two young boys stare in horror at their dead mother. At only 10 years old, my great-grandfather experienced unfathomable suffering. A generation later, my grandfather and two great-uncles grew up under an abusive roof. My great-uncle Joe, the youngest of three boys, endured the worst of the abuse. Joe’s scarred brain altered during the sexual and emotional abuse his father subjected him to. From the time he was 18 months old, trusted adults of Joe’s community violated him throughout his childhood. These traumas spiraled into a century of silence, the silence I am determined to break. 

My father’s lineage is littered with trauma. Our family doesn’t openly share its past. We constantly masquerade as “normal” so we can fit in, but the alienation we experience is understandable. In Kayla DeVault’s YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” she explains her numerous identities, which include Shawnee, Anishinaabe, Eastern European, Scottish, and Irish. Although I don’t have her rich ethnic ancestry, I question my roots just as she does. I have limited photos of my deceased relatives. There are only two prominent ones: my paternal grandmother as a child with her siblings and my maternal grandmother’s obituary photo. These frosted images hide the truth of my family’s history. They’re not perfect 4″ x 6″ moments frozen in time. They’re shadowed memories of a deeply disturbed past.

For 17 years, my family was clueless about our past family trauma. Two months ago, my great-aunt explained Joe’s story to me. Joe developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) as a result of his abuse. By the age of 18, his brain contained 95 alters (fragments of his identity that broke off and developed into true individuals), causing Joe to appear as the “weird one,” the one who my family dismissed, the outcast of my dad’s childhood. My dad only learned one year ago, long after Joe died, about Joe’s DID. My family’s adamancy to hold secrets outweighed accepting and helping Joe. The shadows around these secrets quickly dispersed. 

The silence and shame from a mother’s death a century ago still have a chokehold on my family today. My family appears a disaster to outsiders.  My mom’s side is so religious they would never fathom a conversation about these harsh realities. In addition to Joe, my dad’s side has uncles who struggle with codependency and trauma from past abuses. Joe’s brother coped by latching onto another “normal” family, and my grandfather coped by never talking about issues. My parents married soon after my maternal grandmother and three of her four siblings died within a few weeks of each other. Despite years of therapy, my parents divorced when I was 11 years old. I grew up surrounded by dysfunction without recognizing it. 

How do I honor my roots? I work to break the silence and stigmas of abuse and mental health. I’ve participated in therapy for about five years and have been on medicine for about two. I must reprogram my brain’s attachment to codependent tendencies and eliminate the silence within me. I’m working through my intrusive thoughts and diving into my family’s past and disrupting harmful old patterns. I’m stepping away from the shadows of my ancestors and into the light, ensuring that future generations grow up with knowledge of our past history of abuse and mental illness. Knowledge that allows us to explore the shadows without living in them. Knowledge that there’s more in life outside of the frames.

Rowan Burba, a junior at Kirkwood High School in Missouri, loves to participate as a witness in Mock Trial competitions, build and paint sets for the KHS theatre department, play viola in her school orchestra, and do crafts with kids. She is involved in politics and wants to help change the world for the better.


Powerful Voice Winner

Mia De Haan

Estrella Mountain Community College, Avondale, Ariz.

Mia de Haan

What Being a Part of the LGBTQ+ Community Means to Me

Being queer is that one thing about me I am most proud of, yet also most scared of. Knowing that I am putting my life at risk for the simplest thing, like being gay, is horrifying.

Let’s talk about my first crush. Her name was Laurel, and she was always in front of me when we lined up after recess in first grade. I remember wishing that girls could marry girls because she had the prettiest long, blonde hair. I left these thoughts in the back of my head until middle school. I couldn’t stop staring at a certain girl all day long. That one girl who I would have sleepovers with every weekend and slow dance with at school dances—but only as friends. She changed my life. She was the first person to tell me that I was accepted and had no reason to be afraid. 

Being part of the LGBTQ+ community isn’t all rainbows and Pride parades. It is watching your family turn away from you in disgust but never show it on their faces. It’s opening Twitter and learning that it’s still illegal to be gay in 71+ countries. It’s astonishing that we had to wait until 2015 for the U.S. Supreme Court to make it legal to marry in all 50 states. 

My identity is happiness yet pain, so much pain. I hated myself for years, shoved myself back into a closet and dated my best friend for two years because maybe if I brought a boy home my family would wish me “Happy Birthday” again or send me Christmas presents like they do for my brother and sister.

When I began to explore my identity again, I asked myself, “Am I safe?” “Will I still be loved?” I was horrified. I am horrified. Legally, I am safe, but I am not safe physically. I can still be beaten up on the streets for holding a girl’s hand. Protesters at Pride festivals are still allowed to shout profanities at us and tell us that we are going to burn in hell—and the cops protect them. I am not safe mentally because I still allow the words of people and homophobes in the media and on my street get inside of my head and convince me that I am a criminal. 

When I read Kayla DeVault’s YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” I could feel how proud DeVault is to be Shawnee and Irish. While we do not share the same identity, I could tell that we are the same because we both would do anything for our cultures and want to show our pride to the rest of the world.

I honor my LGBTQ+ identity by going to Pride festivals and events. I also participate in an LGBTQ+ church and club, where, for years, was the only place I could be myself without the fear of being outed or harmed. Whenever I hear people being ignorant towards my community, I try to stay calm and have a conversation about why our community is great and valid and that we are not doing anything wrong. 

I don’t know if the world will ever change, but I do know that I will never change my identity just because the world is uncomfortable with who I am. I have never been one to take risks; the idea of making a fool of myself scares me. But I took one because I thought someone might listen to my gay sob story. I never expected it to be heard. If you have your own gay sob story, I will listen, and so will many others, even if you don’t realize it yet.  

Amelia (Mia) De Haan was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Mia has devoted her entire life to art, specifically theatre and dance. While she has struggled to figure out what she wants to do for the rest of her life, she does know that she wants to inspire people and be a voice for the people of the LGBTQ+ community who still feel that no one is listening. Mia dreams of moving to New York with her cat Loki and continuing to find a way to inspire people.


Powerful Voice Winner

Laura Delgado

Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.

Lauren Delgado

Alien

I moved to the United States when I was eight years old because my father knew Venezuela was becoming more corrupt. He wanted to give his family a better life. My sense of self and belonging was wiped clean when I moved to the United States, a country that identified me and continues to label me as an “alien.” On U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) documents, I am Alien Number xxx-xxx-xxx.  I will not let that alien number define who I am: a proud Venezuelan and American woman.

In her YES! article “Native and European—How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?” author Kayla DeVault says that “to truly honor [her] heritage, [she] found [she] must understand and participate in it.” This is why during Christmas I help my mom make hallacas (a traditional Venezuelan dish made out of cornmeal, stuffed with beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers, and olives, wrapped in a banana leaf that is boiled to perfection), pan de jamón (a Christmas bread filled with ham, cheese, raisins, and olives—the perfect sweet and salty combination, if you ask me), and ensalada de gallina (a chicken, potatoes, and green apple salad seasoned with mayonnaise, salt, and pepper). While the gaitas (traditional Venezuelan folk music) is playing, we set up the Christmas tree and, under it, the nativity scene. The smell of Venezuelan food engulfs our small apartment. Every time I leave the house, the smell of food sticks to me like glue, and I love it.

We go to our fellow Venezuelan friend’s house to dance, eat, and laugh like we were back in Venezuela. We play bingo and gamble quarters as we talk over each other.  My favorite thing is how we poke fun at each other, our way of showing our love. There is nothing better than being surrounded by my Venezuelan family and friends and feeling like I belong.

My ancestors are Spanish settlers, West African slaves, and Indigenous Venezuelans. To my peers, I am a Latina woman who can speak Spanish and comes from a country they have never heard of. To my family, I am a strong and smart Venezuelan woman who is succeeding in this country she calls home. 

I was immediately an outcast as a young newcomer to this country. I was the new, exotic girl in class who did not speak a word of English; all of that led to bullying. Growing up in a country that did not want me was—and still is—hard. People often ask me why I would ever want to identify as American. My answer to their question is simple: This is my home. I knew that the chances of us going back to Venezuela were slim to none so I decided to make this country my home. At first, I fought it. My whole life was back in Venezuela. Eventually, I made lifelong friends, had my first kiss and my first heartbreak. I went to all of the homecoming and prom dances and made memories with my best friends to last me a lifetime. Yes, I was born in Venezuela and the pride of being a Venezuelan woman will never be replaced, but my whole life is in the United States and I would never trade that for the world. 

I am Venezuelan and I am American. I am an immigrant and I am Latina. The United States government will always know me as Alien Number xxx-xxx-xxx, but they will not know that my heritage is rich and beautiful and that I am a proud Venezuelan and a proud American woman.

Laura Delgado is a Junior at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, majoring in Graphic Design and minoring in Hispanic Studies. Laura and her family migrated to the United States from Venezuela in 2007 to escape the Chavez regime. She is a DACA recipient and a first-generation college student who has a passion for graphic design and hopes to one day open her own interior design company.


From the Author, Kayla DeVault:
Response to All Student Writers and Essay Winners

Dear every human who wrote in this contest or thought about writing,

I want to start by addressing all of you. 

I think stepping out of your comfort zone and writing your truth—even if you think you aren’t a writer— is a brave thing to do. 

I want you to understand that not being selected does not mean your story isn’t valid or that your identity wasn’t “enough.” Remember, you’re always enough. You’re enough to God, to Allah, to your Higher Power, to the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the sky, to your parents, and to your ancestors who endured long enough for you to come into existence. 

As I read through the various essays, I saw a common thread of food. Whether it’s the pierogi sales at churches in Pittsburgh, the neverias around Phoenix, or the soul food joints in Birmingham, the history of our ancestors’ movements have left their impressions in our cuisine. 

Another theme I found in several essays was a “uniformed diaspora.” Some of you talked about not being able to fully trace your lineage, having your history stolen by some method of political racism, and even grappling with finding that your genetics are not all you thought they were. As a Native person, I know all too well that we had much taken from us. I know that the conquerors wrote our history, so ours is recorded with bias, racism, and flippancy. 

And now to the essay winners:

To Susanna: Obrigada for your story. I encourage you to keep exploring your identity and how it informs your existence today on Lenape, Rockaway, and Canarsie traditional lands (New York City). Your imagery reflects saudades well. I think there is an intriguing and untapped story embedded in your father’s experience from Lebanon, and I encourage you to explore how that merges with your Brazilian identity.

When I read that passage about Starbucks, I thought about how the average young American seems to be private in public, but public in private—meaning this culture and its technology isolates us (private) when we are around other people (public), yet so many of us share most about ourselves on social media (public) where we can pick and choose if we want to engage with someone (private). By the way, I, too, played lacrosse… Did you know it has Indigenous roots?

To Cherry: 非常感谢你!  Don’t listen to the American stereotypes of who you are, as hard as that can be. You sadly may always hear them, but hearing is not the same as listening. People undermine the things they don’t understand because the things they don’t understand scare them. While it is not your job to feel you have to educate them, you do have the freedom to choose how you navigate those spaces.

I understand how it may feel inauthentic to learn how to make traditional foods like zongzi from a YouTube video. For me, I have had to learn beading and other crafts because I was too ashamed to learn them when I had the elders still in my life. I  tell young folk to know their elders now while they can. Furthermore, please speak every language no matter how imperfect because it’s a gift. Also, I’ll eat your zongzi any day, even if all the rice falls out!

To Keon: The imagery and symbols of slavery you use, powerfully describe a revisionist history that further blocks access to what would be a culturally-rich ancestry. 

I remember standing on the shores of Ouidah, Benin, from where the majority of slaves left, looking through La Porte du Non Retour (The Door of No Return) memorial, and hearing a local say, “Our relatives, they left these shores for the ships and then… we never heard from them again.” And so we come to realize our stories are known only so far as they have been carried. 

I see hope in the way you have embraced your roots as your branches to move forward. I believe that, in looking towards your branches, you have actually found your roots. You are a product of all the stories, told and untold, remembered and forgotten. I encourage you to keep writing and exploring how your seemingly contradicting and somewhat unknown roots shaped your ancestors and shape their product: you. Don’t hold back. 

To Madison: Grazie and תודה. First of all, pizza bagels are delicious… just saying… talk about the best of both worlds! You write about the challenge of fitting into your communities, and I can certainly see how religious differences can become contentious. 

I am sorry that you had a negative Hillel experience. In the end, we can’t let the persecutors steal our ancestral identities from us because that allows them to win. Cultures are fluid, not rigid and defined as peers might bully us into thinking. It’s rotten when people label us with things like “pizza bagel,” but if you boldly embrace it, you can turn it on its head. So I encourage you to be the smartest, wittiest, and most deliciously confident pizza bagel out there, writing your experience for all to read!

To Laura: Gracias, you write with a motif of sorts, one that conflates your identity to a number and the label of “alien.” For people in the United States to be dismissive of immigrants and judgmental of their cultures and languages is for the same people to forget their own origins, their own stories, and their own roles (as benefactors or as victims) in this age-old system of oppression for gain. It is also rather ironic that we call people “aliens;” unless they are from an Indigenous nation. Are not nearly all Americans “aliens” to some degree?

You write about being bullied as the new, exotic girl in school and I have also experienced that as my family moved around a bit growing up; however, I have also had the privilege to speak English.

It’s sad that these experiences are still so proliferate, and so I think it is vital that people like you share their experiences. Perhaps your background can inform how you think about spaces as an interior designer. 

To Mariela: Gracias and תודה for the story you shared. You write about a complex existence that is a mix of poor and wealthy, white and brown, warm and cool. Learning to navigate these contrasting sides of your family will help you work with different kinds of people in your future.

I can understand your point about feeling out of place by your skin color. Lighter skin is largely considered a privilege in society, yet for those of us with non-white heritages, it can make us feel like we don’t belong amongst our own family. We have to walk a fine line where we acknowledge we may be treated better than our relatives in some circumstances but we have to sit with the feeling of not being “brown enough” other times. I encourage you to keep exploring your branches and sharing your feelings with your relatives about these topics. Perhaps one day you can use your deep understanding of human relations to inform your bedside manner as a doctor!

To Mia: Thank you for your brave piece, despite your fears. Your emotional recollection about the first girl you loved is very touching and powerful. 

I am sorry that you don’t feel as though you are treated the same by your family on account of your identity and that you have to take extra steps to be accepted, but I believe your continuing to be your authentic self is the only way to prove you mean what you mean.

I hope the utmost safety and acceptance for you. I also thank you for seeing and relating to my pride that I have for myself, and I encourage you to consider creative outlets— maybe even podcast hosting—to uplift your story and the stories of others, spread awareness, and facilitate change.

To Reese: Go raibh maith agat. That’s how you thank a singular person in Irish, if you didn’t know already. I enjoyed your piece because, of course, we have an Irish connection that I understand.

I find it pretty interesting that you came back with a lot of Lebanese results in your family tests. Understand those tests only represent the inherited genes, so if both of your parents were a quarter Irish but three-quarters Lebanese, for example, you would get half of each of their genes. You might get half Lebanese from both and you would appear full Lebanese—or any other variation. My point is those tests aren’t exact reports.

I am excited you have found new aspects of your heritage and I hope you will continue to explore—as best you can—what your ancestral history is. And, by the way, I, too, play hockey and the violin—fine choices!

To Rowan: Many families put up a facade, and it’s only the brave ones, like you, addressing the trauma head-on who will be able to break the cycle that causes intergenerational trauma. 

When we explore the parts of our identity, many of us may find how much trauma —including historic policy, racism, and displacement—has impacted our ancestors, perhaps centuries upon centuries ago. Learning about my family history and about religious factors has revealed stories of abuse and secrets that have been hushed wildly, even within my immediate family. Photos can be sad when we know the stories behind them and even when we never knew the person; they’re still a part of us and we can honor them by remembering them. I think you choosing to write about your Uncle Joe and the effects of trauma in your family— especially as you process and heal yourself—will be a tremendous resource both internally and for others. Thank you for sharing and I hope you find happiness in those frames.

Again, thank you all for your essays. It is exciting to see the youth writing. I am grateful for my piece to have been chosen for this contest and, I hope I’ve encouraged readers to consider every part that makes up their whole and how it has informed their life experiences.

Sincerely,

Kayla DeVault



In seventh grade, I went to an affinity group meeting. And all I remember was being called a bad Asian again and again. I was called a bad Asian because I couldn’t use chopsticks. I was called a bad Asian because I didn’t know what bubble tea or K-pop was. Time and again, I was called a bad Asian because I didn’t know the things I was expected to know, and I didn’t do the things that I was expected to do. That meeting made me truly question my identity.
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—Sebastian Cynn, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.
Click here to read the entire essay.


“It’s difficult being Dominican but born and raised in New York. I’m supposed to speak fluent Spanish. I’m supposed to listen to their music 24/7, and I’m supposed to follow their traditions. I’m supposed to eat their main foods. I’m unique and it’s not only me. Yes, I may not speak Spanish. Yes, I may not listen to their kind of music, but I don’t think that defines who I am as a Dominican. I don’t think I should be discriminated for not being the same as most Dominicans. Nobody should be discriminated against for being different from the rest because sometimes different is good.

—Mia Guerrero, KIPP Washington Heights Middle School, New York, N.Y.
Click here to read the entire essay.


When I hang out with some of my older friend groups, which are mainly white, straight kids, I don’t mention that I’m Asian or Gay, but as soon as I’m with my friends, I talk about my identifiers a lot. A lot of them are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and 11 out of 14 of them are a person of color. With my grandparents, I am quieter, a good Asian grandchild who is smart, gets good grades, is respectful. And I don’t act “Gay.” … Why do I have to act differently with different people? Why do I only feel comfortable with all of my identities at school?

—Gillian Okimoto, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.
Click here to read the entire essay.


Torah, Shema, yarmulke, all important elements of Jewish identity—except for mine. All these symbols assume the existence of a single God, but that doesn’t resonate with me. Religion is a meaningful part of my family’s identity. After all, wanting to freely practice their religion was what brought my great-grandparents to America from Eastern Europe. Being very interested in science, I could never wrap my head around the concept of God. Can I be Jewish while not believing in God?

—Joey Ravikoff, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.
Click here to read the entire essay.


Yes, I am transgender, but I am also a son, a friend, an aspiring writer, and a dog trainer. I love riding horses. I’ve had the same volunteer job since sixth grade. I love music and trips to the art museum. I know who I am and whether other people choose to see me for those things is out of my control. 
Holidays with my family feels like I’m suffocating in a costume. I’ve come out twice in my life. First, as a lesbian in middle school. Second, as a transgender man freshman year. I’ve gotten good at the classic sit-down. With hands folded neatly in front of me, composure quiet and well-kept, although I’m always terrified.

—Sebastian Davies-Sigmund, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.
Click here to read the entire essay.


No longer do I wish to be stared at when civil rights and slavery are discussed. In every Socratic seminar, I shudder as expectant white faces turn to mine. My brown skin does not make me the ambassador for Black people everywhere. Please do not expect me to be the racism police anymore. Do not base the African American experience upon my few words. Do not try to be relatable when mentioning Hannukah is in a few days. Telling me you tell your White friends not to say the N-word doesn’t do anything for me.

—Genevieve Francois, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.
Click here to read the entire essay.


I often walk into the kitchen greeted by my mother sitting on her usual stool and the rich smells of culture—the spicy smell of India, the hearty smell of cooked beans, or the sizzling of burgers on the grill. Despite these great smells, I find myself often yearning for something like my friends have; one distinct culture with its food, people, music, and traditions.
I don’t have a one-click culture.
That can be freeing, but also intimidating.
People who know me see me as a fraction: ¼ black, ¾ white, but I am not a fraction.
I am human, just human.
—Amaela Bruce, New Tech Academy at Wayne High School, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Click here to read the entire essay.


“‘We just don’t want you to go to hell.
I am not an atheist. I am not agnostic. I have no religion nor do I stand strong in any one belief. My answer to the mystery of life is simple: I don’t know.
But I live in a world full of people who think they do. 
There will be a day when that capital G does not control my conversations. There will be a day when I can speak of my beliefs, or lack thereof, without judgment, without the odd stare, and without contempt. The day will come when a life without religion is just another life. That is the day I wait for. That day will be Good.

—Amara Lueker, New Tech Academy at Wayne High School, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Click here to read the entire essay.

“¡Correle!” yell the people around him. He runs to the grass, ducks down and starts to wait. He’s nervous. You can smell the saltiness of sweat. He looks up and hears the chopping of helicopter blades. You can see the beam of light falling and weaving through the grass field … out of a group of thirteen, only four were left hidden. He and the others crossed and met up with people they knew to take them from their own land down south to the opportunity within grasp up north.
That was my father many years ago. I’ve only asked for that story once, and now it’s committed to memory.

—Luz Zamora, Woodburn Academy of Art Science & Technology, Woodburn, Ore.
Click here to read the entire essay.


How do I identify myself? What do I connect to? What’s important to you? Here’s the answer: I don’t. Don’t have a strong connection. Don’t know the traditions. Don’t even know the languages. I eat some of the food and kinda sorta hafta** the major holidays but thinking about it I don’t know anything important. I think that the strongest connection to my family is my name, Mei Li (Chinese for “beautiful” Ana (a variation on my mother’s very American middle name: Anne) Babuca (my father’s Mexican last name).

—Mei Li Ana Babuca, Chief Sealth International High School, Seattle, Wash.
Click here to read the entire essay.


My whole life I have felt like I don’t belong in the Mexican category. I mean yeah, I’m fully Mexican but, I’ve always felt like I wasn’t. Why is that you ask? Well, I feel that way because I don’t know Spanish. Yes, that’s the reason. It may not sound like a big deal, but, for me, I’ve always felt disconnected from my race. I felt shameful. I felt like it was an obligation to know what is supposed to be my mother tongue. My whole family doesn’t really know fluent Spanish and that has always bothered me growing up.

—Yazmin Perez, Wichita North High School, Wichita, Kan
Click here to read the entire essay.


I believe differently from DeVault, who believes it’s important to connect and participate with your heritage. I believe that our personal pasts have more to do with who we are as people than any national identity ever could. Sure, our heritage is important, but it doesn’t do nearly as much to shape our character and perspective as our struggles and burdens do. Out of all my past experiences, illness—and especially mental illness—has shaped me.

—Chase Deleon, Central York High School, York, Penn.
Click here to read the entire essay.

… I can now run that whole grape leaf assembly line, along with other traditional plates, by myself. I have begun speaking out on current topics, such as Middle-Eastern representation in acting. I have become so much closer with my relatives and I don’t mind busting a move with them on the dance floor. Although a trip to Syria is not in my near future, DeVault made me realize that a connection to your geographical cultural roots is important. According to my aunt, I have become a carefree, happy, and more passionate person. I no longer feel stuck in the middle of ethnicity and society. Becoming one with and embracing my identity truly is ‘A Whole New World.’”

—Christina Jarad, University Ligget School, Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.
Click here to read the entire essay.


“While my bow is not made of wood and my arrows lack a traditional stone tip, the connections are always present, whether I am stalking bull elk in the foothills of the Rockies or fly fishing in the mystical White River. The methods and the technologies may be different, but the motivations are the same. It is a need to be connected to where my food originates. It is a desire to live in harmony with untouched lands. It is a longing to live wild, in a time where the wild is disappearing before our eyes.
—Anderson Burdette, Northern Oklahoma University, Stillwater, Okla.
Click here to read the entire essay.


“Black people always say that White people don’t use seasoning. This saying is one of those sayings that I always heard, but never understood. I am Black, but I was adopted into a White household … Even though I identify as a Black woman, all my life I have struggled with breaking into the Black culture because other people around me consciously or unconsciously prevent me from doing so.

—Brittany Hartung, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.
Click here to read the entire essay.


Literary Gems

We received many outstanding essays for the Fall 2019 Student Writing Competition. Though not every participant can win the contest, we’d like to share some excerpts that caught our eye:

How can other people say that I only have one identity before I can even do that for myself?
—Arya Gupta, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

‘Middle Child’ by J. Cole blasts through the party. Everyone spits the words like they’re on stage with him. J. Cole says the N-Word, and I watch my Caucasian peers proudly sing along. Mixed Girl is perplexed. Black Girl is crestfallen that people she calls friends would say such a word. Each letter a gory battlefield; White Girls insists they mean no harm; it’s how the song’s written. Black Girl cries.
—Liz Terry, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

To me, valuing my ancestors is a way for me to repay them for their sacrifices.
—Jefferson Adams Lopez, Garrison Middle School, Walla Walla, Wash.

A one-hour drive with light traffic. That’s the distance between me and my cousins. Short compared to a 17-hour flight to the Philippines, yet 33 miles proved to create a distance just as extreme. Thirty-three miles separated our completely different cultures.
—Grace Timan, Mount Madonna High School, Gilroy, Calif.

What does it mean to feel Korean? Does it mean I have to live as if I live in Korea? Does it mean I have to follow all the traditions that my grandparents followed? Or does it mean that I can make a decision about what I love?
—Max Frei, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

Not knowing feels like a safe that you can’t open (speaking about her ancestry).
—Madison Nieves-Ryan, Rachel Carson High School, New York, N.Y.

As I walked down the halls from classroom to classroom in high school, I would see smiling faces that looked just like mine. At every school dance, in every school picture, and on every sports team, I was surrounded by people who looked, thought, and acted similar to me. My identity was never a subject that crossed my mind. When you aren’t exposed to diversity on a daily basis, you aren’t mindful of the things that make you who you are.
—Jenna Robinson, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

When my Great-Great-Grandfather Bill was 12, he ran away to work with his uncles. And then when he was older and married, he called up his wife and said, “Honey, I’m heading off to college for a few years. Buh-Bye!” Because of his adventurous spirit, Bill Shea was the first Shea to go to college. Ever since my mom told me this story, I’ve always thought that we could all use a little Bill attitude in our lives. 
—Jordan Fox, Pioneer Middle School, Walla Walla, Wash.

I defy most of the stereotypes of the Indian community. I’m a gender-fluid, American, Belizean kid who isn’t very studious. I want to be a writer, not a doctor, and I would hang out with friends rather than prepare for the spelling bee.
—Yadna Prasad, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

While my last name may be common, the history behind my family is not. A line of warriors, blacksmiths, intellectuals, and many more. I’m someone who is a story in progress.
—Ha Tuan Nguyen, Chief Sealth International High School, Seattle, Wash.

My family is all heterosexual. I did not learn about my identity from them. LGBTQ+ identity is not from any part of the world. I cannot travel to where LGBTQ+people originate. It does not exist. That is the struggle when connecting with our identities. It is not passed on to us. We have to find it for ourselves.
—Jacob Dudley, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

My race is DeVault’s childhood kitchen, so warm and embracing. Familiar. My sexuality is DeVault’s kitchen through adulthood: disconnected.
—Maddie Friar, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

At school, I was Dar-SHAW-na and at home DAR-sha-na. There were two distinct versions, both were me, but neither were complete.\
—Darshana Subramaniam, University Liggett School, Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.

I do not think that heritage and ethnic roots are always about genetics. It is about the stories that come with it, and those stories are what shapes who you are.
—Lily Cordon-Siskind, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

In my sixteen-year-old mind, the two ethnicities conflicted. I felt like I couldn’t be both. I couldn’t be in touch with Southern roots and Cuban ones at the same time. How could I, they contradict each other? The Cuban part of me ate all my food, was loud and blunt, an underdog and the Southerner was reserved, gentle, and polite.
—Grace Crapps, Spring Hill College, Mobile, Ala.

I thought I was simply an American. However, I learned that I am not a jumbled mix of an untraceable past, but am an expertly woven brocade of stories, cultures, and hardships. My ancestors’ decisions crafted me…I am a story, and I am a mystery.
—Hannah Goin, Pioneer Middle School, Walla Walla, Wash.


Titles We Loved

We received many outstanding essays for the Fall 2019 Student Writing Competition, and several students got clever and creative with their titles. Here are some titles that grabbed our attention:

“A Mixed Child in a Mixed-Up Family”
Caitlin Neidow, Ethical Culture Fieldston Middle School, Bronx, N.Y.

“Diggin’ in the DNA”
Honnor Lawton, Chestnut Hill Middle School, Liverpool, N.Y.

“Hey! I’m Mexican (But I’ve Never Been There)”
Alexis Gutierrez-Cornelio, Wellness, Business & Sports School, Woodburn, Ore.

“What It Takes to Be a Sinner”
Amelia Hurley, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

“Mirish”
Alyssa Rubi, Chief Sealth International High School, Seattle, Wash.

“Nunca Olvides de Donde Vienes” (Never forget where you came from)
Araceli Franco, Basis Goodyear High School, Goodyear, Ariz.

“American Tacos”
Kenni Rayo-Catalan, Estrella Mountain Community College, Avondale, Ariz.

“Corn-Filled Mornings and Spicy Afternoons”
Yasmin Medina, Tarrant County Community College, Fort Worth, Tex.

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