Thursday, August 7, 2014
Thank you to the SFPL and Jewel for hosting this Teen Essay Contest! The contest motivated me to write about an issue that posed a huge struggle for me this past school year, and I'm glad that sharing my thoughts provided me with such a rewarding experience. I hope my essay will be able to spread the lesson I learned; I want people to always remember that they are unique and wonderful in their own way and not let anyone face such as grades define them. I encourage everyone to participate in next year's essay contest for involvement in a memorable, valuable event.
From the Second Place Winner: Connie Yu,
Thank you to the SFPL for providing me the opportunity to share my thoughts about an interesting topic! It was a pleasure and honor to have participated, and the prompt gave me much to think about. The time I spent meditating on how I've inspired myself and others expanded my awareness on the importance of what I do in my daily life, and I'm grateful for the overall experience that this essay contest has gifted me.
From the Third Place Winner: Tammy Ha,
I felt that this prompt was less like an essay and more like a journal or reflection of my own experience with finding motivation. Writing this essay reminded me of the effort I initially put in and gave me reason to keep exercising when I least felt like it. I really like the Teen Essay Contest because the topics are specific enough for me to focus my essay but broad enough so that many different ideas can fit the prompt. It's always fun to read the other essays and see how people interpreted the topic differently. I don't usually like to write essays, but the Teen Essay Contest is an exception.
The First Place Winner: Marisa Li
Lowell High School
Growing up in an Asian family, I was raised in a environment where academic success is highly stressed. In a family oriented on the results rather than the process, grades are everything, grades are everything. 4.0 GPA? They expect nothing less. Anything lower, however, amounts to failure. Math used to be the best and favorite subject. Somewhere along the line of high school, though, it was morphed into my worst. Now it was junior year, and my struggles with math continued in Precalculus Honors.
When we received our tests back, I couldn't help but feel inferior compared to everyone else in the class. I'm not intelligent, I thought, and because of that I must work twice as hard for only half the results. I stared at the bright red 61% on my paper and resisted the urge to crumple it. When did learning become a chore? When did school, a place formerly filled with fun and students eagerly absorbing new knowledge, become a place to earn grades and increase family pride?
I envisioned a cycle of success when I was younger based on my grandmother's teachings. High grades would ensure acceptance into a "good" college, meaning a prestigious one recognized by her and all other relatives; this would allow me to obtain a career with a high salary, spacious house, luxury brand car, and various other signs of opulence. Now I believed I was falling into a cycle of failure.
I tried to share with my friends my difficulties with the course. They responded, "It's okay. I know you'll get an A. You're so smart! There is no way you will not be able to raise it." What they failed to understand was that I did not want to hear that reply. Claims of my intelligence meant nothing to me when a C in my math class disproved that assertion. If I was truly smart, would I be receiving a C despite trying and trying? What I wanted to know was if there was more to me. What other qualities did my friends see in me?
What no one realized was the underlying, hidden fear in my heart. Was this all I had become - an AP machine, a factory that churned out good grades every grading period, every semester? Was there anything more to the name Marisa Li than high intellect?
I recall in fifth grade, all the students wrote anonymous compliments about everyone in the class onto slips of paper, which we placed into individual paper bags. When I opened my bag, nearly all of the messages stated something along the lines of "You're super smart." The first time, it made me feel happy, but as I continued to unfold and read the papers, I wished for something different. I desired to be recognized for more than just my grades. And at this time in my junior year, the thought that maybe all I was to my family and friends was someone with good grades returned. It haunted me, the fear that maybe the only reason and the only method for my family to love me was a 4.0 GPA.
What is intellect? What are qualities worthy of admiration? Is someone effortlessly gaining high marks worth more respect than someone striving a thousand times harder but achieving smaller results? And what about the process? School was supposed to be a place for learning because people wanted to learn. When did the results take precedence over the process?
I never understood what I had turned into until talking to my best friend one day. Crying, I relayed how I felt, and she frankly told me that I was more than just grades. She was the first to tell me outright, and I couldn't help but cry. This time, however, my tears were due to happiness.
Sometimes, all it takes is one person to lift you up. Just a few words from her were enough to change my perspective. Doing badly in math did not make me a lesser person. I was still the smiling girl with a fondness for pandas and a love for all types of rice. Maybe my grades were a component of me, but they definitely were not all of me. I would not let one class grade define me. In fact, I realized that I shouldn't let any grade define me. I was my own person with more than just an academic life. I was the food bank volunteer who always aimed to place the nutrition label stickers on the center to make the packages look nicer for people. I was the Chinese girl attempting to correctly pronounce the "r" sound in French. I was so many things more than I first believed, and these facts were present all along. Why was I seeking approval from others when I hadn't even taken the time to see myself clearly and appreciate who I was? I had to learn to love myself first, and once that occurred, everything fell into place. My new, inspired self brought many things - a brighter outlook on life, a 10% gain in my Precalculus Honors grade to a B-, and most importantly of all, the confidence and self-esteem needed to permanently banish my previous fear.
I remember that day in fifth grade I searched and searched until finally, at the bottom of my paper bag was one compliment much longer than the rest. While the message briefly touched on my intelligence, it focused on how easy it was to talk to me, how I was an excellent listener, how I was kind and caring, and how they enjoyed sharing a love of books with me. It was the paper I cherished most, and years later, when I took out that bag once again, it was the one slip that stood out most in my mind and the one I found first.
One person can make a difference. In fifth grade and now in my junior year, someone reached out and said exactly the words I needed to hear. I wanted to do the same. I wanted to be the voice that encouraged and uplifted someone. I wanted to spread the happiness that was sometimes difficult to find in a stressful, competitive, and achievement-centered environment.
As I seated myself next to my tutee the following day, she voiced her frustration and anxiety about her chemistry class, which she had a C in. I wanted to tell her that grades weren't everything, that she was a wonderful, kind person with or without that 4.0 GPA. That I was happy to tutor her and that she had already raised her grade so much from the beginning of the year. That I was proud of her regardless of her final grade because she worked so hard and never gave up.
So I told her, and her smile as she continued her studies was the brightest I had ever seen.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
The Second Place Winner: Connie Yu
Lowell High School
Mulan never surrendered, so neither would I.
That simple statement provided motivation for my ten-year-old self as she continually attempted to best her older brother in a race to the top of the local park's hill. Admittedly, I didn't beat my brother that day, or even in the most subsequent attempts during subsequent years. However, my persistence in following the footsteps of my role model, introduced to me in the form of Disney's Mulan by Russell Schroeder, remains with me to this day as I continually challenge myself to attempt even greater feats.
For some people, reading is a chore, an enforced duty requiring teachers and deadlines. But as demonstrated above, I see books as an integral part of my identity. They are the inspiration that stimulates my confidence and guides my decision throughout the twists and turns of life. On one level, books allow me to accept missions as an M16 operative, ride a Nimbus 2000 as a Seeker for the Golden Snitch, and beseech the Oracle of Delphi for guidance in seemingly impossible tasks. Beyond that incredible effects lies yet another surprise: the immense power to instruct and inspire. Thwarting criminals with Alex Rider showed me the importance of confidence, as most of his accomplishments would have been close to impossible had he lacked faith in his capabilities. Soaring through the air with Harry Potter demonstrated the strength of friendship, for his battle against Voldemort required his friends' help along each step of the way. Traveling to Delphi with various Greek heroes illustrated that even the best occasionally need to swallow their pride and ask for aid.
In this way, books were the foundation of my childhood, and the library that housed them was my go-to getaway. Books' settings were the places that I accessed whenever I sought advice or even a temporary escape route from the world around me. My adventurous half thrived in the creativity that captivated my thoughts and engaged my mind in an electrifying mixture of characters and plots. I found wellsprings of inspiration wherever I looked, whether the book were about the Magic School Bus or Katniss Everdeen. Strong characters, particularly heroines like Mulan and Katniss, never failed to strengthen my resolve whenever I was in need of courage; my struggles seemed trifling and manageable in the face of those individuals' hardships. As I traced the footsteps of countless protagonists, I even uncovered lessons about success and failure applicable to my own life. Greek myths exposed me to the dangers of pride, Shakespeare's plays warned me about unintended outcomes, and shaped by examples such as these, I have become more conscious individual, making careful decisions after thoroughly weighing the consequences.
Tales have always been my tools for motivating myself; after all, if Hercules could refuse to despair upon hearing about his twelve upcoming labors, I too could certainly refuse to despair upon hearing about my twelve upcoming tests. In a similar way, I use my own story to inspire the people around me, in both academics and athletics. As a a former student of the elementary school where I tutor, I completely understand the complaints of my tutees about the rigors of their science assignments and confusion regarding rounding rules, and this understanding is one that I strategically exploit. It is this understanding that provides me with the ability empathize with my students as I remember my own personal plight, my own personal story. With this insight I am able to pinpoint sources of their distress and suggest possible solutions for working around them. Personal experiences in mind, I persuade Eric to bear with my endless multiplication drills and show Reyna that multiplying fractions is far easier than her exaggerated grumbles may suggest, and my efforts are frequently rewarded with the brilliant beam of a pleased fifth grader displaying a satisfying test score.
A similar method is applicable even for my athletic life. Track and field and I began our relationship as mere strangers, for not only was I behind other sophomores who had joined as freshman the previous year, but I was also the only one to lack middle school athletic experience. However, I channeled my inner Mulan yet again, resolving to continue my commitment and suppressing the siren's call of quitting even when the full-body soreness became routine and shin splints afflicted every step. After seasons of the relationship, I have learned to love the euphoria of physical achievement as the hours I devote become fractions of seconds shaved off personal records. By the end of my first season, I had chipped eight seconds off my 400 meter time alone, and while I visited the podium four times during city championships, the medals meant more than just the physical accomplishment during races; they represented my mental will throughout the season to excel and reach ever greater levels of proficiency.
This is my story that I share with incoming runners, the story with the ability to inspire their self-confidence and fervent efforts toward continual improvement. After all, if I could overcome the odds stacked against me and have my efforts be repaid in dividends, surely they could achieve their goals as well- provided that they continually dedicate hours to daily practice, of course. Stretching tips for injury prevention, encouragements when runners feel absolutely exhausted- I offer all my services to anyone who asks. Yet even so, I find that sharing my personal experiences is the most effective way to provide others with a surge of self-confidence and encouragement to complete the next workout, race, and challenge.
To any who downplay the significance of books or ridicule them for being just trivial outlets during leisure, I point to the profound effects that books have played in my life. My personality would certainly be different had I not met Mulan; her bravery is a source of inspiration throughout many of my endeavors in life thus far. In addition, egotistic as this may sound, I feel inclined to believe that Eric will be thankful for my drills in basic multiplication as he continues onto middle school mathematics- just like I was grateful for my mother's ceaseless firing of multiplication problems. I firmly believe in stories' ability to inspire me and motivate others. Even as I type this essay, I hope to share my experiences and thereby continue inspiring others, one story at a time.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
The Third Place Winner: Tammy Ha
Lowell High School
There is a saying that in order for others to love you, you must first learn to love yourself. I did not realize the truth of this quote until recently. I had low self-esteem and lacked confidence. Next to my fellow high-achieving peers at Lowell, my grades and accomplishments seemed insignificant. When I looked in the mirror, all I would notice were the dark circles around my puffy eyes, the dry patch of skin above my upper lip, the braces attached to my imperfect teeth, and the way my hair curled in the strangest way no matter how much I tried to comb it down. I especially had a problem with body image because of my weight. I wore loose clothing. I wish I had a faster metabolism. I wish I had a body that was thinner, like the bodies of models in magazines. My problem stemmed from insecurities because my body mass index was considered above average.
During my junior year, I realized I had to do something about my weight problem. I was taking an additional semester of physical education because I had not met the fitness test requirements. Secondly, my body mass index was reaching 27, the highest it had ever been. Although I was initially embarrassed, I decided to seek out a dietitian to help me create a healthier lifestyle. We created a personal plan with small attainable goals, such as switching to brown rice, eating more fiber, and exercising for thirty minutes daily. I lost fifteen pounds and as a result, I am not as self conscious about my body.
Through my goal of weight loss, I adopted a more positive mindset. I learned not to care about what others think, or about what society views as the ideal body weight, I focused only on my goal to live a healthier lifestyle. Instead of comparing myself to other people, I compared my own progress relative to time. Of course, difficult times prompted me to question whether I could still move forward. Despite my doubts, I finished through because of my perseverance. I knew I did not become overweight overnight, so I told myself that I cannot expect results of my new lifestyle overnight either. No matter how slow the progress, I reminded myself that big changes are accumulated through small goals.
Of course, the change was not easy. There were days when I felt lethargic due to an increase in homework load. Although I did not enjoy the activity of running, I loved the feeling of accomplishment after I finished. I felt more energized afterward, so I liked to exercise then jump right into homework. The endorphins reduced stress built up from my rigorous classes. Initially, I found the diet adjustment difficult because of my desire of junk food. However, healthy eating became easier when my family made changes along with me. We all switched to eating brown rice and implementing more vegetables into each meal. We also cut down portion sizes by using smaller bowls. While shopping for groceries, we rethink our choices when grabbing certain foods such as granola bars and cereal. Sometimes we altogether skip certain aisles and only shop in the sections with fresh produce.
My brother, in particular, motivated my diet adjustment. We banned most fast food restaurants; a year and a half has passed out but we still abide to that rule to this very day. We also created a difficult rule: we are allowed one dessert a week. This rule was actually first suggested by my dietitian. I tried, and I failed. Yet when I challenged my brother to it, I was able to abide to the rule because I did not want to let down my little brother. This dessert rule soon extended to other foods as well. When one of us is on the brick of buying a bag of chips, the other will take the bag away and place it back on the shelf. When about to order something, my brother would point out a healthier alternative. We keep each other in check by challenging each other to eat healthier.
My sister also motivated me to live a healthier lifestyle. She tagged along with me during my jogging sessions and also suggested different activities in case I became bored with my current exercise routine. She suggested we play basketball or go swimming. She invited me to hikes with her friend. She was basically someone that I could go to if I felt lazy and needed someone to push me out the door to start my daily jog, or if I needed a partner for sports such as tennis and badminton. I will admit that as of today, I have not been keeping up with my daily jogs. My sister, on the other hand, has recently been clocking in much of her limited spare time in the gym. Sometimes I will notice that she already made a trip to the gym in the morning, only to tell me in the afternoon that she will be going back a second time because once was not enough and that she still has enough energy to fit in another workout session. My sister, as well as my brother, were essential for creating the motivation for me to stick with my new lifestyle changes.
By creating a healthier lifestyle, I created a better version of myself. I learned to love myself, and in turn, I felt that my relationships with other people became more positive. In a similar sense, motivation works the same way. I first inspired myself to become healthier, so I sought out a dietitian and made realistic goals. My family was aware of this change, and I noticed that they, too, set goals for themselves. They caught on with my new habits, and their new habits became another source of inspiration for me. It is a cycle of motivation; you get back what you put in. After all, how can we motivate others when we cannot first motivate ourselves?
Monday, June 24, 2013
I enjoyed writing this essay because it made me realize all the diversity in my life. It was fun learning about all the different cultures and backgrounds of my friends. I am also very glad San Francisco is a culturally diverse city because I can appreciate and embrace not only the different colorful parades but all the numerous neighborhoods. I am so grateful for all the diversity around me, especially in my Girl Scout troop- where everyone is different in so many ways. I sincerely enjoyed writing this essay-it was really fun! Doreen Pacini- 10th grade SOTA
Erica Kong - The 1st Place Winner of Middle School Group
Thank you SFPL and Jewel for hosting this essay contest. This contest has meant so much to me. It gave me an opportunity to talk about a topic that my friends and I normally don't discuss; it encouraged me to think outside the box. Although the topic was challenging, it was rewarding that I've learned a lot from it. Most importantly, I had fun while writing this! This is an exciting contest that you can "show off" your writing talents as well as get prizes for your talents. I will extremely recommend teens to participate in the future!
Jaysen Shi - The 2nd Place Winner of Middle School Group
Dear Chinatown Teen Zine,
Thanks for hosting the contest! I really enjoyed writing the essay, and it has taught me a lot. I have learned more about Asian culture influencing and making America a better place. It is an honor to have won second place in the Teen Essay Contest 2013!
Junjie Lu - The 1st Place Winner of Chinese Essay
10th Grade - School of the Arts High School (Age: 15)
Topic: "Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion"
Building leadership, embracing cultural values and including everyone with different ethnic and diversities in my life, is very important to me. I work very hard to include all different types of people in my life- both in and out of school.
I am happy to know that San Francisco is one of the most diverse cities in the USA. I love the different neighborhoods and the different ethnic backgrounds that they represent. My family and I love to celebrate the diversity of the city by attending the various parades throughout the year in different neighborhoods throughout the city. For example, we love catching salami sandwiches and sourdough bread thrown from floats in the Columbus Day Parade and visiting North Beach; we love watching the Irish gig dancers and listening to the bagpipes in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and each year my mom and I attend the Chinese Lion Dancers Show at our local library when it is Chinese New Year. We love catching Chinese good luck candy and letting the lettuce hit us to bring us good luck! All of us enjoy an afternoon in the Mission District at Carnival when the spirit, sounds and smells of the neighborhood brings a sense of Hispanic culture to our souls!!
I have built leadership skills and embraced cultural values by being my school’s Freshman Class Treasurer and this past year as a sophomore, I was the PTSA Student Representative. Being a member of the student council, I helped organize bake sales, dances and booths at school festivals while working hand in hand with kids of all nationalities. I was happy to embrace their diversity and their ideas. I have volunteered at the California Academy of Sciences every Saturday morning for the past year where I helped organize and choreograph “flash mobs” and nature –based collection “fashion shows” with teens from around the city that have various backgrounds and cultures. All of us helped design and implement “games” on the Academy floor for the general public. It was great fun working with all the diverse kids in the group and enjoying all the visitors from around the world at the Academy. One Saturday, I spoke with a family from France about earthquake preparedness and I loved the experience of meeting and talking with this family from France!
At my school- the School of The Arts High School, I have a lot of friends who represent different cultures. For example, my friends Katelyn and Serena are Chinese. They share their culture by bringing Chinese food- like noodles, fried rice and dumplings, for lunch. They are quick to offer me some and I always enjoy the different tastes and variety of food. They shared their stories about how they celebrated Chinese New Year. The stories of their families celebrations were fun to listen to! Katelyn has traveled to Malaysia where her family originated. Both she and Serena speak Mandarin. Another one of my friends, Kiana, is half Japanese and half African-American. Most people assume that she is all African-American but when you get to know her you see the Japanese part in her! She has sushi for dinner and speaks Japanese! She has studied Japanese in Japan and she speaks several dialects of Japanese. My friend Sydney, is an interesting mix of four different cultures: Dutch, Danish, French and Filipino. One can notice the Dutch and Filipino influences in her. Another friend of mine- Jeska, also speaks Dutch! I enjoy having friends and teachers with different cultures, backgrounds and nationalities. My chemistry teacher, Ms. Lipkina, for example, is from Russia. Sometimes in class she is hard to understand! She speaks Russian on occasion and I have heard her converse in Russian with some of her students. She told us that when she was growing up in Russia her most difficult class was English! As for me- I am Irish and Italian. I am always bringing leftover pasta dishes to school. I have been studying Italian for 2 years now and have included some words like “Fermi” and “Grazie” in my everyday language! My Italian teacher Ms. Folco, wears clothes made in Italy by Italian designers and enjoys teaching us Italian through cooking Italian food. I have made bruschetta, pizza and pasta in class!
Through leadership in my Girl Scout troop, of which I have been a member for over 9 years, I have learned to embrace all types of girls ranging from age 6-17, several of whom have emotional, physical and visual disabilities, to those that just need a friend for a few minutes! My friend Eva, is from Russia and she speaks Russian and English- with a Russian accent. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding her but I always manage. My friend Sarah, is visually impaired so I am happy to help her with the activities at our meetings. One of the scouts- Elaine, is in a wheelchair so all of us help her at every meeting. I have enjoyed being a part of the many activities the girls in my troop do together such as singing for the Veterans on Veterans Day, sorting food at the food bank to help the needy, making stockings full of hygiene products for the homeless and shopping for the kids in Foster Care around Christmas time. All of us sell as many cookies as we can to raise money for the troop and I have sincerely enjoyed being both a leader and mentor for the girls in my troop for the past several years. We are all in the troop together, respect each other’s differences, embrace each other’s diversity and are always friendly to one another throughout the year.
I feel it is important to have many people in my life that represent many cultures, diversities and backgrounds. I cherish the many opportunities that I have to do this and value each and every one of them. Living, going to school and volunteering in San Francisco, offers me wonderful opportunities to embrace these different cultures, include everyone in my life and truly appreciate them all.
Essay written by Doreen Pacini
8th Grade - Roosevelt Middle School
Topic: "Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion"
It was 6:00 P.M., the golden time for transportation. Adults were enjoying music at the end of their work, and children were eating their snacks and walking behind their parents from their schools. All the people had one thing in common: going to their happy hours, whether if he or she was going home or going to the bar. The roads were filled with cars and buses. People were squishing into public transportation. And, my sister and I were trying to ride the BART to get home. The train was running late and everyone’s desire of going to his or her happy hours encouraged them to get into the train no matter how hard it was. Everyone was frustrated for being tight in the train and longing to get off at their stops. Then suddenly, the train operator spoke up,
“Everybody…this train is running late and I want you guys to help me. So, I will take a little leadership role here,” then the train operator continued formally through the speaker, “Now, the people who are blocking the doorway please move out so that the people who need to exit the train will get to exit and you guys can go back in afterwards. And, I will appreciate you guys! It’s a simple task, and let’s work together and make it happen!”
People always say “when you are traveling or going to another country, you have to embrace or adapt its culture.” But, sometimes it can also be the natives who adapt your culture. Imagine that you are in a car in Paris and you want to go to the Eiffel Tower, but you don’t know French so you can’t understand the street signs. Luckily, there is English translation next to the street signs. The French have adapted English to make the travelers navigate easier. And, this is one form of leadership. This type of leadership blossoms every edge of our world. Yes, I’ve seen this type of leadership in our country too. There was one time when I was traveling to the East Bay by BART, the train operator yelled out the station in both Cantonese and English since that station is Chinatown. From his accent, I believe he’s not Chinese. The natives adapt your cultural language to make you feel that their home is your home. They also want you to feel that you are welcomed and included in their culture.
Including other people in your community shows that you have leadership and that you respect them. How will you feel if you are excluded from your favorite game? Back in the 1900’s, the colored people were separated and mistreated from the white people. And, my fourth grade teacher wanted my class to experience the colored people’s feelings. The teacher separated my class into two groups, and I was in the colored people group. During lunch time, I had to let the “Caucasian group” go first then I could get my lunch. When it came to form a line, the colored people had to go to the back of the line. The feeling was not nice and no one deserves that feeling.
As I mentioned in the beginning, leadership is handy when it comes to getting an occupation. My dream job is to become a doctor. And, a doctor needs a lot of leadership skills. Being a doctor needs to make sure that everyone will be cure. If I am a doctor, I cannot skip the patient in my waiting list if he or she has lots of diseases or has a different race than me. I adore the doctors have worked in Africa to help the needed people. They don’t care who his or her patients are or what background they are from, as long as they can help them to stay healthy and provide them warmth.
In conclusion, building leadership is the thick chain that links different cultures and people together. No matter which type of leadership you belongs to, you are helping our world to become a more respectful and beautiful place. In the future, I believe that there will be more people like the train operators who performed leadership. At least, I might be one. Leadership takes a large part of our community, and let us “hold hands” and make leadership take part even larger in our community.
8th Grade - Herbert Hoover Middle school
Topic: "Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion"
School : Herbert Hoover Middle School, 8th grade
Sunday, June 23, 2013
11th grade - Abraham Lincoln High School (Age: 18)
作文題目: "建立領導力: 擁抱文化價值與包容"
姓名（Name）：陆俊杰（Junjie Lu ）
学校（School）： Abraham Lincoln High School