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Contest Winners #234
If you could go back in time, who would you want to meet and why?
Writing Contest Winners

1st Prize
Finding Peace With My Ancestors

Joy M. Havens, 17, Los Lunas, NM
“Tanyán yahí” is “Welcome” in the Sioux Indian language. This is the greeting I would hope to hear if I could go back in time and meet my ancestors. It would be a pleasure to interact with them and see where I came from so many years ago. I am multi-racial, but I identify most with my Indian heritage. I share the same respect and awe for animals and nature. I love being outside, being self-sustained and sleeping under the stars.

These characteristics are not so common anymore. Nowadays it is all about technology and social media. At times I feel like I was born in the wrong century. If I could go back in time and meet my ancestors, maybe once in my life I could feel like I belong.

Why would I want to meet my ancestors, you ask? To start off, these are not just people of the forgotten past, they are my family. I have some of their life flowing through my veins. Maybe these ancient relatives would treat me better than my modern family. Right now I have a grandfather who has shunned me and an uncle who hates me. But in the past, I could have a chief who shelters and guides me. An elder who spends time with me and shows me their ways.

Another reason I would want to meet my ancestors is to learn from them. Learn how to hunt a tatonka (buffalo) on horseback. Learn how to navigate through mountains and prairies. Learn how to make a tipi and adorn the walls with striking symbolic images. I would want to learn how to track animals. I would follow a wolf’s trail in the snow for miles and watch young wolf pups play in the drifts near their den. Guiding, strong hands would teach me how to make traditional food, to use simple ingredients, and eat straight from the Earth.

My final reason for wanting to meet my ancestors is to feel like a united family, with strong bonds and true love. My family of today is scattered, abused, and neglected. There are many divorces, many juvenile delinquents, and many broken hearts. I feel that if I could meet my ancestors in a simpler time, I could have a whole and healed family. I could go to bed at night feeling the fire’s warm embrace on my face and resting my head on soft animal hides; finally feeling peace in my mind and peace in my heart.



2nd Prize
Sylvia Rivera, A Mother of the Movement

Iyonna Phillips, 17, Philadelphia, PA
If I could go back in time, I would meet Sylvia Rivera. She was a prominent transgender activist, and one of the people credited for starting the LGBTQ rights movement. I would want to meet her specifically on June 28, 1969, which is the day of the Stonewall protests. As a member of the LGBTQ community, it would be a great honor to meet one of the mothers of our movement.

Not only was Sylvia Rivera a transgender woman, she was a bisexual transgender woman of color, and all of those identities tend to be erased in discussions about the LGBTQ community. Often, in our media, white cisgender gay men and lesbians are the face of our community. But there are multiple letters in the acronym for a reason. Everyone in the community deserves to be represented. As a bisexual transgender man of color, it comforts me knowing that someone like me led the movement.

I am also very interested in activism. I believe that Sylvia Rivera was one of the greatest and bravest activists of all time. She and Marsha P. Johnson, another one of my favorite transgender activists, founded a group called STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) after the GAA (Gay Activists Alliance) erased transgender people from their movement. GAA felt that it would be difficult for heterosexual lawmakers to take them seriously if transgender people were a part of the movement. Nonetheless, Rivera and Johnson stood their ground and continued to fight for the rights of transgender people. STAR works to help homeless people and transgender women of color.

Sylvia Rivera was abandoned by her father and orphaned when her mother committed suicide. She was kicked out of the house by her grandmother and homeless at age 10. Yet, despite all of that, she rose from the ashes and dedicated her life to helping others. She is an amazing woman and such an inspiration to me. If I met her, I would want is to share my story with her and talk about activism and ask her how she overcame her struggles. It would be one of the best moments of my life.



3rd Prize
Lucy Stone, 19th Century Feminist

Lindsey Staub, 16, Palos Verdes Estates, CA
Don’t say it in the halls at school. Boys might overhear and cringe. Don’t say it in the girls’ locker room, where everyone is already uncomfortable. Don’t say it in the classroom unless you want to make your male teacher uncomfortable. Don’t say it at the dinner table, because manners! Don’t say it in the cafeteria, at the park, over the phone. Whisper it into your diary among the other frustrated sentences about equal opportunity and liberalism. But don’t say it out loud, because “feminist” is a bad word.

Feminism was an even cruder word in the 19th century. If I could travel back in time and meet anyone, I would meet Lucy Stone. She became a symbol of everything a man did not want back then: She was an abolitionist and an activist. She spent her entire life fighting for the F word to be accepted through woman’s suffrage and equality. She was a leader of the American Equal Rights Association, which advocated for the rights of both women and African-Americans, and later founded the American Woman Suffrage Association to help women get the vote.

Lucy would take me to Oberlin College, where she graduated with honors after she paid her own way, becoming the first woman from Massachusetts to acquire a bachelor’s degree. She would give me a tour of the city, showing off the places where she fought to eradicate slavery. I would share with Lucy how far women have come since her death, starting with the news that women have had voting rights since 1920. I would read to her the 19th Amendment, an addition to the constitution that Lucy spent the majority of her life supporting, but was never able to see.

When I walk the halls and get discouraged for lobbying for what I believe in and for using the F word, I can look back to the time I spent with Lucy Stone, who fought against harsher opressors than sophomore boys and ingnorant teachers.


Runners Up

Nikola Tesla: Underrated Scientist and My Historical Crush

Gabrielle Kindig, 17, Lansing, MI
If I could go back in time, I would definitely want to meet Nikola Tesla. Born in 1856, Nikola Tesla is one of the most underrated scientists in history. He was involved in some of the most amazing discoveries and inventions (the alternating current, the Tesla Coil, wireless communication, radio, and remote control, to name a few), yet he died penniless. Others took credit for his work, and those ideas that Tesla managed to keep under his own name were often scorned by the public and scientific world as being frivolous or impractical. Of course, those works were far beyond the scope of understanding of anyone else in the 1800s, and in the modern age, we’re just now beginning to realize how amazing some of Mr. Tesla’s work was.

One of my favorite feats of his is a floating ball of lightning, which only a few modern scientists have been able to recreate.

Aside from being a stellar scientist. Tesla seems like a great guy. He never complained of others plagiarizing his inventions. He said, “Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.” He actually encouraged others to use his inventions if it would further research. In addition to being one of the greatest geniuses of all time, and being honest and selfless, Nikola Tesla was a total babe. He was rather handsome, and records show that he was charming. He is 100% my historical crush, and I fangirl about him all the time.

It’s true that Tesla was perhaps a touch mad; he talked to pigeons toward the end of his life and saw visions, and it was perhaps this tendency that led to his discredit in the public eye. However, that makes him no less interesting, and it’s perhaps this tendency to see reality differently that allowed him to create his innovations. I think Mr. Tesla would be willing to discuss theories on time travel, quantum physics, or any of the sciences I like to dabble in, and I think he’d be a great friend and mentor.



FDR, My Role Model

Hunter Patterson, 17, Baltimore, OH
If I could go back in time and meet anyone in history, I would choose to meet Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR is a personal role model, and I hope that in my professional life I can help as many Americans as he did during the Great Depression. FDR’s New Deal created programs that are still around today and continue to help Americans stay out of poverty. He was a strong president during World War II. He was so well liked that he was elected a record four times to office, only serving three full terms because he died of polio. FDR served as our president while suffering from the disease, which I find inspiring.

If I were to meet FDR, I think the most important thing I could learn from him is how to create such effective, long-lasting programs. In the growing tension between political parties today, it would be refreshing to hear from one of the greatest politicians in history and know what he thinks. FDR had the highest approval rating of any president in recorded history. As someone interested in politics, I think it would be valuable to understand how to run the country and make everyone feel included.


Contest #234 - Honorable Mentions
Devin Abram, Adelina Allegretti, Jorge Arthur, Rebeka Augustine, Olusola Babatunde, Grant Bonds, Bryce Brown, Kamiesha Brown, Teja Brown, Breeya Burciaga, Gina Cappalla, Elizha Cervantes, Katherine Chacon, Maliki Charles, Jessica Creigh, Isabelle Cruz Peña, Sophia De La Cruz, Margaret Denning, Emeline Dubois, Natalie Dutton, Yasmeen Finlayson, Cassandra Gargano, Mary-Lynn Glenn, Claire Glickman, Carmen Madeline Gonzalez, Shai-Lin Gothreau, Serieka Green, Jake Hoppa, Isabella Iurillo, Apryl Jackson, Taamar Jackson, Haven Johansen, Kiah Nicole Johnson, Leah Jones, Samantha J. Keane, Jadee Lynn Lange, Antonia Lavina, Allison LeHanka, David Lopez, Melissa Lopez, Timber Mabes, Hannah Maloney, Korri Martin, Sachin Meier, Revae Mitchell, Dezigner Moore, Kat Munsell, Shruthi Nattanmai, Jacklyn Obermeier, Laura Onianwa, Micah Chandler Orange, Jason Pastuizaca, Joseph Pecoraro, Regan Penn, Annelise Phelps, Breanna Pierce, Hannah Pinkerton, Cassie Pratt, Sibani Ram, Haley Resnick, Ericka Reyes, Kayla Ricumstrict, Elenny Rodriguez, Olivia Rowland, Sabrina Scaccia, Ethan Scoggin, Desiree Scovill, Toni Van Sluytman, Hannah Smith, Jacqueline Sparks, Georgio Spencer, Christian Spitler, Christalyn Springs, Lily Dove Summerlin, Lilianne Tate, Mackenzie Teeter, Jeffrey D Villagrana, Aliyah Walker, Caitlin Wardlaw, Sierra Alexandra Waters, Mia Whitfield, Aleecia Whitlock, Mason Williams, Rosemary Williams, Zyanna Williams, Bailey Wilson, Julianne Nojaim Zumbach.

Thank you to all the 728 students who entered this issue’s contest!

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(NYC-2016-11-18)

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