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ISBN: 9781935552017
Contest Winners #236
What is an example of discrimination that bothers or affects you?
Writing Contest Winners

1st Prize
Living the American Dream (Or Trying To)

Saudy Montoya, 18, Rock Springs WY
My name is Saudy Montoya and I am a Mexican immigrant. I have lived in the U.S. since I was 5 years old. When it became difficult to get food on the table in Mexico, my mother decided it would be best to continue our lives in the U.S. After all, they call this the land of opportunities.

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Adapting to life here was not too tough for me. I quickly picked up the language and only had to take ELL through my first three years of elementary school. I grew up thinking I could be anything I wanted. I decided I would become a veterinarian as soon as I was able to pronounce the word.

But as the years progressed, my ambition to succeed began to disappear, as I realized my goal was practically impossible. I truly learned what it meant to be an undocumented immigrant. By my second year in high school, I had lost all hope and confronted the fact that even if I were to become valedictorian, I still wouldn’t be able to attend college.

Then, finally, there was hope for all young undocumented immigrants: DACA. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is an Obama administration policy that gives undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children protection from being deported. My mother helped me apply to this opportunity, and by August 2015 I was officially accepted. With this I was able to obtain a legal work permit. Junior year of high school I continued my education with new hope. I discovered I had just as much right as anybody else to become who I wanted to be. I became more involved in my school and even joined the speech and debate team.

Throughout my life, I hadn’t experienced much discrimination. I had white skin and light-colored eyes, and my accent had almost vanished by the time I began junior high. For speech and debate, my coach suggested I do a piece that involved me coming out about my legal status. I agreed, not realizing it would get to people as much as it did.

My speech simply talked about the myths that Americans believe about us immigrants and showed the reality, but many took offense. They did not want to take the time to understand. They had no problem showing their repugnance and disapproval. My coach then encouraged me to change my piece and talk about something less controversial, but I decided to continue. Occasionally, I had judges mock me or ignore me completely while they played on their phones.

Although we have made great improvement throughout history in accepting one another, we still have a long way to go. We do not choose where we come from, but we can choose who we are. It is important to see people for who they are rather than clinging to old-fashioned beliefs. Starting with myself.

Hi, my name is Saudy Montoya, and I am not a rapist, a drug dealer, or a criminal. I am a person who is striving to make a difference in my life by living the “American Dream.”

2nd Prize
Different and Alone

Yejin Chang, 16, Fort Lee, NJ
It was the third month of kindergarten.
My mother had packed me lunch, a small metal container carefully filled with kimchi, rice, galbi, and anchovies. I was overjoyed—the idea that I could eat something that I thought was only reserved for special occasions on a regular school day blew me away.

All the children would bring a few dollars to school to buy some tinfoil bundles of food. For the first time, I felt superior. I had always been isolated from the others due to my obviously Korean name, despite the fact that I was born here and spoke English and didn’t even know a lick of Korean. That day, I felt somewhat better than them—I had a full meal that didn’t look as though it had been microwaved repeatedly. I unscrewed my container of food in front of my friends. I wanted to show off this glorious vessel of (what I thought was) sunshine.

I guess I didn’t fully understand how cruel children can be. But oddly enough, it wasn’t my friends’ insults that hurt. It was that the teacher had asked, “What smells like trash?” That package that I had cherished so much was reduced to a vile and strange object that no one could even comprehend—why would anyone ever want to eat cabbage covered in red dots?

That’s when my habit of eating in the bathroom began. I had learned that anything from my culture is to be abandoned because it is inherently disgusting. It wasn’t until I entered high school, in a district with a high population of Korean-Americans, that I felt secure enough to eat with others.

In elementary school, you are not taught to expand. But as time moves on, you spread and learn about things like culture and food and music. Where I used to live, being Korean meant you were disgusting. You were targeted because you were different and alone.

If I had a role model who looked like me, someone I could be proud of and refer to as a sign of assurance, I would not have been destroyed this easily. In the media, we are given such a narrow perception of race. I never saw a Korean woman casually be in a television show when I was young, unless it was a show about Koreans or her race was a plot point. That is what divides. No minority should be reduced to a plot point or simply nothing. Minorities need representation in media, and not just media from that specific country. It needs to be known that, just because you are of a lesser-known ethnicity, you are not to be ignored.

3rd Prize
Show Support for Trans Rights

Victoria Young, 16, Bronx, NY
The discrimination people face because of their gender identity and even sexual preference is something that I have experienced throughout high school.

When I was 14, I came to the realization that I didn’t identify as my biological sex. A few months later, I realized I wasn’t straight. I was terrified. I knew people could be very prejudiced when it comes to gender and sexuality. So it would be an understatement to say that I was nervous when I came out to my class through a memoir. I was a mess that day but it went well, or so I thought. Then, later that day, I heard people muttering derogatory terms like “fa--ot,” and “tranny,” when I passed by.

It didn’t get better; I was scared to go to the bathroom or even show up in class because of the handful of kids who started to treat me differently because of my gender identity. It wasn’t until the next year that things started to get marginally better. Same-sex marriage had just been legalized that summer, and I thought that the discrimination was finally simmering down. But I was wrong.

One day, in my social justice class, we had a lesson on trans rights. “There are only two genders,” “Trans people are disgusting,” and “Transgendered people are fags,” were just a few things that were shouted in my class. People said that if their friends or family were trans, they wouldn’t talk to them. That was when I realized that discrimination against LGBTQ people was still at large.

Things only got worse as that class went on. Every time I called kids out on discrimination, they claimed it wasn’t discrimination. When I started writing a research paper on the topic of trans rights, I realized that this went deeper than just denying people the right to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity. People are still being denied jobs because of their gender identity. Trans individuals face disproportionately high rates of homelessness and murder. This is a part of society that many people like to overlook because it doesn’t affect them. Not only that, but people have an irrational fear of anyone who is different.

There are so many things we can do to fix this and lessen the amount of discrimination LGBTQ people face. The first step is awareness—this plays a huge role in removing any type of discrimination. You can start with small things, such as housing or hiring trans individuals, working to make your company or organization more trans-inclusive, pressing for laws protecting gender identity, and supporting transgender organizations in your area. Just by slowly showing support, you can help reduce discrimination.

Runner Up

Illuminating Ignorance

Anonymous, 18, Columbus, IN
I’m half-Latino. My mother’s family is from Colombia, and to most people, I just look like a tan white guy. Though I am not deeply connected to my Hispanic roots, it is still something in which I take pride.

The sour taste of the 2016 election is still in my mouth, and the hate and discrimination that was spread during it, are still here, too. One of the biggest groups targeted in the election was Hispanics. The hate spread in the election has validated the closeted racists. They now feel comfortable spreading hate, knowing that their president is seemingly OK with it.

In my area, there are many Latino people, and many old, racist people. I work at a restaurant, and I see the effects of racism daily. People get frustrated with the accents of my Latino coworkers. Those coworkers make less in tips for doing the same amount of work. One of my boss’s friends comes in three times a week and rants about how much he hates Hispanic people, calling them rapists and job-stealers and illegals. This man personally talks to me about his opinions on my people, thinking that I’m white. I have to sit there and agree with him out of fear of my boss judging me for angering his friend.

The root of hate is ignorance, and that’s exactly what needs to be attacked here. Hispanic culture needs to be shown in kids’ movies and cartoons, so that they grow up knowing about them. The media should cover major things that happen in Hispanic countries, so that the American people see Hispanics as humans, not a number of illegals or a stereotype harming our country. A culture needs to be represented before it can be validated and understood.

Contest #236 - New York Honorable Mentions
Abiola Ajibola, Sheryl Chen, Rachel David, Monay Gordon, Andrea Hernandez, Oumou Jalloh, Jemima Paul, Oluwapelumi Raji-Bolaji, Arturo Ramos, Martha Rosario, Aleiyah Saunders, Samia Tariq.

Contest #236 - National Honorable Mentions
Oina Akande, Kiersten Akins, Audrey Becker, Gisselle Benitez, Amrita Bhasin, Sarah Boone, Gregory Bortnick, Natalie Brandt, Emoijah Melina Bridges, Veronica Carter, Micah Davidson, Habibah Dawodu, Brittany Dominguez, Monay Gordon, Benjamin Hoffman, Kyle Jacobson, Jacob Jaramillo, Janet Giron, Tristan Key, Halavah Kutcherman, Isabella Macioce, Marissa Martinez, Stephanie Martinez, Kaliyah Mayfield, Mackenzie McGuire, Javier Jorge Molina, Alex Moore, Zoe O’Connor, Vincent Khmer Prom, Mikaela Puhl, Elizabeth Riley, Orion Ross, Pedro Sanchez, `Nylie Sauffian, DeVonte Smith, Shelby Smith, Lilly Soderberg, Ty Stamant, Lauren Suire, Samia Tariq, Veronica Towianski, Jasmine Valdovinos, Sara Walker, Megan West, Hannah While, Abigail Elizabeth Yarbrough.

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