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Contest Winners #237
Write a letter to the author responding to their story
Writing Contest Winners

1st Prize
Immigrants Under Attack

Dear Yousef El Emary,
I’ve been struggling with my ethnicity as well, and your article “View Me as a Human Being, Not a Terrorist” reminded me I’m not alone. Although I am not a Muslim, I am Hispanic/Latino and also a target of Donald Trump’s attacks. His hatred toward those who are unlike him due to race or religion saddens me.

The United States of America is meant to be a symbol of progress and unity. New York is the home of the Statue of Liberty, which symbolizes the acceptance of immigrants from all over the world. From 1886 to 1924, it was a beacon for millions of immigrants; it meant they had reached safe harbor, a brave new world to call home.

Now, in my eyes, a new administration has tainted it. Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric is the opposite of what America stands for. Thankfully, after he signed the travel ban, it was blocked. Judge Derrick Watson, Judge James Robart—these are the people we should be thanking for defending those who cannot defend themselves. We must also thank the writers of the Constitution, who crafted the system of checks and balances.

To be living in the United States for me is also stressful; I am a Hispanic immigrant and similar to you, I feel at times unsure if I even want to be Hispanic because of the constant abuse that connotation is receiving these days. To be in the same category as a criminal is damaging to my self-esteem. Thankfully, living in Miami makes me feel safer as I am around close friends who are also Hispanic; a community of people who are in the same boat.

I completely understand your fears of the new administration, as I am also at times fearful for the future for our country. It is exemplified every time I watch the news. We have to stand strong as a country.

A man like Donald Trump leading the United States cannot last. Insulting women, demonizing immigrants, preventing the progress of the LGBTQ community, and the lying and attacks against the media will one day make people realize that this man is not fit be our president. All we can do right now, sadly, is wait… and stand up for what we believe in whenever possible.

Anonymous, 18, Miami, FL

2nd Prize
The Courage to Be Myself

Dear Mario Sanchez,
I want to express my feelings about your article, “Telling Myself Who I Am,” and share a little bit of my story as well. I am happy that you are able to freely express who you really are, despite the hardships that you have been through. Your bravery in handling this obstacle is something that I truly envy. I am currently facing a dilemma that is similar to the situation that you were in.

Since I was a kid, I’ve had an idea of what kind of person I am, but I’ve always tried to deny it. Throughout my elementary school and middle school years, when my schoolmates asked me, “Are you gay?” I would always answer no. I would try different things to erase such allegations from my schoolmates, such as hanging out with a bunch of guys who were bullies, trying different “manly” sports, and lying about being in a relationship with a girl.

When I entered high school, though, I started to become more honest and accepting of who I truly am. Now, when I am asked about being gay, I answer directly and say “Yes,” although I am not the type of person who would tell the whole school. I do not pretend to act manly in front of everyone anymore and I try to show the true me.

The case is different with my family. I am still skeptical about whether to tell them about the real me. My family is religious and I know how people who are religious perceive gayness. I am saddened that even though I have not told them the truth, I already know the reaction my family would have and I do not think I would be able to handle it. Sometimes I’ve questioned myself: “Why am I like this? Why do I have to be like this? Why is my life so imperfect?” But then I just stopped questioning myself and faced the reality that not everything will go my way and I must accept that. I will not hide the truth from my family forever. I am just waiting for the right time, and the courage to say it.

This article that you wrote gave me more courage and inspiration that I should not give up. You made me feel that I am not alone in this journey, that there are people who are experiencing similar situations and people who have overcome such obstacles.

P.J.D.I, 18, North Hollywood, CA

3rd Prize
Fighting for Our Culture

Dear Aishamanne Williams,
While reading your article, “Dashikis and Dreadlocks,” I got the shivers. I am also a high school senior who has been bullied because of my culture. I had never heard a story so much like mine. Though it might sound different, you and I have experienced the same emotions.

I am a minority like you. My parents are Hispanics and I’m an American who grew up in Mexico before I moved to Colorado. I had to go into a special program to enrich my English-speaking skills. I noticed that students would make fun of my accent and I would receive comments like, “Go back to where you are from. Your parents do not even pay taxes.” I would get upset and not want to go to school. I would be embarrassed to bring friends to my house because my parents were not fluent in English at the time. With the assistance of therapy and my parents’ support, I have learned to love myself for who I am.

Just like you, I will continue to be proud of who I am. I like to show off that I am Latina and that I am proud of my roots. I blast my Mariachi music as I am driving to school and I sing from the top of my lungs. You wrote, “Of course, you can be proud of being black without wearing African clothing or dreadlocks. But by wearing these things, I feel I’m fighting the racist conditioning we’ve been subject to for generations.” I am a supporter of that statement. In my case, one does not have to like Mexican music or dress in the traditional clothing from Mexico, but by showing your Mexican spirit, you are standing up to the insults towards your culture. You stand tall along with many others.

One thing that is very important to remember is: You are not alone. Many Mexican-American people are going through harassment like you, but you have to stand up for what you believe in and not let anything or anyone get in your way.

Thank you for sharing your story and letting me open up to you. Keep being the person you are, because I know you’re an amazing woman with such a bright future. Also, keep sharing your story. You gave me hope and confidence because I knew that I was not alone. We had different experiences, but both had to do with fighting for our culture. I know you can impact so many other lives.

Stephanie Bobadilla-Regalado, 17, Lake Elsinore, CA

1st Runner Up
Changing Minds About Islam

Dear Yousef,
Reading your story entitled, “View Me as a Human Being, Not a Terrorist” reminds me of my own father’s story. He immigrated from Egypt, learned English, graduated high school, was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America on a full scholarship, was an entrepreneur with his own business at the age of 20, and was the first Egyptian mayor of Washington Township. All Muslims are not terrorists.

I have frequently experienced situations similar to yours where my religion made me uncomfortable. I felt that it was easier to identify as nonreligious rather than as a Muslim, out of fear of retaliation and comments by others. The way the media portrays isolated situations as the whole truth appalls me as well and I wish people were more educated about the religion.

According to the FBI, 94% of terrorist attacks in the U.S. between 1980 and 2005 have been by non-Muslims. This is an alarming statistic, considering that President Trump’s recent travel ban was directed at six primarily Muslim countries. The President used the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” in an email discussing his ban. Your point that this ban will simply create a more hateful environment for minority groups is frightening, but I can unfortunately see this as the wave for the future.

In actuality, many Muslims are just trying to escape evil in their countries, not impose evil upon us. Islam is an extremely peaceful religion by nature and one extremist sect cannot represent the true core of the religion. I plan to share this article with my teachers at school in the hopes that they will share it with students to help change their perspectives.

Thank you for speaking out about such a heart-wrenching issue and providing awareness about something facing so many Muslim-Americans today, including my own family.

Amanda Elbassiouny, 18, Washington, NJ

Contest #237 - Runners Up
Robert Acevedo, Ashikur Chowdhury, Taylor D., Amal Gohar, Brook McMillan, Madison Meier, Hallie Roubinek, Nikki Seichepine, Brittany Thompson.

Contest #237 - Honorable Mentions
Nicolette Adayan, Victor Aguilar, Keonna Akoma, Lynn Al-emam, Desjáh Altvater, Shelley Anderson, Rachel Apolinar, Jabriyel Banks, Deborah Basoto, John Paul Betikoetxea, Elizabeth Bermudez, Napolean Bond, Nathan Bowden, Michael Jayshawn Broughton, Julio Castellano, Grace Chen, , Mark Cintron, Kyara A Clark, Carlton Clarke, Christina Corliss, Alexis Covarrubias, Thikra Daoud, Jaida Delaney, MaeLee DeVries, Torri Dunn, Gabriela Evins, Dayhelyn Franck, Brittani Garrison, Ashley Gilbert, Eric Jordan Grant, Elizabeth Hockman, Isabel Jaquez, Kelsey B Johnson, Brandon Jones, Kailee Jo Jones, Mackenzie Jones, Brittany Kang, Janhvi Kharawala, Elaina Kietzke, Dustin Lee, Heaven Lee, Kasra Lekan, Yero Love, Vivian Lei Luong, Bailey May, Geena Melone, Ashley Margaret Moen, Tytiana Myers, Veronica Munagorri, Rylee Newton, Kazi Zazbatun Nur, Chinasa Okezie, Viktoriya Onikiychuk, Sara Owen, Richae Parham, Takera Payne, Elvin Perez, Jarrett Perry, Tiana Pittman, Marcus Quinones, Armin Rahmani, Andrea Ramirez, Reyna Ramirez, Sha’Kiara Richardson, Kiana Rodriguez, Hallie Roubinek, Evelyn Salinas, Kimberly Seminario, Destiny Serrant, Geeta Sharma, Ayanna Shaw, Angelica Sierra, Hannah Spinner, Nora Tejada, Brittany R. Thompson, Emily Valdez, Alondra Vargas, Kalvin Vargas, Survannah Vaye, Monserratte Vazquez, Janae Vieira, Morgan Vervaeke, Sarah Vo, Mallory Warrix, Autumn White, Illiana White, Allison (Alexander) Williams, Leanne Williams, MeKaley Wood, Vanessa Wyatt, Shania Yearwood, Celia Zhang.

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