The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Contest Winners #240
Write a letter to the author responding to their story
Writing Contest Winners

Story: Why I Feel Less American Than White People, by Ria Parker

1st Prize
Keep Battling Racism

Dear Ria,
Your article spoke to me deeply. I know racism exists, but it’s worse than I realized. It saddens me that we have to live in a world where we are judged based on our skin color, religion, or body features.

Deep down inside we are all the same. We all have DNA and a beating heart, but too often people see color or religion. I wish people could see past all that and accept people for who they are. I’m Jewish-American. White supremacists don’t see me as American.

My skin is white, but because I wear a Star of David necklace and my red Kabbalah bracelet, racists think I should to go back to my country and stop stealing the good jobs. But people of color have had and still have it so much worse.

I looked at your picture, and I think you are beautiful. I look up to you because of the amazing article you wrote. You are more American than every racist person out there. I believe that one day there will be peace and no racism. We have to fight for it, and we will win. Don’t give up or let racism get you down. Be yourself and ignore the ignorant glances and racist remarks, because you are more of an American than these stubborn people will ever be. Thank you for inspiring me with your article!.

Julianna Meyers

Story: This is America, Where Women Play Cards, by Salenna Weiner

2nd Prize
Dreams of Independence

Dear Salenna,
Like you, my parents were born and raised in another country (Albania) where they had similar views of women. I have many relatives that live here and still think women are less than men.

I observe my sexist relatives. In Albania, a man can dream as big as he wants, but most women only dream of getting married. They are taught from a young age that getting married is a good thing for them and a great accomplishment. So many women are stay-at-home mothers because it’s believed that women should only cook, clean, and watch after their children. Women go from being their father’s daughter to their husband’s wife rather than being their own individual selves. It angers me, but thankfully, my parents have adapted to some American traditions and encourage my independence.

My cousins tend to leave me out of card games because I’m too young and I’m a girl. Even in school, I’ve seen instances where a girl surpasses a boy in sports or games, and the boy immediately becomes embarrassed because he lost to a girl.

There are other things to work on too. Women still make less than men do, and I feel that this discrimination against women must end.

Aurora Haxhari

Story: Trump’s Spiteful Transgender Ban, by Atl Castro

3rd Prize
Youth Voice Matters

Dear Atl,
Even though I don’t know what it’s like to be gay, bisexual, transgendered, or lesbian, we are all people and bleed, breathe, feel, and hurt the same.

President Donald Trump is a bully and is making people feel like they don’t belong in the United States. I feel like every day when I turn on the news, he’s discriminating against another group.

I think it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or transgender to join the military. If you can hold a gun and shoot, are military-ready, and can go to the boot camp and succeed, then I think you can join the military. This feels like the 1800s, when women couldn’t join the army.

I also agree that youth voice matters. It’s important to be brave and put ourselves out there to fight the bullies. My friends’ parent says he would disown his kids if he found out they were gay. To me, if your parents don’t accept who you are, they are the biggest bullies.

Luckily, my parents think that it’s messed up for you to kick your kids out of your life based on their sexual orientation. My older sister is gay. She has three beautiful kids, a nice house, a good job, and someone she loves. My parents accept her with open arms.

Jenel Munoz

Special thanks to Paul Gammarano and his students at New Dorp HS in Staten Island for submitting dozens of letters.

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