Brenda, L. 12th Livermore, CA
It is an odd feeling being fifty. Wrinkles are settled in now, and my body feels more flimsy by the day. An elaborate continuum of forgotten memories hangs by a thread. As time passes, my thirst for spontaneity dissipates. My brain is resistant like dusty cogwheels waiting for a spark. Looking around, many strangers I used to know now rest six feet under with an identical bouquet of flowers adorning an $11,000 gravestone. Some of their bodies were taken by the wind, drowned in the deep blue sea, or kept in generational attics. Looking back, I lost many jobs in my late 20s, but thankfully I had a second chance to restart my life. Today is my 50th birthday. A day I never knew would come so soon. Occasionally, I wonder how differently my life would have played out or ponder on old friends. Even at this instant, I can taste the bittersweet memories of nostalgia in my lukewarm cappuccino.
Reaching into my pocket, I felt a terrible shock enter my body. Like a pinch too sudden and too painful to even breathe. Slowly I pulled out my hand with purple bruises and a pack of sewing needles. A series of flashbacks entered my mind. My mother had sowed, and her mother sewed, and before her, my great-grandmother sewed, and her mother before that. Funny how bits of my past somehow sneak into my present and future. The pain took me back to when I was a little girl sewing patches of all textures and colors onto my corduroy pants. Clothing was scarce then, and most of my blankets were quilted. Sowing became a part of me and followed me through adolescenthood when I joined the Craft Club at my school. During the second meet-up, I noticed a girl named Lila, with hazelnut eyes and brown hair, in the back of the classroom with a croquet kit on her desk. After introducing myself to her, we became instant friends with the everlasting promise of world domination. Our friendship ended abruptly when she told me she would study in Europe. I lost contact with her and thought about her occasionally over the years. Even now, her mystery plagues my mind in times of solitude and reflection.
Today is my Birthday. My kids and grandchildren are waiting for me to come home and celebrate a year more. This morning has been my secret escape into the past, but now I must return to the present and finish my cold cappuccino. I reach the table next to me and grab a few napkins to place my needles in. It is an odd feeling being 50, but now I feel comfortable in my flimsy skin. My life has played out the exact way it should have, and now I must keep telling my tale so that my daughter and her daughter, and her daughter will tell it too.
R.Ali, 10th Oakland, CA
How would you feel if you always dreamed of going to college ever since you were younger but you weren’t able to due to financial problems? Or you're the type that decides to demolish their dreams because they do not want to deal with things such as that stress? This is why I think college should be free. As a result, there will be an increase in people attending college, and stress over financing will decrease.
To begin, an increased amount of people wanting to seek extra knowledge and going to college is a great economic uplift. People who attend college and get a degree usually have a larger income rate rather than not attending college. According to Forbes Advisor comparing college graduates to high school graduates, college graduates have a 75% increase in earnings. So those with higher degrees tend to out-earn those who did not attend college. If seeking higher education optionally will open up more opportunities for people and set people up for the better in the future why wouldn’t people want that for the current and upcoming generations.
In addition, in the US stress levels and other mental health issues have been linked to many reasons including financial problems. According to the American Psychological Association, 65 percent of adults say that money is a significant source of stress for them. A number of studies have demonstrated a cyclical link between financial worries and mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Financial problems adversely impact your mental health. Constant stress and worries can take a toll on the body. This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke. If college was free lots of Americans wouldn't be dealing with the stress of paying student loans. Forty-five million Americans have student loan debt, that's about one in five U.S. adults (17.4%). Now that's a lot of Americans alone that have debt. Free college would lessen the percentage of Americans going through stress and coping through other mental health problems.
This is why I believe college should be free. Free college can drive economic growth and help our economy. Even there will be an increase in helpful things in our economy such as people seeking more education. Also a decrease in hurtful things to our environment such as stress and other mental health problems that Americans have been dealing with. Considering back then students didn’t have to worry about tuition and debt but now it's more about personal gain than contributing to society.
Jessica P. 12th, Richmond, CA
I’m breaking up with you. It’s not me, it’s YOU. Really. Over the past three years, we’ve been on and off—a relentless and exhausting cycle. I’m sick of it. Many times, your power has blinded me, configuring my view of my surroundings. You’ve manipulated my attitude towards my friends and family. You knew me so well, that you used the things I cared about against me. You’d induce fear and whisper intrusive thoughts into my ear—about death, sex, disasters. And don’t get me started about the rituals. The knocking three times, the counting to twelve. What was that all about? I’d bite into the fruit of compulsions, only to still be left with a bitter aftertaste. The taste of shame, guilt, frustration, anxiety. When you went away, I protected my peace. But then you would show up unannounced in the crevice of my brain, infiltrating my life. I’ve had enough. No, it doesn’t feel right. And it’ll never feel right. That’s fine. We are not one. We are not meant to be. I’m not yours, nor your property.
Grey, 10th. Jackson, CA
You only see what I reveal to you
I have the perfect grades
Top of my class, future valedictorian
I hang out with the good kids
I don’t fight, or cause drama
You see me smiling in the pictures
Arms around those next to me, happy as always
I spend time with you, my family
I don’t point out your problems, I love you unconditionally
But you don’t see me struggling
I can’t afford time to sleep because I have to keep my grades up
I stress out, I receive a B on an assignment and I do it over knowing I have to do better
I can’t connect with the good kids even though we have similar interests
they are innocent and they can’t see me, they just know I’m kind
You don’t see me crying at night
with no one around I fall apart, I turn to the quickest pain to remember I’m alive
you say you know everything about me, because I’m your daughter
But you only see the version of me that lives under your roof, the perfect little girl
I ask for help and you brush me off, saying “you can’t let hormones dictate your life”
But it’s not my fault that I don’t want to get up in the morning
You think that I don’t have problems, so let me tell you
You see the version of me that lives under you roof, but I left out the scars that you’ve given me
Evvi, 12th. Vermont
(It Feels Like a City Without Sun)
Sweet, like sugar, being
saddened by apathy
“he didn't mean to”
is how the story goes
Remind us he’s a liar
using you for desire
making a scene of drama
blunt emotional trauma
causing you blindness
to offer him forgiveness
cursing your kindness
Listen to me closely
I'll only say it once
“fly little butterfly”
leave the net
or for life, your wings will be set
inside his case of collected wings
deep and bright
icy waters cloud your sight
cold as his heart
your tears soak your lips
thoughts say after
his hands trapped your hips
Fly my butterfly
I'll only say it twice
leave this net
or for life, your wings will be set
inside his case of collected flings
Let me cover you in sunshine
discover I can accommodate
your shiny eyes and divine smile
on your pretty face.
Yan L. 11th. Oakland, CA
Thinking back to every summer, the first thing that comes to mind is the beach but I was hardly ever there…Maybe is a childhood memory but it gave me an image of what summer should be like.
It is etched in my mind.
The cool waves from the ocean saved me from the summer heat. Sand sticking to my wet feet. Seagulls everywhere making their high pitch sounds. Searching for the beautiful natural treasures on the beach.
Leaving the laugh and memory there, walking out with sand sticking on my leg, and beautiful shells in my bag.
I still look forward to be there, like I look forward to every summer.
Alyssa, 10th. Pleasanton, CA
I am a soldier.
The draft arrived, flowing quite prettily into my hands, on a humid afternoon, a peaceful day, clouds and the sky and the world all agreeing with each other. I opened the letter, read the lines, did not understand. Perhaps I wasn’t a full-ride scholarship to Harvard type of student, but I brought energy to my studies, composed tedious editorials for the school, and was class president. Really, to be fair, I was just plain too good for the war.
I told myself, I believed in myself, that secretly, under all my fear of the world, there was a secret reservoir of courage ready to be untapped when the time came. I truly believed that under certain circumstances, I would be able to become the hero, save everyone. Fresh graduate, politically naive, yet I knew that wars should not and really could not start without knowing why. Mid-July, the thoughts started coming to me. In the beginning it was so abstract, but eventually the shapes, and the colors, and perhaps later on the precise details all arrived. Then one day, something clicked; left, started running.
Now, I run and I run until I see the border to Canada, to freedom. Collapse on my hands and knees. I feel every grain of earth seeping into me, imprinting into my skin. The air of night like an ocean wave rushes up and down; pulsing warmness, drawing dew out from me. The icy dirt marks into my nails as I desperately tear at the frozen grass.
Here I scream and cry and wail. Until I can barely breathe, until I am panting. Until there is a puddle beneath my chin. My eyes puffy and each blink a burden.
Yet the clouds did not split open and let fall drops of eponine.
It shouldn’t be like this, summer of 1968. The dawns slice their way into the horizon, the sunsets are feathery and pink, and the brief nights are spark-filled with stars crawling all over the sky. July winds bring the noise of night, screeching and tumbling of pebbles, rustle of the leaves in the distance.
Inhale. I take another sobbing collective breath, feel a thick liquor, calm, keeping the parts of me together.
Decide. I need to do something. So I crawl over in the dark, find the wood, the grain of the boat, clumsily climb in. I row and I row until I see the other side, to freedom. My heart is pounding, I am still crying, loud. But my body refuses to budge. Here, I sit and feel.
When I first started to run, the shame overwhelmed me. The blood went thick behind my eyes. The voices, of every classmate, the entire town. Would they forget, only remember me every couple of years? Or would they continue to tease, gossip? Would my family ever forget? Did I even care?
Here, on the lake, the world is sinless, pure, refined, all the synonyms.
Here, half of me in Canada, half of me in America, I peer into the water, see myself for the first time.
Kgosi M. 9th, South Africa
I grew up in Soweto under bad financial circumstances.
I would watch my friends eat while crying on the inside because of hunger.
Will I sleep while crying? Will these circumstances change?
Asking myself questions not knowing the answers to.
That, was when my pen and paper met, and I made them dance.
Not to a known tune, but to a rhythm I created from scratch.
I did not have to do research on my craft, I just crafted it myself from the onset
The problem then became that I had to be studying or doing homework at that time.
But I was still putting together two, three stories.
I tried to distance myself from the pen,
But then I realized that having something so typical but yet special is actually a blessing in my life
I did not choose this life,
But what I am choosing is writing so I can showcase to the world my talent, writing so I can send messages of encouragement, joy and life lessons to the whole world.
Students 6th-12th Grades