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North Lawndale College Prep Charter High School Chicago, IL

Winter 2009-10

PHO

FIRE ENIX

LITERARY MAGAZINE

Sponsored by the NLCP Writing Center


PART I Tell a story through a piece of glass... Ankle Socks, My Bottle, and Me Katrina Pipes

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The Dream That Went Bad Toneika Gresham

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The Glass Life Anthony Culp

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The Man in the Mirror Larrinita Starks

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The Way I Live Melissa Thomas

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Trapped Briana Marshall

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Dear Cherubic Angel Tiffany Ward

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Unusually Keshona Jackson

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Broken Bottles, Filled With Promises 17 Christian Robinson

Witnessing The Unwitnessed La’Niece Wilbourn

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Eleven-Word Confessions Ricky Rush Tyra Steverson Jaamela Collins Anonymous Dumanisha Ward Anonymous

Cover art by Demontae Hawkins „13 Cover design by Ms. Nathalie Lagerfeld

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PART II Today was the day I died... The Happiest Birthday Quartell West-Crenshaw

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Looking Back Sharai Murry

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Sitting Here… Thinking Khadijah Pullen

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Don‟t Cry At My Funeral Adrina Johnson

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A Cold Heart… With No Beat Jaylen Winston

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Circle of Darkness Laylana Anderson

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My Final Destination Brandon Thorpe

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No Worries Daphne Coats

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A Broken Heart Left To Die April Hargrow

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Bitter Dreams Norma Morales

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Eleven-Word Confessions Miriah Burns Aaron Bankhead Darryl Jackson Quartney Taylor Jaylon Jones Myesha Jones Keaundra Day Destaney Davis Lazavier Holden Camra Sanders

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Why confess the truth when all it does is hurt you? Ricky Rush ‗12

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PART I: A Piece of Glass... ANKLE SOCKS, MY BOTTLE, AND ME By Katrina Pipes ‘12 Winner | Collins Campus This is not how I meant for my life to be like. Not at all. But then I again I never had any expectations for myself. My parents always did. ―Harvard,‖ Dad would say. ―Oh my baby is going to be a doctor,‖ Mom would say. And here I was, slumped in the corner on the floor of some dirty restroom in some dirty gas station. I didn‘t even have on one of my shoes. I stared at my sock. It was an ankle sock. Dirty and damp. I tried to focus my blurry vision on the pink and white stripes. The white stripes, no longer white, seemed almost as see through as my pale, sick skin. That‘s when I noticed it. Clutched tight in my hand, I held on to a brown beer bottle. There wasn‘t a single drop in it. I began to cry. Not because it was empty but because I knew it was me that had made it that way. Holding the brown glass up to my face, I could see my reflection. No, this was not my reflection because that was not me. No, it couldn‘t be. This girl that stood before me did not look anything like me. She looked horrible. Her face was as a pale as a ghost and that‘s how I knew it wasn‘t me because my face was full of life and beautiful. Her eyes were tired and strained but mine…mine were calm and warm and pleasant. This girl was disgusting to look at and I knew she was not me. ―I‘ll be right back.‖ That‘s the last thing my ―friend‖ Lillian had said before I 4


found myself dumped in this restroom. As I saw her tight short skirt switch away, I realized that my ―friend‖ had left me with my friend, the alcohol and her cousin. ―You wanna get a bite to eat since we‘re here?‖ Josh asked. Lillian said to be mature, although I was 15 years old, because he liked mature girls and I didn‘t want to be that nerdy girl who was an outcast that boys like Josh never looked at. Even though I was already hurting, I did not want to return to that girl regardless that I was turning into this girl. I turned to stare Josh in the eyes, taking a sip of my beer. I told him no and that was the last thing I remember saying to him before I woke up in this restroom. And I knew right then that‘s why this brown bottle had been my only best friend. Because although here, in this stinky hole, this bottle had stuck through with me and has not left my side. So yeah, the bottle here is not the enemy and I had known that from the start and I had known that because it was that monster staring at me that was the enemy. Suddenly, I felt water come out of the corner of my eyes and I let it. I let them hit the bottle because other than anger, it was the first emotion I had felt in such a long time. It was the first time I cried due to the pain I had caused myself and not anyone else. It was the first emotion I had felt because I caused it and it made me feel human again. It made me realize that I had a heart, whether broken or dead or the remaining pieces still hanging on to my arteries.

I shot the mirror only because it was my own reflection. Tyra Steverson ‗10 5


Finally, I got out of the restroom. I smiled because I was making my pink and white dirty ankle sock dirtier and I was okay with that. It was going to be hard giving up my friend but it had to be done. There wasn‘t practically anything else I could think of to blame other than that girl staring at me in the restroom. I felt bad for her because she would be forever trapped in that bottle, constantly trying to help people like me. I realize that I had run to her because she was like a haven. I could go to escape my real problems and I didn‘t look at her ugly face until now because at the time she didn‘t seem so ugly. I guess it was because we were both kind of suffering in the same way and here I was trying to keep her company just as long as she kept me feeling loved. But I don‘t want that feeling anymore, not if it will make me look like her. So for that poor girl that blinked her dead, weary eyes at me through the brown surface of my friend, I will open her prison and let her escape. I hurled the bottle in front of me and just like every dream I had before my mother and father destroyed it, it broke into a thousand pieces. I smiled and I knew that I had freed that girl from her sick misery by destroying everything that she stood for. I don‘t need Bottle, Lillian, or Josh. I‘m going home without them and that girl. I‘m returning home with the only people I need tonight: me and my pink and white dirty ankle sock.

I hurt others without consent, but am hurting myself with permission. Jaamela Collins ‗12

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THE DREAM THAT WENT BAD By Toneika Gresham ‘10 Winner | Christiana Campus Looking through, I can only see a reflection of me, and what I want to be and what I‘m becoming. As I stare into the reflective glass, it begins to shatter. The shatter scares me because it describes my inner feeling that I‘m so afraid to show or even let go. Pieces fall everywhere, leaving me in an unsolved mystery that has me searching for guidance or closure. The pieces are not fitting, and this seems to be strange to me because they all came from the same life, the same puzzle, but for some reason they won‘t go back together. As I sit and reminisce on the things that got me to this point, I feel I have met this destiny before my time. The image that I have been staring at was death. The reflection that I was having was really a flashback of all the things I‘ve done in my past life. I was staring at all the things that shaped me as a person, and what destroyed me as a soul. I knew that the pressure, pain, and torture was getting old, but I never knew that my life was going to be blown up and shattered, and there would be no way of putting it back together or coming back. I had just realized that ―today was the day I died.‖As I hear whimpering and screaming, I begin to feel sad; to leave all these people hurting and wondering why. As quick as the flash, as fast as my life, I feel a swift gust of wind pushing me back and forth, as I begin to open my eyes. Opening my eyes, I realize that I had just broken a mirror, and in the middle of a sweep, I had fallen fast to sleep. The morbid images that flashed before my eyes were just a fear of death. Once I noticed that my life was a mirror, I started to release tears of joy. 7


THE GLASS LIFE By Anthony Culp ‘11 Honorable Mention | Christiana Campus As he peers through the window pane, life seems better on the other side. Respect is the key to everything. Her loud shrills throughout the house scare even the tiniest of creatures. He‘s scared to speak up because of her reaction. She is like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode at any moment. She is independent and strong because she stands on her own. With my glasses he can‘t see that far, but so far it is amazing. He keeps reminding himself that I only have two more years. Shattered; not stable, but secure. She protects him with her love. He is unable to love, because of a weak foundation. She is his sole provider. From birth she has nursed him through sickness and health. Financially, she provides him with the basic necessities. Her love compensates for the rest. Through strict discipline, she shapes and molds him into a respectable young man. His father‘s absence is the vital piece of broken glass missing from the mirror. When he looks into the mirror of life, they tell him, ―You are a spitting image of your father.‖ As he takes that with a grain of salt, he thinks about what his life would be if he had that one piece of glass. Life would be plastic and picture perfect. I would be clean, clear and free from stress. The mirror turns dark as he begins to come into reality. He feels like his skin is opaque because he wears his heart on his sleeve. One morning he woke up and glanced into the mirror of life and decided that he was going to succeed and change himself. For the next three years, he began to grow stronger and more independent. Love, confidence, and appreciation grew stronger 8


on the inside of his hard shell. His bodacious approach impresses the critics who said he was weak. He is now the C.E.O. of his own corporation, employing over 2,500 employees. Everyday, he sits in his office and gazes out the window of his office and reminisces on his past and how he arrived at this point in ―The Glass Life.‖ Through the glass, life seems better, but only he can decide the thickness of the glass.

THE MAN IN THE MIRROR By Larrinita Starks ‘13 Honorable Mention | Collins Campus I look inside of the mirror, but I see no reflection I try to smile a little bit but still no reactions Just hoping one day I‘ll wake up and see The real Larrinita, the real girl inside of me Who am I? I‘m no little Miss perfect, I‘m no Cinderella Feel as if I‘m not worth it So who is this person, I must have to know So I stare upon this glass, then a face appears to show It‘s a boy about my age, brown hair, and brown eyes And his birth mark happens to be the same place as mine I look at this identical face and stare at him and smile As our hands connect and we smile a little while The only time I saw him, we were at birth And to know your twin brother died and you lived That stuff really hurts Why not me? Why not me instead 9


So I try to wonder what he‘s like by staring at this glass Is he perfect, wonderful, like no other I try to forget about the death of my twin brother I look at the mirror one more time but now more upset Then the mirror starts talking which I didn‘t expect ―Larrinita this is more than just you and you brother, This has to do with yourself, Why can‘t you be you instead of someone else?‖ I glanced at this mirror having no idea what to do The mirror should have told a lie Cause I cannot take the truth Always wanted to be popular, famous, and cool But the result of that is only a fool I had a chance to live how selfish can I be Instead of him dying, it could have been me My life is a gift I was too blinded to see But now, maybe just maybe, I loved being me All kinds of confusion is rambling through my head On the mirror lies a letter; I picked it up and it said ―Dear Larrinita, I‘m right by your side I‘m gone and you‘re here, so just enjoy your life God took me and kept you for a purpose you have a goal to achieve Stop worrying about the past, and live your life just for me Not even death can make us part Just open your heart and there I lie inside your heart.‖ I looked back inside the mirror the old me has been erased New Year, new me: I‘ve found a new place I turn on my iPod to rest and peace Then Michael Jackson‘s words came upon to me ―If you want to make the world a better place, Take a look at your self and make a change.‖

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THE WAY I LIVE By Melissa Thomas ‘13 Honorable Mention | Collins Campus People look at me as if I‘m supposed to be a reflection of them. People look at me as if I‘m supposed to move when they move or talk like them. They look at me as if I‘m a mirror. ―I‘m not,‖ I tell them, but they don‘t listen. They move me left and right, up and down. Sometimes they even dress me. My life is just not fair, living it as a mirror to others and not the way I want to live . I reflect others‘ lives: my mother, father, sister and many others. People look at me and act as if I am supposed to be their blood twin or something; it‘s just not fair. I want to look in the mirror and see my life, me. I don‘t see me at all when I look in the mirror. I see my pushy mother, my lost father, and many other people in my life. I want to look in the mirror and see that bright caramel girl who had a life. That girl who loved looking at the mirror at herself and not others. I used to think that copying people was ok and soon it was like I adapted to it. Soon I started to repeat other people‘s steps in life and not make up my own. The life of a mirror is my life and nobody wants my image. Picture yourself in my shoes. Every move you make, every step you take, every word you say: it just wouldn‘t be yours. When I look in the mirror, what do I see? I want to see myself, my life, my dark brown eyes. I see my lightskinned mother who works hard for everything, my workaholic

I like wearing diamonds and material things to cover up feelings. Anonymous 11


father who doesn‘t have time for his only two kids. What has my world come to now? Today no more, today is the day I stand up and change. Today I move the opposite way of others. Today I stand out. I want to break the mirror sometimes, throw it to the ground and watch it shatter into a million pieces. I want to watch my life shatter as if I‘m not even living it, as if I‘m standing back watching me live an unwanted life, or better yet another person that looks like me living my life. I stand here in my room thinking about this life I live. I throw my old mirror to the ground just as I once imagined me doing and watch it shatter into a million pieces not wanting to pick it up. I toss the old mirror in the garbage and put up a brand new one. Looking in this mirror, I only see one person: me.

TRAPPED By Briana Marshall ‘11 Runner-up | Collins Campus I‘m stuck! How will I get out of here? It‘s blurry! I want know why. I‘m scared. Is this feeling normal? I‘m suffocating. Why isn‘t anyone trying to helping me? I‘m screaming. Does anyone hear me? I cry. Is it even loud enough? I‘m ready for this to be over. Why did I have to get trapped? I thought my life was going fine. My family and I went out to eat to spend time with one another. All you could hear was laughter and see smiles on everyone‘s faces. We were telling each other the unforgettable stories that have happened in the past. There were a lot of hilarious ones. Then the elders start asking about grades, but I didn‘t have anything to worry about because I had a 5.0 grade point average. Everyone got excited. Suddenly, my mother received a phone 12


call. All I begin to see is her eyes get teary. Why do problems overtake happiness? I‘m trying to see what‘s out there, but can‘t make out who‘s there. I see people but can‘t make out their faces. I‘m struggling; why isn‘t anyone trying to help move this glass? I scream again but this time things only get worse. I realized my whole world has gone upside down. My mother told my family and me that my grandfather had passed away from natural causes. I didn‘t really understand how it was natural causes because he was at the age of 54. That‘s not really old enough in my eyes. A week after his death I realized my grades started to look horrible. My family began to grow apart, but I just didn‘t understand why because this is a time everyone is supposed to come even closer. Everything wasn‘t right anymore. I keep pushing the glass trying to make it fall into pieces. It‘s not going anywhere. Nothing‘s happening. Everything seems to be spinning. Why am I getting dizzy? I began to hear my heart beating. I look around me and everything is moving slowly. Why isn‘t this over yet? I‘m trapped in my conscience. My thoughts are rootless. I‘m starting to get tired. I close my eyes for a second hoping that when I open them all this will be over. I open them and all I see is blurriness. Why I am still trapped in this glass?

I always become upset when average students answer easy questions wrong. Dumanisha Ward ‗13

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DEAR CHERUBIC ANGEL By Tiffany Ward ‘11 Honorable Mention | Collins Campus Dear cherubic angel, I have decided that I am permanently leaving the ―good side.‖ I no longer want to be the one that picks others off the ground when they fall, I don‘t want to encourage others when they feel hopeless, and I don‘t want to be that person waiting for everyone, just to be the first one to get left. It‘s funny how you live your whole life fantasizing, thinking that everyone would love and treat you fair because that is how you treat everyone else. But it doesn‘t work like that when you‘re an angel with broken wings. I‘ve been unable to fly ever since I was forced to leave my home. Somewhere through my childhood, my heart died and it couldn‘t get revived. I want to be this way, it‘s the only way people won‘t take me as a joke, it‘s the only way that I can get respect, it‘s the only way I can say how I really feel, or how I want to feel. Now I‘m shattered; the only thing left of me are these remains of an angel with broken wings that have become broken glass. When I was on the good side, I never saw myself as a person, not admitting my should‘ve, could‘ve, would‘ve, but the fact is I didn‘t, couldn‘t and wouldn‘t because I‘m tired of being this person that everyone else expects or wants me to be. They see me as this perfect mirror that‘s a role model to them that knows what she‘s about without a smear on it, but the truth is that they fail to understand that I was shattered when they met me. I was every definition of broken; you just assumed that I wasn‘t because of that same clear transparent mirror. Now I often find myself split between who they want me to be and who I should be, well considering to others. I just wanted to 14


make them proud, to make them happy, I just wanted to make them alright, I just wanted…and succeeded for a while now, until I realized that there was more taking then giving. I gave and they took, until I couldn‘t give anymore. Yes they did it, they did what I feared the most, and they used me up. Now there are no more thank yous and your welcomes from me, maybe a fist pound but not a warm hug. It‘s like I‘m cold and I‘m heartless. So I‘m checking out of the heart break motel, I‘m leaving the no man‘s land and claiming my independence from my conscience, self consciousness and empathy. Not to mention the empathy that I have been in war with since I made my constitution based on treating others the way that I want to be treated. But now I‘m revising my constitution, and reconstructing my country; making it ruled with no democracy needed. I know it‘s a harsh law to live by, but it‘s very much needed. It‘s my turn to take back advantage of those who thought they had me. I have every right to rebel. I needed someone to love, but that person was never there. Or they were, but I didn‘t know it; in that case, I didn‘t really have them in the first place because they never proved to me that they were that person. Where were you when he choked her, where were you when she was lied to, where were you at that table where she sat by herself, where were you when she cried herself to sleep that night??? I guess the same place where that cherubic angel lies.

In my fairytale land, I don't care; in reality, I do. Anonymous

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UNUSUALLY By Keshona Jackson ‘10 Runner-up | Christiana Campus She had three minutes to live. Before she could take another step, she stepped on a piece of glass. Bleeding from her big toe, she cried. Then she heard the voice again, ―Three minutes, three minutes.‖ All she could think about was the piece of glass in her toe. As she lay on the floor with her hands over her bleeding big toe, the room began to close in on her. She quickly tried to crawl out the door. She heard the voice again, ―Three minutes, three minutes.‖ Her toe bled more. It sounded like her own voice. In a frightened manner, she immediately turned around hopping on one foot She heard it again. "Who‘s there?‖ she shouted as her voice was filled with sudden anxiety. She heard it again, ―Three minutes to live, what are you going to do?‖ She crawled into her bed trying to fall asleep. She was dozing off as her chin was hitting the top of her chest. Her closet door began to open and close. She swiftly jumped up and hopped to the closet. With her back against the door, she then heard the song, ―Beautiful Liar.‖ She hopped to the beat. Her bed flipped over! There it was: the wolf in her nightmare. It had big feet, big hands, and big teeth. ―Why do you have such big teeth?‖ she emphasized. ―So I can eat you duh,‖ the wolf responded. ―Why such big hands and feet?‖ she blurted out. "So I can catch you," replied the wolf. Then she noticed herself dressed in all red, hopping in the woods, with a big basket. She saw a big red apple hanging from a tree. She took a big bite. She fell to the floor. She woke up next to Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, 16


Doc, Happy, Bashful, and Grumpy all staring down at her foot. The piece glass turned into a glass slipper. ―I can fit it!‖ she cried out. The pumpkin turned into a carriage and the mouse turn into the horse. Her prince walked into the room and kissed her softly on the lips. Unexpectedly, she found herself looking up to him. Why does he seem so tall? She looked into the glass mirror and noticed that she had turned into a frog. Then she woke up. ―What a hell of a dream,‖ she laughed while looking down at the piece of glass in her big toe.

BROKEN BOTTLES, FILLED WITH PROMISES By Christian Robinson ‘10 Honorable Mention | Christiana Campus "Mom? Momma? Momma, do you hear me?‖ My voice was just above a whisper, but my soul was screaming at her. I wanted her to hear me, but I knew she couldn't. She was in a trance. She was under a spell so strong she couldn't even hear her own child speak. A tangled web of deceit, neglect and pain caused her to live through the urges in the back of her throat that could only be quenched by alcohol. It was her addiction. It was her only vice in the world. Her reason to live was no longer me, but her bottle. Subconsciously, she continued to ignore me, hoping that I would go away. My feet wouldn't let me move. I tried so desperately to tear my eyes away from the back of her head.

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I couldn't. I just couldn't. I watched as the clear glass bottle of Seagram's Gin was turned upright to her lips. She gulped until she was satisfied. She could no longer feel the burn in her chest. I hoped with all my might that the reason she did not turn around to face me was because she was ashamed of her appearance. At that very moment I wished that she loved me again. I wished that she could love me like she loved me when I was seven. But now I‘m eight and things have changed. I have learned how to let silly childish wishes like that stray. They never did me any good anyway. I stepped forward, put my arms around her and rested my head in the nook where her shoulder and neck met. I hugged my mother. It was the greatest thing I could experience at the tender age of eight. I smelled her. I tried to sniff out the mother that I once knew. I wanted to smell lavender and vanilla but she only smelled of the liquor leaking from her pores. I still loved her. I knew that she still loved me. The only difference between her and me was that she had lost the ability to show it. "I love you mommy.‖ She didn‘t respond. I expected that. As I walked to school that day, I remembered a time when my mother smiled. Her smile was adorned with pretty white teeth and gorgeous dimples. She smiled at me and she said, "You have a good day at school, pumpkin. Mommy will be here when you get home.‖ Then she kissed my forehead. I remember that moment so vividly. It is the single day in my short life that defined me. I didn‘t know it then. As I walked over shattered beer bottles, cigarette butts and crumpled paper on my way to school, that was the day that my innocence died. It was also the day that my determination was born. My mother was going to be healed. I would make sure of that.

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WITNESSING THE UNWITNESSED By La’Niece Wilbourn ‘12 Honorable Mention | Christiana Campus I was a 14 year-old girl. I couldn‘t do anything or go anywhere, so I spent my life in my room. Because I had nothing to do I spent most of my time looking, looking at things, things that looked fun. Looking at things that looked boring. Then one day I looked at something that I wasn‘t supposed to see. I was sitting there alone watching the day transform to night. While the other little kids were going home, I witnessed the most brutalizing thing. One little girl was walking by herself to get home when a man jumped out from behind the dumpster and grabbed her. The man was about 6 feet tall. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with a funny shaped turquoise stain on the sleeve and some torn old Black Label pants. He also had on some beat up old black Timberland boots. The man ripped off the little girl‘s lime green polka dotted skirt and he undid his belt, threw down his pants and started to rape her. She screamed and yelped for help but no one came. I went and tried to tell my mother, but she didn‘t believe me. She never does. She always says, ―Becky, it‘s just your over reactive imagination.‖ I went back and sat there, at the huge dingy window. I thought about going out to help her but I couldn‘t. With my weak immune system I would collapse as soon as I stepped one foot outside. I tried to call the police but the line was busy. My dad was on the phone; he says that his conversations are more important than me. He didn‘t even hear what I had to say, but he said it was more important. Once my father got off the phone, he came to see 19


what the big commotion was, and wanted to know why I needed the phone so badly. I tried to show him, but the mysterious man and the little girl had disappeared. When he saw that I was pointing at nothing he accused me of being a compulsive liar. I couldn‘t go to sleep that night so I stayed up thinking of what the little girl‘s parents were going to do when they found out that their daughter was missing. The next morning her mother was worried. She was wondering why her daughter hadn‘t come home that night. She wanted to know if anyone knew of her where-abouts. My mother said that she didn‘t know anything about it even though I tried to tell both her and my father. But then I noticed something strange: the little girl‘s step-father wasn‘t there. Then I saw him later that night with some of his friends. Once again rocking by the window, I heard them in loud voices say that they were going to the club then to shoot some pool. Then I noticed that the father had on some old beat up black Timberland boots and a black hooded sweatshirt with a turquoise stain on the sleeve. I thought to myself, ―Aren‘t those the same things that the mysterious man had on?‖ I started to put the pieces together. The girl‘s step-father always gave her funny looks, and he gave her anything she asked for, but I never would have thought about in that way. In the way that he was doing it so that he could get really close to her, and get something in return. Why had he done this? I don‘t know. Who knows about it? Her step-father, God, and I. Will anyone else ever find out? I don‘t know. What happened to the little girl? I‘ll never find out. But the only thing I know is that her step-father is going to have a guilty conscience for the rest of his life, and that no one else was ever going to believe me again. The part that I can never forget is that I sat there the entire time looking through the huge dingy window at this tragedy. Watching…looking…witnessing. 20


PART II: The Day I Died... THE HAPPIEST BIRTHDAY By Quartell West-Crenshaw ‘11 Winner | Christiana Campus I came up for air, and as I came up, I saw nothing but the pitch black darkness of the night. The freezing water mixing with the light drizzle of rain added to the perilous condition of swimming to shore. Today is the day I died: November 14th, 2008. The death was so unexpected; my thoughts about being a hero failed. When I jumped into the water, I was thinking that I dove for the better, not the worse. I was giving up 125 pounds of life to save three lives. After entering the water, the unexpected started happening. I normally swim with my eyes open under water, but the murkiness of the water was blinding me. As I tried kicking my legs and using my arms to stroke the water and move forward, I began hearing nothing but the word help being screamed out. Then I began feeling my leg getting tangled in something and I tried kicking to get free, but it got worse. Not knowing which way the shore was, I was being pulled from the surface of the water to the bottom of it. I was having a hard time untangling whatever was on my leg while gasping for air. I tried kicking to the surface, but my effort was no use. I was cold, the current was too strong, my body began numbing, and my magnificent swimming skills were being put to the test. I couldn‘t move my legs anymore and I lost feeling in my arms; I stopped moving. I opened my mouth feeling light-headed, and water was entering my body 21


filling it quicker than a balloon getting filled with air. I blacked out while thinking to myself: I canâ€&#x;t believe I failed this swimming test. The score I received on this test was an F for a fated destiny. At this moment I knew this was the last birthday I would be having, and that I would finally be meeting the person who brought me into this world, Nedra West. I began following the light that would, take me to the crossroad of my destiny. As I started watching over my corpse at the funeral, I noticed how many people‘s thoughts varied. Many people had beliefs that I was stuck between a hard place and a rock. Many people said my brain must have gotten off the boat first, because I was an idiot for jumping into the river. Others thought my brain must have stayed back at the cabin, and that the midnight journey as a whole was idiotic. Whatever their opinions were, I knew my brain was fully functioning at the time of the incident, and I had a purpose for what happened. The importance of sacrificing things for others is a mere test of your fate. With most tests, you either pass or fail. If you live a life of self-interest, you will end up passing the sacrifice test; If you receive a fated destiny, you have failed the test. The most important people I saw at my funeral were the survivors of the paddle boat incident: Melvin, Adrian, and Jimmy. They were the ones who, like a zebra in a pack of horses, stood out the most to me at my funeral. This reminded me of when Melvin and I were in the middle of the test; I was on the boat with Melvin before I jumped into the water while Adrian and Jimmy watched everything happen from the shore. They showed their heroic efforts by rescuing Melvin. The afterlife varies: is it like a judge‘s decision upon a convicted murderer, relentless, or is it lovely, like receiving an A on your final exam? The afterlife is like your feelings towards a thief who wants to apologize for stealing something precious 22


from you, unyielding. You have to witness the reactions from your death. Similar to when a heart is broken, you hate seeing your loved ones shedding tears, but like a no-solution math problem, there‘s nothing you can do. What can you do to comfort loved ones? Many questions can be answered but many cannot. Does it all depend on the purpose of your actions, the purpose of your life, or the heroism that is instilled in your heart? My heroic actions took place on my birthday, and by failing the ultimate test of fate, I received my gift for sacrificing my life: a fated destiny. What would you have done if this test was placed in front of you on your birthday?

LOOKING BACK By Sharai Murry ‘12 Honorable Mention | Collins Campus The light from the window hits my face as I try to go back to sleep. I can hear my mom yelling for me. I guess I have to wake up. I go downstairs to make some breakfast when my father runs pass me with a face I have never seen before. I just keep eating so I can leave home. Today is the first day back from summer break. I‘m happy to see my friends. As I am walking out of the house, I look up at the sky. The sky is black. I turn around to say goodbye to my mother when she starts crying. I know I should be a good daughter and hug her and tell her I love her, but I‘m just going to leave. When I look back she is just sitting in the chair not moving with her head down crying. I have never seen my parent act like this. But I guess I have never seen my parent be happy either. 23


The whole day at school people are not talking to me. And all the teachers had a meeting about some kid being killed by her parents. Everybody is sad the whole day. And when I went to my fifth period, my favorite teacher, Ms. Kelly, never came to class. And when I sit down in my chair, it felt like the nails were in my body or something. Everybody is sad the whole day. It is feeling like everything that I do today is weird and is not feeling right. When I get home, my mom is gone, I think because daddy hit her again. She is going to leave him again. I am tired of him hitting her. She leaves him and makes me stay so I can get beat because she left. But this time is different. She is gone and so is he. It like the house is not a home. As am I walking up the stairs to my room; I can feel the cold air from outside. I put my head on my pillow. I don‘t take out my book bag or anything. I‘m falling right to sleep when I remember what happened yesterday. I remember what happened yesterday. That‘s when I knew I was dead the whole day: my cold body was on the bed. I can remember my father drinking and my mother crying about something. And the person I called daddy came up the stairs and started yelling at me. Then I yelled back because I was tired of this pain he was giving me. I felt like nobody was listening to me. And nobody cared about me. Then he shot me. I don‘t know why he would kill his daughter, but he did it. I looked up and saw the light from the window hitting me in the face as my body sits there with a smile on my face. Then I can hear police cars coming. I was at peace.

I fear becoming just like her and spreading all the pain. Miriah Burns ‗12 24


SITTING HERE...THINKING By Khadijah Pullen ‘11 Honorable Mention| Christiana Campus Since yesterday things just haven‘t been the same. I tried to take your advice and just try to come up with solutions, but it didn‘t seem to work out. You told me that ―the world isn‘t as bad as it may seem now.‖ Well, I took that and tried to take that into context in a mediocre effort to relieve myself, but that failed as well. More and more pressure just kept building and it kept jumping on my shoulders, pushing me deeper into the ground. I tried to stand back up with all of my strength and might, but the pain just would not go. This is an internal war with external battles, both of which I seem to be losing terribly. Will I get my Gettysburg victory like the Union got over 100 years ago? Or am I destined to roam this seemingly giant place that really seems so small that we call ―Earth?‖ With every new battle comes a new battle wound that I suffer inside. But, in order to try and save face, I ―bottle my emotions‖ like Drake does. ―I push it, I push it like I'm in labor,‖ like Nicki Minaj does in her song Can Anybody Hear Me? I push and push to make sure that I don‘t do or say the wrong thing, but it seems that I‘m susceptible to only negative things. Why is that? My life has had only so many joys, but some of those ―joys‖ have been overcome by agony. He said, ―If you ever run away, there would be no need for you to come back because I never taught you to give up.‖ But, the teachings can only go so far. So, today is the day that I die and tomorrow will be the day that I will be found. My soul will still exist, but my body will be long gone. Today a young woman in her mid-teens has been discovered dead in her apartment...The only piece of evidence found was a note which stated, “Since yesterday things just haven‟t…” 25


DON’T CRY AT MY FUNERAL By Adrina Johnson ‘11 Winner | Collins Campus It was cold out and I had just gotten some good news so now I was definitely in my own world. My head was bopping to the little music left in my ears before my iPod battery died, and although I was cold, I was warmed by all the love inside. So as I waited at the bus stop for almost an hour, drug dealers younger than me ran back and forth to the grass, passing me by as I watched them play catch up with their lives. Then I started to think, if I died today, right now at this very moment, what would happen? How would I die, and why would I die? But then again, most people don‘t know why. All of a sudden, I felt a sharp piercing through my chest, and then I suddenly fell to the ground with a light thump. I didn‘t know what hit me, but it hit me hard. As I laid there on the cold freezing concrete, the cracks cupped and fondled my blood. I soon began to shake due to the cold air. I looked around as no one came to my rescue. So I just lay there in silence and stared at the sky. I didn‘t say a prayer at all; why ask God to help now that it‘s time to leave the world? Why ask to go to heaven if I really don‘t know if there‘s a heaven available for all the sins that I‘ve committed? Who knows if there is even a heaven or a hell? So no, I won‘t lay here and ask for a blessing or a miracle to happen. No, I won‘t lay here and pray and hope I appear in heaven. I won‘t ask this so -called God for help in my time of need. I finally let my eyes and heart rest. My eyes have been blinking for too long, and after each blink a tragedy has happened. Now there‘s no more pain to see. Each time I blink, I won‘t have to keep a tear from holding back, because now my eyes rest. I rest 26


I pray when I'm in need, not on a regular basis. Aaron Bankhead ‗10

my heart; my busy little heart now can rest, rest from trying to endure every bullet that life shoots out like a soldier. Today was the best day ever; today was the day that I died. I‘m sure there are plenty of people hurting, but why? My soul now dances freely through the air; family and friends, why do you feel the need to cry? When January 20th hits and it‘s time to put me in the earth‘s soil, I don‘t want to see nor feel the moisture of tears. Don‘t cry at my funeral; just let me hear the sounds of the birds chirping and the wind blowing. Make sure my hair is curly and I have a red bow on my head; make sure my socks don‘t match and my nails are bright. Don‘t cross my arms; bury me like a soldier. Don‘t cry at my funeral; just leave me thirty-five cents for a bag of chips. And don‘t make me seem like I was an angel that should walk into this so-called heaven. I have no wings, and if I did, I‘m pretty sure they‘ve been clipped. Don‘t weep and sob over me like I‘m gone forever because if you really loved me, you‘d never let me go, even if my heart isn‘t beating. Just ease a baton into my right hand and put some spikes on my feet so that when my soul lifts from my body, I can run my last meet. Make sure you kiss my forehead for good luck because I think I might have lost my touch. Don‘t read me a Bible because I could really give a f**k. My time is already up, so bury me a winner. Don‘t fill my empty shell with guilt, just bury me like a legend and paint me on your school wall. Whatever you do, just don‘t cry at my funeral because this is the best day of all. 27


A COLD HEART...WITH NO BEAT By Jaylen Winston ‘12 Honorable Mention | Collins Campus ―It‘s cold,‖ I said as I lay in the fluffy cloud like snow. ―But I‘m still here talking to myself like some crazed idiot…‖ ―So…ra!‖ I hear my name, but only faintly. It sounds like my… I looked up to see that it was who thought it was, my big brother Shunsuke. ―You know, for someone who hates winter, you sure like to be in the snow,‖ he said, reaching to help me up. ‖It‘s only because I uh…um…I fell,‖ I said, lying through my teeth. ―I‘ll just hang here for a bit longer. You can head home, Bro.‖ He gave me a hug and waved me goodbye as the snow engulfed him until I could see him no more. I walked toward the field and I was in the middle of the street when flashing lights blinded me. It was a car! I didn‘t have enough time to move. ―I‘m dead,‖ I thought to myself. Just as the car was about to hit me, I got pushed out of the way of the car. I opened my eyes only to see that there was a guy on top of me. He had piercing blue eyes with long black hair with blue streaks in it. He rose up and helped me up as well. ―Are you okay?‖ he asked. ―Uh…Yea…I guess…thanks,‖ I said. ―No problem, stupid driver could have hit you,‖ he said. He came over to me and grabbed me by my shoulder. ―Are you sure you are all right?‖ he said looking sympathetically in my eyes. That‘s when I noticed how tall he was over me. ―Yea…I think so,‖ I said. That‘s when I got a striking pain in my arm. I winced at the pain…he noticed it. ―No you‘re not. C‘mon, you‘re coming with me,‖ he said, pulling me with him. We arrived at his house and it was still snowing 28


heavily. I sat waiting on him to administer the First Aid Kit to my bruised arm. He ran to his bathroom and fidgeted around a bit looking for it. He came back out covered in wrappers. I smiled as he came over and knelt down to me. He put a band aid on my arm and was so cute when trying to help me. I was staring so that he finally noticed it. ―What are you looking at?‖ he asked looking me directly in my eyes, his striking blue eyes piercing mine. ―No…nothing, it‘s just I want to know your name. I mean you are my savior,‖ I said. ―Oh My name is Riku…Riku Doriye,‖ he said, smiling at me. I blushed. ―What The streets are you looking at?‖ he asked. make me ―No…nothing, it‘s just something in an animal, your hair,‖ I lied. but love I got up to get ready to leave and I makes me tripped. He caught me and his hands human. were around my waist; he pulled me Darryl Jackson ‗11 closer to him. ―You should really be more careful,‖ he said. ―I‘m… always care—‖ My words were stopped by his kiss. I stood shocked that he kissed me. I didn‘t know what to do. Should I kiss back? I got my answer when he pulled me even closer to him; my body began to feel weak. ―So…ra!!‖ I heard my name being called. ―Sora?‖ I heard it again; I stopped kissing him. ―Sora, wake up!‖ I awoke to the smiling face of Riku. ―Your brother is here for you‖ he said smiling at me. I sat staring at him confused at what to say. ―What happened last night?‖ I asked, eager to know the answer. ―After I gave you a band aid, we had Hot CoCoa and you fell asleep,‖ he said. 29


―I guess it really was a dream,‖ I thought to myself. I got up to leave and as I reached for the door, he pulled me by my waist and turned me around. ―Bye, new friend,‖ he said. I stood shocked. I left and he waved me goodbye. ―See you in school,‖ he said. ―Yea… see you in school‖ I said. I walked to my worried brother. ‖Wait…..did he just say See you in school!?!?‖ I thought to myself. ―Does he attend my school?‖ Smiling, I thought, ―Maybe Winter isn‘t that bad after all.‖

CIRCLE OF DARKNESS By Laylana Anderson ‘12 Runner-Up | Collins Campus 2 months of being alive You couldn‘t stand me Why did you lay up and have me? Ya‘ll didn‘t work out so you took it out on me You threw me away, which really didn‘t make sense It‘s like when my grandma got me You wanted me back the next day I‘m traveling in the Circle of Darkness I‘m 7 years old My grand-dad just passed away You came around but didn‘t stay I went to your house on the weekends 30


You wanted me to stay You treated me like a dog A long lost stray I‘m traveling in the Circle of Darkness I‘m 12 years old I got this red blood flowing Mom, Mom no answer I wanted you to be the first to know I don‘t know who to tell I‘m becoming a woman Mom still isn‘t there I‘m traveling in the Circle of Darkness

I like to play basketball with older people because it's challenging. Jaylon Jones ‗13

I don‟t regret what I did. I regret the pain caused. Quartney Taylor ‗12

I‘m 14 years old Putting this lady in the ground I had no feeling Not even a smile It was hard growing up without her So Rest In Peace To the lady with no soul I‘m 15 years old Still traveling All by myself No light No heat I‘m all alone Trying to rise and conquer all fears But still… Traveling through the Circle of Darkness

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MY FINAL DESTINATION By Brandon Thorpe ‘11 Honorable Mention | Christiana Campus The day I died was the day I realized what my purpose in life was. I realized god‘s purpose for putting me on this earth. I was his prophet, sent to make a difference in the lives of my peers, the lives of my community. I remember that day vividly. Waking up that morning I followed my daily routine, unaware of what god had before me. School that day seemed abnormal. My classmates were acting all apprehensive; something was up. Everyone kept to themselves—in the hallways students were silent, and in class they just gazed off into space. During eighth period, the news was revealed: there was going to be a fight after school. 2:50 pm came around and the bell rang — the hallways were vacant. I, however, sauntered to my locker slowly, knowing that the later I came outside, the less danger there would be — the police should be showing up soon. Packing up my bag, I saw Oscar: ―Derrion! Derrion! They‘re jumping on Kevin!‖ I ran outside, leaving my locker door swung open, and the two of us sprinted to try to rescue our comrade. Opening the door, I saw a vicious mob of people— each fighting another. Hurriedly, I spotted Kevin so I could get the hell out of there. Running over to break up what had been a riot, I felt a sudden pound on my head, as if I had been hit with an anvil. I fell to the ground holding my throbbing head. Laying there confused about what just happened, I hoped that this was just a dream and I‘d soon wake up out this nightmare. Meanwhile, the pain that I encountered in my head grew keen as time progressed. Not knowing whether I was dead or 32


alive, I tried to gather myself and get back up. Struggling to do so, I felt another pound on the back of my head. ―Knock his ass out!‖ someone yelled. What the hell is going on? I looked up, and my eyes were met with numerous sneakers pummeling my head into the concrete. Moments later they stopped, leaving me in excruciating pain I never thought I‘d face in this lifetime. I was blinded by the countless blows to my head, but still I heard voices. ―Derrion! Derrion! They killed him! Look!‖ Was I dead? Tugging on my shirt, someone grabbed my leg and another grabbed my arm, dragging me to safety. Was the war over? Was everyone okay? Moments later, voices faded out; the pitch black that I once saw transformed into light. What‟s going on? Am I in a hospital room? Then I was greeted by a man in a white suit. ―Welcome home son,‖ he said gesturing his arms for a hug. ―Job well done,‖ he mumbled. I was finally home…… but the war is still not over. Dedicated to the revolutionary: Derrion Albert. Stop the Violence! ~R.I.P. Derrion Albert~

Was molested verbally, but why can I still feel your hands? Myesha Jones ‗12

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NO WORRIES By Daphne Coats ‘11 Honorable Mention | Collins Campus Today was the day I died, and it seemed to be the best day of my life. ―Girl, get yo a** out that bed,‖ yelled my personal alarm clock called my mother. I stretched and rolled a little too much to the left only to fall on a pile of dirty clothes. Sighing deeply, I had woken up on the wrong side of bed, again. I was starving, my stomach thundered, and I didn‘t want to get out of bed. While lying on the filthy floor contemplating whether I wanted to move or I am my not, I heard the stairs creak as they always mother's did when anyone attempted to touch them. Springing up with much haste, I made it off child the floor with just enough time to not have and never my head removed by the swinging door. would be Expecting to get the slob slapped off of my my father's. face, I was greeted by my younger sister. Keaundra Day ‗12 She was the golden child; she always got anything she asked for, including food at night. Delivering a message I knew was coming when I saw her, she whispered, ―You betta get yoself downstairs before mama get you!‖ Acknowledging that this was my last chance to leave the house without a swollen lip, I rolled my eyes but rushed to get dressed. Everyone in my house thought I left to make my journey to school, but they were sadly mistaken. I walked and walked for four hours nonstop. I approached a step to an old, creepylooking house and decided to have a seat. I heard a screeching sound in the distance and it reminded me of my creaking stairs at home. Turning around to see what was going on, I saw that 34


the door had opened. Thinking nothing of it, I turned back around. I heard another sound and it was my stomach growling. Without a second passing after I heard the noise, I smelled something unbelievably delicious. Stunned to have figured out where it came from, I entered the house to follow the smell, when I got inside it was a very old interior with pictures of what seemed like ancient people on the wall. My body felt numb and I was unable to stop tracing the smell. Ignoring the feeling of having someone following me, I kept going. Down the hallway, up the stairs, a left turn, a right turn, and I stopped at a table full of food. My stomach practically yelled out to me to eat the food because I hadn‘t eaten in so many days. Before I could go towards the table, I hit the floor. Waking up what felt like decades later, I was ice cold and craving something I just couldn‘t place. Running freely, allowing the wind to smack me directly in the face, I felt at peace. No more family issues, no more starving at night, no more failing classes – I had no worries. Until the sun came out, and what I once thought to be so beautiful started to sizzle my skin and burn my insides. As I hit the ground, I noticed a large red bite mark on my wrist. I realized I would die a vampire.

Oh em gee! I am so in love with Lip Gloss! Destaney Davis ‗10

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A BROKEN HEART LEFT TO DIE By April Hargrow ‘10 Runner-Up | Christiana Campus I was shot down by the words of others. Shot by others‘ words of hurt, pain and the words from one another. The words cut me deep, shattering my heart into a million pieces. As I tried to repair it, it continued shattering. I was starting to think that you really wanted to hurt me. I trusted you, let you in, opened all my doors, but you took advantage of that key. You put me through more and more pain with your words and actions. Therefore, it‘s time for me to go my own way and drive my life down the right lane. I was driving on the highway of restoration, thinking I would get far away. Bang! I was hit by this urge to try again, but because of resentment, on the ground I lay. I was waiting on comfort to come take me to the hospital of happiness, only this hospital gave not the better and more for my heart, but the less. Lying in the bed of sorrow, I thought of how I let my heart get stomped on and go astray. More so, thinking, how I gave you my love each and every day. The tears, hurt, and pain only made me want to reframe. Yes it‘s time, really time that I go my own way. So I pulled the tube of air from my chest and listened to the sound of my heart monitor decay. I‘m dying. I am dying from your cutting words. I need to let you go and turn my life over to the lord. Don‘t get me wrong, I love you but I‘m just tired. I‘m tired of getting cut and shot down by the words from you. Its time to call it ends; I‘ve lent you it all. I‘m leaving my memories to the hope for a better life in the afterlife because you‘ve sent me on a journey of strife. As I slowly died, I wrote on a piece of paper and to you I tried to make one last call. Somehow I didn‘t get to talk. I left 36


for you this paper of the last words hoping since I‘m gone you can show you care in grief. Instead you came too late and read this letter in my obituary. ―Tired of slowly dying, hopefully you had a ball. Today I have died and gone to a place where this man‘s love conquers all.‖

I must admit that at times my reputation comes before education. Lazavier Holden ‗10

BITTER DREAMS By Norma Morales ‘12 Honorable Mention | Christiana Campus I look over my window sill and see pine trees and Great Plains that give off an unbelievable scent. The sun just touched my window, sun burning my flesh. My hands are tingling; bitter cold touches my skin. Why is this? It is not winter. Hmmm…I wonder why?...I do not want to make my bed, I think. I go down the stairs and the floor feels cold and looks shadowy, as if there is no floor. I can hear my mother in the kitchen singing. ―Morning mom!‖ She just simply turns around and up her eye brows go. I think that‘s the reason why my father fell in love with her. Yep my dad, always the handy man, tried to install a new sink but failed and broke our water supply. So I 37


continue to walk toward the back door to get water from the well 100 feet behind my house. I open the door and let it slam on its hinges. Not knowing, my mother comes to the back door with a mixing bowl looking out to the back yard, as if expecting someone. I reach the well five minutes later. I grab one of the buckets on the side of the well, which I attach to the string. I hear the faint thud as the bucket hits the water. I do this two more times before I run off back toward the house trying to balance the bucket on my head. I place the bucket of water on the kitchen counter, turn and open the fridge. Nothing catches my attention so I close the fridge. ―Norma, wake up sweetie.‖ I can hear my mother‘s voice upstairs, so I run up to meet her. ―I‘m already up, Mama.‖ Then again, just as I am about to turn the corner to my room: ―Honey, wake up…why aren‘t you waking up?‖ Why did she just say that? Wouldn‟t she notice that I‟m already up? Entering my room, I receive a shiver down my spine. What I see next I cannot believe. My mother is sitting on my bed crying, shaking a lifeless body. June 1st, 1993 was my first dream; October 26th, 2009, my last breath.

I fear that I may succeed in life and become successful. Camra Sanders ‗13

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So where does all this writing come from? These essays represent the winners of NLCP‘s winter writing contest. All students were invited to submit their best writing, and the best of the best were chosen. The shorter writing interspersed throughout this magazine represents the winners of the school-wide Eleven Word Confession contest. On February 1, 2010, every member of the NLCP community wrote their own confession in only eleven words. This is just a sampling...

The writing contests and the Phoenix Fire Literary Magazine are sponsored by the NLCP Writing Centers. We seek to promote writing throughout the school. We see writing as communicative, collaborative, and powerful. Peer Writing Coaches are trained to support their fellow students in the writing process and promote a school-wide culture of writing through projects like this. Contest judged by... A‘shante‘wa Aprilheart ‘12 Jazmen McKinnor ‗11 Marcelle Becton ‗10 Debron Powell ‗12 April Birge ‗10 Tytianna Powell ‗12 Angela Brown ‗10 Nicole Strickland ‗11 Miriah Burns ‗12 Quartney Taylor ‗12 Destaney Davis ‗10 Stephen Thorpe ‗10 Cadavian Dean ‗10 Ashley Williams ‗12 Chantel Jones ‗11 Laurice Williams ‗12 Johnique Lowe ‗11 Shanera Wilson ‗12 Ms. Nora Gross Ms. Nathalie Lagerfeld Publication designed by Ms. Nathalie Lagerfeld with additional editing by Ms. Nora Gross 39


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d re o s

by

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Collins Campus

1313 S. Sacramento Ave Chicago IL 60623 Ms. Nathalie Lagerfeld Writing Center Director nlagerfeld@nlcphs.org 773-542-6766

Christiana Campus 1615 S. Christiana Ave Chicago IL 60623 Ms. Nora Gross Writing Center Director ngross@nlcphs.org 773-542-1490 ext. 122

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Phoenix Fire Winter