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Publication copyright ©2020 by Open Books, Ltd. Copyright of individual works is maintained by the respective writers. Published in the United States. All rights reserved. Open Books, Ltd. 651 W. Lake St. Chicago, IL 60661 www.open-books.org Cover illustration by Chi Zhang.



in loving memory of

Dolores McArdle, who valued family and community above all else.

Special thanks to Maurice and Melena Priestley, Owen Priestley, William Priestley, and the extended Kavanagh family around the world for their support of this contest.

The stories and poems included in this publication were selected from over 300 submissions in the first ever Open Books writing contest. The contest took place during the Spring of 2020, amidst a global pandemic and switch to virtual activities, and was a way to encourage students to write during uncertain times. The theme of the contest was family/community, and students were encouraged to submit passages that addressed this theme. These published works are just a sampling of the many creative young authors who participated in our writing contest. We are incredibly proud of all the participants and encourage all our talented writers to KEEP WRITING!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ..........................................................535 INDEX OF AUTHORS ................................................................537




THE SEARCHERS ............................................................................17

Alex Brosnan CLUB CULTURE ................................................................................25

Emiliano Cervantes LAKEVIEW QUARANTINE................................................................31

Lila Crooker MY NEW NEIGHBOR ......................................................................33

Olivia Cummings THE QUARANTINE ..........................................................................39

Olivia Diaz SORRY BECAUSE — FOR MY MOM ................................................41

Sophia Espinoza MORE THAN JUST PEOPLE ............................................................43

Regan Gould COMMUNITY THAT WORKS ..........................................................45

Jayda Griffith UNTITLED ......................................................................................47

Lilly Haravon

YOU, ME, WE ................................................................................51

Arinav Kutty WHAT FAMILY AND COMMUNITY MEAN TO ME ..........................53

Lily Ladek ANT HILL........................................................................................55

Norah Ludwig COMING TOGETHER ....................................................................57

Charlie Lust THE CORONA NINJA ....................................................................65

Luca Marino BEAUTIFUL TO THE EYE ..................................................................69

Kadence J. McCall A HOPEFUL MESSAGE ..................................................................73

Melani Mendoza COME HOME ................................................................................75

Ning Muan JOINING TOGETHER AT A DISTANCE ............................................93

Catherine Murphy EGG SALAD SANDWICH ..............................................................95

Ava Obafemi THE ROOM WITH A TABLE............................................................105

Georgia Pooler FAMILY NEVER ENDS....................................................................115

Mollie Pooler

THE TAIL ......................................................................................117

Alberto Ramirez DEATH’S FLOWER ........................................................................125

Isla Roen COMMUNITY IN THE TIME OF A PANDEMIC................................135

Karrington Simmons ONCE IN A LAND ......................................................................139

Megan Stark THE PANDEMIC DENT ..................................................................145

Antara Warltier WHY FAMILY IS IMPORTANT ........................................................151

Lucy Watkins IMPORTANCE OF IMMIGRANTS TO THE COMMUNITY: A POEM/SONG ..........................................................................153

Carter Wong


MY NEIGHBORHOOD ..................................................................159

Sophia Acaxtenco MY ONE WISH ............................................................................161

Natalie Alaniz

THE PERFECT PIE ..........................................................................165

Julian Bedolla UNTITLED ....................................................................................167

Victoria Bobadilla THE STORY OF THE MURAL ..........................................................177

Norah Bock GLIDE: A STORY ABOUT FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, AND A PAIR OF ROLLER SKATES ............................................................................185

Camila Bravo A PATH TO THE CLEAR..................................................................193

Yameli Cahue UNTITLED ....................................................................................197

Eleanor Coughlin UNTITLED ....................................................................................209

Camille Daley UNTITLED ....................................................................................211

Avery Ducar FOSTER FAMILY ............................................................................217

Imogen Duffy UNTITLED ....................................................................................219

Christopher Elvira IN HARMONY ALL TOGETHER ......................................................223

Michelle Flores-Varga GOT COMMUNITY? ....................................................................225

Justin Gomez

IMPORTANCE OF MY FAMILY AND COMMUNITY ........................231

Natalia Gonzalez MY NEW CHICAGO ....................................................................233

Saniyya Harden DISORIENTED DREAMS ................................................................235

Geneva Irvin BETWEEN THE WOODS AND FROZEN LAKE ................................237

Colin Jung LETTERS ........................................................................................247

Madeline Knapp UNTITLED ....................................................................................261

Annya Kong SUNSHINE POUR THROUGH THIS CAR WINDOW........................271

Sydney Kovarsky MY TIME AT CAMP AMACHE........................................................283

Rachel Kubiak PART OF THE REST OF US ............................................................291

Juliette Latva UNTITLED ....................................................................................297

Serena Lee HELLFIRE ......................................................................................299

Lilah Lehner OUR WORLD? ..............................................................................317

Arianna Leon

UNTITLED ....................................................................................319

Francesca Marino FAMILY IS A WARM FEELING........................................................323

Ruby Miller GV9 ............................................................................................327

Avery Multer THE GAME ..................................................................................333

Minh Nguyen WE WILL RISE TO THE OCCASION ..............................................335

Saroya Ornelas Pagnucci WE NEED A CHANGE ..................................................................339

Jiya Patel CRACKED OPEN ..........................................................................343

Mischa Reddy DO I HAVE A FAMILY? ..................................................................355

Natalie Rioja A SPECIAL DAY ............................................................................357

Emily Sanchez FAMILY ........................................................................................359

Isabella Saucedo UNTITLED ....................................................................................367

Annika Sengupta LATE AUGUST HEAT ....................................................................371

Audrey Setiawan THE EVERGREEN TREE ..................................................................381

Samuel Shin

THE QUARANTINE WAVE ............................................................383

Brianna Solis I WAS FOUND ON A STRAWBERRY FARM: A MEMOIR FOR MY MOTHER ......................................................385

Mary Sotz UNTITLED ....................................................................................389


Miriam Tsegay THANKFUL FOR PHILADELPHIA ....................................................395

Alaina Werge UNTITLED ....................................................................................399

Erica Williams ACROSTIC ....................................................................................407

Eden Wilson UNTITLED ....................................................................................409

Mica Zandstra


MY FAMILY ..................................................................................421

Marisol Arreola FAMILIA ......................................................................................423

Lizbeth Avalos

COMMUNITIES EVERYWHERE ......................................................425

Cameren Brown MISSED DIRECTION ....................................................................429

Isbeth Bustos ISABELLA......................................................................................431

Tatiana Bustos ENGLEWOOD ..............................................................................433

Reginae Echols IT WILL BE FUN ............................................................................435

Nathalie Espinoza MEAN IS SURVIVAL ......................................................................443

Anaya Frazier FAMILY ........................................................................................447

Zoe Gac GLASS CASTLE FAMILY ................................................................451

Natalie Hernandez IN MY GENERATION....................................................................455

Latonia House UNTITLED ....................................................................................461

Axl Knickerbocker OF EVERYTHING ..........................................................................463

Jo-Hanna Kraal 42 DAYS ......................................................................................469

Alyssa Krivak

3AM REVELATIONS......................................................................473

Hennessy Morales BREAKING AWAY ........................................................................479

Breanna Myles OH, MOTHER OF MINE (TALES OF A BLACK MOTHER) ................487

Amalachukwu Okoye FAMILY ........................................................................................489

Isabel Perez LOCKET ........................................................................................495

Bridget Pierce UNTITLED ....................................................................................501

Maheen Qazi AIRPLANES-AND-WHATSAPP-CALLS..............................................507

Maymuunah Quasim UNTITLED ....................................................................................511

Alex Shelton LETTERS TO EVETTE ......................................................................515

Jasmine Thomas UNAWARE ..................................................................................517

Anna Truong LOVE IS GREY ..............................................................................521

Akhiyah Vaughn COMMUNITY: WE ARE STILL HERE ..............................................531

Lilah Wallach





Egg Salad Sandwich Ava Obafemi



Come Home Ning Muan



Beautiful to the Eye Kadence J. McCall



THE SEARCHERS Alex Brosnan th

5 Grade • King Arts

Finally, I don't have to care about what other people think of me, just the world of the book I'm reading. If you couldn’t tell already, I have major social anxiety. The only thing that can distract me from school and the real world is the library and the world within the books. This is where you could find me most of the time if I am not in school. Right after school I go straight to the library to study, do my homework and best of all get stuck in a story for hours and hours. If I’m lucky enough the librarians let me stay after hours. I don't really talk to my parents, usually I come home and they are still at work, and in the mornings they are at work. So, usually I have to take care of me and my sister, Lola. I go by myself to therapy, and take the train to The Beacon School, which is the high school I go to. I don't really have that many friends besides Nick, who is the only person I can really talk openly to without getting nervous. He and I do a lot of things together and we have been best friends since 2nd grade. We aren’t the most popular which is fine by me. The less attention brought to me, the less people can judge me. Today, Nick had a party and I was invited. I said maybe, but there is no way I am going. Of course, I didn’t go and went to the library instead. My favorite librarian, Mr. Brown, let me stay late like he usually does. It was getting really late and nobody was there except me. I thought I heard footsteps. I left the nook that


I always read in, and took a look around. I didn't see anything so far, so I kept looking. I heard books fall upstairs, and I sprinted up the stairs to catch the intruder. It was a kid my age holding rare books, he was stepping into a tunnel. I had no clue what to say or what to do. Then out of nowhere, another kid hit me in the head and I went falling to the floor. When I woke up, I was in bed. It turned out it was a dream or so I thought, but it wasn’t my bed. I looked out the window and I saw a whole village built on the sides of what looked like a huge cave. The is a trolley system weaving through the cave to shops and parks. I had no clue what this place was, but to me it looked like a city run by kids. There was a knock at the door, I opened it and saw someone who looked like the same guy that kidnapped me. He told me where I was. ”Welcome to Run City, a city run by kids who feel they don’t belong, orphans and runaways. By the way my name is Darren,’’ he said. “But I'm not a runaway, you kidnapped me,” I protested. “Do you like your life, never having a family around to take care of you? Always being worried about what other people think? Here you don't have to think that. We all come from difficult backgrounds, such as abandoned at birth, always having felt like an outcast and runaways. So do you want to stay with us and be a Searcher and never have to worry again?” he said convincingly. “What's a searcher?” I asked. “A searcher is a kid who goes through tunnels to museums and libraries to steal valuable items and sell them for money to improve Run City,” Darren said.


“What’s in it for me?,” I questioned. “Everything, a home, a community and most importantly a family,” he responded. I thought, what if my parents notice that I'm gone and who will be able to take care of Lola. My parents are never around, will they even care if I leave. “Won’t my parents notice that I’m gone,” I finally said. “Have your parents ever noticed you?” he said opposingly. Well, the last time my parents spent a lot of time with me was when we went to London which sparked my love of reading, and that was when I was 11. We went to England about 5 years ago. “Well does Run City have a library?” I asked. “Of course we do, we steal books for a living,” he responded. “It’s settled, I’m staying here,” I finally said. I thought to myself that this was the worst or best decision I ever made. Darren said that this is the house I would live in and all the stuff I needed was right in the house. The best thing for me to do was to explore my new home. The first place I needed to go was the library to get my mind off Run City. The first thing I noticed was that everybody was wearing an all black outfit. The one thing that I would need to get used was going to the library on an elevated trolly. At least I was able to hold onto the book that I was in the middle of. It took a little while to get in the rhythm, but finally I got into the story and was able to block out all the thoughts that had been weighing me down, and then they started floating away, just like the underground world around me. The heaviest thought I had was whether I made the right decision. I know life won’t be that


different because I usually take care of myself. The difference is I always knew that my parents would be there if something happened. After exploring for a while, I found little parks and nice cafes. While I was having some coffee and a scone, a kid in a bulletproof vest came up to me and told me that the mayor of Run City wanted to see me. After waiting for thirty minutes in City Hall, the same guy with the vest told me it was my time. “Hello, Sam, I have been expecting you. You have decided to become a searcher,” said the mayor who looked like she was eighteen. “Yep,” I said unsurely. “Tonight will be your first search and it will be in the Met,” she said. “How do they not notice that the pieces are missing?” I asked cautiously. “We obviously take care of that, we have kids who specialize in replicas and research the pieces for each day. They then use the replicas to put in the place of the piece you take,” she said confidently. ”Isn’t that illegal?” I asked. “Well, they do get artwork by professionals anyways and can you find a better way to make money to sustain thousands of kids,” she said cunningly. “Fine, is there anything I need to do before I leave?” I sighed. “Yes, there is a black sweatshirt, black pants, black shoes, gloves and a bulletproof vest, put it all on and don’t worry about


getting caught by security, we are the security,” she said lastly. The only thing I could think about after I left the mayor’s office, was that I was going to really steal priceless pieces of artwork. Finally, it was time to go. We went by tunnel, which was not the most ideal, but at least it worked. It turned out that I was going with two kids, one named Julio, who was an orphan and was sixteen just like me. Also, there was Maddie, who ran away from her home when she was twelve and the mayor took her in, and she is now seventeen. It turned out that we were going to steal a Van Gogh, which is the stupidest thing I would do in my life. It was clear that I better get used to feeling guilty because if I was going to do this, I could not let feeling guilty bother him. When we got into the museum, we found the painting which wasn’t hard because we were able to roam the halls without worrying, which is kind of ironic. As soon as we took the painting, I wanted to run and get out of there but we needed to put the fake back into place. Once we did, I left the painting and ran. How will I ever live like this, stealing for a living? When I got to the house, I fell right asleep, letting all of my terrible problems fade away, while I drifted off. When I woke up I wasn’t sure that I was going to stay here in Run City, so I went to talk to the Mayor. “Come in,” the Mayor said. “I don't know about doing this instead of living with my family,” I sighed. “OK, give it a couple more tries and then see how you feel. At first you might not care about anybody, but after you start


connecting with other people you might want to stay or may not. Maybe you want to do research instead, since you like to read,” she said hopefully. “I guess I will try it, but which museum do you want me to research?” I said with a slight bit of hope. “Not a museum, a library, in fact the exact library you used to go to, Proskauer Rose Goetz Library,” she said. “Why that one?,” I said. “Well, you know a lot about it and also to test your knowledge. So, you will be in charge of that search, do you think you can do that?” she asked enthusiastically. “I guess,” I said hesitantly. OK, I can do this, I know the place by heart, I thought. “By the way, go on the bronze trolley to The Eastern Park and then go to the house next to the park. The kid in there will help you work on the plan,” she added lastly. So, I followed her instructions and ended up at the kid’s house. His name was Benny, and he came from Washington Heights. He was seventeen. We decided to enter and come up from behind the front desk, and go to the Science section. We also thought it made the most sense for only one person to go because we did not think we should get too many books so it didn’t raise suspicion since we just went there for a search. At the end of the planning, I realized I had my first real friend, Benny, at Run City. Once we finished, he invited me for dinner. He also invited a couple of his friends, it was nice. I knew one thing, I definitely had more friends today than yesterday. So far it was the best day in Run City, and I had to admit it’s not as bad as I thought. 22

The next couple days were really good. A new store and new park opened. We sold the books from our search and I also planned a search at The Cloisters, where we got some historical pieces. I talked to the Mayor and she convinced me to try to go on a search again. She let me pick the place, and pick the person I was going with. Obviously, I chose Benny. The painting I chose to steal was a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. That was a really good search, and the painting sold for $500,000, which could create a great new addition to Run City. The addition is a statue of the founder of Run City. On the statue there will be a plaque that has the story that you are now reading.

One Month Later:

After planning and going on many searches, I have realized that this is now my family and community. I have always felt like I never had a strong connection to my family. I never had anyone I felt safe sharing my feelings with, but here I feel differently because we have a connection that makes us family. I know I can talk about my feelings, and know that I will not be judged, no matter what, because together we are family.



CLUB CULTURE Emiliano Cervantes 5th Grade • King Arts

*beep beep* Another day, another alarm clock. Like usual, Michael started his day by looking at the mirror and asking himself “Pourquoi?” He puts his clothes on, brushes his teeth, and gets ready to start his day. Michael’s life wasn’t always like this. A year ago Michael was living in a small town in Mexico. He and his family immigrated to Chicago seeking a better life. Back home, Michael was known for being very social, from singing to turning every little social gathering into a party! You would never see Mike by himself. Starting school in a country that was new and learning a language that was different made him feel like an outsider, until he found out that one of the teachers in the school spoke the same language as him. His classmates would hang out after school, joined clubs, and ate lunch together. One day a girl asked Michael if he wanted to join their group and hang out, but Michael just stood there with a confused, frozen look on his face. The girl waited for his response, and Michael stood there not knowing what to respond with. After a while, the girl left confused and wondering why he didn’t respond. After walking home disappointed, Michael goes to his room, looks in the mirror, and says “¿qué estás haciendo?” and for the rest of the day, he tried to learn English.


The next day, Michael found out that a new student will be coming today. The new student arrived around the same time as breakfast, and could not find somewhere to sit until he saw that Michael was sitting by himself eating his breakfast. The kid sat down by Michael and said, “Hi, my name is Oscar!” Michael said, “I don’t understand.” and Oscar told him “¿Oh, hablas espanol?” Michael replied saying “¡Sí!” After breakfast, Oscar and Michael went to their classes. Michael found out that Oscar and he have most of their classes together. The one class that he has alone is with the bilingual teacher named Mr. Hernandez. Mr. Hernandez is the art teacher of the school. Michael did really well in Mr. Hernandez’s class because they spoke the same language and none of the other teachers did. Oscar and Michael were really good friends; they not only spoke the same language, but they played together and hung out together too. Oscar helped translate what some of the kids were saying to him and vice versa. It’s the same in his art class. If Mr. Hernandez would have to explain a project, he would explain it again to Michael just in Spanish. Oscar helped Michael get a lot of friends and even invited him to his house to help him learn English. Whenever Oscar was not at school Michael wouldn’t hang out with his new friends and try his best to speak English. One day Michael asked Oscar if he could translate what he was saying to his friends. He also asked in the afternoon three times, then when school was over, he asked two more times. The next day he asked four more times in the afternoon and finally, Oscar had enough and screamed “¡Deja de pedirme que traduzca! Ok ya no más!” And with those words, he left Oscar.


Michael walked back to his house thinking about what he did wrong but he thought that “el es el que está equivocado yo no hice nada.” The next day Michael was sitting with some friends eating breakfast talking to them now that he knows a little English. Michael thought he did nothing wrong so he was still mad at Oscar. Oscar finally got his breakfast and he looked over where Michael was sitting and started to walk over there with other kids. Michael was still mad at Oscar so he told the other kids to hurry up and sit next to him. That made Oscar a little mad but he just sat with some of his other friends instead. When they both were finished with their breakfast they took different routes to class. When they got to their class the teacher assigned a project to the class and they got to work with partners. When Oscar looked at Michael, Michael just asked someone else to be his partner. After the school day was over Oscar went up to Michael and asked him “¿Estás enojado conmigo?” and Michael said “Sí, estoy enojado contigo.” Michael went to walk around Oscar but Oscar stopped him and asked “¿por qué?” Michael told him, “¡Porque mi gritastes sin razón!” and then Michael walked all the way back home and so did Oscar. That night Oscar began to miss Michael and decided that he shouldn’t be angry anymore. The next day Oscar went up to Michael and apologized. Michael forgave him and they both felt relieved. Today Michael and Oscar shared an art room because Oscar’s teacher was gone and they couldn’t find a substitute. When Michael and Oscar went into art together it was their last class of the day so their art teacher would sometimes tell the kids about some activities that are going to happen in the school. Mr. Hernandez said that there


are going to be clubs. He told the class that anyone can join and then he said that you can make your own club and you make it about anything you want as long as it’s school appropriate. When Michael and Oscar heard that news they got ecstatic and almost jumped out of their chairs until Mr. Hernandez told them to calm down. After they were out of school they went to where the clubs were to sign their club in. CLUB CULTURE. After they signed their club in they went to the library and they drew a picture of what their club is about and they printed their picture and went back to their house. The next day they went to the bulletin board and posted the CLUB CULTURE papers on the bulletin board so other kids could join. After two days a couple of kids came up to Oscar and Michael and asked them if they could join their club. Michael and Oscar said yes and told them “Come by any time, whenever you like!” The two kids told Oscar that they will come to their club on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Oscar told the kids “Hey, don’t forget to tell your friends about CLUB CULTURE too!” The new club members said “Okay!” and ran back to their classroom. Come Tuesday, Oscar and Michael found out that the kids' names were Jackson and Teddy. When they got there, they all sat down on the floor and they talked about where they’re from and if they speak any other languages. Jackson said that both his parents are from Canada so he speaks a little French. Oscar had the idea to draw flags about where they’re from or where their parents are from. They put their names under the flag picture and any new club members would do the same. Teddy had a suggestion and it was that they got to speak their language if they wanted to.


It was 2 months so some other kids signed up. It was about to be the end of the school year, so they walked back past their sign up sheet. They saw that the sheet was almost filled up with kids. When they got to the club they saw that there were a lot of kids. Oscar told them to write their name on a piece of paper and go to the wall and place their name under the flag. After they did that they got around in a circle and they talked about where they’re from or what language they speak. After they are done with the club they say their goodbyes and everyone leaves except Michael and Oscar because they stay and clean up. Oscar looked at Michael and said, “Hey, Michael, see you tomorrow for the big last day party.” Michael said, “Yeah, I’m ready.” The next day they threw a party for the last day of school and at the end of the day they all got together and some of them brought some food and Oscar and Michael pitched in for some pizza with some other kids. When the food arrived they all got some and they sat around in a circle and they talked about what their favorite part of the club is and why. Teddy said that his favorite part of the club is that they get to talk about their culture and Jackson said that his favorite part is that they get to speak their home language. After everyone spoke, Michael stood up and in English he said, “My favorite part of the club is that I get to meet new people and spend time with my best friends.” After they all shared they got up and Oscar said, “Today we will not speak the different languages because Michael and I


decided that today we can do whatever you guys want.” Most of the kids decided that they just want to dance. The kids that did not want to dance decided that they want to draw whatever they want. When they decided to dance, Michael asked them, “What kind of music do you guys want?” Some of them said that they wanted pop and some of them wanted country music. So Oscar said “Okay, we can listen to some pop and then some country music.” Everyone danced for pop and rap. For the last five minutes before the program ended they all got together and said their goodbyes and when everyone left Michael and Oscar had to clean up. So they danced while they cleaned and Oscar turned to Michael and said, “How did you like the club that we started?” Michael said, “Yes, I loved it.” After they were done cleaning they walked home together and Oscar said “It was cool sharing a club with you.” Michael said “Same with you, it finally felt like I belonged.”



4 Grade • Alphonsus Academy and Center

It’s Tuesday, or is it Thursday? I don’t know. I’m stuck in this city apartment where the days are slow. I need my school lunch table all abuzz, And my volleyball season that never was. The church lights are off and the pews are empty, My favorite Streetwise guy isn’t there, where is he? The grocery store used to have shelves that are full. I would go with my Dad to pick out snacks for school. When I take walks we go by the Lincoln Park Zoo. I never see animals and I wonder if they miss me too. I want my classroom, e-learning is just not the same. I owe Ms. Sperry a hundred hugs and Zoom calls are lame. There is a billboard down the street that says #AllInIllinois, My face mask is itchy and it's getting me annoyed! Thank You healthcare workers and trash collectors who continued unfazed. Thank You to my pizza shop worker who still says “Welcome to Blaze!”


We’ve made coffee cake and cookies from scratch because there’s more time to bake. When this cold weather passes I’m looking forward to biking by the lake. I am imagining Thanksgiving when my family will be together, And I have learned to treasure those times forever!


MY NEW NEIGHBOR Olivia Cummings th

4 Grade • Saint Clement School

I just woke up on a Saturday morning and I am exhausted. I spent all night unpacking boxes. My new house is great, but I already miss my friends. I couldn’t even hug them goodbye thanks to this stupid pandemic. I know I am going to make new friends, and my mom says my neighbor’s name is Sienna and she is my age. I am sooo excited to see her from a distance, but the six foot tall fence separating our houses isn't doing me any favors. In between our houses are the driveways and between our driveways is the fence that goes all the way to the street, so, obviously, neither of us can see over or through it. I can talk with Sienna if we both yell from our sides of the fence, but the neighbors already don’t like that, and we want to see each other. I did meet her from six feet away, but that was the day I moved in and I only saw her for three seconds. It won't be the same if we don't see each other, so we are going to come up with ideas. Happily Sienna is very creative and loves STEM class, just like me.

Day 2 (Science) The next morning, I finish breakfast quickly and run out to the fence, where I yell to see if Sienna is there. From the window, my dad yells at me to stop yelling. I hear, “Olivia? Are you there?” from the other side.


“Yes! Is that you, Sienna?” “Hi! Come over here!” “Over where?” “Over by the knothole in the fence!” “Stop yelling! The whole neighborhood can hear you!” yells my dad, again. Five feet away, I see a hole in the fence the size of my palm. I look through and see Sienna looking through from the other side. This is great, but I can’t even see her entire face. “This hole needs to be bigger,” she says. “Can we make it bigger?” I ask. “Ya! If we can find a force to bust open the fence, we could see each other better!” “Hmm...what mass could we accelerate to create a force that would make the hole bigger?” “My mom has a hammer? Do you?” “No, but my brother has a metal baseball bat I can use.” “Ya, great idea, let’s go get them,” she says. We sneak inside our houses and grab our tools. Just as we’re both about to start banging away at the fence, my dad and Sienna’s mom run out screaming for us to stop. We both had to stay inside for the rest of the day.


Day 3 (Technology) The next morning, we meet at the knothole in the fence again. Just like yesterday, we can only sort of see each other and hear each other. It’s really hard not being able to yell across the fence. “I wish my parents would get me a cell phone,” I say. “Me too. Is there something else we can use to talk?” asks Sienna. We think and think, then Sienna says, “Hey, I saw this old movie where they used tin cans connected by string to communicate.” “That is a great idea,” I say, “we should try that... but how?” Sienna remembers that they had canned peaches for breakfast and runs into the house to wash them out. I remember I had a string in my arts and crafts bag and went to get it. Back outside, Sienna tosses one of the cans over the fence. I catch it, then slide one end of the string through the knothole, and we each tie our ends to the cans. We talk for a whole hour. It sort of works, but with a lot of echo. Then Sienna says, “I will be right back,” and two minutes later I catch a walkie talkie in my hands. “Oops! Forgot my brother and I had these!” They work perfectly! We talk for the rest of the afternoon and learn everything about each other. We go inside for dinner, promising to talk again before bed. Unfortunately, we both fell asleep early and forgot to turn them off, so the batteries died.


Day 4 (Engineering) I’ve been so happy talking to Sienna, but we both agree we need to see each other. We spend the next morning brainstorming ideas, but that fence is still in the way. Because we can’t get around it without going into the street, and our parents won’t let us bust a hole in it, we’ll have to find a way to see over it. Sadly, we’re definitely not six-foot-one. We think of lots of ideas, but all of them either won’t work or will get us into trouble. Sienna managed to drag her baby brother’s highchair outside. While she was wobbling on it, I ran to get a barstool and heard her middle brother yelling “Mommy needs the baby’s highchair!” Sienna got distracted and fell down, scraping her knee badly. While she was inside getting cleaned up, I walked around the backyard. Behind the house was a firepit, and the old owners had a pile of large branches for firewood. I found a couple that were strong and had places sticking out for my feet. Ta-da! Stilts! Surprisingly, I was pretty good at balancing, but not good enough for the circus. Right before dinner, it hits me, we have a ladder! I pull it out of the garage and lean it onto the fence. I climb up and, for the first time, can see into Sienna’s yard. She’s there and sees me and starts jumping up and down, yelling, “You did it!” She runs to get her own ladder, leans it onto the fence. Finally, we are face to face! Then my dad yells, “What are you doing? There’s a pandemic! You’re too close!” It was also dinnertime, so we both went inside.


Day 5 (Math) At last, we had a solution! The only part to figure out was how to be far enough away from each other. I had a tape measure, but it kept bending and falling down when we tried to measure from across the fence. We needed something that wouldn’t bend. Then Sienna remembered her mom had a hockey stick in their basement. She brought it outside, and I tossed her the tape measure. The hockey stick was exactly six feet long! It took about ten minutes, but we figured out how to set up the ladders six feet apart. My mom found us outside. “Girls, that’s a great idea! How did you figure this out?” We explained all of our steps. She then said, “How wonderful. But I need to hang some pictures, so Olivia has to get off the ladder. Why don’t you two just take a walk?” We’re both confused, then we realize we can walk together if we each hold an end of the hockey stick. So that started our friendship from six feet away.

Epilogue The years roll by and I learned if I didn’t move, I would not have realized how important friendship is. I might miss my friends but I have made other friends here, too. Now I know that leaving your friends is not such a big deal because they can visit you and you will visit them. While it took some time to make new friends here, especially during a pandemic, it was fun to be creative doing it.




4 Grade • McClellan Elementary

I’ve been inside for ages I barely go out and when I do then It feels like I was only out there for a few seconds And the quarantine is boring I can’t see my friends I can’t go to places I used to be able to go And I haven’t seen it rain a lot On Easter I went to ride my bike and the wind had pushed me with some of its strength like a bulldozer pushing down a building One day my mom learns how to do a couple of things and my perspective changes and maybe the quarantine isn’t so bad With all the time I have I can learn how to do things Me and my parents and my sister have a lot of fun And that means that maybe the quarantine is not so bad Though I can’t go out much it can be fun inside There are many things you can do inside School may be different but it’s the best we’ve got right now And we at least get to see our friends


not in person but we do get to see them I know that this is a new experience for most of us but we can push through it If everyone can look at this from a new perspective it won’t be as bad and also we just have to stay hopeful we can have fun through this quarantine and maybe we won’t worry about what’s going on so much this quarantine also keeps us safe so maybe it’s not so bad


SORRY BECAUSE  FOR MY MOM Sophia Espinoza th

5 Grade • Gunsaulus Scholastic Academy

No “Dear, Mom,” I know. The only reason there isn’t is because this isn’t a normal letter, (and because normal letters are boring.) You can’t truly express yourself. Now, I know I could've just said this in person, but in truth, I’m too scared, and too much of a crybaby to do so. I wanted to say I’m sorry, AGAIN. Sorry because no matter how many times I repeat it, I make the same mistake again, and again. Sorry because when you treat me rudely; to show me how it feels, I feel like a piece of dung. Sorry because I’m mean to you more than once a day, and take this in, again and again. I’m trying to change, I’ll — I’m lying. I haven’t been trying to change at all, and that’s not fair to you. Sorry because I do feel guilty, and I know that’s not enough, and I’ll start fixing things. Sorry because I might disappoint you saying this: You say I’m strong, but I’m a weak person being rude to others, to you. Sorry because I push people away for no reason; people like you, who only want to help. You are stronger than I will ever be because you mine, and a lot of other people’s awful remarks. Sorry because I could’ve been a better person. I could’ve obeyed you the first time you’ve said an order. Sorry because I brought you all this pain, I have made you cry.


I’m lost in myself, and trying to FIND myself, I’m pushing people away. I’m pushing away a loving, and caring mom who decides to love me, even after everything I’ve done. Sorry because I took you for granted, when I shouldn’t have. When you’re gone for a week; like when I was at the farm, it made me realize how much you did. The food didn’t taste the same, my hair wasn’t made the same, no-one there was the same as you. No-one could ever replace you. Mothers are underrated. They are. Sorry because you’re reading this letter right now, when you don’t like reading, and not hearing this from my voice. I’ll admit, even writing this has made me cry, because it made me realize more than ever that you do everything for me; take care of me, hug me, give me pills, give me love, you clean with, and for me, you do my hair almost every morning, wake me up, love me, everything, and the hardest one of them all, you forgive me. Thank you, and on a Mother’s Day. Sorry, because.

Your child, Sophia.



5 Grade • Coonley Elementary School

community. Family; Friends; People; That are more than just ‘people’ But our ride or die kind of people. A safe place To be myself. Share secrets and gossip. Throw pillows at each other As we bang pots and pans celebrating something more than friendship. love. Movie nights, with blankets laid down In the Summer heat, Everyone has a place to sit. Everyone sits by someone. Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma’s Pass the Gravy and talk a lot, because We haven’t seen each other in 3 years


But we love them like it was yesterday. Inside jokes that just, Wouldn’t make sense even if you tried. It’s Field Day; we all clap and cheer For the people that aren’t just Classmates. But brothers. sisters. family.



5 Grade • St. Ailbe

A time I was a part of a community was when my family came together as a family. My great grandmother is the president of the Chicago Area Federal Credit union downtown. Every year on Veterans Day they have a meeting to discuss the important things that are going on with the Credit Union. They have a lot for breakfast and lunch to feed everyone. So last year they had a lot of food left over after everyone took a plate home and I asked everyone in the house if they wanted any of the food that was left over. They said no so I asked everyone in the house if they wanted to give back to the homeless. Everyone said yes so we prepared the food in the food containers with plastic utensils. The foods we had to put in the containers were orange chicken, shrimp fried rice, chicken fried rice, beef and broccoli, seafood salad, fried chicken, peach cobbler, and fish. Then I helped my mom put the food in the car and her and my step-dad took it Downtown to Tent City on Roosevelt and Desplaines where a lot of homeless people live. A lot of homeless people live under the viaduct and on sidewalks all over the city. We all felt good to give back to the homeless. In the future, I want to do something similar like give them a lot of clothes and a place to stay if possible. I just want to give back to those in need. It makes me feel really good that I could make a difference in someone’s life. My family was so supportive of the idea, My grandmother said


“wow Jayda that was a great idea instead of letting all this food go to waste it can go to a great cause.” Just think how many hungry stomachs I fed that day not knowing if it was their first or last meal for that day. This has taught me to think twice about wasting food because there is someone out there that needs or wants what I threw or have thrown away on a daily basis. I also think we should all come together to give back because one day when you least expect it something good may happen to you. It may even be from someone you helped a long time ago. It’s just the right thing to do. When I help it’s coming from my heart. So in the near or far future, I hope everyone can give back.


UNTITLED Lilly Haravon th

5 Grade • St. Clement School

Hi to everyone reading this, My name is Lilly Haravon and I’m going to be telling you how my family moved from the big city of Chicago to a small beach town in Costa Rica named ‘Manuel Antonio’. I’m currently living in ‘Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica’, and wanted to tell you about the first months of living in Costa Rica with my family, and all the adventures I have had with them so far. I’m part of a family of six and let me tell you, it’s no picnic. Some days can be hard for us, some days can be really good, and some days can just be flat out boring. But when we all found out we were moving to Costa Rica things were definitely not as boring anymore. I thought my parents were going crazy, or at least on the verge of going crazy, when I heard this. I just couldn’t stop thinking about leaving my friends, sports and basically everything I knew behind. When my siblings heard the news they couldn’t stop thinking about all that too and then things just got wild. Finally, after weeks and weeks of never ending packing and trying to convince my parents not to go, It was time to leave the city we always knew and loved. We were off to Costa Rica! Once we got onto the plane we all just sat there wondering, waiting to see the new place we would soon be calling home. After what seemed like days of flying we landed in Costa Rica and our new journey began. We got everything settled, retrieved


our luggage, jumped in our new car and proceeded to go to our new house. Along the way we saw so many beautiful things. We saw the ocean, mountains, cows and crocodiles. Even though crocodiles are more terrifying than beautiful. After driving for a while we arrived at our new house and my siblings and I couldn’t wait to explore everything. Sadly since it was dark we couldn’t really take a good look at the outside so we had to wait until the next morning. Throughout our first week we did so many fun things, including going to the beach with our friends from Chicago (They moved to Costa Rica around a year and a half before us). We were able to meet some people who were going to be students at our new school, and everyone was so welcoming and nice. Plus, everyone spoke English and Spanish! My family and I also went to a National Park and we saw the beautiful beaches, leaf cutter ants, monkeys and much more. The week seemed to be going so fast and before we knew it, it was time for our first day of school. It was the first day of school and I could literally feel my heart racing. I just couldn’t help being nervous. Luckily my twin Clare and I were going to be in the same class so that made me feel better and calmer. Once we changed into our uniforms we were off to our first day of school. When we arrived I didn’t want to get out of the car, but of course we had to. All of us Haravon kids then split up to go to our classrooms and that’s when we saw our new class. My twin and I started talking to everyone and introduced ourselves. Mostly everyone was friendly and kind! Our first day of school ended up being better then we all thought and we ended our day with getting some ice cream. The first week of school was hard but as the weeks went on we started getting used to it and we made a great group of friends. My younger siblings had also made lots of friends and most of the time they seemed happy.


As the months went on my family and I got used to everything and we continued to go on more adventures. We went to a waterfall and it was gorgeous, and even got to swim in it. My family and I also started to go to this beautiful beach called ‘Playitas’ where we would swim, set up a fire at night and so much more. Finally came the day I was so excited for -- ziplining! It was the morning of the trip and I couldn’t wait to try it. My younger siblings Henry and Maeve were excited as well and we were all eager to get to the place. Once we arrived at the ziplining office we learned how to do it, got suited up and we were flying through the trees. Ziplining was definitely one of my family’s favorite things to do and we all hope to try it again. Sadly, A couple days later the Corona virus hit Costa Rica and we couldn’t do as much any more. During that time my sisters and I baked non-stop and we also did a lot of crafts. Thankfully the cases started to get better and the beaches reopened and some restaurants opened too! Sadly, school didn’t open so we couldn’t see our friends but we found a way to keep occupied. We started to kind of get back to a normal routine and got to try even more things. We got to try horseback riding at our house keeper (Paola’s) farm and we all loved it. While we were at her farm, I went fishing with my dad and my brother Henry, and sadly didn’t catch anything. Days went by and Mother’s Day was just around the corner so we booked a snorkeling trip with our family’s friends. The snorkeling trip ended up being really fun even though it was too murky to see anything. We then started surf lessons and it is harder than it looks. At surf camp we also went on a rubber kayak and tried to jump the waves with it and it was so fun. We then found out we were going to be visiting my dad's friend in a small mountain town called Turrialba.


The drive to Turrialba was very cool because the road is so high up in the mountains. We drove through a rain cloud and the temperature dropped several degrees. We finally arrived in Turrialba and pulled into the hotel we would be staying at. The hotel was lovely because the inside felt like a castle with Costa Rican charm. The next day our family went to a National Park and were able to see the ruins of a tribe that once lived on the land on which we were standing. The tour was very fascinating and I learned a lot about how they used to live. Along with that we went to another waterfall and the water felt cool and refreshing and really woke me up. Afterwards we went back to the hotel and my sister and I played a game of pool and relaxed for the rest of the night. The next morning I woke up early and went on a bike ride with my Mom. It was fun to ride on the backroads to see where people lived. It was very different from Chicago. We relaxed for the rest of the day and headed home to Manuel Antonio the next morning. After returning from Turrialba we continued our e-learning. My siblings and I are still currently going to surf camp and we are still trying to try new things in our house. Even though I have only been in Costa Rica for 5 months it has been an amazing experience, and has truly changed my perspective. I have been able to try new things that I have never thought to try. I have made some amazing friends, including a stray dog named Hola. I have made many new memories with my family, and have gotten to try out a new style of living. In the beginning, I thought this wasn’t such a great idea but I have gotten to love Costa Rica and have done so many wonderful things I hope to always remember. As a result I learned change can be good in life, things can get hard sometimes, but they do get way better!


YOU, ME, WE Arinav Kutty th

5 Grade • Louis B. Nettlehorst Public School

You stand in a city Where everyone’s busy, With buildings so high And airplanes that fly. You stand in a park Listening to the singing lark, With vast carpets of grass By a lake with plump bass. You sit by a fire With men deciding when to retire, And they pass many tales Of sunny days and dark trails. You walk by a pond And get brushed by a frond, Then you see a log Atop which sits a frog. You see people who cheer and play


And some who dance by the bay, People drink and laugh And eat cakes cut in half. The people you’ve met From sunrise from sunrise to sunset. The things you’ve seen from dirty to clean. The people you’ve met and the things you see Are all part of your community. They help you soar They open a new door. But in this day and age When we are stuck in a cage, We should help them soar So they have troubles, no more.



4 Grade • Portage School

In my past ten years in this community, my experience has been very loving and peaceful. There are so many examples that feel like family and community to me, let me give you a couple. One of my favorite feelings of family and community is the thrill of riding a rollercoaster as we’ve done together several times, and that thrill has changed over the years as I've gotten older. Another example of the connection I feel to the community and family is offering/willingness to help. In this time of coronavirus our neighbors and friends have come together to help each other. Even when there’s not something big happening we come together to help each other. Another one of my favorite examples is the comfort I feel from my grandparents. When I visit my grandparents they always take care of me. That feels like a warm hug and that warm hug feels like community and family to me.The excitement of Christmas or your birthday is a unique feeling and I feel that excitement whenever our community has a block party or a family wedding. One of my absolute favorites is the food and laughter that brings our family and community together. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion for me. I love to cook and eat good everyday. That connects me to my family. Everyday food is a special gift we all enjoy.


Something else that reminds me of the connection to community/family is the soothing, relaxing comfort of laying on my cool, comfy couch after a hot, challenging day. This, much like my connection to this community and family, brings me happiness. Our community and family is very loving and that is displayed in a lot of different ways from prayer and food to a simple smile. The closeness I feel with my community and family is very much like the joy I feel when a baby laughs. I love being on the farm with my cousins and helping to take care of all the farm animals. That’s what brings me joy. Even when we farmsat for a week, that was work, but it was joyful. Summertime is one of the best times of the year, even when it’s really hot. From camping, at the farm, to visit grandparents, on summer break we always have great adventures. This is another way that I feel close to my family and community. Spring break is also a really good time of year. One, because my birthday is usually on Spring Break and Easter is close to my birthday. Spring is a time of new life for flowers and other plants. We also visit family and friends. That’s how family and community comes into this. Church is another way community and family come together for me. We work together, we pray together, which feels like happiness and brings me joy. It doesn’t feel like work at all. A constant feeling in my family and community is laughter. From my grandparents, to my parents, aunts, uncles cousins, friends and neighbors we all joke around. We like to laugh and make each other laugh.


ANT HILL Norah Ludwig th

5 Grade • Skinner West

Life is an ant hill. Some people are poor, some people are rich. Some people are mean, some people are kind. People are like the ants. They choose their own pathways in life. They don't have to be kind but why not? They don't have to give the queen bread crumbs but why not? People do this stuff not because they have to, but because it's the right thing to do. But sometimes ants get crushed. They can't call for help. People have no mercy. Someone asking for help and whipping out your phone is what ants do. When one gets crushed and another walks by seeing it defenseless on the concrete, they don't stop to watch the last breath of air of his fellow ant, he just walks away like nothing happened.


You can learn a lot from ants. You just need to see earth from their eyes. Instead of a glass of water they see a giant pool. They can't swim. They end up dying because of misjudgments or just because people think they are pointless creatures. But it still happens because of misconceptions that are not true. Everyone can change their frame of thought. Some people just refuse to change because of an urge to be correct. We can all change. We just need to look from someone else's point of view.


COMING TOGETHER Charlie Lust 5th Grade • John C. Coonley Elementary

Jake Martin was your average fifth-grade boy, but he ended up changing the whole future of his little town, Edgebrook. This is the story of how he did it. One day, Jake noticed how much trash was in his town, and how little people cared about it. He had seen the trash for years, but he had never really realized how little people cared. They walked right by the overflowing trash cans. They stepped over the soda cans in the town square. They ran right past the potato chip bags on the sidewalk. They just ignored it. Jake knew that it had to change, but he didn’t know how to do it. So, he told his best friend, Michael. He would know what to do. Michael Brown was a very smart boy. He was always the first to raise his hand after the teacher asked a question. He was always right. But when Jake told him that he needed help with cleaning up the town, he was puzzled. “The whole town?” he asked. “Yeah. Is there something wrong?” replied Jake. Michael didn’t know what to say. In order to clean up the whole town, they would need help. In order to get help, they would have to ask around for volunteers. “Yes. We will need help. But how will we get it?” he said. “By asking for volunteers, of course!” Jake exclaimed. That was what Michael was fearing. He wished that Jake had come up with something else. There was one problem with asking.


“Jake, no one is going to help.” “What do you mean, no one is going to help?” Haven’t you seen it? The way people just walk right by the trash? They don’t care, Jake, and nothing will change their mind.” “We’ll just start cleaning up, and maybe others will follow,” Jake said uneasily. Jake realized how hard it was going to be, but he followed through on his plan and started cleaning up the town square with Michael and a few other friends from school. No one noticed them. Some even told them to stop. All of the kids went to bed that night with heavy hearts, especially Jake. Early the next morning, Jake gathered his friends that had helped clean up the day before. This time, he gave them a pep talk. “All right, everybody. You saw how people didn’t notice us cleaning up. Today, we’re getting an early start. We are going to finish the town square before most people come outside. Then, people will notice that the town square is clean. Let’s get started!” They all went down to the town square and started cleaning. They finished just as people started coming. They noticed, all right. Some people even congratulated them on cleaning it. But still, people looked on with disgust. The kids went back home to grab a snack. But when they came back, the square was back to its original state: full of garbage. “What happened?” Jake exclaimed. “We can’t clean it up fast enough. The whole town litters too fast for us to keep up,” said Michael grimly. “Well, there are those people who congratulated us. I


remember them. We could ask them to help, or at least to convince their friends to help. It’s a small town, after all,” Jake suggested. “Let’s do it!” everybody exclaimed. Jake’s plan worked. Within one week, the workforce had doubled, even tripled, and a lot of adults had pitched in. The majority of the town still opposed them, though. One day, the Chief of Police came over to them. “You cannot continue cleaning. You are making the residents of Edgebrook rebel against the town government,” he said. “Rebel?!?!” said Jake’s mom. “We’re just making this town a better place!” “That may be true, but you are also causing others to request a new town government.” The members of the “Keeping Our Town Clean Crew,” as they had called themselves, looked at each other in surprise. They never knew that they were so effective, but they stopped cleaning. No one wanted to disobey the police. One day, Jake woke up to a crowd outside yelling. “No more littering! No more littering!” he heard them say. He quickly changed and went outside. He saw a great number of people outside walking down the road, waving signs and yelling things. They were headed to the town hall. Jake joined them as they stopped at the town hall. Soon enough, the mayor came outside and spoke through a megaphone. “We will take into account your opinion. If you keep protesting, I will have to deploy the police. We will let you know the result of the trial on cleaning up the litter in about.....say, a couple of months,” the mayor said. The crowd did not like that. They kept yelling and yelling and


yelling. The mayor signaled to the police. They quickly moved through the crowd, taking those who were urging the crowd on. The rest of the crowd quickly ran away. “Wait,” the mayor said. Everybody obeyed. “Who started this movement? Who started it all?” “He did!” a voice rang out. “He did, I know it!” It was one of the people on their side. He was pointing right at Jake. Jake couldn’t believe it. “Jake? Is that you?” the mayor asked. “Did you start this?” “Uhh....yes,” Jake said. “Why did you do this?” “Because, well, ummm....I saw how much trash was in our town and uh, how little people cared about it. “I understand, Jake,” the mayor said. Then, he addressed the crowd. “My mistake, everybody. We should clean up this town. Jake has helped me realize that. He just wants to make this town a better place. Release the instigators!” But the order was not obeyed. The chief of police did not agree with the crowd. “No. We will not release them,” the chief said. “I vote to remove the mayor from office!” said a voice. There was a collective gasp from the crowd. The town council members walked out. It was one of them who had spoken. “All in favor of removing the mayor from office, raise your right hand!” Ten out of ten members raised their right hands. There was a crushing silence as the mayor was carried off the platform and down to the crowd. The council members then went on to choose a new mayor. The new mayor declared that all cleaning of the town was to be forbidden because it could make the town government unstable. No one dared challenge


it. But then, 25 years later, 36-year-old Jake Martin and his friend Michael Brown were elected to the town council. Jake was a wise man who was highly respected by the whole town. Michael was also highly respected as a very smart man. So when two of the council members stepped down, Jake and Michael were the easy choices to replace them. Edgebrook was still a very polluted town, and now, the river was a sickly brown color. The air above the town was thick with smog, and still, the mayor ruled. Jake once again realized how little people cared about it, and tried to get a movement started. But all his friends opposed him, even Michael. “Come on, Michael! We’ve done this before! We even have more power now, so we can finally come through!” Jake said. “Jake, we didn’t make it last time. Why should it work this time?” Michael replied. “We’re on the town council, Michael! We have so much more power!” “But what if the rest of the council thinks you’re crazy? They might vote us off the council!” “Please. Michael, please?” Jake pleased. Michael sighed. “All right, I’ll help. But don’t blame it on me if we get voted off.” Jake was overjoyed. They got started right away. They brought their idea to the council. As Michael expected, most of them shook their heads and told them to get out of their childhood fantasies. But to his surprise, Jake convinced some of them that this was the right course of action. The eight other members and the mayor took a vote. “All in favor of cleaning up the town, raise your right hand. All in favor of keeping the town how it is, do not raise any hands.”


There was a pause. Obviously, the mayor kept his hand down. Then one hand went up. Then two. Then three. Then four! “It’s not good enough,” Jake muttered. “I knew John was unsure about it.” The council member called John had kept his hand down. Jake and Michael needed five members to win, and they only had four. “Well,” said the mayor, “I guess that settles it.” Slowly, John raised his right hand. Everyone gasped. “Well, I guess that settles it,” John said. “We should remove the mayor from office!” Michael exclaimed. “He didn’t want to make this town a better place!” “Shh, Michael. We’re pushing it too far,” Jake said. But the mayor had heard Michael. “Okay, let’s take a vote. All in favor of removing me from office, raise your right hand.” Michael, Jake, John, and four other members raised their hands. The mayor dejectedly left the room. “Yes! Now, who will be the new mayor?” Michael said. Everybody pointed at Jake. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s get to work!” He told them what he planned to do. “John, divide the citizens into groups to work on different areas of the town. Michael and Joe, make signs that show what groups people are in. Make sure to post them all over town. Dan, tell the citizens to gather in the town square so I can tell them about it. The rest of you, carry out the signs that Michael and Joe are making. Come on! Let’s get to work.” The council members got to work. Within a couple of hours, Michael and Joe had designed a sign showing the groups. After another hour, the signs were posted around the town, and Jake was making his speech. “I have been elected as the new mayor. We are going to clean


up this town, and stop littering. Look at the river. Look at the sky. Our town needs to be clean, and we are going to make it clean! Get to work. There are signs telling which group and which area of the town you will be cleaning up. We will make this town a better place!� Jake’s plan was put into action immediately, and within a couple of days, the town was free of trash. Jake was a good mayor, and everyone trusted him. He had rallied his community, and within a couple of months, the sickly brown color had disappeared from the river, along with the smog in the sky. His voice alone changed his community.



THE CORONA NINJA Luca Marino 3rd Grade • Immaculate Conception

Once upon a time there lived a group of bats called the Darkness Bats who ruled over Darkness Island, a place of hatred and anger. The Darkness Bats were as evil as Lex Luthor or the terrifying, creepy, Joker. The Darkness Bats wanted to take over the world with the Coronavirus. But the bats couldn’t do it themselves, so they went to earth, and looked for someone that could be evil enough to send misery to the world and they chose a guy named Nick. “He’s perfectly evil!” said the leader bat. ”Take him here and we will turn him into the great evil Nick!” Nick was now taken to the darkness island and gave the powers of the corona master listed below: ● The sneeze machine ● The corona breath bomb ● Corona karate ● Dirty viral hands So Nick started to deliver the coronavirus to countries, towns, and cities. Nick had gotten several people the covid 19 Soon, thousands of people had it. “Ahh!” screamed the mailman. Poof! Pow! Everyone had it. A week later schools, jobs, stores and restaurants started


shutting down. What a horrible sickness! Everyone stayed close side by side in a family. People started washing their hands 24/7. The COVID-19 still didn’t affect families. It even brought families closer during the quarantine. “Reporting from Chicago Illinois, there are now over 10,000 cases. What are we going to do? What will stop this mess?” said the news. But one thing that was good about this horrible mess is that the families grew closer to one another and they realized that family is more important than the jobs, school, and money. Then the corona ninja jumped out of the corona mobile at Lincoln park where the last case was discovered. The corona ninja found evil Nick. “Stop in the name of the law!” screamed the corona ninja to Nick. “What are you gonna do? Pour a can of water on me?” said Nick in a teasing voice. “Maybe I will,” said the corona ninja seriously. Then the corona ninja got his soap bomb and threw it at him. Then it blew up like a dolphin blasting out of the water. “Everyone, duck!” said the ninja as Nick tried to use his corona karate. “Help!” said a person going for a run on the street. Nick blasted his sneeze machine at the corona ninja. The corona ninja fell to the ground in a heartbeat. “You’ll never beat me!” said Nick with an evil laugh. Nick strikes again. He gave another innocent person the dreaded virus. The ninja got up, brought super soap and squirted him. It hit Nick like a cheetah chasing an antelope. Nick froze immediately by the super soap and during that one minute the ninja got out his porto-sink and put Nick’s hand in it. Scrub, scrub, scrub, the corona ninja washed Nick’s hands really good until all of Nick’s hatred, stress, and anger came out of him and he became the good and innocent guy that he was meant to be.


“What happened?� Nick asked. The corona ninja chuckled. Soon, everyone was free from the hard, scary, quarantine. Families were stronger and now free to come out of their home and connect. The world was once again a happy place and Nick lived a happy, new life.

How to stay healthy and save lives: 1. Wash your hands for 20 seconds 2. Stay inside your home 3. Follow the social distance guidelines

About the COVID-19: Out of the whole world there are about 1,681,964. in the U.S., there are about 498,563 in the U.S. and in Illinois, there are 16,422. The corona can be as simple as a cold or as harsh as a death. The COVID-19 can cause a cough, a fever and difficulty breathing. The coronavirus was believed to have started from bats, and the chinese ate them, and then the COVID-19 started. How to get the virus: to get the coronavirus you have to touch someone or something that has it and if the object or person you touch has it and you touch your face then you will get it. But if you wash your hands before you touch your face, then the virus will come off.



BEAUTIFUL TO THE EYE Kadence J. McCall 5th Grade • Montessori School of Englewood

There once was a girl named Sarah who loved her community so much that everyone thought she was crazy. Others thought she was just crazy and silly for loving her neighborhood. But she didn't care just because they couldn't see what she saw. But it didn't matter; she loved the broken bottles and the two vacant lots. She loved the fact her neighbors came together. To Sarah, it didn’t matter that across the street was an empty lot with trash, or that her block wasn’t filled with mansions. Instead, what she loved were the people. Sarah always remembered what her grandmother would say, “You can live in a nice looking neighborhood and still be a bad community.” But she loved the art. She saw the Trains her mom and her rode together. Since she was little She loved her city to death but one problem was the less fortunate. Anyone less fortunate she didn't laugh at because she felt bad and adored them. She helped out her community with coat drives, toy drives, Clean Up the community projects. But one day it all vanished right in front of her eyes. Over the years her neighbors got tired. They once worked together to make their block beautiful. But now, after all these years of hard work and little help from outsiders, they simply were too tired and too old to continue. Vacant lots that were once gardens are now abandoned with trash and are now vacant again.


One day as Sarah walked through what was once a vacant lot turned into a garden and is now a vacant lot again, she suddenly heard the voice of her friend’s words from Vegas saying, “Sarah, you’re crazy. Why do you care so much about this trashy place that you call home?” For the first time, Sarah began to notice that her neighborhood is not all sunshine and rainbows. Instead they were right. This isn't home. It's just a trashy place. Feeling crushed and alone, not knowing what to do, she went to someone she could count on. Her childhood friend and her next door neighbor. Sarah knocked on the door with tears in her eyes, and talked for what seemed like hours, describing to her about how it used to be how It used to be when they were little. Together, they remembered how they could run around without worrying about broken glass bottles, how they could smell the sweet flowers in the air, and how they could climb trees without hurting themselves by snapping trees because they were dying. So what did they do you may ask? Well they were brainstorming ideas to help the neighborhood get well again.They tried to think long and hard but it just wouldn't come to them. Could they do a thought about a community meeting, a party, even a fair and carnival. But suddenly, it hit Lilly. They should do a clean the community service project. Sarah thought it was an amazing idea. They would do it in honor of Ms. Lulu. Ms. Lulu used to clean up and plant stuff all the time until she passed of natural causes. So they would do it to make Ms. Lulu proud. To spread the news they made lots of fliers. They went door to door day after day to spread the news. Sarah was confident about their idea.


For an 11-year-old she couldn't believe her eyes on the day of the clean up. She thought no one was gonna show up but so many people showed up to the clean up the community project. People old and young were outside with bags, gloves, Fertilizer, masks and so much more. It was lots of hard work. But after 5 months everything was back to normal.for the most part it's gonna take a little longer to grow back the trees. But everyone one was just happy to have their community back together again. And Sarah realized it's not the block nor is it the surroundings, the vacant lot gardens, or even Sarah. What holds them together is this special bond. It's Nothing to the regular human eye at first glance. But beautiful to the eye when you look closer, you see how it's like a spark of energy. That holds them together and because of that they are like this big huge family.



A HOPEFUL MESSAGE Melani Mendoza 3rd Grade • Horace Greeley Elementary

It was a rainy day in March 2020. I was doing my homework sitting next to the window looking at the street because it was the only peaceful place I could look at while being stuck inside my house. All of sudden, a lady caught my attention. The first thing that I noticed was the way she looked, as if she was worried. She seemed lost and sad. I started wondering if she had to go get food for her family or if she had someone in the hospital who was sick because of COVID-19. Since the start of 2020, COVID-19 has infected the world with lots of people getting infected and then sick. Maybe she is worried that if she goes outside she would get sick as well. But still she had to go get food or do something else. COVID-19 has done great damage to the world. First, every school in the U.S. closed and now students are e-learning. There are many people that lost their jobs because companies had to close. Most of the restaurants are doing mobile orders to deliver food,and all the public parks are still closed. Everyone was required to stay home, except for essential workers like nurses and doctors. Now, we have to wash our hands more often, don’t touch our faces and stay 6 feet away from each other to prevent the spreading of the virus. In my case, I am thankful that my mom is able to stay home with us every day, but I do worry about my dad when he has to go to work because he is part of the essential workforce. But I know that many people do not work or have lost their jobs so it is harder for them to buy food and supplies for their family.


For this reason and so many other things is what I thought the lady I saw was looking worried. I feel really bad for the lady, because like her, there are a lot of people suffering from this virus. There are doctors, nurses, workers, and patients fighting hard to get rid of Coronavirus. But, there are so many people who have Coronavirus spreading it over the world, that got many people worried including myself. Watching the news is scary for me and my dad because he is one of those essential workers and he is afraid to get sick and get us sick as well. Although I have been trying to keep myself busy, feeding my pets, doing homework, and helping my mom, I am still afraid of COVID-19 . The worried lady walking past my house made me realise that even though I can’t do anything for her at that moment, I could inspire her to keep fighting this virus. So I came up with an idea of making a sign and putting on my window so everyone can see it. The sign says: “We Can Beat COVID-19”, and ever since I put it up, I have seen people looking at my message. I know that every time they look at it I am giving them hope. Hopefully my message will help others the way it helped me. Now I feel happy and joyful that I was able to find a way to inspire people and bring hope to their hearts. I am thankful for the lady who inspired me to do this sign and hope she is well and healthy.


COME HOME Ning Muan 5th Grade • Daniel Boone Elementary

Chapter 1: Grandpa “He’s probably dead by now, sweetie,” Mom says while putting on bright red lipstick, “Why waste money, it’s already been 3 days since your grandpa’s disappearance.” “He’s your dad too, aren't you sad...don’t you care?” I say defensively to get Mom to agree with my thoughts. “Oh, of course I care, Hailey, but sometimes the past is the past, you can't change it no matter how many times you try,” she says while finishing her mascara. “Oh dear, we’re running late. I have to run, Hailey. Mwah, love you my Hailey,” Mom says running out the door. “Children, remember the usual drill okay? Bye love you, children,” she says talking to both me and my siblings. “Love you!” we all say in unison. Yup, Raphael, Amanda, and me — Hailey. Raphael is first then Amanda comes then me. We all are the Turners family. “No getting mom to agree with us, huh?” Raphael says leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. “Yep. Seems like it’ll be harder than we thought,” I say standing in the doorway of mom and dad’s bedroom.


“Whatever guys. I’m going to my room.” Amanda says, walking and yawning towards her bedroom to do whatever she had in mind. I slide in front of her bedroom door, “No you aren’t, Ama, you’re in charge of washing the dishes tonight,” I say, winking to Raphael. Raphael winks back. “No it isn’t, you liar,” she says trying to get past me into her little domain that I was blocking. I loved teasing my older sister even if that was something she would be doing. “If you don’t do the dishes, I’ll tell Mike Anderson you're cheating on him with Nick Fletcher,” I say smirking. “Ugh. I can’t believe you, you nosy little prick!” she says yelling, taking a quick glance at Ralphael who is smirking and shrugging. Then stomps off. “Oh, and if you try to enter your bedroom once I leave, I have Mike's number,” I say waving the phone next to my face. She glares at me and stomps off mumbling angrily at herself. I walk off toward Raphael, he laughs, shaking his head. “How do you know that Ama’s cheating on Mike Anderson, Hails?” he curiously says, wanting to know. I take out my phone to show Ralph, “How did you get the photo of Ama cheating?” he says, looking at the photo with a question mark plastered on his face. “From Lina, my best friend,” I say, knowing the answer of my brother, also known as my overprotective brother. “Look, she's a bad influence on you, Hails. Please sooner or later you have to stop being friends with her and you should know that,” he says seriously.


“Okay, I’m trying.” Then he gives me a look. “Really?” he says through his eyes. “Look, I am really trying. I just can’t get rid of her, okay? I’m really trying, Ralph,” I say, looking at him with plea. “We’ve got to know more about Grandpa and his disappearance,” he says, ignoring my plea while pacing the hallways of our home. “I know, I know. I’ve tried looking around too,” I say, agreeing with Ralph, nodding my head and holding my chin. “We should first check out Grandma and Grandpa’s home. Maybe we can find clues and prove that Grandpa didn’t die!” Ralph says excitedly. “Good point, but I tried doing that already. Grandma’s fine with us visiting but Mom and Dad don't want us to go. I already tried asking,” I say with sadness. “I know!” he says brightly, “We’ll go at the dead of night,” he says, whispering quietly pretending it was already night. I laugh as he crawls the ground looking side to side. “But what about Grandma? What if she gets frightened? You’d never know what could happen,” I say, looking down at him. He stands up dusting himself off. “Good point, Hails, anything could happen if Grandma freaks seeing us,” he says, nodding in approval. “We can try calling Grandma about our visit that’s going at night when everything is pitch black,” I say, pointing to my phone.


“Well, it’s worth a shot,” he says, looking at me smiling and grabbing for his own phone to call our grandma. So I put mine on the table next to me But before we could even press one number to dial Grandma, my phone buzzed. Ralph and I turned to look at it. It was a voice message from Grandma. I grabbed my phone and opened the voice message: “Hello my Hailey and Raphael. You don’t have to call me. I know you my sweet darlings are coming. Don’t worry.” Ralph and I glanced at each other surprised about how grandma knew we were going to call her so they could come over late at night. It was true our grandpa disappeared, he was a sailor who loved to find new lands. So on his last journey he disappeared and his men too. At first we weren’t surprised when he didn’t come back after a week, but then after 2 weeks Grandma started to worry and pretty soon we found out he disappeared at sea. Mom and Dad sent a search party only for them to disappear too. But Ralph and I have this feeling deep inside that he’s not dead.

Chapter 2: At the Dead of Night After the voice message from grandma we both separated to our rooms to pack a few things we were going to need for our journey by ourselves. Grandma lived 3-4 hours away from where we lived, Chicago, IL. Grandma lived in Indianapolis, IN. I put up a sign on my door saying “DO NOT DISTURB!” But Ama rudely came in and saw me packing, she looked curiously at me while holding nail polish with one hand.


“Why are you packing?” she said, wanting to know why I was packing when she knew there were no vacations this month. “I’m not packing. I’m just putting some clothes in the suitcase somewhere else,” I say trying to reach for the drawer with my clothes I never wore. “Ok then, why don’t you stop with that....” she says, using her hand to point at the mess I made while doing what I was doing before she rudely barged in, “And put this perfect sparkly magenta nail polish on my perfect nails!” she says, giving me her nail polish and the other hand for me to grab to paint. I sat angrily not wanting to do it, but if I said no she would get suspicious so I grabbed the nail polish and her hand to paint. I painted her nails listening to her yapping about boys, her looks, her weight, her clothes etc. When I finished, she looked at her nails inspecting it carefully for no mistakes so if there was one she would give you a whole lecture about beauty, then she opened her mouth, “Perfect, you know you could be my personal painter for my nails!” she said looking happily, I was good at being careful with nails when it came to Ama. “Ok then, since I’m done with your nails why don’t you start moving your bottom to the door and out!” I said, smiling while pushing her out the door. “Ok ok. I’m moving my bottom to my room where I don’t have to be pushed by any pushy sisters!” she said, glaring at me and then turning away to her domain. I sat down with a thumping, if Ama knew I was actually packing to leave at the dead of night then it would be the last of me.


I went back to my packing to hear the door squeak open quietly which made my heart race, was mom and dad home early? “Are you ready?” I heard a voice say only to have my heart beat go back to normal, it was just Ralph asking me if I was ready. I turned around to look at Ralph who was at the door looking at me and waiting patiently for my answer, “I’m almost done, just have a few more things to pack and I’ll be done,” I said, looking at him while folding the rest of my clothes and stuffing them in my small bag. “Ok great, when you’re done let's meet in the basement to discuss our escape plan,” he says, looking at me and smiling. “Ok, I’ll be there soon you can survive waiting I think!” I said, not very sure of myself if he would have to wait long or not. “I’ll bet I’ll survive,” he says, laughing, knowing I would take about 30 more minutes packing for everything to be ready to get moving. “See ya in the basement later!” I yell before he leaves for the basement for our meeting based on our escape in the dead of night. I take a few more minutes packing my stuff. I look around to see if I've forgotten anything. I kneel down remembering I needed another t-shirt. I open up my drawer with my shirts. I take one of my t-shirts but once I pick it up I see something still in the drawer. “What is that?” I say, mumbling curiously while trying to grab for the small thing still lingering in my drawer.


I pick it up and look at it closely. It was a key, I never knew this was in my drawer, not until today. “Ralph might want to look at this,” I say while stuffing my shirt in my bag and picking it up to go to the basement of our house. I go to the basement and Ralph is waiting for me. I plop down next to him and show him the key that I found in the drawer. “What’s this?” he says, looking at the key then at me, going back and forth curiously waiting for an answer. “It’s a key I found in my drawer when I picked up one of my t-shirts,” I tell him as I grab for a snack in my bag I had packed, then give it to him. “Cool!” he says, then gives it back. “You can put that in your bag. We’re probably going to need it later on. Now let’s get to the plan,” he says, happily ready to take action. Once we finish our plan, I’m pooped. I head to my bedroom. Once I hit my head on my pillow I was fast asleep. I woke up around 3:30 in the morning and got ready to meet Ralph out in the backyard to get moving. Once I was out of my bedroom I stayed quiet and walked slowly to stop the floor from creaking to loud. Once I made it out in the backyard, Ralph was waiting while leaning against one of those statues mom bought from the store. “Where were you? It's past 3:00 am by like 45 minutes!” he says. Ralph was very good at being punctual. He was imitating Ama when we were late for things that we were supposed to be punctual on.


“Oh I’m sorry, I lost track of the time,” I say sarcastically, laughing quietly since we still were on our property. We laughed quietly together. If only Ama didn’t grow up so much she would probably be doing this with us right now. “C’mon let’s get going,” Ralph says. So we started moving toward the wooden gate door to leave our property to our grandma’s home. But suddenly we hear a voice. “What are you guys doing outside with your bags? It's so late at night, you guys should be in bed.”

Chapter 3: The Journey to Grandma’s Ralph and I turned around slowly to whoever just spoke. If we got caught we would be dead meat. As we turned around I was looking at the ground so I noticed whoever was speaking must be a girl since they were wearing pink slippers. The only person that wore pink slippers in our family was.... “Ama?” I said looking up from the ground to see her in a mess, her hair was tangled, and she was still in her pajamas. “Answer my question. What are you guys doing out here?” Ama said, trying to straighten out her hair. “Eh, well, you see....” I say, trying to come up with an excuse to get her moving back in the house, but before I could answer she interrupts. “It’s connected with your packing, right, Hails?” she says, looking at me. It seems like she didn’t believe my excuse back in my bedroom.


“Ok, it is,” I say after a long pause and a nudge from Ralph. I’m just going back and forth in my mind if what I just said was right. “Ok, good thing I packed my own bag,” she says, grabbing for her own bag behind her that I guess she packed when I finished her nails. “You packed your own bag?” I and Ralph said at the same time then smiling at each other then looking back at her. “Of course, Hails made me suspicious and from her packing I could tell you were going on an adventure and no one can miss an adventure,” she says, looking at her nails. “Well then let’s get moving to Grandma’s home,” Ralph said, smiling while turning around to get moving to Grandma’s home. “Where are we going anyway?” Ama whispers to me as we follow the lead of Ralph who doesn’t want to take the responsibility to tell her again. “We’re going to grandma’s house to find any clues of grandpa’s disappearance to see if that helps,” I tell her as she looks at her hair and nails again. After 1 hour we found Chicago Union station. Ama went to the stalls and quickly changed her outfit. Then once she was done Ralph told us he surprisingly had 50 bucks in his wallet so we took the ride from Chicago Union station to Indianapolis Amtrak station. After a very long train ride we reached our destination. But what surprised me was that Grandma was there waiting for us. We ran up and said our hellos and we moved on towards her home.


Once we reached Grandma’s home, I felt great to be there. Before we reached Indianapolis Amtrak Station we planned we would search immediately but I don’t think that was going to happen. I felt ready to go to my room in Grandma’s home and sleep. So we all agreed together we would take a rest before we started our big search to find clues on Grandpa’s disappearance. I took a quick snack to eat before I went to sleep and think about Grandpa. I missed him so much it felt great to be back at his home. Once I was in bed I was all snuggly and cozy drifting away to the dreams awaiting me for such a long time. I was asleep in no time at all filled with thoughts and dreams I’ve missed for quite awhile since the train was so bumpy and jumpy I would wake every 5 seconds of the train ride. In just a snap I fell into a long happy sleep.

Chapter 4: The Attic I woke up to a horrible dream about my grandpa. He was getting sucked into some kind of black goo and my grandpa kept yelling for help and looking straight but I didn’t move. I wanted to but I couldn’t. Soon enough he was swallowed in that black goop. When I woke up my face felt dry but I was sweating at the same time. I quickly ran out of the room and went to the bathroom to wash my face with cold water then I smelled delicious waffles, but I didn’t feel hungry. My stomach was already filled with fear from my dream...or my nightmare.


I went downstairs to eat breakfast even if I felt full. I didn’t want them to be suspicious so I trudged down. Everyone was already there eating breakfast and talking. I went over to listen to what they were saying, “I had this dream that we were swinging on vines like monkeys in a forest!” Ralph said, happily looking at everyone there, “Oh hey, Hails!” Ralph said, looking at me. I nod to him, forcing a smile, I couldn’t let them know about my nightmare. “I had a wonderful dream too, I was in the middle of a circle of makeup, nail polish....” Ama kept going on as Ralph rolled his eyes then looking at me, “Did you have any dreams, Hails? Or any nightmares?” he said, looking at me mischievously while eating a piece of his waffle then looking back at me again. I stare blankly at first but eventually I said, “No.” Not wanting him to ask me anymore questions I stand up, grab my plate of waffles, “ I’m full,” I say as I start walking away. Ralph grabs my arm quickly, “Wait, Hails....” Ralph says as my heart starts thumping loudly and quickly, “We need to find a place to start finding clues of Grandpa’s disappearance,” he says slowly, looking at each person. “Any ideas grandma?” Ralph says after he’s slowly looked at each person.I felt anxious and scared about grandpa but I felt relieved there were no questions about anymore dreams or nightmares. “Your grandpa loved working up in the attic. He probably left something up there,” Grandma says smiling and pointing up to the attic. “Thanks, Grandma.” Ralph says thankfully while Ama and I


just look, smile, and nod to grandma. We go up to the attic and start our search for any clues to help us. We searched for an hour and we didn’t find anything, with the 3 of us we couldn’t find it, well actually Ama wasn’t helping so it was just 2. “If I were Grandpa, where would I keep my top secret stuff?” Ralph kept mumbling to himself while searching like that would help. As I search I go back to the same areas I was at before. I notice some boxes and move them over scoffing at myself thinking there would be something. “Hails, great job!” Ralph says getting up and coming over to my side of the attic to see what I found, which made me confused and clueless. “Look, it’s a keyhole,” Ralph said pointing at one part of the attic wall. At first I didn’t see it, but I squinted and tried looking harder and eventually I saw it. “You still have the key with you, Hails?” he says, looking at me. “Of course!” I say excitedly as I skip steps down the attic stairs to my room and grab the key from my bag and quickly jumping back up the steps again. Ralph grabs the key excitedly and puts it in the keyhole, he turns the key and opens. In those movies it’s like, “Oh my god, ahhh. we found it!” But we were like, “Cough, cough, so much dust.” That thought left me laughing hysterically, Ralph looked at me curiously, I told him my thought about the movie reaction compared to our reaction which left him laughing too. Ama just thought we were acting like babies so she yelled at us to hurry up which made us laugh harder for


some reason so she gave up yelling and went downstairs to Grandma. We finally stopped laughing and looked in the, um, I don’t know what to call it. We found a notebook that was full of wrinkled pages, lots of maps and a small chest. I took the notebook and the map, and Ralph took the chest and opened it. It had a lot of, I guess you can call gold coins. We first decided to read the notebook then look at the map and show Grandma the gold coins. We read the notebook and it seems Grandpa found an island and wanted to check it out more so that's where he left on his last trip. We looked at the map to find exactly where the island was and nothing really was on the map. We just pointed out first where we lived or actually where grandpa lived and then we circled it with a pen Ralph had in his pocket. I laid on the map feeling hopeless then I noticed something looked faded, a circle that looked faded. I quickly got back up from the map and circled it. “Why’d you circle that?” Ralph said as he looked at the map then looking at me curiously and questionably. “When I laid on the map I saw a faded circle so I circled over the faded circle!” I said being proud of myself. “We need boat tickets!” Ralph said running down the steps while pulling me down with him to Grandma. “Grandma, we....” Ralph says, still holding onto me as she asks, but then Grandma surprisingly interrupts. “Here you go,” Grandma said, handing us boat tickets, which surprised me and Ralph very much since we hadn’t even told her. “You should go pack for your boat trip tomorrow,” Grandma said, smiling.


“Aren’t you coming too?” I ask, before I turn to my room, which was now only a few steps away from me. “No no, your grandma’s not going on long boat trips any longer. She’s got an old body,” she says, pointing at herself and smiling. “Ok then,” I say turning to my room and walking straight in. It didn’t feel right that Grandma wasn’t coming but if that was what Grandma wanted, so let it be. I packed and after an hour and a half of packing, I’m ready to fall into a deep sleep. At first I hesitated. I didn’t want that same nightmare again but before I could stop myself I’m off drifting into sleep.

Chapter 5: Grandpa Comes Home I wake up carefree, no nightmares, and early too. I happily walk downstairs where my siblings are already there. “Ready, Hails?” Ralph says looking at me, “Where's your bag?” Ralph says quickly again so I don’t forget my bag. “I’ll go grab my bag,” I say quickly, racing up the stairs again to my room which would be leaving once again. I come back out of the room and downstairs again and we leave out the door. “What about Grandma?” I say as we walk to Grandpa’s car he left behind.” “We left her a note and we left the chest too so she can pay her expenses when she needs it,” Ralph says, smiling proudly. We rode a long trip to the boat which was very close to leaving


the harbor, but we fortunately made it there just in time. We get on the boat, and since we had thought that the day was so clear and sunny we didn’t think there would be any trouble. We all went to take a rest, and took a quick nap. But we were eventually jostled up by the rocking of the boat. We all went to check what the commotion was, and once again we were thrown hard against the floor. It rocked once more, and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere — no, in the middle of the sea. No one had noticed that we had been thrown off the boat, so they had basically left us behind. None of us were good swimmers, so we just let ourselves float, arms and legs apart, with water in our ears. I don’t know how but we had all drifted to a deep slumber, and once we had awoken we found ourselves to be on a weird but beautiful island. We found a sign right next to the island's beach that said, “Whoever gets here I need help!” signed Arnold Whinston. That was our grandpa’s name, so I shrieked happily. “Let’s follow the arrows!” Ralph said, starting to follow the trail with me happily lingering behind. “Umm, I don’t want to get my new pair of sandals in that,” Ama said pointing at the mud that the arrows were on top of. “C’mon, Ama, it’s not that bad,” I say, holding out a hand so she can hold on while she walks in the mud with her new sandals. “Ugh, fine!” Ama says angrily, pushing my hand away and then walking in front of Ralph who was in the lead who just got impeached by Ama. We walk for 30 minutes and Ama gets tired right away which annoys me and Ralph because every 5 minutes she would


complain, “Look at that,” “Oh no, not that,” “I don’t want to.” The arrows stop, so we do too and sit on a log. I look around feeling hopeless and I notice something fuzzy 5 feet away from me. I walk over and climb on top. “This is fun and fuzzy!” I yell down to Ralph and Ama so they would join me on this fuzzy thing. “Careful, Hails. You don’t know what it is,” Ralph yells at me while he jumps off the log to come over to pull me off. “It’s completely sa—” I get cut off when I feel the fuzzy thing start to move. I'm surprised at first, then I think it’s nothing. Then it took off. Turns out it was a butterfly. It flew me toward a mountain. I look behind me and I see Ralph and Ama on butterflies too. We all land on a mountain and find arrows again to an amazingly shaped treehouse. Ralph stops me from getting inside first since he’s so protective of me and Ama, “Hello, anybody in there?” Ralph yells in as the door surprisingly opens wide even though none of us touched the door. “Ah, guests! We don’t have many of those at these places.” An old man comes in the doorway with his eyes closed holding a toucan on his shoulders. I immediately notice this person. “Grandpa?” we all say together. Not the old man, but Ralph, Ama, and me. We look in disbelief not knowing what next. The old man finally opens his eyes. “Who knew it was my grandchildren who would save me!” he says as he opens his arms wide open. Tears fall down his cheeks as we run up and hug him.


Grandpa takes us in for tea and at that second I forgot that we were stuck on an island, but then Ralph brang it up. “How will we get off this island?” Ralph says finishing up his cup of tea and standing up to start pacing around the room thinking, “Say Hails what's in your back pocket?” Grandpa says pointing at a pen I’ve never seen before in my life. “Uhh, I don’t know,” I finally answer as I pull out the pen that mysteriously popped up in my back pocket. I walk out of the treehouse for more light and I uncap the pen. The pen bounces out of my hand. It drops to the ground and there’s a chariot with butterflies as the fliers for us and it looked great. We bounced in and I could finally say Grandpa’s coming home. Then I told them about my nightmare but that didn’t seem so scary any longer. I felt fine, I felt great, I felt...relieved. To the human eye our chariot that was in the air looked like a tiny airplane, but to us it was a beautiful chariot. Once we got home, Mom and Dad came racing toward us. Mom, all red faced and saggy, and Dad just so messed up, but when they saw us, their faces lightened up. We went inside after all the hugs and kisses and we told our parents everything that happened. But what surprised Mom and Dad was Grandma. “So when did you go to Grandma’s home again, Hailey? My mom asked in disbelief looking at me with those ‘are you lying?’ eyes. “Tuesday,” I answered.


“When did you get the voice message?” Mom asked. “At 5:30 on Monday.” “But sweetie, that's impossible.Your grandma died at 1:30 on Monday from a heart attack!” Mom said unbelievably. I looked at Grandpa. “All that I love, Isabel, is that my wife, Karla, helped the kids save me,” he says smiling then looking up. It’s been 2 months since Grandma’s death and I’m visiting her grave once more. I sit down beside the grave. Grandma helped us save Grandpa. Grandma knew how to fight obstacles and go on adventures to defeat. She taught me well. If there’s any obstacle or adventure I’m ready to succeed and tackle it down. Come my way, obstacles, you’re gone. Any adventures are tackled down. I’m ready for the next. I miss her. I stare at that sunset for a moment longer. I get up and stand. I’M READY!


JOINING TOGETHER AT A DISTANCE Catherine Murphy 5th Grade • Queen of All Saints School

We were not expecting this blow to our lives. Each one of us tired of being stuck inside Reaching out to shake a hand could mean someone would die Even when the first U.S. case was identified Inside was where we wished to hide. Now, as this is nationwide Together we must sanitize, Help each other and become unified In this together until this subsides. Still it continues to intensify This is the time we must listen to the qualified Or suffer the consequences of it being defied Getting together is not to even be tried Everyone we must remind This is not a time to be disinclined Hard though, when it comes to social distancing that is not fine Everyone is going through the same ride Remember to stay on the bright side.



EGG SALAD SANDWICH Ava Obafemi 4th Grade • STEM Magnet Academy

CHAPTER ONE "Come on, you know you can only take one sandwich," my mom says as a man with dreadlocks and no teeth tries to sneak two egg salad sandwiches onto his plate. It's Saturday, and mom and I are at the homeless shelter, which is not where I want to be. My mom always says it's nice to help people who are in need, so when I'm with her on the weekend, we come here to feed the homeless for a bit. I know I probably sound selfish, petty and so inconsiderate, but I always feel awkward coming here. Most people who volunteer here are in their mid-forties and I'm only fifteen and having to watch people who have not showered in forever eat like they will never see food again is not necessarily my idea of a good time. Regardless, the day is going okay, but all of that changes when I see what appears to be a hundred year old man come in and ask another volunteer for a sandwich instead of simply joining the line and just taking one. I don’t know if he knows what he is supposed to do, so I grab a sandwich plate and attempt to take it to him. Apparently, the lady standing next to me in the food line spilled some water on the floor. I don’t see the mess and make a complete fool of myself when I slip in the pool of water, fall flat on my back and the egg salad sandwich plate lands with a splat on my head. I instantly hear everyone laughing, even the


man I was trying to help. To make matters worse, I notice the whole embarrassing moment is being recorded on multiple cell phones. I am so humiliated. I run outside and I have no intentions of going back inside for the rest of the time Mom is in there. Later, Mom and I drive home to her apartment in complete silence. She knows I am so upset. Mom’s place is small, but at least I have my own room. I sit and cry on my bed until I heard my phone ping like crazy. I look on my phone and there are seventy-three messages and alerts from my friends. Looks like the video of my fall has made it to FaceSpace and I am now the butt of everyone’s jokes. I am mortified. Needless to say, I am NOT going back to that darn homeless shelter for a long, long time. Shoot, it may just be me and my beloved books in this room FOREVER.

CHAPTER TWO Thankfully, Sunday at mom's house is better. We don't have to go to the homeless shelter, so Mom let me sleep in and I got to laze around and read before lunch. After lunch, she says I can go hang out with my friends, which is a nice surprise. Mom usually keeps me close since I only see her on the weekends. See, even she clearly feels sorry for me after what happened yesterday. After I finish the last bit of my homework, I make plans to meet up with my friends at the mall. Mom drops me off and tells me she’ll be back to get me in a couple of hours. On my way into the new phone store where my friends and I are supposed to meet, I hear "Coley" yelled very loudly and it seems like everyone in the vicinity turns and looks at me. My friend Heather, who's here before me, as usual, runs up and hugs me.


"OMG! What happened yesterday? You got like a million views!" I look at her with a look that says "Don't ask!" then say, "Where's Vanessa?"' Heather points and says "Over there", which I take to mean she's at the food court. “Beware she's kind of in a mood. She said there's no point in waiting for you because you're always late" says Heather and follows it up with an eye roll. I shrug my shoulders and say, "we can just do our shopping and meet up with her after then’. We lock arms and her long blond braid swings and hits me as we kind of skip off toward the next store. As we approach the food court about forty five minutes later, I see Vanessa. She sees me and smiles. "Oh, you're finally here," she says with a hint of sassiness. "Actually, I've been here for a bit, but Heather and I went to do some shopping before coming over here". Her makeup, which is done perfectly and must have taken hours to do, cannot cover up the look of frustration on her face. She shoots Heather a look and Heather quickly turns red in embarrassment and tries to change the subject. "We should all go to Never 45. Heard they're having an awesome sale!" As we start to walk to the store Vanessa says," Girl, what’s up with your hair?"


"Uhh, I was in a hurry”. My hair is down and as curly as it wants to be. I thought I looked cute, until now. We stop in a few more stores and find ourselves back in the food court. Vanessa quickly walks over and sits down with a bunch of boys from school. Heather looks at me, shrugs her shoulders and points to our favorite taco spot. When we get in line, a little girl keeps peering up at us clearly listening to our conversation. Eventually she says, "Are you Egg Salad Sandwich Girl?" Heather snorts through her nose, trying not to laugh, but the people behind do not contain their laughter. I'm blushing under my freckles and tears are building up in my dark brown eyes. I push through the humiliation and say "Actually, yeah. Wasn't that hilarious?" Everyone starts laughing harder. I lose my cool, push through the crowd of people and run to the nearest bathroom. "Nicole!" yells Heather, running behind me. It’s impossible to hold back my tears when I get to the bathroom. If Vanessa thought I looked bad before, she should see me now. The little bit of mascara I'm wearing is now running down my face and onto my white paisley top. I try to stop when Heather comes in and hugs me. "I'm sorry I laughed at you, Coley. Are you okay?" Then I hear, "She's gonna be just fine." Vanessa suddenly appears and sits on the restroom counter next to me and continues by saying, "I saw the whole thing. Sorry you are having to deal with all of this, but you know I think that little girl may have been a real fan. We all laugh a little. Vanessa may be hard to figure out, moody and sassy at times, but it's times like this that I’m reminded why we’re friends.


CHAPTER THREE Suddenly, I get a bunch of texts from my mom. Where are you? Your dad is going to be at the house soon Be where I dropped you in five When Mom and I pull up in front of the apartment building, I see Dad’s car in front. “Great,” Mom says with a sigh. “Go pack quickly. I’ll stay down here.” I take the elevator up, run inside and pack quickly as Mom suggested. I grab my makeup bag, and a few of the cute tees I just bought and toss them into the Louis Vuitton bag Dad bought me last Christmas. As soon as the elevator door opens, I can tell Mom is upset and has been crying. Sunday. “Switch Day.” My least favorite day of the week.


"So, what's up?" Dad says, turning at the stop sign. "Umm...nothing," I respond. "Except this,” Sam, my step-brother says, showing me his phone from the front passenger seat. It’s the video of me slipping and falling in the pool of water at the homeless shelter. Sam laughs.


"You’re an overnight celeb, Cole,” he says. I bury my head in my hands. Sam is one of the only good parts about spending the school week at Dad’s house. He’s a year older than me and is pretty cool. We get along really well and I’m typically pretty grateful for him, although I’m not so sure right now. Soon we pull up to the front of dad's house. It’s a big difference from Mom’s place. Dad’s house is not really a house, it’s a mansion. With a huge front yard, four stories, eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, a screening room, a pool, a basketball court in the backyard and a 4-car garage, it was really different from Mom’s place. Dad inherited the bank my grandfather started right after my mom and he divorced. Great timing, right? Dad turns and pulls into the private driveway. His Lamborghini sits in the garage. Sam immediately asks if dad can drive him to school in it this week and like always, Dad says no. Sam picks up a basketball off the shelf after he hops out of Dad’s SUV and starts to walk to the backyard to play, then turns and asks, “Feel like getting your butt kicked?” I stick out my tongue, shew him off and walk into the house. I am greeted at the door by Mimi, my step-siblings Maltipoo. Mimi is another thing that makes me happy when I come to Dad’s house. She is so darn cute and a great snuggler. The only bad thing about Mimi is that she can bark, sometimes uncontrollably. "Quiet Mimi, quite," I whisper. She keeps barking. "She only listens to her family," my step-sister and Sam’s twin sister, Victoria, says in her usual catty voice.


"Quiet" Victoria snaps and Mimi stops. "I haven’t even been here for five minutes and you’re already picking a fight with me Vic. I hate you, you know that?” I say with loads of frustration in my voice. “Young lady, who do you think you’re talking to?" Just then my step-mom, Taylor, comes out from around the corner. "Mom, I was just asking Nicole if she needed any help and she just started being so mean," Victoria looks at her mom, with fake tears in her eyes. "What!" I say,“That is not true. Vic started in on me as soon as I walked in. She’s always picking on me!” I reply, my voice trembling a bit. “Seems to me like Vicky is the one being picked on here.” Taylor says, putting her arm around Vic’s shoulder. I roll my eyes and brush past them as I continue into the house. As picturesque as my Dad’s house may be on the outside, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops in here, trust me.

CHAPTER FOUR I essentially spent the rest of the evening in my bedroom, reading. It was a quiet dinner too. After such an awful start to the weekend, I’m just not up for the anymore confrontation. Not to mention, my phone is still pinging and the video is still getting lots of likes on FaceSpace. I begged Dad to not make me go to school this morning at breakfast. I know I am going to be the laughing stock of the school, but the begging got me nowhere. I got ready for school


and got on this bus. People, even the bus driver, are snickering and laughing. It’s going to be a long week.


It’s definitely been a rough week. I’ve been pointed at, laughed at and made fun of. I’m hoping by next week, people will forget that they were calling me “Mayo Head” and “Eggo”. I am just so grateful that it’s Friday and that Mom is here, at school, to pick me up. We go to the store, like we do every Friday after school, pick out a flavor of ice cream to share and pick up a pizza on the way home. I know Mom will be able to make me feel better. Friday night movie night always does.

CHAPTER FIVE So, as predicted, Friday night was pretty great, but this morning is not off to a great start. Mom has me up early and seems to think that going back to the homeless shelter will make me feel better. I’m not convinced, but I know we only have a short time together, so I’m here, reluctantly. I can feel eyes on me and can hear giggles as I walk into the shelter with my head down. I make my way to the serving station and put on my gloves. I look up and see the man who basically caused the whole situation walk into the homeless shelter. I turn my head, but he stumbles over toward me. “Hello,” he says.


“Hi,” I say, not wanting to talk to him. “I want to apologize for last week.” He looks down and continues. “When I was younger, I was made fun of because I couldn’t read. I am dyslexic and still don’t know how to read, but I’ve always wanted to learn.” I want to ignore him. I want to tell him to keep moving, but instead I show sympathy. After my shift, I talk to him more while Mom helps clean the kitchen. His name is Michael and he’s a really nice man. Listening to him has made me forget about the sandwich incident and it has given me time to think about something else. Something other than myself. On the ride back to Mom’s place that afternoon, I told her that I want to start a Book Club at the shelter. I told her I want to read to people like Michael. I want to help them escape the challenges of their lives by going on adventures through books. Mom absolutely loves the idea. As soon as I get home, I make a flyer to post at the shelter and in the nearby community. I can’t wait. Our first book will be Moby Dick because Michael mentioned that he has always wanted to read that book. I think he’s going to love this.


Our first Book Club meeting was amazing. It was so much fun and I was right, Michael loved it. I’m so happy he’s happy. Everyone really seems to enjoy the story and they are looking forward to next week’s meeting. After the meeting, I met up with my friends at the mall and


they told me that someone recorded a video of the Book Club and it’s getting a bunch of likes on FaceSpace. Later that afternoon, as we walked through the mall, we ran into the same little girl from the taco line. She smiled at me from a distance and said, “I wanna be just like you.� I think this is the beginning of something beautiful.


THE ROOM WITH A TABLE Georgia Pooler 5th Grade • Agassiz Elementary

Chapter 1 “Hey!” Jane shouted. She and her sister, Donna, were chasing each other through the woods and Donna was far ahead. “Wait up!” Jane was frantically trying to keep up, but Donna managed to find a little extra energy and use it as a power up; either that or Jane was just really slow. “In your dreams!” Donna shouted back, barely breaking a sweat. As Jane finally managed to catch up, her sister came to a sudden halt and looked as if she had seen something inexplicably beautiful. This was the perfect opportunity for Jane to catch her breath. Jane was almost able to control her breathing, until she found out what Donna was staring at so shockingly and it took her breath away. Beyond them was the most beautiful skyline that she had ever seen, with the city in the center, and all around it were forests, lakes, and Jane could even see the ocean behind it. “Wow,” Jane said, a little starstruck, she was still trying to take in what she was seeing. She always lived in the forest, surrounded by trees, not overlooking them. She turned to see Donna's reaction, but there was no Donna. Instead Donna was speeding to the house, and Jane just gave


up knowing if she ever tried to catch up, she would wind up losing her breath with her sister proudly looking at her with a devilish smile. When she got to the house, she stepped on her porch and stared at the porch swing as it slowly rocked back and forth in the soft breeze. Inside the house, her mother was setting up the dinner table that was slowly chipping away as the wood got weaker and weaker. Jane's mom always said that when half of it is gone, they would get a new one, which wouldn't likely happen. As she turned her head she saw Donna carrying the dinner plates for mom to put on the table. “Well, it's about time!” Donna said as she glided across the room with her plain white socks almost tripping her as a wrinkle formed in them. “There's no need to be shouting unless you're in a crowd,” her mom said. Jane and Donna always listened to their mom, partly because there was no dad to give orders. Donna went quiet as she shifted her weight when she sat down. Jane held back her laugh as best as she could, but Donna must have noticed because she glared at her as if Jane just committed a crime and blamed it on Donna. “Yeah Donna, there's no need to shout,” Jane teased. “And there's no need to tease either,” her mom said and went back to placing the food on the plates. All of a sudden, her mom froze and started coughing frantically, this time she knelt down and shut her eyes tight. Jane and Donna were used to this, although the coughing had started getting worse, although it wasn't contagious, because Jane and Donna would've gotten it by now. Then her mom got up, dusted off


her floral dress, and beamed at them and said, “Well, that was... unexpected,” and walked over to the dining table. Donna and Jane shared a look of concern, but they trusted their mother and carried on with the night.

Chapter 2 Later that night Jane was peacefully sleeping when all of a sudden she awoke to a loud THUMP. Jane honestly thought that it was Donna due to her “nightly tossing and turning” as she liked to call it. However, she completely changed that thought when Donna peeked through her doorway and said, “You okay? I heard a loud thud and thought it might've been you.” It felt as if someone punched Jane in the stomach when she managed to ask, “You heard that too?” “Wait, that wasn't you?” Donna's voice cracked in the middle of the sentence as they both shared a worried look. Jane jumped out of bed ignoring the fact she was terribly sleepy and it was the middle of the night. “Mom?” she said as Donna was behind her and Jane was peeking through the door in their mom's room. As Jane entered the room she heard a soft grunt. While Donna was following behind her Jane had to step back in order to calm herself. “What is it?” Donna asked in a slightly shaky voice. “Mommy?” Jane said, ignoring Donna's attempt to get her attention. Laying down on the floor, sweaty and pale, was their mom.


Donna hurried to her mom's phone and dialed 911 as Jane was checking her mom's pulse, and thankfully, she was still alive. “Hello?" Donna said in a shaky voice, “Um, our mom just passed out on the floor and she's feverish and we don't know what to do so plea—” She stopped, paused, swallowed down her sadness, and finished off with a traditional “Okay, thank you.” She hung up and started having a meltdown on the floor. Jane was stunned, she had never seen her sister like this; she was always more of “haha I'm pretty amazing and you're average” to her. Without thinking, she hugged her sister tightly, not caring about the fact that she hated when she touched her, but to her surprise, Donna hugged back. Donna stepped back and wiped her tears on her pajama sleeve as the ambulance pulled up to the house. The very next morning, Jane woke up on a day like any other. She was shaking from the night before, hoping it was all a dream and nothing more. She made her way to her mom's room and noticed that Donna was doing the same thing, and sadly, their mom was nowhere to be found. All of a sudden, the house phone rang and surprised both Jane and Donna. This time, Jane was the one to answer. “HHello?” she stuttered. “Hello. This is the local hospital calling to tell you that your mom is currently with us at the moment; however, she will only stay with us for a week.” “Wait, did you say a week?” Jane said, glancing at Donna to find her sitting at the dining table biting her nails, staring at her with a worried look.


“Yes ma'am, I believe I said a week. However, she is extremely lucky due to her condition. Just try and stay calm.” The front desk at the hospital hung up and left Jane and Donna all alone, for a week.

Chapter: 3 The first couple days that Jane and Donna were at home without their mom were pretty ok. Donna threw a fit because Jane didn’t think that it was a good idea to visit mom. Jane also got really mad because Donna left the morning before and Jane thought that she was out to see mom. On the third day Jane and Donna barely talked to each other unless they had a fight. As Jane came into the dining room to get the last cereal bar, she noticed Donna sitting at the table staring off into space. “What is it now?” Jane said, knowing every time Donna had that look, she was thinking about mom. “Well....” Donna started, looking at her with sad eyes, “Don't you miss her?” “That's a silly question, of course I do,” Jane replied, startled and a little offended by the question. “Why would you say that?” Donna stood, staring at her with a cold glare, but then it softened as she said, “Well, I don't know, it's just...aren't you sick of fighting? Like all the time?” Donna sighed as her eyes became glossy. “I mean, do you think mom would be proud of us right now? Fighting over the tiniest things, like we need her


every possible second to help us?” Jane was stunned. She opened her mouth to argue, but she stopped herself realizing that she actually agreed with Donna, so she said, “Who am I kidding? She would probably be upset right now, but every time we think she’ll yell, she just gives a suggestion.” Jane paused, carefully wording her next sentence. “I can't say she's proud of us,” Jane said. “All I can say is that she taught us to be in the real world alone, and she taught us to love each other like sisters should.” Jane sighed. “And I think that now would be a pretty good time to start.” “What do you mean?” Donna said, a little confused. “Well, you know, we should do more things together,” Jane shrugged. “Continue....” Donna said with a furrowed brow. “Like clean up or cook together,” Jane replied. Donna looked a little shocked. “Oh my goodness that's not a bad idea.” “Wait, what?” Jane said. “No no no, I didn't mea—” “I know, but it's not a bad idea!” Donna insisted. “She always cooks and cleans, and since she's not here why can't we do it?” Jane considered this for a moment. “I didn't think you would take me seriously, but I actually think that's a good idea.” “Well, when do we start?” Donna asked, more joyful then this entire time without mom. “Since you seem really energetic, then there's no time like the present.”


Chapter: 4 Jane and Donna got to work right away, and Jane was surprised to see Donna this happy. They decided to start off with the cleaning. “So, you seem weirdly happy,” Jane said. “What do you mean?” Donna said, confused. “A couple minutes ago you were just fussing about missing mom.” Donna put her hands on the counter they were cleaning, and stared out the window. “Well, it's just, I need to get my mind off her by doing something, and this is certainly something.” Donna gave a happy sigh. “It's getting late, let's get some rest and continue this tomorrow.” “Well, okay,” Jane said. The next day went by quickly. Donna and Jane cleaned the kitchen, polished the dining room table, and started their mom's room, which was emotional and messier than usual. Jane really wanted to go back to the skyline they saw the day mom got sent to the hospital. It was now the sixth day, the last day until mom came home. Jane and Donna were baking a cake, and finished six steak tacos with avocado, lettuce, sour cream, and beans. Jane also got carried away and ended up making chili that wasn't spicy, and Donna said it was actually good. “One more day,” Donna said as she was mixing the batter in a blue bowl. “Can you believe it?” said Jane. "We were so afraid at the start, but...well....” She paused.


“What?” Donna said. “Have you noticed the connection between us?” Jane responded. Donna stopped mixing. “Well, you do have a point. We never really did this because mom told us to. We did it because of her, not for her. Okay, let's get this in some pans and in the oven.” “Don't forget the frosting,” Jane said. “Uh, I was born to know everything about sweets,” Donna said matter-of-factly. It was true. “Well then, I guess we should start making the frosting, and also the toppings, or chocolate chips,” Jane said. “What if we just stick with chocolate chips?” Donna said, chuckling.

The Final Chapter It was early in the morning when Jane woke up. She got dressed quicker than she expected and raced to the window showing the driveway, or in this case, where they would finally see their mom again. Donna was sitting at the dining table as Jane was speeding by. “Well, this is it,” she said. “What do you mean?” Jane said. “You sound kind of sad.” “No! No no no no. I'm not sad, just... worried.” “Why?”


“Because what if things go back to how they were!” “You mean with mom?” “No, not like that, well, yes, kind of, but not because I don't want mom home!” “Then what do you mean?” “What if we go back to fighting again and — and it's like this never happened?” Jane went to Donna's side and put a hand on her shoulder. “That won't happen,” she said. “How are you so sure?” Donna asked. “Well, considering what we've been through, why would we ever go back to that?” “Well, I guess you're right,” Donna said as she thought about it more and more. Just as Jane was about to speak, she heard the dirt on the driveway being rolled over by wheels. Jane and Donna perked up like dogs that heard a cat's meow as they raced to the door. Donna hesitated as she saw the ambulance pull up. “This is it,” she said as she pushed open the door and ran outside with Jane close behind. Getting out of the ambulance was none other than the lady who cared for them all their lives, who picked up what they put down, literally and figuratively. There, running towards. them, was none other than their own mom. Jane tried to see more clearly as she pulled her mom tight to her chest, but her eye sight wasn't working as well as it


should’ve through the blur of tears. “Mommy?” Jane said as she looked up, still hugging her. “Yes?” her mom said sobbing through a smile. Donna hadn’t said anything, she was just hugging her mom, crying just as hard as her family. Donna finally stepped back along with Jane and said, “We were so worried.” “I'm sure you were no more worried than I was waking up in a hospital without you.” But then she paused, noticing the word. "Were?" Donna nodded. “Jane and I got through it together,” she said as she put an arm around Jane. “We even made you a surprise, didn't we Jane?” “Heh, yeah, we sure did,” Jane said as she wiped her tears on her wrist. “What?” her mom said. Donna and Jane led their mom inside, and she put a hand over her mouth as she gasped, “Oh, oh my goodness,” she said as she saw the cleaned house. “That's not all,” Jane said, opening the fridge, revealing the cake, tacos, and accidental chili. Her mom almost cried again when she said, “You did this? All by yourselves?” “The chili was an accident,” Donna said. Jane, Donna, and their mom sat down around the dining table and knew that the table would stay just as strong as their love for each other, even though it doesn't always seem strong, it will always hold the weight of their challenges.


FAMILY NEVER ENDS Mollie Pooler 5th Grade • Agassiz Elementary

Family before friends they said Family time before parties they said. Family is always by your side. Even through the sadness, happiness, and dread. A family always clears the gloomy clouds away. Boyfriend ends in -end. Girlfriend ends in -end. Friends end in -end. Family ends in -ily. I love you.



THE TAIL Alberto Ramirez 4th Grade • Ernst Prussing Elementary

We were rushing down the stairs to play with the sand and make the biggest sandcastle. We collected sea shells to use them as decoration. With our buckets we gathered wet sand to make the structure hold. “Should we have flags in our castle?” I asked. “Sure, we should probably put more sand,” my sister replied. We played until we got tired and thirsty. We went back to the house and cleaned our flip-flops from the sand, then at the kitchen, grabbed a good drink of cold lemonade. Since we were tired we sat at the couch and relaxed by playing our favorite board game. Our house at the beach was small, but there was a hidden waterway behind the house. We explored that area regularly, during rainy days we will see small fish and frogs hanging around. There was a brown small wooden bridge to cross the waterway, it connected our house with a path that led to the forest and our neighbors. The river had little pebbles and zigzag forms, I loved to collect rocks along with my sister. If the rock was big enough we would throw them and see how many times they would bounce on the water. My favorite part of the house was the waterway, but the sand hill that led to the beach was also beautiful because it had green bushes that surrounded it.


“You are cheating!” my sister yelled. “No I am not, you are!” Actually I was, but I didn't want to say it because my sister always wins and I don't like when it happens. “Look, checkmate — I won!” she yelled while dancing and jumped on the sofa. “What do we do now? I am bored, I wish we had a pet,” I demanded. “Yes I like dogs. They are cute and fluffy and adorable.” my sister answered. Our need for a pet became an obsessive dream, despite our house at the beach offering amusement, we were bored often. My mom was a nurse and worked very hard at the hospital so we barely saw her during weekdays. She would call us during the week and come to see us during the weekend. She probably missed us as much as we missed her. My dad was a teacher, but for some reason he couldn't go to the school to teach. Every day he would have virtual meetings and would be busy working and calling and talking with his students and assistant teachers. My sister and I couldn't go to school nor see our friends. Anyway, we felt pretty lonely and wanted to have company. That night, the rain came pouring and a noise scared us when someone slammed the door. I saw a shadow on the floor with big teeth and claws, but when I looked up there were only raincoats and one umbrella. It was my grandparents! Grandma and Grandpa made apple pie. When dessert time came everybody tried to eat it, it was soft and sticky. She forgot to cook it!


All of us were laughing about it. Grandma was pretending to laugh too, but I sensed she was embarrassed. She actually went to the bathroom to cry. Something suspicious was happening so Grandpa looked for her. “What are you doing here?” he asked. Grandma continued crying and explained she was embarrassed. “It is OK to be embarrassed,” Grandpa told her while wiping her tears. “Listen, I have something to tell you. I heard our grandchildren want a pet. Do you think they would like a dog?” Not sure if Grandma answered but they came back to finish dinner — but not the apple pie. She looked back on her feet and said, “You know Grandmas sometimes forget to do stuff.” Everyone laughed again. After we finished dinner, we played cards together. We let Grandma win so she wouldn't be sad anymore. My sister and I went to bed. We were tired. This was probably the moment when my parents and my grandparents discussed they wanted to make a surprise gift to us. The next morning our parents gave us a LEGO kit for Easter. We were so happy that we decided to build it. We did it in just a couple of hours. It was a 3-in-1 set with 650 pieces, a little house, two figures and a dog as a pet. Then we remembered our obsessive need for a real life pet. Out of the sudden, we heard a car sound. We ran to the window and saw a car parked in the driveway. My sister and I went to the driveway, then we saw something in the car's window. It had hair, eyes, ears and nose. It was, it was...


Grandpa and in his lap there was a cute, fluffy puppy for us! We named it Max! We were so happy about the presents that my sister and I cried of joy. The next morning, we woke up a little later than usual. A noise woke us up, it was our puppy, and noticed something strange. “Hey sister don't you think our puppy looks different?” I asked. “I think its tail grew,” she added on. I got out of bed and put my sandals to find the measurement tape. We measured Max's tail and realized that it had grown 5 inches overnight. “I told you the tail had grown,” my sister replied. By the following week it grew so much that we started to play jump-rope with Max's tail outside in the sand. It was a lot of fun, but sometimes if we didn't jump correctly, we would step on the tail and Max would cry. That weekend when our mother came home, she found out how we were playing with Max. She was astonished. “What are you doing to that poor little dog? Hey, wait, it is not possible that its tail is that big, we need to take it to the veterinarian,” my mother told us. We took Max to the veterinarian and then the laboratory because we cared for it and wanted to see what was wrong. The doctors said the tail had a growth problem and it will never stop growing. “Seriously, there's nothing you can do about it?” I ask with a disappointed face.


We felt disappointed but at the same time we knew we had a special dog. We went to the car and put Max's tail around our feet and car seats, then our mother drove back home. Few days later, the tail had grown so long that they had to roll up the tail through the chairs around the table up to the stairs then to the bathroom and back. This was a problem because we tripped and stepped on it a lot. When Max would move it would pull the chairs and throw the plates off the table, etc. Then, we had an idea. We rolled the dog's tail in a circle, it was so long, we formed a cone of puppy tail. It worked for some time, but then Max would run and all our effort would vanish. To avoid this we had to make different cones and spaces between them so Max could move. My father was very annoyed, “I'm done with this catastrophic, enormous, horrible, incredible chaos! I'm going to send this dog to vets or scientists, and tell them to cut that dog's tail once and for all,” My father said. “Nooooo, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaase!” my sister and I yelled. “Dad, don't do that please. Look at him, he is already suffering and you want him to suffer even more???” we continued. “Just imagine you were him and we would have taken you to cut off your tail dad, huh, would you like that? Answer dad!” I shouted at him. “Okay, okay, okay you convinced me. I won't cut his tail because you are right, he will suffer more and we don't do that to a family member.” Couple of days passed after we convinced our parents not to


cut our dog's tail. But, Max's tail was still very long and didn't fit inside of the house any longer. “Why don't we just make a swinging door gate at the bottom of the door so his tail can stay out? This way we don't have to worry about the tail inside the house,” my sister said. Our problems didn't end here. The dog's tail would get very dirty, especially when it rained a lot. Sometimes it will get buried in sand, water or other stuff, it takes a lot of time and energy to my sister and I, to clean up and wash the tail so the sand doesn't get stuck in the tail's fur and itch him. It was too much work to deal with it. If it was a sunny day, Max would take his tongue out because it was hot. Then we would take the tail to the sea water to get it refreshed. Our dog would feel refreshed once the tail reached the cold water. One night after a very long hot day, there was a big storm and we had to run inside the house. The waves got bigger and bigger with the storm, then the tail got pulled by the big waves deep into the sea. With the tide at night, the tail traveled away from the shore. Since the tail was so large, it went very deep and very far away in the ocean. It got all covered with algae, barnacles, plankton, krill, very sticky stuff, and especially trash. I still wonder why Max didn’t wake up. I guess he was used to having a long tail or maybe was in a deep sleep dreaming about munching a big bone. The next morning, we finally woke up to eat breakfast. After we finished our fruit and cereal, we rushed to brush our teeth and play with Max. Then we realized Max couldn’t move.


“What is happening to him?” my sister asked. “I don’t know. Maybe he is tired,” I replied. “Don’t think he’s tired. He looks in trouble,” my sister replied with a strange look. We put our shoes on and went outside to the beach. We saw nothing but sand covering everything and the tail was not there. “All the sand is covering the tail,” I told her. We followed the tail and started digging it out. It was a lot of work because some of the sand kept falling in again. The tail was too stuck and too heavy. So we asked for help from our parents. “Yeah, we finally uncovered the tail!” my sister yelled with an excited tone. Unfortunately, we realized that it wasn’t the end of the tail. We discovered that the tail went into the sea, and we started to pull. No use. It was heavy and the waves kept pushing it back. Our mom went to get help from the neighbors, but all of them couldn’t believe her about the size of the tail and thought it was just a prank. My mom had to convince them. When they arrived, they couldn’t believe what they saw. Our neighbors put on a shocked face with their eyes and mouths wide open while they pulled the tail with us. “On the count of three...one, two, PULL!” my neighbor shouted. This didn’t help. Then my grandparents came. They helped too. After a while, our neighbors called other neighbors and soon all the neighborhood was there helping. In the meantime, Max kept barking. His tail hurt because it was crinkled.


The neighborhood was pulling the tail as if it were a big tugof-war. As our neighbors pulled, we felt we were close to the end of it. As the tail came out, our neighbors started to pick up, clean the trash from the tail, and then rolled it up. Suddenly, we saw a sort of fountain coming from the sea. We thought it could be something cool. “Is that a whale?” asked one of the neighbors. Everybody turned around and wowed. There was something floating in the water, like a house with fins. It was an 80-yearold whale who followed the algae, barnacles, plankton, and krill that got stuck on Max’s tail. When the whale started to splash the water, we finally saw the end of the tail coming out of the water. Then we saw a second whale, but the size was different. It was a baby whale that was following her mother. Everybody gathered and looked. After watching the whales, we all picked up Max’s tail and put it in a safe place so it didn’t go back into the ocean. Max was jumping and doing his best to wiggle his heavy and long tail. He looked joyful. My neighbors were surprised that my dog’s tail could be so long. Suddenly, the tail started to shrink. Maybe it was because Max was finally happy or the tail was tired of being so long. Whatever the reason, all the neighbors and us enjoyed that moment. After this experience, my neighbors believe in tales, including my dog’s tail. Now they think everything could be possible. We hugged each other and thought that sometimes things just are the way they are.


DEATH’S FLOWER Isla Roen 5th Grade • Saxe Middle School

“We’re going on a field trip!” Mom cries. Lucy is sulking in the back seat, for she hated going to the doctor. I give her a nudge and she turns her head away from me to hide a smile. I roll my eyes and pull her ponytail. “Stop it Iris!” she whines. “Both of you, CUT IT OUT!” Dad yells. That shut me up. “But Daddy, Iris did it, not me!” Lucy kicks the seat in front of her. “Lucy,” Mom says, annoyed. “That was my seat!” Sam kicks my shin, and pretty hard. Me and Sam are twins, both 14. That feeling when you want to scream but you know you have to be the bigger person came rolling inside of me. We had been seeing strange things happening with Lucy along with a bump on her neck. Last week, the doctors had taken a small sample of that and since then, we have been on the road to quite a few labs. Today, we hoped would be the day that we would get the results of what has been going on in Lucy’s 6year-old body. Ever since this process has started, my family has been a magnet to fights. Finally, we arrive at the doctor's office and I pull out my phone ready to drain out all the screaming that Lucy was going to do. I plug in my earbuds and turn on “Today’s Hits” at its


loudest notch. I start listening when Sam grabs one of them right out of my ear. “My phone is dead!” he screams, competing with the music. Everyone looks at him and his face flushes bright red. This happened to him quite a lot. When Lucy is done, we turn off our music, anxiously waiting for a word. Instead, Mom and Dad get called back into the office. They want Lucy to stay in the waiting room with us. I hear a gasp. I look at Sam. He’s heard it too. I tell him I’ll go in, while he watches Lucy. “Where ya goin’?” she asks. I ignore her and walk in. Everyone looks wide eyed. “What is it? I ask. I feel my legs start to fail. Mom looks at Dad and he nods as if giving her permission to speak. “Iris, Lucy is very sick.” I feel confused. “We have caught this very late and we cannot remove it from her body safely.” “No.” I say. “No no.” Grandma had it too. I remember too clearly. Cancer has taken one of my favorite people in the whole world. Grandma was like my go-to person. She always was there for me. Then, cancer just wiped her out. She died within months of getting it. I clutch my phone in my hand so tight, I feel like I will shatter it. “We want her to stay at the hospital for a while to take some tests,” the nurse says. The first tear streaks Mom’s face. She nods. I clear my throat to get the nurse’s attention. “Will she survive?” I ask.


“It all depends on how strong her body is.” With that, she walks past me and takes her mask off. I shook my head with disbelief. Ugh. I could already tell this was NOT the summer that I was hoping for. Mom, Dad and Lucy all head out to the car, but I stay in with Sam. I repeat what Mom had said to me just before. “Sam, Lucy is very sick.” “Cancer?” he asks, as if reading my mind. I purse my lips. His eyelids flutter a little and he takes my hand. “Hang in there Sam. We’ve got each other.” Then, we walk out together. I forgot for a while how much I loved and needed Sam. When we reach the hospital, Lucy licks her lips. “What’s wrong with me?” she asks casually. “Oh Lucy,” Mom cries. “Tell me!” she shrieks. “Lucy, you’re a little sick, so the people here are going to help you.” Mom understates a little. A couple weeks later, nothing changed. Even the morning call. My least favorite part of the day. “Good morning!” the nurse says cheerfully. She’s always there to remind us that we are still in the hospital. Still waiting and hoping for the clearance for Lucy. I look at Sam. He rolls his eyes with feigned annoyance but quite unexpectedly for both of us, a tear slid down his cheek. I wrap my arm around him. He tries to dodge me but fails and puts his head in my chest. I give him a wonky smile with my


braces face. His eyes light up a little, and it feels good knowing I was the cause for it. Sam was always sad lately. Weeks ago because of Grandma who he also looked up to, and today, because of Lucy. Of course we all were, but Sam seemed as if something had punched him right in the gut. It was so unfair. Nothing seemed fair at this point in time. Grandma had passed just before Lucy got sick. Our family had been broken ever since. Sam picks Lucy up and brings her to the couch in the office. She was going to have to leave soon, though. When Mom motioned “out,” Sam took her back to her room. I offer to do so, but he insists, I think because he himself couldn’t bear to hear what the doctor had to say. “Hello. Good to see you all.” Dr. Tilidich says. She pursed her lips, and gave up a sad smile. A tear rolled down Mom’s cheek. “As you know, we just took a body scan of Lucy and we have gotten the results.” She shook her head sadly, giving away any hope of Lucy’s small chance. Everyday, Lucy’s chance seemed just to narrow. It had been two weeks. I crossed my legs under my chair and tried to relax but whenever Dr. Tilidich talked, I felt my elbows prop up my back and started to squirm again. “There is nothing we can do.” She spoke carefully, almost scared. “We have dealt with many cancer children before, but only some make it through treatment.” We all wait. “Lucy will not be one of them.” That narrow chance that I had just been thinking of, was now out of our reach. Mom squeezes my hand and I cry into her shoulder. She puts her arm around me and whispers, “All we’ve got is each other, Iris, so we need to make the best of it. All we can do is watch the clock and spend as much time


with her as we can.” I feel my throat go dry. Sam is waiting in the hall when we come out. He is biting his lip. Unleashing a little bit of the breath that I had been holding in the office, I say “just worse.” I barely make that out. He squints a little, almost like he is trying to make it seem real. “Lucy is going to die.” He nods almost as if he knew what was going to happen in the future. We stand there face to face for a while. I try to smile, to change the mood a little, but his face stays dead serious. “How many ways can they say it?” he asks. “They’re just making it harder for us. I mean they’ve said it at least for the past week. We all understand now!” His voice breaks into a yell and I look to see if anyone is staring. “They said it once, and we know it's true. Yeah, she’s going to die. What I don’t understand is why they keep making us cry in suspense. They keep us all on the edge of the cliff, and when they know Lucy is done, that's when they push us off! They make us sit here every single day to just hear the same thing over and over again!” By the end of Sam’s meltdown, he’s crying. I’ve never seen a person in my life cry that hard. I didn’t know what to do. “Sam,” I say. “You can’t react to something and try to solve a problem by blaming someone else for their faults and insult someone when you feel sad. It’s not fair Sam, but that doesn’t mean we can take it out on others.” He glares at me for a minute, but then his head drops and he falls to his knees. I put my hand on his shoulder. “Sam, people are counting on us to lift their spirits. To feel the joy they once had. Mom and Dad need us, and we can’t break now. We’re a team and we have to get through this together, holding hands the entire way.” I take a seat next to him.


“They really need us?” he asks. “Sam, we all need each other. That’s what a family is for.” We sit there all night in the same spot. Sam falls asleep with his head in my lap, and I rest my head on his shoulder. My pants are wet from his tears, so I decide it's alright to cry into him too. When we wake up tomorrow, our clothes are going to be soaked to our skin. Lucy is playing with her dolls in the morning. Dr. Tilidich said that because there was nothing we could do, she would be all right to go home. There, we would lose her, together. On the way home, Lucy sat in the back, in her little car seat singing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” with Mom and Dad. Both were laughing and crying at the same time. Then she spoke in her little cute voice. “Mommy, Daddy, why are you all so sad?” This just makes Mom cry harder. So hard that she’s shaking. Then, Lucy starts to cry, choking on snot and flailing around. This makes Sam and I cry too. We must have been a real strange sight, a car pulled over with everyone crying, even their bratty teenagers. Well, whoever is staring must not know what it’s like having a family member die, right in front of your eyes. Knowing that there's nothing that you can do, so little that you feel helpless. Like a baby without a mother. When you know something is wrong, you can feel it in the air. You can almost sense just because of what's going on around you. That's how it felt today. Sitting up, feeling something not right about the house. That's when I realized. I didn’t hear the shallow breathing coming from Lucy’s room. I walked in and it was over. Just like that. Dad was holding Lucy in his arms, holding her like an


infant and kissing her cold head. Mom was on the ground, her head tucked in her knees quietly crying. She was rocking back and forth with a rhythm. I blew my nose on a Kleenex and sat down next to Mom. She gave me a forced smile. “It’s going to be alright Mom,” I said even though I had second thoughts about that. The world seemed to stand still then. My hand was on Mom’s back and I could feel her pressure on it. Dad had walked over now. He had placed Lucy back on her bed almost as if she was still alive, and this was still a day where we were still waiting and praying. His eyes were brimmed with tears and his face was as red as a tomato. Sam crawled onto Dad’s lap like a baby and Dad was stroking his soft chestnut hair. I could feel Lucy’s presence slowly start to fade away. Later that day, I walked outside and saw the flowers we had planted with Lucy. She claimed each represented a family member. One for Ninnin, one for Mom, one for Dad, one for Sam, one for me, and of course one for her. But that was only six. I asked her why she planted seven. She said that if someone died, they deserved two flowers. I laughed at that, because it seemed like a silly thing then, but now I know what she was trying to tell me. Each flower had a tag on them telling who they represented. I ran inside and got a new piece of cardboard and wrote on it: Lucy, When you told me that you got an extra flower for someone who will die, I didn’t know what you were trying to say.


Now I do. I made a joke out of reality and I guess I knew I was doing it. I guess I didn’t want to face the facts I understand now that this is reality. I am sorry that it is no longer a joke I just want you to know that I don’t think that there would be enough flowers in the world To give you what you deserve. ~Iris It was going to be hard to let such a great person go. But our neighbors, friends and family had our side. Never would life ever be the same, but the world was going to keep revolving, the sun was going to keep shining, and the flowers were going to keep blooming. That was all I could ask for, that was all I needed. Walking to the funeral, it was different. We were all there together wishing Lucy farewell, and nobody was wearing any black. We were all there wearing purple, the color of Lucy’s favorite flower. I walk up, ready to make my speech. Ready to say my words that I hope would carry Lucy to heaven. Then I realize, though, who needs a stupid peice of paper to wish their own sister goodbye? I hand it to Mom, and stand when they call my name. “This is to my sister,” I start. “Not to the sister who was lying in the hospital bed. Not to the sister who was barely able to make a sound. This is the sister who laughed and was always out going. To the one who always made us smile. My sister


should not be thought of in the Emergency Room. She should be thought of the kind girl that she was. I refuse to forget her, even though life will go on. I refuse to even stop thinking of her. This is to my sister. The real person inside her that she was. I must thank everybody for coming because I know she’s looking down on us right now, and I know she’s smiling.” This was the first time since Lucy’s death that I looked up from my dirty, white pair of Converses. I guess I never realized that the sun was still shining and the flowers were still blooming and the world was still revolving. If the people that I loved, the people that were going to stand by my side were there, I could be happy once again. This hadn’t been the summer that I had wanted it to be. At the same time, I wouldn’t be the person that I was without Lucy. I was so glad that Lucy’s life was a lovely chapter in my book and even more so, that my family was there to spend it with me.



COMMUNITY IN THE TIME OF A PANDEMIC Karrington Simmons 5th Grade • Amelia Earhart Elementary

Not long ago, I questioned the value of community. Before recently, I just saw communities as groups of people that lived in the same neighborhood or town that did not have close connections with each other. At least that is how I saw my community. But, in the time of the pandemic, I have begun to see the true value of community, and I also understand what communities I am a member of and how I can contribute to their impacts. I am a member of my school, basketball team, church, neighborhood, the city of Chicago, the Black community, and most importantly, the community of the United States of America. Before the pandemic, I often overlooked the fact that I could be an essential part of communities because I did not see things always working together. During the quarantine, I have been able to see how neighborhoods have come together to brighten people’s days. In Chicago alone, I have seen multiple drive by’s for graduates, food pantries and churches provide food to those in need and the donations of masks to different hospitals. I’m amazed by what I’ve seen and I hope that it will continue when the quarantine is over. In March, the Governor of Illinois entered a shelter-in-place order, which was right before many luncheons, proms and graduations were scheduled to take place. Instead of having


the usual graduation ceremonies, people were creative doing virtual celebrations and drive-by’s. Our former President Barack Obama, along with other celebrities, also took the time to create a video for the 2020 graduates, which was beautiful and inspiring. I was very happy to see the graduates be honored in this way. For a long time, pollution has been a problem in neighborhoods around the world. Being forced to stay home allows you to appreciate being outdoors much more, and many citizens have taken it upon themselves to start the process of cleaning up their neighborhoods. People taking time out of their day to do small tasks like picking up trash or planting flowers has tremendously improved the beauty of the environment. Since there is a need for more testing kits and supplies for the virus, many organizations have developed campaigns to earn money or donate masks to hospitals. Many big companies all across the United States have a mission to give thousands of masks to hospitals in need of PPE. Hospital staff have expressed appreciation of the support and are very thankful during this time for the donations because there is not enough PPE for the hospital staff to replace regularly as they should. Another thing that was very appreciative done by different communities was giving back to citizens. Many people from churches, schools, restaurants, and food pantries packed bags full of breakfast and lunch foods and gave them to the different people in need of them. This was very sweet, especially because many people have lost their jobs and cannot afford food.


Communities are like families. Many people have given back to those who need help the most, and this shows how communities can come together when we are in times of need. Our communities give hope to citizens, do things that put smiles on our faces, and give back to others. I am proud to see how my community and communities all over the US have responded during the pandemic.



ONCE IN A LAND Megan Stark 5th Grade • Helen C. Pierce Elementary

Once in a land there was peace and quiet, and upon those lands a kingdom thrived and all was at peace in the land. On a hill not far from the kingdom of Ravayn sat a boy. This boy's name was Luken and he liked to go by Luken of course. The king of the land had communicated to another king whose land did not thrive and the king of that land was named King Brandon III (King Brandon the Third). Once King Bradon made up his word fighting the Kingdom of Ravaryn, he thought that it was his age that would be able to bring down the kingdom. Though his ancestors fought The kingdom of Ravaryn was still not brought down. Once word had spread throughout the Kingdom of Gandtrick King Brandon’s people were alarmed of the war and they did what they could to get ready. Though the kingdom of Gandtrick did what they could they simply did not do what anyone would. The King was not wise, the gates were not strong, the people did not know where they belonged. The Kingdom of Gandtrick needed some help though when they asked another kingdom they were turned back. They were tricksters and liars and thieves neighbors took money up others sleeves, they never were taught what to do for war, all they had done was fight in the street. Neighbor against neighbor, were not neighbors if you can see. One hurt another and the fight kept on this city of slime was not worth the other's time.


In the land of Ravaryn thrived and once into battle they all knew their places in battle and all of the times they were needed they helped each other out. This city of old the legends described how they helped their neighbors and their neighbors helped thy. The King, King Nathaniel, for a change was this wise. He saved what number of soldiers he could and openly addressed the problem like one should. He decided on a number of soldiers, archers and spearmen and cavalry too. Once he addressed the number everyone got ready. Among them was Lucken he was the son of a very successful farmer. Once he had written his name for recruiting he had gone and sat on a hill. Then he had thought about if he got in he would be what? He then thought of being a warrior of course he had obviously been trained in swordsmanship but having been granted with strong arms for work in the fields he decided on working on archery. But he also took in mind he would have to carry at the very least a close combat dagger. The next day everyone was hard at work, and once Luken looked at the list of people who got chosen he found his name at the top of the list. And although he had strong arms, a strong back and strong legs he was not too perfected in archery and had to train real hard. After his training which took place in a training area across the palace he made very good progress throughout his day of training with a bow and arrow. The next day was a no training day, since the King, King Nathaniel had seen the hard work they had progressed in the day before though people were welcome to train whenever needed or wanted. When Lucken walked through the streets and paved roads he saw everyone at work. Backers working their arms sore so that they could provide enough food for the trip to the Kingdom of Gandtrick.


Cobblers working till their fingers shook by making fitted shoes for the journey,and for the different activities and movements the different roles for battle would require. The blacksmiths making all of the weapons and lumberjacks helping with making bows for the archers. Armor was already made and was inside rooms where soldiers were trying them out. On the other hand, in the Kingdom of Gandtrick, people were getting into more fights than ever. Their King, King Brandon the third was bragging about how he could take on more than 10 of the warriors of Ravaryn. Although he seemed so prideful he kept on lying, and nobody wanted to join his group of guards/soldiers. Nevertheless he still recruited until he promised a little boy stronger than most of the boys his age. King Brandon knew how to lie and bribed the boy, Maxen, about 500 gold coins to be his bodyguard. Once others heard about this they began to sign up and the lists were overflowing. Once the day of the battle came, King Brandon led them like a stampede of bulls, in the eyes of Maxen a rage cry. Maxen, forced into battle only had a dagger from his friends in the street and a few arm guards to cover his arms. Most of the other people stole and had the same things Maxen had, some just ran in there waving their arms and legs around like crazy making them appear madd in the eyes of honest men across the battlefield. Across the battlefield men thought the other kingdom had all gone mad. And that was scary. Luken sat with some other men around a campfire discussing their thoughts. Then Luken turned to talk. “I do not like the thought of going to war with mad men. In my opinion,� he said, “it is far worse than going


to battle against people in their right mind going to war with weapons and armor.” Once he completed his saying the others among him laughed so hard they rolled on the ground till the captain of their guard had to yell at them for it was not a manly thing to do, rolling on the ground like a child. Other snippets he heard around camp was everyone saying, “The cheese has totally slipped off their crackers.” Others said, “They have lost all of their marbles,” and still others said, “Has the world gone mad or just me?” The roar of laughter was completely silenced when they were called into line with their weapons. Once they had gotten far enough and the Kingdom of Ravaryn was losing members the weapons made with care and armor started to help them the most. The shoes surprisingly helped them move especially quick and make difficult maneuvers. Though the Kingdom of Ravaryn had lost so many members of its army the tide tables were turning, fast. Luken could now see in just a few minutes the men who were rolling on the ground in laughter were now so concentrated. The difference in how they organised themselves had a huge display, also how hard the other villagers worked for them to have victory. Luken saw how the warriors had organized themselves and turned their army unit into a circle. Warriors on the outside of the circle and archers and spearsmen inside the circle.Once they got around and the mad crowd/handful of men was thinning for Gandtrick. The men of Gandtrick who survived the circle attackers ran away back to their Kingdom and brought out the white flag of surrender. Once all the warriors, archers and spearsmen had gotten back to the Kingdom walls they mourned for a few days about the men they had lost then for then next week, celebrated their victory.


This story is supposed to show the importance of neighbors. The Kingdom of Gandtrick is a kingdom where the people do not work together and have a difficult time getting through hard things, when the Kingdom of Ravaryn show how good things could be if everyone works together and how things turned out better when one person could help another with one thing and the one who had been helped can always return the favor with something different or something the neighbor needs help with.



THE PANDEMIC DENT Antara Warltier 5th Grade • Alcott Elementary School

“The COVID 19 pandemic update is coming to you in a minute....” Kenzie turns the television off with terror in her eyes. As she walks to her mom, she thinks about how every minute someone is dying of the coronavirus. Wondering why and how it was so powerful. She thinks about how much it dented our world. That dent keeps getting deeper and deeper whenever someone dies of the sickness. But then again, seeing the bright side of the pandemic. The days of seeing your family, the time you spend together. That is what will heal the dent. Call a friend, call a family member. Let them know th— “Kenzie, honey, I need you in the kitchen.” And just like that, her thoughts were blown away in the wind. “What now mama?” Kenzie had said, trying to get out of this situation. “Your brother needs serious help,” her mother had said. “With a stuffed animal that’s ripped, huh, is that really serious?!” Kenzie had said, startling her mother. “Let Abuela do it. She sews dresses. She knows how to sew a stuffed animal back together.” Then Kenzie left. Away to her room. Also known as her thinking land.


The next thing she knew, her mother calling her again. “What now mama?!” she said. “Here, talk to your auntie,” she said handing Kenzie the phone. “Hey Kenzie, how are you?” her auntie said. “Ok, I am the only girl here, well, besides mama and Abuela.” “Hey, maybe you should get used to it. Or not. Just know that family is family, if you hate them or ignore them, they may remember that forever. It’s just like how we have to help our patients. We try to keep their hearts going. Don’t act too quickly.” “Okay, whatever you say,” Kenzie says. She hands her mom the phone as she goes back to her room still thinking about the dent in the world. She then starts to think about how her auntie must be very paranoid about coronavirus. Her auntie is risking her life to fight for the people who are sick and fighting for their lives. Maybe her auntie was right, don’t act too quickly. Just like that, Kenzie falls asleep, thinking and thinking and thinking. “Mija, wake up!” her mother shouts from the kitchen. Just like that, Kenzie wakes up as if she never slept. As she woke up she immediately started to question why the dent was stuck in her mind. As she made her way to the kitchen in her pajamas, her little brother wasn't looking so good. Her mom was making breakfast, her grandma was sewing dresses, and her other brother was running around with his dog. Kenzie approached her brother with a smile.


“Hey dude, you feeling okay?” “Not really,” James said with a pale face. He got up, walking past Kenzie to his room upstairs. A few hours later, Kenzie’s mom told her that her brother had the flu. Kenzie started to walk up the stairs to accompany her younger brother. She read him a story and checked his temperature. Wow, she had thought. Having a loved one sick is very sad. Now back to the dent she thought, how is coronavirus more contagious than the flu. And why is the coronavirus more dangerous? She thought and thought while humming to a song for her brother going to sleep. She thought, does the coronavirus multiply itself more times than the germs in the flu? Is that why or how it became more contagious? How does the coronavirus change our world than the flu? Kenzie hummed and hummed until she had to leave her brother alone in his room. “Mija, please leave your brother alone,” Kenzie’s mom had said to her from the kitchen. “I don't want you to catch it too,” she had said. “Ugh, I won’t,” Kenzie had said. She watched the news once more. “Now on to the coronavirus update. Libby, please share what is new. Thank you, Josh, today on CNN news the update on COVID-19 is that New Mexico has increased cases of coronavirus by 75%. Please wear masks outside and gloves, social distance, and please stay at home. Thank you Libby, now on with the re—” Kenzie immediately turned the news off. She stood up and said, “Are we gonna die in here with coronavirus?” I know this


doesn't really sound like Kenzie, but she is a whole different person when she hears about stuff in her state. Kenzie ran up to her room unsatisfied with the news. She thought and thought. The next event came in that day. Dinner. She was happy and sad. Meatloaf Monday and the happy part, well, just forget about the happy part. It’s really only sad. She sat down chowing down food with thoughts in her head. Her brothers were slumping in their chairs with misery. Her mother was trying to make them eat but it was of no use. No one likes meatloaf at her house. After ‘dinner’, Kenzie came to her bed wishing herself a better tomorrow. Today was worse than she ever had thought it would be. Her brother had gotten worse. Weak like an eyelash and numb. His face was pale, and his eyes were shut closed. He was breathing softly and he was peacefully asleep with a high fever. Kenzie sat next to him thinking about the dent. His body fighting off the fever. His heart going Boom Boom Boom. Kenzie watched as he dreamed. Kenzie wandered along the bedroom and saw many pictures of him when he was a baby. She walked across a small notebook with pictures of her and Teddy. She thinks of all the memories and sits back down. Teddy wakes up with a 103 degree fever. Teddy smiles and then falls asleep again. Kenzie fell asleep with him on the other twin’s bed. Her mother came up and carried Teddy out of the room into another room worried about the fever.


About 30 minutes later, Kenzie wakes up with a headache. She went downstairs wondering how long she slept. Her brother, sleeping in their parent’s room, wakes up throwing up. Kenzie brings a towel immediately as her mother brings a bucket. Kenzie gives him advice to take medicine. Teddy says no. Teddy then starts choking on the medicine and their mom had to call an ambulance. The paramedic said the medicine was too big to swallow or he didn’t drink enough water. The next day came and Teddy was better. He ran everywhere and talked and talked about how scared he was if he had the coronavirus. Kenzie and her mother calmed him down with a waffle. He sat down saying how good it was to be back. Then he said if he got through the sickness, anyone could. “You didn’t have coronavirus,” Kenzie said.

Three weeks later! A doctor at the hospital of New Mexico called their family. Kenzie handed the phone to her mother in tears. Her grandfather had been in the hospital for 5 weeks with no one knowing. He has a serious case of coronavirus and a very small chance of surviving. He has to stay in the hospital for 3 more weeks, if he has any chance of surviving. Kenzie’s mother cried asking if they could talk to him. They said no one was able to and grandfather could barely speak. Kenzie’s brother had actually received a letter from the hospital. Grandfather was able to move around but still couldn’t speak. He had a terrible cough and slept for 7 hours straight. He may have to be in the hospital for another 2 weeks.


Kenzie said a prayer in Spanish and stood up reading the letter to herself over and over again. That night she fell asleep being angry at grandfather. How did he not tell us? We have to support him. I just don’t understand and I guess I will never understand this, she thought to herself. Then she fell asleep with those thoughts, just racing through her mind. She slept until morning and again, not understanding this outbreak.


WHY FAMILY IS IMPORTANT Lucy Watkins 3rd Grade • Audubon Elementary

My family is very important because they support me and show compassion for me. For example, my family tries to cheer me up when I am lonely or sad, especially my dad because he teaches me anything I want to know. I love to learn about the government. I think the government is interesting. I enjoy learning about Presidents and how they helped our country. My favorite President is Barack Obama. My family helps me be a better person and teaches me lots of things I need to know in life. My mom is loving and I love to be with her because she is gentle and sweet. She makes sure my whole family stays safe during the coronavirus. She gives us face masks to wear outside and reminds us to wash our hands. This is how I know she loves us and wants to take care of our family. My brother is very important because he plays and talks with me. We like to play card games and create imaginary worlds. I feel happy and joyful when I think about my brother. My parents buy me and my brother learning tools so we can learn while we are out of school during the coronavirus.

My third grade class is an extension of my family and is one of my most important communities. My teacher is gentle and kind and helps me learn. My teacher always forgives my classmates if we do something wrong and she never yells. She teaches us about area, multiplication, and division. She also talks


about ways to write stories and nonfiction books. The lesson on memoirs was my favorite. My teacher always gives us time to think about a question if it is hard. She reads interesting books to us, like the Wayside School series and mystery books. She encourages all students to be kind and respectful to each other. My classmates help me learn by working together to solve hard questions.

My family and school community are very important. Being part of both communities makes my life really happy because I have so many people to help me and so many people who I can help. Because I have so many people on my team, I try new things without being scared and I feel very loved.


IMPORTANCE OF IMMIGRANTS TO THE COMMUNITY: A POEM/SONG Carter Wong 5th Grade • Skinner North Classical School

Immigrants, they’re a vital part After America’s flying start They’re important in a lot of ways Here are 5 reasons, let’s go ablaze The first reason is because it’s diverse Knowing unique cultures, in the universe Different doings, they can learn ‘em Precious information, like a gem Diverse makes bullying burn to ashes That’s the second reason, doesn’t let it revive in its flashes When all people of all races Work together, no racist cases The third reason is because they help economically They take jobs that affect the economy beneficially Immigrants, they start small businesses That employs millions of people, goodness gracious!


The fourth reason is because there is less crime When a lot of immigrants are around Property and violent crime rate dropped a lot They made America safer, on the dot The fifth reason is because lots of people Can flee the terribleness and become safe They come here because of wars, tragedies, persecution And have a better life without the dangerous action So, I’m glad America is a nation Of immigrants with lots of salvation Without immigrants, this country would disappear in the mist But with our immigrants we can exist!





















































Untitled Victoria Bobadilla


Late August Heat Audrey Setiawan




My Time at Camp Amache Rachel Kubiak


A handful of the following samples of writing have content that may not be appropriate for younger audiences.


MY NEIGHBORHOOD Sophia Acaxtenco 7th Grade • St.Therese at St.Barbara

I live in a neighborhood called Back of The Yards. I often hear my parents talk about my neighborhood and how dangerous it can be. They say things like, Sophia, don’t go out by yourself, Sophia, you cannot go to the park across the street alone, or Sophia, you can’t walk to the grocery store that is two blocks away from the house, and I always wonder why. My family and I have lived in this neighborhood for over thirteen years and I know it is dangerous, but I think nothing bad will happen, but my parents think it is not safe for us kids. It has impacted us for good and bad reasons. Let me tell you some of the reasons why it has changed my family’s life. First of all, let me tell you how it has shaped us in a good way. When I tell my friends or other people that I live in Back of The Yards, they stay quiet and think for a minute until they realize that yes, it is on the south side, and it is not the most wonderful place to go to. It is not a suburb, but it is where I have lived my whole life. Although my neighborhood has gangs, shootings, and robberies, my family and I have learned that as long you are friendly with the people in our community then everything is going to be okay. Maybe we will not invite everyone to a party at my house, or maybe, we do not have to have a full conversation but just a friendly “hey” will do. Since my family and I do not live in a very lavish and rich neighborhood, we do a decent amount of community service at


a little church right next to my house where we pack boxes of food and donate to the people who cannot afford to go grocery shopping as much as they need, I have gone there for not a long time but it feels like I know all the people that do go to the church for a long time. Another great thing my community does is at the park in front of my house. My neighborhood is mostly a Hispanic and Catholic community so many of our celebrations bring us closer to God and remind us of all the wonderful things God has done. I love my neighborhood for all the lessons it has taught me about family, community, and faith. I live across the street from a park called David Square Park. A lot of things happen in this park like sometimes people from different organizations do little shows as fundraisers for various causes. We also have movie nights in our park, where we get to see a movie for free with family members and neighbors of the community. In the summer, the park offers summer camp and summer activities; I once joined boxing class, but I did not last long there because It was not right for me. Also, a swimming pool opens, which I love. In conclusion, although my neighborhood is not the best, it is certainly not the worst. I have lived in Back of the Yards all my life and I have seen good changes and I think it will get better in a few years. We are close to everything: downtown, the lake, Soldier Field where I go to see the games with my dad. I do not know how many more years my family and I will live here, but right now I am and will keep enjoying the tacos from La Internacional and so many more delicious restaurants. Back of the Yards is my home and I am proud to be from there.


MY ONE WISH Natalie Alaniz 6th Grade • Sawyer School

They started talking about a virus, coronavirus, or COVID-19 and I was like, it, it won’t last or it will be something small. But then lots of things started to change and now we’re stuck in our homes not able to go outside only if you need to buy necessary things. My life changed from day to night. Things are new now and very different but now my family and I and everyone, well we have to adapt to the new things that are happening. I started remote learning and things are new and weird. I never thought I would be experiencing this. Well, let’s talk about the beginning a long time ago, well that’s what it seems like. Many people would say we have years in our house but we don't. We have just a few months. Something that some people may have experienced is that when we could go outside, like nothing is wrong, people wouldn’t go outside but now that we can't go outside people want to go outside. Well, personally when I went to school before they closed I wasn't worried. But then when I was at home more I started to hear the news more and started to get scared and worried saying “What if my family gets it or my friends.” As they announced more cases every day I got more scared because it was something new and I didn't know anything about or when it was going to end. But then I started to do research and I started to calm down. When schools closed I was happy and sad. Thinking about it I miss school, but I got so used to it. But then we couldn’t go outside and that didn't make me happy but at


least we were going to be safe. But now it's kind of normal that the cases are rising but the numbers I wish they would go down instead of up, but I can’t do anything about it...just stay at home and do my part to save lives. Remote learning- well it started April 13. For now, I am kind of used to it, sometimes it takes most of my time. What we mostly do is online work and websites like IXL and Kahn Academy and we have weekly projects. First, I felt stressed and didn't know what to do and was confused and felt like it was a lot of work, and then I would’t finish until 8 or 9 the latest. But then I was getting the hang of it and understood more and more and then I was finishing it earlier. Now I have my own routine and I am actually starting to enjoy it. We have weekly projects, they are something I would never imagine doing and they are creative and fun. I also have other work from my other classes like physical education, theatre, Korean, and my Science teacher. But sometimes I get lazy and don't want to do it! My family, right now, it is the most important thing in my life as it has always been. But now I know them even better and they helped me so much. And I try to be more helpful and now the time I spend with them is even more precious. We try to be safe. My Mom's reaction was scared because she had never lived anything like this. My Dad's reaction was scared and he started thinking about what we should do. Now, they aren’t that scared anymore but we're still being careful, and right now I would say that family is the most important thing and they will always be there for you and if you ever feel stressed or worried, talking to them helps you a lot. As you know the title of this story is my one wish. Well, my one wish is to go outside to explore, and be with my friends. My


one wish is this to all end, like if it was a nightmare and you woke up as nothing had ever happened. But of course, it is not going to happen. But I hope things get better soon. But for now, we should obey what they are saying for the safety of our family and others. Together we will be able to get through this. Remember if you go outside, use a mask and stay 6 feet from others and stay at home to save lives. Remember watching the news helps us stay informed but it can also stress us out so minimize the time you watch the news and spend time with your family. Be safe!!

◆◆◆◆◆ Special Thanks to My Teachers: Ms.Burke and Ms.Eichhorn and all the teachers of Sawyer School. Also thank you, doctors, nurses, and much more! Thank you for your help!



THE PERFECT PIE Julian Bedolla 6th Grade • Robert Fulton Elementary

One day a girl named Olivia was getting prepared for her family reunion with all of her family members. The reunion was going to be the biggest they ever had. It has food and the adults and kids would play games together. Olivia was nervous because this year she would have to make the pie for the reunion. She knew how to make a pie, but wasn’t very good at making a pie. She asked her mom for help but she was busy making the other food. She asked her dad and he said for her to look on YouTube for videos on how to make a good pie. She only had one day until her relatives would show up for the reunion. She watched the videos for hours and decided to make another pie. The pie was too crunchy and not circular. Her mom came in and wondered why it wasn’t done. Olivia then sadly said “I'm not good at making pies.” Her mother then rolled her eyes and left the room. She got angry and sad so she went to bed because she spent all day trying to make a pie. Olivia woke up to find most of her relatives there in her house. She said hi to all of them and said, “sorry everyone I didn’t make a good pie.” Her grandmother said, “well why don't we help you?” Everyone immediately agreed and took out the ingredients.


They all chatted and enjoyed making the pie. After shaping the pie, Olivia put it in the oven and waited. Soon after she took out the pie. It was not a perfect circle and was a little crunchy. Her grandmother said, “Let's all eat shall we?� They all got a slice and made jokes about it and spent time together the entire day. Despite the shape and it being crunchy, they all agreed it was the perfect pie.


UNTITLED Victoria Bobadilla 8th Grade • Daniel Boone Elementary

Julissa’s feet couldn’t seem to decide whether to run or walk to the school auditorium. Her heart raced as she passed the empty classrooms. Most of her classmates had already gone home for the day. She took a shaky breath when she reached the entrance, her hand resting on the door handle. Finally, she mustered up the courage to push open the door. Once inside, she saw a group of dancers all dressed in traditional Vietnamese dresses, complete with fans. A few of them glanced at her as she walked in. “Are you here for the cultural festival rehearsals?” One of them asked while walking over. Julissa nodded her head. The dancer smiled in understanding. “Well, the Vietnamese group booked the auditorium for today, but if you’re looking for the Mexican group, they booked the music room.” Julissa opened her mouth to correct her, but decided against it, and instead let out a small “thanks” as she opened the auditorium door to leave. After a few minutes of aimlessly wandering around to try and find where she belonged, she sighed in relief when she finally spotted Chanlina, or Lina, which is what she told everyone to call her.


“There you are!” she said walking over. “We almost started without you! Come on.” Lina led Julissa over to an almost empty classroom. About four other people were there, including Lina. Julissa quickly took a seat at the table they were sitting at, avoiding any eye contact in fear of social interaction. Lina checked her clipboard before smiling. “Alright! Everyone’s here. Since this is our first rehearsal as the, um, miscellaneous, group of the cultural festival —” the walls of the room suddenly became very interesting to gaze at for everyone in the room, “— let’s get introduced! Name, then country. I’m Lina, and I’m from Cambodia.” Lina glanced to her left, where a girl with dreadlocks and glasses flipped through a red folder. The girl looked around the table.“My name’s Kamali, I’m from Ethiopia,” she stated, pulling a thick math packet out of her folder. The girl to her left gave a shy smile before introducing herself. “My name is Noor, I’m from Lebanon,” she said. She spoke with a pleasant lilt to her words, especially around vowels. Next to her, a girl with curly black hair glanced up from her elote, her mouth full. She gave a quick greeting.“Uh, hi, I’m Alejandra.” She paused for a second to swallow. “And I’m from Ecuador, and no, Alejandra is not spelt with an ‘h,’ it’s spelt with a ‘j.’ Yeah, that’s it.” She quickly returned to her food. Judging from the slight accent, Spanish was probably her first language. Julissa gave a nod of greeting to everyone. She tried her best not to start biting her nails. “Um.” She paused. “I’m Julissa, and I’m from Belize, which is its own Central American country.


What I mean is, it isn’t Mexican, or Brazilian or something. And we don’t speak Spanish there, ‘cause of what the British did, and um… yeah.” She bit her nails, feeling the heat of embarrassment in her chest at the rambling. Jesus Christ, you’re an absolute disaster, she thought. Lina quickly segued into the actual rehearsal, much to Julissa’s relief. “So! Today we’ll decide what act we’re going to do. We’re getting three minutes of the show to work with, which is better than what happened, uh, last year.” Alejandra nodded. Noor, Kamali, and Julissa looked up with questioning looks. Lina continued on. “Oh, and the teachers said we’re in charge of finding our own costumes. Isn’t that just great?” Julissa thought she heard slight sarcasm in that last statement, but decided she just misheard. “So, any ideas?” Lina looked around the room. Kamali shifted in her chair a little before speaking. “Well, we could just choreograph a dance routine,” Kamali said, flipping through her packet. Alejandra set her elote down. “I’m not that great at dancing” she admitted, crossing her arms. The rest of the group nodded in agreement. Kamali shrugged, looking a bit disappointed. ”Well, what else could we do?” Noor tapped her chin in thought for a few seconds before flashing an excited smile. “Oh! I know! We could sing a song,” she said, leaning on the table. This time, it was Lina who shot down the idea. “I don’t know, Noor, we would have to find a song that’s inclusive of everyone’s country, and I don’t know if there’s a song like that.”


“Besides,” Kamali said, ”I’m not that great at singing.” Lina’s smile started to shrink at the lack of ideas. She scanned the table, her eyes finally landing on Julissa.“Julissa!” The girl in question stared ahead blankly, which she was used to doing during group discussions, and wondered what her dad would cook for dinner. Hopefully something Belizean. She paused her staring contest with the wall to face Lina. “Julissa, you’ve been awfully quiet,” Lina said. “Do you have any ideas?” Julissa, unused to being put in the spotlight, froze for a second, then spoke. “Well, I’m good with whatever you guys choose,” she said quickly. The group looked at her with an expression that said “That wasn’t the answer we were looking for, but good on you for doing your best”. The rest of the rehearsal carried on with the group bouncing around between ideas. Kamali’s dad called her about forty-five minutes in. She flinched when she answered.Julissa could hear a stern sounding voice on the line. Kamali quickly packed up her books and packet and left, saying something about “having scholarly responsibilities” and “no time for a rehearsal”. Julissa wondered what that was about. A while after Kamali’s sudden exit, Lina checked her watch. “Oh boy, look at the time. I guess I’ll see you guys next time!” The group said their goodbyes and left their separate ways. Julissa’s dad did, in fact, cook Belizean food for dinner. Julissa crammed her face full of escabeche. The savory, almost sour soup fogged her glasses.


Her parents, like usual, were talking about something or other in Spanish. Julissa had always meant to learn Spanish, but in reality she knew it would probably never happen. She didn’t really mind being left out of their conversations anyway. Really, she didn’t. The next rehearsal started on the same note the last one ended on. The conversation trailed on, and Julissa began to worry that nothing would happen this rehearsal either. Her thoughts were interrupted when Principal Mekonnen walked in. He signaled for Lina to follow him. Alejandra looked away. The group sat together in silence for a few minutes before Lina came back. She closed the door slowly, leaving her hand on the door handle for a few seconds before turning around to face everyone. “Oh,” said Alejandra. “Principal Mekonnen cancelled our act again, didn’t he?” Lina nodded. Any traces of her optimistic outlook had vanished. “Every year.” Lina said, looking nowhere. “He does this every year.” Alejandra ran a hand through her hair. “Lina…I’m so sorry. You’ve been running this group every year since you were like...ten years old! And he has the nerve to cancel it every time?” Alejandra’s hand fell down to her side in defeat. Lina sighed. “Well, at least he didn’t give me any time to get my hopes up this year.” Noor folded her fingers together and spoke. “I was so happy that I would get to represent my country...I never see anything familiar on TV or in movies. So finally getting to share the beauty of my culture with people....” She trailed off.


Kamali crossed her arms. She remained silent, but looked upset. “I can’t believe he would do this,” she said after a few seconds. Julissa looked around the room trying to digest the news. She had been ready to just chalk it up as just another instance of being left out, but she realized that this time, she wasn’t the only one to be left out. It was her entire group. Everyone had agreed to meet at lunch the next day. Julissa looked around to try and find the group, and finally spotted them in one of the corners of the noisy lunchroom. Lina greeted her as she sat down. “I’m glad you all came.” Lina said. Her tone was sobering compared to her usual peppiness. The group talked about nothing in particular for a few minutes. “You know,” Kamali said after a while. ”They’re going to give school food at the festival.” Alejandra gagged, while Lina and Noor snorted. “I’m glad I’ll be at home that night enjoying my abuelita’s cooking.” said Alejandra. Julissa looked around the table. Each of the girls had brought home lunch. Lina was enjoying a spicy smelling soup that made Julissa’s mouth water. She mentally kicked herself for forgetting her lunch at home. Just then, an inkling of an idea began to form in her head. It was pretty out there, but it was an idea nonetheless. Slowly, she stood up. “Hey guys,” she said quietly. The attention was turned to her. Then, she continued on a little louder. “Ah, well, what if we did food stands?” “What do you mean, Julissa?” Lina asked.


“Well I mean…if we can’t be in the show, we could at least bring some of our cultural, um, you know, food, to the festival. That way we don’t have to compromise with each other, either.” The group thought about it for a few daunting moments. Then, Lina grinned. “That’s a great idea, Julissa.” Alejandra nodded. “The students deserve more than stale pizza and cold hotdogs,” she said. Julissa smiled. Outside Principal Mekonnen’s office, Julissa paced back and forth. She had volunteered to pitch the idea to him, which would have usually been a terrifying thought, but now she had the validation of a group behind her. The door swung open, and Principal Mekonnen appeared behind it, his face blank. “Come in, Julissa.” Julissa sat in front of the big mahogany desk. The principal calmly sat behind it, waiting for Julissa to speak. “Um,” Julissa started. “My group was, well, removed from the cultural festival show, and um…I was just thinking, if we can’t be a part of the show, could we do food stalls?” Principal Mekonnen pondered for a second, then looked at Julissa with indifference. “Well, I’ll think about it, but nothing’s for certain,” he said, standing up. Julissa knew what adults meant when they said “nothing’s for certain.” “Wait! Principal Mekonnen, please, let us do this. Lina has been working towards letting students at this school express the cultures that are unique to them in this festival for years. We won’t even need any money!” Principal Mekonnen opened the door, and gestured for Julissa to leave.


Julissa broke the news to the group the next day at lunch. “Let me guess. He said nothing’s for certain, at least once, didn’t he?” Kamali asked. “Oh who am I kidding, of course he did.” “Thanks for trying, Julissa,” Noor said. Julissa stared off to the side, occupied with her thoughts. She couldn’t let everyone down. It was one thing to feel left out on your own, but to know that your community got left out as well? She had to do everyone justice. “We’re doing the food stalls,” she said. “He can’t stop us. We have a week to prepare. Are you guys with me?” The group got to work over the next few days. They worked at lunch, designing signs out of paper and cardboard, everyone adding a unique touch to theirs. Julissa got her dad to agree to cook escabeche, and Alejandra had gotten her abuelita to make ceviche. Lina was going to bring the same spicy soup she had brought to lunch, which Julissa learned was called Samlor Korkor. Noor said she would bring kibbeh, which she looked pretty excited about, so Julissa figured it must be pretty good. Everything had fallen into place, except for the tables. Since they were all fourteen, and thus, had no money, they would have to get the tables from school on the night of the festival. At last, it was the day before the show. The girls were reviewing their plan during lunch. After a while, Noor spoke up. “I just wanted to thank all of you for everything. It feels so good to be able to share some of my culture, even if it’s only…a taste of it.” Noor grinned as everyone giggled and rolled their eyes.


The next day was the day of the festival. “Ok, everyone’s in the auditorium rehearsing, so the storage room should be clear.” Julissa said to Kamali. Noor and Lina would stay behind with the food while Julissa and Kamali got the tables. The two girls quickly made their way over to the storage room, passing the colorful flags and streamers that lined the halls in preparation of the festival. Julissa pushed open the wooden door, and one by one, they carried the folding tables over to the auditorium entrance. When they went back for the last one, they were greeted with an unwelcome sight. “Kamali, what are you doing?” Principal Mekonnen demanded. Julissa looked at Kamali in confusion. Kamali took a deep breath. “Listen dad, I know you just want the best for me, but I have other interests besides school work. My friends and I went through all this trouble. Can’t you just let us do this?” Principal Mekonnen looked between Kamali and Julissa for a few tantalizing seconds. Finally, he sighed. “Fine. But your grades had better be the same as they were before all this.” Kamali smiled in relief. “I can’t believe your dad’s Principal Mekonnen.” Julissa said on the way back. “Oh, believe me, it’s a curse, not a blessing.” Kamali said. The rest of the night went on without a hitch. People started filing inside the school, and chatter erupted over at the food stalls as people gushed over the dishes. Julissa smiled with pride every time someone complimented her dad’s cooking. Mexican


music blasted from the auditorium. The scent of onions, meat, and pepper filled the air. As the night drew to a close, Julissa looked around at her friends. They all smiled at her. Lina walked over to Julissa’s stall. “I’m so proud of you! You were so shy before, I didn’t know you were so cool!” Lina clapped Julissa on the back, which caught Julissa by surprise. Julissa tried to suppress the smile that was breaking out on her face, to no avail. It was such a simple victory, but she knew that it meant everything to her friends. It meant everything to Julissa, too. Not just to feel included, but to feel intertwined with people and to achieve something together, no matter how small.


THE STORY OF THE MURAL Norah Bock 7th Grade • Eliza Chappell Elementary

It was Friday afternoon around 2:45, Brooklyn’s favorite time of the week. She only had an hour left of school and her favorite class was always last. The bell would ring soon giving her 5 minutes to get to art class. Brooklyn loved hopping out of her seat in History and going to Art. The teacher would greet her with a warm smile and invite her to take a seat in the front. It was her favorite class of the week yet she dreaded walking there every time. She would have to walk past the West Wing girls’ bathroom, where she would always be picked on. “Where are all your friends?!” one girl would yell. “Yea! Don’t you like walking to class with ‘em?” mocked another girl. Brooklyn would cover her ears and run past, but the worst part was her two twin brothers, Brandon and Bradley, would stand across the hall and laugh at their sister when she ran by. Tears would run down her face and she wished she didn’t have to go to art, but as soon as she got outside the door and saw her art teacher, Ms. Parkinson, she always felt better. Today, Brooklyn was determined to make it to art without being laughed at. She got to school a few minutes early and found a way to get there without walking past the bathroom. All she would have to do is leave the building, walk around the school, and enter through the gym door. She had done it that


morning so she felt really confident. The bell rang. She jumped out of her seat and left the classroom in a hurry. If she wanted to get to art first she would only have three minutes to run around the building. Brooklyn put her hood over her head, checked to make sure no one was looking, and slipped through the door to the back of the building. When she got outside all she could smell were the delicious fries the school would serve for lunch. She didn’t take school lunch everyday, but on Fridays they served fries and chicken wings, yet another reason to make Fridays her favorite day of the week. She stood there for a second admiring the big mural painted on the side of the building. She had never really noticed it before but it was the most beautiful piece of art she had ever seen. It was a picture of an apple, it was so basic yet so beautiful. It had small words of motivation inside of it. It took her a moment to realize it was the mural she made in 3rd grade for the first year Ms. Parkinson got to Smith Elementary School. Brooklyn was in 7th grade now and she hadn’t looked at that mural for 4 years. She took one last look at it and turned around to head to class. She was already 2 minutes behind her schedule meaning she only had one minute to run around the building, get into the school, run up two flights of stairs and greet Ms. Parkinson. She started running, but her backpack was too heavy. By the time she got to class, she was already 5 minutes late. She opened the door quietly and went to take her seat, but her worst enemy, Selina Gilman, had already taken her spot. She slipped into a seat in the back right corner and put her bag down. Ms. Parkinson gave her a rude look and ignored her for the rest of the day. Selina turned around, looked at Brooklyn, gave her half an evil smile, flicked her blond ponytail back and


turned to face the front. Brooklyn’s plan had worked, but she hadn’t done it fast enough. At the end of Art, Brooklyn packed up her bag and was on her way home. “Hey Brooklyn, I saw you looking at that mural. It has a bigger meaning than what you think,” Ms. Parkinson hinted. “Wha-what? What do you mean?” Brooklyn questioned. “That's for me to know and you to figure out.” She smiled, laughed a bit, told Brooklyn to go do her homework, and walked back into the school. Brooklyn stood there confused for a minute and started to walk home. She was about halfway home when she could hear her brothers walking up behind. She turned to talk to them but they ran past her and went home. Brooklyn always took a detour on Fridays when she was heading home. She would walk over to the diner at the corner of her street. She loved it there around 4 o’clock because no one else was there and it always smelled of fresh black coffee and scones. She would take the corner booth in the front of the restaurant where she would sketch things she saw on the street into her dark purple felt sketchbook. It was mostly just sketches of dogs and couples walking by and none of them were super accurate because they would pass by so fast. “CLINNNG!!!” The sound of the door to the diner had opened and Brooklyn looked up. It was Ms. Parkinson. Brooklyn had never seen her in here which was a surprise because she would sit in the booth for hours on end every single week. Ms. Parkinson saw Brooklyn and gave her a little wink. She walked up to the counter, ordered two fresh scones and went to the booth where Brooklyn sat. “What are you drawing?” she said. 179

“Ummmm, well it's just a little sketchbook that my mom gave to me when I was eight. I just draw silly things in it that I see on the street,” Brooklyn responded. “May I take a look?” Ms. Parkinson said in the most calming voice in the world. “Umm, sure, they aren’t great.” She handed the sketchbook over and sat there patiently for some sort of comment by her teacher. “These are wonderful! Wow! Where did you learn to draw like this?!” Brooklyn was so surprised that her teacher had liked them. She couldn’t speak. Ms. Parkinson sat there waiting for a response but soon realized there was not going to be one. She continued, “Well I’ll tell you what, come by my class next Friday morning and take a look at our Art Club. I think you would really enjoy it.” Brooklyn sat there and smiled not knowing what to say, but before she could say anything, Ms. Parkinson got up, grabbed her take-out and left with a big smile on her face. Brooklyn sat there for a few more hours then headed home, with a big smile on her face as well. The next Friday came very quickly. Brooklyn got up an hour and a half earlier than normal and put on her favorite shirt and nice black pants. She brushed her hair and teeth, grabbed an orange, and left. She took her time walking to school knowing she was going to be really early. Once she got there, she was surprised that everyone was already there. They smiled at her when she got up to the door. One of the girls, about her age, opened the door and invited her in. She felt strange in the moment because usually people would laugh at her for being


fifteen minutes early or for joining the Art Club but these kids were different. They were like her. They made it up to the art room and took their seats in a circle. Brooklyn stood in the doorway not knowing exactly what to do. To her surprise, Selina, the girl who stole her seat in art class, grabbed an extra chair, and signaled for Brooklyn to take the extra chair next to her. Brooklyn hesitated for a second but then took the seat willingly. She felt a little worried that the whole situation with Selina was a trap to embarrass her but then Selina said at the end of class, “Hey your art was really cool. I hope you will come back next week. You make a good Art Club member.” “You really think so?” “Yes definitely. Also I’m sorry that we drifted apart, I was just going through something with my sister and I was taking it all out on you. You should know you are a good person Brooklyn, and I miss being your BFF.” Selina smiled at Brooklyn, grabbed her hand and they walked off to math together. The next few weeks had gone like a dream. Brooklyn was in the Art Club with people who liked her, she had her old BFF back, and things were ok with her brothers. She would walk from class to class with Selina and she wasn’t being picked on by the kids in the bathroom anymore. She had found the center of her world, art. Ms. Parkinson had encouraged all of the kids in the Art Club to submit one art piece to an art contest which would then be painted on to the side of the diner where Brooklyn spent her Friday nights. She decided to paint a picture of her art room. It had silhouettes of all the kids in the art club and a silhouette of


Ms. Parkinson teaching the class. She had a month to work on it, so everyday after school she would work on a different draft of it waiting for the perfect one to come along. She would try different styles, different colors and different angles everyday but nothing seemed right. “What is my problem? I get this one chance to show the world my art skills and I have the perfect idea but I can’t do it? It's so unfair.” Brooklyn said to herself as she lay in her bed. “Well my dear, you might just be having a bit of an artist block.” Brooklyn gave her mom a strange look not knowing where she was going and also, surprised her mom had heard her. “Art is like telling a story. It's just like writers block, you don’t know what to write. In this case, you don’t know what story to tell from your art.” “Oh I get it,” said Brooklyn, “I need to find a story to tell by my art.” “Exactly, you have time. Figure out what you want to do. What is the most important thing to you? What has art taught you? What would you like to teach others through your art?” Brooklyn jumped up. She knew exactly what she was going to do. The next few weeks went by and Brooklyn worked tirelessly on her art project. She worked day and night on it but refused to show anyone until it was complete. Today was the day. She got up super early, wrapped her painting in bubble wrap, and set off to Art Club. When she got there, everyone else was there with their paintings as well. After they were presented, they would be sent off to the contest. Ms. Parkinson told them it would take a week to find out the winner. Brooklyn presented her project last and everyone loved it. They


smiled when she took it out of its protection as they realized exactly what it was. Throughout the day, everyone in the Art Club had found a time to tell her that her art was beautiful and she would probably win. She really wanted to believe them but she just didn’t know if it was really good enough. The following week was the most painful week of Brooklyn’s life. She had to wait, and wait, and wait. She tried to keep herself busy but everything that was a “distraction” was making the time even more painful. Eventually next Friday came, Brooklyn barely got any sleep the night before knowing that during Art Club, she could possibly be awarded the space next to the diner to put her art. “Hello Students,” said Ms. Parkinson as they all entered the art room. “I have the envelope with the winner of the contest! But I must remind you that whoever won, whether it is a friend from our school, or a stranger from another school, we must be happy for them and understand that we all tried our hardest. Understood?” “Yes, Ms. Parkinson!” replied all the students in unisen too excited to hear who had won. Ms. Parkinson slowly opened the envelope and smiled when she saw the name written in big across the page. “It is my duty and honor to tell all of you the next artist of this small town....” Ms. Parkinson stopped and looked at every child slowly. That anticipation was killing Brooklyn and the entire class. They were sitting at the edges of their seats. Ms. Parkinson stood up, took a big deep breath and squealed, “Brooklyn is the winner!!!” The whole room went silent and everyone looked at Brooklyn, then with the blink of an eye, everyone jumped out of their


chairs and ran to give her a big hug! She could not believe she had actually won! “Oh my,” Brooklyn had no words. “I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!!!!!!!” It had been the best day of her life and she couldn’t have done it without her Art Club family. She would soon be standing on a stage in front of the town announcing her new art piece! The months flew by and it was finally the day where Brooklyn finished the mural. She put on her best dress and walked down to the diner. People were already there waiting impatiently to hear the amazing story behind the mural. “Hello Everyone,” Brooklyn started, feeling a little nervous but mainly excited for this new chapter of her life. “I am sure you are all very excited to hear my story and I am excited to share it! I would like to start by thanking my family not only at home but the new family I have made through my art. Thank you Ms. Parkinson for showing me my true passion and thank you Selina for sticking by my side.” She winked at Selina and continued, “My art piece is not just any art piece, it is my life. It has every important thing, human, and expression that I have experienced. It shows the story of how art brought me closer to my true self and others around me. It shows the story of community. Before I met the wonderful Art Club, I was nothing, but now I have friends, and family, and most of all, I have art. So thank you to everyone who has helped me find my true passion. I will never forget you. This is for you Art Club!” Brooklyn turned to face the mural and the crowd went crazy. This year had been the craziest year of Brooklyn’s young life and she couldn’t wait for what was to come next.



Dear Reader, I am telling you a story, about love, family, and friendship. This is a story about a young girl who was finding her way into the world. But Reader, this story is not like others. Not every story has a perfect ending. There was once a girl who loved stories. She was an ordinary girl, yes, she went to school, she had friends, loved roller skating, but unlike some kids, her life was chaos. Her friends didn't care about her, her parents fought and her mother sometimes forgot about the girl and her brother, and he was always shouting trying to fix the problem. Reader, if only you knew about her daily struggles and how much she wished it could end. Her only salvation was stories, oh, how she wished she could jump into the pages and leave her life. She was as meek as a mouse when not reading but she was as bold as a lion when reading. But before we can go on, we must go backwards. As in, the past.... When Alevia was born her parents didn't know what to name her, but when they heard her brother Devin say “Look Mommy! Her eyes light up! Why do they light up mommy?” Reader, they in fact lit up because of the sunlight that was coming out of the window. So then her parents looked up the Latin root for light and it was “lev”. They then just added an ”a” and “ia” so it sounds


like Alegria or “joy” in Spanish. I personally think that she was named Alevia because she was the “light of their lives” or she would find “light in the dark”. And you Reader, why do you think she was named “light”? Reader, remember when I told you that Alevia had a chaotic life and her daily struggles were horrible? Did I tell you that? Well, Reader, her troubles were just beginning. One day, when she came home from school, she was sure she needed help with math homework. It was data and statistics, her worst area in math, and she loathed math already! She didn't want to fall behind, so she was going to ask for help from her brother, Devin. She found him in the backyard, tossing a baseball from one hand to the other. Now before we can go on, Reader, mind that Devin is older than Alevia. I’m sure that some older siblings are not that supportive of you sometimes, but for some of you I'm sure that’s not the case. Devin loves his little sister, but he is more worried about his own life than Alevia’s problems. So Alevia went to Devin and said “Um...Devin?” Devin exclaimed “Levi! Not now okay?! GO AWAY!” Before looking away, Alevia saw his eyes raw with tears. She went to ask her mother, but couldn't find her. She went to ask her father and his response said it all: “ Good riddance to bad rubbish!” as she heard in so many books. And when he started raving about how ignorant her mother is, she took it as a cue for her to leave. She couldn’t believe that her mother had left! Walking with her heart heavy she left to hide under the covers and cry because she never felt so alone and still had to do her math homework. The following day, Alevia was already having a bad day. She


forgot her book, her mom hasn't appeared yet, she was running late, and missed the bus. She even forgot her math homework! She was so upset! She worked on it the whole night and she finally finished at 1:00 in the morning! She quickly gathered her books and took off to class — 10 minutes late. She apologized to her teacher, and she gave her a red drenched test — a C! She was above average! She tried so hard! She was really looking forward to talking to her friends about her horrible luck! And when she got to lunch her friends weren't sympathetic. They started criticizing her and called her things. Then they started talking right away about who had the latest Louis Vuitton bag (her friends were the “cool” kids, and are totally vain). But it was mostly Jennifer, the leader of the group. Ashley and Paloma had looks of pity/sympathy, but they didn’t say anything. Jennifer then called them over and they moved to another table. Alevia felt horrible, and it wasn't even 12:00! She wished she could jump into a book or sink in her bed now more than ever. Humiliated, she went to eat at the library. When the bell rang, she saw her “friends'' leaving without her. Fine, she thought bitterly, with friends like them who needs enemies? She still missed them though. When she got home she started on her homework, when she finished she was sitting down when a random number texted her. It said “Hey, do you want to go skating?” with emoji rollerblades. Alevia assumed it was Jennifer and set out to start going to the park, where they always met. I know Reader, why is she going with a stranger? Well Reader, you must know that her parents never warned her about the dangers of strangers. So kids, NEVER GO WITH STRANGERS, THINGS END BADLY! Oh, ehm, sorry, I got carried away. So Alevia set off to


roller skate with Jennifer. But when she got to the park, she found it deserted. But then she saw a dark shadow behind her and it was coming closer, and closer, and AHHHHH! Just kidding, Reader! That was funny, right? Hahahaha...hahaha...haha...ha. Ok, sorry! Back to the story! “Hey! Remember me? Giselle? Your biology partner?” Alevia blinked. She did remember her! Just very vaguely. “Yeah, sure. I...do!” Giselle smiled. Then frowned. “You almost never notice me. You always seem to care for Jennifer and her besties. Talking about them, what did they do to make you look so humiliated?” Alevia started crying. But instead of Alevia crying of sadness, the tears were of joy! She was GLAD someone cared about her! Giselle quickly sat down and tried soothing her aching heart. “Shhh, Shh, it’s okay. What happened?” “I'm so glad you care about me! This might sound dorky, but no one ever does!” Giselle made a surprised face. “What?! Why won’t they care about you? You're a great biology partner, and I assume you're the best at rollerblading!” Alevia blushed. She then told Giselle about her situation. After a long 45 minutes, Giselle finally said something. “If I were you, I would talk to somebody about this. But another thing I would do is to listen to people. Like listen to your parents when they are fighting. You might be able to listen to the source of the problem, and might give your parents some ways to solve their conflicts and support each other. Now, wipe your tears and let’s start skating.” The next day at school, Reader, Alevia was having a great time.


All her teachers were impressed, as Alevia was completing her work with all her effort, and participating with a lot of confidence. Alevia had a great time with Giselle in biology class. Giselle just couldn’t stop laughing when Alevia was saying some silly puns while doing their project. At lunch, instead of sitting down with her other friends, she sat with Giselle and another girl called Elizabeth, a sweet girly girl. Talking with her new friends, she was happy, and felt appreciated, yet she missed her old friends. While she thought this, she noticed that Jennifer and Ashley were arguing in the middle of the cafeteria. Paloma was crying, begging them to stop. It seemed like it wasn’t going to stop, not even with Paloma’s pleas. Alevia then got up and went towards Paloma, “Paloma, what happened?” “Jennifer tried to cyberbully some 4th graders! She wanted us to do it too, but we didn’t want to. But she was so insistent that we finally gave in and now were going to be expelled!” She started sobbing so much that Giselle had to take her to the office to calm down. Alevia took a deep breath. She was going to confront the problem. Sip. Oops, sorry Reader, I was getting some water, want some?...Oh, wait, I’m going to wet the thing you are reading this from. So Alevia walked towards Jennifer and Ashley. They were bickering so loudly and talked so fast that you could barely hear, dear Reader. “Woah, woah, relax! What’s the issue?” Jennifer retorted, “This traitor here told on me! She said I was forcing them to cyberbully some kids, but that’s a total lie, I had nothing to do with that!” “Yes you did!”, said Ashley. “Stop lying! You didn’t leave us


alone so we finally gave in so you can leave us alone! You always have a way of getting me and Paloma in trouble! SO IT IS YOUR FAULT!” Ashley was steaming. Alevia knew she had to step up, or it would get real messy. “Jennifer, I agree with Ashley. You never forced me to do things like that, but I know how pushy you can be. You have to stop this because it is wrong. Why do you want other people to feel inferior to you? Is it because you feel insecure or that you have a problem? Whatever the reason is, it is not an excuse to do what you are doing. If you keep acting like this, our friendship is over.” For a second, Jennifer seemed to have a flicker of worry on her eyes. But after a pause, she said, “I don’t care about that. So go right ahead. Ashley, you can also go with her.” Alevia felt like she was punched in the stomach. She just wished that Jennifer would understand how much she will miss her. Even though Jennifer had her times, she was a really kind person, just hurting inside. It seemed like she needed some support, as her situation at home was the same as Alevia’s. Alevia didn’t know this, but Jennifer will miss her too. “Goodbye....” they both whispered. Ashley and Alevia then left to calm down the hysterical Paloma. The next day, Alevia decided it was time to talk to her parents. She thought it was going to be easier to talk to her mom. Their conversation went something like this: “Analise Mitchel, how can I help you?” “Hi mom it’s me, Alevia....” “Hi Levi, it’s nice to hear you, but right now it’s not the time to talk, I —”


“Mom, I want to talk to you right now, and I hope you can, but if not that’s o.k, but a lot of things are happening right now and I really want to talk to somebody about them, and I need your support.” “Sigh. Ok honey, I guess I could spare a few minutes. What happened?” “Mom, I just want to know why you and dad don’t get along! And why do you leave the house?” “Honey, you shouldn’t worry about me and your father, we, well, just have different points of view! And I leave the house because sometimes I think I will lose my patience and then the situation will get worse! What else is on your mind, honey?” “My friends had been bullying me, but not anymore, I made some new friends, and now, well, you know Jennifer, right? Well, she's not my friend any more, because she put me in an emotional rollercoaster, and she cyberbullied kids.” “WHAT!? The sweet Jennifer I met last year?” “Yes, but I think she acts like this because she has some type of problem....” And their conversation went on and her mom gave her great advice. She told her to always continue to smile and to put herself in the shoes of others; and guess what Reader? She realized that the same advice can be applied to her own life. In school, Elizabeth, Alevia, Giselle, Ashley and Paloma went to classes and lunch together. They all went to Ashley’s soccer tournament, and Elizabeth’s science fair. And when Alevia won the writing contest they were ecstatic! Ashley and Paloma were suspended for two days for their actions, and Jennifer was suspended for 1 week! They still saw her at the soccer


tournament and at the science fair, and the day in the park when they were all having a picnic she came up and apologized to them. They then made plans to go roller skating as a group. Alevia got more confident in school and in her normal daily life. Her parents got divorced, but they were okay with each other and both love Devin and Alevia. Reader, I know you are wondering what book Alevia wrote. Well, Reader, it is in your hands, or computer, or wherever you’re reading this. Reader, I want to tell you that family and friendship is important. Some of you might be like okay, okay, I know this! But do you really? Some of you I’m sure never really value the love your family and friends give you until it is no longer there! I know this because this is my story. Yes Reader, I am Alevia! I could have been in hot water when Giselle texted me to come to the park because my parents never took the time to tell me how to stay safe. I needed my family to make me who I am! My friends are the people who make me feel good about myself! Family and community is something all of us deserve, no matter if your family is not as perfect as somebody else's! I want you to learn this as the message in this story, and to make sure you are a Giselle in another’s person’s life, and to say thank you to all of those who make you shine! - Alevia Mitchel Campella

( P.S. Reader, I am too shy to put my name on the cover, so this is our little secret!)


A PATH TO THE CLEAR Yameli Cahue 8th Grade • Seward School

This may take a turn for the worst But please bear with me There is no story for the way that I think And there is no song to explain When we bicker and fight It shows a bad side of me But I know that if you were in trouble I'd still fight with everything I am When we joke and laugh It shows our identical bright smiles And I know that we take turns Of stealing the dark and light side of the moon When you share things I'm afraid to It shows how much trust you put in me Although I know that trust stutters to a halt from time to time I'll trust that you know what your words mean


When you used to hurt me and my identical I knew that I won't ever forgive you Everything you've done has left scars Although, not physical But I can still say that I will miss you when you leave When you call me a sweet nickname Though it's directed to many I know that I can count on you for the smallest of things I may not be brave enough to do so But I will still miss you when you go When you stop by I don't know what to say I've barely been able to see you these days When I do, you're always talking to the 'artistic one' But I know you just want to talk to someone responsible So I'll just quietly forgive you for that When you cook deliciousness I try to eat everything I compliment what I can just to see you smile And I know that you're still on the semi dark road But I'll silently accompany you, for my mind has done the same


When you joke around with us I can't help but do the same You are strong And I know that if we're in trouble You'll come and help us with the pain You see These are my family Though you might not know which And you might not know who To pair with these stanzas But I know that there are clues And I know that my mind will turn them into monsters For all this stress will morph them into creatures of my worst fears I know that that's not who they are I make these for my mind is twisted It has grown a twisted tree of poems and lyrics Again, I know that that's not who they are So I'll banish these thoughts to the very depths of my mind And hope that they don't come back And let me see my family for who they really are


A family which will support me Through the thickness of my clouded mind And through the thin lenses of my glasses Which enables me to see clearly The clear, yet still hard to see, love The love of a family


UNTITLED Eleanor Coughlin 8th Grade • Disney II Magnet

For as long as Remea could remember, she had lived on her small ship, floating around in space, with nobody else except for the computer. She had no idea where she came from, or who her parents were. She did, however, know a few things. She knew what year it was — 3025. She knew that she was born about 15 years ago, although the exact date she wasn’t sure about, and if the computer knew, it wouldn’t tell her. And she knew what she was. Remea was a human, which was one of the many species out there in the galaxy. Human. Upon learning this, when she was eleven, Remea had started to do intensive research about humans. She loved learning about the many species that lived out in the big wide universe, although she had yet to meet anyone. Studying humans was strange. They were quite different from many of the other species she knew lived out there. For one — they were much less advanced than many others. They had big, roaring cities with flying things they used to transport themselves around, cars, Remea thought they were called. Their atmosphere was polluted, so polluted, in fact, that they were hoping to move to one of their neighboring planets, Mars, in the next hundred years or so.


They valued stuff like money and material things. They were very violent — wars going on constantly. Remea couldn’t understand why they were like that. Most everybody else in the universe wasn’t. Most everyone else had been like that - but eventually, they grew out of it. Most everyone else were at peace with their neighbors and theirselves, living in small towns among nature, only needing a few simple things to survive. Most everyone else didn’t care about the riches of someone, only needing laughter and other people around them for happiness. The universe was a peaceful place - except for Earth. So because of that, Remea assumed, she couldn’t get there. Her computer could calculate a course to any other planet she wanted — except for the Milky Way. But Remea didn’t want to go to any other planet. She wanted to go to Earth. She wanted her people, despite how terrible they were, to be the first people she would ever meet. She wanted to ask them why they were like that, why they were so full of anger and hatred. She had found a way to get to Earth. She would travel to the nearest star, one that was just outside the Milky Way, and then she would travel towards it, until she was in it, and until she could reach Earth. When she was eleven, Remea set off, and the journey took several years, combined with light speed jumps and just normal traveling, but eventually, she was able to get there. Turning on her cloaking device, Remea slowly approached the bustling ISS station, spaceships coming and going from Earth. Gulping, she slowly eased the ship forward, towards the planet. And that’s when things started to go wrong.


She should have chosen a less busy area to enter the planet, because there were ships flying everywhere — ships that couldn’t see her, as she had the cloaking device on. Remea noticed the ship that was moving towards her a second too late. The ships collided, and her cloaking device shattered, and there was an explosion, and she flew back against the wall, and the next thing she knew, she was lying in a cold bed, beeping machines connected to her. No. No, this wasn’t supposed to happen. She was supposed to land peacefully on Earth and find a family! Blinking her groggy eyes open, Remea gasped at the sight of a figure standing over her. This was a person, an actual human. A doctor, she had read about those. The doctor saw Remea and hurried over. “Oh, good, you’re up. Now, I need you to stay calm, okay?” the doctor said, but all Remea could do was gape at her. This was a human. An actual living, being, talking person. One who was like her, one who could understand her. She thought she might hyperventilate, but she forced herself to stay calm. This wasn’t how she had planned this out. Looking around, Remea saw that she was in a small room with lots of beeping machines and a few wires hooked up to her, and the walls were a ugly, bright yellow that she assumed was to make patients happy, but just made her want to throw up. The doctor was typing something on a hovering, slightly see through computer. A doorway was in the middle of one of the ugly yellow walls, and Remea saw the shadow of the person before the person came through it.


It was a woman, with long black hair and piercing hazel eyes walked in, frowning, a look on her face that said she wasn’t pleased at all. “So, you’re the girl who caused so much trouble,” she accused in a tight voice. “Tell me. What’s your name, girl?” So much trouble? Had her crashing into another ship really caused that much problems? “I’m Remea,” she answered, and holy cow, she was speaking to another human. No way this was real. “Captain Mendoza,” the woman answered. “The ship that crashed into you was called the USS Falcon, and it was mine.” Oop. That wasn’t good. “Many of the people that were in the crash are fine. A few... are not.” Remea felt sick. This wasn’t good, this wasn’t good at all. What a great first impression she had made. Footsteps were heard outside of the room, and an old man with a silver cane walked in. There were many badges on his uniform, and Remea judged by the way Captain Mendoza nodded to him, and by the way the doctor stopped her work to acknowledge his presence, that he was an important person. “Remea, this is Colonel Jones. He is —” “Bah!” Colonel Jones interrupted, waving his cane in the air. “Enough with the boring introductions. And no Colonel for me, no thank you. Call me Jones, everyone does — other than Ms. Procedures over here.” Remea almost laughed at the Colonel’s joke and the Captain’s exasperated but humorous roll of her eyes, but she didn’t think that Captain Mendoza would like that. She didn’t want to make her first impression even worse than it already was.


“Now, tell me, little lady. Who are you? And why are you here?” So Remea told the story of her past, how she was raised on her ship with only the computer, how she had learned how she was human, how she was determined to find Earth before going anywhere else. The two officers listened intently, and so did the doctor, who was trying to make it look like she wasn’t eavesdropping and failing miserably. “You should have left Earth alone, little lady. We’re pretty annoying people. Everyone and everywhere else are much better than us,” was the first thing Jones said after she finished talking. Captain Mendoza rolled her eyes at that. “Colonel has been sent in to listen to your story and decide your verdict.” “And I have decided it.” “Already?” “Already. Since we have no idea who your family is, you will be placed in a temporary one, for however long I deem necessary for both you and the family. And you will be placed under the guardianship and family of...” A goofy but mischievous smile appeared on his wrinkled face, and Jones spun to look at the woman besides him. “Captain Mendoza.” “What? No, Jones, you can’t do that!” “I believe I can, actually.” Remea watched the argument with a sinking heart. Captain Mendoza seemed like the polar opposite of all the families she had read about. Families and parents were kind, loving, caring. The Captain, or what Remea could see of her so far, was cold and harsh. She didn’t want this.


Neither did Captain Mendoza, judging by her glaring face. “I already have a kid that I need to take care of! He’s only six!” “Remea can help take care of him.” “I’m not handing Peter over to some girl who crashed into my ship!” Remea coughed loudly, and the adults blinked at her, as if they were just remembering that she was there. “Do I get a say in any of this?” “No!” Mendoza snapped, before realising that she had condemned Remea to her guardianship with that. “I mean, yes, yes you do.” Jones laughed and patted her shoulder. “First choices only. These are my orders, Captain. You’re not one to disobey them.” Mendoza looked long and hard at Jones, who returned her gaze, until she broke away and sighed. “Fine. I will take the girl into my custody.” ————————————— It started when Remea got out of the hospital. She was shown around the ISS — it was huge. Apparently when it was just starting out, it could only support about six people. Now it had over a hundred. She and Mendoza and her son Peter were to stay on the ISS for another month, and then they would go down to the Captain's home on Earth. Remea was excited to see Earth, but she wasn’t looking forward to leaving Jones, who visited her every day and had quickly become her friend.


Remea was Peter’s friend too, according to him. The young boy was really sweet — and hyper. Extremely hyper. He wasn’t allowed any sugar, and Remea feared what would happen if he ever got into a bag of candy and ate some. He would probably be able to fly. Everyone on the ISS was very kind to her, and quickly taught her how life and people worked. Remea had read up as much as she could about it on her ship, but doing things and experiencing the world was very different than simply reading about it. People were complex, with a billion feelings, and not everyone thought the way she did, so they could get hurt or angry over something she never would have meant to be insulting. Luckily, most people accepted that Remea was new to everything, and still learning. Most people. And most people meant not Captain Mendoza. She seemed to have an open hostility to Remea, and to everyone else but Peter and sometimes Jones, was simply cold and strict. So the question that kept popping up into Remea’s head was why? Why was Mendoza so angry at life? Remea had tried asking Jones, because the two officers were friends, despite Mendoza’s formal tone, but he had just smiled, shook his head, and told her that she needed to find that out for herself. The question that came after that, adding onto the why, was now how? How was Remea supposed to get Mendoza to open up to her if the older woman seemed to hate her? It was frustrating. All she had wanted was a family, a mother, but Mendoza seemed absolutely against it. Those were the thoughts running through her head as she looked nervously out the window of the spacecraft she was in,


traveling quickly towards the atmosphere of Earth. In the two seats next to her were Mendoza, reading a book, and Peter, sleeping. The two had been from Earth and back too many times for the trip to be interesting anymore, but Remea’s heart felt like it was going to beat out of her chest. She was going to Earth. And hopefully there, she and Mendoza would bond, because the Captain had no troops to order around. Remea would be arriving there during the start of fall, a season where the warm, sunny weather started to chill and the leaves on the trees started to turn gold and brown and fall. Of course, she had no idea what any of those things really meant, but she had read about it and Jones had told her many stories about what life was like down on the green and blue planet. It went so quick, all of it. Arriving at the station. Stepping out onto solid land for the first time in her life, people rushing all around her, the air so fresh, everything so bright, it was like she had stepped onto a whole new world. Which she had. But that wasn’t the point. Then she was in the air, sitting on a seat in a compartment that rushed through the blue sky, other compartments just it like going by next to them. Cars, they were called. The car she was in split off from the rest of them, floating down to the ground, landing in front of what Remea assumed was a house. She had read about them, seen pictures of them, but obviously hadn't been in one, like most of the things in the universe. Mendoza turned to her, and looked her in the eyes. Opening the door, she gestured for Remea to go in. The moment she stepped in the door, Remea knew that there was no going back.


This was her new life, and she was going to make the best of it. Starting with getting Mendoza to like her. She tried everything, helping out around the house, doing exactly what the Captain told her to, taking care of and playing with Peter, being extra nice and sweet, even if she just wanted to snap at her and yell, “Why can’t you just accept me and like me? Can’t you see that I want that, why don’t you?” Remea was beginning to think that it was hopeless. Then, everything changed. It was a warm Sunday afternoon, and they had gone on a picnic. The three of them were sitting on a large cliff, overlooking the ocean. There was a few other families scattered about, as this was a popular place to go, but it was very peaceful. Mendoza was reading a book, Remea was zoning out, and Peter was playing with a toy. Or he was playing with a toy. Remea was snapped out of her thoughts when she realised that Peter was no longer sitting beside her. Glancing around, she saw that Mendoza was still engrossed in her book, and Peter was...Peter was...shoot. Peter was chasing a butterfly that was heading to fly right over the edge of the cliff. Springing to her feet, Remea sprinted towards the young boy, and with a jump, grabbed him, pulling him to her chest, right before he was going to step into the air, almost tumbling down the cliff herself before falling backwards. “Hey!” Peter exclaimed, glaring at her. “I was going to catch it!”


“No, you weren’t,” Remea grumbled softly, but he had already scrambled out of her arms and run away to do something else. She turned around to see Mendoza standing, staring at her in shock. “You saved him. You risked your own life to save Peter.” “Of course! I wasn’t just going to let him walk off the cliff,” Remea exclaimed, scratching her neck. Mendoza rushed forward and wrapped Remea up in a tight hug. “Thank you,” she whispered. Remea stiffened, then slowly patted her back. “Uh, you’re welcome.” After that day on the cliff, Mendoza had started to warm up to Remea. She had invited her to make dinner with her, had started asking about her day, had started actually doing things with her. Remea responded with positivity, enjoying the time she got to spend with Mendoza. She wasn’t as cold as the girl had once thought, and she began to get to know more about her. Eventually, a year passed. Remea was enjoying her life, and happy with her family, and had completely forgotten that she was only supposed to stay with Mendoza and Peter for one year until Jones showed up at the door one day. “Jones?” Remea exclaimed in surprise, giving him a hug. “What are you doing here?” “I’m here to ask if you want to stay.” “Want to stay?” By this point, Mendoza and Peter had joined her. “If you want to stay with us. As a family,” Mendoza clarified softly, and realization dawned on Remea’s face. 206

“Oh.” “If you don’t you’ll be living with me and my wife, Leah. But the choice is up to you.” Remea had to admit, the offer to live with Jones was tempting. But as she looked over at Peter and Mendoza’s faces, so filled with hope and fear, she made her decision. “I’d like to stay here,” Remea answered firmly, turning back to Jones, and he smiled. Peter yelped in happiness and hugged her, Mendoza and Jones joining in, and that was when Remea knew. She had found her home.



UNTITLED Camille Daley 8th Grade • Lane Tech

She was turning 77. The wrinkles in her face were crafted at a careful pace, she was a work of art. From every light and angle one could spot a different indent that was revolving around her core facial figures. The lines worked together as the lights in Van Gogh’s painting. Her bright coffee colored eyes sagged, and the whites were no longer white, but a light pink yellow that with age had developed. She would rarely open her mouth unless to speak, or more so, mumble a joke or concern, due to the embarrassment she felt of her false teeth. Her hair was cut into a short, professional bob that could almost be considered a bowl cut. She hated it. Her hands were shaking. The worn knuckles had expanded to a great size due to arthritis, and her skin had become thinner and thinner to expose the purple and blue veins underneath, which constantly popped out. Her long fingers were never barren, and always had some sort of silver ring as decoration. Each delicately crafted finger was ended with precise, clean and long fingernails. Similar to her mouth, she was ashamed of her hands and veiny, thin arms, and would constantly cover herself with long sleeves and jewelry. Her body was poorly misshapen from the abuse of southern food and illness. Her broad stomach and chest would droop towards the ground, while her arms were thin, and lacked any strength. Her


grand upper body was carried upon two stick thin legs, and two tiny feet. This caused her to take delicate, small steps in order to keep her balance. From the way she carried herself, one would predict that she held dignity and wisdom close to her soul, but she was a childish Cancer whose biggest concern was giving out snacks. Her withered, elegant body slowly wandered towards the door. Beautiful creatures must be protected.


UNTITLED Avery Ducar 8th Grade • Monroe Middle School

April 14, 2020 Dear Diary, Today I am writing about my most life-altering moment. It happened three years ago, the day Chase came back. Chase is my older brother who left at seventeen. A little background knowledge, when I was younger my best friends were my cousin Daisy Collins and my brother Chase. We were all close because my brother and I lived with my aunt in Ohio. When I was 14, my older brother got his driver's license. Daisy and Chase ended up sneaking out the night he got it. He barely passed, my aunt said he wasn't allowed to drive alone yet because she was still worried about his driving skills. Unfortunately, my brother decided not to listen and he got into a car accident. We were told Chase was swerving on the road probably joking around, but a driver was speeding next to him and ended up hitting the car, instantly killing Daisy. The next few days were a blur for me. My best friend had just died, and my brother left. He couldn't handle the immense guilt he felt. I was alone. Walking up to the casket as a 14 year old girl was horrifying. Every single movement I made was watched by everyone. It felt like I was walking miles to get to my death bed. When I looked in there, I fell apart. It didn't look like her at all. Who was I


looking at? Not my best friend. Not my cousin. She looked lifeless. It felt like my heart was being ripped out. The mortuary put makeup on her, they tried to make her cheeks rosy to look full of life. If you knew Daisy, you'd know she hated makeup, she was naturally full of life and didn't need it. Last year was the two year anniversary of Daisy's death. I stayed with my friend Taylor. When I got back to my house and walked through the door everyone stared at me, my whole family including my grandparents were there. My aunt looked anxious. I thought she had just seen a ghost. I was then told that Chase called. He said that he wanted to come back. Of course, my family wants him back because he was the perfect child. I could feel the anger slowly raging within myself, he was the reason Daisy was dead, and to top it all off he left and didn't have to pick up the pieces. All I remember from this conversation was me saying, “Are you serious?! Chase gets to kill my best friend and gets to leave me! He knew that I had no one else once Daisy died, and he just decided that I didn't even need him. He hasn't been here for 2 years and all he has to do is call and come back with no consequences. He never once called to wish his sister a happy birthday or to check up on her. He was never your perfect little boy. We all lost Daisy because of him.� I said as I ran out of the house. I needed to calm down and I knew exactly where to go. I drove to the spot where Daisy, Chase, and I used to hangout. It was in the middle of a forest with a janky bridge. It was a playground but the equipment was taken out, so it was just a circle of concrete. It was peaceful. I got out and laid down on the hard cold concrete.


I laid there past sunset until it was raining. It was hard, icy, and pitch black. I started to cry, I cried about how much I hated Chase. How could my own brother leave me? Growing up Chase and I never met our parents, we've lived with our aunt our whole lives so Daisy was basically our sister, not our cousin. Even though we thought of her as a sister, Chase and I had different connections, we knew that we would always have each other. Clearly we were wrong. All I could think about was the time my family went to the football field after Daisy’s funeral. When we got there it was like everybody in Rosewood was there too. I was so confused, then I started to bawl my eyes out. I wasn't crying because I was sad, I was angry. I wished I could have just woken up and stopped them from going. How could I not hear the sneaking out? Everyone talked about the memories they had with Daisy. I didn't know half the people that were there, some of them didn’t ever speak to her but she was always able to lift people's spirits from afar. I eventually calmed down. I then got a text from Chase, “I’m sorry, I know you blame me for what happened and you have a right to, I blame myself. You need your time to heal without me.” I then felt vibrations and *Beep**Beep* It was a text from my aunt, “It's time to come home, your brother is home and we are going to talk through everything.” When I walked back through the door I felt a surge of anger through my whole body as I stepped in what felt like a freezing house, even though it was the middle of summer. There he was, my brother who killed my best friend and abandoned me. I just stood there. My aunt welcomed me back and I sat on the opposite couch from Chase. He was different, he had brown


shabby loose curls and a smile. I haven't seen him smile in a while. I felt my anger disintegrate. I had blamed my brother for Daisy's death. How could I? He was my brother and I was the reason he ran away. I needed him then and now. It was never his fault. My grandma decided to break the ice and ask about where he went. He went to South Carolina and stayed with friends. He got a job and is saving to go to college. Then it went quiet. We all stared at each other. He looked at me. I didn't look at him once this whole time. I was slowly melting, he was actually doing good. I was happy for him. Why was I happy for him? He left. I remember this conversation like it was yesterday, “I don't expect to be welcomed back into the family with open arms. I don't expect to be your brother again, but I was hoping I could make it up to you. I'm not here to hurt you or anyone else even more than I already have. I didn't call or text because I knew it would have hurt you. It's my fault Daisy's dead. Can you at least try to forgive me?” Pleading with his eyes. “I hated you for two years. I thought you were the source of all my problems in life. I was wrong, I was the problem, I never dealt with anything that happened. I pushed everything down. I’m sorry, It was an accident, it was never your fault.” With pain in my eyes. I know what you're thinking, “Wow, I have heard this same story 100 times over with different characters.” The only reason I'm sharing my story is so it hopefully gets drilled into your head about what life is actually like. Life is unfair and things go downhill quickly and it sucks, but you can learn how important it is to forgive and learn. Family is a tricky thing. You can have the best bond with your family but one wrong step and everything cracks. As children it's ingrained into our heads that


people can love from a distance and what I mean by that is, even though you don't live with these people it doesn't mean they don’t love you. Most people don't live with extended “family” but every time they see you they say they love you. Anyone can be your family, you may not know your true impact on people until you're gone. Everything will work itself out, trust the process.

With love, Maggie Rollinson



FOSTER FAMILY Imogen Duffy 7th Grade • Covenant Classical School

Once upon a time in Mississippi, a boy named Greg grew up in a very privileged neighborhood. His parents were wealthy, so he never worried about the money aspect of life. When Greg was 14 his parents lost their jobs, and were losing money by the second. His parents could not support him to take care of him anymore, and he was put into foster care. He was put in many different homes but never felt like he fit anywhere. Greg turned 18, and he was taken out of foster care and left to the streets. After three months of being homeless, a woman from an organization that helps kids out of foster care find forever homes found him, and he was taken to the facility she was from. Greg and the woman named Stacey became great friends, and everyone at the facility loved Greg. Greg felt that they were his family even though he had no family. Greg later got a job at the facility and worked to help other foster children find a home like he did. Greg adopted 3 children and worked in the facility till retirement. Even though Greg’s biological family was gone his family was the facility, and the workers there who were so kind to him and let him become part of their community, will be forever remembered by Greg.



UNTITLED Christopher Elvira 6th Grade • Sawyer Elementary

It’s a cloudy day in New York City. The atmosphere today feels like anything can happen, it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. It’s a bustling city full of office workers and skateboarders. The little details are what make this place unique. Like little actions make big differences and because of that, anyone or anything could get affected. Somehow everyone is connected in a town full of activity like this. This is Jacques. A simple but strange young man. He is sitting on the stairs outside his apartment in what looks like really deep thought. He has messy brown hair, wears a silver watch that doesn’t seem to tick and leather boots with way too many cracks. For work he’s a drum player at day, and a gambler at night. One day Jacques was walking out of the grocery store and he found an envelope of cash on the ground in front of him. He knows it’s wrong to grab the money but he thinks it’s a blessing sent by God. He drops his grocery bags, picks up the money and goes home with a smile on his face. Shortly after, his grocery bags were stolen. By a woman with long black hair and a long jacket. Jacques didn’t feel good about what he did, but didn’t feel bad either. To Jacques, fate had put the money there for Jacques only and it was better off his than anyone else's. He proceeded his normal day, though very paranoid of the people around him. Went to work, then he went out with his friends. Jacques was spending all his cash on expensive drinks and blowing his cash on gambling. He took a shot, then another, then another. He


checked his phone and he got a notification from a lady friend to “come over”. Jacques took one more shot and he left the bar. He drank more than he had in quite some time. And without a second thought, Jacques proceeded to get into his car. He looked for the key, fumbled a bit, and put the key in the ignition. He felt confident that he could make a quick drive. Jacques then became easily distracted, foot on the pedal. He was driving without looking where he was going. He ended up losing complete control of the vehicle and.. Jacques drove himself into an accident. This is Vanessa. She’s young, wears dark clothing and spends her time in obscure places around the city, like the subway. She lives by her own rules. She has long black hair, wears punk rock boots, and always wears long black jackets. Though Vanessa has an innocent face and a unique style, Vanessa suffers from kleptomania. Kleptomania is a recurrent urge to steal. Vanessa steals beauty items, toys, anything she can get her hands on. Vanessa doesn’t have many friends. But she doesn’t really want any. One day, Vanessa manages to steal a silver watch that doesn’t tick, earrings, and a banana smoothie. Soon after, Vanessa is drinking her stolen smoothie. It was a normal day for her, until she noticed a man with a balaclava and a bag full of money. No one was chasing him. Vanessa proceeded to call the police. She didn’t even have any thoughts of being a hypocrite. A girl that had just broken various laws herself, proceeded to call the police on somebody else. Was she a changed person, or was she protecting herself? A couple moments later, she comes across bags of groceries left in front of the grocery store. She takes the bags and leaves without a second thought. It turns out Vanessa hadn’t changed at all. She was sitting alone in her apartment, snacking on a bag of Tostitos, and proceeded to text


a friend she knew would respond right away. There were two words to get the friend’s attention completely. “Come over”. This is Eric. Eric is a criminal, he knows how to be a criminal like the back of his hand. Being a criminal is his life. He fails anytime he tries to be a good person. Eric would spend his nights finding ways to defy the law but he failed miserably every time. After he was sent to jail for a year, he finally came back to his wife. Though he was glad to be back in his home, his wife seemed different. One day, Eric noticed something peeking under his wife’s laptop. It was an envelope, Eric opened it to find overdue balances. His wife was in deep debt. Eric didn’t want to commit another crime but he needed to get his wife out of debt. Eric did what he knows best and went to rob a bank. He prepared a balaclava and a duffel bag to rob a bank. He walked past a suspicious girl drinking a banana smoothie, she was staring at him deep in the eyes but Eric went on with his robbery. All seemed to go well until a policeman caught him in his tracks, Eric dropped an envelope of money in front of a grocery store. This is Jess. Jess is full of independence, yet has sad eyes. She has an addictive personality. Jess spends her days as a waiter and she uses the rest of her time waiting for her husband to get out of jail. A couple of days later she found a new hobby, gambling. Jess was addicted and she thought of it as a good way to keep distracted. Finally her husband got out of jail, she was finally happy. One day a letter came in the mail saying she was in debt. Jess grabbed her keys, her coat, and she left. She walked through the city without a destination. She thought things were finally supposed to be good after her husband got out of jail. It was late at night and Jess got in her car to go home, but before she put her seatbelt on.. she got hit by another car.


What does all of this mean? Let’s go over what happened. If Jess had not been addicted to gambling she wouldn’t have gotten in debt. If Jess hadn’t been in debt Eric wouldn’t have robbed the bank. If Eric didn’t rob the bank, Vanessa wouldn’t have called the police. If Vanessa didn’t call the police, Eric wouldn’t have dropped the money. If Eric didn’t drop the money, Jacques wouldn’t have picked up the money and inevitably gotten into a car crash. If Jacques didn’t use the money to celebrate none of this would have ever happened. All of this shows that the smallest of things can lead to the biggest of changes and that things you do can always come around to you in a good way or a bad way. Everyone is connected in some way. It doesn’t matter what happens we are still connected through the events that happen in our everyday lives. What one person does affects another. Like dominoes. One of us falls and the other person falls, and another, and another. The dominoes keep going, and going forever. Until we’ve all fallen.


IN HARMONY ALL TOGETHER Michelle Flores-Varga 7th Grade • Robert Fulton Elementary

As a community we live in harmony with one another together as if we were sisters and brothers. It doesn’t matter the number of members we are because we will bear one another with care and love. We don’t judge those that are among us but rather discuss and begin to adjust the situation. We stay patient without any expectations hoping to give each other motivation or at least some inspiration. That’s our policy our obligation that’s how the foundation of our community was made. A community isn’t just about the people but the contribution made by all members as one. As time goes on we evolve into a single being from strangers which we later lead into an enormous family. Our compassion for one another not being subnormality but showing confidently and jovially.



GOT COMMUNITY? Justin Gomez 8th Grade • Homeschool

Community: “a group of people living in the same place or possessing a characteristic in common.” Or by my definition: a group of extraordinary people who are kind, open, and welcoming to one another, and who treat each other as though they were family. My definition gives an accurate insight into the true meaning of community. It’s not just some people who live near each other. It isn’t just some folks whose lawn you mow. It’s not some random neighbor you helped open a pickle jar. It’s much more than that; it’s the people who stand beside you, making you feel at home. The people who make you feel safe, and who care and watch over you as if you were family. That is community. And I know this because I speak from experience. When I headed into my first Winter Retreat, I will admit, I was incredibly uptight and nervous. Not only because it was a new experience, but because I was surrounded by older kids that I hardly knew. The Retreat is an annual camping event for my church’s youth group. I had only been to the weekly youth group meetings a few times and was not acquainted with the people there. Before the Retreat, I didn’t know what community really meant. I didn’t even know that I was standing right in the midst of one. When I first arrived at the camp, I held tight to my pillow and slung my duffle bag straps around my shoulder. At first there was a bit of confusion which didn’t veil the fact that I was


nervous. Where do I put my bag? Where am I supposed to go? Are they telling us where our cabins are? I had many questions and it seemed like there was no time to ask them. I stayed close to my brothers who went on the trip with me, and eventually, we made it into one large room where the confusion was sorted out. Because it was my first Retreat, I was sentenced to “Bunking with Siblings,” which to me was quite equivalent to a death penalty. I didn’t want to be a burden to my older brothers; and I knew I could be bothersome from time to time. But, to my surprise, bunking with my brothers wasn’t all that bad. I was able to ask questions and I felt less nervous knowing both of my brothers would be near. Not only were my brothers comforting, but the cabin leaders and other members were kind and generous. They were checking in, making sure everyone and everything was alright and that everyone was happy. This was my first glimpse of community. The first service of the weekend went well, and afterward, everyone headed back to their cabins. I walked through the night with my cabin leaders guiding me. I looked up at the bright stars and moon, undisturbed by city lights, and amazed by them, began to talk about how stunning they were. There was no feeling of being left out or nervous. I felt calm, like I was surrounded by family. What was this feeling? I shook it off and continued walking in the direction of my cabin. Once inside our cabin, I jumped on my bed. I got some snacks and settled in for the night. I began to read when I smelled something strangely familiar. I got up and looked around. Fouad, (a cabin leader and overall super nice guy) was placing something wrapped in tinfoil on a clothes iron. “Are you making a sandwich?” I asked incredulously.


“I’m making a grilled cheese. You want one?” he replied. Really, he’d make a sandwich for me? Though appreciative, and shocked by the generosity, I responded, “No, thank you,” for 2 reasons: I don’t like grilled cheese sandwiches, and I was certain this was bound to go wrong somewhere along the line. At last, the sandwich finished cooking, and Fouad bit into it to try it. The bread was soggy, and the cheese wasn’t even melted. It was floppy and mushy. The sandwich was a complete fail. The whole cabin heartily joked and laughed about it. I was really enjoying the cabin’s company. The next day, I sat on a bench, eating snacks, while I watched some people play basketball. I’m not one for sports, so I wasn’t playing with anyone, and normally I wouldn’t watch anyone play either; but one of the campers, Lily, told me to watch her “beat the guys,” which we’ll just say she did. As I was watching Lily get dominated — I mean, “beat the guys,” — I saw a girl walk away from our cabin in the distance and back to hers extremely suspiciously. She moved like a generic criminal in a trashy 60’s superhero movie. Soon after, when my bunkmates and I gathered back in our cabin, we devised a plan to prank the girls’ cabin. Everyone talked, participated, and revised the plan to ensure a gorgeous, hysterical outcome. The plan was that Fouad and Chris (a hilarious guy in our cabin who was the son of the Retreat’s keynote speaker) would distract the girls, while my brother, Adrian, snuck through the back of their cabin to plant a Bluetooth speaker like a bomb. The speaker would allow us to blast music late at night while we remained safe in our cabin. However, our plan failed. While Fouad was distracting the girls, one of them asked him, “Did you get to the Doritos yet?” The girl I saw coming from


our cabin’s direction did something to our Doritos! I was in my cabin with a Dorito halfway in my mouth when Fouad burst in through the front door shouting, “DON’T EAT THAT!” “What?” I mumbled as I spat the chip out. Fouad continued, “The girls put something in our snacks, DON’T EAT ANYTHING!” One of the other people in our cabin felt the bag of tainted Doritos carefully, and was shocked to find that it was heavier than usual. I smelled them and sure enough, they did not smell like Doritos. We eventually discovered that the girls put Ghost Pepper powder in the Doritos. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I shouted to Fouad. After all, he had just saved my mouth from minutes of desperation and heat. Everyone was so thoughtful about those around them, they cared about what happened to me and all the other people at the Retreat. After the commotion died down, Fouad explained that we needed revenge. So, we created yet another plan. Once more, everyone had a part, and everyone was included. We took the leftover cheese from the floppy, soggy, grilled cheese sandwiches and waited for them to soften, but not melt; just enough to stick to whatever they hit. Then we determinedly walked over to the girls’ cabin, pretending to be mad about something. Chris demanded that all the girls come out; however, they smelled something fishy was happening, or…in this case, something cheesy. They didn’t come out and Lea, the girls’ leader angrily asked what we were doing. The curious girls pushed the door open from the inside. All I heard was Chris yell, “ATTACK!” I


saw the pieces of American cheese as they flew past me. Lea turned and covered her head. She turned back to take a glance and I nailed her in the face with a slice of cheese. I had one left and noticed a lot of objects on the floor of the girls’ cabin. I thought I’d throw it there because it would be hard to find. I have no regrets. Once I threw it, us guys bolted toward our cabin’s door, each of us feeling like the girls were right on our tails. Fouad moved a bunk bed in front of the door so no one else could get in. To this day I still have flashbacks of that battlefield, the adrenaline pumping, the fallen bodies of the cheesed enemies. To finish things off, we placed the music speaker on their windowsill, outside their cabin, and turned off the lights in our cabin so they couldn’t see us peeking and listening. Then we connected to the speaker and blasted the worst music I’d ever heard. Fouad called Lea and said in a groggy sounding voice, “Turn off that music, please.” “We’re not playing any music. Where’s that coming from?” Lea hung up the phone, and the girls frantically searched for the speaker, until they finally found it outside and turned it off. I jumped into my bed laughing. I no longer felt awkward around these guys. Everything was great. Being so much younger than everyone else didn’t affect me. This Retreat being one of the only things I’d done with them didn’t bother me, either. I felt like we were family. Instead of feeling out of place, I felt like this was my place, and these people were my people. Everyone went to bed happily. The next morning and last day of the Retreat, we had one more service and headed home. On the ride, I had another unusual, strange feeling. I sat quietly in my seat, surrounded by


all the new people I had met, and contemplated what this feeling was. I thought hard and concluded that this was the bittersweet feeling of the trip coming to an end. Despite the sadness that the trip was over, I realized I had learned so much from it. I found a whole family, a community. I discovered what it means to be part of a community. To have a group of people who understand you and care for you. People who are kind, generous, treat you like family, and let you know you belong. I’m grateful for them and wouldn’t give them up for the world. This is the true meaning of community.


IMPORTANCE OF MY FAMILY AND COMMUNITY Natalia Gonzalez 7th Grade • St. Bruno

As of right now, there is a pandemic going on. It is definitely frightening, but it is moments like these when you realize how much your family and community mean to you. Without them, I don’t know how I’d get through times like these. My family and friends are super supportive and are always there for me, we also share amazing moments together especially since we are in quarantine. Some of my favorites memories I’ve had hanging out with my family are playing board games, baking, learning to cook new foods, and even having family movie nights. Even though we are in lockdown for now I like to think of things in a positive way, like reminding myself all of these great memories wouldn’t have been made if we weren’t in lockdown. Not only have amazing memories been made recently but so have crazy encounters, for example stores were crazy. Almost all of the stores were completely empty and ran out of important supplies such as certain foods, water, and hygiene products, it was disastrous. However, when my family wasn’t able to find certain products, my neighbors would check in and drop off important goods that we happened to need at the very moment. Since they had our backs, we had theirs. It reminded me how beautiful friendships are, and how generous people can really be during scary times like these.


Although I do not know what the future holds for us, if there is one thing I do know for sure it is that I will always be by my family’s and friends’ side no matter what, and they will always be by mine. With great friendships like these, I know I can get through anything. This is why my community and family mean so much to me.


MY NEW CHICAGO Saniyya Harden 6th Grade • National Teachers Academy

Chicago is the best The city never rest Except for now It used to get loud But now its empty I miss seeing friends especially I miss Chicago Where did it go I miss the lights I miss the sights No I’m not alright I miss Chicago Where did it go I want to go walk around Go to arcade or bowling downtown I want to listen to the tv say


“TOUCHDOWN� I miss Chicago Where did it go (thank you to my brother for helping me with the first line)


DISORIENTED DREAMS Geneva Irvin 8th Grade • Robert Fulton Elementary

My community? Not like the rest of y’all. See where I grew up There weren’t gardens in every front yard, There weren’t people playing their part. Instead, our lawns were graveyards. Graveyards that held our loved ones, Graveyards that held our lost affections. See back in my days, Kids were running around like a stray. Joy and laughter like it was a holiday. Now I just reminisce because those days drifted away. Now you see why you can’t understand, To be tied down to my block like a wristband. So deep in my community, that I can’t plan What life would be like in my dreamland?



BETWEEN THE WOODS AND FROZEN LAKE Colin Jung 8th Grade • Edison Regional Gifted Center

At the head of a massive lake, adorned with exotic plants was a marble building with a golden dome, for which the city was named. It was dark at night, on New Year’s Eve. The square in front of the palace was filled with the voices of the city’s youth. The fireworks exploded above the city, the light reflecting brilliantly off the gold. Two thousand kilometres north of the Golden City, the thick concrete walls of the fortress were battered with snow. The windowless building was circular on the outside, but there were large empty spaces inside, mostly to house helicopters so that those that were unfortunate enough to work here could commute home each night. It was dark, and the building was empty. East of the fortress were hundreds of small lights that illuminated the small tents, arranged in a perfect grid, stretching from the sea to the fortress. The village was bounded by the ocean on three sides, but in the winter, the water was frozen, covered with snow as far as the eye could see. The small peninsula was separated from the mainland by the fortress; beyond the fortress was a deep forest. In a small tent on the outskirts of a little village, an old man lay on a bed of frozen hay. His son had left to find the village healer. Through a crack in the tent, he could see the two returning. His eyelids were heavy, fixed shut.


As his son neared the tent, the old man forced his eyes open and fell back into the haystack with a smile. The healer opened the tent first and stepped in to examine the old man. She was an old woman with a permanent scowl etched onto her face. “Your father’s dead.” Her raspy voice hung in the damp, frosty air inside the tent. The son stepped towards his dead father and embraced him. He touched his father’s hand, still warm, one last time, and left the tent.

◆◆◆◆◆ Two days later, thirty metres west of the old man’s, a mother whispered desperately to her oldest son inside another damp tent. The sun had just set, and a foot of snow covered the ground. Marie had never left her tent on a winter night. But her youngest son was sick and rumours were spreading throughout the village about a deadly new illness. “Andre, I’ll be back soon. Take care of your brother.” She slowly began to walk westwards, weaving through tents and trees towards the fortress. Hours later, feet frozen and the skin on her face cracked from the cold wind, Marie pushed herself into the concrete building. A tall blond man in a dark suit greeted her. The windowless lobby was bright white from the artificial light, which reflected off the polished wooden surface of his desk. The golden nameplate on his desk read: Tristan, Governor-General of Reservation #14


“My son is dying. You —” “That’s unfortunate, but we can’t help you with that.” The Governor looked at the wall above her head, holding his gaze for only an instant before turning around to pack his bags. It was getting late, and his job was not to indulge the villagers’ whims. He turned to flick the lights off. Marie was desperate. She did not, after all, walk two hours through the snow to be turned down by a heartless young man. She desperately explained that her son’s eyes were forced, that he would die soon. She explained that there was a new illness running through the village and that the government had the responsibility to act. During her monologue, the governor turned the lights off. She continued to talk, louder, her words echoing throughout the dark hallway. After she finished, the lobby was silent. Thinking he had left, she turned around towards the concrete door, defeated, and a single tear fell down her cheek. As she reached for the doorknob, the governor’s low whisper broke the silence. “Bring your son here tomorrow.” The governor rushed out the door without another word but Marie was speechless. The tear fell to the ground and spread across the concrete floor.

◆◆◆◆◆ Tristan walked down the hallway. He opened the door at the fourth entrance, punched in the password, and jumped onto his small helicopter. The engine came to life, and the roof opened. He laid back on the leather seat and closed his eyes.


An hour later, he awoke to the familiar automated message: “You will arrive at your destination in fifteen minutes.” He looked out the window to the helicopter, and down below at the city. From above, the blurred lights made the city appear golden. It was nearing midnight, but the streets were as busy as ever. He flew away from the busy streets, and above into the highest floor of the apartment building. By day, it was an architectural glory, basked in sunlight and visible throughout the city. But in the night, it was invisible. Three thousand meters above the city of gold, of brightness, of hope, Tristan was reminded again how painfully alone he was. As the helicopter gained altitude, the warm glow subsided, replaced by scattered specks of light. He landed on the roof and walked down the winding hallway and into his room without looking back. Exhausted from another long day of work, he lay down and fell asleep. A small door appeared in front of him. He opened it to find a bustling café. He intended to walk straight through it out the back door, but his legs moved of their own accord. Tristan sat down at a table in front of a woman much younger than him. Tristan tried to get up, but he couldn’t move. He tried to interrupt her, to excuse himself, but the words wouldn’t come out through the smile plastered onto his face. The woman in front of him was laughing while talking vivaciously, and Tristan found that he was laughing too. But it was no time to enjoy the scenery; he had a job to get to, and he suspected that he was already running late. He opened his mouth to excuse himself. He was interrupted by a cacophony of screams. Tristan felt a searing pain in his right ear. It was wet with blood. He looked in


front of him to see that the smiling woman had collapsed with her face on the table. She was not dead, he could see her head moving, and that she was whispering to him. He could not hear what she was saying over the ringing in his ears. Tristan could not see clearly through his tears. Blood pounded in his ears, and a pit was growing in his stomach. He lowered his head onto the table. The woman’s eyes were closed. “Oh no, oh no, Iseult...” The tears stopped and his sight faded to black. He could hear that she was whispering again, but all that he heard were his own words, echoing in his head. Tristan opened his eyes to see that it was already midday. He wiped his tears and sat up.

◆◆◆◆◆ The night before, near midnight, Marie ran back to her tent to get a few hours of sleep. It was dark; the lights above the tents had all gone out. By the moonlight, she weaved back through the tents and trees. When she reached hers, she laid down on the ground. A wave of fatigue washed over her, but as she was about to close her eyes, she noticed the sun at the horizon. The sky was still dark, but she knew she wouldn’t have enough time to sleep. With a sigh, she sat up, picked up Isaac and walked back out into the night. Before she left, she scribbled down a note for her older son, now asleep, that she had taken his brother and would be back soon. The sun was rising. The dawn wind crept into the tent and blew the note out, towards the ocean, farther and farther away.


A few minutes later, a beam of sunlight woke Andre. He had thought he would only take a short nap, but it was well into the morning. He jumped up to his feet and looked over at the stack of hay, expecting to see his brother fast asleep. Isaac was nowhere. He left the tent and ran in circles, to find nothing. Lost, he went to his friend to ask if he had seen him. As he reached to open the door, preparing his question, his friend came out of the tent. “Oh, hello.” “Hi, Leo. I was wondering if —” “So, you’ve heard? Who told you?” “Heard what?” Leo sighed. “We’re leaving. Crossing the frozen ocean. Maybe we’ll even get to a city.” “But why?” “I don’t know, my parents seem to think it’s a good idea.” Andre was distraught, but he remembered why he had gone to meet his friend. “I was wondering if —” “— you could come with us? Of course. I think my father would be alright with it.” He was at loss for words. His mother would be furious at him for losing his brother. Maybe they would turn back? It was something new, and Andre didn’t feel it in him to say no. “When are we leaving?”


“A few minutes.” There was no time for regret.

◆◆◆◆◆ Marie lingered around the fortress after leaving her youngest son. A large man with a gun had told her to get out. Slowly, she circled the fortress, looking for windows and doors. After hours, she couldn’t find any, and the same large man reminded her that she was not allowed to roam around the building, so Marie headed towards her tent. However, she realized that she was too tired to make the trip. Exhausted, she found shade between two small trees and fell asleep.

◆◆◆◆◆ Andre had been walking for hours. There was nothing. He started to appreciate the size of their village. There was nothing but flat ice ahead of them, and nothing but flat ice and the wind behind them. To their right was the village, some children outside, but still all the same. He was tired and worn out. His feet were aching. The pain helped to mask his hopelessness. Hopelessness because they were walking aimlessly to nowhere, hopelessness because he was leaving his family behind for no reason. He saw a small object on the ice. An animal? As walked towards it, he saw that it was a sheet of paper, neatly folded, having blown in from the village. He unfolded it and read. Shocked, he realized that he had to go back immediately. He was far ahead of the rest of them; he considered running off, but realized that they would follow him needlessly. Andre ran back


to tell them that he needed to go back home. Without waiting for a response, he ran back, against the wind, on the endless expanse of ice.

◆◆◆◆◆ At the same time, two thousand miles south, Tristan had still not understood what had happened. Bits and pieces of his memory combined with the dream told him that he had been someone very different. He couldn’t remember much else. It must have been over thirty years, he thought, since he last saw Iseult. When he opened his eyes to find himself in a hospital and the pain gone, he resolved to start over. He had skipped the funeral, moved into the apartment building, and signed up to work somewhere where he would never be recognized again. And so his life had been for thirty years. He would have to go to work again. It was late in the afternoon, but he thought that he should show his staff that he was fine. With a sigh, he revved the engines to his helicopter and flew off northwards, wondering if he could ever reclaim his life again. It was dark as Tristan was landing. As the helicopter hovered over the landing pad, a large aircraft shot at it. Bullets broke the cockpit and lodged in the engine. The little helicopter went up in flames as it crashed down into the fortress.

◆◆◆◆◆ Marie woke up to an announcement. It was deafeningly loud; most villagers lived farther away from the loudspeakers. “We have discovered a new disease outbreak in the region. For


your safety and the safety of our staff, we will be evacuating our building tonight. We will bring additional health personnel tomorrow. Do not panic. If you are ill, go indoors immediately and stay there until tomorrow. Thank you.” She almost tuned out in the middle of it. Was her son dead? Were they leaving him in the fortress overnight? Marie promised herself she would check on her son that night. As night fell, she walked into the building quietly. No one was inside. The silence was broken by a deafening crash. She rushed into the hallways closer to the sound, convinced that she would find her son there.

◆◆◆◆◆ Andre ran back, slipping on the ice and getting back up. The tent was empty. His mother must have already left. Looking behind him through the tent opening, he saw that Leo had come back with him. Seeing that he had made it back, they were turning around and heading back out. He had brought them back for nothing. He knelt on the ground and cried. Above was the rumbling of a jet engine, followed by bullets in rapid-fire. He rushed outside to see a ball of fire falling and crashing down into the fortress. Bearing down on it was a giant warplane. If his mother had left, he thought, she would have gone to look for his brother, in the building. He ran through the village. As he ran, he saw fires begin to start across the village. The deafening sound of bombs filled the air with the screams of the


people. Everyone was running in all directions. It was midwinter, but the village was hot from the fire. Tears formed in his eyes and fell down his face. He didn’t know whether it was his anger or the smoke that brought them. He entered the fortress. The door was wide open. He tore through the halls, opening all of the doors along the way. As he neared the end of the hallway, he felt a gust of hot air. He turned the hot metal doorknob, wincing. He found a large room without a roof. Navigating his way through the dense smoke, he found his mother. Dressed in the same clothes he saw her the night before in. She was curled up in a corner, enveloped by the smoke. The column of fire towered over them. Andre kneeled next to his mother, head down, as the flames engulfed the room. On this night, the village and its people were forever erased from the annals of history. No one might ever know that a young man died out of love for his family under this vast, dispassionate sky.

◆◆◆◆◆ Author’s Note: “What is an excellent reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying...” -Albert Camus ...and what is an excellent reason for dying is also an excellent reason for living.


LETTERS Madeline Knapp 8th Grade • Rogers Park Montessori School

DYLAN: Dylan is a 12-year-old boy who lost his father a year ago. He is living with his single mother, Anne. Dylan writes letters to his dead dad. Dylan is mysterious and creative.

ARCHIE: Archie is Dylan’s friend who is also 12. He acts as a sort of comedic relief to Dylan. A slightly chubby, loving, and funny friend to Dylan.

ANNE: Anne is Dylan’s mother who is 38. She is trying to support Dylan while being a single working mother. Anne is a vibrant, and caring mother but is often overwhelmed and stressed.

PAUL: Dylan’s dad who died in a grocery store shooting. He was carefree, kind, and assertive.

IVAN THE INCOMPARABLY MAGICAL: Ivan is a 45-yearold man who died in a fake wizard duel. Ivan is living his afterlife as a wizard in the Soul World. Ivan is quirky and odd.


Scene 1 ————————————————————— (The scene opens in DYLAN’S bedroom where he is writing a letter to his deceased father.) DYLAN Dear Dad, I miss you. And not in like that way where you miss your dog on vacation because you dropped food on the ground and you want him to come in and eat it. Does that make sense? I like, really, miss you. It’s almost like I had all this time to get to know you and I never could. After the funeral, everyone told me that you were in a better place. But how can that place be better if mom and I aren’t in it? (ANNE knocks on the door.) ANNE Honey? Can I come in? DYLAN What do you want mom? ANNE I was just coming in to tuck you in. (ANNE comes over to DYLAN’S bed to tuck him in.)


ANNE Whatcha, you writing there? DYLAN Just a letter to dad. (ANNE sighs and sits down next to DYLAN on his bed.) ANNE Oh, sweetheart. You know — (Stops herself, then waits a beat.) What are you writing about? DYLAN I’m just letting him know how much we miss him. ANNE That’s very sweet but you need to go to bed. (ANNE tucks him in and kisses him on the forehead. She then gets up and leaves the room. Once she leaves DYLAN gets back up again and starts writing.) DYLAN Mom misses you too. Even though she doesn’t talk about it, I know she does. I used to think that mom worked a lot before you died. Now I. know how good I had it. Sometimes I go all day without seeing her. She said that that’s good for me, her


being gone. That it makes me more independent. I guess she’s right. I love you dad. Love, Dylan. (DYLAN turns the light off in his room and goes to sleep. Once he’s asleep there’s an iridescent and creepy green smoke that covers his floor. The lights come up and DYLAN wakes up to find a letter addressed to him from his dad on his nightstand.) DYLAN (To himself) What the — what is this? From — from dad? (DYLAN is about to open the envelope when he is interrupted by ANNE.) ANNE Dylan! You’re gonna be late! Hurry up, let’s go! (DYLAN shoves the letter into his backpack, quickly throws clothes on and is out the door.)

Scene 2 ———————————————————— (The scene opens in a school hallway where DYLAN is talking to his friend ARCHIE.) ARCHIE ...And that’s how the dino nugget ended up in my nose!


(DYLAN turns around nervously to ARCHIE and grabs ARCHIE by the shoulders.) DYLAN If I tell you something will you promise not to tell anyone else? Or laugh at me? ARCHIE Did you get a letter from Hogwarts too? Trust me do not fall for it. They will scam you. Phew, never again. DYLAN What? No. I got a letter from my dad this morning. ARCHIE The one who died a year ago? That dad? DYLAN Don’t judge me but I wrote him a letter last night, and he responded. ARCHIE Like he wrote back to you? As if he was alive? DYLAN (Aggravated) Yes, but keep quiet.


ARCHIE Well, what does it say? DYLAN That’s the thing. I haven’t opened it yet... ARCHIE How have you not opened a letter from your DEAD dad yet?! DYLAN (Motioning) Come to the bathroom with me we’ll open it there. (DYLAN and ARCHIE walk to the bathroom and open DYLAN’S backpack to read the note. Once they open the letter they are surrounded by fog and light and it appears that they’re being transported somewhere otherworldly.)

Scene 3 —————————————————————— (DYLAN and ARCHIE are transported to the Soul World. DYLAN and ARCHIE look around in awe. The Soul World is neither Heaven nor Hell.) DYLAN What the — (in a tone of amazement) Where are we?


ARCHIE We’re not in the school bathroom anymore. I can tell you that much. DYLAN No dip, Sherlock! PAUL (From a distance) Hello? Who’s there? ARCHIE (Screaming and running around in a circle.) Oh my god! We’re dead! Are you God?! Are you the devil?! And if you are God I’m really sorry I just used your name in vain! DYLAN Archie! Calm down. But actually, for real, are you Jesus? (PAUL comes into view of DYLAN and ARCHIE) DYLAN Dad? Dad! (Runs over to hug him.) Where are we? How did we get here? ARCHIE I second that question.


PAUL You’re in the Soul World, where all people go once they’ve died. ARCHIE So we are dead! I knew it! PAUL No, no, no you aren’t dead. You were just transported here, and you have to leave. DYLAN What do you mean? We just got here. I don’t want to leave you! PAUL If I don’t get you guys out of here within 24 hours you could die and I can’t let that happen. ARCHIE So then how do we get out? Because we have things to live for! Who else is going to build the Lego Death Star with me? Because it’s not going to be Garrett! (Quieter) That worthless kid I call my brother. PAUL Well, that’s the thing. I don’t really know how to get you guys out....


ARCHIE What?! Do you mean to tell me that we’re stuck here forever?! PAUL Let me finish. I don’t know how to get you guys out of here, but I might know someone who does. (PAUL motions ARCHIE and DYLAN towards a large tunnel. They talk while walking.) ARCHIE (Sarcastically) Oh great! Now we’re marching to our impending doom! This is exactly how I imagined my day going. (Addressing DYLAN) Did you know we had a bio test today? A bio test! You know I’m failing that class... PAUL Well, then it’s good that time spent in the Soul World by humans who aren’t dead doesn’t count. So for you guys, it’s exactly the same time it was when you left. ARCHIE Oh and that! What is this place anyway? First, you tell us that we’re going to die here and now you’re telling me that time doesn’t exist?! Next, you’re going to tell us that we’re going to grow tails!


PAUL (Stops and turns around to face ARCHIE and DYLAN.) Listen, there are two principles held in the Soul World. The first is, those who reside in the Soul World can never leave unless they have unfinished business on Earth. Even then, they can not return to Earth in their human form. The second and last principle of Soul World, any human who is not dead that enters the Soul Realm must leave within 24 hours or else they will never be able to return to Earth. Got it? ARCHIE (Addressing DYLAN sarcastically) Wow, chatty much, am I right? DYLAN Shut up, Archie. (ARCHIE looks hurt but then shrugs and proceeds to follow PAUL and DYLAN.) DYLAN So how did we get here anyway? PAUL Well, like I was saying before if you have unfinished business on Earth you can return, but not in human form. DYLAN So you took the form of a letter.


PAUL Exactly. But I never intended for you to be transported here, especially not you and Archie. ARCHIE Hey! I heard that! (PAUL, DYLAN, and ARCHIE come to a stop in front of a huge tree with a door.) PAUL We’re here! (PAUL opens the door to a strange old man with a cloak, and a long white beard.) IVAN THE INCOMPARABLY MAGICAL Greetings and salutations! Welcome to my tree of secrets... Where everything is not what it appears to be. (IVAN THE INCOMPARABLY MAGICAL picks up a frog figurine then waves his hand in front of it. The frog figurine stays the same then IVAN THE INCOMPARABLY MAGICAL looks at the figurine confused and waves his hand over it until it turns to a real frog.) IVAN THE INCOMPARABLY MAGICAL See?


PAUL Yes, yes Ivan you’re a wizard we can all see that by the plethora of useless stuff you hoard. IVAN THE INCOMPARABLY MAGICAL First of all, Paul please address me by my full name, and secondly, introduce me to my new guests. PAUL (Sarcastically) Sorry, Ivan the Incomparably Magical, this is my son Dylan and his friend Archie. Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to business. I need to get these two out of the Soul World, stat! IVAN THE INCOMPARABLY MAGICAL Ah, yes! The classic switcheroo! I have seen plenty of these in my time. What happened that caused them to be transported here? ARCHIE We opened a letter from Dylan’s dad and then suddenly we realized that we weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto! IVAN THE INCOMPARABLY MAGICAL Hmmm, and Paul why did you want them to be transported to the Soul World? PAUL I didn’t. I just wanted to resolve my unfinished Earthly business.


Once I died, Dylan started writing me letters and I just wanted to respond. That’s all, I never meant for any of this to happen. IVAN THE INCOMPARABLY MAGICAL It appears to me that you and Dylan have some unresolved issues. That caused him to be transported here. You two need to work it out and then once that is accomplished you can go home. Go on! Shoo! Go into my potion room and talk it out you two! (PAUL and DYLAN walk over to the potion room to talk.) DYLAN So, Ivan the Incomparably Magical, huh? PAUL Look, I know he’s a little silly but I also know that he can help me get you guys out of here. DYLAN What if I don’t want to leave? What if I just want to stay here with you? (Softer) I feel like I don’t even know you. PAUL Oh Dyl pickle, you have a life that you need to live. You can’t throw that away for me. I want you to be — I just — I want you to live. And you do know me, I’m your dad I’ve known you longer than you’ve known yourself, and you have known me before you could know anyone else. 259

DYLAN It’s my fault that you died. If you hadn’t needed to go to the grocery store then — (Gets cut off by PAUL.) PAUL No. Don’t ever say that. I died because some guy decided to shoot up a grocery store, not because you needed lunch. It’s not your fault and it will never be your fault. DYLAN Mom misses you... I miss you... PAUL I know you guys do. I love and miss you both. (DYLAN starts to fade away as though he is being transported.) DYLAN (Through tears) Dad, I don’t want to go. I don’t want to lose you again. PAUL Oh Dyl, you’ll never lose me as long as you remember me. And Dylan, if you know anything in this life, know this: you do know me. Because if you didn’t, that would mean that I never knew you. And what would my life have been if you were never in it? Bye Dyl pickle. Bye. (DYLAN wakes up in his bed sobbing.)


UNTITLED Annya Kong 7th Grade • Hawthorne

Stephen Hawking once said that, “A few years ago, the City Council of Monza, Italy, barred pet owners from keeping goldfish in curved bowls...saying that it is cruel to keep a fish in a bowl with curved sides because, gazing out, the fish would have a distorted view of reality. But how do we know we have the true, undistorted picture of reality?” Well, Anne Way Taylor was pretty sure she knew. Knew that everyone was living in fishbowls, although probably not in the way that Stephen Hawkings was thinking of when he said that particular quote. Everyone in their own heads, and being all over themselves talking about how vast the world is, how they wish they knew more about it, how the universe is infinite, blah blah blah. As if they got it. No one got it, of course. No one knew what they didn’t know. And if that wasn’t distorted as (bleep), then Anne didn’t know what was. No swearing, Anne Taylor, she thought, and sighed. She hated rules. Well, not really. Anne just thought that, in the end, it didn’t really matter. In the end, the universe is composed of circumstance and circumstance didn’t give a (bleep) about rules. Anne sighed again. She sighed a lot. Proof: she turned to the clock on her wall, which read 8:43 PM. 2 sighs in one minute (disclaimer: no, Anne didn’t sigh twice a minute, but this certainly wasn’t her record). Anne glanced down at the paper on her desk and sighed


again. In two hours she had gotten virtually nothing done. The paper was mostly blank, except for a few faded out pencil lines where she had started to draw and then furiously erased. Her surrealist artwork was due tomorrow, and she had nothing done. It wasn’t like Anne was the kind of person who waited until the last minute to do her homework. It was just, if there was anything Anne was passionate about (you know, besides the whole thing about how humans walked around in metaphorical fishbowls that distorted their reality enough for them to be unable to fathom anything that didn’t already exist in their brains, making everything seem out of proportion in the fact that they, the 7 billion+ dominating species on the earth, were really not dominating anything, and were infinitely smaller than atoms in comparison to the infinitely large world, and that the fishbowls also prevented them from making true, true, true non-physical and empathetic bonds with other people because of inability to understand them the way one understands themselves - besides that), she loved art. Unfortunately, this prevented her from doing it efficiently, because she was always scrapping her ideas on what to draw. Every other subject was fine, really. Anne was a reasonably bright child, so she could finish most of the assignments without trying her absolute best and still get an A. It was all just circumstance. She was born a regular baby but happened to get parents who tried to get her to be passionate about learning. She pretended, for their sake. They, being stuck in their own consciousness and being only able to see her spend her minimal free time on Khan Academy, learning math and science and whatever that site had to offer, knew nothing of her


lack of passion in those studies and congratulated themselves on a parenting well done. Not that Anne thought her parents foolish or anything. They both had steady jobs - her mother a dentist and her father, a dance choreographer, both of which required a fair amount of competence. And she could hardly blame them for living in fishbowl-ish-ness. How could she? It wasn’t their fault, just circumstance that the world was a place where the order and science of biology and the brain dictated that every sentient organism could never look into the mind of another organism, nor understand how much they did not know enough for the average person to even truly fathom the former, and then realize how much they probably did not understand about what went on in the head of their daughter. Anne thought all of this while gazing out the window in front of her desk, which opened into the street, which even at 8:44 PM was bustling with just as many cars as it was at broad daylight at 3:00 PM (Anne would know. She spent most of her day at this desk). She sighed. She loved her parents, really. But whenever she tried to talk about how everyone lived their own separate lives in fishbowl-ness, and questioned aloud whether the separation came from the fishbowl or the fishbowl was a result of humans’ inability to ultimately care for more than themselves, they would look confused, then look at each other, then say things like, “Oh, sweetie,” or “Oh, honey” over and over. It was a little infuriating. Luckily, Anne knew to give up on it a long time ago. “Right, art,” Anne realized and said to herself. The project was due tomorrow, Monday, and she had exactly 45 minutes to get it done. Anne tried to think, but all she could think of was fishbowls


and their metaphorical resonance. She sat, staring at her paper, drifting in and out of intent (but useless) focus, until it was nine o’clock. Still, all she could think of were humans in fishbowls, and knowing that her parents were adamant about their ninethirty bedtime schedule even though Anne was fourteen, Anne sighed and began to draw. The next morning, Anne was bustled off to Wetherbury Academy at 8:40 AM, had a test in math at 9:10, a discussion in reading about the green light in The Great Gatsby at 10:30, and at 12:30 PM ate a rather bland cream cheese bagel and a few baby carrots, plus vanilla yogurt, that her parents had packed her for lunch, and then, ah bliss, at 1:05 PM, it was time for art. Anne took out her surrealist drawing homework and stared at it as Mr. Benalind, her art teacher, came around nodding and saying, “good job” as he collected the artwork and made checkmarks on his clipboard. As he did, Anne’s eyes traveled a little blankly over the fishbowls she had drawn, and the sky and the trees and — “Well, this is interesting,” said Mr. Benalind. Anne jerked in her seat in surprise. Mr. Benalind swiped the paper off her desk and stared at it, frowning a little. He made a swift mark on his clipboard, and continued to proceed through the room, collecting the rest of the papers. He put the pile of artwork on his desk. “These are all great!” he said. Anne noticed one of the papers were separated from the pile. “Well, mostly. The non-existent ones I’m not so sure about.” Some of the class tittered with laughter. “These are all good first drafts. I’ll pass them back around. In the meantime I want you guys to brainstorm one little bit of symbolism to put in your


work. Some of you might have done this already, which is great.” Mr. Benalind’s eyes found Anne’s. “If that’s the case, you can work on your next draft or add even more symbolism. At the end of this you’ll write briefly about your surrealist piece and say if it came to you in a dream, or if you were inspired by melting cheese.....” The class laughed a little again. “I’m serious. Salvador Dali drew his surrealist art piece because of melting cheese. Anyway, you also have to write a little about the symbolism in your piece, what it means to you, etc.” As the class bustled with conversation, Mr. Benalind passed back the homework. Anne didn’t get hers back. She approached Mr. Benalind at his desk once she was sure he had nothing left to pass out. He was bending over the paper that wasn’t in the pile, looking thoughtful. “Ah, Anne,” he said as she approached. “I wanted to talk to you about your surrealist piece,” he said before she could open her mouth. “The fishbowl thing.” He stared at the paper - Anne’s paper — at the people, proportionate and otherwise normal except for their heads, which were in fishbowls, distorted and wild, with wide eyes. They walked in a single-file, staying distant from each other, heads bowed. “Anne, I wonder what you think of the term ‘community’,” Mr. Benalind said abruptly. Startled, it took Anne a few seconds to reply. When she did, she said this: “I don’t know, Mr. Benalind. Um, community is where people who like and do the same thing feel a certain connection with each other enough to socially interact.” Anne paused. “However, I’d like to argue that that connection is mostly meaningless,


because since everybody is living inside their own heads - well, just because three people like to draw, doesn’t mean that they feel some sort of energy towards each other. In fact they won’t, because humans live in their separate metaphorical fishbowls ” Anne gestured to her paper “- and therefore are usually emotionally distant from each other. Community seems more like an obligation than anything else. Like, just because my parents and I like reading, doesn’t mean that we all feel some great connection to each other, and that’s why at 7:00 PM we all read for half an hour in the living room, and all of a sudden we understand each other deeply, united by the common goal of finishing reading all the books in our bookshelf. So communities are actually just a group of people who like the same thing and feel obliged to point it out and start a club or whatever.” Mr. Benalind looked at Anne. “I think you don’t quite understand what community is, Anne.” Anne sighed. There was no singular meaning of community, nor anything non-physical.She didn’t say anything, though. “I don’t want you to do surrealism this week, Anne,” said Mr. Benalind. Anne’s eyes widened in shock. “Huh?” she demanded, feeling a twinge of disbelief and also anger at her teacher. “Mr. Benalind,” she began, fighting to keep her voice from raising, “Just because you and I have different ideas on —” “I want you to do an art piece on community instead.” Anne was speechless. Mr. Benalind gave her a look that made it clear she was to go


back to her seat. Anne obliged, still shocked, and stared at the wall with a growing feeling of helplessness for the rest of the class. When she returned home at 4:30 PM, she did her homework a lot slower than usual, thinking about Mr. Benalind’s assignment. She ate a very hurried dinner and sat down before a sheet of blank paper, staring at it until her mother called her. “Reading time, honey!” she called down the hallway. “Not now,” Anne said, halfway through finishing a hasty sketch. “It’s seven!” “Not now!” she yelled in irritation. Uh-oh. No shouting. Anne never raised her voice in front of her parents. She could hear them speaking hushed voices down the hall. She was now too furious to think. She wadded up her paper. Her father entered her room. “Anne, please come and read.” “No, I’m doing homework,” Anne said. No talking back. She had already broken two rules. In the end it didn’t matter, she reminded herself. The world was composed of circumstance. She felt a boiling feeling in her throat. Her father quietly crossed the room. “Anne —” Anne wadded up her paper and threw it at him. Three rules. “Homework,” she repeated. Her father looked shocked. “No throwing,” he warned her. Anne didn’t respond. Her father picked up the crumpled piece of paper and unfolded it.


“I have to draw a community piece for art,” she said, feeling her face flush. “Give it back.” “Community?” Her father stared at the paper. He sounded sad. Anne looked at him. “Sweetie,” he began. He set the paper on her desk and smoothed it out. Anne looked at the drawing. People with glasses in one group. People with basketballs in another. People with books, people with paintbrushes. People, people, people. She drew different colored lights around each group. “This....” Her father looked at Anne. “It’s not like this.” Anne didn’t say anything. “Come outside with me,” her father said. “It’s late.” “You can put on your coat.” “It’s reading time.” “You can skip it today.” That shut Anne up. She stood up numbly and snatched the paper from her father’s hand, tossing it in the garbage. Her father didn’t say anything. Anne followed him outside. “See those stars?” her father said, pointing to the sky. “I would see more if humans didn’t pollute everything,” Anne said, determined to stay grumpy. Her father laughed. “True. But that’s not my point. My point


is that, even though those stars are light years away from each other, even though the ones we see shine brighter than the ones we don’t, they are still part of the same sky.” “Bull—” Anne cut herself off. “So? That’s like saying humans all live on earth.” “We do.” “Yeah, but —” Anne sighed. “It’s all just nature and evolution and stuff. It doesn’t mean anything. We’re still all different. We’re still all trapped in our own heads.” “Yes, we are.” Anne looked at him, startled. “I listen to you, Anne, I do. I get what you are saying. Does that mean I get everything that goes on inside your head? No. But I think I, as your father, understand this: Anne, you feel like you are different, and you hate it. You hate feeling like you are trapped inside your own head and being the only one who knows it. You long for someone who sees the world the way you see it.” Anne couldn’t speak. “And there are people who do. You, Anne, have a mind that shines brighter than most, that stands out. Do you think you are the only star that shines like you do? Of course not. Do you think those stars are just like you? Of course not! But internally, there is something about each of them that fits, Anne. Different stars, same constellation. Different stars, same sky. You think that community means everyone is like everyone else. You think that to be a community, you have to be the exact same kind of fish to compensate for being in different fishbowls. You are very, very wrong. What does community mean, Anne?” At 7:23 PM, Anne apologized to her mother. At 8:30, she finished her drawing. Seven humans with fishbowl heads. Different races and backgrounds and lives. Standing in one huge


fishbowl. Looking up at the stars. She wrote a note: Community is where different people with different backgrounds and different lives see things in the same way as other people. Where their vision is distorted, but similar. Where they live their own lives, but live them together.


SUNSHINE POUR THROUGH THIS CAR WINDOW Sydney Kovarsky 7th Grade • Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep

“Cal!” some lady screamed. I suddenly bring my head up and shake my desk noisily from shock. My vision is blurry but the bright shining sun light spilling through the curtains strains my eyes. I wipe my eyes and as my vision clears, I see that I’m in class, in my desk in the middle of the room, everybody’s eyes on me. I look straight ahead again as the teacher’s body is blocking my entire vision. I look up to see my teacher Ms. Weingate in front of me, a sour expression on her face as she pushes her tan glasses up. She was wearing a black skinny dress with her brown hair up in a bun. “Hey, Weingate,” I said drowsily. My eyes were still squinted from still adjusting to the light. “How are you?” “It’s Ms. Weingate to you.” she said sternly. “Well, potato potah-to.” I shrugged off. She narrowed her lips and her purple, sapphire eyes. Suddenly, she lifted her hand with her palm facing the ceiling, and strained her fingers. Green vines slowly started to flow out from the middle of her hand and gracefully pointed themselves to me. I got up from my seat and rolled my eyes. Her vines wrapped around my body and restricted me tightly, her face clearly annoyed. “How many times is this going to have to happen?” she called out. “Not everybody is afraid of you.” Her vines lifted me up


from the air, varying in wild different sizes and different color tones of green. “I’m not saying anybody is afraid of me. I’m just tired.” “That’s not my problem. You’re going to treat me — your superior — with respect,” she said. A little pink flower appeared on the vine on the right of my head. I look over to her desk in the front of the class to see text on her name plate presented in the front: Daisy Weingate Special Ability: Can create vines from her hands. The more flowers that appear, the shorter time she’s allowed to hold them before they disappear. “Ok I get it, can you just take me to the office now?” I said, rolling my eyes again with a slight sigh in my throat. She was angry. This wasn’t the first time, however. She started walking towards the door, the vines still held onto me, my feet dragging onto the floor, causing a squeaking sound. She walked out the doorway, and extended her vines to grow down the hallway until I reached the door to the office. She let go of the vines connected from her hand, and its last tail wrapped around me and I’m let down to the floor, still wrapped from the chest to my waist. I struggled to open the door with my arms pinned at my side, but I finally opened it. Another flower appeared near my hand, and another one next to my left arm. The office administrator sitting at the tall desk looked at me, looked back at her computer screen, looked back at me again, then rolled her eyes back farther than I could.


“Four times this week, Calvin, huh?” she said. She naturally had an attitude in her voice, even though I could tell she was trying to be funny. I gave a slight smirk as I looked down, trying to ignore the tied-up situation (pun intended). I glance to the right and see five seats with dark blue covering. I walked over to the seat and sat down. The vines were as still as rock on my skin, and I felt my arm going numb. More and more flowers showed up as each couple seconds passed by. “It’s Cal....” I mumbled. She just giggled. “Calvin, I’ve known you ever since you were a freshman, and now you’re about to go to college after this year. I’ve seen your mind fall lower and lower every single time you come in this office, and you realize that was too many times, right?” I stopped grinning as my smile slowly faded away. She noticed and she sighed. The little poofs of the flowers popping up started to become white noise. She looked at me as I looked at her, and she waved her hand towards her. I got up (using all leg strength) and walked to her desk. On the wall on the way to her desk, there was a circular mirror. I glanced through it: The vines started to dull in color as they were blanketed in pink and purple flowers. My pitch black slightly curly hair was like a floppy mop with no clear pattern. My one earring in my left ear was a silver point while my other ear was left bare. I had freckles that were obnoxiously bold, and my grey crewneck complimented my flop-hair. What really stood out, however, were my eyes. My red, fiery, rich, deep red, very sarcastic eyes. They were my biggest insecurity. Everyone was always so fearful of my eyes, and because of that, I felt alone. All because of my red eyes. It made me angry. Lots of things in my life made me angry. I always thought when I was younger that people would admire my


abilities and my eyes, but I’m not what they thought I would be. I looked away from the mirror and continued on my path to her desk. She watched me the entire time with every movement and every flower that grew. When I finally reached her desk, she tried to grab my hand, but I snatched it away instinctively. I didn’t mean to. She slowly inched towards my hand again, and I gave it to her. She massaged it with her hand calmly and she looked into my eyes. She was the first person to ever look directly into my eyes. I looked at her nameplate on her desk: Marina Tailman Special Ability: Can heal anybody (only physically, not mentally) with a single touch. Wonder why she had to say mentally…I thought to myself. I looked back at her. Her light pink eyes shined brightly and complimented the light blue wallpaper. She had hope in her eyes, with a tad bit of remorse. She wanted to help me, but she didn’t know how. “Calvin, sugar, I’m not going to sit here and act like I know you because I don’t. I can’t understand what you have to go through mentally, I don’t even know what goes on in your head. But, word gets ‘round. Your family aren’t the best role models with no love in their hearts, you have to deal with bad grades, always getting people to avoid you, not to mention your…” she slowed down. I was confused. Even my only supporter thinks there’s something wrong with me. But, I had to admit, the numbness in my arms and the tightness from the vines started to fade with such ease.


“Not to mention my what?” I asked with an attitude. I didn’t mean to be so rude. It just rolled off my tongue from always being judged for my red eyes. There are purple eyes, pink eyes, orange, tan, blue, green, turquoise, hundreds of thousands of colors, and out of all of them, I’m the only red-eye person I know who gets the hate they get now. If I had to say it, I’m the only red-eye person I know. Her eyebrows suddenly fell into a worried state, and she looked like she was holding something back from me. I felt annoyed, and snatched my hand away. She didn’t try to hold my anger back. “Not to mention my what!?” I said louder. “You really don’t know?” “Know what…?” She took a long pause. I was about to walk out the room when she started talking. “You are not supposed to have red eyes....” she finally said. I looked back at her, confused. “Red eyes are the Forbidden color.” I felt like my face was on fire from the anger that poured into my head. As my anger popped a vein in my head, the veins that wrapped me poofed into thin air, the flowers going with them, pink dust floating around in the air like dust. She supported me, a stupid office administrator, and she was more of a mother than my mother could ever dream of becoming. She insulted me. I felt insulted. Maybe I am a hothead, but when your life is this bad, what else can you feel? It’s like people don’t care about you. My family, my community, all feel like I am “dangerous”, a little boy who can’t be a good student. Before I was about to say something, the doors to the office


flew open behind me, and I quickly spun around in surprise. Once I saw who it was, I rolled my eyes and slouched my back. Why are they here? It was my mom with my little sister. She looked furious, as she always does, and my sister (who looks innocent, even though she is 12) looked at me with a sinister smile. “Let’s go.” Mom said sincerely. I looked back at Ms. Tailman, then started walking towards the door. Time passed. We were silent. We were in the car, driving our way home. Why do we live so far? And how did she get to the school so fast? Mom is driving while I am in the passenger seat, my sister in the back looking out the window, watching the trees fly by and the sun shine brightly, providing positivity on the brick buildings and the cars whizzing by. Wish some sunlight could reflect in this car. “How many times do I have to do this?” Mom said, her eyes attached to the road. It was like she didn’t want to look at me with her grey, dull eyes. She’s powerful. One of the most powerful people I know. “What was I supposed to do? I wasn’t caught up on work and she was moving ahead…” I tried to explain, even though I know the story wouldn’t hold up with her. “I couldn’t do anything.” “That wouldn’t have happened if you would’ve done your work in the beginning.” “Don’t you think I know that?” “Watch your tone, boy!” She finally took her eyes off the road


and looked at me dead in the face. Her eyes were the dullest, but you could tell there was annoyance behind the color. Color only corresponds to your ability, not to your attitude. I wish it could. It would save me a lot of pain. I finally stopped looking at her and scoffed as I combed through my hair, and looked out the window. Streetlights were in a pattern of blur every couple of seconds, and the sky was such a pretty blue. Why can’t things be nice for a change? “Why do you just refuse to be a good student? Or a good son?” She said after some time. “What’s the point when all I do is disappoint you?” I replied. “You wouldn’t disappoint me if you just were a good person.” “Well, you made me like this,” “What do you mean?” “All you do is just make me guilty over everything! You just treat me so differently than everyone else! It’s like everyone gets a pass to do everything in your eyes and I’m the only one fighting for a ticket into your life....” I finally snapped. Been meaning to get that out for a while. “I’m your son…why can’t you just accept that and let me have a chance? I know I’m not the best student, or a good person, I know I’m a jerk. But I am because I push people out like you do to me. You matter to me. You’re my mother. Without you, without dad, without Carrie, without everybody else, what am I?” She stopped with the stern face and guilt washed over her, I could tell. “Cal, I —”


“I’ll tell you what I am. I’m this stupid kid who’s failing everything, even having friends, because apparently my eyes are like ‘no other.’ Even my eyes aren’t enough for anybody. Eyes. You would think people would ignore them and love you for who you are, but no. Eyes are the most important thing to a person and what they’re like. I guess they’re right. Red is dangerous.” I said sarcastically. A tear shed down my face, but I quickly wiped it away. I refused to get vulnerable. Finally, we were home. She parked the car and Carrie and I got out and went up the steps on our porch. That car ride was shorter than usual. Maybe because I’m used to just sitting in silence in the car for so long, my mind always extends the time. Maybe that’s why she was so quick to pick me up. We were walking up the stairs to the house on the porch when a voice was heard behind us with an echo. “Hey, Carrie! Hey, Ms. Welshire!” a man called out on his porch with a wave across the street. I saw his eyes lock on mine, but he never said my name. Mom and Carrie waved after him, then walked up the stairs. Mom started unlocking the front door, but I was stuck in place watching the man on his porch. Why didn’t he say my name? It was the next day. I woke up slowly out of bed. Thank goodness it’s the weekend. I sat up and looked at the clock on my desk next to me: it’s 12:30 pm. Earliest I’ve ever woken up. I heard clattering of tools downstairs, so I got up and walked downstairs, the stairs screaming under my feet as I approached the final one. I look and my mom is in the kitchen at the sink, and my dad is at the dining room table, my sister looking at a newspaper with him. Who reads newspapers anymore? Mom


turned around and looked at me with a smile on her face. She then rushed over to me with open arms also. She tightened around me and spun me around, restricting me ever so tightly. What is she doing? “Hey, Cal! Good morning! Can you help me for a second?” she asked. Before I could even ask what was happening, she dragged my arm to the backyard, where there was a pile of old clothes, cloths, the smell of alcohol doused all over the giant pile. “What are you doing?” I hissed. She ignored me and pointed at the pile. “Shoot.” “Shoot what?” “The pile! You have anger in your system, I can tell.” She smiled, and her grey eyes immediately switched to red, and she shot her hand out, and a fireball shot, setting a couple of soaked clothes on fire. I immediately switched my mood, and used my ability to run around the pile, doing spin tricks and different tricks with my fire. It was fun. The first time I ever had fun like this. After about ten minutes, the fire had gotten too big, and we had to stop. I have never let out my ability like that before. Mom was panting from all the running around she was doing, and her eyes turned to a light blue, shooting her hand towards the giant fire and water put it out. After it was all just charred by now, her eyes switched to a clear-like color and she looked at me: my mind started to feel dizzy and I felt like I couldn’t think. Then, my mind was fine, and I felt normal again. No, I didn’t feel normal. Normal for me was holding in all of this anger towards everything. I felt better.


“I read your mind,” she said. I smiled. “You’re happy. That’s good. But, you’re confused.” She was right. I am confused. I thought back to what the office administrator said. Red is the Forbidden Color. We went inside and mom told me a story. It was quite interesting, honestly. Red is Forbidden because fire was the most dangerous ability out there, and somebody with it was not part of society. Apparently, I am quite literally one in a million. Seriously. “The reason we ignored you and disrespected you was because we didn’t want someone like that part of our family line. You were menacing-looking, with your black hair and red eyes. Nobody wanted anything to do with you. Clearly, we were wrong. We should love you for who you are. Not what some prophecy said.” she said. I felt relieved. It wasn’t my fault. I am right. Mom is a powerful being. Powerful for your mind, but more so because she can mimic any power she can think of. Wish I had that. But I am fine with what I have too. “The talk you gave me in the car opened my eyes. I couldn’t see the damage we were doing to you. You matter to us, too, Cal. We love you. You just scared us. We, your family, matter to you because you are a part of us. Doesn’t matter what people think. We knew the whole time behind those eyes that there was somebody good. But I didn’t stop your behavior because I thought that side would show. You matter to us because if we are negative towards you, you are going to reflect that. If we are positive to you, it’s obvious what the answer to that is.” After those words, I hugged her tightly by almost jumping on her shoulders. First time I ever hugged her before. She’s right.


They matter to me. Family matters to me. Community matters to me because if they can’t accept me, then we’re back to step 1: giving up on hope. I should’ve tried to understand before doing stupid things, and I guess they could’ve been nicer. In the end, it all adds up. We need each other. No matter what our abilities are, it all comes down to who you choose to be as a regular person.



MY TIME AT CAMP AMACHE Rachel Kubiak 8th Grade • Sauganash Elementary School

My mother always told me that a unified community would make the best out of any situation. Now that I look back, all those years ago, she was right. The year was 1941, it was a cold December afternoon. The clouds covered up any hope of sunlight that could defrost our windows. I came back from a normal day of school, walking into the house with cold air nipping at my nose. I went into the kitchen to do my homework, and saw my family avidly listening to the radio. I didn’t think anything of it at first, until I heard eight distinct words. “Pearl Harbor was just bombed six hours ago.” That is when my life turned upside down. My name is Setsuko Endo, and this is my story. I was born on February 2nd, 1929 into a family of five. There is my younger sister Miyoko, my older brother Hiroshi, my mother, my father, and myself. We lived a respectable life in a small city in Pennsylvania. My life was normal until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I would go to school for a seven hour day, walk the scenic route home, do my homework, have dinner with my family, read, and go to sleep. On the weekends I would play with friends like everyone else. There was always that small tension between the Japanese-Americans and the Americans, but it was very unnoticeable to me. At least until Pearl Harbor was bombed.


I was twelve when the incident happened. The bombing was a Japanese air assault that destroyed many artillery ships and airplanes. This caused the deaths of 2,403 men and women. When the federal government found out it was the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor, not even two months later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066. This ordered all Americans of enemy country descent to be relocated. After that, the small racial tension I had nothing to worry about became a huge issue. I was treated as if I were a rat running around the streets scavenging for food. I was given side eyes, I was even spit at. It was as if the Akuma (A Japanese fire spirit) was staring right into my soul. After seven months of this terrible new life, I only had two friends Chiyo and Kiyo that were still in town. The rest were relocated to places I am unaware of to this date. The day had finally come where my friends' families and mine were told to sell our items and pack our things. We were to be sent to the Granada War Relocation Center, also known as Camp Amache, in Colorado. We were expected to be at the train station within a week for relocation. My friends and I promised we’d find each other once we arrived at the camp. A new journey had begun for my family and many others. My family and I had made it to the train station, before we knew it we were being pushed onto the train. The train ride was long and tormenting. The smells that surfaced on the train were unbearable, and we didn’t even have a seat to ourselves. We shared seats with other clueless passengers, as we were frightened and had no idea where we were going. The worst part was that the train was only filled with Japanese-Americans. We were being targeted, sent away for something we didn't even do. There was no one left to take care of the house so we lost


everything. After what seemed like days, everyone on the train was relieved to finally be outside and standing again. What we didn't know was that this wasn't the end. We were forcefully sent into rows to be counted and documented. Everyone was sent back to find their families, to then just be sent back onto another smaller train to get to the camp. This time the ride was much shorter. At that point I remember very little because I had fallen asleep. I woke up to the ear piercing sound of train whistles bellowing . Everyone now knew it was time to depart. We were waiting in one long line so we could be checked in and then given a barrack assignment. When it was finally our turn there was another family of three standing next to us. We were to be assigned a room with this family. At the time it felt very peculiar to be living with total strangers. But I soon realized we were one of the lucky barracks. Other rooms had three to four families per barrack. We got to settle in for a small period of time before we were told it was time for dinner. As we were eating dinner, we learned that the bathrooms were a block away past the mess hall. The dinner was barely edible. My brother soon became nauseous. He had been stricken with food poisoning from the food we had eaten no more than two hours earlier. Things were not looking good at this time. The bathrooms were disgusting, the pungent smell of urine and feces filled the latrines. To make matters worse the rooms had no privacy. It was either very cold or scorching hot, there was no in between. I was running out of hope fast. I wanted to go home and be with my friends. That was the night my mother had given me the advice about the importance of building a strong community. I was up most of that night, but then I convinced myself to get to sleep as I was being enrolled in school the next morning.


Soon I was able to adjust to this new normal. In fact, it was like our own little town. Our camp had a police station, a firehouse, shops, grocery stores, we even had a church where we could practice our religions. Adults that had jobs started to get paid small wages. Every kid, including highschool students, went to school Monday through Friday. Each person was given three meals a day. People even started to plant small gardens. It was nowhere near similar to my old life, but it was starting to be quite enjoyable. I even found Chiyo and Kiyo once I started school. This new normal had oddly brought us even closer together. Everyday after school, Chiyo, Kiyo and I would do our assigned school work in the community gardens. After we finished our work we would go over to the basketball and volleyball courts to watch the older kids and adults indulge in sports. It was really nice to see everyone have smiles on their faces. The beams of laughter from the younger children filled my heart. There were so many activities created by the community to pass the time. After dinner there were martial arts lessons in the schools, and fencing and wrestling in the baseball fields. Although most Japanese customs weren’t in play, the majority of people were happy. In wartime that's really all that matters. Here we were safe from bomb threats. We were building our own community through social interactions. By the time we were set free I knew almost everyone in the camp. The best part about living in the camp was the tight-knit community that the people had created. Not only through school and sporting activities but also the adults going to work with the same people each day. Everyone who was a part of this community was there to help each other. That is how the


volleyball courts and baseball fields were made. Not only were the recreational activities constructed by the devoted people, the gardens were also created. Now my friends and I had a peaceful and quiet place to do our homework. I remembered really missing everyone once it was time for us to go back home. I had to spend two years with these strangers, by the end they were all like family to me. We all helped each other get through this rough patch in history. I was forever grateful for the efforts made by the people of Camp Amache. Although the camp was enjoying itself we still had to do work for the Americans. The Japanese-Americans were key to the economy at the time so families would have to grow crops. But oddly, that was the best part. While my mother worked as a cashier, my father worked in the fields. So sometimes after school he would bring my siblings and I to the corn fields to help. It was like one huge maze in there. The corn stalks were so tall, they seemed to go on for miles. It was the perfect place to play hide and go seek. At times my brother and I would be out there until sunset looking for our younger sister. She would always win the game, as she is so small. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. By the end of the day we would be so exhausted, we would eat dinner then go straight to bed. Plus, growing our own crops meant we could make our own meals, and not always have to eat the unappetizing food the Americans would give us. Now of course, the majority of the crops went back to the hungry citizens on the homefront and on the battlefield. But we always got a small share, which was good enough for me. Contrary to popular belief, it would seem that all the Japanese-Americans would hate the rest of the U.S. for leaving


us in the camps for two plus years. Although I can’t speak for everyone, for the majority I can say that the U.S. was also our home too. I chose to respect them, as America gave us a better life than I could have ever had in Japan. Besides, the camp I lived in for two years became very enjoyable. Everyone in the camp helped me keep going, to have hope and be happy with what I have. As the war was coming to a close, so was Japanese internment. The federal government ruled Japanese internment unconstitutional and they were setting the Japanese free. It was December of 1944, and we all gathered the belongings we still had, said our goodbyes to our new friends, and returned home. My family was lucky as others had terrible experiences of typhus and dysentery, which caused paranoia for many. All families had to go home and start a new chapter in their lives. JapaneseAmericans would have to use the little money they made to rebuild their families. My family was able to rent a cheap apartment and within the next few years we were right back on track. Unfortunately for others, it was much harder, and many were homeless at the start. I think what really helped my family was the many things we learned at Camp Amache. We learned how to ration our food, and go to family for emotional support. While these camps weren’t so great for many, they taught me that it is key tomake some form of bond with your community. Without that knowledge I’m not sure how long we would have lasted in that camp. Even after the fact, for that matter. Everytime I hear a train whistle all those memories come flooding back. The good, the bad, all of it. Sometimes I wish it never happened as my race was targeted. But, if it never happened I would have never learned one of the most important


lessons in my life. I would have never met all those amazing people. Some consider this a time in history to be covered up and forgotten. I considered it a blessing, to have survived, to learn important lessons, meet great people, and form a new community. I want to shed some light on the good and the bad experienced during this time, while also passing on the lesson I have learned. Even during tough times if you work hard, care for others, and form strong bonds, you can create happiness anywhere, at any time.



PART OF THE REST OF US Juliette Latva 7th Grade • Rogers Park Montessori

Amelia reached into her wardrobe and carefully selected a blouse. There were only three so it wasn't a difficult choice, but still, she paused, her frail and lined hands stopping to feel each one. Today she would wear the ivory blouse with the Peter Pan collar and the dainty rose buttons. When Peggy came to bring her breakfast that morning, she would ask her for help with the buttons that always gave her so much trouble. Today was a special day. The kind of day that called for a special blouse. The local Montessori school was sending students as “friendship ambassadors,” to the memory care home where she lived. Amelia eagerly looked forward to these visits along with the concerts from the Suzuki students and other local youth orchestras that would occasionally come to play music for them. In the past, she had enjoyed bingo, but had quit after she found the bingo caller too difficult to follow. But the student visits were different. Even when she found the present difficult to navigate, the past was always available to her. Having a willing audience to share that past with her was a comfort. The gentle knock at the door startled Amelia and for a moment she was confused where the noise had come from. “Good morning Miss Amelia,” Peggy called entering her room. “Beautiful day, sun is shining, birds are chirping. Let’s get these blinds open so we can get some light in here,” Peggy said opening the shutters in one swift movement. “You know I love


that blouse on you. Your calendar says you have a visitor coming today. Are you excited?” “Uh...yes.” Amelia replied. “Good. I brought you some coffee and oatmeal. Let’s get you fed and ready for the day.” Peggy said, taking the blouse from Amelia’s hands. “Peggy, won’t you have some coffee with me?” Amelia asked. “Amelia, if I have any more coffee this morning I’m going to be bouncing off the walls. I can sit and talk to you while you eat your breakfast though.” “That sounds nice.” Amelia said reaching for her coffee, her hands shaking. “Careful, it’s hot. I don’t want you to spill it” Peggy said. After Amelia got ready for the day, Peggy walked her out to the sitting room where she would sit with her guest. Peggy waited until she heard the ding of the elevator, announcing that the students had arrived to go and tend to her next patient. Although Amelia had had a number of visits in her time at the memory home, everytime a new group of guests came, she became nervous as if it were the first time she’d had any visitors. The nerves came because the excitement she felt at the prospect of connecting with someone but never met her ability to access her thoughts in a clear way. She could feel the eyes glaze over as she rambled desperately wanting to corral her thoughts into a cohesive narrative. She felt their disappointment and their confusion and she always wished she could be more straightforward. But there was hope too. Hope that she would find the connection she longed for.


The social outreach coordinator, Jenny, approached Amelia with a tall, long-haired girl and said, “Amelia I want you to meet Sarah. Sarah is 13 and is an 8th grade Friendship Ambassador from the Montessori school. Sarah would you like to tell Amelia anything about yourself?” “Um...sure.” Sarah said, clearing her throat. “Well, I play lacrosse and the piano and I enjoy sewing.” She added. “Wow!” Jenny said, trying to break the silence. “Amelia, may I tell Sarah a little bit about you?” Amelia nodded her consent. “Amelia is 89 years old. She was born in Poland and lived through WWII. Her family escaped the Nazis and immigrated to the U.S. when she was just 9 years old” “My family is from Poland. I’ve never actually been there though.” Sarah replied. Shyly she added “Dzień dobry! My grandmother would always greet me that way” Amelia smiled in recognition. She looked at Sarah’s almondgreen eyes, her broad face with the high cheekbones and saw her little sister, Lena. “Lena your hair is so beautiful. It’s grown back since Papa cut it.” Sarah paused and looked into Amelia’s eyes searching for some context as to who Lena was. She knew from her experience with her own great aunt, who would occasionally confuse family members with each other or forget they existed at all, that Amelia was going through something similar. She glanced over and saw that the conversation between her fellow classmate and another patient was at a standstill. “Yes I thought it would never grow back. Have you talked to Papa recently?”


Amelia ignored that question but answered with “Do you remember how much you cried when he cut our hair? He said that the chickens were too dirty to have us tending to them with long hair. I didn’t care because I loved the chickens so much, but you told Papa the kids would make fun of you.” “Yes, I remember. I felt so embarrassed.” Amelia nodded in recognition. “And Papa only made things worse when he insisted that we wear those silly green hats that mother had knit for us so we wouldn’t catch a cold.” Sarah laughed and said, “Yes, not only were they an eyesore, but they were itchy too.” Amelia paused for a long moment. “I’m glad you forgave him Lena, he was a good man and life was so hard for us all then.” Amelia’s eyes filled with tears and then she added “We were the lucky ones.” Seeing Amelia cry, Sarah also found herself tearing up and said, “You are right Amelia, we were the lucky ones.” Amelia suddenly felt tired. Seeing Lena had been an unexpected surprise that had filled her with both happiness and sadness as the memories of her youth returned to her. She bent her head over the chair and focused her gaze on a snag in the carpet. Amelia’s thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Jenny who said, “I hope you two have had a nice visit. I’m afraid it’s time for Miss Amelia to return to her room.” “We had a lovely time,” Sarah said standing up to leave. She was suddenly struck that she didn’t know if she should just say goodbye or hug Amelia. There was a vacant look to Amelia's


face so she just decided to say goodbye, but she walked away wishing that she had given her a hug.

◆◆◆◆◆ When I stepped into the elevator, I had two things on my mind: the smell of the memory care facility and Amelia. It smelled of disinfectant, moth balls and some sort of indistinguishable food smell that made my stomach churn. It was the kind of smell that you knew you might be smelling for days, getting unexpected whiffs without warning. Then there was Amelia. I had a feeling that unlike the smell that would disappear in a matter of days, my visit with her would last much longer. I’d gone into the meeting feeling somewhat matter of fact about it. Our school required us to fulfill three service projects each semester. I was checking the box with the added bonus that I got to skip my Algebra quiz which I was very understudied for. I felt about it the way I feel when I babysit my next door neighbor: happy enough to do it but really just in it for the money. My visit with Amelia had not gone as expected. I looked over at my classmate, Margot, who seemed to be unable to connect with her patient. Always industrious, Margot suggested they draw a picture instead of talking. Margot tried to help her draw however Josie (I think it was) was unable to hold her pencil. My plan had been to exchange pleasantries with Amelia, ask her about her family, what her favorite foods are and does she have a favorite sports team. I was taken off guard when she called me Lena with a familiarity that should not have existed between us. My first instinct was to correct her and tell her that I was


Sarah, but then I looked into her eyes. Eyes that, despite years of battering, tears shed and observations made were strangely like my own. The gray that turned to green in certain lights, the almond shape (minus the red-rimmed lids) were so much like those that I greet everyday in the mirror. When she called me Lena those same eyes, which had minutes before been so dull and lifeless, now had shone with a new energy. It seemed it would have been cruel to not go along with her story. My English teacher, Mr. Roberts, requires us to write a reflective essay about one of our service projects. Tonight I will write about Amelia and as much as I know about her life. How she emigrated from Poland at a young age and escaped the Nazis, how she is dainty with delicate features and trembling hands, how her eyes are green, how the buttons on her blouse were in the shape of roses, how there is a dignity to her and how it's obvious that her caretakers love and respect her. But most of all how she loved her sister, loved her chickens, loved her father and made me see that like her, I am one of the lucky ones.


UNTITLED Serena Lee 8th Grade • Lane Tech Academic Center

we scatter like smoke in the wind each day in storm or sun, we each find new paths through separately, we go on our own ways but I will always come back home to you late January brings sharp winds and ice the trees bow to the snow falling in sheets the weather may be a roll of the dice but back at home, our warmth will never cease spring arrives, along with constant rain worries join fog weighing on my back i’m chasing all the things I can’t obtain but when with you, there’s nothing that I lack summer frees me like a bird from cage And I adventure well into the night when i face defeat, forced to disengage you hold me and say it will be alright


finally, autumn blows her winds of change I stand above a chasm of unknowns these new worlds seem so terrible and strange but I know that I wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t face them alone we scatter like smoke in the wind each day in storm or sun, we each find new paths through separately, we go on our own ways but I will always come back home to you To my family, I love you and I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be where I am now without you <3


HELLFIRE Lilah Lehner 7th Grade • Bell School

Beep! Beep! Beep! Sophie Evanten groaned and smacked her alarm. It was centuries old, and it made the loudest noise Sophie had ever heard. She rolled out of bed, blearily standing up. Staggering to her window, she yanked open the curtains. Smoke. She sighed and flopped back down on her bed. It hadn’t always been like this. Death. Smoke. Fire. It had started when a mystery illness came to a remote part of the US. At first, people hadn’t been worried. They thought the illness was harmless, that they would find a cure quickly and the whole thing would be over in a few weeks. But it wasn’t. The illness spread like wildfire — literally. Some of the symptoms were smoke coming out of your ears, coughing up blood, and listlessness. But that wasn’t the half of it. At the end, just when it seemed like you might recover...You burst into flames. And burned to death. People called it Hellfire, and it had swept over nearly the entire world. Scientists were working tirelessly to find a cure, but so far nothing had been found. If one of your close family members had it, you most likely did too. The illness spread by human interaction, so the president had ordered everyone to stay inside. People were still getting sick every day, though. Sophie was fed up with quarantine, but most of all, she was terrified for her family members and for herself. She definitely


did not want to burn to death, and she didn’t know what she would do if one of her family members got sick with the disease. She turned away from the window and proceeded to get dressed, trying to ignore the smoky scent that had settled on everything in her neighborhood ever since the illness had arrived. Since everyone was quarantining, she didn’t really care what she wore anymore. Only her family was going to see it, anyways. Worn red t-shirt, old jeans and a grimy pair of black sneakers? Yup! “Sophie? Could you come downstairs?” Sophie heard her sister, Cheryl, call from downstairs. Sophie paused at the note of barely concealed sadness in her voice. Sophie shrugged it off. Reading the newspaper nowadays did that to you. “Yeah sure,” she called back casually. She thudded down the familiar dark brown stairs of her home, stopping on the last stair when she saw her sister’s stricken face. “Cherry? What happened?” Sophie asked. Cherry was the nickname everyone called her, though at the moment she looked more like a Cheryl, the sadness etched over her face making her look much older than thirteen. “Dad,” she said quietly, her voice softer than a whisper. Sophie nearly tripped over her own feet running to Cherry. “What is it? What happened to Dad?” Sophie asked, nearly yelling in her terror. Cherry looked up at her, her face streaked with tears. “Dad has Hellfire,” Cherry whispered. Sophie reeled back. No. NO. Sophie took a step back...and fell over the stairs. The last thing she could remember before she blacked out was a rush of pain and one word. No.


“Sophie? Sophie!” Sophie’s mom shrieked in relief. She flung her arms around Sophie, crushing her ribs in the process. Sophie awkwardly patted her mom’s back. “I’m fine Mo—” Sophie stopped. Dad has Hellfire. The memory came rushing back. She shot straight up off the couch, where her mom had put her. “Dad!” she shouted. Cherry and Sophie’s mom shared a sad look. “What’s going to happen? How do you know?” she asked frantically. She had meant to say, “What’s going to happen to Dad?” but in her panic, she had left off some of the words. “He woke up exhausted with smoke coming out of the ears,” she said quickly like she was trying to avoid the subject. “We could be infected too, so I’ve come up with a plan,” Sophie’s mom said calmly. “What is it?” Sophie asked cautiously, not sure if she wanted to know the answer. Her mom sighed. “You and Cherry need to leave the house for your own safety. I’ll take care of your father,” her mom said sadly. Sophie stared in disbelief. She knew she wasn’t going to like it. Just then, she heard a whimper. It was from Charlie, their 3-year-old Australian shepherd dog. He was nervous from all the tension in the room. Sophie felt her heart shatter. “Mom, you can’t send me and Cherry away! We need to help you take care of Dad! What if you get sick!?” Sophie shouted. She knew she shouldn’t be yelling, but she was too angry to care. She had lived in this house for eleven years. Her whole life! And now she and Cherry had to go out on their own?


“Sophie, of course you can’t! What if you don’t have the disease? We need to get you out of here as quickly as possible!” her mom said angrily. Sophie recoiled. She had never heard her mom talk like that. To her surprise, she found herself crying. Charlie padded cautiously over to her, resting his head on her leg. Sophie buried her face in his fur to keep herself from looking at her mom and Cherry. She took a deep inhale of Charlie’s fur. He smelled like home, and dog. Sophie reluctantly looked up at her mom, willing herself not to cry again but still overwhelmed with a thousand different emotions. Her mom looked troubled. She and Cherry were whispering. Sophie felt herself getting annoyed. “When you’ve finished planning the rest of my life without me,” Sophie said loudly. Her mom and Cherry looked startled, then relieved that she was over her crying episode, then weary, as if they were sure that she would be annoying. “Sophie, I’ve worked everything out. I reached out on the neighborhood website, and someone in the area has an old house they’re not using that’s not far away, so you’ll be close to us. It’s also close to a grocery store, and I’ve created a separate bank account for you girls that’s for groceries and appliances and things. I won’t be able to get you girls anything, so you’ll have to work it out by yourselves. I’ll put money in it at the beginning of each week,” she said, and then continued to rattle off a long list of everything they might need. Sophie didn’t pay attention. Cherry would remember that sort of thing. “Who’s taking care of Charlie?” Cherry asked cautiously. Sophie’s mom sighed.


“Well, there are two options. Charlie can go to the shelter, or you girls can take care of him. I won’t have time, I’ll be taking care of Dad,” she said. Sophie instinctively swept Charlie up onto the couch and held him in a tight hug. Cherry joined the hug as well. Sophie felt a lump of emotions rise in her throat. She was losing her home, her parents, her old life. She couldn’t lose Charlie too. “We’re keeping him,” she and Cherry said fiercely at the same time. Then they looked at each other and laughed. It was a nice feeling, but it didn’t last for long. Their mom sighed. “I thought you would say that, but how will you take care of him?” she asked, sounding genuinely curious. Cherry answered before Sophie could. “We already are responsible for him. We do all the feeding and walking and poop-picking-up and buying toys and food for him...you and Dad just provide some of the attention,” Cherry said, her voice breaking on the word “Dad.” Sophie vehemently nodded. “All right. Go pack your things and we’ll leave for the house. I’ll pack Charlie’s,” Mom said. Sophie and Cherry gaped at their mom. “You mean we’re leaving now?” Sophie asked incredulously. Her mom gave her an exasperated look. “Of course we’re leaving now! You need to go as soon as possible in order to keep you girls safe!!” her mom said, waving the girls towards the staircase. “Now go. Pack,” she ordered. Cherry and Sophie trudged up the stairs. Every little detail about the house mattered to Sophie now. The worn green


wallpaper. The way the fifth stair from the top was taller than the others, so you always tripped if you weren’t careful. The whistles and hums of the house. She turned at the top of the hallway and headed to her room. She took a long look at her room. The polished dark wood bookshelf in the corner. The creaky floorboard right next to her pastel green bed that made it impossible to sneak out at night. The light blue walls covered in posters. She soaked up everything. Sophie grabbed the biggest backpack she could find and began filling it with everything that wasn’t clothes. A phone, a phone charger, her favorite books, trinkets, and toys, a stuffed animal...the list when on and on. While she was packing, she had to force herself not to cry. Sophie filled a rolling suitcase with everything she would need. She wished she could stay longer in her bedroom, but they had to move as quickly as possible. Finally, Sophie was finished. She took a long look around the room, taking a deep breath. Then, after checking to make sure she had all her bags, she collapsed on the floor in tears. And that was where Cherry found her fifteen minutes later. “Sophie! What — Oh I shouldn’t ask. It’s pretty obvious,” Cherry said after a moment of thoughtful contemplation. Sophie looked up at her, her face streaked with tears. It took her a moment to find her voice. “Wh-what if the house s-seems cold a-nd un-unwelcominng?” Sophie made out before she collapsed into tears. Cherry knelt down beside her and put a hand gently on her back.


“Hey, it’s okay. You can take your posters and things to decorate your room, and we can paint it a fun color. It won’t be permanent anyways,” Cherry said softly. Sophie buried her face into Cherry’s shirt. Cherry’s fiery red hair fell into Sophie’s face as Sophie hugged her. “I wouldn’t be able to last a day in that house without you, sis,” Sophie said, looking up at her sister. Cherry smirked. “And why not?” she asked, tousling Sophie’s hair. Sophie noticed tear tracks on her sister’s face but decided to ignore them. “Well, for one, I would have already forgotten all that junk Mom said,” Sophie put in. Cherry smiled. “And I can’t very well comfort myself, can I?’ Sophie added, smiling now. Cherry gave a soft chuckle. Sophie felt slightly sick at the thought of her, Cherry, and Charlie all alone in a creaky old house with no one to take care of them. Cherry stood up. “C’mon, let’s go. The house is in the neighborhood, and Mom says it’s pretty nice,” Cherry said, trying to make their situation optimistic. Sophie perked up. “We might be able to see our house from one of the windows!” Sophie said, shooting to her feet. Cherry looked surprised, then happy. “I never thought of it that way!” Cherry said. Sophie smiled, and the two trudged down the stairs, dragging their bags alongside them. “Oh good, you’re ready,” Sophie’s mom said when they reached the bottom of the stairs. She had a mask and gloves on


and was carrying two duffel bags. Charlie stood next to her, his tail wagging, but with less gusto as if he knew what was happening. Sophie slung her backpack over her shoulder and picked up a suitcase and a duffel bag full of her stuff. She headed to the door. She felt a gloved hand on her shoulder. Her mom spun her around. “Wear these. You too, Cherry,” Sophie’s mom said, handing gloves and masks to both girls. Sophie reluctantly pulled her mask on, checking her reflection in the small mirror that hung beside the front door. As usual, she looked like some sort of serial killer. She sighed resignedly and pulled on the gloves. Cherry stood beside the door, somehow managing to look normal in a mask. She picked up her bags and joined Cherry at the door. Charlie trotted after them. Sophie’s mom shakily pulled open the door and went out first. Sophie took one last long look at the place she had called home for eleven years. Fighting back tears, she turned her back on her home and stepped into the harsh, cruel world. “Hurry up girls, it’s a twenty-minute walk,” her mom said, hurrying along the sidewalk. Cherry looked confused, which didn’t pair well with the barely concealed tears in her eyes. Sophie fought back a large lump growing in her throat. “Cherry said it was a couple of blocks away,” Sophie said cautiously, preparing herself for the worst. Her mom turned back to reply. “And so it is. However, the house is up on Soverton Hill.” “Soverton Hill!? Is there another house besides Soverton


Mansion?” Cherry asked, sounding surprised. Sophie’s mom shook her head. “We’re not staying at the Soverton Mansion, are we, Mom?” Sophie asked with rising excitement. Her mom merely raised an eyebrow and kept on walking. Sophie barely even noticed as they walked past rows of houses, immaculate gardens, and towering trees. She was too focused on memorizing every last detail of her house. She stopped suddenly when she reached her parent’s bedroom. We didn’t say goodbye to Dad. “Mom! Stop!” Sophie shouted. Sophie’s mom turned. She looked slightly exasperated. “What is it, Sophie?” she asked. Sophie swallowed back a rush of emotions fighting to get out of her. “We — we didn’t say goodbye to Dad,” she said softly. “We can’t, Sophie. I can’t risk you two getting the disease,” her mom said. At this, Sophie gave up. Sophie felt a wave of determination overpower her grief. She would say goodbye to Dad. “Can we at least FaceTime him?” Sophie asked desperately, pulling out her phone. Without waiting for a response, she jabbed her father’s contact and called him. Ring! Ring! Ring! Suddenly, the phone picked up. “Dad!” Sophie shouted. Her dad looked terrible but ecstatic to see his daughters as they talked about everything and anythingexcept Hellfire. “Ok girls, I have to go now. I love you!” Sophie’s dad said.


Sophie waved goodbye, and her mom and Cherry shoved past Sophie to wave goodbye, possibly for the last time. Her mom swallowed loudly. A couple of minutes later, they crested over the top of Soverton Hill. Cherry gasped. Sophie could barely believe it. They were staying in the Soverton Mansion? The house was a towering five-story mansion. It was made out of gleaming quartz, with immense Grecian pillars in all of the corners. There were gracefully arcing windows with intricate iron designs, and elaborate French doors. There were archways above a magnificent patio, and the landscaping was incredible but overgrown. Trees and bushes and a set of huge hedges surrounded the property. Sophie could see a glint of a backyard patio/pool. She could catch glimpses of majestic rooms through the spectacularly designed windows. “We live here now?” Cherry gasped. She looked like she was hardly able to believe it. Sophie felt similarly. Their mom looked equally stunned. “I did not expect the house to be this nice,” she said. Cherry spun to face their mom. “How on earth did you save up enough money to get this house?” Cherry asked in disbelief. Their mom blushed. “I told you, a neighbor wasn’t using this house anymore and said we could borrow it for as long as we want,” she said, looking over the house once more. Cherry turned back to the house with a face full of awe. “We have some rich neighbors,” Sophie said. Cherry gave her


an exasperated glare. â&#x20AC;&#x153;What??â&#x20AC;? Sophie asked. Cherry huffed and sashayed towards the elegant French doors, her long red hair swinging. Sophie rolled her eyes, following Cherry inside. Her older sister could be insufferable sometimes, but she did want to see the inside of the house. The inside of the house was, if even possible, even grander than the outside. Dark hardwood floors with plush carpeting everywhere, long countertops, fluffy couches and pillows, a massive TV, and a dance floor! And that was just the first level! Cherry gasped and ran around the rooms, oohing and aahing over every little thing. Sophie surveyed the room. There were a lot of missing things. A microwave, plates, bowls, silverware... they would eat up the money Mom gave them in no time! She turned to her mom, about to say something when Charlie burst through the door. Sophie dropped down and gave him plenty of pets and belly rubs, surveying the room as she did so. There were a lot of things to fix. Or...maybe she just needed something to do. The grief of what had happened was taking over her brain. She shook her head. Walking past Cherry, she headed for a grand staircase in the center of the room. Cautiously placing a hand on one of the banisters, she made her way up to the second floor. The second-floor was full of bathrooms, vanities, a gym, a library, a dance studio. The third floor was a huge indoor garden. The fourth and fifth floors were bedrooms, and Sophie headed straight to the fifth floor. She picked the smallest bedroom, which was still impossibly large, and pulled the dusty covering off of the four-poster bed


and flopped down onto it. Her dresser, bed, window seat, vanity, and couch barely took up a third of the room. She suspected she could play soccer in this room and still have plenty of room to spare. She reluctantly set to the task of unpacking her stuff. She could barely bring herself to do it. Unpacking her stuff meant accepting what was happening to her. To her family. She could hear the noises of Cherry unpacking her stuff and her mom unpacking Charlie’s stuff. Let’s hope he doesn’t get lost...Sophie thought absent-mindedly. Then the realization of where they were living hit her. They were going to live in the Soverton Mansion, just the three of them, with lots of missing supplies and limited money to fund them. The thought made her want to cry again, if not for the fact that she felt completely dry of tears. She finished unpacking the rest of her stuff and headed downstairs. To her surprise, she found Cherry already downstairs, looking somber. Sophie felt her heart clench. Her mom was leaving. This really cemented things in place. “I’m going to miss you, Mom,” Cherry said tearfully. Sophie vigorously nodded, not trusting herself to speak. “I love you girls,” she said, her voice breaking near the end. “We love you too,” Cherry and Sophie said in unison, but this time Sophie got no satisfaction from their harmony. After a lot of air hugs and kisses, her mom picked up the empty duffel bags, waved goodbye, and left. And that was that. Cherry fled upstairs, presumably to text her boyfriend for the six hundredth time today to check if he was still healthy. Sophie


stayed downstairs and petted Charlie on one of the massive couches, her mind still reeling. Her mom was gone. Her dad was gone too. She buried her face in Charlie’s fur, inhaling the smell of home. The rest of the day passed in a blur. Cherry made dinner, though with the missing plates, silverware, and proper appliances it was hard to do. They ate silently and watched a movie, though Sophie barely remembered any of it. At the end of the movie, she said goodnight and quickly went to bed. She cried herself to sleep. “Good morning, sleepyhead! Did you sleep well?” Cherry asked when Sophie blearily came downstairs. “I slept fine,” she said. She didn’t exactly know if this was a lie or not, as she could barely remember anything. She’d had a dreamless sleep. She was thankful for that since she’d been preparing herself for vivid nightmares of her dad going up in flames. She wrenched open the cabinet doors, hoping to find something for breakfast. There was a box of cereal sitting in the cabinet. “For a millionaire mansion, this place is not functional,” she sighed, wondering how much of Mom’s money they would spend just to get the place working. Just then, the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” Sophie wearily said. She pulled open the front door, expecting to see someone there. Instead, all she found was a Tupperware with a steaming loaf of cinnamon bread in it. She picked up the bread, looking around to see if anyone was there. A small note fluttered to the ground. Sophie picked it up, studying it carefully.


Dear Evanten girls, I am so sorry to hear about your father. I hope he is doing okay. I know that the old mansion isn’t very functional since the old owner moved out, so I made you girls some cinnamon bread in case you didn’t have anything for breakfast. I hope you two are doing well and are safe. Love, Mrs. Vantor

Sophie stared at the note. Mrs. Vantor? Sophie thought she was one of their neighbors. She stared down at the delicioussmelling bread. Since when did their neighbors care about them? She’d made little contact with them, as well as the rest of the people in her neighborhood since Hellfire. Shaking her head, she went back inside with the bread. Cherry was rustling through the cabinets, trying to find something for them to eat. She turned as the scent of cinnamon wafted through the air. “That smells delicious! Where did you get it?” she asked, a little wary. Everyone was nowadays. You had to be careful not to accept food from people with Hellfire. Sophie silently held the note out to Cherry, wrenched open the Tupperware, and inhaled half the bread in thirty seconds. “Mrs. Vantor sent it to us,” she said. Cherry looked startled but put the note down and ate the other half of the bread. And so it went. Every morning, we would come downstairs.


There was a ring at the doorbell, and one of our neighbors would have some food for us or a toaster or some silverware. Sometimes there would be a note, and sometimes there wasn’t. But we never saw anyone. In this way, we managed to survive in the mansion and even have fun. But a gnawing worry about Mom and Dad was always eating at the back of our minds. THREE YEARS LATER Ding dong! Sophie hurried downstairs. She had slept in and wasn’t fully prepared for today’s neighbor delivery, as Cherry called them. She groaned as she finally made it down the fifth flight of stairs. “SURPRISE!!!” Cherry screamed. The ground floor lights flicked on to reveal streamers, balloons, confetti, and a huge banner saying, Happy Birthday Sophie! Charlie was sitting underneath the banner with a sparkly party hat and a bright red bow tie. Sophie gasped. She has spent so much time fixing up the old mansion and busying herself with things like gardening and cleaning that she hadn’t even realized today was her fourteenth birthday! She laughed and ran to Cherry for a hug. A wave of happiness and excitement crashed into her, intermingled with sadness. It had been three years since she had seen her parents in person. “Happy birthday!” Cherry said. Sophie grinned. “I forgot I was turning fourteen!” Sophie said happily. Cherry pulled out of the embrace and stared at her like she was a crazy person.


“Anyways, I made a cake!” Cherry said happily. She whipped out a humongous cake decorated with frosting depictions of her and Charlie surrounded by balloons and confetti with the words Happy Birthday Sophie! written on the top in blue icing. Cherry was just about to slice into the cake when the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” Sophie called, pulling on one of the masks that hung beside the front door. She opened the front door to find an unmasked government official standing there. “Can I help you?” she cautiously asked. He curtly nodded. “Doctors have found a cure for Hellfire. Please report to your nearest doctor’s office wearing a mask to get the vaccine,” he said. Sophie’s entire brain came to a sudden stop. They had found a cure to Hellfire. By the time the words had sunk in, the government official was gone. “CHERRY!” Sophie screamed slamming the door behind her and fighting back tears that threatened to spill down her face. Cherry came running into the room, looking frazzled. “What? Where’s the fire?” she asked. Sophie couldn’t hold it in anymore. She collapsed on a plush white rug and let the tears spill down her face. “They found a cure for Hellfire,” she sobbed. Cherry clapped her hands over her mouth. She dropped to the ground beside Sophie. “This is the best birthday present of my life,” Sophie cried. The girls rushed to the doctor’s office to get the vaccine, grabbed Charlie, and full-on sprinted to their parent’s house. Sophie hammered on the door as hard as she could. She and Cherry waited with bated breath. The door swung open.


“I’m sorry but we don’t — girls!?” Sophie’s mom said. She had dark circles under her eyes and looked exhausted. Sophie flung herself into her mom’s arms. “They found a cure for Hellfire!” she screamed, bursting into tears again. Her mom gasped and started crying herself. Cherry gave her mom a brief hug and ran inside. Sophie followed. Both girls ran to their parent’s bedroom. Sophie seized the knob of the dark wood door and flung it open. “Missed me?” their dad asked. He looked really weak and exhausted, like her mom, but he wasn’t on fire. He held out his arms for a hug. Both girls screamed at the top of their lungs with joy and sprinted towards their father. They crashed into him at the same time and squeezed him with all their strength. An entire ocean of feelings was slamming itself into Sophie repeatedly, but she didn’t care. Her dad was okay! This had been the craziest, most insane day of her life, but in the best way possible. “What happened?” Cherry asked through her tears. Their mom came into the room. “It turns out your father was immune to the disease, so he retained the symptoms but didn’t suffer anything else. And I have it, so I should probably go get the vaccine,” their mom supplied. Sophie smiled. Their family was complete again. SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE... “Cherry, are you ready to go?” Sophie asked. Cherry came around the corner. Her sister was 32 now and had a husband and a 2-year old daughter. She had a job as a doctor, devoting


herself to the practice ever since doctors found the cure to Hellfire. Sophie smiled. She loved seeing her sister so successful. Sophie herself was almost 30 and was furiously working on her first book, which was a memoir based on her experience living in their neighbor’s mansion. “Yup! Dave said he could look after Hope for the day,” Cherry said. Dave was her husband, and Hope was her daughter. Sophie smiled and linked arms with her sister. “Let’s go then!” she said. Sophie led her sister out to her neon yellow car. Cherry clambered into the passenger seat and Sophie started the car. They came to a stop at their community. “Commence Operation Neighborhood!” Cherry said, and Sophie laughed. Then the two set off. Ever since their neighbor lent them a huge house and their neighbors had left them things every day, the two had gotten together once a year and driven back to their old neighborhood. The sisters then spent the day helping the residents of the neighborhood in any way they could, as a way of paying their community back. As Sophie helped a young lady carry mountains of groceries back to her house, she smiled. Her community had saved her and her sister’s lives, and for that, she was forever grateful.


OUR WORLD? Arianna Leon 6th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Sidney Sawyer School

How would it be if our World wasn't suffering, In some places will we see the light for others, In some places we finally see the true Beauty of the sky, Will we ever see the harm that we are doing to the world. Will we ever realize that pollution and much more is a problem. Will we ever see Mother Nature when it's healthy, because right now there's no going back on what we did. People are not realizing what they are doing to this world, you only have one world. There is no going back, whatever we do stays. By the time this pandemic is over will people be too afraid to go outside, to go to the park to have fun. Or will it never end, soon it's going to be something new to worry about and things that people are too afraid to talk about, things that make people uncomfortable. And that is climate change and pollution because are people really going to stop traveling in cars, buses, and stop using cooling and heating systems and change to ride bikes, scooters, roller skates. How would it be if the world wasn't suffering. If our world gets back to normal will anything ever change? Would people be too afraid to go outside, when would people live in a world without fear, without hate. 317

Something that I always wondered is, was at one point was the world filled with joy. When I was a child I remember when everybody would go outside on their bicycles and scooters and roller skates and have fun- nowadays when do I see that. People are scared. When I would go outside my mom would say “no salgas del porche” so every time I saw someone pass by I would hide behind a bush when I was younger. When are people going to realize what they are doing to this world and back then it was when I was five or six, but I would even be afraid to be outside by myself. And every single time my mom would tell me, go make friends with the neighbors, I was always too afraid. How would it be if the world wasn't suffering. What have we done to our poor planet Earth, we are not the only ones, suffering animals are going instinct, we are destroying their homes. Animals decreasing just because of the dumb things we did and sadly it's hard to go back on what we just did. I just wish there was another way for us to get what we need without hurting others. It may be harder but I believe that there is a way to take back what we did. It may be hard, if everybody puts in the effort to care for our planet Earth maybe you would have a better planet. If we all put in the effort to help out our world and maybe a world would change into a better place and maybe we could all see it glow. We could see its true colors, we could see what the real color of the Sky is. How would it be if the world wasn't suffering. “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi


UNTITLED Francesca Marino 7th Grade • Immaculate Conception / St. Joseph School

Community, family, and God are imperative in any crisis. One crisis that the world is experiencing right now is the coronavirus outbreak. According to worldometers.info, there are 1,687,857 confirmed cases over the world. However, if we all work together, and keep our God in mind, we will survive this major crisis. For the community, this is a chance to come together and show our strength in numbers. In an effort to keep our friends, family, and neighbors safe, especially the elderly, people will follow the social distance guidelines. For example, as we walk along the street, we could be conscious of the other people and walk on the other side. Another way is by wearing a face mask when out in public. Ashwin Vasan says, “By distancing yourself, you're contributing to a societal act — a collective action — that is not only protecting yourself, but protecting others....” This shows that this global crisis brings us all together to work for the common good and to be considerate of what we are doing. A single person's actions can have a ripple effect on a town and even a city. Lastly, we can come together and discuss ways on how we can help slow down the virus, “flatten the curve”, and how a single person can help change the world. Although we have to stay away from each other physically, we can still connect in other ways. My family and I have made face masks for friends, reached out to people on FaceTime and Zoom, and stayed inside.These actions, as simple as they may sound, can


really make a difference in the lives of others. Even washing our hands, throughout the day, will help to reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus. One of the things that has come out of this time is that we are closer as a family. For the first time since the early 19th century, many parents and kids are all under the same roof round-the-clock. This enforced togetherness could deepen our relationships for years to come. Enduring this hardship together builds stronger connections. Having stronger connections with family is important because it makes children feel secure and loved. Positive communication is about making the time to listen to each other, without judgment, and being open to expressing your own thoughts and feelings. When you have positive communication in your family, it helps everybody feel understood, respected and valued, and this strengthens your relationships. I believe that God is all around us. He watches us succeed, fail, and be human. As the Father, He is always there for you and me and helps you make the right decisions to promote the common good. There are many actions that I can take to help people in this time. I can make their day better with a simple smile and hello. My family and I can also make a donation to the homeless and the healthcare workers. These people are working tirelessly in those tough conditions. A few other ideas are caring for a pet, comforting a sibling, and helping mom with chores around the house. The help given to others is often returned as well, creating positive ties and trust. Helping is important because it gives people the opportunity to help you feel better about yourself. Doing these things can also start a chain effect. I think having a very close connection with God is crucial during tough times. To have an intimate relationship with God is very important to me. Although Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m still learning about God and


growing my relationship with Him, I do believe that when I pray, He listens. When I do the right things, He is happy. In conclusion, helping people, however I can, is a good thing. It makes a difference in my family, community and the world. By being mindful of both my own health and safety as well as that of others, I can continue to engage, connect and share my faith through simple acts of kindness.



FAMILY IS A WARM FEELING Ruby Miller 6th Grade • National Teachers Academy

I want you to know that everybody including friends are always family. No matter what, through tough times support them as best you can. My family is my school and my team. I learn from them and they learn from me. They never hurt me and I won’t do it to them. I believe in them to help me through these tough times. Although it may seem like they are far away, I hold them in my heart so they won’t fade away. I love my friends but they aren’t friends, they are my family. We all go together no matter our differences. They are very supportive and love me. No matter where you come from, always trust your family. Objects are nothing compared to them. Objects emit no light nor give you that warm feeling that family does. Family is the one thing you hold in your heart not your hands. Family is something to never let go Always hold it close to your heart Stand up for your family Visit them often to never get lonely Family will comfort you You will stay strong You will never give up As long as you never let them go


Write them letters to never forget They will help you get through tough times Love them dearly forever and ever Never leave them behind Warm feelings are what you need Family will fulfill those needs Whatever you desire Is nothing compared to family Don’t give them up For they may need you Family is not just blood But who you need They will love you with all their heart Don’t push them away You will love them with all your heart Family is something to never let go “This is a stay at home order issued for all of Illinois.” Our government said on March 21, 2020. This was the beginning of a new reality. Now there were no more visits to extended family. No more soccer, no more trying new cuisine at restaurants with different backgrounds , and especially no more walks around the neighborhood. We now must communicate through technological methods. The only thing getting me through this is my friends and family. Everything we do has limits. No


contact, no hello’s, and no more school. I thought no school would be great until I couldn’t see my friends in person. The worst thing about this is that I could not go visit my family and give them hugs. My cousin and I have to video chat and then when we have to go we have to do an air hug. This can hurt your heart for you cannot explain how much you love them. The warm feeling in your heart begins to crumble and you have to cling on to the hope that you will get through this and you must never forget that. Once again, family is there for you and you must remember that. It doesn’t matter what is going on as long as you have hope. Believe in your family, they love you dearly. This global event that is going on shows how it is so easy to become cut off to your family. You may take being with your family for granted but this shows that even something that, that seems like it never changes, can change. Always appreciate what you have and know that as long as that warm feeling lives within you, you will get through anything. The main thing I choose to remember that I am not alone and no matter what happens I will always love my family. Zoom has been a key to family time with my Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. “Hi, how have you been holding up?” One of my Aunts said. My dad and mom responded with “good how about you?” My cousins then joined. My youngest cousin filled my screen and made a funny face which I had not seen in a long time. I really missed my cousins so seeing them again helped me a lot seeing their faces.



GV9 Avery Multer 8th Grade • Lycée Français de Chicago

Sometimes, I look at the streets, the sky, the desolate little shops with their boarded-up windows and ‘out of business’ signs, and wonder what the hell happened. We weren’t ready. The world wasn’t ready. We had been forced into an inescapable situation, caught tight in the jaws of a global pandemic. And now, the human world was as good as dead. GV9 had been at its prime a little over a year ago, but everyone remaining knew that there would be no recovery this time. This hadn’t been like COVID-19 back in 2020, or even like the Black Plague which I vaguely remember learning about in the sixth grade. Our pandemic had killed two thirds of the world’s population, leaving everyone who was left scrambling to drag themselves together. In 2043 I had lost my mother, father, and little sister to GV9. I had only been 13. Now, I’m 17, living with my aunt in what remains of Seattle. The previously comforting rain, the smell of which I remember from my childhood, now just makes me feel cold. If there was one good thing to come of this, it would be nature’s recovery. I can recall my history teacher telling us about the brief surge in the wildlife’s success during COVID-19’s quarantine, but it seemed like people never learned their lessons. Soon the oceans were once again filled with plastic, and the animals were once again suffering for mankind’s stupidity. But


now, the forests are thriving, and they’re one of the only places that still really feels like home. Today would have been my mom’s birthday, had she still been alive. September 18. I always feel worse when it’s Mom’s or Dad’s or Sis’s birthday, but then again, it isn’t hard to feel alone and isolated these days. The sight from the top of the once busy Space Needle, Seattle’s most remarkable landmark, is a familiar comfort despite its view of our forgotten city. I can still recognize the little cafes I would eat at with Mom, and if I look far enough through the haze of melancholic silence I can make out the park where I would play ball with Dad. It’s empty today, but that isn’t new. GV9 had been enough to pretty much permanently scare anyone into staying home. We knew the world couldn’t survive a repeat. There were a few things that had made this new pandemic so frightening; the first of which was its alarming swiftness. Some people didn’t even know they had it, but in a matter of a few days they would be dead. The second was its ability to travel by air instead of simple physical contact. This was the reason for the government-issued masks that everyone was required to wear. My heavy sigh breaks the silence. Days like today, where the sky is particularly grey and lifeless, I just feel weighed down by the world, and my mind won’t give me a break. It’s as if my brain is an old tape, replaying all of my childhood memories and forcing me to acknowledge the fact that I can never have that again. I can feel the sharp sting of tears prick my eyes, but I don’t let myself cry. I haven’t done that in a long time. “I know what today is, man. Don’t spend it alone.”


I finally turn at the familiar voice of Elijah Novak, my childhood best friend. I can hear the usual comforting lilt to his voice and his eyebrows are drawn together in hesitant concern, like he’s talking to a scared animal. Eli has always been effortlessly optimistic, almost annoyingly glass-half full. Always finding a silver lining in the worst situations and trying to lighten everyone else’s mood. He’s always the one people turn to when they’re lost. He lost his mom too, lives with a drunk dad, but manages to remain strong and positive for everyone else’s benefit. I thank anyone who’s listening everyday that the virus didn’t take him, too, because without him I honestly would have given up and ended everything pretty quickly. “C’mon, Sammy,” he repeats softly, “how about we go do something, huh?” He tousles my floppy brown hair (which is getting a bit long, due to the obvious lack of salons), and gives me his brightest smile. I think he disregards the governmentissued masks just so that everyone else can see that grin. People are also required to remain at least two feet apart at all times. Of course, we pay no attention to that one either. He finds me every year, on my mom’s birthday and then later my dad’s and sister’s, (both in December) and I guess it’s something else that I can be grateful for. I return the smile, if a little pinched. “The park?” “Sure, Sam. Anything you want.” He plays it off nonchalantly, but I can clearly see the top of a baseball bat sticking out of his backpack. After so many years he’s learned exactly what to do to make me feel better. The silence as we walked to the old ball park was a


comfortable and safe one. Sometimes, when I’m with Eli, I catch myself genuinely smiling — a rare occurrence. It’s easy to fall into old habits with him, back when things were normal and children could grow up thinking about their futures. When their biggest concerns were good grades and dating. Anyone else might see the old ball park where the Mariners used to play and think of it as eerie and unsettling. The sheet of green grass blanketing the earth had long since died away, uncared for, leaving nothing but dirt, loose from neglect. The rows upon rows of seats in these stadiums were meant to be filled with people chattering, bright and alive with noise and color. Anyone else might say that seeing it empty was just wrong. I’m not anyone else. Of course, I had been a normal boy, with a pretty normal life. My Dad would take me out to see the Mariners if they were playing. We would get hotdogs and nachos and, if I was lucky, Dad would let me drink some of his beer. I feel guilty when I realize that that nostalgia doesn’t mean as much to me as it should. From an outside perspective it would make sense that something in my head had flipped, hardening me against things like that after all that I had witnessed, but it all still felt...wrong. In place of desolate longing, the ballpark made me feel secure. Especially if I could be there with someone I loved and trusted. Eli grinned at me again, warm brown eyes crinkling at the corners, and dragged the bat out of his tattered backpack. He tossed it to me before slipping on the glove and marching over to the other side of the park with the ball. “You ready, Sammy?” he called out, and I can hear the smile in his voice. Despite myself and despite every other factor in my life, I smile back. 330

“It’s Sam, jerk. Bring it on!” We fall into a rhythmic pattern. He throws. I swing. He catches. Throws again. As time progresses and the sun creeps lower to the horizon, I would swear that its light broke the clouds, if only for a moment, bathing us in soft yellow light. It doesn’t matter how bad things have been. Lots of people lost family, and that’s horrible, and we didn’t deserve it. But at the end of the day, maybe we were better for it. Maybe this was our planet’s chance to heal its scars, and start over. I look at Eli, all around me, up to the sky, and laugh.



THE GAME Minh Nguyen 8th Grade • Daniel Boone Elementary

We enter the game, set to win You ought to become the best We institutionalized the idea that for one to win, another must lose In every way, shape, and form, the top-tiered shall live the greatest We let power and protection blind us We let the strive for perfection drive us Never minding that the throne is worthless if you’re up there alone Your invincible bubble is worthless if outside of it, people continue to hurt We always thought that becoming #1 would mean you lived to the fullest And that may be true But what’s #1 if every number less than didn’t get to live at all Now, that does not mean that we are one another’s responsibilities We are one another’s gifts We hold on We hold on to each other Because to truly win, you don’t rise alone



WE WILL RISE TO THE OCCASION Saroya Ornelas Pagnucci 8th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Francis W. Parker

When people see Chicago, Do they see a community? Or is it just a poverty stricken, violence ridden, town. Where houses are clustered too close together And the rich are high up above, while the poor are begging on their knees. When I see Chicago, I see a bright town. Full of love, laughter, and happiness. I was born here, raised here, and lived here my whole life. And I am proud to call it my home. Some people who see Chicago in a bad way:


with no community or happiness, are just not looking the right way. If they would just tilt their head to the side, fix the focus, and switch that gear in their head. Maybe then they would see it clearly. The happiness, the community, the laughter and the love. We have banded together during this time. To help those in need, Those who are desperate, alone, sick, hurt, or scared. And we have lifted them up. All of us together. Intertwined as one, big, helping hand.


But for those who donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see it, let me help you. Tilt, turn, switch. There you go, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got it now. See that right there? The old woman who dropped her groceries, Scrabbling to pick them up. And now swoops in a helping hand. Picking up the apples, and oranges, and bananas too. See that over there? The person sitting on the side of the road. Shivering, cold, hungry, alone. Asking for help. But then, out reaches a small hand. Offering a meal, along with a warm smile. And see that over there? The person who has fallen sick, deadly ill with the coronavirus. But those doctors and nurses, are helping. Each and every one of them,


are risking their lives For ours. And that, is a big sacrifice. Some of those doctors may not be able to see their children, wives, husbands, families. All of that is for us. And each and everyone one of us, in this place we call home. is helping, giving back, returning to the community. Through simple acts, And large acts, We all give back. And this is Chicago. Alive with lights and brightness. Laughter and smiles. And everyone, even when apart. Is still tied together, Through community.


WE NEED A CHANGE Jiya Patel 8th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Alessandro Volta Elementary

It's all over the place We as a whole are stuck at this point, Around evening time, it pursues In my fantasies Where are we expected to go? It tails me in the city, It influences us to such an extent Regardless of the amount we make an effort not to. Firearms, drugs, lies. Consistently we see the sun, Go up and we get notification from you once more There HAS to be an exit plan!! There is no closure to it We are lost here in the field loaded with brutality, What are we expected to do? From one and another it goes on We can't lose the fight Or on the other hand, we as a whole will settle, In their dull soul minds Where we are battling each other like numb-skulls


We have to change Us, them and their contemplations that are running in the city, In the distance, I can hear our tranquility Weeping for us and we need it Where would we be able to run? Consistently we see the sun, Go up and we get notification from you once more Who would we be able to tell? We can't tell anybody tho, Or on the other hand, we will live like we're in hellfire You are going to destroy me and the others We need our privileges How about we battle! So our future can be brilliant What's more, everything will be okay I will let you know. Compose it to you on the off chance that you need me to, That one day we will get up by and by What's more, there will be nothing else of you Where would we be able to run? There HAS to be an exit plan!! You tail me and the others Like an individual, In any case, when we pivot and see nobody


Cause everything is as of now broken That we can't have the option to fix Where would we be able to run? Consistently we see the sun, Before long you will be in damnation simply like you put us through We need the bliss back once more Where we can trust and be trusted by others, Not where we dread of venturing out Give us the life back you took You are the issue Never the arrangement, Extraordinary things are TEMPORARY Yet, you are PERMANENTLY there Where would we be able to run? Consistently we see the sun, Go up and we get notification from you once more There HAS to be an exit plan!! We can't give you another possibility We can't uncover you any longer We can't give you a chance to win once more We are prepared to battle once more Consistently we see the sun, Go up and we get notification from you once more There HAS to be an exit plan!!


We are never again frightened We can battle on our feet once more, As you did with weapons, lies, and medications Be that as it may, we will show you with a heart, not brutality Viciousness and loathing both murder individuals We don't battle with viciousness We despise that, it causes abhor in this world We battle since we need love on the planet We will battle you for our privileges and joy, so this is your end!


CRACKED OPEN Mischa Reddy 7th Grade • Taft Freshman Academy

Dedicated to the girls who taught me what it means to be beautiful. I don’t know what I’d do without you guys. “How are you really feeling?” I glance down at my feet. They took away my shoelaces before I came inside. It seems like years ago now. “Don’t worry,” Miriam persists, “we’re all here to support you.” I know she’s trying her best, but I don’t know these people. I’ve been here for three days, they can’t expect me to open up right away. I don’t understand how they can just tell each other these things. I know that’s the point of these meetings, but how do you tell someone you’re not okay? I’d like to say that I’m unfazed by the whole “mental institution” thing, and back on the outside, I probably would have. But they don’t expect me to be perfect like that in here. They’re just trying to help. “Okay,” Miriam continues, “well, Blair, hopefully, we’ll talk with you a little more tomorrow.” I nod. “Yeah, that sounds manageable.” Manageable. That’s been my word for the past few days. How has your day been? Manageable. What’s it like inside there? Manageable. The door to the community room clicks open, and one of the nurses walks in with the lunch cart. She collects our trays, before placing art supplies on the table. 343

“Art therapy again, I guess,” I mutter, passing out the supplies. I’ve never been much of an artist, but it’s a good distraction from everything that’s going on. I like how we can just talk without everything being centered on our mental health. I get that’s the whole point of this experience, but it can get suffocating at times. The nurse instructed us to draw the thoughts we have inside our heads as living people, and as I look around the room, I notice all of our interpretations are relatively similar. Panic, destruction, and hopelessness. The unity is almost comforting, but equally haunting at the same time. It’s like we’re all stuck in the same, sinking lifeboat.

◆◆◆◆◆ After the class, I make my way down the hall and back to my room. It’s been really draining being in here alone, even with the nurses checking on me every fifteen minutes. I can’t close my eyes without thinking about my old roommate. I’m in a constant state of fear that I’ll open my eyes again to find her standing on her bed, her plastic nightstand colliding with her head. I see her everywhere. God, why does everything in this place have to be made out of the same thick, neon plastic? I hear a knock on the door and Miriam steps inside, pillow in hand. “Hey.” “Oh, hey,” I reply. “What are you doing here?” “I’m your new roommate.” Miriam tosses her pillow onto the vacant bed, now fitted with fresh sheets, and sits down.” They don’t want you to feel alone.” Of course, they would send Miriam. She’s good at playing nurse and taking the lead. “So you’re here to crack me open then? Make me reveal all of my secrets?” Miriam laughs. 344

“Not exactly. That would be nice, though.” My fingers knot together in my lap. I really don’t like being put in the spotlight, even if she’s the only member of the audience. “Come on,” she persists, “you’re never gonna be able to heal unless you admit the existence of pain.” Damn, she’s good at this. She looks at me expectantly and, I don’t know, I guess it kind of felt like she actually cared. “Uh, I guess I just felt the need to be perfect every second of every day. I had to get straight A’s and impress my parents, and I kind of spiraled out and lost control of myself in the process. I couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings and even try to be good enough without feeling the weight of the fact that I wasn’t. I felt numb, like I was trapped. I figured, if you can’t do things the way everyone wants you to, why even try?” “I get that. You never feel like you’re enough.” I nod. It still shocks me how similar everyone here is. We’re all going through the same, messed up pain. But I find it even more astounding how the others use this similarity to heal together. Deep down, I kind of want to be a part of that.

◆◆◆◆◆ Cordelia, our afternoon nurse, takes our dinner trays back to the kitchen so we can start our reflection meeting. It does get rather claustrophobic doing almost everything in the same room, and I can’t decipher any reason as to how it can help us emotionally. At least it saves us the walk. “Okay, ladies,” Miriam instructs, “you know the drill.” A oneword reflection of our day, and an update on our goal we set in the morning. “I’ll go first, and we’ll rotate counter-clockwise.”


The answers from the group follow their usual pattern. A lot of “supported” and “uplifting” days, along with the adjectives growing increasingly longer each day suggested by the twelveyear-olds to try and stand out. The group goes silent when it’s my turn, and I’m met with a wave of supportive smiles. Everyone wants to know what’s up with the new kid. I glance over at Miriam, who nods reassuringly. Just go for it,” she mouths. I clear my throat. “I guess I would describe how my day went as cracked open. Like someone opened up everything that was going on inside of me.” “Cracked open is two words,” Marley, the youngest of the group points out. “Who cares?” Miriam replies. “We need a little excitement around here every once in a while.” “Let the poor girl speak, would you.” Alice gestures for me to continue. “Oh, well, my goal for today was to find people who could make this place seem like home because I haven’t really had the time to get to know any of you. And,” I look around the room. At Alice and Aline, who threw themselves down next to me during the movie and made me laugh at all of their stupid comments, and to Miriam, whose intense mom-energy honestly scares me. “And,” I continue, “I guess they kinda found me instead.” I know that’s only three out of the thirteen other girls here, but I have a good feeling about these three.


Four Months Later I leave Marley to wait for the phone in the lobby. Miriam sits on the couch, her arms wrapped around a sobbing Alice. I rush over to them. “What’s going on? Are you okay?” Alice shakes her head. “They’re sending us home,” she sobs. “All of us.” “What? Why would they do that?” I look around the room. The nurse at the front desk is packing her stuff into a small roller bag. “One of the girls got the virus from a visitor,” Miriam explains. The virus was already swarming Chicago, but I would never expect it to reach us here. “We have two days.” I feel something eating away at the inside of my stomach. Two days? I can’t be out of here in two days, I’m not ready. “I can’t do this,” Alice whispers. “I can’t go home. I’m just starting to get better, and I can’t break everything I’ve built. Everything’s gonna fall apart.” Her breath quickens, letting out short, fast exhales. Miriam squeezes her tighter. “It’s gonna be okay.” “You don’t understand. I’m gonna be stuck in a house with my parents. I can’t let them play nurse again. I didn’t even last a day with them last time I tried to go home, remember? I came straight back.” “You can come and stay at my house, okay? My parents will be fine with it. They’ve been dying to meet you.” “That’s a lie.”


“No, it’s not. They’ve always been super invested in my love life. They’re trynna be supportive, I guess. Trust me. I’ll call them now if you like.” Alice nods. Miriam kisses her forehead and gets up to line up for the phones. I replace her on the couch. Aline bursts into the lobby, pointing a finger at us. “Where have you been? We’re missing breakfast. I was waiting for you guys outside the community room and —” She stops short when she sees Alice’s solemn expression. “Oh, so you’ve heard.” She crouches on the floor in front of the couch, taking our hands. “We’re gonna be fine. All of us. It’ll only be a few weeks, maybe a month. Who knows, it might be good for us.” Alice forces a smile when suddenly her eyes widen. “Oh my gosh, I completely forgot. What about you? They can’t possibly let you go home.” Aline doesn’t really talk about her family much. Miriam told me that her mom died when she was little, and her dad got drunk and violent after that. I guess that’s not really something you can get over easily. “They won’t, but I have an aunt in Wisconsin I can stay with.” “But Wisconsin is like three hours away.” “It’s gonna be okay. We’ll all see each other again soon.” The line for the phones dies down, so I get up to join it. Miriam hands me the phone and returns to the others. I dial my home phone and listen to the ringing. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. This place just feels so safe to me. I don’t know how I can cope outside. I can’t spiral again, I’d rather die. “Hello?” I hear my mom on the other end of the line. “Hey, mom, it’s Blair.”


“Oh, hey sweetie. I’m guessing you’ve heard the news?” “Yeah.” “Well, we’ll be there on Friday when they release you. We’ve really missed you.” “I’ve missed you guys too.” The longer I’ve been inside, the shorter our calls have been. I know I’ll never lose the bond I have with my parents, but we’ve kind of drifted apart. It’s like they don’t know what to say to me. “Okay, I’ve gotta go before I miss breakfast. I’ll see you soon.” “Go enjoy the rest of your time with your friends. I love you.” “Love you too.”

◆◆◆◆◆ I pull open the heavy door to the gym. It was a weird request for me to meet the girls there before curfew, but I’ve learned there’s no point trying to predict how much trouble they can get us into. Miriam and Aline place something on the floor, and I hear a heavy thud. I look around them to see four beds. “What the hell are you guys doing?” “We’re building a fort,” Miriam replies. “May as well make the best of our last night together.” She throws a blanket in my direction. “Hang that up on the hoop.” I do as she instructs. “Did you ask anyone if we could do this?” “We ask for forgiveness, not permission. And besides, what are they gonna do? Kick is out?” The joke is lighthearted, but I can feel the mood drop.


“Where’s Alice?” I ask, trying to change the subject. “She’s in the kitchen.” Of course she is. “How many more rules did you guys break tonight.” “Just one.” Aline pulls the projector out from under one of the blankets, plugging it into the wall. “You guys are so dead.” “So are you. You’re here too.” Alice makes her way into the gym, dropping the snacks on the bed next to me. “What are we watching?” she asks. Miriam pulls out a stack of DVDs. “Let’s see. We have A Veggie Tales Christmas, Zootopia, Horton Hears a Who and High School Musical.” “A Veggie Tales Christmas.” “You’re joking right?” “Do not disrespect that cinematic masterpiece. It’s literally the best movie of all time.” “You’re a child.”

◆◆◆◆◆ “Are you guys still awake?” I whisper into the darkness. “Yeah.” “Yup.” “Obviously.


“I can’t sleep,” I say. “I can’t believe we’re leaving tomorrow. We’ll be out in the real world.” “Yeah, it’s weird,” Aline replies. “This place is my home.” “I’m really gonna miss you guys. You’re like sisters to me. I don’t know what I’m gonna do without y’all.” “We’ll still talk,” Miriam comforts. “I can FaceTime you every day if you’d like.” “But that’s not the same. I’ve never really talked to anyone about the stuff we talk about. You guys are the only ones who know how I’m really feeling.” It’s like I’m losing a part of my brain. The part that pushes me to keep fighting, to not give up on myself. “I think it’ll be good for us,” Miriam says. “We’ve cracked each other open, but now we need to crack ourselves open.” “Huh?” “Like, we all know how to support each other and discuss our problems together, but now we need to dig inside ourselves and find the strength to move on from what’s holding us back, you know?” “That’s so cliché,” Aline retorts. “But’s true. We’re not meant to stay in here forever. Eventually, we’ll heal, and we’ll be able to go back out there even stronger.” “And we may not feel that strength right now,” Aline adds, “but we’ll get there.” “I’m just scared I’ll forget about everything,” I confess. “We’ve had so much fun and I’ve learned so much. I don’t wanna lose


that.” Alice grabs my hand and squeezes it. “If you ever forget about us I’ll be seriously offended.” “You know what I mean. You guys have taught me so much. What if that all goes away?” “You won’t forget,” Miriam promises. “We’ll still be in your heart or your subconscious or whatever.” “You could try writing about us,” Aline suggests. “Isn’t that how you process things? And who knows, maybe one day someone important will read what you wrote and then everyone will know what great friends we are.” I laugh quietly to myself. “Yeah, maybe.”

◆◆◆◆◆ “That’s everything,” my mom announces, hauling my suitcase into the car. “We’re ready when you are.” I look back at my friends, packing their cars with what little we brought inside. “Just give me a sec.” My mom climbs in the driver’s seat, waiting intently. I walk over to Miriam and Alice, who are already showering Aline in hugs. She’s never been much of a hugger, but that’s never stopped us. “We’ll call you every day,” Miriam promises. The girls turn to me, the three of them downing me in their embrace. “I remember when you were just the lonely new kid,” Aline remarks. “Look how far you’ve come.” “You better not forget that,” Alice adds. “Never forget how much you’ve grown.”


“I won’t, I swear. I love you guys so much.” We stand there for a moment soaking up each other’s presence for the last time in a while. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry today, but sometimes you can’t help it. We finally break apart, yelling goodbye as we hop into our respective vehicles. I climb into the backseat, resting my head against the window as my home grows smaller in the distance. I pull a notebook out of my bag. I can’t forget my family. The people who taught me how to accept myself, and how amazing I truly am. How are you really feeling?



DO I HAVE A FAMILY? Natalie Rioja 8th Grade • Carl von Linne Elementary

I am a kid but I have nobody Yeah I said no one I have no buddies I have no mom no more My daddy left me and now I’m poor I find a mom and dad yet they seem to never stick I don’t know who I am anymore In every town the one family is my community My friends are my cousins My neighbors like my aunts and uncles Teachers like my mom and dad I don't want to be pushed around at home Tell them to keep me safe and care for me They tell me when I do good And when I do wrong They remind me why I’m here They always put a smile on my face They make me laugh they make me cry They even get on my nerves sometimes But I love my family and they love me I am a kid and I have everybody


Yeah I said I finally have some buddies If we all stick together through the thick and thin We can find the light in the dark and turn our world around I am willing to try but Will you promise to try


A SPECIAL DAY Emily Sanchez 6th Grade • Edward N. Hurley Elementary

Once upon a memory Someone wiped away a tear Held me close and loved me, Here’s wishing you a Mother’s Day That’s filled with every pleasure, And a future that’s as happy As the memories you treasure, Thank you, mother dear



FAMILY Isabella Saucedo 8th Grade • Queen of the Universe School

You know, I was gonna write a whole emotional essay about my family’s past and my sister’s dad and my mom’s relationship with her parents and make it a super sappy essay about the meaning of family and how we should always stick together. But then I re-read it and realized that it was not me. I tried to be one of those books where at the end you’re like wow I just experienced that story like it was my own life. But now I want to be one of those books you can relate to and laugh at. So this is that. I think this is called free-writing. I used to do this a lot in like 5h grade and I think this is my favorite type of writing because you can just put down all of your thoughts without having to worry about grammar and stuff like that. Anyway, back to the family. I have a family. I have a mom and a dad and a sister. I have a twin and a dog and cousins and grandparents. I have a lot of family if you couldn’t tell. My family is Mexican, and Mexicans have HUGE families. I went to my mom’s family reunion and there were dozens of second and third cousins. My dad’s side isn’t much better, I have family in Mexico that I haven’t even met besides the ones I have met. But with a big family comes a lot of stories. So why don’t I tell some stories? So I think I was 5 or something like that and me and my sister were playing on my mom’s treadmill. So she's on the part where it moves and you walk, obviously and I'm standing on the arm


of the couch that’s next to it, so I can reach the top where the controls are. Bad idea I know, but my sister who was SUPPOSED to be watching us was doing something else. I think she was around our age, but anyway back to the story. So I’m by the machine’s controls and behind the treadmill, there's a wall, this is important. I look at the control and think you know what, let's see what this does if I put it alllllll the way up. Mind you this was the speed control. So my sister who's just sitting there goes FLYING into the wall behind her, and to make matters worse she couldn't move because the wall was making her stay in place, therefore giving her horrible rubber burn. Anyway, she's screaming, my sisters screaming, and I walk out of the room because that's none of my business. As I’m going up the stairs to exit the basement, my parents go running by and I remember thinking, huh they’re in a rush. And then I end up going to my room and playing with my Barbies. So I don't remember what she looked like, the rest of my memory’s kinda fuzzy. But my older sister describes her as “twofaced” or “Freddy Cougar.” She said it looked like her face was peeling because of the rubber burns. My parents didn't want to take her to the ER because they were scared they would call CPS. Which isn't really my fault that I did this while my sister was peeing or something. I was 5. Anyway, she's fine, I think. She seems a little off in the head but maybe that's just me. It’s surprising her face didn't scar because I mean Freddy Cougar? That's pretty messed up. So that wasn’t only the one time she almost died. You wanna know the second? You don't? Well too bad. So there I was, it was a sunny day in Philadelphia. I'm just joking. I don't even know where Philadelphia is. I was actually in the living room of my


house with my older sister and my grandma, I think. So my sister is in our room where we have this dresser and there's a TV on it and a bunch of other stuff that could be potentially dangerous. About a foot away on the opposite side was my bunk bed, the bottom bunk was bigger than the top, so instead of just being straight up and down it stuck out a little, this is important. So my sister decided that it was a great time to become a monkey and she started climbing the drawers one by one until, yeah you guessed it, it started to tip over. That when gravity took its course and the whole thing, tv and all, fell down. And then she DIED. No, I'm just joking(am I?), the dresser did fall, and it would have crushed her too if the bunk bed wasn't there. So my grandma and sister rush into the room and Jezzy's crying, but she's on the floor, and the dresser is blocked by the bunk bed. So that’s the second time she almost died, she also almost died in the womb because I took too long to come out, but that's not important. She was also sickness prone, so it's kind of a wonder how she's still alive. Beats me. Let's talk about the time she almost killed my dog. So I’ve had a little white chihuahua named Lola my whole life, a matter of fact she's sitting right next to me as I type this. I got her when I was four, this story takes place a year or two later. So I’m sitting in the living room and all of a sudden Ati (my older sister whose real name is Cynthia, I don't know how I came up with that nickname) says “Where's Lola?” and then I realize that I actually hadn't seen her in like an hour so I’m like yeah, where is she? So fast forward to all of us tearing up the place looking for this stupid dog when I walk past the fridge. If you walked past quickly you wouldn't have noticed, but I was hungry so I was eyeing it when all of a sudden I saw that it was open a little. I go and open it and standing there is MY DOG. So I take her out


and put a cover around her and everyone comes to the kitchen and Jezzy starts LAUGHING like what?! So turns out she put her in the fridge because she thought my dog was a polar bear and she needed to be in the cold. Anyways my mom yelled at her and it was pretty funny. Enough about Jezzy, let’s talk about how I lost my one true love. You might be wondering who that is. His name was Ducky Momo (pronounced moh-moh) and he was a duck who was also a sponge. I named him after the duck on Phineas and Ferb. I went through this duck phase that I don’t speak of. Let’s just say that I had a LOT of stuffed ducks. Anyway, so I took this dude around with me everywhere I went. Like the park, school, my dad’s house, EVERYWHERE. So one night I had a rare fever. I was like 3 at the time and my fever was 103 degrees, so my dad took me to the children’s hospital. This was during the Swine Flu pandemic of 2009, so we had to wait a while and wear a mask, quite ironic considering all the corona stuff happening. So we go and they give me antibiotics and we leave. But I fall asleep in the car as we drive back. My dad wakes me up to go inside when suddenly I can’t find Ducky Momo ANYWHERE. We searched that entire car and nothing. I started crying and my dad supposedly went back to the hospital to check, but I don’t believe him. That was the last time I ever saw him, I don’t even have any pictures of him. R.I.P. Ducky Momo. The next story is about the time I got hurt. So I was in the basement with my older sister and grandma. I don’t know why all these stories happen in the basement, they just do. So there’s this big mirror that my mom has in her gym. Why do people feel the need to look at themselves while working out? Who knows. Anyway, I’m not sure what happened, but I was playing


under the mirror and I thought that it would be a swell idea to move it. So my grandma was doing laundry and all I remember was looking at the mirror as it fell on me. I remember getting a big cut on my leg, but I don’t remember it hurting. They say you never remember physical pain, so that might explain it. Actually I remember crying only because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do when I got hurt. So my sister slaps a big blue bandaid on my cut and I was good to go. Speaking of my sister, her name is Cynthia. She was named after my mom and currently, she’s 21. She’s moving out soon, but this won’t be the first time. I’ll tell you about the move to college. So my sister went to a school in the middle of nowhere. It’s called Illinois State University. So it’s about a 3-hour drive from where we live, so it was a mission to go there in the first place. So we finally get there and we drop off all her stuff and set up her dorm. Then we take a tour around the campus, like to the cafeteria, and let me tell you they had some GOOD pizza. We walked around for a while longer and then we hit the gift shop. They had some nice hoodies, I think I still have some. So then we said our good-byes and left. I fell asleep on our way back but apparently my sister was crying. I don’t know but when we moved I FINALLY got my own room. It was spectacular. Until she moved back in to go to a different college. Then I had to share my room again. But no worries! She’s moving out soon so I get my room back in a few months. Now that I got my sisters out of the way let’s talk about my dad, my father, mi padre. My dad is a very simple man, he likes sports, working, and shoes. This is good sometimes, but when it’s time for Christmas every single time I hear “I don’t want anything.” But one thing I know for certain is he loves our dog.


We got our dog, Lola, when I was 4, I’m 14 now so she’s about 10 years old. This makes her a grandma in dog years. When they got divorced she stayed with us, but when we moved we couldn’t take her with us. We were about to give her away, but my father (the saint that he is) took her in. Now he can’t get enough of her. If you’re confused about why she’s here my dad dropped her off so I could spend time with her. But enough about my dog, we’re here to talk about my dad. My dad is very relaxed, I’ve only seen him mad a few times in my life. But another thing to know is that he’s a TOTAL momma’s boy. He named me after her, so that’s a huge sign. Not that I blame him, my grandma is the sweetest human you ever met. He’s funny too, dad jokes are one of his best features. He’s sacrificed so much for us to go to a good school. He is one of my heroes. But if he makes me take off his shoes one more time I don’t know what I’m gonna do. And last (but certainly not least) let’s talk about my mom. My mom is probably the strongest person I know. Not because she raised a kid at 16 but because she works out for like 3 hours a day. Like she’s BUILT; she has a whole gym. My mom is also very straight to the point. She’s a realtor, but she flips houses too. I would say she’s pretty good at it, but I may be a little biased. She is very hardworking too. One time while she was cleaning, a glass broke and she had this deep cut on her leg. I already wrote about this, but we had a fun trip to the emergency room. My sister had to drive since she couldn't, you know, move her leg. I sat with her while she got fixed up, she didn’t need stitches thankfully. But it was pretty cool to see the cut though. But when we tried to go back home, we ran out of gas. It was a pretty hectic morning so cut us some slack, but we had to walk to get gas


from down the street. We got a ride from a cop coming back, so that was an experience. My mom is also quite the traveler. She’s been to more countries than I can count, like Dubai, Paris, Jamaica, Greece, and more. I can’t go with her sometimes because of school or it’s for business, but she took my family and some friends to Puerto Rico on vacation. It was amazing, I swam in the ocean for the first time and the food there is to die for. We stayed in a beautiful hotel that overlooked the ocean and I fell asleep to waves every night. We also took a trip to New York, and we stayed in Manhattan. Our hotel had a great view of Times Square and we stayed on the top floor! I am incredibly grateful for my beautiful mother (she may or may not have asked me to put that), and let’s just say she has a pretty great Mothers’ Day gift coming her way. That’s it, folks, we have covered my whole family. Well, not ALL of them, we would be here for hours to cover all my tios, tias, and cousins. But I think that does the trick for my immediate family, I even included my dog. I know in the beginning I said I wasn’t going to make this sappy, but I couldn’t be more grateful for my family. Even if I’m this close to killing my sister. The stories I’ve told will be passed down for generations if my mom stops reminding me that I almost killed my sister. Or when I stop reminding my sister that she put our dog in the fridge. Ati sends her regards, she has homework to do. This will be a surprise to my parents since they don’t know I wrote this. And to my twin, let’s hope she doesn’t get mad about the treadmill incident. I’ll have more stories coming soon, so stick around for the Saucedo-Uribe-Guerrero family values.



UNTITLED Annika Sengupta 6th Grade • National Teachers Academy

I didn’t really know what to say at the beginning of writing this. I kept on beginning and beginning but could never get past the beginning. I think that’s one small piece of what being in a family is like. You keep on having beginnings with them but there’s never really an ending. There’s so much joy, and also at times pain, with shared experiences with family and at every stage of life, what family means evolves constantly. Family is a lot of things for me. One thing, in particular, I believe about family is that support is a big factor. My family pushes me to see my potential because most of the time even I can’t. When I think I’m alone they're right there to show me that I am definitely not. Another aspect of families — and it definitely is relevant for mine — is that it is the imperfections in our family that makes us stronger. I’ve seen a lot of movies about families through my 12 years of age. And most of them, in my opinion, have it completely wrong. In the movies, the family is typically imperfect at the beginning, either they are broken up, fighting, or just plain dislike each other. Then, in the end, they come together or learn the importance of family. In reality, a family is always imperfect, even if it’s subtle. Sometimes the imperfection is just one being annoyed about how another one eats. Other times it’s bigger things. A family will never be perfect but that’s the great thing about them. Here at home, we work through our imperfections as a family.


In the movie Home Alone, Kyle's mother realizes which child is missing as soon as she sits down on the airplane and closes her eyes. She had a huge family and she still realized exactly which child was missing. Now that’s a great family. Kyle’s family certainly wasn’t perfect as you can see at the beginning of the movie. But they work through their imperfections and stick together. It’s a great movie. So are the second and third ones. Family is an important thing to have. A family is basically like your own little (or big) crew. Sometimes the crew isn’t blood-related, sometimes it’s just friendship or a huge event that bonds them. It’s still a family. And like a crew, you can count on them, for example, Captain Hook with Smee. Not to use a common essay sentence, but I will. The official definition of family according to the Merriam Webster dictionary is “the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children also: any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family.” Another definition was “a group of individuals living under one roof.” Each of those slightly different definitions are true. A family can be 4 people living together, or it could be 2 people who only see each other once a day. It could also be 65 people working together on a project that they only have 2 weeks to finish. My point is a family can be many different things. But the one common thing is that they have a bond strong enough to call themselves a family. Whether that bond is blood, friendship, or experience, it is a strong bond. Another thing families do, they make you think about your decisions. They make you think “what would they do?” every time you have to decide to do something. Or at least my family makes me think like that. My family influences everything about me and has shaped me into the person I am today. In fifth grade,


I entered the spelling bee because my mother was in her spelling bee as a child and she pressured me into it. I ended up winning and going to the Chicago city spelling bee. I only won because my mother made me practice and my grandpa practiced with me continuously. It was a great experience I never would have gotten without my family. My family also instilled in me my love for reading. That’s why family is important, they have the power to impact you for the rest of your life. Families sometimes end up placing trust in each other even when they have no valid reason to. That’s just what they do. They are there whenever you need them, no matter what. Even Voldemort had a family! Sure, maybe it wasn’t the most caring or loving family, but it was a family nonetheless. And they all supported his crazy ideas even when they didn’t want to (Lucius, Draco, and Narcissa). They placed their trust in him. I mean, it was mostly out of fear but they still trusted him to get the job done. Your family understands you like no one else. For example, if you and your family went on a trip and had a traumatic experience you might be scared of ever going there or doing that again. Nobody else would get your wariness except for your family. You have inside jokes with them and if you’re down they can bring you back up again. With your family you never run out of things to talk about, there’s never a lull in the conversation or a dull moment when you’re with them. People all have different definitions of family. They’re the right idea of family in that person's eyes. Some people spend their whole lives looking for their perfect idea of a family. Some are lucky enough to stumble upon it. Some are born with it. I was born with my family and I’m happy to stick with them.


Having a family is honestly the best. It’s awesome. My family is like my rock. They keep me from making bad decisions. Quarantine has really been kind of a bummer and my family’s really helping me through being stuck at home. We might say we’re stuck with our family during this time but we’re lucky to have them right now.


LATE AUGUST HEAT Audrey Setiawan 7th Grade • Abraham Lincoln Elementary

Small droplets of water fell onto the playground equipment, slow enough for Kiara to count. It said on the news it was going to rain hard that day, but Jonathan and Adrian thought they could kill some time there before the rain started. She had smelled rain as they walked out of the house, so she objected, but the two hyper boys wouldn’t listen. “Guys!” she yelled to them from the creaking swing set. “It’s starting to rain, let’s head back.” She grabbed their water bottles and wrapped sandwich leftovers and placed them in the picnic basket. The two boys kept chasing each other around the slide. She couldn’t believe how much energy Jonathan, a rising senior in high school, had to play with their 7-year-old brother. “Mom’s gonna get mad if you two come back home soaking wet. Let’s go!” she shouted at them again. The rain started dripping faster and harder. She looked down at her watch. It was just past 6 and the sun was setting. Kiara watched the sun set in a cascade of warm, benign tones and cringed at the unpleasant moisture lingering in the air around them. “Got ya!” shouted Jonathan, picking up the brown freckled boy. Adrian screamed and laughed until he had exhausted himself. “Let’s go,” Jonathan said, out of breath but smiling. “I’ve been telling you that for the past 5 minutes,” Kiara


grumbled. Her big brother’s smile was annoying but something she learned to admire dearly. It was like smiling all the time was a piece of cake for him. Kiara herself couldn’t even smile without her jaw hurting after five seconds. Sometimes she felt a hint of sadness in those smiles she adored. The rain pounded harder into the concrete walkways of the one way street and soon every inch of the playground cement was covered in puddles. The three siblings ran across the street to get back to their home, which was only a block away and convenient when Adrian wanted to play. Their mom wouldn’t let him play inside because he would knock over expensive things. It was also “good for getting vitamin D” according to their mom. Kiara begged to stay behind the first week of summer, but she was rejected to the point where when the word “playground” was mentioned, she would start putting on sunscreen. The rain intensified and they would probably have to shout to talk to each other. “Last corner,” she shouted. Kiara had been in charge of directions for as long as she could remember. It was unintentional, but she sometimes imitated the GPS’s automated voice when vocalizing directions. They sprinted down the sidewalk, Jonathan carrying Adrian on his back, practically doing high knees up the stairs. They burst through the door frame, gasping for air as the trio of siblings attempted to dry off their clothes and shoes, now soaking in fresh rain water. Surprisingly, it made Kiara feel even more uncomfortable being cold while wet than being warm and drenched. “Oh my!” exclaimed their mom. “I told you to be back before 6!”


“Sorry,” Kiara mumbled, shrugging off her mom. She was about to go upstairs to her room, when her mom stopped her with an extended arm. “Where do you think you’re going?” she said in her I’m-goingto-get-mad-if-you-go-up-those-stairs tone. Kiara gently pushed her hand out of the way. “To shower,” she said blatantly. Kiara made sure to run up quickly so the carpet on the stairs wouldn’t get too wet. Now in the privacy of her bathroom, she hurriedly peeled off her drenched clothes, and slipped into the shower, shivering at the contact of her bare feet to the cold, tiled floors. A hot bath was just what she needed. The next day, Kiara woke up with an unusually grumbling stomach. She was in agonizing pain, but couldn’t find the strength to leave the warm comfort of her bedsheets. She had skipped the previous night's dinner, but didn’t regret it one bit because of that bath. “Well, nothing I can do about it anymore,” she said to herself, lightly slapping her face in a poor attempt to wake herself up. After unlocking the door, she quietly tiptoed down the stairs. It’s not like it did anything to quiet the creaking of stairs though. There were loud voices in the dining room. Mostly of Adrian yelling. Kiara walked into the kitchen where Jonathan was scrubbing plates and rinsing spoons. She admired the common sight of her big brother willingly helping around the house. She awkwardly shuffled by him to get a bowl from the cabinet. “You weren’t at dinner yesterday,” he said quietly. “Yea I sorta forgot.” The suffocating silence told her that Jonathan was upset.


“That wasn’t the best thing to say,” she said, pouring the cereal into the bowl. “What I meant was —” “It’s fine. Mom made baked potato soup yesterday but Adrian finished your bowl,” he said in a condescending tone. A pang of sharp piercing guilt stabbed Kiara in the chest. Her mom was allergic to potatoes so they rarely had baked potato soup. It was obvious that she made it for her and Kiara had just shoved her off. She felt horrible. As she reached for the milk, a loud crash came from the dining room along with an “Adrian!” from their dad. “Dad! Are you okay?” asked Jonathan in a voice loud enough for them to hear. The man with greying dark brown hair stuck out a thumbs up from under the table. “We’re good! Adrian just dropped his plate!” he shouted back. Kiara shrugged her surprise off and poured the milk into her bowl. Cereal before that though. Obviously. She shoved a spoonful into her mouth, stomach aching with hunger before Jonathan interrupted. “You’re not going to pray?” he asked with a frown. He was like a mini dad and sometimes it got annoying like when Kiara would do the slightest things that she wasn’t supposed to do. “I prayed last week,” she replied, munching on the cereal, looking at the wall near the front door. They took a family picture every 3 years. It was “to preserve the memories” according to their dad, although Kiara found it pointless since her smile wasn’t genuine. It’s not like she stayed in that house for anything but food, water, and shelter. Jonathan put away the last bowl and sighed.


“That’s not how it works. God wants to hear from you often like you and your friends.” “I don’t have any,” she replied instantly without a second thought. Rachel was really her only friend throughout middle school, but when she moved to the high school her parents wanted her to go to, they lost touch. It wasn’t like there would be another Rachel in her life anyways. She remembered how her light blonde hair swung around when she ran after her in freeze tag. And how she bit the top of her pen when she was concentrating. Half chewed pens were still mixed in her pencil mug after several attempts at imitating the blonde’s habits. Jonathan froze for a second after she answered. Then, he grabbed the broom and dustpan and walked over to his parents. Kiara silently and quickly finished her bowl of cereal at the counter. By the time she walked over, the mess was already cleaned and Adrian was asking to go play. She groaned but went to change out of her pajamas. “Hey, sweetheart, you snuck downstairs without a good morning to me?” her dad asked, arms wide open and walking towards her. He hugged her and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. “Morning, Dad,” she said, wiping off the kiss with the back of her hand. As she applied the sunscreen to her face, her mom yelled from the living room, “Be back before 6!” “We will, Mom!” Jonathan shouted back. After finally applying sunscreen on Adrian, who was desperately trying to avoid application of the “disgustingly wet and sticky goop” (as he


liked to call it) the three slipped on their gym shoes and walked to the playground as usual. Kiara made sure she didn’t forget the basket with their water bottles, some sliced watermelon, and 3 ham sandwiches prepared by their mom. They spent large amounts of the day babysitting Adrian, and it was tiring running around in the heat. She wasn’t sure how 7-year-olds even had that much energy. Once they arrived at the playground, Kiara set their basket down on a nearby picnic table and tied her hair up into a high ponytail, preparing to run around the park with her younger brother. She and Jonathan had set shifts on who played with Adrian. The first twenty minutes would be Kiara, then Jonathan for the next 20 minutes, and so on. It had been like that ever since Adrian was old enough to know what he wanted. It was a high functioning system. Kiara spotted a little girl and a teenager who looked around Jonathan's age. She saw Adrian run over the girl and peppily talk to her with a bright smile and extended hand. Although he was out of ear range, Kiara guessed he had probably said something along the lines of, “Hi! I’m Adrian, wanna play together?” because the girl ran off with him to climb the playground equipment. The brother and Jonathan were talking and started walking towards Kiara. Oh god, a person. What do I do? Should I just stay silent? As the guy approached the table, she tried to make it seem like she was busy watching Adrian. When they got even closer, she could see that the boy had fluffy jet black hair and green eyes. They weren’t green eyes like hers though. They were like emerald green, Kiara’s was more hazel. “Hey, I’m Liam. That’s my little sister, Lily, over there,” he said in an unexpectedly deep voice. “I’m Kiara. I see you’ve already met Jonathan,” she said with the usual plastic smile. 376

“Nice to meet you. I hope we see each other more in the future,” he said, putting his hand out. She shook it and they all sat down at the table. They talked about Liam’s adventures in foreign countries and about the different languages he could speak. Wow he’s impressive.They made small talk about school, favorite foods, and their siblings. Kiara found out that Liam was going to be a senior in high school, and he volunteered to tutor her in Algebra II. “She’s actually really smart. She just doesn’t decide to use her genius. Too nice to leave the others in the dust,” Jonathan said sarcastically, chuckling with Liam. Kiara blushed in embarrassment and lightly hit Jonathan’s arm glaring at him with a stop-embarrassing-me look. They talked until sunset, sharing the watermelon and occasionally playing with the kids. It was already dark outside when they parted ways, promising to keep in touch, and surprisingly, Adrian was exhausted, for once in his life. “What’s this? You, a 7 year old, are tired?” Kiara asked teasingly, in her good mood.... “7 and a half,” Adrian said between gasps for breath. “I’ll show you!” Just like that he ran into the street. Kiara laughed and shadowed her face with her hand, but stopped when she heard Jonathan yell, “Adrian!” A loud honk came after it. When she slowly moved her hand, she saw two bright car lights staring her in the face. Below them was a bleeding 7 (and a half) year-old kid. Kiara’s eyes widened.


Three Years Later It was January 12, 2020, three years since the accident. Adrian Canplus Finton was announced dead on Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 8:24 pm. They were informed that the driver of the car that hit Adrian was drunk after leaving an office dinner at a local bar. He was alive, with only a bruised cheek as a physical remembrance of the time. Nightmares of red and blue lights had faded away and life was somewhat normal again. Somewhat. Time went on and the Earth stayed in rotation. An outsider wouldn’t be able to differentiate the Fintons from any other basic caucasian Christian family. Rather than going to college, Jonathan applied for a low paying job working in retail. His mentors, teachers, comrades, all thought his smarts and high school straight A’s had gone to waste. They pitied him in silence. A new family photo was hung up on the familiar frame, but without a tiny familiar face. When Kiara moved out of the house to go to the University of Illinois, she stayed in a small flat with her roommate, Emily. She had long blonde hair that was mostly unkempt since she woke up late for morning classes.Today was special though, because it was Adrian’s birthday. The 18 year old put on a dress length brown coat and grabbed the flowers she and Emily had bought early in the morning. “Taxi!” she called out, to the yellow cab. She got in excitedly and greeted the driver. “To Graceland Cemetery please,” she said, with a smile. When she got there, she walked to the 7 and a half year old’s grave. A tall, brown haired man was there looking down at the grave. “Jonathan!” she shouted, waving at him. She let her smile falter slightly. “Hey! You’ve grown up nicely,” he said laughing and ruffling


her hair. She laid the white and blue hydrangeas down and smiled. She could see Adrian, running towards them asking to play. Kiara quit crying at everything that reminded her of him, instead she welcomed them. Jonathan had already told Adrian about everything that happened after his passing. “Hi Adrian. Happy birthday!” she started but then stopped. “Haha, sorry I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to start this off. Let’s see, hmm. I got a job as a part timer at a video game store a few months ago. We took a new family picture too. I asked Jonathan to Photoshop you in there but Mom caught him in the act.” She laughed by herself. It was kind of lonely not hearing him interrupt her, like he used to. Kiara looked behind her to find Jonathan, but he was invested, phone to his ear, in a call. After a deep breath, she continued talking. She told him about her new roommate and about Lily and Liam. Liam went to the same university as her and majored in architectural design. By the time she finished talking, their parents had arrived and they prayed together. After a long, reminiscing thirty minutes, they waved goodbye and parted ways. Although Adrian was no longer physically with them, the Fintons could feel his spirit in times of loneliness. He was watching over his dear family, and, bit by bit, melted away the plastic that bounded Kiara’s forced smile. They were finally able to move on.



THE EVERGREEN TREE Samuel Shin 8th Grade • Lane Technical Academy

you’d think they’d all want to stop but instead they treated each other like a prop one day when all the trees came down they all shuddered and began to frown a month went by, then two, then three yet all the kids still disagreed by some miracle they found some tree the last green they had ever seen it’s vibrant leaves like some god given grace Breathing on their solemn, cold face they all stared at each other, then me then they all embraced us with glee every year all the kids come here when all the trees disappear to the evergreen tree



THE QUARANTINE WAVE Brianna Solis 7th Grade • Rotolo Middle School

Waves, they hit when you least expect them to. Just like this global pandemic. One Friday we all left school not knowing we would not return the following week. And not giving us the chance to say goodbye to the family we were about to leave. This pandemic has affected us in many ways just like how waves have a big impact or small impact. This wave has had a big impact this wave hit like a tsunami and there was not one person prepared. This tsunami has caused us to stay home, not be able to see our friends, our family, and has kept us from not being able to keep our routine. Our routines that keep us distracted. That keep us busy and sane. This pandemic is causing some to risk their lives and the lives they go home to to keep people alive. But let’s not put too much focus on the bad. We can learn things about ourselves. Pick up new hobbies. Learn new things about technology. And learn new things about our families our culture. Let’s focus on how this can change us for the good. 383


I WAS FOUND ON A STRAWBERRY FARM: A MEMOIR FOR MY MOTHER Mary Sotz 7th Grade • Eliza Chappell Elementary School

In the year 1997 Mary Jude and Luis got married, two people truly in love and so happy. They tried for a baby, but in time they found out that Mary Jude couldn’t have children; she was infertile. By the year 2006, Mary Jude and Luis had both come to the acceptance point that they would probably never have children; adoption wasn’t something they could agree on, and they of course couldn’t have biological children, so Mary Jude prayed to Saint Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases who she was named after. It can’t hurt, she thought. Mary Jude had a friend named Jim who owned a fruit farm, the main attraction being strawberries. There were 2 parts to the strawberries on Jim’s farm; you could go and just buy fresh picked strawberries, or you could pick the strawberries yourself. Now Mary and Luis had driven to this farm every June for many years, as June is prime strawberry season and Jim was their friend. This year, Mary Jude was going alone because Luis had to work. She was going to stay on the farm for a couple of nights, pick strawberries and bring them home. A week or so before the trip, Mary Jude got an email from Jim. The email stated that he needed help because there was a young Guatemalan woman working on the farm picking strawberries, but she had been caught without documents and had been taken to jail. Mary Jude felt her heart break for this woman, but she knew there was nothing she could do. 385

On June 3, 2006, Mary Jude arrived on the farm. When she arrived, she unpacked and went for a walk. Later that night, she tried to go to sleep but had trouble sleeping. Around midnight, she got up. Not wanting to wake up anybody else, she went outside. Because it was a warm summer night, she laid down on the cool grass and looked up at the sky. “Wow!” she exclaimed. Above her was a sky filled with stars. It looked as if someone had spilled salt on the sky. Mary Jude stayed there in the cool grass staring in awe at the stars. Then suddenly out of the corner of her eye, she saw something bright — a shooting star was crossing the sky. The next morning Mary Jude slept late and was woken by a knock on her door. It was Jim saying, “Mary Jude, I want you to meet someone,” so she quickly got dressed and went into the dining room. Sitting at the dining room table was Jim and a small girl who Mary Jude thought to be about 14. “This is Sandra, the Guatemalan girl I emailed you about,” said Jim. It took Mary Jude a couple of seconds to remember. “Oh, nice to meet you.” she said in Spanish. But Sandra just looked at her shyly. “She doesn’t speak much Spanish,” Jim told Mary Jude. “Her language is Q’eqchi. She’s from an indigenous community.” “Oh okay.” But in that moment, Mary Jude knew she was supposed to bring this girl home. It seemed to flash across her heart, like the shooting star. After talking with her a little, she asked Sandra if she wanted to come home with her, and Sandra, to Mary Jude’s surprise, said yes. They agreed that Sandra would come back to the house the next day with her things.


The next morning, Sandra was there at the door. She was holding a plastic grocery bag with everything she owned in it. Mary Jude was leading her to her car when Sandra stopped, and in what little Spanish she knew, she managed to say, “I need to tell you something. I’m six months pregnant. I don’t know if that makes a difference, but you should know.” Sandra’s journey to Jim’s strawberry farm began in northern Guatemala. She was born in a small Q’eqchi’ village in the rainforest. She had 6 older sisters and 2 younger brothers. When she was 19, she got pregnant. She couldn’t tell her family. She knew she would not be able to give her child a good life as a single mother in Guatemala, so she borrowed money and made her way north. It was a long and dangerous journey. She had little to eat and walked many nights. She worried about the baby. Would the child survive? Sandra was so thin, nobody could even tell she was pregnant, but she was glad nobody knew. Even Jim didn’t know. Sandra arrived at his farm after a 3month journey. She had been told there was work there picking strawberries. But one day she got caught and was put in jail because she was undocumented. Now you might be wondering how she got out because she did, and I’m happy to tell you that Jim got his community to raise $20,000 dollars to bail her out of jail. That’s amazing, but what’s more amazing is that he did this for a seasonal worker that he hardly knew. And he reached out to friends, sending emails to ask for help. Friends like Mary Jude. In the car on the way home, Mary Jude called Luis. “I’ve got the strawberries,” she said. “And something else.” Then she told him about Sandra.


“Well, I guess I’ll meet her when you get here,” he said with a laugh. Mary Jude thought she and Luis could help Sandra. But after Sandra had lived with them for a couple of weeks, they both felt the same. Sandra was so brave, and so honest. But she didn’t need help. She needed a family, a family for herself and her baby. They could offer her that, and when they did, she said yes. Three months later, September 2, 2006, I was born. My mom didn’t know if I was going to be a boy or a girl, and she hadn’t thought of a name for me. Mary Jude was with her in the hospital, and when I was born, the midwife held me up to my mom and said, “You have a beautiful baby girl. What do you want to name her?” My mom looked at me and said, “Mary.” This story is for my mother, Sandra Sotz, the bravest woman in the world.


UNTITLED Caleb Tiradani 7th Grade • Rotolo Middle School

As I sit outside, waiting, night begins to fall, As I wait, I try again to ponder the mysteries of quarantine, As I stretch my legs out while I lay on the blanket under me, I then begin to see the conclusions that help me understand. And so I begin, and changing my perspective as I go along, And so I start with the most familiar perspective I know. When you actually can see the stars for yourself, When you can finally do the things that have never been done, When life can finally be discovered, for you’ve always been different, When you can finally see When you finally see the world in a better mood, and human life isn’t too bad. When I can sing my bird songs freely, When the grass is greener, and the baby birds learn to fly, When the worms come out more plentiful, and food can last longer, When my wings can grow longer, and the big rumbles from the gray below, When the noise dies down and we live a happier and more plentiful life.


When the walks become longer, and the people we love come closer, When they call us and bring more of our kind home, When cats and dogs are searched for, and there is room enough for all, When the rivalry is delayed, and all may find their new home better, When some finally see a good life that the older animals never knew was possible. When we can return the favor and nature can regrow, When the Amazon becomes more lively, When the canals in Venice repopulate with dolphins, When life shows more abundant than ever, and the explanation comes clear, When the life everyone once understood becomes the life they could never dream of. When humans and animals, When dogs and cats, When trees and plants, When earth and sky, When love, When kindness, When generosity, When justice, When everyone and everything, When life itself comes, When for a little while in this universe of wonders,


When peace at last comes, When we find contentment within our community and love in families, When wars are stopped for a similar purpose and the events have not been found for years, When nature and humans can become friends again, Whenâ&#x20AC;Ś As I see the first meteor falling from its perch in the sky, As I sit here alone, As I think to myself, continuing the flow, And when.... And When you see the world clearly, Through the negativity and annoyances of the people over quarantine, Though hate, Though jealousy, Though want and need, And with our community, And with our families, And with pets, And with nature, With every fall there must be a way up With every scrape, a way to heal With every broken thing, a way to fix it With every one there must be another, With life there is hope


With hope there is kindness With kindness there is friendship And with friendship is community And with community, And with family And with hope And with life You reach the conclusion of Love, the creator of life. A creator of all things. Love, the greatest of human intentions.


A FAMILY AND COMMUNITY AND WHAT THEY MEAN TO ME Miriam Tsegay 7th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Jane Addams Middle School

Family and Community Three words That mean more than the eighteen letters That represent them Family means to me The people that surround us And love us unconditionally With all our faults and flaws And support us Through all our trials And testaments Community Is like an extension Of family They are the people that surround us At the beginning of our public years They witness those first mistakes First fights And first friends


They are your world Before you enter the real one Both family and community Are there to guide us In confusion And in the community One helps another Through trouble And mayhem In times of disaster Hate And pain Community and family Almost become one To nurture and care And make your world A better place And soothe the pain That you may face And itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what makes family and community Special In an incomparable Irreplaceable Way


THANKFUL FOR PHILADELPHIA Alaina Werge 8th Grade • Daniel Boone Elementary

I’ve been going to the same house in Philadelphia for Thanksgiving break every year since before I could remember. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet — the smell of the musty rug sitting there in the same spot for years, the stories of the civil rights movement and the memories that speak from the reddish-brown bricks. The recollections of my grandpa cooking for a lot of people and my uncle going out and shopping in bulk. My grandma in her same apron in the kitchen, smiling as she leans over and tops the huge bowl of sweet potatoes with marshmallows, secretly letting us little ones sneak some. Don’t tell your parents, she’d say. You aren’t supposed to have dessert before dinner. Shhhh. I remember two-liter bottles of soda and the succulent turkey, the doorbell ringing and my cousins and I rushing to answer it, excited to see who would come next. Memories of real, genuine cheesesteaks, ice cream before dinner and new beginnings, the feeling of growing up and changing with the people you love the most. Everything about that house is special to me. The way you can tell it hasn’t been redecorated since the ‘70s by the same striped wallpaper and green couch. The way the soap is shell-shaped, the way the tile on the bathroom floor looks like flowers if you stare at it for long enough. The way everything feels alive and full of light — almost as if the creator of all things good in the universe painted the house with invisible happiness. It gives me


a feeling of warmth — as if love itself had been melted and poured into the air vents, as if it’s not only a feeling, but a tangible thing floating from room to room, so real you can almost reach up and touch it as it moves in a cloud above your head. I love the feeling of twenty loved ones crowding a room together and all their laughter and voices and stories. I can close my eyes and tell who’s who based on the sound of the individual giggle. I love the feeling of happiness and joy — it’s like if you could only pause time and stay there in that one moment, nothing could ever go wrong. I remember my six-year-old self nodding off and falling asleep on my Uncle Barry’s shoulder after the annual game of cards and a big piece of pumpkin pie. I faded away into contentment as he patted my head and my lullaby was the sound of laughter that filled the home. I remember wishing that I could just be there forever — no past, no future, just the beautiful, perfect now. We went to watch the old-fashioned Christmas light show at the old Macy’s store, which will forever be known as Wannamakers to native Philadelphians, much as Marshall Fields remains unchanged in the minds of Chicagoans. I was mesmerized, staring up at the giant images of plasma candy canes and snowmen dancing around on the screen. The images were so old-fashioned, not fancy like today’s graphics can be, but seeing the pride on the faces of parents sharing the experience of watching the same show they had watched as kids, with their own children, now made me realize how special this shared experience was for all those crowded around me. People sang Christmas carols outside in the falling snow, and my family and I would walk past and discuss whether it might be too soon to be putting up ornaments. The cold would bite at 396

our fingers and noses, but the warmth in our hearts was always enough to protect us from the chill in the air. The death of my grandmother changed everyone and everything around me. Everything in the home suddenly had more value, more meaning, more memories. There are memories attached to the old, unused box of Jello in the cabinet that we planned on making together and the wheelchair that stays sitting there decaying in the basement that she used to get around towards the end, rusty and stiff. The house itself became more meaningful. Every surface glistens with an invisible coat of paint, a paint that is made of the tears that were shed and the comfort that was given. That table, where I would read to her. She was too weak to read for herself. I remember the spot on the couch where she always sat, the same coffee cup that she would drink out of with a straw. Parkinson’s weakened her muscles until she wasn’t even able to lift it to her mouth. And a year later, when she got pneumonia, her muscles weakened until she couldn’t breathe anymore. Her memorial service was held in that house. Everyone came dressed in black. Somber. I remember as my ten-year-old self ran up the stairs, screaming. She shouldn’t have died. It’s so unfair. Why did she have to die? My cousin Ben ran up to me, scooping me into his arms, nuzzling the top of my head. It’s okay, love bug. It’s okay. The house in Philadelphia will forever remain home to some of my most prized, emotional and joyful memories — and I know that I will always have a place to go back to. No matter who enters and exits the doors of my life, that house has become a home to me and will forever remain standing, tall and proud in my heart.


Things change, and people do too, but together with my family, we can undergo changes and come out even stronger. Whenever I’m the only one standing still, when everyone around me seems to be moving as fast as they can, whenever I’m overwhelmed and in a river of emotions without a life vest, I think about my Philly home. No matter what happens, no matter how difficult and confusing things become, I’ll always have the moments and the memoires I can revisit in my mind and imagination, and that will always be more than enough. I’ve been going to the same house in Philadelphia for Thanksgiving break every year since before I could remember. When I’m in this home, time stops, and I know that somehow, as long as I’m there, everything will always and forever be alright.


UNTITLED Erica Williams 8th Grade • Whitney Young Academic Center

I knew I was always a stick out. I just didn’t know I was this much of one. My parents recently dragged me out to Nashville, Tennessee. I don’t blame them though. I would never blame them for anything. I have the best family in the world. They were always by my side. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But this was definitely not their best move. It just had to be the summer right before my eighth grade year. We packed our bags and took the 24 hour drive from Salt Lake City, Utah to our new home in Nashville, Tennessee. I didn’t think much of it the first third of the drive. I could always go back and see my one and only friend, Vanessa. I had just gotten her and I wasn’t ready to let her go. But as the hours passed in the stuffy car and tiny motel rooms, my hope went down. And when we finally got to our new downtown house it finally hit me. I wasn’t just right around the corner from Vanessa anymore. It wasn’t just a quick walk and then I would hear her voice. No. It was a whole 24 hour drive. Twenty four hours of cheap fast food, tiny public restrooms, and the smell of burning gas. I was barely going to see her anymore, was I ever going to see her again? So here I am on Willow Creek Road in Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville, Tennessee. Not Salt Lake City, Utah, but Nashville Tennessee. I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was a friendless outcast stuck in Nashville, Tennessee.


“Do you want to stop unpacking for ten seconds and do something else,” Mom came in laughing. “I’m good.” I wasn’t really unpacking anyway. I was staring out of the big window in my new room, looking at all the little boys and girls running around the big field in front of all the houses. Mom followed my eyes and asked, “Do you want to go outside and play? I can unpack something for you.” “No!” I quickly yelled. “I’ve got it from here, you can go back to what you were doing.” Mom gave me a concerned look but replied, “Okay.” It went on like this for days. They always had some type of new gadget. Water guns, lightsabers, swords. But on top of it all I’ve been able to notice this one girl. She would sit on one of the outdoor benches and draw, watching over one of the younger girls. I would sit at my desk and draw too. It would be like I was right next to her, talking with her, laughing with her. Of course none of that was real. I could never approach someone like her. One day Mom came in and stood next to me as I was drawing with her in my head. “Why don’t you go out there and talk to her?” she asked me. “She looks busy,” I lied. Mom let out a sigh and then looked towards me. “I know this move has been hard on you but maybe it would be better if you had someone with you.” “I do,” I said happily. “I have you and Dad.” She couldn’t argue with that so she just smiled and left. But what if she was right? What if I should just go out there


and talk to her. I quickly turned around and ran out to the hallway where my mom was walking away. “Wait!” I called out to her. She turned around and I made my way to her. “I think I want to go out and talk to her.” “Okay,” Mom said with a satisfactory grin. “Just go outside then.” She said it as if it was that easy. Under my breath I asked, “But how do I talk to her? What do I even say?” I could tell my mom was internally shaking her head but it was an honest question. I just didn’t know how to talk to people. It took me years just to get one friend. “Just ask for her name,” Mom started. “Ask what grade she’s in, what school she goes to, and then drawing. You know you guys both like to draw. You two might have more in common than you think.” “Okay,” my voice came out shakier than I would’ve liked. I walked outside and stood on the porch for as long as I could remember. There she was, right across the street, and all I had to do was walk up to her and say, “Hi.” So that’s what I did. It wasn’t as confident as I saw it in my mind. As I got closer I saw the girl’s head raise a little. “Hi,” I said awkwardly with a little hand wave. “My name’s Kenzie, I just moved in across the street and I wanted to introduce myself.” “My name’s Malia,” she replied. “I’m glad to see someone finally occupying that house. It’s been empty for as long as I can remember!” Malia laughed playfully. “Glad to be here,” I laughed along, even if that was partially a lie. “I saw you drawing earlier and I like drawing too.”


“Yea, it’s just a hobby,” Malia said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and covering her notepad with her sleeve. This was the first time she came off as nervous. “I really like that sketch of Leona Turner you were doing,” I pointed to her covered notepad. “Sorry that I looked.” Her face brightened up when I said that name. “You know Leona Turner?” “Of course, she’s only my idol! Her drawing technique, the comics she makes. She’s pretty much perfect.” At this point I got comfortable on the bench next to her. The conversation took off from there. Maybe Mom was right... no, she was right. We had a lot more in common than I could ever imagine. I let down my guard, floating off into a world of our own. A woman finally came out onto one of the balconies and called Malia and her younger sister in. “It was nice meeting you, Kenzie,” Malia said standing up. Then it looked like something crossed her mind. “Hey, I have something I’m working on for the new school year. I think you would really like it, it’s an arts project. I know it’s kind of my project but if you would like we can work on it tomorrow.” “I’d like that,” I nodded and then we went our separate ways. As soon as I got back inside I could see Mom trying to back away from the window as if she wasn’t just looking through it. “Soo, how’d it go?” she greeted me with. “Good... really good, actually.” Mom let out a little shriek and turned to my dad sitting at the


dining room table. “She introduced herself to someone! She introduced herself to someone!” She then turned back to me. “I’m so proud of you!” A smile formed on my face and I did a playful little eye roll. But inside I was proud of myself too. I was actually able to approach someone. I met up with Malia the next day. She was sprawled out on the grass with a large poster with a few other girls. Malia introduced me to them as her friends. After the ball got to rolling we got along very well. They also lived very close. I was nervous with the whole situation at first, but I had a lot in common with them too. Then Malia introduced me to the project. “We’re basically making posters for this one club at a school. This is the main poster,” she said pointing to the big poster in front of her, “And then we need a bunch of smaller posters. Be as creative as you want, this is for drawing and comics club.” I nodded in agreement and then we all got to work, cracking jokes as we went along. Then I noticed the school mascot that was continuously drawn on the posters. “Hey are these for the Bluford Bulldogs?” “Yea, do you know the school?” Malia asked, looking up at me. “Actually, that’s the school I’m going to this fall.” “That’s where we all go to school!” Malia exclaimed. “This is actually our club we’re making the posters for, I’m the club president.” The group was all excited now. “We’ll show you all around and get you accustomed to everyone. This is going to be so cool!”


That day ended as soon as it started. I came out of it with three new friends who all truly appreciated me. More days piled on by and then school started. Malia took pride in showing me around and I loved sticking by her side. I started getting used to talking to new people and I would say I was actually breaking out of my shell. I remember sitting down with Malia one day on her porch. “You know, I used to be bullied where I used to live. I only had one friend, I guess that’s not so surprising though.” “Why wouldn’t that be surprising. You’re so fun to hang out with and just in a few months have become one of my closest friends.” “I was so scared to approach you that day when you were on the bench. I actually used to sit in my room drawing pretending I was next to you.” “I was pretty nervous when you came up to me too,” Malia laughed. “But I’m so glad you did.” “Yeah,” I laughed along. “I remember me saying how glad I was to be here even though I wanted to be back in Utah so badly. But I’m so glad I’m here and I’m so glad I met you. You’ve made my life so much better and now because of you I now have a whole community behind me. You make me feel so important.” “That’s because you are... you’re really important.” I walked up to Mom the next day while she was washing dishes and took her by surprise. “Thank you,” I said. “For what?” Mom laughed. “For everything. If it wasn’t for you I would’ve never


approached Malia in the first place. I would still be stuck in the shell that was holding me back this entire time.” “Aww, I knew it was in you this entire time. You just needed the push of love.” We both looked at each other smiling. After a little while, Mom grabbed me by the arm and pulled me in. “Now come help me with these dishes!”



ACROSTIC Eden Wilson 8th Grade • Skinner West Elementary

God only knows how much trouble moving has been. Over and over apart from old friends Of course, a pandemic just had to come! Great. To Loneliness and longing for familiarity I seem to succumb Every time I get used to something it seems to go. Has nothing here been truly mine? Actually, it seems before I was doing just fine. No. I’m here now, and it’s actually much better Good thing I can pray, like writing a letter Only then I feel like I have a grip Under all of the smiling, I feel like I’ll slip. Thank goodness one day I found some calm So then I can focus on what’s going on Good things are happening every day Real-life was calling while I was away Of course, I should call back, if only I knew how Ultimately I’ll figure it out, but I want to know now People are there for me, I just need to reach them 407

My friends are not near now, nor were they near then Everyone is at home.... Then, I open my laptop to find a community Everyone sitting in chats, just waiting for me Xeroxed on to my screen are all my friendships They are right there, ready to talk, even Counting some of the kids that I blocked! All the last 7 months feels swallowed with joy Love is in each message for me to employ Lasting friends aren’t limited to distance Zip! They are there for you in every instance Over this time I’ll never forget Only few know that we shouldn’t let Mere distance take us and make us its pet.


UNTITLED Mica Zandstra 7th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Daystar Academy

I hugged my mom and dad goodbye, I had just been admitted into Lionheart School two months earlier, where we would learn how to control and train our special abilities. Of course, there were other subjects, history, language acquisition and the study of creatures (the one I was most excited for along with unifly lessons where I heard you would get to have your very own unifly or pegasi). I triggered Lorion while I was in Frogcroak, the ability to lift and control objects. Frogcroak is a school for humans on earth and from the Land Above the Clouds that havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t triggered their power. The Land Above the Clouds is literally above the clouds, this special home is for humans who have triggered an ability and live, it is beautiful, but probably not how you are picturing it, your picturing fluffy cloud streets and houses made of white puff. Nope. What you should be picturing are huge houses, not made out of clouds, usually stone or wood, and stone streets. Scouts are sent to earth to find children that are suitable and look like they may trigger an ability. They will be flown to the Above every year for five years until they trigger, if they happen to not trigger an ability they and their family will be brainwashed. If they do trigger they get to live in the Above along with their family. My mom had been admitted into Horsesong, and triggered animaly, the ability to talk and control animals. My dad triggered the same as me, Lorion and went to Lionheart.


My mom kissed my cheeks. “Be safe Paige,” she whispered. “I will mom,” I replied hugging her back. “Remember to call us,” her dad said, grabbing her bags and hugging her. “I will, every night,” she promised, grabbing her bags. “Don’t forget Tinsel,” her mom reminded, using her ability, animaly to call the caramel colored puff to her side. “How could I forget her,” Paige said, picking up the fat guinea pig and placing her into her large pocket on her petite green colored dress, leaving only a lump. I hugged them one last time before climbing into the large carriage pulled by two large white pegasi. I took the seat closest to the back and waved to my parents as my small (for the Above) mossy house surrounded by wildflowers drew out of sight. Our first stop was about a thirty minute flight and we landed softly on the mossy ground and not far from the main house was the Dreamwood forest. It was beautiful and was told to hold all sorts of mythical creatures. A girl with long blond hair rippling in the wind sprinted down the stone pathway from the large stone house. She wore a sweatshirt that looked three sizes too big and jeans and she carried an overly-stuffed duffel bag. She marched up the carriage steps, shaking the whole carriage when she sat down. I caught myself staring and when the girl looked up, I became very interested in my tall brown boots. She scooted closer. “Hi! I’m Ashya, but you can call me Ash! What’s your name?” The blond girl, Ash said so fast it took a couple seconds for the words to process. “I’m P-P-Paige,” I mumbled, giving her a weak smile, I can be very shy and don’t bother starting conversations.


“Sorry, didn’t catch that,” the girl said through her huge smile. “I’m P-paige,” I repeated a little louder. “Oh, hey Paige! Excited about Lionheart?” “Uh...yeah I g-g-guess,” I said studying my small pearl buttons on my dress. I really have no trouble in school, except with making friends. I’ve never really had a friend, I mean one you can tell everything to, and have sleepovers with. I just never have. I much prefer making friends with animals, putting my hand over the small lump in my pocket. Until, I caught Ash staring. It felt like the awkward silence would never end until Ash leapt into another speed round of talking. Honestly, how could anyone speak so fast, knowing what they were saying. She babbled on and on about what classes she was most excited to take and how she was going to make a gazillion friends. It felt like hours until the coachman shouted. “Hang on tight!” As the pegasi dipped into a dive, plummeting to the ground. This was the last stop they would be making. On every carriage they only picked up three or four passengers to take to Lionheart, this made everything go a lot quicker and they could start their sessions the very next day. The white-winged horses stretched out their wings only milla-seconds before hitting the ground and padded their hoofs on the fresh green grass. Minutes later a girl in a long red dress flowing gently in the wind appeared, her waist-long strawberry blond hair billowing behind her. She looked...like a princess. This obviously made me even more nervous. The girl entered the carriage dipping into the most graceful courtesy I have ever seen. She glided through the isle and took her seat next to Ash. “Hi! I’m Ashya, but you can call me Ash!” Ash said gleaming.


“A pleasure to meet you Ash, I’m Scarlet Oak,” The girl said smiling her gleaming white teeth at Ash. I just kept staring at the ground, wishing I could sink into the floor. “And you are...” Scarlet asked, eyeing me up and down. “Uh, P-P...” I started. “This is Paige! She loves animals and is excited to meet all the creatures at Lionheart!” Ash answered for me. “You like animals, do you have any?” Scarlet asked cheerfully. “W-well uh...” I started. “She doesn’t talk much, which is why I answer for her!” Ash said, acting as if she was helping me, well, in a way she was, I didn’t need to talk much then at least. “Oh okay, I have a griffin,” Scarlet said, still looking at me. My eyes shot up off the floor. “Really?!” I asked excitedly, then turning red at the surprised look on Scarlet's face. “Yup, his name is Jer.” I gave a shy smile, these girls were nice. Maybe there was hope for this school yet. Ash made a gasping sound and Scarlet and I looked to find her face plastered against the glass. “What is it A....” Scarlet’s voice trailed off. “Oh, wow,” she breathed. I followed their gaze out the windows of the carriage and found BLANK huge shimmering castles surrounded by forest. It was...breathtaking. We kept looking at the magnificent castles until the pegasi dropped swiftly on the ground. Ash was first, shooting out of her seat like her bottom was on fire and rushed out of the door like a dragon was chasing her. “She’s a goofy one,


am I right?” Scarlet asked, and it took me a second to realize that she was talking to me. “Yes,” I said, proud of my voice to not sound too shaky. Scarlet led the way out of the carriage and we found Ash standing in a huge line of kids, waving us over. There was a huge statue of a lion in the center of the huge courtyard leading up to the stunning castle...Lionheart. Our bags were already in our rooms, said the coachman after we thanked him. I patted the pegasi on their soft muzzles thanking them as well. Scarlet was already with Ash when I hurried over to them. We stood directly behind a boy who had way too much gel in his blond hair. “From what I can tell, they are asking for our names and parents' names,” Scarlet half-whispered. “Ooooooo! I hope they ask for our favorite candy! Course, I’m not sure I could pick just one, I mean seriously, There are soooooo many incredible candies out there!!” Ash said in rapid speech. Scarlet and I just stared at her blakely. “What?” Ash asked. “From what I've heard, there is a huge candy shop called Wandemanders in the back courtyard! Mmmm, heaven...” Ash said dreamily. We couldn’t answer because it was our turn. “One at a time, please,” the old lady at the desk growled. “Nice to meet you too!” Ash said happily. The old lady rolled her eyes and said “Let’s get you over with,” motioning for Ash to step forward. “Name?” The lady glowered at her. “Ashya Storm! But, you can call me Ash!” “Parents?”


“Sia Storm and Callum Storm!” Ash sounded as if she practiced this. Which did not give confidence. “Next,” the lady said motioning Scarlet forward. Scarlet dipped into another of her graceful curtsy and said “I am Scarlet Oaks, and my parents are Brayden Oaks and Helaine Oaks.” She gave a smile with every word. “Thank you Miss Scarlet, next,” She motioned me to move forward, but I didn’t budge. “Ok...name?” The old lady looked smug. “P-p-paige...” I started but the lady cut me off, “you gotta speak up hun, can’t hear ya when ya mumble,” she said impatiently, the kids behind me started to mumble under their breaths. “P-paige H-hawk,” I said hurriedly. “Parents?” “P-pat H-awk, and P-patricia H-hawk,” I said and when the lady nodded and said “next,” I ran off to find Scarlet and Ash waiting for me. “Come on Paige! Let’s go find the grand hall!” Ash said excitedly pointing to the right hallway. “Are you sure that's the way?” Scarlet asked, crossing her arms. “Trust me, I know what I’m doing!” Ash said crossing her arms right back at Scarlet. “Why do I find it hard to trust people who always say ‘trust me’?” Scarlet asked, raising an eyebrow. “Oh come on Scarlet,” Ash said, grabbing hold of Scarlet and


I and pulling us to the right. Ash was definitely wrong with her hallway choice. It took a far longer time to find the grand hall than it was supposed to. Because when we got there we were at the back of the crowd. “SILENCE!!” yelled a man with jet black hair and bright blue eyes, the crowd of kids went quiet. “Welcome to Lionheart School, I am your headmaster. You will call me Sir Rubin from this point forward. A few things before we send you off to your rooms. First of all, when classes aren’t in session the classrooms will be off limits unless a professor is inside. Second, before leaving the school grounds you must inform a teacher and get their permission of course. These are the two main things that you will have to worry about. Oh, and one more thing, Wandemanders, our magnificent candy store is only open on the weekends.” Sir Rubin announced. There was a lot of grumbling and groaning from the crowd, especially from Ash. “You have got to be kidding me!!” Ash yelled, “Candy only on the weekends, this is absurd! I have to stock up!” Scarlet rolled her eyes at Ash. Sir Rubin waited for the grumbling to settle before announcing. “You will all get your share of candy, but for the time being you will all make your way to your rooms.” He waved his hand in the air and a scroll appeared in each of their hands. The kids gasped. I opened the scroll. “These contain your room number, roommates and your schedule,” said Sir Rubin. “Yes!” Scarlet yelled. “You're both my roommates!” I smiled and Ash high fived each of us. “Most of your roommates are the kids you shared your carriage with and two others. Boys and girls are separated though,” Sir Rubin made clear. 415

“Yeah, there is a girl named...Jasmine and Alissa in our room also.” Ash said, eyeing her scroll. “Well, guess we’ll find out who they are soon enough,” Scarlet said shrugging. “As you may have known, all of your belongings have been delivered to your rooms already. Thank you and enjoy your year here at Lionheart.” Sir Rubin raised his hands while he left and small flakes of...stuff floated down. They looked like...snowflakes but all the colors of the rainbow. “Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,” Ash said her tongue out of her mouth. “Delicious,” Ash sighed dreamily. “Are you...eating those??” Scarlet asked dumbfounded. “Uh, YEAH!!” Ash yelled. “They’re called rainblokes,” Ash said, her tongue hanging out of her mouth. “Sorry, they're called rainflakes, try them!” Ash said excitedly. I cautiously stuck my tongue out of my mouth. “Mmm, they are g-good,” I said happily. I let the delicious flakes of color land on my tongue. The best part was they all tasted a different flavor each according to their color. “Please start making your way to your rooms!” A lady with black hair and bright orange lip gloss called to the students. “Come on, we should probably get going,” Scarlet said, grabbing Ash’s arm, pulling her away from the rainflakes, making Ash groan. We followed the directions to room 313.“So who is Alissa?” Scarlet asked, pointing to the name on their scrolls. “That would be me.” We all spun around to find a girl with elbow length light brown hair and glassy brown eyes staring back at them. 416

“Hello I’m Ashya, but you can call me Ash!!” Ash yelled. “Nice to meet you Alissa, I’m Scarlet and this here is Paige,” Scarlet said with an elegant courtesy. I smiled at the girl. “Nice to meet you all too!” Alissa said excitedly. “Jasmine and I already chose our beds,” Alissa said, opening the oak door to find a girl with waist length black hair sitting on a bed at the far side of the room. “Hey, I’m Jasmine, but you can call me Jassa,” The girl smiled. We said hello and took our choice of beds. I chose the bed furthest to the left side of the wall. I laid all of my clothes neatly in the oak wood drawers. And left one of the drawers especially for Tinsel to stay in. I looked over and saw Scarlet laying her clothes neatly in the drawers, makeup and stacks of books on her nightstand. Ash dumped all of her unfolded clothes in the drawers and was sprawled out on her bed. This was going to be a very interesting year.... This story connects to family because my sister Meghan who represents Ash, my cousin Sadie who represents Scarlet and me who represents Paige made up the Land Above the Clouds when we were younger and have loved to talk and play it ever since. We came up with characters that look like us. Some characteristics that we all have connecting to our characters would be Meghan loves candy just like her character Ash (although maybe not as much) and Sadie loves books just like her character Scarlet and me I love animals just like my character Paige. This story connects us in so many ways and is why I chose to write this short story about it. This is why family is important to me.






3am Realization Hennessy Morales



Of Everything Jo-Hanna Kraal



Unaware Anna Truong


A handful of the following samples of writing have content that may not be appropriate for younger audiences.


MY FAMILY Marisol Arreola 10th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Morton West High School

I love my family This much is true Despite our ups and downs And even when I act the clown They stand by my side always They are my heart They are my soul This is a truth that will never get old I hold onto so many memories Some good, some bad A cinematic prototype A climactic plot A heroic act A means, to a beginning But never to an end I love my family This much is true


For they are the essence to my being They are the center to my gravity They are the shelter from my storm I love my family This is true Because quite frankly, without them Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be fuckinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, damn blue.


FAMILIA Lizbeth Avalos 11th Grade • Phoenix Military Academy

My family Avalos - Nuestra musica brings everybody to their feet Growing up lo que escuchabas todos los días era el sonido del violín When family members from Texas, Missouri, and Mexico came to Chicago we knew it was about to be a real fiesta, una noche larga Noches llenas de música, niños corriendo y sonrisas Most of my childhood was spent running con los primos Playing volleyball at Gage Park after dad came from work — it was really our family hobby for years Going fishing was what I use to dislike the most, and now I can’t wait for a message from Dad saying, “Vamonos a pescar” Los dias eran mas facil, if I could go back in time I would

My family Ramírez - La religión y el respeto es lo más importante Going to church is what brings our mama and papa closer Dios, la virgen de Guadalupe, el niño de Atocha, gods that my mama told me stories about


CDs from Mexico, hours and hours of everybody at the jaripeos and bailes — I’ll be there one day There was always those rainy nights with loud thunder, Mama would bring us to the basement stairs and make us wait till it was over — those nights were full of life-changing talks and arroz con leche Mi mama’s chocolate con bolillo, o un café con galletas, my favorite Mama y Papa, los que no te dejan ir de la casa sin comer Our grandparents are the core of the family Family to me means memories and love like no other. I know I’ll never encounter love as such porque familia solo es una. This is my family and they mean the world to me. Two different families and environments, yet they made me who I am today. I am open minded, respectful, and most of all, appreciative. Esta es mi familia.


COMMUNITIES EVERYWHERE Cameren Brown 10th Grade • Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep

Family Scrolling at my cousins Copying and pasting their styles ’Cause they’re the only men I can look up to at 8 years old Lost wolf Sprinting to Charlotte To find my sibling pack It may be for a weekend But it’ll live forever Little siblings are clones They mock our habits Making us think twice About our lifestyle Schools Whether it's the baseball team Chess Club Fencing Club Or the Film Club We take every chance to rep our school And the blue football field we walk on


The eagle swooping away other mascots As food for our survival The Internet Thousands touring Wanting to ride Reddit Then go to the Cool Math Games ride Explore the Twitter Haunted House Traumatizing us with their toxic fanbases Lastly going on the famous YouTube Rollercoaster Going up to latest videos Then down to the comments Folks leaving the park Desperately wanting to go again Maybe in a few minutes Jobs You may work in a different area Of the company Ear drums Colon and cartilage Magneting your bones together Stomach Lungs All the way down to the toes


If it wasn't in the body It wouldn't matter But each of us help keep the company's Heart dancing Preventing from burying the body In bankruptcy The blood cells flowing like a waterslide From executive Brain To employee Body Cities North, South, East, West Side Our night lights illuminate brighter Than the day lights On a Saturday in July Our skyscrapers Escalating beyond the clouds Peaking its antennas Near the heaven's gate Political Parties Making the public think of them As saints While dressing their opposing party As devils Not wanting to work together


To make heaven better For all Angels The Human Race Our color might be different On the spectrum The amount of currency Determines the level of difficulty From Easy to Normal to Hard Yet one thing stands We thrive and might on this Sphere we call our save point Safe House Places under and above We still haven't unlocked yet We just haven't upgraded enough To beat the objective Us players have specific abilities Distinguishing each other Us as just players Combines us Makes us one Our community may play on Different sessions But we're all playing the same Game


MISSED DIRECTION Isbeth Bustos 10th Grade • Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

Breathe, breathe. Take a moment and breathe. Those were the words my mom told me on March 22, 2010, as she let tears down her face. It was my 6th birthday. They say that after the rain, there’s always a rainbow. Unfortunately for me, my rainbow never arrived. Two beautiful and loving birds were in the direction of their home, where the rest of their family stayed. It was going to be my present, my sister’s arrival next to two of my favorite human beings, but it all went downhill. This experience brought a lot of terrible consequences. My anxiety and panic attacks kicked in as I encountered a police officer, my eating and sleeping habits got worse, and sweet dreams turned into nightmares. All this turned me into a shy, scared and sad six-year-old kid. As I grew, this experience made me into an independent, kind, loving, fearless, and humble girl who stands up for what she thinks and knows is right. That girl loves to stand with immigrant families in the fight against racism, discrimination, and other injustices. I am living through hard times, standing every time I fall, in hopes of becoming a lawyer who helps immigrant families reunite with their loved ones.


“Keep your head up, because there’s always a solution to everything, except death.” Wise words of my old man. I keep that in mind when I’m going through a hard time. 07-17-2017, reunited after seven years of pain and fear.


ISABELLA Tatiana Bustos 12th Grade • William Jones College Prep

I made my first best friend on a hot summer day in the middle of June. The green and red concrete of the tennis court gleams vividly in my memory. My long ponytail stuck to the back of my neck as I ran another lap along the black fenced perimeter. My shadow trailed behind me, wide and dark against the concrete. Tennis camp sucked, the days were long and hot, the other kids weren’t very friendly, and I was horrible at tennis. My face was round and red and I was lonely. Everyday was the same, all summer long. I don’t believe that there was a particular moment or day when I found my best friend. It just sort of...happened. Somewhere between being dropped off and spending hours under the hot sun together pushed me and my sister together. Our brows dripped with perspiration as popsicles melted stickily down our fingers. My little sister is two years younger than me, and my closest friend in the whole world. Her eyes are always watching me. Her eyelashes are thick, and her smirk is unforgiving. I am never more myself than when I am with her. She loves me unconditionally and brightly, our sisterhood surrounds me always. Nowadays, everywhere I turn, she is not too far behind, matching me step for step and leap for leap, our shadows dancing together across the canvas of life. Our conversations are secrets, every imperceptible eye motion, every tilt of her head;


a language I have come to know fluently, as she has learned mine in return. We make faces at each other over momâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s head, internally translating paragraphs of mischief hidden in the irises of each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eyes. Even though she is my favorite book that I have memorized many times over, she continues to surprise me everyday. I am proud of the girl she has become, her independence fiercer, her drive stronger, and her determination tenfold mine could ever be. My mom often recounts the story of how I would hold down her legs to prevent her from crawling when I was two years old and she was still just a baby. Things are very different now. I met my best friend for the first time on a hot summer day in the middle of June. Though she had followed me from home, and I had known her all her life, it took a sweltering afternoon tennis camp for us to meet. We would sit in the only patch of shade available on the sidelines and trade sips from the same ice-cold water bottle. My ponytail stuck to my neck and my glasses slipped down my nose, as her purple-brown knees brushed mine in comfort. These days, the friendship we forged on that tennis court is stronger than the gravity between two planets, reaching for each other across galaxies of stars, pinpricks of light that go on forever.


ENGLEWOOD Reginae Echols 11th Grade • George Westinghouse College Prep

I bet you looked at the title and probably tried to guess what I would say I bet you thought it was going to be about something along the lines of.... Police brutality or maybe how the men in my ’hood gang bang And yeah I could mention the fact that they sell drugs on the street corner every day But I’ll leave those stories to the news, Since those are the only stories that they seem to put into the public's minds anyway Besides even if I did, you probably wouldn’t care So instead I’ll paint the picture of a place That’s heavily underfunded, yet rich in every way We’ve been given nothing but darkness However, what the world seems to have forgotten is.... That stars can only shine in darkness anyway We have so little, so we don’t take anything for granted We might seem poor and broken to the public But we’re still living so we consider our lives to be fantastic


Each of us is damaged in some way And because we don’t have much We find solidarity in our pain So that's what I define as community/family It’s seeing someone's deepest scars, and rather than judging We sympathize with their pain Because the truth is most broken people.... Are most beautiful in every way They say Englewood is a battleground So the way I see it we’re just holding our fort down


IT WILL BE FUN Nathalie Espinoza 10th Grade • Latin School of Chicago

“Come on,” Lexany had said. “It will be fun.” Why is it that every time someone says, “it will be fun,” it turns out to be the complete opposite? I thought as Lexany dragged me by my wrist down 47th Street for the yearly summer festival: Fiesta Back of the Yards. I didn't want to leave the safe walls of my home, the walls that protected me from the outside world. But Lexany had downright insisted, going as far as giving me the silent treatment and refusing to watch our favorite shows on Netflix like Lucifer, On My Block or even the Chinese drama we were in the middle of: Accidentally in Love. I had gritted my teeth, wanting to prove I could get her to talk to me again. I even brought out Lexany’s weakness, sour Skittles, and waved them in front of her with a smirk. She didn’t even look my way. That’s when I knew that unless I surrendered, she’d stay rooted in the very spot where she slept in for most of the summer: the wall side of my bed. She had been sleeping over for countless nights in a row, successfully merging herself with my family. She had been bouncing back and forth between her mom and dad when one night she got tired of it, so she called and asked if she could sleep over. She had met my parents on previous occasions, and when they saw how bubbly and out-going she was compared to me, they took an immediate liking. They didn't hesitate to give their yes. Ever since then, she had rejected the


idea of going back to her stressful and boring routine, loving the calm I offered in the whirlwind that was her life. I dropped the Skittles onto my dresser. She still had her arms crossed and a pout painted on her lips. I had given up. I didn't like to see her upset with me. Ever since the day we first met in 7th grade, Lexany struck me as the kind of girl who let no one get in her way. She walked with an air of confidence, an aura that never let others’ opinions affect her. She was noisy and exuberant, voicing her thoughts out loud and ignoring anyone who didn't like it. She was snarky and sarcastic, some characteristics we shared. But she was caring when she wanted to be. She always listened when I needed to rant, she always hugged me whenever I felt down. She was just there. That's why I always did what she wanted. So in return, I was always reminding her to do her homework, or giving her advice on what to do with her parents. I was her anchor, a constant in her life — the person who pulled her down to Earth when she needed it, and she was my sailboat — dragging me to places I couldn't get to on my own. I sighed and told her I would go. Finally, she smiled. She shuffled through my drawers, throwing blue jean shorts and a white tank top at me. She dressed herself in a black crop top, pairing it with cream shorts. Both of us decided to wear our black gym shoes, hers Nike, mine Adidas. My parents were surprised with me wanting to willingly hang out someplace other than my backyard. They were so delighted, they told us to be back by 9 o'clock, three hours after my usual “curfew.”


Now, the sun lowered as the day neared its end, splashing orange and pink against the previously blue sky. The faint clouds, soon to be gone, were like white specks on a canvas. The reggaeton music was already blasting at what seemed the legal limit, making my heart beat in my eardrums. The smell of burning carne asada encased my nostrils and the smoke was dizzying, making me shake my head to clear it. Lexany’s hand on my wrist was the only thing keeping me grounded. I bit my lower lip, thinking. Why are Latinos so freaking loud? I was a Latina, and I still couldn’t comprehend it, not even over the sixteen years of my existence. I shook my head. After what seemed like an eternity, we stopped in front of one of the many taco stands dotting the street. Lexany let go of my wrist and I immediately rubbed it, shooting her a short glare. She smiled and blew me a kiss. I really don’t want to be here, I grumbled slightly. “I’m hungry,” she said. “Let’s get some tacos.” “And why did we have to walk over to this particular stand?” She narrowed her eyes at me. “Lighten up. I just wanted to get to the heart of the festival.” I looked around. We were by the edge of Damen, a half street away in front of a huge stage that covered most of my view of The Yards Plaza. “Uh huh, whatever,” I responded, deciding to


at least get some delicious dinner out of this. “Mia” by Bad Bunny started pounding down the streets, the beat wrapping me in a bubble of displeasure. Uh oh. Lexany loves Bad Bunny. Lexany squealed loud enough to draw attention from the stands next to us. She ignored them, the tacos now forgotten as she latched onto my wrist again, guiding me towards the stage. I looked back at the stand, disappointment swimming in my core. Barks of laughter and loud shouts in Spanish came from every direction. Voices danced in the wind. I grimaced, my shoulder meeting my ear to rub away the hum reverberating in my skull. “Don’t be a party-pooper,” Lexany shouted over to me, letting go of my wrist once again. We stopped right by the speakers. I rolled my eyes in response, leaning down towards her ear. “I’m here, aren’t I? Just don’t make me dance.” I crossed my arms. This time, it was her eyes’ turn to roll. “Then what would be the point in coming?” She cocked her head to the side, reaching up to meet my height. “Uh, the food,” I pointed out, basically half bent over so she could hear better. I was still upset at the prospect she made me leave my one chance at happiness in this God forsaken party. “Good point,” she started, “but that’s not the only thing I want to do.” I let out an exasperated sigh. “Mia” was coming to an end, and I knew Lexany wanted to take advantage of the last remaining minute.


“Come on, let’s dance.” She grabbed hold of my hands. I slouched, acutely aware of how tall I was compared to most of the people milling about the space around me. Lexany swayed our arms left and right, trying to match the beat of the music. I let her do the dancing, choosing to retreat into my mind. How am I here? The only parties I went to were the parties hosted by my family members. I disliked being in a room full of Latinos who didn’t know the concept of personal space or the value of silence, and even if this wasn’t a room, the Latinos here were just as close and just as loud. A laugh bounced into my ears. I looked up at the crowd as if someone had poured a bucket of cold water on me. I wasn't alone with my thoughts. I shuffled my feet slightly. Lexany seemed to sense my discomfort. She dropped my hands and put hers on her hips. “Mia” had long finished, now replaced with “La Gozadera” by Gente de Zona and Marc Anthony. “Look, girl, I forced you to come because I want you to loosen up and have a bit of fun,” she explained, a frown overtaking her usually lit up features, “but if you’re going to be like this, I’d rather go home.” Home, I thought. She called my house home. I was suddenly enraptured by the girl in front of me. How had I landed a best friend as strong as Lexany? I was shy and soft spoken, what you least expected from a Latina, whereas she was bold and outgoing, always willing to embrace the nature of her


culture. She was always declaring she was Mexican and she had every right to speak her mind. My eyes softened. “No, I’m sorry. I just — I hate crowds. You know this.” “Yes, I know. But you need to face your fear sometimes,” she said, lowering her voice just a bit. The inside of my right cheek had wedged itself between my teeth. I let out a breath. What she said made sense. How was I supposed to get over this fear if I didn’t face it head on? I swallowed my rising anxiety, then clenched my fists. I could do this. I would do this. I had to. Lexany had already done so much by pulling me out of my shell countless times, making me order at restaurants instead of hiding behind her small 4’11” frame, making me talk to familiar people we bumped into the streets... This was the last step. Taking me to a party filled to the brim with our people. “¡Si tú eres Latino, saca tu bandera!” the voices around me became one, the crowd going crazy at Marc Anthony’s words. I thought about how I was a Latina, a half-Nicaraguan and a half-Mexican, and filled with pride. I was one of the few of my kind. I could speak two different Spanish dialects because of it, and even experienced the Latino culture through two different lenses. My Amá always made tajadas at home, a dish of Nicaragua you would rarely find in Chicago — even the United States, for that matter. My Abuelita made an awesome pozole that held the authenticity of Mexican culture. But it wasn’t only the food. They taught me how to value my community, because others


couldn’t quite understand unless they were part of it. They taught me that being bilingual was a gift and that being of darker skin was a blessing. They taught me to embrace myself. Being Latina isn’t just an aspect of my life, it is my life. Without it, I don’t think I'd have a knack for languages or a strong connection with others. Then I thought about what I had been thinking only minutes earlier about this place. Shame took no time in snaking its way into my brain. Lexany grinned at me knowingly. She had the power to know what I was thinking before I thought about it myself. “¡Con México, Colombia y Venezuela...!” Lexany sang along to the music. Her eyes encouraged me to follow along. A smile fought its way past my lips. The burning meat now smelled delicious and I inhaled a big whiff of smoke, the fiery carbon swirling in my lungs. The beat of "La Gozadera" was crawling into my body, swaying me to the music. The laughter around me now seemed welcoming — embracing, even. This is what Latinos were. Happiness and warmth and community. And that community includes me, I realized, my eyes widening. I belong to a group of strangers. We were all bonded not only by our ancestral roots but by the way we lived. They were family. Sure, we had some things we could do better, but who didn’t? We weren’t perfect. No one was. Our loudness is what made us us. We wouldn’t be Latinos without some noise, now would we?


I was overwhelmed with a sudden love for my people. I smiled wide enough to expose my teeth, looking around at the abundance of Latinos around me. Some met my gaze and grinned, others partied on, oblivious. I straightened back to my original height, opening my lips to shout the ending line of the song, “¡Lo mejor que suena hoy!” I belted out a laugh, throwing my head back. I looked back down when Lexany spoke, “Okay, now we can go get tacos.” Only Lexany. Only this girl can help me see reason sometimes. I shook my head at her, chuckling. “But now I wanna dance.” "Muchacha" by Gente de Zona and Becky G had now started, the instruments in the song stirring up a shout in the crowd. “¡Niña de mamá Mexicana! ” “¡La sangre Latina la llama!” My voice mixed in. Lexany grinned crookedly at me. I grabbed her hands, squeezing. “Come on. It’ll be fun.”


MEAN IS SURVIVAL Anaya Frazier 12th Grade • Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep

On Green Street They still tell stories about my mean old Great Grandma Maybell Say she didn’t come here Wrapped in hospital blankets Instead she picked herself Off of hell’s floor, walked right up to the devil & demanded his horns

Hid them under her wig before her arrival In the middle of making love to Grandpa Author Her wig slowly begins to lift

She burst through their bedroom Clothed only in sweat Rushes right out the front door & Yells to the whole block


“Who tryna hit, cus this nigga can’t”

Grandpa swears he done seen the devil Says it lives under his roof & that they are in love Her mean makes them both feel alive.

Grandpa Loved her so much he gave her more mean That’s how Grandma Dede came about

Dede, the darkest of her siblings When she was younger every trip down South

She got to kick her feet up on the back porch Eat mooncake & laugh A laugh as long as the Mississippi River As she’d watch her lighter siblings work in the sun

Grew up and inherited the ability of putting niggas in they place, without having to ask.

Mean is what was there for the women in my family


When No was not sharp enough to cut. When survival was a slippery fish Hard to hold on to.

To me Grandma Dede was one of the hoodâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sweetest & they say on grandma Maybellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s deathbed She was as she looked; a sweet old lady

Mama says when I met them both They were already in the business of dying Death, It has a way of draining whole bodies

When the women in my family are dying

The mean leaks out, they get softer & sleep more

I like to think I am not as mean as the women I come from

Though it doesn't take much for me to get there

This one time


The blood snuck its way into my bathroom

& I could only hear muffled version of my own breaths

I thought I saw the end inching closer

So, I got mean, real mean, because I knew I had more living to do.


FAMILY Zoe Gac 12th Grade • William Jones College Prep

My parents admitted me to the hospital as a last resort. They never intended on it, none of us expected my condition to get to the point where I was beyond their help. By late spring they were pumping me with three thousand calories a day, yet I was dropping weight every week like clockwork. The ship was sinking. They were desperately plugging up every hole they found, but I was carving more holes into the wood than they were aware of. I was dead set on drowning. Against all efforts I was only getting worse. Every attempt was met with an equally intense backlash, many of which they never found out about. They could smell something poisonous, something taunting them, but anorexia is an unseen force. I was killing myself with what they couldn’t see, and it drove them crazy. Rendered them helpless. Initially I blamed them for handing me over to the hospital, but at the time I didn’t realize it was the only thing keeping me from death. My family was worn out, I was worn out. The hospital wasn’t an ideal ending by any means, but the alternate ending was unspeakable. Imagine that: fighting so desperately for all those months to bring me out of my delusion only to have me die anyway. I would have left them with something even worse than nothing. Unrelenting guilt, unspeakable grief. The ghost of my suffering roaming the halls every night, asking them why couldn’t you save me? Of course none of it was their fault, but if I died it would have all come crashing down on them. The


heaviness of my absence would smother them. Their final memories of me would have been my skeletal body screaming at them, pulling at the skin on my stomach and begging them to admit that I was fat, that they were trying to make me disgusting. Screaming I HATE YOU YOU’RE RUINING ME YOU’RE KILLING ME over a plate of scrambled eggs. They would not have sweet memories of me to relish in. What they’d remember is bony blue fingers pulling apart a carefully cooked grilled cheese and throwing it across the room. Me stabbing a fork into my porcelain plate until it made that horrible screeching noise, over and over and over and over. They would be left with the memories of our disturbing daily routine. And it would play over and over and over and over as they tried to go to sleep at night, as they tried to continue a normal life for what was left of our family. Over and over and over and over they’d remember my tragic last weeks. Over and over and over and over they’d play. Over and over and over and over. I wonder if anyone heard our house all those years back, if the screaming ever stopped someone in their tracks, made them stand on the sidewalk and cock their heads. Gaze up at our Greystone house, gaze in through the deep red curtains and wonder what is going ON in there? It’s human nature to be interested in something tragic, I bet the curiosity must have swelled in these strangers so unbearably high that they’d be thinking about it when they’d try and fall asleep. That’s exactly what my parents were trying to avoid. Even in the sweltering summer, we had to keep our windows closed. Or else the whole block would be forced to listen to something they simply couldn’t understand. The eating disorder didn’t care about who heard it, the eating disorder had no shame, even though I did. 448

But what I thought didn’t matter, all that mattered was not eating the entire plate, getting my mom to divulge how many calories were in that smoothie, or getting my parents to finally admit that I’ve been fat this whole time. The screaming never ceased. Our home was a hell house, a freak show, a place between death and hell. Meals were carefully sandwiched between hours of argument, before, during and after. The way I was fighting would make you think it was a matter of life and death, the sounds that bled from our house indicated something horrible. To the outside stranger walking their dog, it would sound like I was weeping to the high heavens after I found my family murdered, wailing to some outside force to come rescue me from unspeakable abuse, screaming bloody murder as my father cornered me with a knife. In reality, the only abusive force in our house was something you couldn’t see. The only weapon in the house was a plate of food with too much guacamole. And to me, that was worse than death. But my parents never broke. In those months my family showed me what unconditional love meant. If you love someone, you will do anything for them. My mother watched and cared for me despite my relentless delusions. She cooked my food with care, knowing that I might just rip it up and throw it across the floor. At the time it felt like they were trying to hurt me, when in reality they were saving me. If I would have been left to my own devices, I wouldn’t be writing this. Anorexia was torturing me every waking moment, and I was so scared of her because I trusted everything she told me. Back then I resisted food because I couldn’t even imagine what my mind would do to me if I didn’t at least put up a fight. Now, in retrospect, I can’t imagine what I would’ve done to myself if my family hadn’t put up a fight.



GLASS CASTLE FAMILY Natalie Hernandez 10th Grade • Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

First, you must know, I grew up beneath a cherry tree Within painted white wire fences and bushes of pink flowers I grew up wearing Mexico’s national team soccer jerseys, A patch of an eagle right above my heart, And splashing my siblings in the salty waters of Huescalapa, Mexico, My aunt and uncle laughing as they watch us. I grew up chasing stray cats And playing with blonde, blue-eyed Barbies beside my younger cousin I grew up with the taste of frijole ingrained on my tongue. A video recorder in my father’s hand as he spoke into it, Patient as I climbed his back, whining for him to put on Barney. Each of these moments speak volumes, for me They speak memories and hours and people and on top of all of that, love. Perfection doesn’t exist.


What exists, what is clear and what is true, is effort. How much you put into keeping something alive. ‘Family’ would mean nothing to me, if we didn’t try to be better. ‘Family’ would have ended when my mother first spat, “Eres la hija de tu papa, completamente.” But still, that night, she climbed into my bed and cradled me in apology. ‘Family would have ended when Ma blurted to me that she wanted a divorce, Her sobs soft and quiet As I watched raindrops slide down the windshield of her car. But I took her hands in mine and I told her, “If that’s what you want, then that’s what i want.” In the end, she didn’t want it. ‘Family’ would have ended every time rage bubbled beneath my skin When I looked into my father’s eyes, my eyes, the eyes I hated. But whenever Pa and I burn like tortillas over a fire, two spitting, raging volcanoes, It ends in grudging handshakes and deeper understanding of one another, because no matter how hard it is, we always, always forgive each other.


‘Family’ would have ended when Pa moved out, years ago. But he came back, eventually, With tired eyes and a smile and hope on his face. ‘Family’ would have ended, if Ma never voiced her depression. That period in which she was haunted by her demons, The rest of us were oblivious. Until one day, Ma finally spilled her poison secrets, And the weight on her shoulders lifted, bit by bit As we took away the pain. It all could have ceased in a billion different situations, this family of mine, All could’ve been shattered for good. But at the end of the day, there we were, picking up the pieces. Reconstructing our glass castle of a family, bit by bit. I am beyond lucky, beyond blessed. Because some kids don’t have parents. Some kids only have memories, but no one to make new ones with. Some kids were born orphans. Some kids feel alone within the walls of their own house. Some kids aren’t loved the way they should be. No matter how many times I sob into my blankets, feeling achingly alone,


No matter how many times I curse at the sky or scream into my pillow, There will always be a knock on my door. And someone to say, “Natalie? Are you okay?” Because we try. Without effort, without attempts to understand and grow with each other, This family of mine would have never gotten this far. Never. That’s why family symbolizes so much to me, More than just Ma, Pa, Erick, and Vladimir, our green-eyed cat. More than our individual selves. Family is everything I share with them: the Joy, the grief, the scars, the smile lines, the laughs, and of course, the tears. Why is that important? It is important because each of those things speak volumes, for me They speak memories and hours and people and on top of all of that, Family. Love.


IN MY GENERATION Latonia House 11th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Chicago Collegiate High School

I come from a generation Where looks of beauty is more Important than the educated mind I come from a generation where everyone focuses on the most pettiest shit rather than looking at the realizations in the world I come from a generation Where we arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t one for all But all for ourselves I come from a generation Where we die in coldest blood Of our own World War I come from a generation Where guns & drugs are by choice To be lead into a wrong road of voices


I come from a generation Where our color is the new horror mirror I come from a generation Where our days are unknown to be numbered Where our months are new but stuck in the same place Where our years of the same problems are reborn I come from a generation Where dying hearts canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get a vein of love Where dark souls have no sense of direction of a piece of center peace Tâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;was a drug that turn the body into stone to leave the mind in exhaling sleep I come from a generation Where all eyes are watchinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; you side to side and from behind to only be taken in front by force I come from a generation Where we take from our own Hurt our own Kill our own


But to never die for our own Nor heal to revive our own I come from a generation Where newborns are unknown to what future/place they are born into Nor about to step in I come from a generation Where our leaders gives us false hope of words To only still look at things we still see no change in I come from a generation Where gangs are not the same Where one there were real gangs Who protect our kids, their kids, our people and our streets I come from a generation Where girls fight over boys that donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want them I come from a generation Where we fight for things that is only temporary Instead of fighting for things that will last us for a lifetime


I come from a generation Where women are justified as hoes by the clothes they wear or dressed in to only be discriminated by body count, to be perceived as easy and so native and by the exposing videos & images by others I come from a generation Where we die more than before Where tears of rain reign from pain leaves us in more human cracks than concrete cracks I come from a generation Where they try to take our education â&#x20AC;&#x2122;cause they think they can I come from a generation Where our justice system is corrupted In the hands of distrustful dirty money To be left in hands of unknown disguised people known as the government I come from a generation Where we are still not accepted by Our race,


Our skin-color, From the city, neighborhood, country we live in, Our identity Our abilities Our disabilities And more as the list goes on But let me tell y’all something My generation might be from hell But that never stopped our so called democracy for a government to keep us prisoned in our own Country as to what I call The U.S.A. Cell But don’t ever judge nor discriminate My people for making it look bad When you had years from now to keep what we had Now it’s just sad we can’t last because we keep repeating years from the past Honest To Say I Come From This Generation I Stay In This Generation I Live In This Generation This is The Generation Where I’m From



UNTITLED Axl Knickerbocker 9th Grade • Lane Tech

Dear our 2030 kids and dear 2040 kids, your parents, here or not, held on through this whole plague’s plot. You may come to us about your boredom, which i'm sure, is quite solemn, but whose extent cannot compare to that of ours in this affair. We tried to stay six feet apart, and if we could, we’d all restart. Our only company included family. All else excluded. We learned to hug through TV screens, and fall into separate routines. We called and called and elbow bumped, eyes glazed over as cleanser pumped I for one had a hard time, With Google classroom sour as a lime,


But through this drought, of human doubt We all pursued, til it ensued. For in this crisis, I was not alone. We all went through it, through the unknown. Now we emerge, as one community, and yes, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve changed, by building unity. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s brought us closer, by pushing us away, and now its influence will forever stay. So from the 2000 kids, and from the 2010 kids, here this message loud and clear, use it for the next frontier, and take the opportunity, to become one with your community.


OF EVERYTHING Jo-Hanna Kraal 10th Grade • George Westinghouse College Prep

I was born in Curacao, a Dutch island in the Caribbean. Even though I was born in Curacao, I always question myself if I am actually a “Yu Korsou.” Maybe nationality doesn’t matter, because my life has been more influenced by those around me than the land of my birth. Maybe I am not from a certain place, but rather from certain people and things that have influenced me. When I was three years old, my family and I moved from Curacao to McAllen, Texas. At the time I knew five English words: “Hello,” “Goodbye,” and “High School Musical.” I only spoke the Dutch of my citizenship and the Papiamentu of my ancestry. A neighbor whose name sounded like the word skeleton taught me English. Every morning my mother would send me to the neighbor’s house, where for the first few months I homeschooled with her family. Here I developed a love for a language that was not my own. As soon as I could speak English, I started reading. First Barbie and Dora the Explorer, then Nancy Drew and other books that kept my imagination flying throughout the night. Now I explore the worlds of the likes of Toni Morrison and any author that gives me some link to my ancestry and roots. I will be forever grateful for the gift given to me by the skeleton woman. I am from my mother, the definition of an independent woman. As a child, she was ridiculed for being smart and nerdy,


but she paid them no heed. Attending college in the Netherlands, she would bike one hour to get to the school where she would study, then to her job, where she worked so well that she was given a management position by her sophomore year of college. She finished college and nursing school with no debt. During vacations, she and her friends would travel: Spain, Sweden, Africa, China, and France to name a few. My mother, when she was in her twenties, bribed a South African taxi driver to drive her and her blonde friend to the Black neighborhood of a segregated South Africa so they could see Nelson Mandela’s house. When they arrived, they anxiously waited for him to appear, and took a picture with him, a picture she still treasures to this day. My mother taught me small invaluable lessons like, a woman never pays for a man and that a woman never lends money, she only gives or keeps. She is my proof that women can accomplish anything with grace, poise, and a nice pair of shoes. I am from my father, the strongest man I know. He has the biggest determination to fulfill his dreams. In the middle of his senior year, he dropped out of school to support his family. When he finally went back, he was in his 40s and was required to get his GED in a language he still has trouble speaking. Cancer came in 2017, but he never stopped trusting God. Remission happened and he was determined to change his lifestyle so he could be as risk-free as possible. No sugars, no carbs, exercise daily, and organic foods. Everything my father does, he does his best to represent God with his life; accomplishing his bachelor’s and two masters’ degrees while bestowing in me an expectation to do better. I am from my father, who taught me what full dedication looks like.


I am from my sister, a genius. She reminds me that dreams have no limits. My oldest brother left when he was eighteen and I was only two. He went to Amsterdam to “study.” He traveled and learned and settled in England. I am from my brother, who taught me that family knows no limit of time or distance, that we must love each other no matter what. I am from my grandmother. Rude and sarcastic, she is not known for her kindness. Yet she raised four of the most amazing women. The eldest, a world traveler, and a foster mother. The second, a successful banker. The third, my mother, a nurse. And the youngest, a police officer. Her husband was an alcoholic, forcing her to work while raising her children. But, she made sure that they always had good report cards and weren’t wasting their time on boyfriends and other distractions. I am from my grandmother, who taught me that difficult times are no excuse for laziness. That even though I am poor and life can be unstable, I can always work hard. I am from my friends, who taught me what it really means to love someone. It means being willing to ride the bus an hour and a half to visit cause you know they’re having a bad day. Or sending a funny snap to make them laugh. Or sometimes just sitting next to them while they mourn the loss of an uncle or grandmother. My friends have taught me loyalty and selflessness. I am from my neighborhood, West Ridge. A neighborhood full of immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and India all living in the same place. These beautiful people every day wear their national clothes and speak their languages. They make their own shops with foods that they are familiar with. The billboards all display languages from lands far away. I am from


the immigrants in my neighborhood, who have taught me that oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s culture should never be forgotten. Even though I am far away from my island, I still speak my language at home, lest I forget and become even more separated. I am from Black Americans. I see their pain, and I feel it too. I am resilient with them, in the hope that someday there will be equality and justice. I feel pride in the achievements of Black Americans and the boundaries they break through every day. I am prepared to break those same barriers myself. They have taught me the importance of hope and grasping every opportunity given to me. I am from Black people all over the world who fought for equality. From Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, the Obamas, to Madame C.J. Walker. These inspiring people, not only became successful, but also because they opened the doors for millions of others to come through. They have taught me that success is only good when it helps others. I am from Curacao. A land ignored by the world until the world needed it. A land where everyone speaks four languages. A place where everyone knows everyone. My island of the blue sea and white sand. I am from the slaves that worked under the hot sun until they died or were emancipated. I am from the Native islanders who were pushed off their island, their blood is mine. I am from the Latin Americans who came to America searching for better jobs and futures. I too am searching for something from the land of the free. I too have faced the language barriers. I too know what it feels like to be different. To have different names for everything, to be in and out of this


crazy American culture. Those who search for someone in this large crowd who knows their culture and understands. I am from Christians all over the world. From Billy Graham, Tony Evans, Priscilla Shirer, Hudson Taylor, and Gladys Aylward who have all taught me what modern Christianity looks like. Like me, they have grappled with questions concerning major problems in the world. They bravely stated their truth founded opinions even when everyone else disagreed and considered them stupid. Christians around the world have shown me the importance of faith. They have shown me that I must always stand for the truth. Who am I? Too many things have influenced me, making me the product of many things. I am from the amazing people who have surrounded me and brought me up; while also being from the amazing places I have experienced. I see no reason in declaring one origin. I am from everyone. I am from everything.



42 DAYS Alyssa Krivak 10th Grade • Riverside Brookfield High School

42 days, Aly thought. It has been 42 days since I’ve been in a car. Since I have been to real school. Since I have seen my teachers, my friends, and studied for a test while walking blindly through the halls to my next period. As much as I miss my friends, it isn’t so bad, though. I don’t go a day without FaceTiming them and I won’t go a day without living my life and staying connected to all of the people I love. “Rise and Shine!” Aly’s mom says as she flicks the surprisigly bright light on to wake her up. As Aly squeezes her eyes shut thinking maybe it’ll make her fall back to sleep, she slowly regrets telling her mom to wake her up early the night before. “Even if that means dragging me out of bed and onto the floor from under the warm comforter!” she recalls from her request to her mom from last night. “I’m up…I’m up....” She yawns as she stretches every morsel of herself until she feels satisfied that she is woken up and ready for the day. After filling out the attendance form for her online classes and flipping the scintillating light back off, Aly crawled under the covers again and into the stream of sunlight projected from the window. As she lay there grasping the sunbeams with her gaze, Aly thought about her life at home. Her mom would be leaving in a few hours to work, for she was an essential worker. For the


next eight hours, Aly would work to finish her homework and then dawdle around the house, waiting for her mom to come home from work. She would do this until the day repeats again, but as a Tuesday this time. “I’m leaving!” her mom shouts from downstairs as she scrambles to get her red jean jacket on over her red vest and red plaid shirt. She was determined to embrace the color red while working at Target as much as she could. Aly tumbled back out of bed and raced down the stairs after her mom with her sister Bri, who bolted out of the opposite room when their mom announced her departure. “Lunch?...Phone?...Hand sanitizer?” Aly checks with her mom as she is getting ready to leave to ensure that she has everything she needs. She always viewed her mom’s hand sanitizer, that clipped onto her jeans, as her weapon of defense while at work. As other people have pepper spray, her mom had her hand sanitizer as her protection because of all of the crazy customers that don’t stay six feet apart at her work. “We have to keep our distance from others and make sure we are trying to eliminate any chance of germs that we could have possibly picked up,” Aly recollected from a previous conversation she overheard her mom having with her other sister Elle. While Aly focused on all the positive pieces of this crisis and tried to disregard as much as she could related to COVID-19, Elle researched and shared all her statistics about it with their mom each day. It is tough having to hear about all the people in their country who are going through a rough time, especially those who have lost the ones they love. As her mom gets into their old Ford Escape, Aly waits by the


slightly cracked open door for her to pull away. Her sister Bri and herself both linger while clasping their hands shut, hoping that they will contain the kisses their mom blew from inside her car to them. As the blue car blurs around the corner and away, Aly whispers out the door the words â&#x20AC;&#x153;I love you,â&#x20AC;? as if those words will carry her love and support all the way to her mom while at work, and maybe create a shield of safety around her, ensuring that she will come home safe and sound again. Just like the last day, and the day before that. All the same, but with a different name.



3AM REVELATIONS Hennessy Morales 10th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School

To whom it may concern, I am not a writer. I say this in hopes that you will understand that family will have endless meanings, misconceptions, values, limitations, heartache, memories, arguments, and most importantly, love. Before moving further, I hope you do not confuse love with the box of chocolates you did or did not receive on February 14th in 7th grade. Nor the countless "I love you"s that you heard from that ex after they decided to wrong you repeatedly. You cannot mistake the postcard from that relative who never showed up, or the "thank you" that celebrity gave you after you purchased their merchandise, the violation of another human being's body when they were too unstable to think and dare to call it love. Take some time away from grasping for answers in your mind and you will find that this idea of family was built on a foundation of love. That is why love is so crucial when addressing family, for it is what manifests at the depths of its core. Now pause, there is no longer time for cliches, I don't mean to come off like those basic Instagram quotes telling you to "love yourself " 473

I believe we are no stranger to the welcoming arms of false hope that dragged us to rock bottom, there next to the bed we set up in our last visit. I realize how one can mistake it for home. A Family has no power to bring us back It is the responsibility of that person to find the exit but real families are there to send the resources to aid our distress. There are 7 billion people on this planet who don't fully comprehend this, maybe because even our dictionaries are faulty. Family. Noun. "a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household." Family. "All the descendants of a common ancestor." We look at our DNA and use it to write out our identity. We cannot help these habits, we tell ourselves. Don't forget "blood is thicker than water" "blood is thicker than water" "blood is thicker than water" "blood is thicker than water" However. The human body is made up of 50-70 percent water, and only 7 percent blood. Researchers conclude that as little as 1%


dehydration will lead to a negative impact on mood, energy, and focus. More severe cases can become medically lifethreatening, causing damage to your kidney, heart, and brain with possible hallucinations. 2 million people die of dehydration a yea, not to mention creatures outside the human species. Water is quintessential to all life on earth, so please tell me again how blood is thicker than water. There was a time where we considered our mother's womb our home, we asked her to give us everything and yet, in the end, some of us were left with nothing at all. It is no secret that a relative's blood is not always the correct match in transfusions. We as humans typically need water more often than blood. This is not to say biology can't be part of this perfect picture. I just want you to know that in reality, some people become mothers, brothers, and even those grandparents that have damaged each other's relationship beyond comprehension. From petty grudges to justified anger toward the other because of true cruel abuse. They are forever chained to each other in the handle of DNA and that alone will drive them mad, so you have no right to make judgments for being unable to connect because you have no say and neither do I. In short, a family tree may include some unexpected vines, flowers, and bushes. It may break branches off to create completely new trees.


As for me, my family is made up of a mother and father too self-destructive to stay together but too financially unstable to become strangers. Maybe it affected us when we were younger but transportation between two homes is not uncommon. It's become a gateway to different lives opportunities, and issues. Mainly, we are made up of 7 little monsters and one mother. Though we call her Mama or Ma. I was 9 years old when I found out only my two twin sisters had the same mom and dad, they are the youngest girls. The world would call the rest of us half-siblings, but what we would say is "no." There is nothing else to it, and no one can argue against it because it is impossible to only have half a brother, half a sister, half loved. She was always working so my three oldest sisters raised us and we all had a role. I maintained the peace. I was not given as much responsibility but I was never quite pampered. My three younger siblings had it the easiest. What a surprise to know I am the middle child. My mother always wanted a boy and finally stopped having kids when she got one. This is home base. My dad lives not too far from this life. Though we call him papa and pa, or at least my younger sisters do. We see him at the end of every week, but the world may argue that he isn't part of the picture because he didn't get married to my mother before having kids or we aren't living all under one roof. Who are we as humans to point out flaws brought on by human nature? My parents may carry a stench of hurt that makes me dizzy at times and my siblings may not share similar opinions but they are my family. Dysfunctional and resilient.


I am tired of the need to defend this fact to the more privileged gems who feel the need to maintain a specific image with their family. Family holds no solid definition but for me. It means special birthday meals because we are low on money. It means late night TV all huddled in mom's room as she works late. It means fighting for stupid reasons but still defending each other against the cause that is the world. Family is what you find and become to others. With all the loss the setbacks the pain. My family became a mural. painted on a crumbling wall, signs of graffiti extending to taint its colors, a rundown tunnel, and still, it holds together beautifully. I realize my fortune to have been part of this bundle. I often question whether I deserve this family, or why they put up with me, but I try to believe that you know you are worthy when you actively try. My family consists of close relatives, the art teacher that never gave up on me, the stepsister that may have grown apart a bit, the animals we've sheltered, and the friends that came along the way. You give me 2500 words to express a feeling that I can only describe as my life support. This may come as a shock but I am not one to wear my heart on my sleeve. I don't believe others should have an easy target. Still, I commonly hear the phrase "Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d die for you" thrown around like a rag doll to express undying love. Ironic, really. The expression may have lost its meaning over the years as it seems everyone is desperate for that alarming escape.


Instead, I settle with "I'd live for you". Maybe fate had mercy when I was being conceived. She saw through the hard shell of dark humor, dry hope, and confidence to find a scared individual who didn’t want to be here and said “Here is a reason to stay” The response interrupted my thoughts and left my mind stunned. Like the end of a long drought. This truth quenched my thirst and though it comes and goes at times and I become forgetful, I am sustained for just long enough to make it to the next source. Who am I to say what family is if not the perfect example? As are you, your next-door-neighbor and anyone with common sense and compassion. If you will not take it from me then take it from a real author, “I don't care about whose DNA has recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family.” -Jim Butcher That may not be what you expected or wanted. Perhaps that is my conclusion. To express quite bluntly that a family is a bond so incredibly valuable, one could not find happiness without it. I could only hope for you to have that bond. It may make madness appear magnificent. Maybe, but what do I know? As I've said before, I am not a writer.


BREAKING AWAY Breanna Myles 11th Grade • Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory

“I love you.” Those words easily slip out of his mouth. He says it so smoothly that I can’t help but be pulled back in and forget all that he has done to me. Those same lips that have kissed another woman, those same lips that tell me I could never survive without him, are the same lips that tell me he loves me. And I am a fool to get drawn back in and submit to him once again like a moth to a flame. I woke up to the bright sun shining into the room. I looked at the clock hoping there was more time to sleep before my alarm went off. It was 6:29 a.m., one minute until my alarm went off. “Bloody hell,” I mumbled as I sluggishly moved to get out of bed. After wiping my eyes with my hands, I pressed the snooze button on my alarm. Looking back at the bed I saw that Sebastian had already woken up. I stared at the empty space on the bed with mixed feelings as I thought about us. Does he really love me like he says he does? If he did, then why did he cheat on me and then say it was all my fault? Why does he continue to tell me that now that my parents are no longer alive, that he’s my only family and the only one who cares for me? I turned back around and looked at my hands. Is it really my fault? Am I really not enough for him? I’ve tried my best to please him, but it’s never enough. “Tasha.”


My head snapped up at the sound of Sebastian’s deep gruff voice. Seeing my reaction, he smiled. That same enticing smile that always pulls me back in. His black hair was dripping wet and he was only wearing a towel around his waist. He must have just got out of the shower. “Are you done staring?” he asked, walking over to the closet to get his suit. “Oh…s-sorry. I just got lost in thought,” I replied. “What are you doing up so early?” Sebastian asked. “You aren’t planning on going to work, are you?” Secretly rolling my eyes, I turned to face him. He hates the idea of me working. He expects me to stay in the house and clean like “a woman should,” so sexist. “Yes, I am,” I replied in the most confident voice I could manage. Sebastian finished putting on his suit and silently turned to me. He no longer had that calm and collected look in his eyes, they looked dark and terrifying. He slowly moved towards me, like a predator stalking his prey. I tried to back away but soon bumped into the wall. Having nowhere else to go, I stared back into his piercing gaze. “You know how I feel about you working. I don’t appreciate the fact that other men will be looking at you,” he said in a low voice. Not knowing what to say, I looked down at the floor. He grabbed my chin roughly, making our eyes meet. “You belong to me and no else until the day you die. And if you ever try to leave me, well…that’s not something I have to worry about, right?” He had a thin smile on his lips but his eyes


weren't smiling at all. They were telling a different story than what the smile on his face was implying. I slightly nodded my head. I knew I didn’t want to anger him any more than he already was because I knew I wouldn’t get away with this without being hurt in some type of way. He huffed and released my chin, then turned away from me. “I’ll allow you to go to work today. But remember, you’re nothing without me. No one loves you like I do…and neither could your dead parents. I’m the only one who will.” Stating that, he grabbed the car keys and left the room, not looking back. I stood there waiting until I heard the start of his car and the sound of the car pulling out of the driveway. Looking at the floor I began to mumble to myself, “I want to escape you, but I need you. I want to break away, but there’s no one else to run to.” I walked to the giant mirror that sat on my wall and stared at my reflection. “How can you say you’re my only family but treat me as a pet? How can you say that you love me but with those same lips kiss another woman and utter sweet nothings into her ear? Am I really that weak to you?” I uttered these things in the silence of the empty bedroom. No one to answer these questions. No one to dry these tears. No one to soothe this aching pain. I arrived at work two minutes before it was time to clock in. I love working here at the cafe. The smell of cupcakes and fresh coffee always calmed my nerves. It was just something about that smell that reminded me of home, a place where I never knew the feeling of loneliness or sadness. Mom and Dad were my home. But they passed away in a plane crash 3 years ago. That’s when I first met Sebastian. I was so lost and blinded that


I didn’t see the red flags sooner. I walked into the brightly lit homey cafe, making my way to the back room so that I could get ready to serve the customers. The feelings as I walked to the back were welcoming and comfortable. As I walked past the customers they gave me warm friendly smiles and looks. Finally reaching the backroom, I placed my purse into the closet and removed my apron from the hook. Walking over to the mirror, I straightened out my apron and tied my black puffy curly hair into a high ponytail. I let out a sigh as I looked myself over in the mirror. I positioned myself behind the counter ready to serve the customers. “Tasha! Finally, you’re here!” a cheerful high pitched voice called from behind me. I turned to see my best friend Amanda standing there with her arms folded and a happy smile on her face. “Yeah, I’m here! I really missed this place. It’s way better here than being cooped up at home, ya know?” I let out a light chuckle. Amanda is the only person I can really confide in when it comes to my problems. She is always there to listen whenever I have a problem. Sometimes I envy how she could be so perfect with her friendly extroverted attitude, bright green eyes, and her ability to make friends with anyone. “I really began to worry about you. Your boyfriend called in saying you were quite sick and that you wouldn’t be in for a while.” “Yeah…that’s what happened.” I didn’t want to tell her that he refused to let me leave the house last week because he got jealous over a guy staring at me in the supermarket.


“Anyways, let’s get to work.” I stood behind the cashier and greeted my first customer of the day. The workday flew by quickly and by the time I knew it, it was time for us to close up. It was only me and Amanda left in the cafe. We always cleaned and closed up the cafe together. As I was sweeping under one of the tables, Amanda approached me. “Tasha, I really think we need to talk” I stopped sweeping. “About what?” I asked. “Sebastian. I know he’s been isolating you and I know he’s been abusing you.” I stood there shocked, wondering why she would even bring it up, why would she even care. “I know you’re shocked but I need you to know that I care about you and I’ve noticed how much you try to hide that pain in your eyes. So please talk to me.” We stood there staring at one another in silence until I finally found the courage to speak. “He…he’s the only one I have left. If I leave, then where else can I go? Who else can I run to? Is there anyone to show me even the slightest bit of love? I’m a lost cause, Amanda, I’m nothing without him.” “That’s what he wants you to think. He wants you to submit to him like some sort of dog. He uses your pain against you. I’ve known you for two years and I can tell you that he has never helped you with your inner demons, he has never treated you like the queen that you are, and most of all, he has never made you actually feel loved. You say he’s your only family, but you


seem to have forgotten that I have and will always be there along the way with you. Whether times get rough, I’ll stand with you. Please leave him. I will be right there to help you get through. Just please...free yourself from his grasp before it’s too late.” As I listened to Amanda, tears began to well up in my eyes. She was right. He hasn’t helped me in any way. He’s only made me feel like a possession, but I was too naive to see that he only saw me as a possession. I easily forgave him after I caught him cheating because I believed I couldn’t be without him. If anything, Amanda has been more of a family to me than Sebastian ever was. “Thank you, Amanda. You’re right. I can’t continue to go on like this. Family doesn’t hurt one another. If anything, family protects each other. Tonight is the night I break free from him.” After we finished cleaning up and I changed my apron, I looked at the time on my phone. 9:45 p.m. Sebastian should be off of work and on his way home by now. “Alright, let's do this.” I got into my car and drove home anticipating what was about to happen next. I arrived home and opened the door to the house. Not surprisingly enough I was greeted by Sebastian, and boy was he angry. “WHERE WERE YOU! You were supposed to be back home twenty minutes ago!” He rushed towards me and wrapped his hands around my neck. I’ve never seen him this angry ever. His face was bright red and his breath smelled of liquor which could only mean he'd been drinking. “L-l-let...me...g-go.” I tried to pull his big hands off my neck,


but his grip was too strong. I was beginning to lose my breath. I thrashed and kicked until I finally got enough strength to kick him in the gut. He doubled over in pain and I took advantage of his vulnerability and kicked him in the face. He fell over onto the floor, holding his head in pain. I made a run for the door, but just as my hand touched the doorknob, I was thrown to the floor and held down by Sebastian. He roughly slapped my face and then grabbed me by the neck again. “Why don’t you understand who you belong to?! I take care of you, clothe, and love you! When I first saw you I knew I had to claim you as my own. You’re never going to leave me! I know you’ve been thinking about it!” His eyes were dark and dangerous; he resembled a demon. I met his challenging gaze. I wasn’t about to give up, not right now I have to fight to free myself. “No! I will never ever belong to you! I am not your pet, you will no longer restrain me from what I want to do anymore!” I screamed at him. I took a vase that had fallen onto the floor next to me and slammed it against his head, causing him to once again fall back onto the floor in pain. I ran out the door to my car and quickly hopped in. I locked the doors just in time. Sebastian recovered from the shock of being hit in the head with a vase. He pulled on the door handle and banged on the window like a mad man. As I started in the car, he smashed the window on the passenger side and tried to reach me. I stomped my foot on the gas pedal and the car violently lurched forward. As I sped down the street, I watched as he tried but failed to keep up with the car. After 10 minutes of driving, I finally arrived at the police station. Frantically, I raced into the police station and told them about my situation. They sent police officers to the house only


to find it empty. They searched the streets and found Sebastian hiding out in a cheap motel. He was arrested and I was finally able to once again be free. I now live with Amanda, my true family. It’s not always blood that makes a family. It’s about being there and showing that you actually care for one another. Never settle for someone who makes you feel less than what you’re worth. Never allow anyone to use the excuse of “being your family” to justify their lies.


OH, MOTHER OF MINE (TALES OF A BLACK MOTHER) Amalachukwu Okoye 12th Grade • Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep

Oh, mother of mine. So golden brown and strong, you mean so much to me. You teach me how to maneuver the world with your mistakes. How you became my father, so I celebrate you twice a year. How you make carrying the world look so easy. You reminded me to love my Brown no matter the shade. Oh, mother of mine how you walked with me into adulthood; I’m not sure where’d I be without you. I


walk in your footsteps because they seem to be the most forgiving path. You taught me what being a woman, a black woman, feels like. You taught me that being black and a woman, I am kindred to gold. We didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have it all, but you made sure to give us what we needed even if that meant you went without. Oh, mother of mine. As I type the next chapter, I know youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be there helping me edit. I know that your many novels will help me fill mine.


FAMILY Isabel Perez 10th Grade • Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory

Family, a six letter word just like my name. A name which means “God is my Oath”. Did my mother like the name or did she like the meaning? My last name has five letters. It was given by my other half who brought me to this planet called Earth. When I was born it seemed as if it was great joy to have a baby girl. Everyone loved babies, especially if they had chubby cheeks and chubby everything. It was a group of something new. When you’re young, such as a four years old or five years old, you tend to play with toys a lot. You explore more of who you are when growing up with people you’ve been knowing all your life, and every person is different but so alike. I don’t remember saying “this is my family,” or the first time I even learned how to spell it or even say it. Language was another thing I learned before I even started going to school. Spanish is and will forever be my first language, but English, well, I needed to learn that. I remember it was difficult to learn because it was my second language. Anyways, my family and I would always talk in Spanish because my grandma only knew one language. Sixteen years later she still doesn’t speak it, but she comprehends some of it. My grandma only knows “thank you”, “no thank you”, “I don’t speak English”, “speak Spanish”, and “beautiful”. I can’t tell you enough how much I love that woman. She has my whole heart. When I think of family I think of one person and that is my


grandma. She came to the U.S. from Michoacan and raised eight children on her own to give them a better life for themselves as well as for their future partners, which theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll create with their own families here in the United States. Many people believe family requires having to be related such as by blood, but I disagree. Family is someone or something who makes you full. It's someone who understands you and cherishes the moments in your life with the hard obstacles life throws at you and is still there for you. The people and objects I consider family are the ones who make me happy and full of life. The people who bring great joy like a baby brings to a family is the type of connection I have with those people as well as objects. They make me want to become a better person who does things for myself and who has motivation in life to keep going at it. However, there is a downside to being a part of a family. When growing up, I had this one aunt who ended up living in Indiana with her husband and my four cousins. The distance between them and me is heartbreaking. I also had an uncle who ended up living there, too, but then after a couple years he moved back to Chicago. But before he got married, he had this business partner who then became my aunt. She has a son and a daughter. She is only five years older, and he is only a year older, but the time we spent playing in the house I grew up in as a big family was the most fun and memorable thing I will always remember. Even if youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not family by blood, you are family in the mind of one self for the actions that you live off from that moment in life. Every day I learn not everyone is someone you can call family, but by the moments they celebrated through the good times and the bad. When I look at how my life has turned, I realize the


amount of tears and laughter I spent with each person that I consider family, even with friends, when they have your back and they support you and trust is gained. Love, trust, and laughter are the walls supporting a family. It's what helps create great bonds with another person. You can honestly say your best friend is family because you and that person have gone through so much and they’ve been there every step of the way. Even if you barely met them, but when you connect with someone it’s like you’ve known them all your life. Every person you interact with has some meaning towards your life no matter what. You learn and you accept for the next thing in life. Growing up as a big family, I didn’t think we would’ve gone our separate ways. Now, my life growing up was going to be interesting with my mom and my grandma. You’d think being a girl you would have a better connection with your mom, but you don’t. You just happen to have good moments in your life. Things aren’t what they seem to be at times. Being an only child might be the reason why I have an interesting bond with my mother. It’s not like I don’t want to have a good connection with her but sometimes she just forces things which make me distant and she gets mad. Even though I said family is what my grandma is, my mother will always be my mother even after our differences, whether she expected a child or not. She is my inner family which is probably why it’s so hard at times, because she’s known me ever since I was a baby and I’ve only known her when I can remember, which is mostly around when I was about five years old. When I was younger, I can remember I was the type of child who always had on a smile or a laugh to make the moment


better in some way, but now years later I’ve been the type of person who’s more protective and keeps to themselves. When something bugs me I let it bug me until I can no longer contain what I feel. This is a downfall for being a part of a family at times, or even all the time. I can only talk about what I feel family means as an only child speaking. Being an only child is stressful because you’re expected to do things a lot, which in this case you learn responsibility and being independent first. In all honesty, family can be whoever. It can make you happy at times or even sad, but the most it can do is cause anger, which will be the last resort dealing with family. Many people struggle with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and so many other mental health problems, which would also affect the relationship you have with people close such as family. My mother found out I was suicidal when I was about 10 years old due to the fact that my aunt told my mom something. During that time I wasn’t as close with a lot of people. Only a few friends knew which I trusted, because I didn’t know the meaning of life and I just felt like I didn’t belong for being bullied at the school I used to go to. Once I got older, I had so many insecurities it was insane. I started body shaming my own body, but yet my body does so much for me and I reward it by being harsh on myself, which isn’t fair. Now that I can say I put my body shaming aside, I realize whether life right now is a good place. In reality it will never be. There have been times where I can have a mental breakdown and I wouldn’t want my parents to know, because all that can help me is to cry it all out, let it all out. However, you should enjoy every second you’re on this Earth with family. My family and I have created so many memories together and I wouldn’t know what I would do without them.


When you’re the daughter of someone who wasn’t expecting a child, you learn a lot. It’s much stricter, and mostly you keep to yourself. I wouldn’t want that on anyone, but it happens. Sometimes being in a family of two, it’s hard, especially if there’s problems you and that person have gone through different situations. If I’m being honest, I don’t really know my mother as well as I thought. We both don’t have a connection like other people do with their family, but at least we’re working on it each day to make it better. Family is whoever you want it to be, but sometimes you get hurt in the process of calling that person family. For example, they might’ve died which hurts you so much because they were like family to you, or if they left your life which hurts since you thought they’ll be in your life forever. Life has a way of its own, such as my cousin who is a year older than me, who passed away. We aren’t related by blood, but he became family through my uncle who married his mother. He will always be in my heart and I’ll cherish our moments together. I was angry at the world so to say. No matter how you view someone, they can be the next family to you. Unconditional love and support build a happy family. Ohana happens to be a five letter word which is shorter than family as a six letter word. No matter how many letters or meanings family has, it will always be infinite with the bond you create with each other. Family will always be difficult, but at the end all you can do is enjoy their presence while they’re here with you.



LOCKET Bridget Pierce 12th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Oak Park River Forest High School

This summer, my cousin came back from Juvie. We received a call from my aunt late in the afternoon. The nonchalance of her cigarette stained voice wafted into the living room as Mom, Dad, and I huddled around the phone. "Jake?" Mom asked, "already?" Mom's face crumbled. She took a deep breath. "Tell him to visit us soon," she said. When I was ten, Jake showed up on our doorstep with a busted lip and an offer to mow the lawn for a week. Mom pulled him into our house, Dad cleaned the wound on his lip, and I made sure to remember to set an extra place at the table. Jake woke up at six a.m the next morning, but my dad had gotten up uncharacteristically early and had already taken care of the yard work. I remember being stirred awake by the sounds of footsteps across the creaky flooring of our house. I peeked my head out of my bedroom and peered into the living room. I watched Dad put his arm around Jake's shoulders, "you don't have to earn a place in this house." I heard a broken inhale and Jake began to shake. Silently, I closed my bedroom door on the sound of Jakeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sobs and snuck back into bed.


Jake never explained why he came to our house in the middle of the night with a split lip and a red stain on the crisp white of his school uniform collar, and I never asked. Instead, we spent the week side by side with our knees knocking, playing video games, and watching reruns of old black and white T.V. shows. We gorged on junk food and I almost choked on a french fry from laughing too much at Jake’s horrible impression of one of the snotty old detectives on the show we were watching. At the end of the week, I awoke in the middle of the night still lying on the couch and surrounded by empty cookie tins. A pink blanket was draped over my shoulders, and I had felt the fading touch of someone kissing my forehead before whispering, "goodbye." That next morning my breathing seemed to echo off the walls of the house. I turned on the T.V. to watch the same show Jake and I had found so funny the day before, but none of the jokes seemed to land. I was alone. My parents don't talk about my older brother often. I was seven. We got the phone call in the morning and suddenly I no longer had a brother. It didn’t rain at Jamie's funeral like it does in the movies. But I cried until my body didn’t have a drop of water left to spare me. Jamie had been sixteen. Four years older than Jake. Jake is the only one who offers me his memories of my brother. Once, in the fall, we were outside kicking around a soccer ball. I had managed to sidestep Jake and had landed a smooth shot into our makeshift goal.


Jake smiled, "Your brother always beat me, too." I felt the wind whip through my hair, and for a second, I remembered my older brother's soccer cleats sitting in the doorway, tracking mud into the house. I have carefully stored every memory Jake has gifted to me. They are dearer to me than the dainty silver locket Dad gave me on my 12th birthday. More precious than the gold barrettes Mom insists I only wear for fancy dinners. Last year on October 30th, an unsuspecting Tuesday filled with long hollow silences from my normally chatty parents, Jake landed on our doorstep. He waved to my parents who were sitting pensively at the dining table and then motioned me towards the kitchen. He opened his backpack and set a lily-white box on the marble tile of the kitchen island. I opened it. Inside revealed a small cupcake with orange frosting and bat-shaped sprinkles. My gaze shot up. He looked bashful. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all I could find," he said while scratching the back of his neck. "It's perfect." Together, we stuck a candle shaped like a 2 and another shaped like a 1 into the top of the cupcake. When Jake lit the stems of the waxy 21, my eyes began to water. "Happy Birthday, Jamie," I whispered, and I blew out the twinkling double flames. It was Christmas the last time we saw Jake. He had been staying with us for a couple days, and the night before, I had heard him on the phone with his father. Snippets of their conversation, as small and indecipherable as paper gone


through the shredder, had slipped under my door and into my room. It was another one of Uncle Richie's angry drunk monologues. That morning when Jake came into the dining room, his eyes were wine rimmed, and his jaw was tightly clenched. He didn't speak a word all throughout breakfast. Still, the three of us tried to make pleasant conversation, and once the pan of blueberry pancakes was empty, we circled around the Christmas tree. Jake lingered in the back. "Come and sit," my dad had said, pulling a ribbon wrapped box into his lap. Jake's eyes widened, he looked startled by this proposition. "I think I need to leave." He inched further away from us. "Don't leave now, we all got you something," my mom said, riffling through the gifts and trying to find the one we had picked out for Jake. "No, I need to leave." He turned around and grabbed his coat from the banister. "Jake, wait," I said, standing up. He whipped around, his expression was dark, "No. Okay? I don't belong in this house." Mom frowned. "Honey, that's not true. We want you here." She spoke slowly, almost as if she was trying to sound the words out. That seemed to irritate Jake even more, his face flushed and his mouth turned sharp and ugly. "If you want me here, it's only because you need a replacement for him."


Mom, Dad, and I all froze. All caught by the cruelty of the phrase. Our momentary pause was enough for Jake to slip away and disappear into the cold Christmas morning. A week later, Aunt Clair gave us a call to tell us that Jake had been sent to a Juvenile Detention Center. "What happened?" my mom had asked. "Does it really matter?" I could hear the shrug in Aunt Clairâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s voice, "I've told you time and time again: that boy is bad news." I had to bite the inside of my cheek to prevent myself from screaming. It was a lazy summer Tuesday when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and found Jake standing on the doorway. His t-shirt was blue, and his eyes didn't meet mine. "Who is it," my mom said, coming to the door with my dad behind her. They both froze when they saw Jake, "oh." Jake shifted from side to side and his ratty sneakers kicked up dust. Then he looked up through his dark brown bangs, "I don't want to bother you guys, but I just want you to know how deeply sorry â&#x20AC;&#x201D;" I pulled him into the house. My dad held Jake when his shoulders began to shake. My mom set four places at the dinner table.



UNTITLED Maheen Qazi 9th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Lane Tech College Prep

When you wake up everyday, you get a chance to think about what you want to do with your day, what you want to put into the world that day, and who you want to be. I ask you to please choose love every single day. Be a lover. Choose love. Give love. Love everyone, always. - Harry Styles At fourteen, I see the world differently than I did at seven. Then, I did not know what it meant to love, respect and accept people for who they are. During my seventh year on this planet, I went on a trip to the country I am from, Karachi, Pakistan. My family and I went over winter break and I was beyond excited to be back home. While there, my dad took me on a shopping trip. We were outside of a shop when my dad and I came across a disabled person who appeared to be blind in one eye. Sitting in a wheelchair at the end of the sidewalk, people passed by and gave him either disgusted looks or ignored his existence. Someone mocked the innocent stranger, resulting in the poor man reacting with a hurt expression. I asked my dad if we could help the stranger and he responded with a sweet smile. When my dad and I were close to the stranger, my dad took my hand and placed a thousand rupees in my palm. Then, he told me to walk over and hand him the money. At first, I was nervous because I did not know the person, but my dad assured me


nothing would happen to me. He stood by, proudly watching me to make sure I would not wander away. I hesitantly walked up to the man. As I approached the stranger, he turned to face me. His previously pained facial expression now only showed curiosity. Once I was in front of him, he gave me a sincere smile. Seeing the sincerity in his face made me feel more comfortable, I handed him the money. With a hopeful look in his eyes, he thanked me. He showed me his kindness by telling me that I was a thoughtful little girl and that the world needed people like me, now more than ever. I was confused because I did not understand his words. I had just done what I thought was the right thing to do. The poor man looked like he was in need and I had something to offer, so why would I not help him? Instead of replying to his kind statement, I gave him a genuine smile and made my way back to where my dad was standing. My second trip to Karachi yielded a similar experience, but this time I viewed the situation differently. My grandma and I were seated on our porch when a young woman walked by. She was dressed in ragged clothes that did not fit her properly. As she was walking by, she was begging the civilians for money. The people only shooed her away or made rude remarks about her appearance. I felt uneasy because of the way people were treating her. As she turned to walk away, my grandma stopped her. When she made her way over to us, my grandma asked her about what had happened. She replied saying that she had been kicked out of her previous residence and needed help. My grandma invited her inside. She gave her a set of new clothes to put on and told her she could shower if she wanted to clean up. Once she showered, my grandma gave her food to eat. Later on,


the lady thanked my grandma for her kindness and left with some money my grandma had given her. She had also mentioned that my grandma was unlike many people she had come across in our society. It was then that I remembered the words of the old man I had met a few years back. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our world needs people like you, now more than ever,â&#x20AC;? the man had said. Those words made me feel sad. It was a moment of realization for me. There are so many people in our communities, cities, countries and world that are in need of help. So many people are struggling to survive and the majority of us are doing nothing to help. People are not saying a single word of kindness or support, not even as much as a thought being given to those in need. A lot of us are fortunate enough to not have to worry about where our next meal is coming from or where we are going to sleep at night. We take our blessings for granted and get too caught up in our own world. We do not think about all the other people in the world who have to worry about the smallest things in life. All of us need to start being a little more aware of the things going on in our world. We should help those in need. It is understandable that we cannot always help others out financially, but there are so many other ways to be an active citizen. I have learned that most people only care about things when it concerns them or involves them. We should be more selfless than that. If we are doing good, we should want others to do good as well. Our society as a whole needs to start caring. We should not only care about ongoing issues when they involve us. We can help out in so many ways. One way to help someone is by not judging them. When we see a homeless person, we should not judge their appearance. We should treat them with


just as much kindness and respect as we would treat a welldressed person. We need to understand that they do not have access to things to keep clean. If we are not willing to help them out, we should smile at them. It can make someone feel so much better. Another way to help would be to volunteer. When I learned about the ongoing issues with homelessness, I joined my then schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s volunteer club called the Boone Cares Club. I knew that I, on my own, would not be able to do much, so I joined Boone Cares. We did a lot of projects to help those in need such as our Socktober Donation Drive. We raised funds to donate to our local charities to help those who are struggling to get by. Also, I have become more aware of my spendings. I make sure I give away anything I may not be using to charity because it can be used by someone else. Those two incidents have taught me so much, from who I am as a person to who others are. I want to live in a world where everyone is just a little bit kinder, caring, and aware. Sometimes we do not care about how our actions affect others, but we need to learn how to respect and love other people. We should take how everyone feels into consideration. Even if we do not think we are hurting someone or that they see us, they just might and it can hurt them greatly. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to imagine that people can so easily dismiss the feelings and well-being of others, but it is the sad reality of our world. There are so many negative things happening in our world, but this one is preventable. If we all were more caring of other people, the world would be a better place. We could help out the homeless and make them feel valid. These unfortunate circumstances can be prevented if we all were altruistic. We must accept others and do everything we can to assist and


support the less fortunate. The phrase treat people with kindness should be applied to everyone. My views of this situation are also supported by the words of Harry Styles: Revolution comes with small acts and now people are realizing that is what sparks real change.



AIRPLANESANDWHATSAPPCALLS Maymuunah Quasim 12th Grade • George Westinghouse College Prep

Every year on my birthday, I would quiver at the sound of my parents’ phone ringing. The Nigerian Happy Birthday wishes and prayers of “long life and prosperity” from my “family” ironically made me feel sad and awkward. All the thank yous and empty promises of seeing each other soon became a robotic annual tradition. Yet, I’ve done it every year just so I can see my parents smile as their siblings squish into the camera phone to greet their “foreign” niece from America. The word family has always been different for me. The majority of my family lives on a different continent. Africa. I’ve never been there, but since Africa is my family's continent of origin, I was given the nickname "African" and sometimes “Jamaican” by my less geographically aware peers. It didn’t really bother me because being African and speaking Yoruba connected me to the person who I’d run to after having a lonely day at school, my grandma. Yoruba and English were my first languages. I learned English at school and Yoruba while watching Yoruba movies with my grandma who only knew “How are you?” in English, which she’d ask me every day. Eventually, my grandmother got tired of Chicago’s cold winters and went back home, leaving me in the cold, literally, to a land I can only visualize through the movies we watched and connect with through the language she taught me.


When grandma left, I’d constantly ask my mom; “ grandma’s gone now and you speak English, so why do I have to still speak Yoruba?” I hadn’t realized that by refusing to speak Yoruba I was not only severing my connection to Nigeria but also hers. Her family wasn’t with her. My father, brother, and I were all she had in this country. She only came to the US to support my father’s dreams. She only stayed so I could pursue mine. One day my mother got a phone call; my grandmother had a stroke, but she was continents away. In that moment, as her face squished into the camera phone, tears rushing down, I realized that when my grandmother left for Nigeria, she didn’t just leave me with my mother but she also left my mother with me. Thankfully, she was still alive and wanted to speak with us. My grandmother tried to soothe me, her “foreign” granddaughter, who everyone believed had forgotten her mother tongue, by asking “How are you?” but she was the one I worried about. At the time, I struggled to put sentences together, which is why I asked her “She-alaafia-wa-nibe?” A symphony of laughs from both continents filled my ears. I meant to ask, “Are you in peace?” but instead I asked, “is peace there with you?” as if peace were a person. My aunt played along: “yes, she is here with us and she is also with you!” For a long time I’d been laughed at for being different, but that was the first time I appreciated laughter because it made me see family differently. I realized that distance doesn’t have to cause indifference and that if I can love and connect to people miles away from me, I can do it with anyone. If I can make someone smile, I’ve done something. If I can get grammar lessons from a person I’ve never met then the world probably needs to be a little more different.


I’ve never met them, but every year on my birthday, my Nigerian family wishes me “long life and prosperity.” So wherever I go, whatever I decide to be, and however long I may live, I want to spread prosperity because, like family, it's more than a physical existence. It’s a state of mind. It’s appreciating human existence and accessing the depths of our shared humanity. It’s the desire to learn, educate, and spread peace and laughter beyond what an airplane can reach.



UNTITLED Alex Shelton 10th Grade â&#x20AC;˘ Chicago Academy High School

Community is essentially a complex system of people, businesses and services that are located in the same area. And of course, as you would think, in such a complex system problems would sometimes arise. It is important to learn how to tackle them to live in prosperity. Being happy is a choice, and it requires hard work. Working with your community, helping your neighbors, addressing and solving problems your community faces head-on, will ultimately make you, and the community that surrounds you, happier. To put it bluntly, your happiness depends on your community, whether you realize it or not, in direct or indirect ways. The good news is that you have the power to change it. So you better roll up those sleeves of yours and get to work. Like all problems in a democracy, the solution has to come from the people themselves. People have to awaken to the realization that the communityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s problems are their own personal problems. You have to think of your community as your family: It surrounds and affects you all the time. It is especially important if you live in a small community, a village, or a small town (although anywhere you live, the community is important). Those smaller communities are most vulnerable to difficulties and setbacks, both small and big ones. Say you live in a small town with one doctor and that doctor dies, what are the people in that community going to do? Most people will


rely on others to get a doctor, especially if they’re doing fine and don’t seem to need one at the moment, but life happens. What if their loved one gets sick? If you’re waiting for them to get a doctor, they might be waiting for you. This is democracy, the initiative is yours. What if your local grocery shop goes out of business, or the owner decides to move? This might not be a problem for others, but it is for you, since, let’s say you really liked the bread they baked and big retailers didn’t quite satisfy your taste buds. So, just as you might not care about the doctor others need, others might not care about the bread you need. But as a community, we ought to defend each other’s interests, or else it will lead to an unhappy, unsatisfied, and failing community, or even worse, a destruction of that community. But we have to remember that It truly is a miracle that we get to be lucky enough to live in a democracy. Most people don’t realize it, but they do have the power given to them to change their communities and lives for the better. There are many ways you can better your community. You can mow your neighbor’s lawn, help people paint/repair their homes, help a senior citizen, volunteer, plant a garden, or even teach a class at a community center! Or perhaps you’d like to help the needy, the hungry, and the homeless. They would appreciate your help a lot. You can also help out pets and protect the environment. The possibilities are endless, so get out there! Contribute to your community and you’ll be happier. It also has another perk which perhaps you’ll find interesting — your reputation. Some smart people in the past have used their communities to better themselves. They understood the value the community brings and the benefits they could gain.


I’ll give you an example. John D. Rockefeller, an oil magnate, the richest American that has ever lived, had used his community to establish his reputation and as a result, attract investors to grow his oil empire. He was quoted as saying, “The most important thing for a young man is to establish credit — a reputation and character.” Businesses get started every day through communities. Warren Buffett, for example, used his school community to sell Coca Cola to his friends, and later he started a pinball machine business, which he then sold for $1,200 ($17,000 today). He purchased a farm with that money, which he later rented out, and he used the money he got to pay for his college education! His reputation in his community played a tremendous role in that. After all, nobody would want to buy his Coke or pinball machines or rent a farm from him if they didn’t trust him. Both Rockefeller and Buffett would go on to become well-known individuals and one of the richest men in the world, and both of them got their start in their communities. Not bad! Community is an excellent way to show what one is capable of, and given the power democracy gives us, you can take the initiative and become a leader in your community! You'll learn valuable skills that are useful in the modern world, too. Sounds like a good deal to me! One last important thing I would like to talk about is the under-appreciation of the essential workers and businesses in a community. I think it’s time we thank them properly, especially during the unprecedented pandemic we are facing now. The ESSENTIAL businesses and their owners/workers are the ESSENTIAL heroes of any community. These include doctors,


nurses, police officers, firefighters, etc. And of course, efficient leadership of communities is important too. Thank you, I appreciate your work.


LETTERS TO EVETTE Jasmine Thomas 10th Grade • Hansberry College Prep

You're not angry, you're hurt So you pick up that vodka and put it to work Too afraid to face your demons but it was never your fault It happened when you were a kid and now that you're an adult You supress all your pain Let it hide behind your name Like a tornado you come and tear everything up Wrecking everyone's life but you dont give a f*ck No if, ands, or buts Everything has to go your way And if it doesn't, god forbid that person lives to see another day I’m not angry, I’m passionate, hungry for success Because instead of sitting in your presence I want to be doing my best I don't hate you, I resent you, and I say that with my chest I'm not angry, I'm hurt, and that's just something you have to digest.



UNAWARE Anna Truong 10th Grade • Northside College Prep

I. History Growing up, I had learned about American slavery and the Holocaust. Tragic manmade events that had targeted a group of innocent people and traumatized their descendents for generations, haunting their memories and families like a ghost. I felt great sadness for the victims and great anguish for humanity, but the greatest grief came when I learned about the history of Asian Americans, the history of my people. It was not until high school that I learned that Asian Americans had been a part of America’s history since the 1800s. I had assumed up until then that Asian Americans were foreigners and immigrants who had moved here recently, as was the story of my family, but I soon learned Asians had always been a part of America. With the California Gold Rush, the Chinese came for better lives but were too late, so they built the railroad. Cheap labor, dangerous conditions, and no credit for the work they did. Other Asian Americans arrived, the Japanese, Indian, Korean, and more. But the country’s attitude towards Asian Americans was hostile. With the Chinese Exclusion Act, Asians became the first undocumented immigrants. Asian Americans were met with violence, lynchings, segregation in schools, and their businesses destroyed. And in World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans, even the ones with no ties to Japan and were born American, were put into internment


camps and forced to sell their homes and businesses. Not to mention the fact that Dr. Seuss, famous storyteller and author, was a racist man. He hated Asian Americans and drew them crudely in propaganda, drawing my people as sinister and corrupt. This is the history I didn’t grow up learning. The Holocaust and slavery are horrific and stain humanity, but I had failed to learn about the tragic history of my own people. I felt hurt and looked for who to blame. A school system that’s curriculum excluded my race? A country who hides my history but in ignorance or in shame? My history was hidden from me and it has become mine to claim.

II. Inclusion Asian Americans have become more represented. I feel great joy seeing Asian American celebrities become popular, people who look like me in movies, and books that include my identity. This inclusiveness is praised and celebrated, as it should be, marking a new era that listens to the stories of my people and recognizes our culture and community. But like a mother praising her child for saying their first words, praise is given for accomplishing something that one had been unable to do before. Growing up, I had rarely seen a television show that featured an Asian character unless it was a show from Asia. I never went to the store and saw a doll that mirrored my appearance or a celebrity that spoke my native language. Dress up games never gave an Asian girl as a starter option and reality TV shows never seemed to think Asians were interesting enough to be included. No models that had my complexion, no magazines that had my eyes. To be a minority didn’t just mean my people were a minority in the country’s demographics, we


were a minority in every aspect of life. To take decades to finally represent us is absurd, but every day we fight to make our stories and people heard.

III. Blame My people became the blame for a disease, something that no human, nonetheless an entire race, has control over. Like a reflection, our country has mirrored the hatred of its past. Asian Americans are again considered to be the â&#x20AC;&#x153;yellow perilâ&#x20AC;? and seen as a threat to the country. Innocent elderly and citizens violently abused and attacked when trying to live their daily lives. Screamed at and harassed. And the horror of having your business destroyed by fear and by hate is only the repetition of history. Like a nightmare long forgotten, or a phobia you thought you had conquered long ago, my people live in terror. With a pandemic, we all fear to go outside. But for my community and people, we fear a deadlier disease. A disease that spreads panic and thoughts of violent confrontations. A disease that exists not only in the physical world but also online. This disease brought about a social media post that depicted a horrendously animated Asian woman in a bikini surrounded by bats and COVID-19 depictions. A post that included an Asian woman with large teeth and small eyes, kissing a bat. A hurtful post that thousands reported and shamed yet took over two days to be removed and constant claims that it didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t violate any laws. All caused by a disease that came about when the country chose to place its blame on my people. The strain of this disease continues to grow and mutate. What other disease is more terrifying than the one that is called hate?


IV. Community Darkness cannot exist without light. One of the most redeeming and beautiful aspects of humanity is our ability to support others in times of need. I had recently learned about the story of Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American woman who had fought for Japanese internment reparations. Not only did she fight for Asian Americans, but she had been a supporter of civil rights for African Americans. She fought for Black rights alongside her friend Malcolm X and was even by his side at the time of his death. I came to understand that minorities are more similar than different and that the suffering of one minority is the suffering of my own. Undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Latin America are seperated from their families and fight to prove their right to live in this country, and not long ago my people were the first undocumented immigrants. The lynchings of my people and segregation from schools is understood by the African American community and the fear of going outside due to hate is understood by the LGBTQ community. Muslim Americans understand what itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s like to be seen as a threat to the country and feared, for not long ago they suffered the blame for 9/11. Like a tree, we have all been here for decades and made roots in this country. We may be different branches that move in different directions, but we are part of the same community. To work together and support each other makes us stronger, for one branch can be a weapon but many can create an indestructible fire. We are part of a larger oppressed, minority community who all understand that to live in this country is to fight to live on this land.


LOVE IS GREY Akhiyah Vaughn 12th Grade • Bremen High School

“Did you see Charlie’s new car? He looks so hot in it.” Bethany tugged onto my arm and I looked at her. “Right, my bad.” She let go of my arm but still stood so close to me I could smell her Japanese Cherry Blossom perfume. She reeked of it. I loved Beth, but I hated that scent. “No, I didn’t see Charlie’s new car. He gets a new one every weekend.” That was a true statement. Charlie was like super filthy rich, played all the sports at St. Luca School of the Arts, was accepted into 50 colleges, had a 27 on the ACT and a 1340 on the SAT. Every girl at this school was in love with him. Cliche, cliche. He wasn’t even all that. “I know but this one,” she sighed all dreamy like, “His new car is a 1987 Chevy Corvette. It’s super unique and ancient and the inside is leather and —” I stopped walking and turned to look at her. “Wait. How do you know what it looks like on the inside?” Bethany giggled and used her finger to twirl a piece of her dark brunette hair. “Well..” I internally gagged and put my hand up to silence her. “You know what, I don’t even wanna know.”


Bethany rolled her eyes. “Whatever.” We continued to talk as we headed for the student parking lot. I always rode home with Bethany, after all, we were sisters. Approaching the Nissan that her daddy bought her, she used her key to unlock the door and we both got in; throwing our bags in the backseat. Before she even started the car, I connected my phone to the aux cord. “Oh my god.” Beth rolled her eyes. “Please don’t turn on that old music again. I can’t take any more of it.” “Girl bye.” I waved her off while searching for a song on Apple Music. “You know it’s my day to pick the music.” She started up the car, and we were on our way home. I bobbed my head to Nas’ 1994 Illmatic album while Beth kept a straight face, irritated by my song choice, obviously. “Beth, it's really not that serious. I never get mad when you play Katy Perry or Linkin Park. I’m always a good sport.” “Katy Perry and LP are normal musicians,” she replied. Scrunching up my eyebrows, I glanced at her. “What is that supposed to mean? Rap isn’t normal enough for you?” “Zora, I didn’t mean it like that. I was just saying that-” “Please explain to me what you were ‘trying’ to say. White musicians are normal but black ones aren’t? Every time I get in this car and play some R&B or Hip-Hop, it’s always a problem. You always have an attitude every time it’s my turn to play some music that represents who I am and where I come from. I’m sorry I didn’t grow up on Taylor Swift and One Direction.” “You just made a big deal out of nothing. Everything isn’t always about race Zora.” 522

Here we go. “Race? Did you hear anything I said? I didn’t say anything about race Bethany.” “My parents voted for Obama, shouldn’t that be enough for you? My parents even took you in. You should be grateful I give you a chance to play your kind of music in my car. I give you rides every day. If it was up to me, you would be taking the bus.” We turned into our driveway and before I could say anything she was already walking towards the door. Now I see how she really feels.

◆◆◆◆◆ “She basically tried to say that white music was normal and black music isn’t. Sometimes, I can’t stand her.” I said to Simone over FaceTime. I intentionally left out the part about the whole Obama thing because I knew she would throw a fit. She shook her head and laughed. “I can’t stand her either Zo. I don’t see how you deal with that everyday. I would have slapped her.” She said in a joking manner but I knew she was for real. “But on to more important topics....” I wiggled my eyebrows in a playful manner and Simone rolled her eyes in annoyance. “I don’t wanna talk about him. Old news. Next!” I smacked my lips. “Simone, you're my best friend. We have to talk about what happened.” Looking off to the side and avoiding eye contact she said, “It’s really nothing to talk about. He said what he said and that was that.”


Even though she wasn’t looking at me, I could see the sadness in her eyes. She wanted to cry, but knowing Simone, she wouldn’t. Simone believed in sex after marriage, meanwhile her boyfriend Larry, did not. “I thought he didn’t care about that sort of thing, you know. He swore up and down that sex didn’t matter and that he loved me for me. Guess not. You really see people’s true colors.” I snorted. How ironic. “Girl, I know you loved him, but you didn’t need him especially if he doesn’t respect your decisions. You’re too beautiful and too smart to be worried about a 18 year old named Larry.” She snickered and I laughed with her. “Like really, who looks at a little boy and goes, ‘oh yeah, Larry seems like a cute name.” She burst out laughing. I knew I could get her to smile. “You’re my sister Simone. We’re family and I love you.” I crossed my fingers together and so did she. “Forever.” “And ever,” she continued. We both kissed our crossed fingers and held them close to our heart. “Enough of the sentimental stuff.” Simone changed the subject. “Are you coming down here this weekend?” “I wasn’t planning on it, but what for?” “You didn’t hear the news?” Simone raised her eyebrows and I slowly shook my head no. “What happened?” “Well, do you remember Josh from Mrs. Keller’s class?” “Lightskin, curly hair, hazel eyes? I remember him.” I chuckled. “He was so cute back in 4th grade with his Urkel glasses and —”


“Zora, he's dead.” There was a complete silence, so quiet you could hear a pin drop. My mouth flew open in shock. “Quit playing Simone. Are you for real?” Simone nodded sadly. “Some dudes came into his house 2 nights ago, shot him up and robbed him. His grandma found his body.” I covered my mouth and my eyes began to get watery. When was this going to stop?! I was so tired of the people I knew dying. First my mama, then my uncle, now Josh? Who was to blame for this black on black crime? “Simone I was just on his Instagram last night. He just posted a picture like 3 days ago. Two weeks ago, I saw him on the block and we talked and everything. This is so crazy.” “Yeah girl, that’s the hood for you. I saw him the night he died. He had come into my job with his girlfriend and daughter.” “He has a daughter?!” I exclaimed even more saddened. I felt so sorry for his little girl. I knew how it felt to lose a parent. “He been had a daughter...” Her voice trailed off and that kind of made me angry. How was I supposed to know he had a daughter. I didn’t keep tabs on the ‘hood.’ “Well obviously I didn’t know. I don’t live there anymore. I’ll be there though. For sure.” “You sure? Cause that’s what you said when we were protesting the police department but you never showed up.”


“What’s up with you? Why —” I heard some movement coming from outside my door and swiftly turned around. I frowned and turned my attention back to my friend. “Listen girl it’s not that serious just make sure you’re here. I gotta go, love you,” she interrupted and abruptly ended the call. What was that all about? “Zora....” Lauren knocked on my bedroom door and opened it slightly, peeking her head through. “Time for dinner honey.” “I’ll be right there.” I closed my workbook. “Um...can I go back home this weekend?” I asked Lauren who was still by the door waiting for me. “You just went last week Zo. Is everything okay?” “Yeah, everything's fine. I just want to check up on my friends and see my granny.” Her green eyes looked over my dark brown ones and gave me a closed tight lipped smile. “Not this week Zo. We’re going to the lake house this weekend. I was going to tell you girls earlier but it must have slipped my mind.” She chuckled and touched my box braids. “When did you decide this? Why didn’t you ask us if we wanted to go?” “Excuse me?” Lauren looked taken aback. “Last time I checked, I was the mother-” “My mother is dead. You’ll never be her.” Lauren sighed deeply and threw her arms up in defeat. “Stop bringing your deceased mother into every situation! I adopted you so legally you are my child. I said we’re going to the lake house as a family and that’s final, Zora. Be mad and pout all you want.” 526

Everybody just wants to irritate me, huh? I don’t care what nobody says, I’m going to that candlelight vigil. “Why must you always choose between us and them?” Ha. Like mother, like daughter I see. Racism must run in this family. “Them? Those people are my people, Lauren. I’m not choosing between anybody. I love both places and both people equally,” I tried to reason. “No, Zora. No. We are your family. Richard and I took you in when Erica didn’t want you. We are your parents and you will do as we say. Now come on before the dinner gets cold.”

◆◆◆◆◆ Friday came quicker than I had expected. We never went to school on Lake House weekends. I guess it was a “family” tradition. I laid in bed with my covers over my face. “Let’s go! Chop chop!” I heard Lauren’s voice in the hallway, opening doors and yelling in them. Lauren opened up my door and started yelling. “Get up Zora! Time to go, where are your bags?” I sat up in my bed and looked at her. “What bags?” Lauren gave me a straight face. “Zora I’m not playing right now. Get up and pack.” “No. I’m not going.” Lauren’s face became red as a beet and her jaw began to clench and unclench. “If you don’t go —”


“Then what? What’s gonna happen?” I raised my voice, getting loud with her. “You gonna take my phone? My laptop? My freedom?” “What’s going on in here?” Richard entered my room with Bethany and our brother, Bryson, behind her. “Zora doesn’t want to go to the Lake House.” Lauren replied and Richard shrugged his shoulders. “If she doesn’t want to go, you can’t make her.” “What!?” She snapped her head to look at him. “This is a family tradition. We never break family traditions.” “Daddy’s right, Mom. This should be a biological thing anyway.” “Bethany, watch your mouth.” Richard said sternly and then looked back at me. “Zora, you don’t have to go. Ok?” This is why I love Richard. “Thanks Richie.” I smiled at him and he nodded his head and left my room leaving Bethany, Bryson, and Lauren to look at me with disappointed faces. I smirked, laid back down, and threw the covers back over me.

◆◆◆◆◆ “Wow..” I looked at all the individuals with “Long Live Josh” t-Shirts on. They were plain white t-shirts with designs and his picture was on the back. His favorite color was purple so his grandma asked everybody to wear any shade of purple clothing they had. I stood next to Simone in a crowd as we watched candles


being passed around. Everybody and I mean everybody had come to pay their respects to Joshua Alejandro Sanchez. People had posters up with pictures of him. On the sidewalk were teddy bears, candles, more posters, all types of flowers, Mexican skulls, candy, and so much more stuff I couldn’t recognize. “As you all may know, my grandson was murdered 3 days ago in my home.” Josh’s grandmother, Mrs. Johnson said into a microphone. She was standing on a cardboard box so we could all see her. “I haven’t been able to sleep since. Police have no leads, no one has come forward.” Her voice began to crack and she looked out at us, shaking her head in pity. Her eyes were damp and swollen with dark bags underneath. I looked over at Simone who was silently trembling and I held onto her hand for comfort. “Thank you all. Each and everyone of you. This killing and murdering has to stop! My grandchild lost his life to nonsense! We have to come together as a community and put a stop to this killing and robbing. Joshua didn’t deserve this. He was a good boy. A very special boy. Everyone loved him and I know you all did too.” Her lip began to tremble and the crowd began to shout encouraging words to her. “Please you all. If you know something about who murdered my baby boy, please let me know. I’m begging you. Josh had a daughter, he had stuff going on for himself. He didn’t deserve this.” Single tears fell down her brown face and I couldn’t help but cry too. “Again. I can’t thank you guys enough for coming.” She wiped away some of the tears with her hand. “Joshua would have loved this. I love each and everyone of you. On the count of three, I


want us to all yell ‘we miss you Josh’ and blow out your candles.” The crowd roared ‘we miss you Josh’ so loud I’m sure the whole world could hear us. The candles were blown out and everybody began to congregate again. With blurry eyes, I looked over to my right to see my family and my mouth flew open in shock. They walked over to me and engulfed me with large arms. I couldn’t believe it. They were actually here. “What are you guys doing here? I thought you were going to the lake house?” I looked up at Richard and he smiled down at me. “Lauren heard your conversation about the vigil and we knew we had to be here for you and with you.” I looked at Lauren and then Beth and they smiled at me. “We love you Zora. We’re both sorry for what happened earlier.” “Thank you guys. I love y'all.” My tears were a mixture of sadness and gladness. I loved my family so much, and they proved to love me too. Love isn’t always just black and white. This was what love was all about, coming together as one. We were more than a community, this impacts us all, we were a family and we deserved better. We will do better.


COMMUNITY: WE ARE STILL HERE Lilah Wallach 11th Grade • University Chicago Laboratory Schools

Community is the dance studio’s throbbing heart, Vibrant music and shining light, Spinning legs, missed cues, Bursts of laughter, sighs and groans. Just one more runthrough– really, just one more– Our own hearts poured out into the space, over and over, Night after night, Year After Year. Community isn’t a bright, quiet, empty day, Walking by the bright, quiet, empty studio, Curtains fluttering in the window like lost hands, waving, And I can’t help but imagine My teacher standing there, Gazing out of that window And drawing the curtain, Waiting for her quarantined dancers to return, waiting For the studio To fill again.


Community is a carved message In the pavement outside the dance school, Secret, and little seen. Ballet rocks! Nutcracker rocks! Because we are still here, Not looking out of the window, or drawing the curtains, But everywhere, quiet but moving, Because we make the world vibrant, We know our music, we own our light, Dancing on our ownâ&#x20AC;&#x201C; The same tune, different worlds. We do not move apart; we move together. Because this Is what a community Is.





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Acaxtenco, Sophia ............................................................................................159 Alaniz, Natalie ..................................................................................................161 Arreola, Marisol................................................................................................421 Avalos, Lizbeth ................................................................................................423 Bedolla, Julian ..................................................................................................165 Bobadilla, Victoria ..........................................................................................167 Bock, Norah ......................................................................................................177 Bravo, Camila....................................................................................................185 Brosnan, Alex......................................................................................................17 Brown, Cameren ..............................................................................................425 Bustos, Isbeth ....................................................................................................429 Bustos, Tatiana..................................................................................................431 Cahue, Yameli ..................................................................................................193 Cervantes, Emiliano ..........................................................................................25 Coughlin, Eleanor ............................................................................................197 Crooker, Lila........................................................................................................31 Cummings, Olivia ..............................................................................................33 Daley, Camille ..................................................................................................209 Diaz, Olivia..........................................................................................................39 Ducar, Avery ....................................................................................................211 Duffy, Imogen ..................................................................................................217 Echols, Reginae ................................................................................................433 537

Elvira, Christopher ..........................................................................................219 Espinoza, Nathalie............................................................................................435 Espinoza, Sophia ................................................................................................41 Flores-Varga, Michelle ....................................................................................223 Frazier, Anaya ..................................................................................................443 Gac, Zoe ............................................................................................................447 Gomez, Justin....................................................................................................225 Gonzalez, Natalia ............................................................................................231 Gould, Regan ......................................................................................................43 Griffith, Jayda......................................................................................................45 Haravon, Lilly......................................................................................................47 Harden, Saniyya................................................................................................233 Hernandez, Natalie ..........................................................................................451 House, Latonia..................................................................................................455 Irvin, Geneva ....................................................................................................235 Jung, Colin ........................................................................................................237 Knapp, Madeline ..............................................................................................247 Knickerbocker, Axl ..........................................................................................461 Kong, Annya ....................................................................................................261 Kovarsky, Sydney..............................................................................................271 Kraal, Jo-Hanna................................................................................................463 Krivak, Alyssa ..................................................................................................469 Kubiak, Rachel ..................................................................................................283 Kutty, Arinav ......................................................................................................51 Ladek, Lily ..........................................................................................................53 Latva, Juliette ....................................................................................................291 Lee, Serena ........................................................................................................297 Lehner, Lilah ....................................................................................................299


Leon, Arianna ..................................................................................................317 Ludwig, Norah ....................................................................................................55 Lust, Charlie ........................................................................................................57 Marino, Francesca ............................................................................................319 Marino, Luca ......................................................................................................65 McCall, Kadence J. ............................................................................................69 Mendoza, Melani ................................................................................................73 Miller, Ruby ......................................................................................................323 Morales, Hennessy ..........................................................................................473 Muan, Ning ........................................................................................................75 Multer, Avery ....................................................................................................327 Murphy, Catherine ............................................................................................93 Myles, Breanna ................................................................................................479 Nguyen, Minh ..................................................................................................333 Obafemi, Ava ......................................................................................................95 Okoye, Amalachukwu......................................................................................487 Pagnucci, Saroya Ornelas ................................................................................335 Patel, Jiya............................................................................................................339 Perez, Isabel ......................................................................................................489 Pierce, Bridget ..................................................................................................495 Pooler, Georgia ................................................................................................105 Pooler, Mollie ....................................................................................................115 Qazi, Maheen....................................................................................................501 Quasim, Maymuunah ......................................................................................507 Ramirez, Alberto ..............................................................................................117 Reddy, Mischa ..................................................................................................343 Rioja, Natalie ....................................................................................................355 Roen, Isla ..........................................................................................................125


Sanchez, Emily..................................................................................................357 Saucedo, Isabella ..............................................................................................359 Sengupta, Annika ............................................................................................367 Setiawan, Audrey..............................................................................................371 Shelton, Alex ....................................................................................................511 Shin, Samuel......................................................................................................381 Simmons, Karrington ......................................................................................135 Solis, Brianna ....................................................................................................383 Sotz, Mary ........................................................................................................385 Stark, Megan ....................................................................................................139 Thomas, Jasmine ..............................................................................................515 Tiradani, Caleb ................................................................................................389 Truong, Anna....................................................................................................517 Tsegay, Miriam..................................................................................................393 Vaughn, Akhiyah..............................................................................................521 Wallach, Lilah ..................................................................................................531 Warltier, Antara ................................................................................................145 Watkins, Lucy ..................................................................................................151 Werge, Alaina....................................................................................................395 Williams, Erica..................................................................................................399 Wilson, Eden ....................................................................................................407 Wong, Carter ....................................................................................................153 Zandstra, Mica..................................................................................................409


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