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My Heritage Is

Discover Your Talent

June 2013

No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part, or stored in a storage or retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Wonder Writers. For information regarding permission, please write to: Wonder Writers 1 League #60715 Irvine, CA 92602 or email to contact@wonderwriters.com. Copyright 2013 by Wonder Writers. All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America.

Introduction
Dear Writer, Congratulations! You are now a published writer, an accomplishment only a select few can claim. I commend you for having a passion for writing and spending the time to share your voice and inspiration. This is a notable achievement at a young age, signifying that you have a bright future ahead. As you may know, this was Wonder Writers 7th contest. Its hard to believe our organization has grown so much, and I would like to thank you for your unwavering support in helping Wonder Writers progress over the past years. It is because of the efforts of teachers, parents, judges, sponsors, and the young writers, that Wonder Writers has been able to reach this stage. However, perhaps more importantly than giving young writers a portal and opportunity to share their work, Wonder Writers has been able to make a significant impact in the community and world around us. In fact, we have raised over $10,000 for charity, and I am confident that with this book we will be able to help and better our world even more. As we culminate our seventh contest with the theme of My Heritage Is, I want to emphasize the importance of never forgetting who you are or where you came from. Our last contest was aptly titled, My Dreams Are, and it is clear that all of you have an exciting and promising future ahead. While I am certain that all of you will reach tremendous heights and accomplish much, it is pertinent to always remember your roots and honor your heritage, and perhaps more importantly, give back to those who helped you get to where you are. Once again, I applaud you for your great work in writing and for sharing your heritage. I look forward to seeing your future achievements and reading your next pieces of writing. Please enjoy reading this book, in which countless hours of efforts were spent. Thank you, as always, for your continued support and keep on writing! Best Regards, Govil Gupta Founder
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Our Judges

Ms. Jeanie Fritzsche


Retired Curriculum Coordinator Irvine Unified School District
Has a MA in English, as well as a BA and MA in Speech Pathology. She served as the Language Arts, Social Science, Library/Media, and Service Learning curriculum coordinator for the Irvine Unified School District from 2001 - 2010. As part of her job, she wrote constantly, including grants, curriculum, and correspondence. She has also been a participant in "Writers' Block Party" Writing Workshop since 2001, writing short stories and literary non-fiction. She retired from IUSD in June 2010 and now maintains a literary blog and writes short stories.

Ms. Julie Duck


Creative Writer and Published Author
Julie Duck wrote her way through school on an old-fashioned typewriter and was sidetracked by careers in magazine publishing and copywriting. She has written works such as A Place in This Life, an edgy young adult story about a girl who falls for a boy with leukemia. Next there was SWELL, the story of an art prodigy who loves the most popular boy in school. More recently, she has worked on little rooms and The Joy and Torture of Joshua James. Julie looks forward to writing more stories that hit where the heart beats fastest, and the soul reaches out for more.

Acknowledgements
My family for their continued support All of the teachers and parents who encourage and motivate students to write All of the volunteers who helped judge the contest entries and publicize the contest All of the students who spent time to write and submit their essays and poetry

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For questions, comments, and information, please visit www.wonderwriters.com or email us at contact@wonderwriters.com 6

Table Of Contents JUNIOR CATEGORY ........................................................................................................................ 10


First Place Winner ........................................................................................................................... 11 Megan Peng ........................................................................................................................................ 11 Grade: 3, Santiago Hills Elementary School ..................................................................................... 11 Second Place Winner ...................................................................................................................... 13 Katherine Park ................................................................................................................................. 13 Grade: 5, Meadow Park Elementary School ..................................................................................... 13 Third Place Winner ......................................................................................................................... 15 Nitya Swaminath .............................................................................................................................. 15 Grade: 4, Brywood Elementary School............................................................................................... 15 Honorable Mention ......................................................................................................................... 17 Brynna Mariko Hsia ........................................................................................................................ 17 Grade: 3, Santiago Hills School .............................................................................................................. 17 Honorable Mention ......................................................................................................................... 18 Emily Chen.......................................................................................................................................... 18 Grade: 4, Bonita Canyon Elementary School ................................................................................... 18 Honorable Mention ......................................................................................................................... 19 Tara Toossi ........................................................................................................................................ 19 Grade: 6, Westpark Elementary School ............................................................................................. 19 Other Notable Entries .................................................................................................................... 21 Chloe Le ............................................................................................................................................... 21 Grade: 4, Brywood Elementary School............................................................................................... 21 Emiliano Olague Hernandez ........................................................................................................ 22 Grade: 6, Oak Creek Elementary School ............................................................................................ 22 Harish Seenivasen ........................................................................................................................... 23 Grade: 2,Westpark Elementary School .............................................................................................. 23 Vishal Seenivasan ............................................................................................................................ 24 Grade: 3, Westpark Elementary School ............................................................................................. 24 Shreya Tyagi ...................................................................................................................................... 25 Deerfield Elementary School .................................................................................................................. 25 Rambod Memarian .......................................................................................................................... 26 Grade: 4, Culverdale Elementary School ........................................................................................... 26 Jasmyne ............................................................................................................................................... 27 Grade: 6, Greentree Elementary School ............................................................................................. 27 Arian Salahzadah ............................................................................................................................. 28 Grade: 3, Westpark Elementary School ............................................................................................. 28 Beeta..................................................................................................................................................... 29 Grade: 4, Westpark Elementary School ............................................................................................. 29 Ali Majdi .............................................................................................................................................. 30 Grade: 4, University Elementary School ............................................................................................ 30 Rishi Theegala................................................................................................................................... 31 Grade:2, Westpark Elementary School .............................................................................................. 31 Ethan Chang ....................................................................................................................................... 32 Grade: 4, Brywood Elementary School............................................................................................... 32 Atra Shahryari .................................................................................................................................. 33 Grade: 4, Stonegate Elementary School ............................................................................................. 33 Priscilla Hui ....................................................................................................................................... 34

Grade: 5, Stonegate Elementary School ............................................................................................. 34 Sara Nemati ........................................................................................................................................ 36 Grade: 4, Culverdale Elementary School ........................................................................................... 36 Eileen Tavakoli................................................................................................................................. 37 Grade: 4, Culverdale Elementary School ...................................................................................... 37 Shinhye Park ..................................................................................................................................... 38 Grade: 3, Santiago Hills School .............................................................................................................. 38 Arman Nemati ................................................................................................................................... 39 Grade: 2, Culverdale Elementary School ........................................................................................... 39 Sushanth Sathish Kumar ............................................................................................................... 40 Grade: 3, Santiago Hills Elementary School ..................................................................................... 40 Sylvia K. Cheeseman ....................................................................................................................... 42 Grade: 3, Santiago Hills Elementary School ..................................................................................... 42 Athanasios Syrengelas ................................................................................................................... 43 Grade: 3, Santiago Hills Elementary School ..................................................................................... 43 Hasheer Nejat Ghafoor ................................................................................................................... 44 Grade: 5, Meadow Park Elementary School ..................................................................................... 44

SENIOR CATEGORY ........................................................................................................................ 45


First Place Winner ........................................................................................................................... 46 Matthew Tang ................................................................................................................................... 46 Grade: 7, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 46 Second Place Winner ...................................................................................................................... 48 Alexandra Pink ................................................................................................................................. 48 Grade: 11, University High School........................................................................................................ 48 Third Place Winner ......................................................................................................................... 50 Evan Ashcraft .................................................................................................................................... 50 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 50 Honorable Mention ......................................................................................................................... 52 Ariel Goldstein .................................................................................................................................. 52 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 52 Honorable Mention ......................................................................................................................... 53 Meera Swaminath ............................................................................................................................ 53 Grade: 9, Northwood High School ........................................................................................................ 53 Honorable Mention ......................................................................................................................... 56 Jasmine Teng ..................................................................................................................................... 56 Grade: 9, Northwood High School ........................................................................................................ 56 Other Notable Entries .................................................................................................................... 58 Gakuto Kagawa ................................................................................................................................. 58 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 58 Jeongsoo Lee ...................................................................................................................................... 59 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 59 Raveena Ghanshani......................................................................................................................... 60 Grade: 9, Northwood High School ........................................................................................................ 60 Amira Asturias .................................................................................................................................. 62 Grade: 9, Irvine High School ................................................................................................................... 62 Hyunjee Cho ....................................................................................................................................... 63 Grade: 8, South Lake Middle School .................................................................................................... 63 Shan Yu ................................................................................................................................................ 66 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 66

Matthew Tsuneshige....................................................................................................................... 67 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 67 Yejin Hong .......................................................................................................................................... 69 Grade: 10, Irvine High School................................................................................................................. 69 Anushka Rastogi............................................................................................................................... 71 Grade: 10, Northwood High School ..................................................................................................... 71 Isabella Pink ...................................................................................................................................... 72 Grade: 7, Rancho San Joaquin Middle School ............................................................................. 72 Jishuai Jia ............................................................................................................................................ 74 Grade: 8, Rancho San Joaquin Middle School .................................................................................. 74 Parnia Kahrizi ................................................................................................................................... 76 Grade: 8, South Lake Middle School .................................................................................................... 76 Tehmina Akbar ................................................................................................................................. 77 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 77 Steven Lee........................................................................................................................................... 78 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 78 Rachel Kension ................................................................................................................................. 80 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 80 Sara Tamadon ................................................................................................................................... 81 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 81 Shayan Hassan Saeed ..................................................................................................................... 83 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 83 Gianluca Allesina ............................................................................................................................. 84 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 84 Justin Doron ....................................................................................................................................... 85 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 85 Crista McBride .................................................................................................................................. 86 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 86 Wenqing Zhu ..................................................................................................................................... 87 Grade: 10, St. Margarets Episcopal ..................................................................................................... 87 Matthew Du ........................................................................................................................................ 90 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 90 Henry Kapp ........................................................................................................................................ 91 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 91 Thomas Bong ..................................................................................................................................... 92 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 92 Kamran Siddiqi ................................................................................................................................. 93 Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 93 Jason Su ............................................................................................................................................... 94 Grade: 7, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 94 Kian Varjoy......................................................................................................................................... 96 Grade: 9, Irvine High School ................................................................................................................... 96 Malak Kudaimi.................................................................................................................................. 97 Grade: 11, Irvine High School................................................................................................................. 97 Mustafa Salawy ................................................................................................................................. 99 Grade: 7, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................... 99 Harrison Zhang ............................................................................................................................... 102 Grade: 7, Sierra Vista Middle School ................................................................................................ 102 Joanie Cheung.................................................................................................................................. 104 Grade: 9, Northwood High School ..................................................................................................... 104

JUNIOR CATEGORY
Essays and Poetry

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First Place Winner Megan Peng


Grade: 3, Santiago Hills Elementary School
Many say legends are exaggerated tales, but Ive actually learned lessons from the legends about my family. The legends are about my ancestors who were kind and have accomplished many tasks in their lives. They taught me that everybody should be respectful and be productive in their lives because those are significant values. My ancestors had these admirable values, and now they passed them down to me. A particular family legend made me realize kindness is valuable to me. Around 4,000 years ago, there was a young farmer named Peng. One day, he saw eight old men who were struggling to cross a river. They asked Peng in a chorus of deep voices, Can you help us cross this river? The young man said, Okay and carried all eight men individually across the river. When the young farmer dropped off the eighth man, the old men turned into gods! The young man couldnt believe his eyes. Y you are ggods? he stammered. Yes, they replied. We will each reward you one hundred years of life for your kindness. The farmer lived for over 800 years. He attempted and succeeded in many jobs until he became a respected elder. All across the land, people asked wise elder Peng for advice. His favorite advice to give was Kindness beats everything. Just like how kindness is important to the elder Peng, it is important to me. No matter where I go, I try to stay compassionate because it is important to my family and me. One day, during recess, I heard a faint sound of a girl crying. My best friend and I followed the sound that grew louder by the step. We finally found the bawling girl. She was crying too hard for any of us to understand her. Since she was sitting near a high ledge, we assumed that she walked on it and fell off. We gave up asking what her name was and how she got hurt and just took her to the nurses office. The nurse looked at her and thanked us. She is badly hurt and wouldnt have been able to come here herself. Good job, said the nurse. Some people have never truly felt kindness in their hearts. Once you get started, it is hard to stop being considerate. One of my moms family legends gave the value of being successful in life. Long ago, there was only one of the Kims. They were called The Golden Mountain because they were helpful and generous in many ways. However, there was one special Kim who stood out among his family. He later became politician when he turned eighteen by passing a very difficult exam. He was the youngest politician to pass the exam at a young age. He spent half of his life as a government official. Suddenly, the Kim had an idea. He told the idea to the rest of the caring 11

Kims who completely agreed. His plan was for all the Kims to quit being politicians and become teachers for the royalty instead. The Kims taught manners to the royalty because they usually were spoiled. All of the Kims lived enjoyable lives. They all were dedicated and they still are today. My ancestors, the Kims, wanted to make a difference with their lives, and they passed down their values to me. No matter where my life takes me, Ill be very produc tive with my valuable time, just like the family of Kims! When I graduate from college, I want to become a fashion designer who mostly makes jewelry, wallets, and bags. After two years of being a fashion designer, I want to become a full time Supreme Court Judge. I will make chief decisions and identify criminals. I also want to travel to all fifty states and collect at least one coin from each state. Then I will travel to Europe and learn all of the languages there including Swedish, French, and Spanish. Then, I can translate languages for people. If I achieve all of these goals, Ill think of more and dream even bigger. My family legends and the lessons and values they have taught me are very close to my heart. Showing kindness and fulfilling goals are major parts of my character. Kindness is important because the world wouldnt function well without people assisting one another. For example, when I helped the crying girl, she might not have been able to go in when recess ended because she was so badly hurt and injured. In the future, I will work hard because Id rather be busy than be bored. Ill always have something to think about. It is good to be busy and not be idle because I would make fine use of my time. When you become successful, you can be thoughtful too! Sometimes when people are cruel to each other, their feelings will be hurt. It is better to be compassionate than uncaring because unpleasant people cause trouble. People dont realize that you dont have to make big goals to make a difference. When you do little acts of kindness, you can be useful, too. My family legends taught me that if I am kind and accomplish a lot, I can be a legend, too!

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Second Place Winner Katherine Park


Grade: 5, Meadow Park Elementary School
Picture this. One day you are in your house in Korea the next day, bam, youre on a plane to America. Wouldnt that be hard? You have to get a new job, go to a new school, learn a new language, live in a new house, and you wouldnt know anyone at all. If you ask me, I think that would be very tough. However hard it was to move, my grandparents had to move. My maternal grandparents came for the education. In Korea, my grandmother was a dance teacher. However, she had to give up her job, and work at a sewing factory in America in order to support the family while my grandfather studied architecture at UCLA. My grandfather studied hard, hoping that someday he might get a good job to provide for the family. At last he got his wish to be an architect, designing airport buildings. Later, my grandmother owned a frozen yogurt shop. Every day, she would go to the shop, reassemble the yogurt machines, cut the fruit for the toppings, and then wait for any customers to come. She would go to the shop at 7:00 am and return to the house when my grandfather finished his work. My grandfather worked as an architect and took over at the frozen yogurt shop from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. His final tasks after a long day were to take apart the yogurt machines, wash them, and close up the shop. My grandparents wanted my mom to study hard and then hopefully become a doctor. They worked relentlessly in Korea so that my mom and uncle wouldnt have to do multiple jobs. My paternal grandparents came to America to plant a church. Along with my dad, they had three other children. Two boys and two girls. They were somewhat poor. For a family of six, they had one bathroom in a small house. Even though they were poor, they appreciated one another and were content with what little they had. My paternal grandfather was a pastor, a career that didnt have a big salary. Thus he cleaned a bank in the evening with his family for extra income. As the wife of a pastor, my grandmother had to cook large quantities of food for the congregation. One food that my grandmother tried to sell for extra money was kimbap, which is rice, spinach, carrots, egg, radish, and assorted meat all wrapped in seaweed. She also worked for a sewing factory from early in the 13

morning to the end of the day. At the end of her shift, she would bring bags of work to her house to earn extra money. My paternal grandparents both worked tirelessly day after day trying to provide for the family. Currently, my dad works at a major financial company where he designs software. He works diligently so that he can provide for the family and so that my sister and I can have special privileges like private lessons and so our family can go on vacations. Not only does my mom do household chores such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of my sister and me, but also she works as a doctor. Even though my parents and grandparents worked a great deal, they always made time to serve others. While helping others, my family traveled to far away countries, which is one of our hobbies. One example is our mission trip to Yemen. We were blessed by the opportunity to host many meals for the local people while experiencing a new place and a new culture. Besides traveling and serving others, my family has unusual experiences as Korean-Americans. For example, our New Years tradition is to eat rice cake soup. In addition, the children bow down to their elders and wish them many blessings in the New Year. In return, the elders give a word of advice and envelope containing money. As you can see, my family has a unique background. Our uniqueness is not from my maternal grandmother owning a frozen yogurt shop or from my paternal grandfather being a pastor but as a result of my family having different traditions and interests. That is what makes my family distinct.

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Third Place Winner Nitya Swaminath


Grade: 4, Brywood Elementary School
My name is Nitya Swaminath. I go to Brywood Elementary and I am in 4th grade. I have a sister named Meera in the 9th grade. My sister and I were born in the United States, but my mom, dad and grandparents were born in India. So my heritage is Indian.

Some fun and interesting things about me are that I like dancing and singing. India has a lot of types of dancing. I learn the kinds of dance that they do in India. It is called Bharatnatyam. This type of dance originated 5000 years ago in the southern part of India. I think this is actually the best dance in India because it has beautiful hand movements along with tapping of the feet. It also has a lot of shaking of your head with facial expressions. The dress is the best because it very colorful and you get to wear pretty jewelry. I go to the class with kids my own age on Friday afternoons. Right now we are practicing for our performance in January. We are getting special dresses that are made in India. Many years from now, I look forward to doing my arangetram. An arangetram is a solo dance performance you do after training for many many years. When you have learnt all the steps, the teacher will tell you that you are ready to do the dance. The dance is for 3 hours in front of lots of people. When I do my dance I know I will have to practice a lot, but I know I can do it because I love dancing. Now lets learn about some Indian music which I also do. The most famous type of music is Carnatic music. This is the most popular music in the southern part of India. It is also the oldest kind of Indian music. I take lessons on Wednesday evenings with another friend. I still like dance better. We also celebrate lots of Indian holidays which are very fun for me. In fact, my favorite Indian holiday is called Diwali. It is often called a festival of lights. Diwali is celebrated sometime between mid-October and mid-November. On this day in India, you decorate the outside of your house with rangoli. Rangoli is an art in which you draw designs on the ground with rice flour. These days we get colorful powder to make these drawings. It makes the house look very pretty and attractive. At our house, my mom and I use chalk instead. In India, they also celebrate with fire crackers but we put up Christmas lights outside our home. We light up lots of candles inside our house. The whole house looks bright and festive. We get new clothes to wear and eat lots of sweets and snacks. We also invite friends over and have a talent show where everybody does a performance like dancing, singing, saying jokes or doing anything else. But they have to come prepared. Everyone enjoys the good food and sees the kids perform. 15

Navaratri is another one of my favorite Indian festivals. You set up lots of dolls on some steps like a stage around the house. My sister and I help my mom to arrange the dolls according to the theme. We have a farmer set, a wedding scene, some dancers and singers, and lot more interesting dolls. This festival is celebrated for nine whole days. During this time we invite women and girls to see the dolls. We sing songs and talk. We get to eat good food and dress nicely. I wear a pavadi, which is a type of a long skirt with a shirt on top. It is r eally shiny and colorful. My mom and other ladies wear a dress called a sari. It is a long cloth that is wrapped around the body. During this festival we also get to visit other peoples houses and see their wonderful dolls. On the 10th day it is over and you put away the dolls. Some of my family values come from India and they are very important to follow. You respect your elders by saying Namaste in the Indian way by folding hands. This is like saying hello. You call all the adults either auntie or uncle but never call them by their first name. Next is to always take off your shoes before you enter anybodys house. India has lot more values but these are some of the main ones I follow. I have been to India many times, almost every other year. When I go on trips to India I have a blast with my grandparents. My grandparents live in a city called Chennai. It is in southern India. India is very different from the US. There are lots of palaces and temples in India. India is much nosier, with lots of cars, beeping sounds, and lots of people walking on the streets. When we go to India, I speak to my grandparents in an Indian language called Tamil. Back home in the US, I continue speaking Tamil at home and English with my friends. My favorite Indian food is called dosai and my grandma makes it for me every day. Dosai is like a soft pancake. When I come back to the US I miss it, but I am happy to eat my pizza. So these are a few fun things you should know about my heritage. I love my Indian heritage and feel lucky because I get to celebrate both American holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and all the Indian holidays also.

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Honorable Mention Brynna Mariko Hsia


Grade: 3, Santiago Hills School
Once upon a time there lived a little girl named Catie. Then one day her friend named Amber asked her what culture she was from. Catie didnt answer because she didnt know. When Catie got home from school, she thought about Ambers question. Was she Japanese? Chinese? American? Well, my mom is Japanese. My middl e name is Mariko, which is Japanese. I call my great grandma Bachan. We celebrate Japanese New Year and Girls Day. On Japanese New Year, I eat special foods like mochi (pounded sticky rice) and ozoni (Japanese soup). On Girls Day my Mommy puts out special Japanese dolls to bring me good luck for the year. Ive danced in the Obon Festival with my Grammy and I love to eat all kinds of noodles like soba, udon, ramen, and somen. I can speak a little Japanese. I can be just Japanese. NO. Then she thought, My dad is Chinese. My last name is Hsia, which is Chinese. I call my grandparents on my dads side Yeh-Yeh and Nai-Nai. We celebrate Chinese New Year and the Moon Festival by getting together with Daddys family to eat special foods like dofugan (pressed tofu), dodo (soybeans), brown eggs, noodles, and moon cake. My relatives give me hombau (red envelopes which contain money). I can speak a little Chinese. Maybe I can be just Chinese. NO. She kept thinking, Well, I am American too. I was born in R edwood City, California. I call my mom and dad Mom and Dad. We celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, The Fourth of July, and Valentines Day. I love American food like steak, corndogs, macaroni and cheese, beef barley soup, Three Musketeers, and cotton candy. My favorite places to visit are Disneyland, Legoland, and Yosemite National Park. I can speak and write English. Then Catie thought, Hey! I can be a mix of all three! I can do a little of this and a bit of that. I am Chinese, Japanese, and American at the same time!

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Honorable Mention Emily Chen


Grade: 4, Bonita Canyon Elementary School
My heritage is the story of my four Taiwanese grandparents. My paternal grandfather was from a poor family, the oldest of seven children. When he studied in elementary school my grandfather learned how to do business. Later, grandfather created his own company and let his brothers join him. He was the leader of the company and a great businessman. He died when he was sixtyseven because he got liver cancer. My great-grandfather told my grandfather to marry my grandmother, so he did. My grandmothers dad was a mayor and a doctor. When she married, she had to do housework, not only for her own family but also for her husbands big family. One tradition my grandpa rents had is that the oldest of the family was expected to care for the younger ones. My mothers father was the youngest of twelve children. He never saw his eldest brother or his second eldest brother because they were soldiers and at that time, all soldiers were going to war. My grandfathers brothers ran away from the army because they were scared and didnt want to fight for the Japanese government against China. They never went back home because they were afraid that the colonial government would catch them. When my grandfather was fifteen, his father died. All the brothers and sisters moved out when they married, so nobody was left to take care of my grandfather who was still a child. Furthermore, he had to take care of his sick mother. He did everything he could to help, including raising a cow. My maternal grandmother was also from a poor family and was the second eldest. Because her family was so poor, she couldnt continue her studies after elementary school. Instead, she helped her mother earn money by planting guava and selling it at the market. I feel proud of the fact that all four of my grandparents were hard workers and that they passed on the tradition to my parents. In turn, my brothers and I are being taught the value of being hard workers so we can carry on the family tradition.

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Honorable Mention Tara Toossi


Grade: 6, Westpark Elementary School
My name is Tara. I am 11 years old but I will soon be 12. I was born in Los Angeles on Friday the 13th but that was Good Friday! My baba always tells me it wasnt a good Friday but it was the best Friday. My parents were born in Iran however, my father was raised in Iran and my mother was not. My father was born in Neshabour, he was raised in Iran until he was twenty years old when he came to the United States to study. He was a student at The University of California at Berkeley. He got his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering and is currently a professor at California State University Long Beach. My mother was born in Tehran, Iran. She was raised in Tehran until she was seven years old. When she was seven years old, my Grammy and Grandpa sent my mom and her siblings to boarding school in Bournemouth, England. She left boarding school at age eighteen. She moved to Portland, Oregon with my grandparents and the rest of her siblings. She enrolled at Portland State University as her Junior College and transferred to Cal State Long Beach. She graduated with her Bachelors Degree from Cal State Long Beach and is currently a sales manager for a computer hardware company. My native country, Iran, is ancient. Some legends dated back to six thousand years ago. However, the recorded history of Iran is 2,500 years. At that time, there were only five civilizations that included Persia, Greece, Egypt, China, and India. The Persian Civilization was very advanced at the time. In fact, Persians were the first one to have a charter of the human rights. During those periods, some Jews were not welcomed by some people and they were harassed and discriminated against. The Persians stated that the Jews are free to live where they wanted and practice the religion as they wished. The name of the king at that time was Cyrus the Great. King Cyrus was loved by his people as he was a kind and fair king and promoted peace among people and nations. Throughout the history, Persians contributed greatly to Science and Literature. Among the famous scientists known to the western world are Kharazmi, who created Algebra. In fact, the word algorithm is derived from his name Al Kharazmi. Also, Avicenna wrote the first medical textbook. Razi, a scientist, developed alcohol that even today is used as anesthetic for sanitation and treating wounds. Persians also had the greatest poets. Rumi is well known throughout the world. Rumi preached love and showed people the path to enlighten it. Madonna has a record album (A gift of Love) that entirely dedicated to Rumis poetry. Although, his poetry has been translated to many languages no one can ever enjoy his 19

poetry more than Persians. Other famous poets are Omar Khyam, Hafez, and Sadi. The famous Sadi Poem is carved onto the entrance of the United Nations building in New York! The poem talks about unity of human being and how ones pain is shared by all human beings. In his words: Human beings are members of a whole, In creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, Other members uneasy will remain. The ancient religion of Persia was Zoroastrian; Zoroastrians believed in a philosophy that to have a happy life one must practice good thoughts, good deeds, and good words. That means people should clean their acts by throwing out bad thinking. They should also avoid bad language or do bad things. During the seventh century, after the Arabians attacked Persia they forced people to change their religion and convert to Islam. Today in Iran, more than ninety-eight percent of people are Muslim, but there are minorities such as Christian, Jews, and Bahais. Although I was born in America, learning about my background made me proud of my ancestry and its rich culture. I do speak Farsi, the native Persian language, but cannot read or write it. Upon searching the internet to write this essay, I decided to travel to Iran in the first opportunity that I have and learn more about culture, people, and the language.

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Other Notable Entries


In No Particular Order

Chloe Le
Grade: 4, Brywood Elementary School
My heritage is unique, My culture is shiny sleek. I am one of the Vietnamese, Rare as the ancient Golden Fleece. We are hereby one who saves, Never ever he who craves. We toil as hard as slaves, Yet our hearts are pure as gold, They shall never decay or mold. You may flip us to see if we fold, Every ounce of energy goes into the pursuit of perfection, We give our work platinum affection. With all our heart we strive for the ambition of greatness, Our hard word is important to all, it has no lateness. As you can see here, as our ballad comes to an end, With the Vietnamese anything you can mend.

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Emiliano Olague Hernandez


Grade: 6, Oak Creek Elementary School

Being a Mexican descendant is a very special circumstance, in many ways. My name is Emiliano Olague Hernandez and my heritage and family is from Mexico. I am proud to be Mexican even though I was born in Texas; many things have been passed down to me besides the blood, such as values, traditions, language, and other things that people may not have known. My grandparents are from the central part of Mexico. From my Moms side, they are from Jalisco and from my Dads side from Mxico City. They migrated north, to Chihuahua to seek better opportunities. My family moved to the United States to find a better home for me and to look for a safer place to live. My values as being Mexican are not limited and can easily be noticed from other people. One value that I am good at is solving many types of complicated problems. Mexicans are famous for finding a solution to everything. Another value that represents me is having fun and being kind to friends and family. I also have a value of being honest, calm, active and hard work. I am proud I inherited them from my family and relatives. Another important contrivance is family. Mexicans love to be around many family members. Family helps keep traditions alive for many generations. Family helps keep values through generations. Families share emotions, games, food, history and other important characteristics. In Mexico, family is a big thing, being with relatives helps spread happiness through people and gives a perfect reason to be together. A symbol that symbolizes me is the Mexican Flag. This symbol reminds me of my family, my past generations and my heritage. Not only does it symbolize me but it also symbolizes other Mexicans as well. To me the flag also reminds me of my favorite foods that come from my home country. It reminds me the beautiful land, history and culture. Mexican values, family, traditions and heritage are all important things to celebrate in my culture, and maybe in different cultures as well. '

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Harish Seenivasen
Grade: 2,Westpark Elementary School
I am an Indian from India. India is a country in Asia. We worship the gods, Rarma, Siva, Krishna, Kukishmy, Pilayar, Saathy, Gourga, and Honymon. We are considered to be Hindus. We speak Thumil and Canida. We celebrate Dvali, Pongel, Ganasha, and Chudouthy. We celebrate Pongel because they work all through the year. We celebrate by painting three horns. Nobody works on the day of Pongel. We celebrate Ganash Chudourthy because it is his birthday. Here are a few facts about India. Dollars in India are called rupees and cents are calles paiseses. The holidays we celebrate are probably celebrated 5,000 years ago when India got freedom. India got freedom on August 15, 1947. Here are a few stories about our gods. One story is about two brother gods. One day Ganasha and Krishna were playing and Krishna made fun of his brother's tiny mouse. So, Ganasha Challenged him to a race around the world. Krishna took care of his peacock and Ganash told his parent, "You are my world." I will crack you seven times. By that time Krishna was half way around the world. Ganasha got on his mouse and went around his paints 7 times. Krishna has a quarter left. After one hour he returned. When he saw Ganasha he got so angry. He took off to a mountain. There are probably millions of story's that I don't know. I might hear about more when I go to India this year.

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Vishal Seenivasan
Grade: 3, Westpark Elementary School
My heritage is Indian. My culture comes from India, which is in Asia. Indians there are usually dark brown and have black hair because it is scorching. We have many gods that we worship like Vishnu, Hanuman, Krishna, and Shiva. There are many stories and legends about them, and some have different forms. Lord Vishnu has 10 forms. Some of them are Krishna and Raman. One story is very famous. A demon named Raven steals Rama's wife. Another is how the head on Shiva's throne came to be. One day a demon dame to Shiva and Shiva made a hungry giant to eat him. The demon begged for mercy, and Shiva granted it. The giant was still hungry so he asked Shiva what to eat. Shiva said to eat himself, but he was just kidding. The giant took him seriously and ate his entire body! Shiva was surprised when he saw the floating head, and thought the giant was a great sign of obedience. Another story is how a god came to be! This god was Ganesh, Shiva's son. One day, Shiva's wife got tired of people coming into the house while she was in the bathtub. She created a boy out of clay, and cast a spell on the boy to bring him to life. She gave him orders to guard the house and to not let anybody in. The boy did as he was told. But then Shiva came, and when he wasn't allowed to go in his own house he cut off the boy's head! Soon Shiva's wife came out and when she saw the boy's body, she was very mad, and threatened to destroy the whole universe! Shiva sent for his servants and ordered them to find the head, but they couldn't find it. So Shiva told them to bring the nearest head they could find. So they cut off an elephant's head and brought it to Shiva. Shiva attached the head to the boy and brought him to life. I am from India, where it is blazing hot. Some roads are paved and some are dust. Their taxi's are autos. Autos have three heels, are round, and have no doors. India has a long history, starting 5,000 years ago, from the people of the Indus Valley Civilization. There were many wars and invasions until finally, India was free at last. Another fact I know is that when the Mehezoic era ended, India collided with Asia, probably forming the Himalayan Mountain Range. There are many other things about India and my heritage that I dont know but maybe someday I will.

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Shreya Tyagi
Deerfield Elementary School
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was named Isa. She had a pet dog called Patch. She lived in San Francisco. She lived her only grandmother. She had a horse named Lulu. Isa went to the park with her grandmother one day. The air blew inside the grandmothers mouth and got stuck in her heart. The grandmother could not breathe anymore and she got sick. There were no hospitals in America. So, the grandmother went on a ship to China, so she could go to a hospital. Isa missed her grandmother so much. She took her horse, Lulu and her dog, Patch and went to the shore. There were no cars in America. They were not invented. The horse could not fly over the ocean. Isa said, Oh, what will I do? just then a fairy appeared. She had a pink wand with purple in the middle of the star. She said, I can help you. She said, Presto! and a big ship appeared. The horse, Isa and her dog got on the ship. Isa said, I dont know how to drive. The fairy said, Preston! A driver appeared. He drove the ship in the ocean to China. China was wonderful! There were cars in China. Isa said, I have never seen a car! She went to the hospital and asked the nurse, where is my grandmother? the nurse said, you have to take the elevator up and turn left. Isa took the elevator up and turned left. She did not see her grandmother. She asked the doctor, where is my grandmother? The doctor said, you have to take the escalator up and turn right. Isa took the escalator up and turned right. There was a room with only one bed. Her grandmother was there. Her grandmother said, please help me. Isa helped her grandmother and put her in a wheelchair and took her to the ship. Her horse, Lulu and her dog, Patch also went on the ship. They also took a red car on the ship and went back to San Francisco. People in San Francisco had never seen a car before. They looked at the red car and said, Oh my! This car is beautiful! Then they built more and m ore cars in America.

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Rambod Memarian
Grade: 4, Culverdale Elementary School
My name is Rambod and my family's name is the Memarian's. I have five people in my family. They are my brother, sister, mom, dad, and me. My parents and my brother were born in Iran and my sister and I were born in Canada. My mom was born on November 5, 1972. My dad was born on June 21, 1965. My brother was born on April 15, 2001. My sister was born on August 21, 2005, and I was born on September 6, 2003. My family has many values. One of them is that we are honest. When someone in this family does something bad, we have to tell the truth. We are also supportive. When someone is hurt or upset, we support them to make them feel better. Finallly, we are resptectful. We say polite words and we use our manners. My family has many things to talk about and I know this family is the best.

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Jasmyne
Grade: 6, Greentree Elementary School
A Chinese daughter has to work hard and be good, respects her parents with love. Learning her language Learning how to use chopsticks, most important her customs.

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Arian Salahzadah
Grade: 3, Westpark Elementary School
Hello readers my name is Arian. This story is about my heritage. I come from Iran. I speak Farsi. The holidays that we celebrate are fun. They are an important part of my heritage. They are different than what we celebrate in America. Iran. Nowruz is the first day of spring. Families all around Iran have celebrations and ceremonies. My family also celebrates this holiday in America. We also do the same things other Iranians do. There are 13 days in Nowruz. They are different because we cook Iranian food. They are also different because we celebrate Iranian traditions. There is another holiday called Sizdah Bedar. During Sezdah Bedar we eat, jump over fire, and roast marshmellows. Another holiday that we celebrate is Mehregan, a day of giving thanks. These are some of the holidays of Iran.

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Beeta
Grade: 4, Westpark Elementary School
I was born in Los Angeles. I am 9 years old. My family is from Iran. I speak Farsi. I am Moslem. My family does not eat port and ham, but I eat those foods because I like the taste. My mom and dad sit in the house in a quiet place to pray, but they don't make me pray. In Iran the women have to wear a cloth on their heads. My grandma lives with us. She puts a cloth on her hair even in America. She wears it so men won't see a lot of her hair. My favorite holiday that we celebrate is Eid Nowruz. We decorate eggs and set the table with items that begin with the letter "S" on the table. We put apples on the table. In Farsi apple is seab. I get money for the celebration. Another holiday that I celebrate is Charshanbe Suri. This is when we jump over a fire to scare the evil spirits away. Also, sometimes my friends and uncles come to celebrate with us. The last holiday that I celebrate is Shabe Yalda - Shabe Chelle. We don't go to sleep for the whole day. Also, we eat only green and red foods. We celebrate good or evil. I really love my heritage. I am proud of my heritage.

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Ali Majdi
Grade: 4, University Elementary School
My family and I have a very exciting heritage. I am from Iran. The holidays are very important to my family. We celebrate Eid, Maeramezoon(Ramadan) and Noorooz. Some of the things my family does for Eid is that we all go to the park and we sing and dance. Some of the special things we do ro Maeramezoon is that the grownups don't eat anything for a certain amount of time at night for a month. When it is the last day of the month my mom and dad invite friends and family for a delicious feast. The most fun holiday is Maeramzaoon, because family comes to our house and we give money to each other. After we all give money to each other we play games and interact with one another. Being an Iranian is sometimes hard for me because I do not understand some of the words that the American kids or teachers say. Whenever I try speaking English it doesn't' make sense. People always bother me because they say I speak weird. The kids make fun of my last name by saying it in a funny way. Sometimes I make mistakes in speaking or writing words and the teacher says that it's OK because lots of kids make mistakes too. Religion is also part of our culture. Every Thursday my dad and I go to the mosque. When we get in the Mosque we take off our shoes and go into the room to pray. We get a candle and say; Besmel, Ramone, Raheam." When everyone finishes some of the other kids say their prayers. After all that is finished; one by one, everyone goes into the bathroom, washes their faces and says their own prayers. I am happy to be an Iranian because we have fun holidays, prayers, and an easy to learn language.

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Rishi Theegala
Grade:2, Westpark Elementary School
My name is Rishi. I am 7 years old. I am from India. India is a place where we celebrate Holy. It is a holiday where we celebrate colors. In India people wear traditional clothes. The ladies wear saris. Indian people have brown skin and black hair. On the streets there are animals like monkeys, dogs, tigers, bulls, and elephants. In India we greet people by saying Nomastay. In India we eat spicy rice. In India we go to the temple to celebrate God. This is how we celebrate my family's traditions in America.

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Ethan Chang
Grade: 4, Brywood Elementary School
U.S.A My hometown were my Chinese family lives Once I was born, the wonderful and beautiful U.S.A welcomed me with tall trees, green grass, and colorful flowers. The United States is just the right home for me, with all different people, cultures, and languages White, black, brown and beige They make the land unique Oh, how I love this great nation of nations

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Atra Shahryari
Grade: 4, Stonegate Elementary School
I love my heritage because we have some fun traditions and celebrations. My religion is Zoroastrian. I go to a mosque. First, I take off my shoes. Then I wash my hands. In America I wear a head scarf only in the mosque but if I'm in Iran I have to wear it all the time. I wear a headscarf to cover my head and to stay clean. Then I light a candle and sing, Ashemveho Vahereo to myself. This s a special prayer. There are many traditions that my parents brought to me. One of my favorite traditions is Shab-e Yalda. Shab-e Yalda is celebrated at the end of the longest night of the year. We get to eat special nuts. We also commemorate Shab-e Yalda because we celebrate good and evil. We eat different red and green foods. It's my favorite tradition because all of the family gets together and has a good time. We also celebrate Charshanbe Suri. It is the festival of fire. It is the last Tuesday of the year and month. I don't like the celebration because all we do is sit around and talk. I think it is boring. My favorite holiday is Shab-e Yalda. My least favorite holiday is Charshahbe Suri. I love my culture and I am proud to be Zoroastrian.

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Priscilla Hui
Grade: 5, Stonegate Elementary School
I am a fifth grader at Stonegate Elementary. Reading books and watching TV are my favorite things to do in my spare time. I am an animal lover, especially of dogs. Homework always gets me stressed out. After high school, I see myself as a veterinarian because I love helping animals. Having a Chinese Heritage affects who I am in the United States because Chinese traditions are different than American traditions. Many movies are filmed there: drama, comedy, tragedy, etc. Most importantly, almost all of my relatives live there; both of my parents were born there. It is also very hot there. People dress differently than we do. They dress in shorts and t-shirts, and still be sweating bucketful of water, while we wear sweater and long pants and still be shivering from the cold. Also, my family background is that education is important. My mom had to work hard for education by bribing her brother to teach her. She had to fan her brother while he was taking a nap, and hand wash all of his clothes. Then her brother will help her with her school work. Hand washing his clothes were hard because she has to rub her knuckles together hard to scrub out the dirt, and after she is done, her knuckles hurt so much she can't even write! She did end up with good grades though. My mom always told me a saying," First bitter, then sweet." ' First bitter means to work and study hard a a student. ' Then sweet ' means after working hard in school, it will pay off. You will have a better life if you first study hard in school, and then live your lifestyle. Furthermore, I value my good friends. they are always there when I need them, and give me company. Whenever I am around them, they make me feel happy and we make special memories together. My friends are the reasons I like school. Although we get mad at each other sometimes we make up quickly. For example, one time, my friend and I were playing tetherball. She kept winning, and then, suddenly, the ball hit my face! I looked at her and she seemed like she didn't care, and kept swinging the ball. She didn't even say sorry. The next day, we made up, and promised to never play tetherball again. Lastly, I was born in Orlando, Florida. I am American Born Chinese, also known as "ABC". There are many differences between the Chinese and the America. In the China, when we take the medicine, we say we " eat " the medicine in Chinese. Although I live in America, my family still eats Chinese food, with chopsticks. We would always enjoy eating at a Chinese restaurant. When we go to China, we always eat dinner with out relatives. We would order curry rice, noodle in soup, deep-fried rice, and many more other delicious foods. The parents would help the children pick out what they want first, then they would dig in. We would never have leftovers. I would always help my little cousin get her

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favorite thing, noodle in soup. When we finish, we would go to a desert shop and finish our day. Also, in China, the money system is different than the America money. A couple of Chinese dollars equal to one American dollar. Also, China celebrates some different traditions than we do. They celebrate Chinese New Year, and give out red envelopes. Some people that live in America might celebrate Chinese New Year, but they might not give out red envelopes. There are many differences between America and China, and I love the both sides of the countries that I am from.

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Sara Nemati
Grade: 4, Culverdale Elementary School
My name is Sara and I am 10 years old. I come from Iran. My family has many traditions. We celebrate special holidays. For example, when I'm in Iran I have to wear long sleeves and long pants. I don't do that here. Most importantly, even I have to wear a Hejab when I'm in Iran because it's part of the religion of Iran. In America I do not cover my head. My favorite holiday is Nowruz. Nowruz lasts for 13 days. During those 13 days I get to wear pretty new clothes and we get toys, plus we eat Persian food. For example, we eat Fesenjoon, which is rice pudding with walnuts, and beef and chicken kabobs. Shabe Yalda is another holiday I like. It is celebrated on the longest night of the year and everyone stays up all night. We eat only red and green foods and we eat special kinds of nuts. For example, we eat Geormesabzi or watermelon. The fun part is partying all night. Charashanbe Suri is also one of my favorite times of the year. Charashanbe Suri is a day that we go to the beach and build a fire. It can be done in a backyard or anywhere it is safe to set a fire. After the fire is set we jump over the fire. Nowruz, Shabe Yalda, and Charashanbe Suri are my favorite holidays because my family celebrates them and they are a part of my tradition. I'm proud to be an Iranian.

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Eileen Tavakoli
Grade: 4, Culverdale Elementary School
Being an Iranian and living in America is a difficult thing. My name is Eileen Tavakoli. I was born on November 5, 2003 at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California. I am 9 years old and I am in 4th grade. We are Muslim. We go to a mosque to pray to Muhhmad. We light candles and blow them for a blessing. We do not eat ham or pork because they are dirty animals. We go to the Mosque only on Thursdays. The women and girls wear Hijabs. A Hijab is a blanket that covers your body and head but not your face. We also wash our hands before we go into the mosque. Because English is my first language, it is tough for me to speak. My mmom is from Shiraz and my dad is from Zarghan. They both speak the same language, Farsi. I was born here but I was in Iran for a few months. My family and I speak English and Farsi. We have lots of holidays. One holiday is called Mehregan. It is just like Thanksgiving but just on a different day. The difference is that Mehregan is one of the important days of the year. We have to show love and give out presents to friends and family. Being with my family on Mehregan is fun. My favorite holiday is Chaharshanbe Sori. It is on the last Tuesday of December. At nighttime we jump over fire. When we jump over fire we go one by one. We jump over fire because it is a tradition. Then we roast marshmellows. I like doing this. We have a fantastic time at Chaharshanbe Suri. Sofreh Haft Sin is my second favorite holiday. We eat everything that starts with an "S", which is the letter see in Farsi. We eat seeb, which means apple. Sasanian is a very beautiful plate from China that is put on the table. We eat lots of other foods that begin with "S". We celebrate Sofreh Haft Sin with family, relatives, and friends. My family and I don't celebrate lots of holidays that other Iranians celebrate. All of the celebrations that my family celebrates I celebrate too. Even though we don't celebrate everything I enjoy those traditions that we do. I enjoy the traditions I celebrate with my family.

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Shinhye Park
Grade: 3, Santiago Hills Elementary School
'Korea is where I used to live. I was born there and lived there for 9 and half years. When I as in my car, I thought about my friends and felt sad. When I got inside the airplane, it felt like I was flying! Next, it was time for lunch. I ate an omelet, bread with a cream sauce, and strawberry juice. They were delicious. 11 hours later, we finally arrived. I felt happy and sort of strange. When we got to our house, I thought the house was super huge because our Korean apartment was really small. This is the story of how I got here. At first, it was because of my dad's company. When I heard that news, I almost fainted. Now, back to our house. Next, we had to unpack our stuff to get ready for our new house to stay. Now that I am here in America for a year, I am really happy!

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Arman Nemati
Grade: 2, Culverdale Elementary School
Hello everyone. My name is Arman and I'm from Iran. One of my favorite holidays is Shab-e Yalda. It is on the longest day of the year. On Shab-e Yald-a we eat red and green foods. One of the red foods is apples and one of the green foods is sapsee polo. A holiday that I don't' celebrate but is celebrated in Iran is Muramisoon. On this holiday you don't eat breakfast and lunch. Then at night they eat until the morning. Another holiday is a time when you get presents. That's my favorite holiday. It's called Eid Norroz. Another holiday is Sizdah Bedar. We eat and we talk. When we're finished we jump over the fire. I don't jump over the fire because I'm scared. I play on the beach instead. Then there's a special day when I get to see my family. I only get to see my Grandma. I call all my other relatives because they are in Iran and I'm in America. Another holiday that we celebrate is Sofreye Haft Sin. We bring things that start with an "S". I like it. I get to go to a room that has a special table. It's called the Haft-sin table. I like the Iranian New Year. It's kind of like the new year in America, but it's the Iranian New Year. I like my culture.

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Sushanth Sathish Kumar


Grade: 3, Santiago Hills Elementary School
Ahimsa is an Indian word, which means non-violence or non-injury. It does not mean to raise a weapon and fight. It means to fight with no bloodshed. You must love your enemy no matter what. Even if your body is covered in blood, you have to love your enemy. That is called Himsa, which is the opposite of Ahimsa.The pronunciation is .him.s. Ahimsa had been the highlight of Indian Independence. Father of India, Mahatma Gandhiji, practiced Ahimsa. He also led the nation to independence. His real name is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, fondly called as Mahatma or Bapu. While the revolt against British rule continued, Gandhiji returned to India in 1915 after solving a case in South Africa. He worked as a lawyer . On his return, he saw the revolt was going on and no one could communicate and work out a plan because there were more than thirty Indian languages. There was no common language. Even though they formed an old plan a long time ago, the plan Revolt of 1857 was a failure since it was poorly organized. He chose peaceful processions and demonstrations as a means to fight the British force. How did he accomplish his mission? Let us see how he did it. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre was the worst massacre ever in the Indian history. The person responsible for it was General Dyer. He was the worst person India had to face. On April 13th, 1919, people had assembled in a place called Jallianwala Bagh for a peaceful prayer. Dyer locked all the people in the hall and shot fiery bullets from the outside. So many Indians died at that point of time. After that incident, a few people reacted violently. Gandhiji immediately organized a peaceful hunger strike. It was called 'Satyagraha'. Indians united and followed the path of Ahimsa. They never took a step in the path of Himsa. In 1919, Gandhiji gave lots of calls for 'Satyagraha' against the Rowlatt Act that the arrogant British had just passed. The Act curbed the fundamental rights of the people. It also gave the police so much power. Mahatma Gandhiji along with another leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and the Indians, strongly felt that the British had no right to restrict people's basic freedom. The whole of India called the Act devilish and tyrannical. Gandhiji requested the Indian people to observe Satyagraha on April 6th, 1919. It was the day of non-violent opposition to the Rowlatt Act , and the day of humiliation and prayer and strike. There were a lot of demonstrations and strikes in the country. The Government used violent measures to control the people. Many were beaten up and jailed. Next came the Simon Commission. In 1927, Simon visited India. When all the Indians had gathered , getting ready to fight, Gandhiji said, Stop, we will follow the path of Ahimsa. We'll never ever follow the path of Himsa as Britishers do. We must follow the way of God. We cannot have a fight that is the path to enmity 40

at any time. We will follow the path of love. They made signs and slogans saying, 'Simon Go Back'. Almost every Indian participated at once. Simon could not land on the Indian soil. He could not do much. So, he had to leave and go back to Britain. The third is the 'Dandi March'. The British collected tax for salt. People had to pay for salt and salt taxes. Why pay for salt? Why don't we make our own salt instead of paying the money eating Britishers?, Gandhiji advised. They all took sea water in urns, boiled it, let the water evaporate, and had all the salt they needed. Thus, they broke the 'Salt Law'. The Britishers beat them with sticks and also arrested them. Still, they did not lift their arms against the Britishers. Many were put in jail. It united India since salt was basic to all sections of the people. Even the rich and the poor participated. What Ahimsa teaches? Ahimsa teaches tolerance, acceptance of people. It teaches to forgive people. [16] perseverance, and

Can we follow Ahimsa today? Yes, we can. The kids bullying the other kids can stop themselves, or the other kids could just love him or her. Many Indians still follow the path of Ahimsa. One good example is A.R.Rehman, an Indian Music Director, who has won two Oscar awards. As a young boy, Rehman lost his dad, and his mother showed him the path of Ahimsa. He said he was glad he chose that path. I also remember another incident that happened recently. Once there was a nanny who was taking care of two children. The parents had gone to work. They said, After the babies are asleep, you have to clean up the house and then take rest. The nanny was so furious that she stared at the babies. In a rage, she took out a knife and cut the babies' neck off and went away in a car. When the parents returned, they saw that the babies had been killed by the nanny. The nanny was taken to court. She was later sent to jail. If the nanny had negotiated with the parents, she wouldn't have ended up in jail. After learning about Ahimsa, I realized war is definitely not a solution to disputes. War is not a way to peace, but Ahimsa means happiness and peace to the whole universe, and you won't loose your life. It helps me forgive my friend's mistakes. It helps me befriend them.

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Sylvia K. Cheeseman
Grade: 3, Santiago Hills Elementary School
According to my dictionary, heritage is valuable or important traditions handed down from generation to generation. It is something that belongs to one by reason of birth. Everyone should be proud of his or her heritage, I am certainly proud of mine. I am Sylvia Cheeseman, 8 years old. I was born in the United States. My mom was born in China, lived in New Zealand before moved to the United States. My dad is a Canadian. He was born in Canada but lived in Africa and Asia before settling down in the United States. I am an American. I like America because I have been in America more than any other countries. Most people speak English in America. English is my best language. I have been to Canada a couple times to visit my relatives on my dads side who live there. My grandma in Canada asks me to call her Oma because she speaks both English and German. Oma means Grandma in German. My Canadian Grandpas family is Scottish. Canada is like the United States, not so crowded. I love Canada. I have never been to New Zealand. My mom told me it is a very beautiful country. There are more sheep than people there. The people there are called Kiwis. I have been to China many times because my mom wants me to practice my Chinese. Chinese people eat weird things like chicken feet and seaweed. I dont like China because its really crowded and lots of people smoke there. My mom makes me take Chinese lessons so my Chinese can get better. My parents like taking both my sister and me travelling. We have been to many places in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, China and Australia. I am an American, a Canadian, a Kiwi, and a Chinese. I am proud to be a global citizen!

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Athanasios Syrengelas
Grade: 3, Santiago Hills Elementary School
I am a second generation Greek-American. These are some things to know about Greek people. Greek people are proud. We are proud of our language. There are many words that come from Greek words. I go to Greek school so I can learn to read and write. We are proud that Greek is an ancient language but is still spoken today. Greeks love to eat. We mostly eat meat, cheese, and bread. Most of the vegetables are fresh because they are grown on farms. I do not think you can find anything without lemon on it. Greek food is delicious. Greek people are helpful. When I was in Greece this summer, our car battery died, and so many strangers stopped to help us. They even offered to drive us home. I have never met so many nice people! Greeks are simple people. Greeks go to the beach a lot. Many Greeks also grow their own food and raise their own animals. The lifestyle in Greece is relaxing. I am so proud to be Greek-American!

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Hasheer Nejat Ghafoor


Grade: 5, Meadow Park Elementary School
Steve Rogers came of age in a time unlike any we had seen before and, hopefully, will not see again. The entire world was at ear. Worse, this was the second war of its kind in less than a quarter century. Steve's parents had served in that last war-and through them, he learned valuable lessons about what it meant to be a good soldier and, moreover, a good man. By the time Steve was a teenager, the Second World War had been raging in Europe for years. And in 1941, just before Steve turned twenty-three, America joined in the worldwide fight. Soon when Steve heard about World War he told his friend Bucky to go fight for our state. Bucky laughed. Steve knew that he is a super weak but it is still important to keep our world safe. When Steve and Bucky got there they saw how strong other men were. There was a man standing to see how weak someone is, if they are not week they can join the war. The man looked at Steve, The man wouldn't let Steve join. But Steve didn't give up! After two weeks, Steve was amazed that a man named Dr. Erskine offered Steve a chance. Colonel Phillips (The man in charge) threw a grenade in front of the men. Everyone covered for safety, except Steve. Steve jumped on the Grenade to save the men. But the grenade didn't work because it was fake! Steve moved on with stuff and the other men didn't. Steved moved on with stuff because saved his men and thats every soldiers duty. Dr. Erskine was proud of Steve so Dr. Erskine gifted Steve with a new body. Steve soon met Howard Stark. Howard Stark is the one who made this thing. Soon they put Steve on a chamber. They started by giving him a shot to see his blood sample. Then Stark made Steve stronger and powerful by turning the one button on. Soon they made a costume for Steve and he called himself "Captain America"'

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SENIOR CATEGORY
Essays and Poetry

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First Place Winner Matthew Tang


Grade: 7, Sierra Vista Middle School
As I looked around the banquet room, I saw red tablecloths, red decorations, red guestbook and red eggs. I seemed to be surrounded by everything red. I was at my little cousins Red Egg party. The atmosphere was festive and everyone was congratulating the proud parents. The aroma of the dim sum and chow mein made me hungry. All the extended family drove or even flew here to join us at one of our favorite Chinese restaurant. The baby was dressed in a red outfit, and my family was lining up to give the baby a red envelope filled with brand new bills to bless the child. The color red symbolizes happiness, celebration, and good luck. It has been a long Chinese tradition to host a party for a newborn when he or she turns one month old. Today, the young Chinese parents often wait till the baby is two or three months old before meeting the entire family at this huge occasion. I, Matthew Garrett Ming-Lee Tang, was born in September, 2000. I had an especially grand Red Egg party when I was about two months old since I was a Golden Dragon according to the Chinese Zodiac. Not only that, I was also a millennium baby. The Chinese Zodiac designates an animal for each lunar year and cycles every twelve years. My parents chose Thanksgivings weekend so all the relatives could come from Arizona and Northern California from my dads side. My dad was born in Phoenix, Arizona where his fathers family had opened a family market after coming from China. My dads mothers family also came from China but settled in Oakland, California. My mom was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the United States when she was nine years old, so she didnt have as many relatives here. My parents are Chinese Americans but they still gave me a Chinese middle name, Ming-Lee because they wanted to keep their heritage. I grew up calling my grandmother on my moms side Po Po. The Chinese language is very specific on names for family members. There are different names for maternal grandmother and paternal grandmother. Po Po babysat me while my mom went to work. Even now, she is excited to teach me Chinese whenever I go to her house. She still cooks wonderful Chinese food. She always reminds us about Chinese holidays where they eat mooncake and sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaf called zon-zhu every year. The biggest holiday is the Chinese New Year which falls on a different day than the New Year. We celebrate with a lion dance. Performers get under a dragon costume and make it move. Since we enjoy watching the parades in Chinatown on TV, Po Po made a small lion head for us to play with. We beat drums like crazy and crash those 46

cymbals! We eat a great feast of duck, fish, and all kinds of special dishes. The best part is that we kids get lots of red envelopes from aunts and uncles. In China, they would clean out their whole house before the New Year rolls around. Its a good thing we dont follow that tradition. Po Po often tells me famous stories from Chinese history. They were often about Chinese children who did great things. They were clever and obedient. One that impressed me was a story where two brothers were playing and one fall into a giant flowerpot of water. His brother had to figure out how to save him since the pot was too tall for him to climb up. He quickly thought of striking the flowerpot with a rock and all the water flowed out and saved his brother from drowning. Respect and family are important values in Chinese culture. Children are to respect their elders. In China, the younger generation would bow to the older ones. We are taught to call any adults we know well Auntie or Uncle. Family members really take care of each other. My Grandma Tang, Nian Nian in Chinese, always demonstrates that. She gives us red envelopes for any reason she can think of to help us save for college. My great grandmother Bok Bok Gin is almost one hundred years old and still tries to take care of us. Parents would take care of their children until they get married. When the children grow up and the parents grow old, they would take care of their aging parents. I am proud I am Chinese American so I can experience a blend of both cultures. It makes my life richer. It really is the best of both worlds. Just as my parents try to continue some of the Chinese traditions, I would also like to keep them alive so the future generations will not forget about our heritage.

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Second Place Winner Alexandra Pink


Grade: 11, University High School
Ich lerne die Deutsch. Once a language familiar to my grandmother, My great grandmother, Her great grandmother, German is unfamiliar and Cumbersome Upon my tongue. Shoulder to shoulder, Sister to sister, Together we Painstakingly Retrace our steps. My grandmother hums the Hungarian national anthem, With tears in her eyes. She mourns a Childhood lost, Another language her Granddaughters Will struggle over, Mangling words that should Come naturally; Memories fondly removed from the Dusty shelf. In sixth grade, My mother Dutifully Ate her Pumpernickel and Liverwurst Sandwiches. The food of an immigrant smells like home, she tells me. The longer they stay here, the more innocuous the food becomes. My mother was an outsider. There, in the cold Sovietness, She smiled too often. Here, in the happy-go-lucky, often thoughtlessly sunny land of the free, She felt out of place. Finally, coming home to a place that 48

Never was home, She learned. I am European, she tells me. Me too, Mama. Me too.

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Third Place Winner Evan Ashcraft


Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
I come from a family that has an extremely long line of relatives most of them are Mexican, I am very proud of my culture and who I am. Our familys name is Hurtado; this name originated from the La Chorrera District in Panam Province, Panama is located near central Mexico, where our family originated. Our family name comes from the Spanish word hurtar, it means to steal or to rob, even though our family doesnt steal. I would prefer if our family name wasnt named after stealing, but it was thought to be a nickname of a child that had been kidnapped. I usually would prefer to eat Mexican food to any another kind, I enjoy other types of food but it doesnt match the rich taste of Mexican food, my mom makes amazing Mexican food. Our family loves to eat, for example on thanksgiving our family starts to eat at nine in the morning, when a massive pot roast is served with hot tortillas, next a plump turkey with all the trimmings is ready at two in the afternoon, then at six pm another turkey plus ham is prepared for dinner, the eating usually continues until about two in the morning! We have many mealtimes because we have such a large extended family consisting of about 22 aunts & uncles, 35 cousins, and many more second cousins, the variety of mealtimes allow each family to visit inlaws and immediate family at any portion of the day. Since most of our family follows catholic beliefs, they are encouraged to have many children, which has led up to such a grand family size! Most of our family especially the adults can speak, or at least understand Spanish; on the other hand I dont speak Spanish very well, and can onl y understand what I need. Our family really cares and has tons of love for each other; they go out of their way to always visit one-another and keep in touch, despite that we have family in California, Arizona, Arkansas, Oregon and New Mexico! They will even fly or drive out for a small family event such as a birthday party! When we are at family gatherings, such as a baseball game, or even just going to dinner, we are the loudest people there and everyone around us just stares at us like were crazy. Unlike some family cultures that tend to be quiet, our family is always laughing, having a good time, and when we are talking, people around us think that we are shouting, and the cousins are horsing around of on the sidelines. All of my cousins have a very strong bond we always love each other, even if were mad or just got smashed in the face by a football! When our whole family is together talking and communicating with each other its incredible because there is so much joy and happiness, we are sharing and talking about 50

all of our different experiences, good, bad, and funny. My family is very loving and very energetic, and Im glad to be part of the Hurtado clan.

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Honorable Mention

Ariel Goldstein
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
I am from rainbow suspenders, from spandex and metal. I am from the little brown one, the calm one, the bumpy,colored walls. I am from sapphire, shining blue, the bird who hums softly. I am from Shabbat candles and white table cloths, from a great uncle and his struggles of the Holocaust and a mother full to the brim with herbal remedies and from generations of the same name. I am from board games and family road trips, from the constant reminders that I would grow up making the world a better place and that I would defy all odds. I am from the slaves in Egypt, the burning bush, the commandments. I am from the lamb's blood, the matzo, the mortar. I am from the apples, the honey. I am from the latkes, the applesauce, the jelly doughnuts. I'm from two blue lines that cross, from Holocaust victims. I'm from yummy meatloaf and sweet potato-carrot kugel, From the great great grandfather's shoe store where he sold everything in the tiny town where you can find beautiful speckled stones and his daughter whose clock hangs on our kitchen wall. I am from the dozens of bins and plastic tubs where pictures of the past are kept in plastic and leather bindings holding them close and keeping them safe for the time when their secrets will be unlocked.

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Honorable Mention Meera Swaminath


Grade: 9, Northwood High School
The Essence of Indian Heritage Eleven year-old Seetha carefully filled her pot with water as she cranked the handle of the well that was located over seven miles from her village in Tamil Nadu, India. After the pot had been filled to the brim with water, she let go of the crank and slowly pulled up her pot. Then she gingerly picked up the pot and placed it on her head. Though she was a mere four feet seven inches, weighing less than 70 pounds, she managed to hold it steadily upon her small head. Then, she walked barefoot, across beds of endless rocks and dirt, some getting into her eyes. A child of this age would have given up easily, but she did not, for she knew that her poor family was depending on her help. After two hours, she reached her home, a small village house located next to the Lord Vishnu Temple. Even though she knew that there was still plenty of work to be done in the house and on their farm, she felt a small ounce of pride in her heart. She had helped her family, in the little way that she knew how. 60 years later, fourteen year-old American-born Meera Swaminath stared at her math homework with a look of utter contempt. She was seated on a cushioned wooden chair with her legs on the table. Her hatred for homework was apparent, and her slouched posture made it clear that she was in no mood to complete Algebra problems. Moments later, she shouted to her grandmother, Seetha Patti (grandmother), can you get me some water? Instantly, her grandmother arose from her seat and gently limped to the kitchen to get some water for her thirsty granddaughter. When the water finally reached Meeras parched throat, she grumbled a quick thank you, whilst staring at her dreaded math, and plopped her cup on the table with a vague look of gratitude. You know, her grandmother began, when I was young, water was not this easy to get. I had to walk many miles before I could get to the nearest well. Then, out of courtesy to my family, I would not taste the water until my parents had. In India, the respect of parents is considered the most important lesson one learnt. Also, when an elderly person entered the room, the children would stand up and bow as a sign of respect. In fact, we would never have our legs on the table. Ok ok patti, I got it, snapped Meera, who quickly pulled her legs of the table. If life was so hard, then why are you so proud of our heritage? My amma (mom) always insists on following boring rituals and I dont understand why. 53

Well, Meera, my childhood was not just full of chores and boring rituals, as you kids call it these days, but was also plenty of fun. In fact, my favorite festival was Pongal. During Pongal, my amma and I would get up early in the morning, and preform the Pongal tradition of heating a clay pot full of rice until it spilled over the top. The overflowing rice symbolized the abundance of good wealth and fortune for my family. The next day, we would pluck large banana leaves from the tree on our farm. Then we would place each leaf on the ground outside my house and place small amounts of rice and curry on them. This symbolized feeding our ancestors, and in return, they would give us a blessing of prosperity. A few hours later, my siblings and I would gather together to watch the pujai (prayers) at the temple near our home, wearing our best Indian clothes. After the ceremony, the rest of the afternoon was spent playing games and eating sweets. These were joyous times for my family, and the stories that the elders told the children are things I will never forget. Wow patti, even though the stories we have in our scriptures are beautiful and descriptive, the experiences that people have are far more interesting to hear! Tell me more! Meera exclaimed, suddenly interested in her culture. After a moment, she asked, Why does amma light the oil lamp every evening and ask me to pray? The light from the lamp symbolizes knowledge, which is the highest form of wealth. When the light removes the darkness, it portrays the idea that knowledge dispels ignorance. Our knowledge allows us to make constructive decisions in our lives. By praying, we are asking that our negative qualities be subdued and our positive characteristics shine through. I never thought about how much symbolism and meaning our culture has! Meera stated joyfully. The two of them continued to chat blissfully about their appreciation for their Indian heritage for the rest of the evening. The next day, when Meeras amma told her to get ready to go th e temple, she did not hesitate to dress up. She draped herself in a long golden sari, clicked on a few yellow bangles that hung delicately on her wrists, and wore bright orange earrings and a necklace to match. Finally, she placed a red pottu (dot) on her forehead. As she did so, she felt her grandmothers words echo in her ear. The pottu symbolizes the epitome of our Indian heritage. It is something that sets us apart from others, and makes us unique. And she did feel unique. Her profound perspective was allowing her to think more deeply about her heritage. Meeras initial indifference towards her culture had now become a new curiosity. At her temple, she asked her teachers and Swamiji (priest) about the different rituals and ceremonies that they performed, and

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earnestly learnt the significance behind them. She was finally learning to appreciate her Indian heritage.

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Honorable Mention Jasmine Teng


Grade: 9, Northwood High School
The shouting of the vendors The bustle of the crowd The smell of the stinky tofu The noise of the raucous traffic The humidity of the sweaty atmosphere These are all part of me This is my home: Taiwan. The clash of the two opposites The swarm of faces, The rowdy night market, The whiff of chicken broth, The radiant glare of the lights, people shuffling against one another harsh and discordant The calm palm trees wavering over the sidewalk The sparse people wandering amongst the identical buildings serene and harmonious Thrown into an unfamiliar environment From Taiwan to America I was put to test Can I survive? Gone is the cacophonous bustle Replaced with the quiet of the suburbs Gone are the rambunctious honks Replaced with a friendly neighborhood Should I accept this Western society and discard the Asian conduct part of me?

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My Taiwanese heritage calls For me to strive for perfection My ambitious nature calls For me to strive for success I was born of two parents who fought battles of their own in a foreign country; now its my turn to conquer My father showed me how to be hardworking. My mother showed me how to be persevering. Nevertheless the tug of what is, and what will always be, my home the boisterous people, the smell of the fried foods, makes nostalgia arise.

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Other Notable Entries


In No Particular Order

Gakuto Kagawa
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
I am Gakuto Kagawa, a 13 year old from Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo is a very busy, crowded city in central Japan. It is a compact city, but it is the industrial and economic center of Japan. It is easy to find the latest technologies and products in Tokyo. Both of my parents come from southern Japan. Their families come from the countryside, where the climate is warmer and milder in the winter. The cultural difference in that area is that the people generally are more relaxed and humble than people in Tokyo, for example. In many ways I am a Tokyo person. First, I love technology. I like to buy the latest version of any product. I value trying new things and seeing improvements. Another thing I value is changing and excitement. I get bored with always doing the same thing. In this way I feel that Tokyo is part of me. There are also parts of me that I think are more similar to the people in my parents regions. Even though I like excitement, I am basically a relaxed person. I try not to worry about things very much. I most enjoy doing things at home or playing one or two close friends. I dont really like parties or big crowded places. My parents are the same in that way. That comes from the culture in southern Japan. Another thing I value is that I understand both American and Asian cultures. I can naturally switch my attitudes and languages according to people I talk to. I consider myself been modern, but I do have a character influenced by long Japanese history. I have been learning Japanese Kanji (Chinese characters) and I know how to manage all of them. Japanese Kanji is the symbol of Japanese culture so that having a good command of Japanese is to my great advantage. Perfect harmony of modern and old- fashioned ways of life is one of Japans charms. I feel lucky to see the values of both lifestyles. I have a dream of becoming a pilot. I would like to travel all over the worlds by plane. I think thats the best way to turn my experience to advantage. I am thankful to my parents for giving me the opportunity of becoming a bilingual and bi-cultural person.

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Jeongsoo Lee
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
The last name, Lee, Is one of the common names in Korea, But it makes me to be proud of. The last name, Lee, Represent the deep root of my family tree. The last name, Lee, Was starting from Cho Sun dynasty From the back in the days that Korean people had a king. The last name, Lee, Can be explained as the Kings last name Which represent one of kings families. The last name, Lee, Always makes me that I am valuable To be born from this meaningful and significant family Who ruled the Korea for five hundred years.

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Raveena Ghanshani
Grade: 9, Northwood High School
Was it really worth it? Was it worth the sacrifice of family for a future just within their grasp? As Pratush took in the last of the humid air and the sound of car horns in the distance, he trudged up the steps of the Bombay airport. His wife, Sonam, clung to his shoulder, tears escaping her eyes. Sonam thought of her two children, whom she had left back at her sisters house, in pursuit of a better future. No, she had not abandoned them for her own selfishness. She had sacrificed everything to provide her children with a better future and education. Nevertheless, she still could not fully cope with the guilt of leaving them. While she settled into her seat, she could not brush away the image of her elder sons frantic eyes as Sonam had tried to explain to him to take care of himself and his younger brother. Was it necessary for a mother to leave her children, even if only for a few months? The plane took off suddenly, jolting Sonam from her daze. Pratush managed a smile and took his hand in hers. It was the hardest decision they had ever made, but it was only to search for a better life for their children, and for the generations ahead. The airplane shakily sifted through the air at first, climbing slowly. A few moments later, it approached a storm. The plane continued with a willpowernot unlike the determination of its two passengersthrough a dense stretch of clouds. Eventually, the storm passed, and the plane ascended to its final height, gliding through the bright sky. A beautiful sun stretched across the horizon in front of Sonam and Pratush, leaving them in awe. Only when risks are taken, they realized, and the turbulent storm clouds are faced and overcome, did there exist a chance of seeing the sun that lay ahead. A few years later, Pratush and Sonam were permanently settled in America with their two children. Pratush searched for the occupation he had pursued back in India. A civil engineering job was not terribly difficult to find in the booming seventies, but the work hours were long and tiring. Yet Pratush had never been afraid of hard work. Back in India, his family had always taught him that those who worked with diligence and sincerity would find success in life. The family embraced their new life in America. When Pratush would return from work late in the evening, he would smell the rich aroma of sizzling garlic and various Indian spices wafting from the kitchen. Sonam had prepared an Italian soup, but added her own Indian seasonings to the recipe. The family had not lost their taste and love for traditional Indian spices, and further loved to incorporate the flavors of American cooking. While waiting for her dinner to cook, Sonam often pursued her hobby of stitching. Sonam sat on the sofa, stitching an elegant Indian sari, one similar to the sari

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she had worn for her wedding. She also began stitching a shiny holiday party dress for her neighbor, Shannon. Shannon had welcomed Sonam and her family the second day they arrived from India and had invited them to dinner. She had prepared homemade pizza for the family. Sonam invited Shannon over for tea, where she prepared a special Indian Chai and samosas, a delicious evening snack of potatoes inside a fried pastry covering. It became a weekly routine for Shannon and Sonam to visit each other for chai and new recipes. Though the family fit in quite well in the community, Sonam frequently felt nostalgic and called her siblings in India. To ease her homesickness, the family opened themselves to the community living near them and made numerous friends. The thoughts of the various possibilities in her sons futures, of bettering her childrens education, opportunities, and the freedom they had to follow their hearts, reinforced her decision of moving to America. These were all important family values that she realized were necessary for her sons. Only five years later, Sonam and Pratushs elder son, Sameer, stood at the podium of Orchard High School, smiling at his parents and giving the graduation speech. We all come from somewhere on this Earth. But the beauty is that we all have assembled here today on this small part of the Earth, coming together and being a part of a diverse family. As he continued, Pratush could not help but agree more with his sons words. Sameer and his younger brother, Aditya, went on to become successful in their careers, following their passions and working hard to achieve their goals. Of course, they all continued to value their Indian culture greatly, but they embraced and adapted American culture as well. They were proud Indian-Americans who had prospered by following their dreams.

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Amira Asturias
Grade: 9, Irvine High School
A fifteen year old girl with some struggles in her life. That is me, Amira Asturias. I was born in the Philippines in 1997 and lived my young childhood memories there. My mom was born in the Philippines and so was my dad. They lived in different parts of the country and actually met in Saudi Arabia. In Saudi, they worked and were introduced together by a friend of theirs. In 2007, there was a tragic accident including my father and he unfortunately left the world. Because of that, my family moved to California to start a new beginning with the help of our wonderful family. When we moved here, I didnt know what to except. I had no idea what life was like here but I just knew that it was going to be different. I was right, but not entirely right. Of course life here was different. Different language, different laws, different school policies, and different people I was used to seeing. I had to adjust but it wasnt so difficult for me. People were really nice and my family that lived here helped a lot. We still celebrated the holidays and continued the traditions we had in the Philippines. When we have parties, it feels just like home. Everyone is all together, we play similar games like in the Philippines, the food is fantastic, and we just have a good laugh. Because I lived and studied in the Philippines, I have a good knowledge of the history and what life is like there. In the Philippines, everyone in town is close to each other. Everyone knows each other, the houses are pretty much open for everyone. It had a good vibe there, the whole town was somehow connected to each other some way. Even here, if you saw a Filipino, they would be friendly and talk to you in tagalog and I just get that warm feeling inside. It feels good how even though we dont know each other, we can still connect. We can relate to each other. I think life there is easier. Of course here its different. There are so many cultures but its nice to learn about different cultures from other people too. My family's the most important people to me. They are the one who is there for me no matter what happens. Even though I feel lonely sometimes, I know that they care for me. Even though I love my life here in California, I am glad to spend those happy years in Philippines.

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Hyunjee Cho
Grade: 8, South Lake Middle School
Mysteries of Harris Burdick Descriptive Narrative: Mr. Lindens Library He had warned her about the book, now it was too late. Sadly, she has taken the book. Mr. Linden shook his head and clicked his tongue with a look of disdain on his face. Kids these days he thought to himself, they never listen to you. Now she is going to have to pay for her consequences, and Ill have to help her out of this trouble like I do with all the other kids who dont listen. Tiana ran with the brown sturdy book in her hand searching for an acceptable place to read the book. After a long time of running and searching, she found a good peaceful place. It was a small clean looking area surrounded by low-cut grass, spotted with pretty little flowers sitting around randomly. On the fresh green grass was a lone tree, wilted but defiant, claiming its spot on the fresh green grass. Tiana roughly sat down, leaning against the hard bark of the tree and placed the book, old and dusty, and placed it on her lap, examining it like an archaeologist. It was an old sturdy book with elegant italic letters that seemed to dance across the book putting her in a trance. Oh how lovely the writing is she thought, continuing to look over the book, but besides the beautiful letters everything else looked rather dull and boring. I dont get it. Why did Mr. Linden refuse to let me look at this book? I mean, its a library I can look at any kind of book I want! Whats so special about this book? Mr. Linden was all jumpy when I just touched the book. Still thinking, she opened the book and WHOOSH! A swirl of winds surrounded her whipping her hair and disturbing the grass around her. The flowers shook back and forth violently as the leaves on the tree was falling of the branches while it was still green. Tiana tensed up and clamped down onto the thick edges of the book hard looking around frantically trying to figure out what was going on. Whwhat the heck was that? Did I do something wrong? What if I unleashed something horrible? I didnt ruin the book right? What would Mr. Linden say? Nonsense! She screamed in her head half-jokingly still doubting herself believing something horrific was going to happen. She looked around to see if any strangers on the park noticed the weird wind but no one looked as if they had seen something odd. They were calm, relaxed, not a care in the world. Kids chasing each other, adults chatting amongst themselves non- stop, boys skateboarding, showing off their fancy tricks. Nothing seemed wrong. Tiana~ a voice chuckled at the back of her head. She turned around shocked but no one was there. She must have imagined it she thought. Keep calm, keep calm she chanted in her head. No big deal. She carefully returned to the book revealing a page about plants. The old wrinkly page was filled with pictures of plants. It was rather boring she thought to herself, but then this one particular plant was intriguing, with its long branches and the tiny prickly leaves poking out

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of the long sturdy branches. Groaning and dusting off the dirt and grass from her legs and back side, Tiana walked on home. Tiana arrived home, legs aching, head pounding, from the long walk home. She sat down on the overstuffed couch hand clamping onto the remote and turned on the TV her eyes focused on the clear TV screen. By 9 pm her eyelids were getting heavy so she decided to go to sleep. Getting up from the warm couch, she picked up the book she borrowed from Mr. Linden and lazily walked up the brown, carpeted stairs. Im going to return this book tomorrow back to Mr. Linden. You never should have gotten the book she scolded herself. This book is creepy and gives me the shivers. What kind of book summons up a wind in a sunny humid day? This book is bad news she told herself. Back to where you came from book! she said to the book in her mind (thought shot). Tiana~ theres that voice again! Tiana~ a shiver crawled down her spine. Suddenly frantic to be under her cozy blanket, she ran into her pink girly room, chest thumping, head throbbing, and jumped onto her comforting bed. She yelled, Night mom and dad! and soon fell asleep, still a bit shaken up from the book she was definitely going to return tomorrow. She awoke to a slight jerking sensation around her ankle and woke up dazed. She looked down to her ankle and noticed branches growing and growing encircling her ankle going up her legs. Her eyes widened in terror as she kicked at the branches with all her might trying to scramble away from the branches that never seems to stop growing. She saw it crawl up on her sheets, ominous and menacing, slowly wrapping around her ankle again more tightly this time, forcing out a yelp of pain (BS#4). She tried kicking again but cut herself against the prickly thorns on the branches, drawing up bright red blood on her tanned skin. The branches continued to go around and around her body pulling her towards the dirty old book she got from the library. Tiana gripped at the edges of the bed, her knuckles turning ghost white and pain building up in her fingers. She squirmed under the tough branches but it was no use half sobbing, she was pulled down into the book and enveloped into darkness. Tiana~ Tiana~ you opened the book. A voice purred. She opened her eyes to face more darkness before her. whwhats going on? you opened the book. The voice purred again. Frightened and shocked Tiana jumped up and ran towards who knows where? Tiana ran and ran with tears down her face in utter fear. Run, run all you want but Ill still catch you the voice chuckled. Go away! Go way! Tiana shrieked making her throat soar. Her feet flying across the hard ground, she heard the chuckles and snorts of the voice echoing across the thin air, why wont it leave me alone?!? Hopeless, Tiana fell to the ground and sobbed, salty warm tears trickling down her face. I shouldnt have taken the book. Why didnt I listen? Help me Mr. Linden help me. I never wouldve taken the book if I knew something like this would happen. I want things to go back to normal! She was getting tired so she closed her eyes wearily; waiting for something to happen and somehow she fell into a deep sleep.

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Wake up Tiana! Are you ok? Tiana opened her eyes slightly scared the voice was talking to her but soon noticed it was her mom leaning over wearing her Guess necklace her face crinkled with concern. whwhat happened? Tiana asked. well, I came here to wake you up but and you wouldnt and I got really worried. Then out of nowhere Mr. Linden popped in and told me he knew what to do and uh here you are now, awake. Tianas mom said carefully. mom, can I talk to Mr. Linden? Tianas mom just nodded and left the room. A short while later Mr. Linden appeared, short and weary, wearing a gray suit along with his shiny black shoes that gave off a glare from the sunlight that was coming through her window. Hi Mr. Lin- Hello Tiana, uhh.. I know you have a lot questions you want to ask but I seem to be in quite a hurry and I cant answer your questions and I dont really intend to share you some knowledge about the book anyway because you knowing will be too big a burden for you so, I hope you understand. I have taken care of the book you took without my permission and uhhhyou wont have any problems with it. Everything will go back to normal so just relax and I bid you a good day! With that Mr. Linden left leaving Tiana there, her head full of questions that will never be answered. Sighing Tiana got up, went to the bathroom and got her favorite toothpaste, a clean new Colgate, and brushed her teeth getting ready for a whole new NORMAL day.

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Shan Yu
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
Nobody knows their exact background, but I sure represent a true Taiwanese. Since the time I came to be around, I learned how to live with my beliefs. Though distanced from where I was born now, I followed the precepts I was taught through. It is hard to get all the know- how, but I am living to my best in the name of Shan Yu.

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Matthew Tsuneshige
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
My name is Matthew Francisco Foo Tsuneshige. I used to be embarrassed that my name was so long but my parents told me that each part of my name showed my heritage. Matthew was meant to reflect my American heritage, Francisco my Peruvian heritage, Foo my Chinese side, and Tsuneshige is my Japanese side. My mom also wanted to give me a Hawaiian name for my Hawaiian culture but was afraid my name wouldnt fit on anything. I am American but my heritage also has Chinese, Japanese, Peruvian, and Hawaiian cultures. My moms Chinese side came to the United States in the 1800s and there is seven generations here in California . My moms Japanese side went to Hawaii. My dads family left Japan and went to Peru, South America. Some people think Im joking when I tell them about my heritage coming from so many places. What I like best about my heritage is that its so mixed, so different. I also love the foods that are from my heritage and cultures. Ramen, Lomo Saltado de Carne, salt and pepper shrimp, and Loco Moco delicious! Having a heritage so mixed is unusual but makes me feel good and proud. Sometimes its confusing to hear my dad speak Spanish, Japanese, Portugese and English that I lose track of what hes saying. I think its amazing that my family comes from so many different places. Another part of my heritage is my moms side came from a farm area in Northern California. They learned how to hunt, farm, milk cows, shoot rifles and fish. They can live off the land. I like this heritage because its like survival and my uncle is teaching me a lot about it. My uncle is teaching me a lot about things that no one would believe that I am doing. My parents and grandparents teach me all the time about my heritage and cultures. They tell me stories about my family and how they came to the United States. My moms Chinese side came in the year 1861 from Chin a to San Francisco. They came to find gold but ended up running a gambling business for other Chinese. My moms Japanese side came to work in the sugar cane fields in Hawaii. My great grandmother was born in Hawaii but when her parents died, she was sent to be a maid in California. Both sides met in Marysville during the gold rush and then my grandparents got together. My dads side left Japan to go to South America for gold and to do better in life. My grandparents from my dads side were born in Peru. I find it interesting when I see people who look like me speaking Spanish like my cousins. My dad moved to the United States 25 years ago. He said Peru was a hard place to live and they had lots of fighting

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and it was a very poor country. So he tells me every day to appreciate what I have and what I will be given in the future.

My heritage might be unusual to others but seems normal to me. Eating Japanese, Chinese, Peruvian, Hawaiian, and American foods during dinner is delicious. Hearing and speaking English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and Hawaiian is normal too. I like my heritage, Im proud of it and it makes me who I am, just a normal American boy.

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Yejin Hong
Grade: 10, Irvine High School
Unexpectedly and on a sudden, a shock hammered me as I found myself unable to identify the reason of my life. This question hovered around until my mind was too occupied to concentrate on other daily components. Since I was young to find the solution by myself, my father advised me to establish my identity first of all. I have looked for my identity ever since. Who am I? Why am I living? What I am living for? Only recently was I able to resolve these conflicting feelings of my identity after living in America for a year. Since the elementary school, I was an academically strong and achieved student. I always have got A on the tests and occupied the first place in class. My parents were proud of me, and because I liked my parents being proud of me, I accepted this way of life as my way of life. But as I grew up and got into the middle school, suddenly a doubt came up to me: is this way really my way? It started since I couldnt answer when I cast a question why I had to be obsessed with getting better grades. And then the time and efforts spent on studying were felt as vainly wasted. Had I been studying for nothingness? I couldnt study merely for my parents anymore; I began to think there should be more than satisfying my parents in my life. Confusion of my identity was the next thing I had to suffer; what should I live for if studying was not the one? But Korean oppressive educational system put me into incessant tests and rivalry between friends, and I was left just insufficient time to think about myself. With all of these factors, I became unnerved and tired. As it was decided by my parents to immigrate to America, however, I was revived in expectancy of Americas difference from Korea. America has liberal education in wider extent of subjects, as I was often heard. It became a solid fact to me that Americas unique educational system and atmosphere would give me the solution of my problem. Excitement, anticipation, and curiosity were all I felt for America; but not fear. I could not imagine that I would be struggling in the most unexpected area: friends. It was harder to overcome cultural and lingual barriers than I thought. On the first two weeks at school, I was quiet and almost speechless. Even though time went, I got timid because of fear that other people would not understand my pronunciations. What was the most insufferable was that I could not get into deeper friendship. With my limited English skills, I could not go further from conversing formal greetings or asking for help. These feelings had to be kept inside me silently. It was not that I fully escaped Koreas educational background supremacy when I moved to America. Expectation from my teachers and relatives seemed to follow me across the

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border line. No other universities suited for me except for Harvard, they thought. How could I say to them that I have a problem in making friends and want to go back to Korea? One day, on a call from my grandfather, I had to lie that I was getting along in America perfectly well both socially and academically as I heard his convinced, firm voice. I was depressed, and even miserable, and these negative feelings lasted for over two months. But surprisingly, everything looked differently since I tried to view them in different ways. I was not alone; even though it was a slow process, I have got some friends who understood me. They listened carefully to my grammatically incorrect, clumsy English. After finding that I was quite good at math, they admired me and asked me for help. Now I held more positive views. I gradually realized that I was given valuable opportunities here in America. I have always wanted to learn French because of admiration for its fame as the romantic language, but there was not really any chance to learn it in Korea. On the first day of school in America, I gladly chose French for my foreign language class and fell in love with it. Learning new words, grammatical system and its unique pronunciation fascinated me, and stimulated my desire to learn other foreign languages. Also, by chance I was assigned to teach Korean to Korean-Americans at church every week. I did not take this job seriously at first, but I started to spend more time to find effective ways to teach Korean to those who were accustomed to English. I thought about unfamiliarity I faced when I learned English, and imagined how Korean could be unfamiliar to English speakers. Observing similarity and differences between English and Korean opened my eyes into linguistics. And I learned I felt proud after teaching someone. Linguistics and teaching gave me happiness, and this happiness originally came from me. I invested more time on them, and they directed my future specifically. In the future, I will learn other foreign languages and teach my knowledge to people. I will major in linguistics in university to study it in depth. Making these decisions all by myself, I felt confident and achieved. This sense of accomplishment was different from the one I felt in Korea. And I finally found my identity. I lived for values that I set up. The reason of my life became clear as I became the one who led my life. It took a long time and a distance over the Pacific Ocean to understand the heritage given to me, which is my identity. It is I who is doing what I like among friends who acknowledge me.

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Anushka Rastogi
Grade: 10, Northwood High School
A land that gained independence, By following the simple non-violence principles of Gandhi. A place where the love of a man to his wife was so great, He built a marble palace called Taj Mahal. A country where the spiritual mind originates, Through yoga and meditation. That is where I am from. A country of many languages, That each derived from Sanskrit. A civilization that has flourished, For the past 5000 years. A nation where food, Unites people from all over the region. That is where I am from . A province where there is much entertainment, In the 1000 movies that are made every year. A union which cannot do without, Spices and tea. A home to mathematics and Zero, Invented by the brilliance of Aryabhatta. That is where I am from. India, That is where I am from.

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Isabella Pink
Grade: 7, Rancho San Joaquin Middle School
I leave my beautiful country tomorrow. I dont want to leave but I must. I will miss it here. My parents say the war is coming. They will kill us. The Germans. We are Jewish. And they are not. Why cant we all be friends? My parents saw we are leaving to go to a place where we all can be friends. It is called America. I am scared. I do not know where this place is. I have heard terrible things about Germans, though, so I feel that the change is for the better. All of my friends and neighbors have already said goodbye to us. We are leaving on the first train of the morning. It will leave at dawn. We must sneak away before any of the Germans come. I hear that they will come soon. They are coming for us. I am so scared but I know that if we stay we will die. I must hide now. I hear footsteps coming to the door.

Sunday 7 Last night I didnt sleep. I couldnt after what could happen today. My father i s in the most danger. He escaped the war years ago. If he is found he will be slain. They would make us watch the horrible sight. I thought about this all night. Finally just before dawn I saw my mother standing above me. I couldnt help but crying. My whole life was about to change. I suddenly wanted to run and hide. I knew there was no point. I slowly rose from my mat and left my house and boarded the train. The guards checked the train twice before finding my father. They pulled and pushed until finally they shoved my father outside. He fell. When he came up I saw tears in his eyes. Now I was even more scared than before. Suddenly there was a jolt and the train started to move. I wanted to yell out for my father, but I knew guards would find the rest of us so I held back. Just when I thought that I knew my father would never make it, he jumped on the train. His mouth was bleeding. And although it looked as if he had been holding the handkerchief to his moth for a while, he still could not speak. He could not talk for a while. When he could I asked what they had done with him. He stayed silent for a while and there was a distant look in his eyes. Finally he spoke They asked me my name and when I did not answer they beat me. Beat me until I couldnt talk. Then they left me. Left me to run. They knew I wouldnt make it, but I did the whole time I had picture of our house being blown up in mind. So I ran and I ran. The doors were closing and there was red blood dripping on the white icy

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ground. The cold made it worse. I am sorry Papa I said. After that we did not talk for a long time. The sky darkened and the snow became whiter, smoother, and denser. I slept. I dreamed of a wonderful magical faraway land were everyone were friends. I woke abruptly. Someone was grasping my hand. It hurt! I tried pulling away but their grip tightened. My arm began to hurt. Come said a harsh voice. No! I stood still. Who are you? Where is my family? Mama! Mama! Papa! Samuel! Rachel! There was no answer. I looked back. My mother was being striped. What was going on? The man with the harsh voice spoke abruptly, You must be checked for dieses by a doctor. Your family will be back. Monday 8 After the doctor check us we returned to the train. I slept some more. I was growing hungry, for I had not eaten for two days now. I knew better than to complain. Although we were no longer stowaways, we still could not afford to eat in the food car. We will be on this train for two more days. Then we will board the boat to America. America, the monster. Wednesday 10 Today we boarded the boat. The boat smells and I am still not used to the rocking. I am no longer hungry from my nausea. I have already been sick twice today. In one month, we will be in America. The monster.

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Jishuai Jia
Grade: 8, Rancho San Joaquin Middle School
Heritage, to me, is not something of physical value. It is of spiritual value not only revealing my origin, but also contributing to who I am and what I am becoming. I was born in Kirksville, Missouri, to a Chinese family with roots in Chinese culture. This heritage is made up of family, hard work/perseverance, and honor. Each of them signifies and defines the heritage I now call my own. I have never met my paternal grandfather. Family is one of the most important parts of my heritage. I reminisce about him in an old family photo and imagine how coherent my life would have been if I had met him. He was the happiest man on Earth when he heard about my birth. My grandfather could have come to the United States to see me as he had already got his visa, but he died of a heart attack unexpectedly. I believe that my natural thirst for knowledge was his blessed gift for me. I always look up to and value him in my heritage. I have grown up dreaming about a point in time where every member of my big family will come together for a reunion. I have also come to believe that a family reunion will eventually become a reality, and I will organize it. Family sets the basis of my heritage because it is part of my name. My last name, Jia, is actually my paternal grandmothers last name and I am expected to carry it onto my future generations as did my father. He is the eldest son among five children, and his mother chose to give him her last name only, to carry on her legacy. To me, this is something to be proud of and live up to. Every time I write down my last name, I remember how my father told me that inheriting the last name of Jia is unique. Typically in Chinese tradition, children would inherit the paternal last name. In addition, Jia is a rare last name, associated with a royal family in China. I go back almost every year to see my relatives. I am the only one in my entire family who was born in the US, but I feel I belong to both the US and China to an equal extent despite the fact that the two countries do not see eye to eye sometimes. My heritage incorporates hard work and perseverance that derive from both sides of my family. It all developed from time-consuming and patience-requiring tasks. My mother is a musician. She spent hours in college practicing the piano and Pi Pa (an ancient Chinese music instrument). Today, she doesnt regret what she did because she has become stronger from it. My father grew up on a farm. Every morning, he would go to the fields and complete farming chores that seemed nearly impossible. Dad tells me how when he was my age, he would climb up mountains to find firewood. Then, he would have to carry them down the mountain again and again. As you can see, there is similarity between my mother and fathers experiences. Though these experiences may be different on a physical scale, both tasks taught them the same thing: hard work and perseverance. According to my father, in his early teenage years, my father came home from school, only to find that my great grandmother had not started

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cooking. She had bad eyesight and struggled to light the firewood. My father was very hungry and eventually grew impatient. He got frustrated and yelled at her. That day, deep regret struck my father when he saw my great grandmother weep because of his impatience. Before my father yelled at her, she had already known that she was behind schedule, and was hurrying to try to catch up. Even today, my father still regrets his impatient behavior because he disrespected her. My father uses this experience to teach me that sometimes emotions get the better of you, and that we should remain patient and courteous at all times. To honor and bring honor to my family are two things I never mix up in my heritage. I honor my family by respecting my elders, learning from them, and upholding them above everyone and everything else. I bring honor to my family by working hard, earning respect, and by living up and exceeding my familys expectations in everything I do. Both sides of my family have honorable and respectable ancestors. I am related to the ancient Chinese Empress Jia Nanfeng on my paternal side. On my maternal side, I am related to a very high-ranking commander who took part in the establishment of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Both of them honor their ancestors by their good deeds. In my family and heritage, self-realization is dedicated to honoring ancestors and family members. Through self-realization, I build my own capabilities and realize my own potential. From that point on, I use this self-realization to tackle the world and learn from my mistakes. Sheer self-realization leads to arrogance, overconfidence, and no room for new things. When I dedicate self-realization to honor, everything becomes clearer. Only if I both honor my family and bring honor to my family can self-realization be meaningful. When I reflect upon my heritage, I feel a strong allegiance to the history of my family and their deeply rooted values. Family, hard work/perseverance, and honor are the seeds that have grown into my being. Heritage is the presence of the past. Different countries may have different cultures, but different people have different heritages. Your heritage makes you unique, and my heritage makes me unique.

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Parnia Kahrizi
Grade: 8, South Lake Middle School
Some things you can change. Your name, your religion, your life. But you cannot change your heritage. No matter how much you detest it. I learned the hard way. Years of thinking that you can change it, Came to no prevail. So I stopped.

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Tehmina Akbar
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
I am Tehmina Akbar. I am a female and I am 14 years old. My birthday is on October 8 and I was born in 1998. My favorite color is blue and purple. I like Justin Bieber and I love his songs because they are really good. I go to Sierra Vista middle school in Irvine. I have one brother his name is saad and have one sister her name is sarosh. My mom and dad are from Karachi in Pakistan. I am really glad to be with my family. We are Muslim and we are really happy. I was born in Pakistan and my sibling too. So my dad family lives in Pakistan. And my mom family lives in California now. I think that my value is that whenever I meet new people I always nice and sweet. So then they can become my friends. I like school because when I grow up I want to be educated and I want to become a police. So thats why I think that school is really important for me and that I should learn. I was really happy when I got to California, I loved this because it was so pretty and clean. So when I came to the airport I was so excited. So then my aunt came to pick us up. Then we went to her house and had dinner. So for half month we stayed at our aunts house and then we found a house and we had really fun. Because we could do what ever we want in our house.

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Steven Lee
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
My name is Steven, and the three most important things to me are Jesus, drawing, and family. To start with my family background, both of my parents are from Taiwan, and later moved to America as a student. Our families were very into the arts, such as writing, music, and painting. My mom is a piano teacher and my dad is an architect, which explains my love and talent for drawing. I also grew up in a Christian family, and is the second generation in our family to be a Christian; my grandpa, a pastor, had converted my grandma into Christianity. Ever since, our families have been very rooted in faith, and Jesus is what is most important to me. Ever since I was a child, I grew up in a church, singing the right hymns, answering the right questions in Sunday school, and simply "believing" I was a Christian. But it wasn't until 5th grade till I began to wonder, "Who am I? Why am I here?" When I had moved to California, I started to think about how things work, why we had to move, and how can God help us? Around that time I began to explore God's existence, and if I really believed he existed. Now, I can say I am completely rooted in God's love for us and that I know he is always here. The second most important thing to me is the beauty of nature and art. Since I am an artist, I see things more aesthetically than other people. I see colors, shadows and proportions differently than others. Ever since I was one, I drew on a magnet doodle all the time and presented it to my family during bible time. My mom and dad were always very proud of me, which encouraged me to continue my passion. Then I began to use more advanced materials as I grew to create more emotional art. To me, art is a way to glorify and praise God on how beautiful and unique his creation is. Without him, I would not have my talents I have now. Many people misunderstand my personality. I am an ISFP, which means Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving. As an ISFP, I live in tune with sight, smell, feel, look, and sound. I tend to be quiet and hardly express my opinions with others except to who are closest to me. I am very difficult to know well because I often hide my real self with anyone who is not super close to me. People who don't know me very well tend to see me as a carefree, light person. But I actually take life very seriously and constantly gather information to apply to my life. I also enjoy listening to people and often can read them perfectly. I am very empathetic with people and sincerely care for people. Sometimes, I don't give myself enough credit for what I do well, which causes me to be a perfectionist sometimes.

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Overall, I am a Christian who loves God, art, and family. Without those three, I would not be the person I am now.

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Rachel Kension
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
I don't know half of my heritage. The half I do know, Irish and English. From my grandfather. And French Canadian, From my grandmother. That's my mom's side. The unknown, My father's half. I know he's part French, But that's all. I don't know my father. He doesn't want to know me. It does make me sad. I will find out eventually, But not anytime soon. I have a step-dad. He's German, Irish, Swedish. I'd love to know who my father is, And who he was. I hope he's nice, When I do find him, I will find out his heritage.

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Sara Tamadon
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
Who am I? Thats a good question, I am kind, smart, joyous and optimistic, there is an infinite amount of adjectives that describe me. You could write them on a piece of paper and it would be the size of the perimeter of my house. You could stand in front of me and read off millions and millions of words you believe make me who I am but the reality is, thats all they are; words. What makes me who I am is the events that shape my life and the people who make my life worth living. Hi my name is Sara Tamadon and I have had an interesting life so far. I am thirteen years old and in eighth grade but Im a little different than any other normal teenage girl. I was born on August 17th 1999 a healthy baby with all ten fingers and all ten toes, to my mothers relief. Things were pretty good for the first year but when I turned two years old my mom found out my kidneys were failing. It was difficult for my family to realize what had happened. The doctors said that I had a week and if my mom didnt get me to America in seven days I was going to die. My mother begged on her knees for a visa stole me from the hospital and flew me to America. Where it took time but they fixed me up. It was at UCLA that we spent those first 2 months in. I consider my hospital my second home. Slowly but surly we moved into my great grandmas house we stayed there for about six months then moved to Torrance for about a year. I cant even imagine how difficult it was for my parents. My parents are nothing short of perfection in my eyes. They have given up everything for me and everyday I love them even more and more for that. They were both born and raised in Iran but are fluent in English as well. I was also born in Iran and am fluent in both English and Farsi. But my little brother was born in Irvine California. All of my grandparents were born, raised, and currently living in Iran. I was born in Tehran, Iran. Farsi was my first language as Persia was my birthplace so my roots are completely Persian. However my second language was English and I am growing up in America so if u ask me where Im from I would say my roots are full Persian and my stem is American but Im not sure what my petals are yet. I think that with time comes knowledge so as I grow older Ill learn what mistakes I made growing up and I think that its okay to make mistakes because mistakes are what make us human and that no matter how bad you feel, no matter how bad the day has gotten you have to remember that there is always going to be a tomorrow and you will always be in it. There are many things that I firmly believe in and that I would fight for. My values are extremely important to me. My list of values is very long so I will

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give you my shortened version. First and foremost is my family which is the reason I breath I love them with every ounce of my being and would do anything for them. Next are my friends who make me smile and show me that I will always have someone there for me. Third is being medically literate; because in addition to what happened with my kidney I was also diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which is difficult to deal with, but I managed to accept it because I believe that it along with every other problem will be resolved with time. My last value, which for me is one of the most important ones, is my education. Ever since I was little I wanted to be a doctor at UCLA, which is not an easy goal to achieve, so I try to work hard and do as much as I can to perfect my schoolwork to pursue my dream. So I cant sit here and write a list of adjectives that I think describe me, but I can write an essay about the events that shape my life and the people that make my life worth living. I suggest the next time someone asks you who you are dont just list some adjectives, instead tell them if you meet me and if you end up being my friend then youll get to know who I am in your own adjectives because Im 100 percent sure my adjectives are different from yours.

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Shayan Hassan Saeed


Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
My Heritage Is I am Shayan Hassan Saeed. My parents are from Karachi Pakistan. My family includes my brother, my sister, my dad, and my mom. My father is a pediatric pulmonologist (childrens lung specialist). He directs the Kaiser Permanente Regional Cystic Fibrosis Center. His office is located in Los Angelas and he commutes on the trains. Even thou he wakes up at 6:00 and spends 4 hours every day to commute back and forth from work, he feels its wort h it for his family. My mother on the other hand did her bachelors in microbiology and decided to stay and take care of us. She wakes up at 6:30 and first takes us to school and then takes classes. She also teaches and is quite well known around the community. I am a triplet being born with my brother Kashan Hassan Saeed and my sister Rimsha Hassan Saeed. My dad has two brothers and no sisters. His oldest brother lives in Karachi Pakistan and has two daughters and one son. He is a eye doctor ophthalmologist. My dads younger brother lives in Washinton D.C and is a Security Auditor. He has a son and daughter. My mom has 4 sisters. She is the oldest among them. One of her sisters live in Cambridge Australia and is a current an adult doctor. She has one son and two daughters. The other sister lives in Georgia Atlanta. She has two sons and two daughters. My moms other two sisters live in Irving Texas and in Mission Viejo. They have two sons and one daughter and other has one son and one daughter. Our family has a long tradition in the field of medicine. My grandfather was a doctor and my auntie is also a doctor. My uncle Is a doctor as well (we have a lot of doctors in the family). We are observant Muslims and we value, truthfulness, honesty, hardworking, respect, responsibility and perseverance.

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Gianluca Allesina
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
Who am I, you ask? I am a mix, you see My Dad is Italian And my Mom's from Germany From a village in the Italian hills Dad came across the sea Mom left her happy German home And made this land her country Now we are a family European customs fill our home Italian soccer, German sptzle The seeds of tradition have been sown Christmastime is especially treasured Pan doro cake is my fave Every morning I check the advent box For candies, toys and treats to save So you see, I am a true American A mix from other lands I value family, love and home And revisit my heritage whenever I can

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Justin Doron
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
Believe it or not, my heritage comes from all over the world. I am Justin Doron, and I live in Irvine, California. My background is from Morocco, Egypt, and Italy. My grandma on my dads side is from Morocco, and my grandpa from Egypt. Everyone on my moms side is from Italy. First, my family background. My grandparents on my dads side were from Morocco and Egypt. When they were in there twenties, both of them moved to Israel. Soon after, they moved to Canada and settled there for a while. They again moved to Suffolk, Virginia. Finally, they permanently settled in Norfolk, Virginia. Now, my moms side. My moms parents are living in Wappingers Falls, New York. They have never moved since. Next, my values. I am athletic and generous. The first day I was old enough to play sports, I did. From fourth to sixth grade, in the track meets I entered, I walked home with eighteen medals. Twelve of them were first place. Also, I am generous. My mom told me that when I was in kindergarten, I always offered other kids a toy, before I used it. Everyone said that they had never seen anything like it. Finally, where am I from? I was born in Long Beach, California on May 3rd, 1999. Soon after I was born, we moved to Irvine. We lived in a single house since I was two years old, but when I was eleven, we moved to a different house in Irvine. California has always been the right place for me. With the beach, the weather, and the tourist attractions, California is the right place for me. There has been a lot in the development in my family. From Italy, to Morocco, to Egypt, somehow my grandparents ended up here in America. Im proud of everything I have. My family background, my values, where Im from, and most importantly, who I am.

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Crista McBride
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
My Heritage My heritage consists of several nationalities. My grandmother on my fathers side is half Spanish and half French. My last name McBride comes from my fathers side of the family. My grandfather was full blooded Irish, which makes my father half Irish, a quarter French and a quarter Spanish. On my mother side of the family there is my grandmother who is half Polish, and half English. My mothers father who is full blooded Native American, which consists of him being half Cherokee Indian on his fathers and half Seneca Indian from the Baer Clan on his mothers side. That makes my mother half Native American, a quarter Polish and a quarter English. That makes my sisters and me a quarter Irish, a quarter Native American, an eighth Spanish, an eighth French, an eighth Polish, and an eighth English. Since we have several nationalities in our family, we embrace my grandmothers heritage by having dinner every Friday night at her house where there is always something served that is related to her Spanish background.

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Wenqing Zhu
Grade: 10, St. Margarets Episcopal
I Am Miracle She was the goddess of this land. Standing beside the window, her hand slid lightly on the hard stone wall darkened by ages. From the veranda that was high in the sky, she looked up and stretched out her hands in front of her eyes. The whole world stilly sat between her palms. I am a miracle, she said to herself, quietly. This was her castle, her own world. Walking down from the long wide stairs, she then jumped on the handrail and slid all the way down. Her robe flew in the air; she was a dove that lightly landed on the soft red carpet. She passed through the hall. The ceiling was high, and the crystal chandelier was like a waterfall frozen in the mid air with drops of water dangling under the warm sunshine, reflecting the glitters all over the place. From the mirror, she saw herself in the exquisite robe with fine silver lave. Looking at her face, she traced the lines with her finger: the shape of her eyes, her nose, and the edge of her chin Am I different from others? She asked herself in the mirror. No. Her mirror answered, quietly. She agreed. Walking across the corridor, she went into the classroom. The blackboard seemed like it was going to fall in any second, and bad words were all over it which hung there for days without getting erased. Silently she took her usual seat in the back of the room and pulled out her notebook. Under yesterdays note, she traced the castle that she drew in class again with black marker. She focused on the chandelier that was grand and glorious. She bowed down more to see the pencil mark in this dusky corner and then moved to the only window in this room. She placed the notebook under the afternoon sun. It looked great, exactly like what appeared in her dream. She pulled out the textbook, and the next second a boy ran through and the book flew out into the air, whirled and heavily fell deadly to the ground. She looked at

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the boy, and he looked back at her. What? he raised a n eyebrow, full of contempt, Do you think I will pick that trash up for you? Go do it yourself, nigger! She gripped her fists, but said nothing. Picking up the book without a word, she sat back and turned to a random page. There she saw the beautiful ceiling with complicated pattern of winds and cloud, and the stone wall that was dark and old. The road was broad and long, stretching all the way from the castle to the other side of the world. She stood on the veranda. Wind blew up her curly black hair like soft hands, and decorated it with sun shine. The crowd gathered in front of her castle with smile on their face; they were so happy that joy overflowed and spread across the sky. The kids were looking up to her with admiration, so pure and so real, like fire that warmed her heart. This was the world that cheered for her throughout her life. She was beloved by everyone. She wanted to say something; she wanted to tell them how appreciated and grateful she was to be loved by them so deeply. But at last, she could not say a word. The letters stuck in her throat, and the only thing she could do was to smile with the crowd. Tears ran down her face, and dropped on the ground. In the cafeteria, she sat at an empty table. The real world was so far away from her that she could not reach it. There was a transparent cage that trapped her inside, away from the people around. No one tried to step in, and she was not brave enough to step out. Her pencil danced across the paper. A smiling boy was standing with joy, and almost came to life. Excuse me? She looked up. There, a girl smiling at her sweetly was holding a lunch box in her hand. Im sorry to interrupt you, but theres no seat anywhere else. Would you mind if I sat here? Thats not true. There are lots of seats. Staring at her, she nodded slowly. Sure. She said. Thank you. By the way, Im Rachel, nice to meet you. Rachel smiled, and sat next to her.

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She hesitated a few seconds, and replied politely. Nice to meet you. My name is Furaha. After a short silence, Rachel suddenly widened her eyes: Wow! Furuha, did you draw that? I never saw someone doing that amazing! She looked back at Rachel with surprise. Yes. She answered simply. They are adorableI really think so. Rachel sat closer and began to look at the drawing one by one. Oh my Look at it! This castle, this chandelier Furuha, you are almost likeyes, a miracle! Do you know that? No, I dont. She replied in heart. But now, I think I do. She walked through the garden, and the birds were flying around her, lithely and joyfully. The colorful flowers bloomed all at once, delicate and bright. She looked back at her castle, and her people. Stretching out her arms, she put her world between her palms, and took off the crown. She smiled, and simply threw it on the ground. It fell on the ground without a sound, but cracked and then broke into dusts. With this world, she survived every hard day of her life. With this life, she trapped herself in this perfect but lonely world. But now, she decided to make the two worlds into one. Its time to move on, and thank you. Thank you, and goodbye. She stepped out of her world. Her castle, her garden, her people everything faded away and gone. The door closed behind her, and she looked up. I am a miracle. She said to herself, quietly.

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Matthew Du
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
My name is Matthew Quan Du and my heritage is mainly Vietnamese. I am also a quarter Chinese, but I dont know much about it and cant speak it. Even though I am Vietnamese, I was born in California, which makes me a Vietnamese- American. My mom is truly Vietnamese and my dad is part Vietnamese and part Chinese, but he can only speak the basic Chinese words. The reason that I was born here is because my parents had to flee Vietnam during the Vietnam War to avoid becoming communists and having their rights taken away from them. My moms family had a lot of money there, so her entire family had an easy journey from Vietnam to the U.S. on a shipping boat. The only person in her family that had to stay behind was her oldest brother, because he had to fight in the war. My dad on the other hand, wasnt as rich and his brothers and sisters had to split up and travel by small fishing boats crowded with 200 people on each one. My dads parents came to the U.S. a few years later by plane. My mom was in sixth grade and my dad was in high school when they came to the U.S. In America, my parents learned how to speak English and that allowed them to communicate with Americans. When I was born, my first language was Vietnamese and English was my second language, so I couldnt talk to anyone in school. But over time, I managed to learn and speak English, and now I can communicate with all my friends of different cultures. I am a Vietnamese- American and I am proud to be one.

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Henry Kapp
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
I am a boy from Irvine, California. I'm 13 and I'm German, Mexican, Italian, and Irish. My family and me like to celebrate special holidays together. Me and the other kids there at the party like to play video games and other sports and games outside like basketball, football, tag, etc. The adults who are there stay inside. We all eat together this big table. We also like to go to church every week at Saint. Thomas Moore. It's a Catholic church and we go there every week. My mom and me also watch the Saints game every week when the show there games on T.V. We eat food like Hamburgers and hot dogs.

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Thomas Bong
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School

My Heritage is a citizen of South Korea born from Seoul, Korea one of the oddballs of his family tree the second youngest of his family tree has unique talents in some of the arts

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Kamran Siddiqi
Grade: 8, Sierra Vista Middle School
Over forty years ago my paternal grandfather came to the United States after he received his Master Degree from Cambridge University in England. My grandfather was born in Rampur, India, in 1943. He attended elementary school in Rampur and went to college in England. After he studied in England, he came to the United States and received his Ph.D. in Comparative Religions from Harvard University. My paternal grandmother was also born in Rampur, India in 1949. She studied literature and science in India and received a teaching degree in India. She first came to the U.S after getting married to my grandfather in 1968. They lived on the East Coast throughout the 1970s, during which time my father, his brother, and his sister were born. My father, Numan Siddiqi, was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1972. He attended elementary school in Boston and later came to California with his parents, brothers and sisters in 1981 where he attended middle school in Huntington Beach. They came to California because my grandfather got a job as a religious director and he wanted his children to attend a better school. He went to high school in Fountain Valley, California and went to college at U.C. Davis. He went to law school at U.C. Berkeley and later became a lawyer in Newport Beach. My mother, Seemi Sidiqi, was born in Rampur in 1975. She graduated from college in 1994 and first came to California in 1995 after getting married to my father. My sister and I were born in California and we live in Irvine, California. Today, California is home to many members of my family, and almost all of my relatives in the United States live in California. We usually have family gatherings, potlucks, parties and other types of gatherings every week. I always have a great time spending time with my family.

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Jason Su
Grade: 7, Sierra Vista Middle School
A Heritage of Taiwanese Values, Stinky Tofu and More I am an Asian who was born in America. My family is completely Taiwanese, and I am the third American born Taiwanese in our family. My dad came to America as a boy in 1976 with his parents, while my mom came here alone in 1992. I was born in 2000, to a typical Taiwanese-American household. Such a household includes being respectful to parents. My parents have adopted many American habits during their time in America. The first English word I ever spoke in my whole life was the word "muffin", because I was hungry at the time, and I had heard the word "muffin" being repeated. My dad was the first person in my family to come to America. When he was thirteen, he and his parents flew here. His family wanted to live here because of the prospect of getting a better life. My dad lived in the motel my grandfather owned, while my grandfather earned money to make a living. My dad and his parents moved around a lot until they finally settled in Tustin. In middle school, the Americans were kind to my dad, teaching him English and American customs. My dad learned quickly, and fit right in with his classmates. Tustin was just the right place for my dad and grandparents to live because it was full of helpful, welcoming people. Years later, my mom came to America alone. She came here to go to a good university for a better education. My family's values include not wasting anything and conserving wisely. For example, when we eat rice, we never leave one grain in our bowls after the meal. I also learned that we try to be thankful that we are lucky enough to have a good life. Something else we value is to always be prepared. I apply this value in many aspects of my life, including getting ready for tests. If I study before a test, I can get a better grade because I am prepared. Another example of being prepared is when I play tennis. I can be prepared by practicing ahead of time, bringing my racket, and observing my opponent's tactics. Most of the time, this can result in the victory of a tournament. Another value in our family is being together, so that we can be a strong family. This value also relates to another value that we have, which is not giving up unless it is really hopeless. By working hard, my family taught that me I will have a better life than those who don't work hard enough. For example, the reason I was one of the top students in sixth grade was because I applied myself. Even though I spent grueling hours doing math, my advantage was that I got to be in

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the more advanced classes in middle school. This proves to me that I am likely to get better results, the harder I work. One final family value is to respect the they will most likely respect you and Showing respect can earn you valuable respect people, you will feel more relationships will be positive. people we meet. If you respect people, also have a better impression of you. friends, and give you a better life. If you relaxed around them, because your

I was born in America in 2000, but I feel deep ties to Taiwan. Taiwan is a country surrounded by China, the Philippines, Korea and Japan. The Taiwanese speak Chinese and Taiwanese, and even though the Taiwanese look like the people from their neighboring countries, they are different from them. My family is from the capital, Taipei, which has the world's second tallest building in the world, the Taipei 101. It is also the world's biggest green building. This means that it is the most energy efficient building in the world. During Chinese New Year, the Taipei 101 launches fireworks into the sky, illuminating it with amazing colors. Taiwan is a very busy place. In the morning, and under the blazing sun, plenty of farmers' markets open up, and countless people wander about under shaded umbrellas haggling over prices. There are stalls with fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes, and everyday items. Plenty of foodstuffs and various handcrafts are displayed. At night, the night market opens, and the same thing happens, except it is under the stars. Even though America is my home, I also feel right at home in Taiwan. One of the most famous things in Taiwan is the National Palace Museum in Taipei. It houses some of the world's most famous artifacts, which have been shipped overseas since 1923. The National Palace Museum has the famous artifacts such as the Jadeite Cabbage, the Meat-Shaped Stone, and the painting called the "One Hundred Horses". In the bronze section, there are weapons, pots, and tools they used in Ancient China. When I travel to Taiwan, I live in my aunt's house. My uncle, aunt, grandma, and three cousins also live at my aunt's house. I love all of them, especially my cousins, since they treat me like a little brother. When I go there, I have tons of fun. I get to go to the top attractions such as Janfusan Amusement Park, which houses the world's twenty-third tallest Ferris wheel. Moreover, my two cousins play Wii and computer games with me. I also get to eat Taiwan's delicious and mouthwatering foods, such as pork-fried rice and their famous stinky tofu. I feel fortunate that I can belong to both cultures, because I realize that both cultures are stimulating and welcoming. They each have a lot to offer me, and I can be myself in both places. This is who I am - Jason Su - an Asian American, and this is my heritage.

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Kian Varjoy
Grade: 9, Irvine High School
My name is Kian Varjoy, and I am Persian- American and I have the seen the harsh reality of denying my heritage. I was born in Beverly Hills, and raised in Southern California my entire life. Both my parents were born in Iran, and are full Persian, but both migrated from their home to a new life. It's hard to consider myself Persian because I find nothing in my parent's heritage to relate to. It's kind of pathetic on how little I feel like a Persian, I am your stereotypical white washed kid. My mom tells me how proud I should feel to be Persian, while my dad denies the fact that he has an ounce of Persian pride in his body. The sad truth is I know less of my own heritage than a typical American would know about it. But what I do know is how I excluded I feel from my culture. The most basic connection to another culture is the language, and I'm afraid to admit I can't even speak a sentence in Farsi. The separation is quite daunting, I find myself having a hard time having a conversation with my own grandmother. I was more in tune with the fact that I was Persian before I had to actually interact with people, what we know as making friends. I knew there would be challenges in making friends but me being a simple minded child never knew that something like the food I ate, or the language I spoke could stop me from making a friend. Teased and tormented, bullied for being Persian? A basic assumption of being the terrorist, the villain of America. It really hit me when I was excluded from sitting at the tables with quote unquote friends of mine because my lunch looked weird. I faced a difficult decision, and made the wrong choice- denying my heritage. Being fortunate enough to go to such an enriching school with so many different cultures and people this is no longer a problem. This is now a time to celebrate my heritage and live it how I am suppose to live it- as a proud Persian- American. So now, I can tell you my parent's story, because without that mine wouldn't exist. My parents both moved from Iran to America, during the Persian Revolution, leaving successful lives and friends in hopes of finding a new, better home. Having such easy lives in Iran, I don't really think my parents knew what was about to hit them, and the challenges they would have to overcome. Without a lick of English or any place to go, they had to start over. My mom had to get a job to associate herself with the new culture shock. She has told me many times about how her challenges in High School have changed her life and made her become the hardworking person she is today, because she, with no friends, no help, and no place to fit in, accomplished in finding her new home. Without a doubt the journey changed her values, from staying quiet in the corner while the men did the work in Iran to working for everything she has earned. As the years go by my mom wants to take us to Iran to reconnect with her, correction, our roots. It is astonishing on how I was once ashamed of my heritage, to the point of denial, because now I know that I am a proud Persian- American, with the desire to celebrate my heritage.

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Malak Kudaimi
Grade: 11, Irvine High School
America is filled with gorgeous landscapes and a culture that expands and broadens every day. When I placed my foot outside of the airport in Los Angeles as an eight year old, this vast land baffled me. The beautiful palm trees swaying back and forth in the wind and the distant glimpses of the blue ocean were a stark contrast compared to the barren landscape of Syria. The perfectly paved roads, the sturdy-looking houses, and the skyscrapers that rose out of the ground and pierced the sky like a magnificent sword left me baffled and in awe. Although America has now become my home and never ceases to surprise me, my family and lifestyle in Syria shaped me into who I am today. A country usually viewed as under-developed in the eyes of the rest of the world, Syria is where I felt the warmth of a family for the first time. Due to my fathers career, my mother, my siblings, and I settled in Japan for the first six years of my life. When I returned to Damascus, the capital of Syria, I felt alienated and deeply terrified of starting school and so I rejected everything about it. I sneered at the rackety buildings stacked on top of each other like misshapen pancakes. I shunned those who wore ragged clothes and had the hardened look of a rough life on their faces. I despised the interior closeness of the city and the inescapable feeling of suffocation that came along with it and mercilessly pressed down on me. I looked on with disgust at the light blue sky tainted with the billowy, gray smog of the hundreds of jam-packed cars on the streets. I prayed every day that my father would find a job somewhere else and joyfully whisk me away from my miserable existence. The fact that the rest of my family seemed to be happy and content angered me more and left me brimming with boiling jealousy. After school started, I slowly began destroying the stone walls I had built around me like a protective fort. My new friends melted the bitterness out of my heart and eased my sense of loneliness. At the weekly family gatherings that took place in my grandmothers house, I warmed up to my cousins and joined in on some of the conversations my aunts and uncles had. After a year had passed, I realized that the cloud of hate I was living under had morphed into one of affectionate love and understanding. With supportive friends and a loving family by my side, I found peace and felt joy at last. Along with finding peaceful contentment socially, Syria is also where I formed my values. My life in Japan was hazy; I was always living from day to day with not a care in the world. Entering school and interacting with others forced me to form some basic values. Syria is an Arabic country with a Muslim majority, and so my Islamic religion and Arabic culture guided my life. Watching the women of my family and those on the street cover their bodies with clothing and put a scarf on their head everyday exposed me to the concept of dedication and the importance of modesty. When the month of Ramadan fell upon the land, the long days of fasting from the bright rays of sunrise to the pink and orange glow of sunset

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taught me to always be thankful for what I have and to never take anything for granted. Going to a beautifully designed mosque, a sacred Muslim place of worship, once a week to memorize the holy book of Quran helped me establish my strong sense of religious conviction about Islams teachings, such as kindness, selflessness, and honesty. Social gatherings and invitations to parties provided me with some insight into behaving politely and using table manner etiquette. Learning to read and write in Arabic made me realize that hanging on to my native tongue is important and gave me my cultural identity. Finally, acquiring high grades and taking my teachers comments into heart built the foundations for my strong academic work ethic and convinced me of achieving success in life. The word heritage is often used to describe peoples historical backgrounds and which culture they emerge from. Despite living in Syria for only two years, my family and the unshakeable Arabic culture there have defined my heritage. Feeling the warmth of my familys love and developing my values in Damascus created my identity. Now I am a proud Arabic Muslim who accepts the American culture but never strays from the issues and ideals she believes in. No matter where life takes me and what objections I face, I will never allow my identity to be ripped away from me for it makes me a stronger and more self-assured person.

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Mustafa Salawy
Grade: 7, Sierra Vista Middle School
My heritage is a mix of different races, cultures, and languages including Egyptian, American, French, Turkish, and Moroccan. The two cultures that affect me the most are the Egyptian and American. I am a Muslim and bilingual in English and Arabic. Being a Muslim is misunderstood because people think it is a race, a language, a country, or a person on TV. Islam, as a religion, has a significant influence on my culture. Both of my parents have mixed background, which influences my heritage. My mixed heritage covers different continents and nations. Due to 18th and 19th century migrations and commerce my paternal and maternal ancestors moved around extensively. From my father's side, I am American, Egyptian, and Moroccan. From my mother's side, I am Egyptian, French, and Turkish. My father was born and raised in in the United States. My grandparents immigrated from Egypt to America forty six years ago. My father's heritage is greatly influenced by American and Egyptian cultures. Prior to my grandparents immigrating here, my family lived in Egypt for three generations. My great great grandfather was Moroccan and immigrated to Egypt. He carried my last name which is "Salawy." He immigrated to Egypt from a city back then known as "Sala." Now the Moroccan city "Sala" is known as "Sal." The Moroccan city of "Sal" is located on the north west coast of Morocco not far from Spain. The founders of the city of Sal' were known as "Slawis. The city of Sal is the origin of my last name. On the other hand, my mother was born in France and was raised in both France and Egypt. She came to America when she married my father. My great great grandmother was from Turkey. She married my great great grandfather who's name was Yusuf Saada. "Saada" is my mother's last name. Yusuf Saada was an international merchant who immigrated from Morocco to Egypt. In Egypt is where the merchant married my great great grandmother from Turkey. The origin of the Saada's were Jewish Moroccans who fled from Spain to Morocco after the Spanish Inquisition. Interestingly, my heritage has a Jewish link and even more interesting is that both sides of my family originated in Morocco because they fled from Spain due to the Inquisition. On my father's side, the immigrants were Muslims who fled the Spanish Inquisition to Morocco. Meanwhile, on my mother's side, they were Jewish immigrants who fled the Spanish Inquisition. Both Jewish and Muslims in Spain were forced out due to religious persecution. Morocco became the home for my great great paternal and maternal grandparents. I consider myself to be an Egyptian-American. American and Egyptian cultures have many differences. On one hand, American culture is a western based culture while Egyptian culture is eastern based. Moreover, American culture teaches you to be more assertive yet Egyptian culture teaches to be more passive. Furthermore, American culture values activity unlike Egyptian culture which values rest. In Egyptian culture, family comes before the individual

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whereas in American culture an individual comes before the family. In eastern culture you are more likely to accept things the way they are while in western culture you are more likely to seek change. In eastern culture, you learn to except less but in American culture the focus is on getting more. Additionally, Egyptian culture is more based on spiritualism, however; western culture is more based on materialism. Another difference between Egyptian and American culture is the food. Egyptian food is a mixture of middle eastern and French style cuisine. An example of a traditional Egyptian dish is "molokhia" which is a thick green soup made with chicken broth. Another popular Egyptian food is "kahk" which is a sweet bread baked for special feasts. Egyptian food is so rich, elaborate, traditional, and delicious. On the contrary, American food is unhealthy, greasy, and high in calories. Food is a major difference between Egypt and the US. Living in Southern California the cuisine has a south west influence which is a mixture of Mexican and traditional American foods. One other dissimilarity between the two is holidays. In Egypt, the holidays tend to be religious or spiritual based. On the other hand, in America the holidays tend to be on achievements, consumption and waste. Clearly in Egypt holidays are about helping the poor and needy by giving money, toys, clothes, and food. Here in America, Christmas for example waste trees and electricity. Different aspects of each culture have influenced me. From the western culture I have adapted values such as activity, achievement, and being punctual. From eastern culture I have recognized the importance of family and spirituality. Therefore, both of these cultures have played an important role in my life. Religion and language are an important aspect of my heritage. In America, the primary spoken language is English. Being born and raised in the United States of America, my first language is English. In Egypt, the national spoken language is Arabic. Egyptian Arabic is a dialect of Arabic that has influences from other languages such as Turkish, French, and English. Such dialect is my second language. Religion is another component of my heritage. I practice the religion of Islam. In my opinion, Islam is a misunderstood religion because some people think it is a race, a language, a country, or a person on TV. It is none of these! Islam is an Abrahamic faith and a way of life. It is one of the three monotheistic religions in the world besides Christianity and Judaism. Islam is based upon five main pillars of faith. The first pillar of Islam is belief in one god and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is his last prophet. The second pillar of Islam is prayer. In Islam, everyone is required to pray five times a day. We pray to thank and remember god. The third pillar of Islam is "Zakat." "Zakat" is giving 2.5% of your wealth to the poor. Doing this blesses your wealth and multiplies it. The fourth pillar of Islam is fasting. We fast during the holy month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset to feel for the poor in the world and learn self control and patience. The fifth pillar of Islam is "Hajj". This is a required pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims have to make once in their lifetime. My beliefs, my prayers, my attitude in life, my participation to make this world a better place are based on my Islamic identity. Islam is a big part of my heritage.

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All in all, I am a "salad bowl". It's ironic that both sides of my family trace back to Morocco and Spain. Obviously, I am heavily influenced by both American and Egyptian cultures. Despite their differences, they shape and make who I am. Even though I come from the two sides of the Atlantic Ocean, I am unique and special. I am bilingual, Muslim, Egyptian, American, Turkish, French, and Moroccan. Just like how lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots make a yummy salad, I am made up of different heritages, which make me a unique person.

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Harrison Zhang
Grade: 7, Sierra Vista Middle School
When asked about values, many ideas come soaring out of my brain. Mine come from all the different parts of my life and my past/history. My heritage, religion, and hobbies have shaped me into the person I am now. As a Chinese-American, a Christian, and a basketball player, I value respect, and obedience, integrity, and compassion, as well as leadership. As a Chinese-American, my heritage from China has taught me the important values of respect and obedience. I am a first generation immigrant, and my dad lives and works in China. As a result, we visit him often, and I have learned that China is a very conservative country with conservative values. I have learned to stand for, bow to, and open the door for elders as a sign of respect. Over the summer, I attended a Chinese basketball camp. When a coach or counselor entered the gym, we were to stand up and say good morning before sitting back down. Being respectful is an important part of everyday Chinese life. My heritage has also taught me obedience. When my mom was a kid she had a notebook in which she wrote her homework. My grandmother always told her to write neatly. One night, her handwriting was sloppy and my grandmother ripped the book in pieces. My mom had to walk to the nearest department store to buy a notebook and write everything over again. The severe consequences taught my mom to obey her mother. Now, my mother gives me punishments for not being obedient, even though they are to as severe. I try to do what I am told so I dont have face such consequences. One of the most important traits that my Christian heritage has taught me is integrity. One day I found a wallet at a mall, and I returned it to the customer service. For my integrity, I was given a coupon to McDonalds. As one can see, integrity has a reward: sometimes it can be a tangible reward or just be a happy feeling inside. Compassion is also a great value that I have learned to develop as a Christian. For example, one year for Thanksgiving I raised money for kids in bad neighborhoods to have a Thanksgiving meal. We ended up raising over $300 in 2 hours, and I felt good watching those kids smile. That experience has made me become more compassionate towards others. Some say sports is a waste of time. However, I find that untrue. Besides getting fit and having fun, I have developed many values playing basketball especially leadership and. My uncle, a professional basketball player in Taiwan, taught me that in order to be a leader I cant be afraid to make mistakes and always I must help others. This value has helped me in my daily life. For example, I cheer others up and Im not afraid to take risks.

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Family background, beliefs, and even hobbies can clearly make an impact on a persons daily life. My heritage and my values are tied together with my daily life. As a basketball player, a son, and a person, I am aware of my family and our values as Chinese-Americans and Christians. I try to be true every day to the values o hold from all these parts of my life. My values from my parents, my religion, and my hobby, have made me who I am today.

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Joanie Cheung
Grade: 9, Northwood High School
Work hard. Do the best you can. These phrases are the typical mottos from my Chinese parents. I am just another ABC, American Born Chinese, who lives up to her Chinese parents standards and values. Although, it tends to become challenging and difficult due to their constant lectures on how I can improve in my life and education, I endure it because I know my parents have one purpose, which is to make me grow up to be a respected, responsible, and intelligent young lady. Out of all the important Chinese values my parents have taught and shown me, there are only two that stand out to me, and have special value to me. First, education is the key to my future. If I had no learning, I will not have a worthy job that supports my living standards or a prominent reputation that symbolizes my brilliance. Most importantly, I believe with education, I will not be looked down upon. With education, it can enhance my knowledge of the outside world by giving me moral values, which include taking a test without cheating, and respecting the people around me. It can also improve my view on modern society. For example, when I read a newspaper, I can understand what the world is experiencing. Last but not least, loving my family holds great value to me because in a family, everyone sacrifices for one another. My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong with my mom and her siblings in 1977, so their children could have a better education. They gave up their comfort zone because moving to America meant not seeing their relatives and friends, speaking a language they did not know, and losing their current jobs. My grandpa was a supervisor in a construction company. Due to their immigration, he gave up his high position and became a waiter in a Chinese restaurant in America, which meant he earned less money. Besides the people in my family, no one is going to love me as much as they love me, so it is best to always treasure and love them without taking them for granted. In conclusion, education and loving my family are important values of mine because in my opinion, living with both of these values would make me a more humble and sophisticated high school student. Due to the sacrifices my grandparents and parents made to make me who I am today, I will treasure the values that do, too, dearly. I will never forget my values, which are to love my family and value education. Since I cherish my values, I hope I can pass it down to the next generation, so that they, too, can become more intelligent and respectful of others.

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