Prenatal Diagnosis

The science behind prenatal diagnosis

Prenatal diagnosis is the screening or testing for genetic diseases or other conditions before a child is born. Although there are many different techniques and tests, I will focus on a few:

  • Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD): During an IVF cycle, cells from the developing embryo can be genetically analyzed for chromosomal abnormalities - usually trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), trisomy 13 and trisomy 18. The parents can then determine which embryos, if any, to transfer into the uterus. It is also possible to determine the sex of the embryo.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to “look” at a fetus as it develops in the uterus. Since sound waves reflect off of tissues differently depending on the density of the tissue, the sonographer can create images of the fetus’ external and internal anatomy. Ultrasound can be used to measure an embryo or fetus in order to predict the due date, detect twins, diagnose heart and other growth defects, measure heart rate, look for signs associated with Down Syndrome, and determine the sex of the fetus.
  • Chorionic villus sampling: The chorionic villi are a part of the placenta that arises directly from the embryo (as opposed to the mother). They are, therefore, genetically identical to the developing embryo. Chorionic villi can be removed from the placenta and genetically analyzed to detect Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders. CVS has a slight risk (.5-1%) of miscarriage, and can also lead to amniotic fluid leakage and/or infection.
  • Amniocentesis: A fetus develops in the amniotic sac, which is full of amniotic fluid. The amniotic fluid contains fetal cells that have naturally sloughed off. The doctor, using an ultrasound image as a guide, inserts a needle through the mother’s skin, abdominal wall, uterine wall, and into the amniotic sac, away from the fetus. Amniotic fluid is then collected, and the fetal cells contained in the fluid can be analyzed for genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome. Amniocentesis has similar risks as CVS, although CVS can be done earlier.
  • Maternal Blood Testing: A relatively recently developed technique can detect fetal DNA in the mother’s blood stream. Thus, with a simple blood draw, the fetus’ sex can be determined, and it can be screened for a variety of genetic disorders.

Societal Impacts

While the above techniques may sound like wonderful advances in medicine, they also have their downsides. First, there’s a difference between screening and testing. A prenatal genetic screen - like maternal blood testing - only gives the level of risk of a condition, but it can not with 100% certainty diagnose a condition. Prenatal genetic tests - like amniocentesis and CVS - are more diagnostic, but also have higher risks for the pregnancy. And if a non-invasive screen detects a high risk for Down Syndrome, for example, the parents are then faced with the decision of whether or not to do a more invasive, high risk test in order to more accurately determine whether Down Syndrome is present. If the results of a CVS or amniocentesis indicate a genetic disorder, then the couple could be faced with the decision to terminate the pregnancy. At the very least, these weeks of testing and waiting for results can be draining and extremely stressful. Pregnancy can already be a stressful time, and these prenatal screens and test can add to that anxiety.

On the other hand, some parents feel that they’d like to know the risks, regardless of the outcome of a test. If a screening test comes back positive for a genetic disorder, then the parents at least won’t be surprised at the birth. They’ll have time to prepare, educate themselves, and possibly arrange for special care that might be needed for their newborn.

Some people opt out of the screens and tests altogether. They might argue that what’s meant to be is meant to be, and they’d rather spare themselves the stress and anxiety surrounding these tests and their results.

And finally, with PGD it is possible to choose the sex of your child. This is illegal in some countries, including Canada - but not the US. Given that IVF and PGD could cost $15000-$20000, the opportunity to screen embryos for genetic conditions and possibly select the sex would not be affordable for everyone. Is this fair? Should people be allowed to choose the sex of their children?

Personal opinions

As someone who loves science, I’m fascinated by these medical advances, and support further research into tests and screens like these. It’s exciting when new, improved tests come out that can help people get answers to their pregnancy concerns, and hopefully allay some of their fears. However, it’s easy for me to support these tests in a general, abstract way. It becomes more complicated when we’re talking about real pregnancies in my personal life. I’ve gone through some of these discussions and decisions, and sometimes there is no easy answer. I can see why people would be in the “no testing” camp - the screenings and testing definitely can raise anxiety and stress levels during pregnancy, which can already be pretty stressful. Still, I’m glad the tests are available, and I think they should continue to be offered to pregnant women. Key to this though, is that they need to be able to make informed decisions. Through discussions with their doctor and a knowledgeable genetic counselor, the parents-to-be can weigh the pros and cons for themselves, and then decide how they want to handle the conundrum of prenatal genetic diagnosis.

References: Nierneberg, C. (2014). Prenatal Genetic Screening Tests: Benefits & Risks. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from

Sidhu, J. (n.d.). Women Are Paying Huge Sums To Have a Daughter Rather Than a Son. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from

I wish I hadn’t known: The ups and downs of prenatal testing. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2016, from

Prenatal Diagnosis

The science behind prenatal diagnosis

Prenatal diagnosis is the screening or testing for genetic diseases or other conditions before a child is born. Although there are many different techniques and tests, I will focus on a few:

  • Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD): During an IVF cycle, cells from the developing embryo can be genetically analyzed for chromosomal abnormalities - usually trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), trisomy 13 and trisomy 18. The parents can then determine which embryos, if any, to transfer into the uterus. It is also possible to determine the sex of the embryo.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to “look” at a fetus as it develops in the uterus. Since sound waves reflect off of tissues differently depending on the density of the tissue, the sonographer can create images of the fetus’ external and internal anatomy. Ultrasound can be used to measure an embryo or fetus in order to predict the due date, detect twins, diagnose heart and other growth defects, measure heart rate, look for signs associated with Down Syndrome, and determine the sex of the fetus.
  • Chorionic villus sampling: The chorionic villi are a part of the placenta that arises directly from the embryo (as opposed to the mother). They are, therefore, genetically identical to the developing embryo. Chorionic villi can be removed from the placenta and genetically analyzed to detect Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders. CVS has a slight risk (.5-1%) of miscarriage, and can also lead to amniotic fluid leakage and/or infection.
  • Amniocentesis: A fetus develops in the amniotic sac, which is full of amniotic fluid. The amniotic fluid contains fetal cells that have naturally sloughed off. The doctor, using an ultrasound image as a guide, inserts a needle through the mother’s skin, abdominal wall, uterine wall, and into the amniotic sac, away from the fetus. Amniotic fluid is then collected, and the fetal cells contained in the fluid can be analyzed for genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome. Amniocentesis has similar risks as CVS, although CVS can be done earlier.
  • Maternal Blood Testing: A relatively recently developed technique can detect fetal DNA in the mother’s blood stream. Thus, with a simple blood draw, the fetus’ sex can be determined, and it can be screened for a variety of genetic disorders.

Societal Impacts

While the above techniques may sound like wonderful advances in medicine, they also have their downsides. First, there’s a difference between screening and testing. A prenatal genetic screen - like maternal blood testing - only gives the level of risk of a condition, but it can not with 100% certainty diagnose a condition. Prenatal genetic tests - like amniocentesis and CVS - are more diagnostic, but also have higher risks for the pregnancy. And if a non-invasive screen detects a high risk for Down Syndrome, for example, the parents are then faced with the decision of whether or not to do a more invasive, high risk test in order to more accurately determine whether Down Syndrome is present. If the results of a CVS or amniocentesis indicate a genetic disorder, then the couple could be faced with the decision to terminate the pregnancy. At the very least, these weeks of testing and waiting for results can be draining and extremely stressful. Pregnancy can already be a stressful time, and these prenatal screens and test can add to that anxiety.

On the other hand, some parents feel that they’d like to know the risks, regardless of the outcome of a test. If a screening test comes back positive for a genetic disorder, then the parents at least won’t be surprised at the birth. They’ll have time to prepare, educate themselves, and possibly arrange for special care that might be needed for their newborn.

Some people opt out of the screens and tests altogether. They might argue that what’s meant to be is meant to be, and they’d rather spare themselves the stress and anxiety surrounding these tests and their results.

And finally, with PGD it is possible to choose the sex of your child. This is illegal in some countries, including Canada - but not the US. Given that IVF and PGD could cost $15000-$20000, the opportunity to screen embryos for genetic conditions and possibly select the sex would not be affordable for everyone. Is this fair? Should people be allowed to choose the sex of their children?

Personal opinions

As someone who loves science, I’m fascinated by these medical advances, and support further research into tests and screens like these. It’s exciting when new, improved tests come out that can help people get answers to their pregnancy concerns, and hopefully allay some of their fears. However, it’s easy for me to support these tests in a general, abstract way. It becomes more complicated when we’re talking about real pregnancies in my personal life. I’ve gone through some of these discussions and decisions, and sometimes there is no easy answer. I can see why people would be in the “no testing” camp - the screenings and testing definitely can raise anxiety and stress levels during pregnancy, which can already be pretty stressful. Still, I’m glad the tests are available, and I think they should continue to be offered to pregnant women. Key to this though, is that they need to be able to make informed decisions. Through discussions with their doctor and a knowledgeable genetic counselor, the parents-to-be can weigh the pros and cons for themselves, and then decide how they want to handle the conundrum of prenatal genetic diagnosis.

References: Nierneberg, C. (2014). Prenatal Genetic Screening Tests: Benefits & Risks. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from

Sidhu, J. (n.d.). Women Are Paying Huge Sums To Have a Daughter Rather Than a Son. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from

I wish I hadn’t known: The ups and downs of prenatal testing. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2016, from

Advanced Essay Rough Draft

When I was a little kid, I use to watch the Looney Tunes every Sunday morning. I began to grow a connection with the show and the characters. When I was younger I saw the movie Space Jam starring Michael Jordan and that’s when I knew I was hooked on the Looney Tunes and basketball. I remember going into my dad’s room and seeing this picture of an all white background, with nine Looney Tunes characters with their heads down next to a microphone on a stand. As a kid I fell in love with this picture not even knowing the real meaning behind it but just because Bugs Bunny was in it. When I got older, my dad let me put the picture up in my room. Then that’s when I found out the real meaning behind it. On the top left corner of the picture there is a word that says Speechless. And under the microphone stand there is a name that reads Mel Blanc with the dates 1908-1989 following under it. Mel Blanc was the man who voiced all nine of the Looney Tune characters in the picture. The Looney Tune characters were standing next to the microphone honoring the person who voiced them since he passed away in 1989.

Everyday I wake up, I look at the picture before I leave my room. It makes me think about life and the actions I choose. Looking at those humble and symphysis Looney Tune characters everyday reminds me of my dad, my dad remind me of me. Everything I do , I do to create myself into a better human being. Every experience I go through, good or bad I look at it like a blessing. Everyday I look at what those Looney Tune characters have brought to this world and the impact that they had on people and I try to impact people’s lives the same way they did. One of my biggest goals in life is to just improve my way of life, my way of thinking, and my actions. The universe is a wild trippy road and I just wanna come out of it being the best me I can be. Without that picture reminding me everyday to impact this world like the Looney Tune’s did. I wouldn’t be the man I am today.

Advanced Essay #1-Geography and Me

I can recall plucking it from a bin at Ross’s. A skinny, tall red-and-black book with white letters on the front. Surrounding the title was a plethora of flags, representing the banners of various nations, from Japan to Sweden to Botswana to Brazil. It was entitled “Flags of the World”, and it would soon be my constant companion.

Even though I was born with Asperger’s Syndrome and so was at a deficit when it came to interacting with people, I became fascinated with the wider workings of the human world. “Flags of the World” was stuffed full of interests tidbits and facts that thrilled my five-year-old brain. That Cuba was the largest island in the Caribbean. That there were two Koreas. That Russia was the largest nation in the world and that Vatican City was the smallest. At the same time, I was studying a duo of puzzle maps of the United States and learning the names of all the capitals of each state. It was easy to accomplish; for when you picked up a puzzle piece of a state, it would reveal the name of a capital beneath. It was with these puzzles that I learned how the nation operated on a grand scale: the nicknames and highways and byways and the two peninsulas of Michigan and Alaska and Hawaii, cast off from the others. It instilled within me an appreciation of the beauty of knowledge, and humanity’s place within it. By the time I entered school, I had memorized all fifty state capitals, from Augusta, Maine, to Olympia, Washington, and everywhere in between. This interest in the doings of the world’s peoples and nations lead to a wider interest in history, helping me put everything that has ever happened into a grand sweeping context, while still focusing in on the little details which I love. It lead me to the hobby of collecting of old postcards so I can horde places around the world, and see how they have changed and morphed across the decades and centuries. It has given me the “travel bug” and lead to two trips to Rome, Italy, where I viewed the entirety of the world’s collective past in one metropolis. It seems that my interest in geography and history and whatnot instills a sense of order 6and understanding into my chaotic relationships with other people. It’s easier to understand someone else if you know the geographical and historical circumstances which shaped them. It makes the human race seem less intimidating and alien. One could state that my love for maps and geography of all kinds has been affecting my life since I started school. I remember clearly my kindergarten classroom, with my teacher, Mrs. Brennan, seated at the front with a large photograph of two children playing in the snow. Mrs. Brennan quizzed us as to what the image depicted, to which I raised my hand and replied, “Two Inuits from Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada”. I had recently viewed an episode of the PBS program “Postcards From Buster”, in which the titular animated rabbit from “Arthur” went to different cities in North America. In this episode, he had journeyed to Iqaluit, the capital of the territory of Nunavut in Canada’s Arctic regions. Mrs. Brennan was taken aback-in a rather good way-by my response. It was not so much that it was wrong as that it was unexpected-a kind of mental trick which I am apparently good at. Today, I still love geography very much. I know more about more specific areas than I once did, and my knowledge of national capitals and regions, as well as major cities and bodies of water, has expanded greatly. I can name several states of Mexico and Brazil, counties of England, regions of Italy, and islands of Indonesia. Meeting people from other parts of the world has also greatly increased my knowledge of how this planet functions. And do not even get me started on Google Maps-I can get lost in there, spending hours piddling about the streets of cities and towns and the roads of the countryside on Street View.
In conclusion, geography will always be my original passion. Even as I learn new things, geography will always be there. It has opened new doors of communication for me, and given me the skills to navigate both around Philadelphia and in places that I’ve visited on vacation. Geography is me; geography is you; geography is all of us; humanity is one big map.

Advanced Essay - Why I Left Progressivism

Why I Left Progressivism (Proud to be an Ex-Progressive)

I used to be a progressive, but I am proud to say that I have left—er, no pun intended. What is progressivism? When I use this term I am talking about the idea of a “progressive stack,” which is the notion that some people are oppressed, some people are the oppressors, and in order to solve this imbalance, the oppressors must “stand down” in the face of the oppressed. I am talking about the belief that in order to move forward, “imbalances” between oppressor and oppressed peoples must be resolved by the oppressors—that those who are “privileged” must correct the “inequalities.” Now, initially I found myself drawn to progressivism through the misguided idea that I was oppressed because of my sexuality; I identify as bisexual. Because of this, by the time I was in 9th grade, I was more-or-less a full-on progressive. But as the school year moved forward, I began to notice fallacies in progressive thinking, and I identified areas of my own thought that I began to believe were wrong.

So what inspired me to change? There were several motivational factors that caused me to leave behind progressivism. They were not necessarily specific events that I can remember off of the top of my head. Nothing emphatically turned me away. Instead there was a series of discussions, questions, and thoughts that slowly wielded influence..

That said, I do recall one specific idea that especially nagged away at me and probably played a big part in pushing me little by little away from progressivism. It was the idea of privilege. At first, I didn’t see anything too crazy about it. I remember reading, for example, those little comic strips that progressives made, many of them originating on Tumblr, that claimed the existence of pernicious “white privilege” and “straight privilege,” etc. But then as I looked at what writings like those were really saying, I realized just how overblown the idea of white and straight privilege is, to the point that it obscures the way many white and straight people live. There are many who struggle economically. Sure, for example, you could look at Philadelphia neighborhoods and compare Fairmount to Strawberry Mansion and argue that this is an example of some sort of “white urban housing privilege” or bring up “all these privileged white people living in the suburbs,” but at some point along the line you would have to acknowledge all the white people who grow up and live in battered trailer parks and rundown sections of small towns, or the fact that Asians and Asian-Americans (especially and specifically those living in urban areas) have just as much privilege economically and socially as whites. Seriously, compare the crime rates of any predominantly Asian neighborhood (with the obvious exception of Native American Reservations) or white neighborhood, and you will see what I mean.

I also remember one specific discussion that challenged my opinion on progressivism. It was a Friday in October in Ms. Jonas’ African-American history class, and we were talking about, well, privilege. I cannot say that I remember how the discussion was going because, to be honest, I was sitting there anticipating the wrap-up, imagining Ms. Jonas uttering a word or phrase in Spanish so that we could be dismissed. (No matter how interesting the talk, it could never be captivating enough to overwhelm that “last period on a Friday” feeling.) As I sat there, the question of privilege was brought up in the context of race. I remember hearing some students make a point about how “all white people shouldn’t be blamed”, a point that, by the way, I believed was correct and still do agree with. In response, one girl (who will remain anonymous for her own privacy’s sake) raised her hand and said, “Nobody is blaming all white people; however they still do benefit from institutional privilege.” While this was not an insane argument or response at all, by any stretch, it did get me thinking about some things. What was “institutional privilege” exactly? How did the institutions decide? Did this mean white privilege was strongly entrenched in society and wielding power—like an institution? How come did this make sense when I saw so many fragile white people? Were they benefitting from white privilege? Many more questions came to my head, and the habit of questioning continued.

Another experience that got me to rethink progressivism was coming across the idea of “internalized biases.” Now when I say “internalized biases,” I am talking about the idea that people simply have some sort of ingrained notion of who or what is “better” or “worse” and that it can be hard to detect in yourself and hard to change.  Anyway, I remember a day during my 9th-grade year while I was lounging about at home, probably in late October or early November, screwing around on YouTube and catching a video entitled something like “Internalized Biases.” (There was probably more to the title, but that is all I can remember.) Halfway through, I thought to myself “Wait. What are they saying? People can be born with biases because of their ethnicity or religion or something like that? Hmm, how can people just be born with biases? Why are they just assuming that some groups of people just naturally carry biases and if so, that those biases are done deals? It’s not like biased beliefs have a genetic basis. Aren’t the people in this video just making a bit of a biased assumption themselves?” I mean, I did understand and do understand the idea of learned implicit biases. However, what the people in the video were saying was just too extreme--that you are born biased because of your gender, ethnicity, etc. I continued to think, and looking at my apparent “oppressor”--heterosexuals, I realized that this did not seem right. Assuming that a group of people all think the same thing--and a negative, damning thing at that--because of their race, religion, sexuality, or whatever, is bigotry, no matter who does it, majority or minority.

In conclusion, I am no longer a progressive, and proud to say so, too. I have realized the fallacies in the progressive belief system, such as the practice of blocking people into categories based on race and gender, for example, are too easy, often represent a kind of bias themselves, and erase the individuality and humanity of others. I feel like I have been enlightened. I now have more of a live-and-let-live view and want to keep an open mind about the beliefs of individual human beings of all backgrounds. I also believe there is room in our culture for people of all backgrounds to work against any disadvantages they face. I am now a believer in personal responsibility. Finally, unlike progressives, I am a bit of a traditionalist in some ways. I support the preservation of traditional values, like the traditional family, involvement in religion of some type, and the preservation of unborn life—and, as for progressivism, I will never be returning.

English 3 Essay

At my house I opened up the draw and got the jersey whether it is old or new I always get excited when I put it on. Then I get the extra stuff such as a hat,wig,beads, and rally towel which makes me extra pumped. Then the next thing is me calling my dad to tell him I am ready to go. We begin to talk about Stats on the game and how they are going to win which always helps us stay positive.

Then that moment when I enter the subway and see the logo is very cool everyone is talking about the game and your pulse begins to rise up. Then the train speaker says Next stop AT&T Station and sports complex then they announce the stadium names. Everyone begins to stand up then the station comes into sight and then when the doors open it is like sharks smell blood they come out. You go up the escalator and then walk out the door and bam the stadium is right there you begin to walk up and you see more and more orange.

Then you walk in the doors go through the metal detectors then you give your ticket to the usher he scans it then you are in you hear that beep of the scanner then you’re in and it is the best feeling ever. When you go up the escalators it is cool you see all the players names and numbers then you start to feel excited. So as you get through that entryway and you feel that blast of cold air it is like the best AC ever and you’re not hot anymore. Then you see that beautiful rink and wherever you sit you can see it which is cool as well. Then the game starts to begin and those red seats start to turn to orange and more orange which is awesome.

Then the players start to come out and the crowd is getting into it and my pulse begins to rise. Then the players are introduced by the Lou Nolan and then the national anthem by Lauren Hart Which during the season is The star spangled banner and during the playoffs god bless america with a split screen of Kate Smith which is great. Then everyone is is so happy and cheering. Then the mohawk puck comes and says flyers then the road team and then now so an example of this would be flyers rangers now.

Then Lou Nolan says let’s get ready for some hockey than puck drop starts. Then it is officially game time and then I am excited. You hear all of those great sounds the hits on the boards,the players stopping on the ice and then the ice shaving going everywhere then the tape to tape passes and then the players shooting the puck to the goalie the 2nd best sound ever but the best sound ever is when the puck hits the crossbar. The fans start to cheer which also makes me excited during the game.

The worst part and most exciting part of the game is when the players shoot and shoot and shoot on the goalie and the fans keep saying ooh and aah like a thousand fireworks are going off below their feet. Then when the period comes to an end my heart can now rest for about 20 minutes we walk around and get some drinks such as the best ice tea ever that always rest on my taste buds because it is so good. The next thing is the crab fries which do have a kick to them that is why there is a cheese sauce with them. Then the game starts back up.

Then After the game finally starts back up and my heart is kind of back to normal now the other team scores which is a sword through the heart. Then as Lou Nolan announces the name of the goal scorer and then the fans start booing and booing. After that the players are getting scruffy and mean so of course we get excited and we wait for a fight so then as you can guess it comes the fight. It is over and then the crowd is energized and pumped up as well then Lou as you know announces the penalties then the game continues Then the end of the period.

As we wait 20 minutes my breath smells like crabs,cheese and of course ice tea the 3rd starts. The fans are rowdy and excited then finally after about 20 hits that looked very painful there was the tying goal. The game went to OT which means overtime the most scary experience ever it is 3 on 3 sudden death hockey for 5 minutes but it is the worst 5 minutes of your life. After that if no one scores the 2nd most scary experience ever is the penalty shot shootout a 1 on 1 shooter vs goalie. 1st round no 2nd round no 3rd no and then 4th the flyers score and they win 2 to 1 I am so happy and so excited. Then the sad part I half to put my jersey away for next game.

Advanced Essay #1 - What Will You Remember Me By?

Introduction This paper focuses on my legacy, how I want to be remembered. I included my thoughts on how I think people view me or think of me vs how I view and think about myself. I am proud of this piece but I also feel like I could of went into more detail in my body paragraphs. I am most proud of my conclusion. This is where I talked about how I want to be remembered and I feel like it summed the whole paper up nicely and it was a good way to finish.

Advanced Essay #1

“Hey, umm excuse me… Can I touch your hair?” random people sometimes ask me. I usually respond with a light chuckle and say “Yeah, go ahead.” It’s like I’m programmed because after I hear those words, I respond the exact same way every time. After people feel my hair they always ask me, they always ask “Do you dye your hair?”. And I respond “No, not at all, this is all natural.”. When I say that some people are a little shocked so the next question that people usually ask is “Who in your family do you get your red hair from?”. Honestly I don’t know how to respond to this question because nobody in my family has red hair, nobody that I have met at least. So I just tell people that I get it from my mom, her hair is the closest to red so I just tell them that.

As people run their fingers through my hair, I can’t fight to think like I don’t know this person at all and I don’t know where their hands have been, so what pushes us to say yes to these questions that people we don’t even know ask us? I guess it is just something that naturally happens. Maybe we are just being naturally polite or we just think to ourselves “say yes just to get it over with” without even knowing it. Not all people are like this or think this way but this is what is going through my mind when I get into this situation. Saying “yes” to a simple question like that just seems like the right thing to do, like it isn’t causing any harm and saying yes just gets it over with faster. On the other hand saying “no” just doesn’t feel right. I feel like that kind of just makes it awkward for the both of us and it gives you a bad vibe. Some people are like that where they just wanna go about their day not being bothered.

When people ask me if they can touch or rub my hair, I’m not going to to lie, I kind of like it. I guess it just makes me feel like I’m different, and there is something about my physical appearance that stands out from other people. Unless there are people out here asking everyone if they could touch your hair, than that is a different story, but I highly doubt somebody would do that. But at the end of the day it kind of makes me feel good when someone asks me that question. It makes me feel like they see something in me that don’t really see in anybody else or at least something they don’t see too often and that makes me feel good about myself. There are also the people who make comments about my hair. “You have a beautiful head of hair” is the most common one. I also get “I love the color of your hair”. Hearing compliments like this from people I don’t know, just brings a smile to my face

I feel like my hair is the feature that people think of when my name is brought up. Like if my name comes up in a conversation people think to themselves like “oh the tall kid with the long red hair”. Of course being the tall kid with red hair isn’t the only thing I want to be remembered by, because that is just something that stands out with my appearance. I want to be remembered by who I was as a person and the things I like to do. Someone who could easily lighten up the mood and put a smile on people’s faces with no trouble at all. The guy anyone could come to if they needed advice or if they just needed to talk to somebody. And at an athletic standpoint, I want to be remembered as a great baseball player because I dedicate my life to the sport. But most importantly I want to be remembered as a rising photographer of Rough Cut Productions… Nah I’m just kidding.

Advanced Essay #1: I Miss You

The air was crisp and clean. There was not one cloud in the sky. The sand was warm from the beaming sun and soft from the tide. We were so happy to be out here together. My mom loves the beach the feeling of sun in her skin is her favorite thing and she thinks that the best sun is beach sun. We walk up to the water. It is the beginning of summer so we have a sure idea in our heads that the water would be warm. The water was so cold my mom grabbed onto me in shock. I heard her let out a very uncomfortable scream. I would have reacted but the ice cold water froze me into place. We both laughed as we shivered. My mom, she likes the beach but, she doesn’t like the water, the shriek of seagulls or, the taste of salt water. I just don’t like the smell of salt water. If you get too close it goes up your nose and causes a sting kinda like when you eat wasabi but definitely not as bad. One of the best parts was that she hadn’t been to the beach in a while. The last time she had been here was with her best friend.

She was so cool. She didn’t have any kids my age. Heck, she didn’t have any kids at all. I loved hanging out with her so much. My mom’s best friend Ms. Tisha. She was my godmother and truly cared for me. I remember we had a great time together on the beach. Our family went on a vacation to Jamaica and we had went to less rowdy part of the beach near the bungalows. The sun was beaming and the water was clear. Clouds threatened at the edge of the sun rays causing shade and sun to alternate. We were relaxing and wading in the clear blue island water. I remember her asking, “Take a picture of me and Des?” It isn’t the best photo but it is one of us and that means the world to me. 

The moment my mom pulled it back up from our dusty Toshiba computer I was in shock. Five years can really change a person. I have grew a few inches. I’ve leaned out a lot especially in my face. My chubby cheeks are no more and I’ve matured since then . Looking back, I didn't think too much of this picture and forgot about it often. It wasn't until I saw it again, last week, in her obituary. It had been printed out into a small grainy image in the center. It felt weird being there but it made me realize how important she was to me. At the time life was moving fast around me. It was the first day of school, I had a good amount of friends, everything was fine, until it wasn’t. We had known she was sick but the shock of her gone left us shook. There would be no more game nights at her house. Those nights were fueled with laughter and smiles. Chips and dip spread across the table. Alongside the food were pokeno boards and decks of cards ready to be played. It always smelled of chicken that someone had brought from the store or fried themselves. You could hear the laughter all throughout the house as well as the jingles of quarters. Everyone bought all their change hoping that they would win it all back plus some more. I miss it now more than ever. I would never be able to be on her CatchPhrase team or be neck and neck in Scattergories. I would never be up past my bedtime yearning to call the cards as well as her in pokeno. I miss her. The last time I had even seen her was a year ago when she first got sick. I didn’t know how to miss her because I already hadn’t seen her in a year. I had never felt so conflicted on how to feel in my life.

No one really tells you how to feel when someone you love dies. In some ways it is rude and insensitive to tell someone else how to grieve but, in some ways it can help. I’m still really unsure on how to grieve when someone dies. I don’t take death well. It is kinda of like when you get a paper cut. It happens it heals but if you keep picking at it, it’ll leave a scar. I don’t want to forget about her but I don’t want to dwell on the past. Yes, it did happen but, she’s in a better place, probably teaching angels how to play CatchPhrase and making unforgettable beach days. People always say life isn’t a game, but isn’t it? We play around with death until it finally takes us. It could be quick and painless or full of suffering and failed treatments. For some reason I used to think that all adults had the game of life all figured out, but I guess they don’t. My mom is pained the most by her death. They were friends for over 20 years. I could almost smell the tears on her face through the phone because I knew she had been crying. The taste of salt welled up inside of my mouth. But, when you look at the bigger picture, she was electric. She left her mark on the world and for that I will be forever grateful. 

Advanced essay Nisa Hardin

What do you want to be when you get older?” I don’t know. “How about hobbies that you enjoy?” Hobbies? “You look like you’re going to be a doctor. Or maybe a lawyer?” All eyes were on me. My feet were shifted towards the other side of the room, ready to run. My mother peers at me out of the side of her eye awaiting my response, along with the rest of my family. Their eyes are fixed on me, necks stretched outward and heads tilted to the side to exaggerate their anticipation, half smiles on their faces. I can feel my stomach fill with butterflies, but in this situation, replacing the butterflies with matches would be more of an appropriate fit. My body sparks a fire and spreads quickly. My heart beats in my ears and my underarms burn. I was running out of time. I hated to have to think on my feet, especially when I couldn’t come up with an answer that would prove satisfactory.

“I guess I want to be a nurse.”

The room is brought back to life and everyone quickly returns back to their own conversations. I bolt to the bathroom to catch my breath, replaying that moment over and over in my head.

Why hadn’t I told my family what my true interests and passions were? Why didn’t I mention my journals, my poems, my books full of short stories and notes full of ideas? How I saw it: If I had told them flat out that I wanted to be a writer, I could already hear the sympathetic “reality checks” and looks of concern. Enjoying writing and wanting to take it up as a profession simply isn’t seen as legitimate, at least in my case. I started to feel like I didn’t belong with my classmates. All throughout elementary school I’d sit for hours trying to figure out what exactly was wrong with me. All of my peers wanted to be architects or veterinarians or just something that was generally praised upon. By 8th grade I’d concluded that I was going to have to find another passion to throw my energy into, because writing was just something you had to do when the teacher said so. Of course I loved assignments that required me to write, but they weren’t ever really as fulfilling as I wanted them to be. I was following a list of instructions to get me an A, and then that list was thrown away and the essay was thrown away and nothing was ever looked at again. I was gaining nothing. So, I took it upon myself to start writing whatever I wanted.

By middle school I had gone through one and a half journals that I had used to write stories. Whenever I had the free time, I was writing. I would grab my belongings right before lunch began, head for the gym and up the back stairwell. Dropping my bag below me, I’d blow the dust off my throne and try to get as comfortable as I could on a cold concrete flight of stairs. I would write about anything, really. It all depended on the type of mood I was in. If I had been out of focus all day, I’d find myself writing fairytales or fictional stories with myself as the main character. If I was feeling overwhelmed, I’d write a story that contained anger or even mystery, something that would keep me engaged with my own thoughts. The real reason I kept and still keep my writing to myself is because of the demand that would come out of publicizing everything I wrote.

It was my 8th grade graduation. I sat in the front of the stage and stared off into space as they called out awards for my classmates. A tight ball formed in the pit of my stomach. I had won a couple awards for theatre, but that was expected—they gave those out to everyone. What I did not expect was to hear my name called again. I turned to my english teacher standing at the microphone, smiling. She waved for me to occupy the spot next to her. My dress slid across the floor behind me, and I prayed for it not to get caught in my high heels and cause a complete disaster.

“This girl has written her way into my heart. She creates one of the greatest pieces I’ve seen in the 8th grade class!”

She looks down at me. I search the audience, locking eyes with my mother. She doesn’t look proud. She doesn’t look disappointed, either. I couldn’t read her expression.

“I’m proud to give her this award, but also sad to let her go. I’ll miss her constructed responses.”

The crowd clapped, my mother smiled, my peers praised me.

In moments like that, all the attention and positive feedback would have me thinking of ways to put myself out there and get someone to read and publish my writing. I still struggled with doubt, and had so much to learn. Even now I’m trying my hardest to be confident about the poems and papers I write. What I want to do, I don’t have a solid idea on just yet. But I’m hoping that it never requires me to stop doing what I love.

Advanced Essay #1: Only Child

“Line up to start heading downstair!” I was second in line with twenty dollars in my pocket. Everyone was fairly excited for the biannual book fair in the library at my school. I had seen from walking by the room earlier that day what they had in store this year. I was really excited to buy a poster with my favorite show on it. As we were walking down the steps, i asked all my friends what they were going to get. Many said books, a pen for their brother or sister, some said posters like me, and some said that they didn’t even have any money. It was just a way to get out of class, honestly. I was wondering where i was going to put mine in my room. Near my tv? Next to my closet? Behind my door? My teacher instructed us to be quiet while on the steps, but i wasn’t really concerned about that. Should i buy someone a present? But who? I don’t have a sibling who would appreciate it. I knew if i got something for my parents, it’d be small. “Where should we put our stuff when we get back to class?” someone asked “In the closet with your jackets, it should be okay there” the teacher said. As we got to the bottom of the stairs, i was so excited to be first in the book fair. I walked in, but was now conflicted. I always remember my classmates talking about their brothers and sisters; how they walked with them home or just their lives in general. Simply adding them into conversations or talking about how old they were. My school was set up in a way that if you had an older or younger sibling, certain things would be set up just because your family consisted of more than one child. When we would do things like the book fair, all of the kids in my class would talk about how they were going to buy things for their younger siblings and I didn’t understand why. Why would you buy something if it wasn’t for yourself? I have always had that mentality and i think it is strictly because i am an only child. I am not exactly an only child, i have an older brother. He’s fourteen years older than me and moved out when i was really young, so I just live with both of my parents. I don’t necessarily remember when he left or even how old i was, but i just know it felt like my house my emptier. My brother was always very reserved, so when he left the house was still quiet. I remember when i came home after school one day and his room was empty; all the furniture was gone and it looked like no one had ever lived their teenage years there. My family is very split; i have about five sides to my family. My brother is actually my half brother because we have different dads. When my mom and i would go to Harris family events, i felt as though i didn’t exactly belong there because i wasn’t related to anyone by blood. They made me feel welcome, though, everyone would kiss and hug us when we walked in. Christmas would be a loving exchange of presents and hot food that brought everyone together. Bright red and green twinkling lights hung on the tall tree in the corner of the living room. The dim lighting and candles would make the mood even more festive.


.1) Types of feedback that would be most helpful for the author: Use more descriptive words nice flow write more 2) Feedback from peer #1: Use of words Seems to have the transitioning of ideas down pact Can link together non relating ideas ? Can you relate it back more to the topic? ? How is this important? ? Does it have a bigger meaning? 3) Feedback from peer #2: +NIce story + Engage the senses + Structured well ?When did this take place? ? How can you make it more descriptive? ?

5) Author’s plan for revisions: I plan to read over my entire essay and fix any errors that i made. I read the feedback and i will use it to make my essay better.

Advanced Essay #1: You Will See Him Again

Have you ever had a day that completely caught you by surprise? In days like that, things happen that you never would have imagined. When you have days like that and you wake up after a nights sleep, you wonder if you were dreaming about the events that shook your life the day before. I don’t particularly like those days because of how they make feel, and all of the unanswerable questions that they cause to flow through my mind.

It was a day in January year of 2014. I had basketball practice. I had to be there before 6:30 am. “Madison, you are not going to basketball practice” my mom said. I looked at her with a distinct face. The puzzling statement ran across my face. “Why wasn’t I not going?” I asked her. I go to basketball practice every morning. Will my coach even care? Am I in trouble? “I will tell you later, text your coach and tell her you are not coming for personal reasons.” she told me. What personal reasons I wondered. With crud in my eyes barely looking at her I said “okay”. It was weird. I just simply went back to sleep. We usually go to the train together but today she didn’t go with me. She left me alone. It was a cold winter morning. It was a Wednesday. I went on with my day proceeded with going to going to my classes. I was in my freshman year at SLA. After my last class of the day, it was time to go to TFI. I got a call from my dad. “Hey Madison I am going to meet you at TFI after your class is over, I will call you back when I am here”. For what? I was confused or should I say puzzled the whole entire day seemed crazy. First my mom, then my dad. Everyone was all over the place. After TFI I waited patiently for my parents to come. The schedule changes were messing up my normal routine. First I would walk to Suburban from TFI and catch the train home and then do homework. “Madison I’m outside come to the car” my dad said when he called me back. I did not know what to think of it. I get in the car. I see the tears on my mother’s face. I didn’t know why she was crying or what was happening. I looked at her frightened. My blood boiling rising through my veins as my heart was becoming fearful. My dad came into the car. “Madison, you’re cousin was shot early this morning.” My face broke. I couldn’t believe it. I immediately broke into tears. I didn’t know how to feel about it . I did not say anything. My legs were shivering. I didn’t even ask which cousin it was when I first found out. He is still a part of me. He is very close to me. My mom use to watch him before I was around. Is this real? Or am I dreaming? My emotions were everywhere on the way to my house. I did not want to talk to anyone. I stayed to myself praying that I would see him again. I got home and just sat. I did not want to talk to anyone or discuss what I was feeling. The tears were still trickling down my face and I could not stop them. Everything was going through my mind. The fear of never seeing him again or even the fact of seeing him well again. We shared so many memories together. He wasn’t really a cousin, he was more like my big brother. I didn’t know who I can tell I felt alone. I instantly went to my best friend at the time which was Hannah. She was the only person I could really talk to about it. Her first reaction was trying to calm me down. “You will see him again” was all she kept saying to me. I didn’t want to hear what she was saying. I was filled with anger.. Who would do this to somebody? Why to my cousin? There are people out there that have no regard for human life.

Because of this event, my life has changed completely. I view my friendships differently now and I am more aware of my surroundings. But I do cautiously break boundaries with exploring new relationships because it’s worth taking the risk. “You can’t know what to expect , unless you explore it for yourself.”

I'll Miss You By: Addison

Getting up that morning was the most stressful and difficult morning for me. Not wanting to go to this funeral, but this was my great grandmother we’re talking about. Finding all black clothing to put on was sad to me. Sitting in the car thinking about her, but everything wasn’t clicking, everything was a blur to me still. Seeing you laying in your casket tears my inside apart, tears run down my face nonstop. Seeing my grandpa, and uncle on their knees crying in front of their mother was the most depressing thing to ever witness. “I’m sorry for everything, I’m sorry for putting through so much as a kid” as my grandpa said in front her mother on his knees. “Addison…” my mother called me “everything will be ok.” Looking at her with tears running down her face makes me want to cry even more. But knowing that my great grandmother is gone, I know that there’s 1 less angel in my life. Knowing that the lady who took care of me as a small child is no longer here but up there. As I stepped up towards her casket, flashback started to race across my mind, memories that I had with her began to all come back to me. Eventually, I dropped to my knees, cried and pray that she’ll come back. But it would be selfish for me to keep her here, just to make myself happy. “Please, please take good care of her” as I mumble beneath my breathe. I got up off my knees and I walked towards my seat as my uncle guided me. As people got up and say what they got to say to her, each one of them got onto their knees and cried. Seeing all these people that crying really showed me and my family how many people cared about my great grandmother. As they were about to close the casket, everybody stormed towards her and tears began to gush out of people eyes. “Mom, mom! Noooo…” As my grandpa and uncle cried. “Watch your hands,” as one man told everyone before shutting the casket. Everyone gather around the casket putting their hands on top of it, as the two men struggle to carry it out. People gather around the outside of the funeral home because of the loud band that plays as we carried the casket to the hearse. It took forever for us to get the cemetery. But as we drove into the cemetery there was bands playing songs. As I got out of the van, I saw a deep hole where the my great grandma is going to go. “Well this is the last time where we can actually be close to her” my cousin said. I looked up into the sky knowing that she’s back with her husband and she now looking over us. As the casket was being lower into the ground, all I wish for was for my family and friends to know that it has been a good life for my great grandmother.

Advanced Essay #1 William Figueiredo

This essay was written as a way of getting many things off of my chest. Especially a very important memory that I hold deep in my heart. writing this essay was extremely relieving as it allowed me to remember something I haven’t thought of in a long time. I am proud to share this memory and writing as I am extremely afraid of sharing these types of things. I do need to work on my description of things, as well as adding more life into my writing.

“My leg hurts…” I cried to myself as I sat on my bed in a medical room. The room was extremely clean, with glossy white walls and floor, as well as white everything. The only things keeping the room from being completely white was the small decorations of random Brazilian cartoon characters that littered the room. I was in pain. The slightest movement I made caused my body to feel like millions of needles covered in alcohol were slowly piercing through my body. I had suffered an infection in the thigh bone of my left leg and would be having a surgery soon. A serious surgery. Surgeries scared me. I’ve heard stories from cousins that had experienced it before, and they were not pleasant. I was tired. My body felt weak, fragile and vulnerable as if a rogue gust of wind would blow me off my bed and slam me against the wall. I have been in this hospital for about two weeks now and I just want to go home and play with cousins.

Other than me, there was also another boy that occupied the same room. I never knew his name, or rather I never bothered to ask. I just knew that he was also going to be treated for something serious. Just like me. The boy was the same age as me. Eight. His skin color was lighter and his hair was shorter. His eyes showed signs of happiness even though he had been there longer than me. He slept a lot. He would always be taken away from the medical room and brought back. He was always tired. “Can I play with your toys?” He would ask me every time, and being the selfish brat I was, I would always reject it. Living in a house with over eight cousins, and having everything I shared with them go missing, I couldn’t trust anyone. He was always lonely. His family never came to visit, and despite that there was always happiness and hope in his eyes. He had made many attempts at talking to me, and even though sometimes I talked back, I never considered him my friend. Even though I was extremely bored with my toys, deep inside, that boredom was quickly taken away by his presence every time.

One evening, both me and the boy had to leave the medical room. I was being taken away because I had to go through surgery, however, I didn’t know what the reason behind his departure was. I was injected with something which caused me to black out and sleep. After going through the process of surgery I was taken back to my white room. I was the first to be taken back, therefore, I began to play with my toys with an uninterested look on my face, almost looking like I was forcing myself to play with it. In all truth, I was. I was waiting for the boy to return and tell me about his day or how much he wished to explore the world. I received Silence. Hours went by and nothing. The boy never returned. The nurse never told me what happened to him either as she would always tell me to rest. At this moment I looked at my toys with hatred. I was alone. I had realized that without the presence of the boy, the toys were useless. The white room was quiet. From inside I could hear the steps of every nurse in the hall echo through the world. I could hear the engine of every car going by the hospital. But sadly I couldn’t hear the boy.

Reflecting on this today, allows me to understand how mistaken I was. A friend with such a pure heart and honest mind like so should be treasured. They are extremely difficult to come by. I was ignorant to not allow someone like him experience better days than staying in that hospital watching some other kid playing with his toy. Although I am still the same cautious person I was back then, I am more aware of my surroundings and of those who are honest and deserving of my friendship. Inanimate objects can only get you so far, as far as happiness goes. However, a true friendship can last a lifetime. I will often wonder where the boy is or if he is even alive. But my life moves on. As he slowly leaves my mind.

Advanced Essay #1: The Big Change

This essay describes my transition when I immigrated from Albania to the U.S. It compares my life in Albania with my experiences that I had in the new country. This essay will introduce you about my past and what shaped me to be the person that I am today. I wanted to write about a life changing moment that acted as a catalyst for the change and something that was important to me. Something I would do differently is to write even more. Even though there was a word limit, I would like to be more detailed and write more about my experiences. I am really proud of this piece of writing because it portrays who I am today and where I came from.

¨Life will not be the same as it is here.¨ My best friend Niko warned me as I was getting ready to come to America. As I already had known, nothing would ever be the same. First reason being, starting my entire life over in a new country. Every aspect of my life would change. Family, friends, school, language and more obstacles that I had to encounter and jump over. Before I came to the United States, I lived in Albania; in a city called Fier. I studied at a private school. I had a lot of friends, but above all, I had a big family. I lived a pleasant life in Albania which would unfortunately lead to an unsuccessful future. Albania is a very small country with a low population and carried great places for vacations. My life in Albania was excellent; I had a family that supported me, great friends, good teachers and a very inspiring role models, my grandparents. My grandparents have really impacted my life. All the things that they taught me had impacted me positively and made me the person I am today. I was raised by them and they’ve taught me things like how to behave when there are guests are over, how to act in restaurants, and most importantly, they taught me to respect people, which I still carry with me today.

I can still remember the day I left Albania. After a shocking surprise, my family and I received our passports with the visas attached to them. Then the hard part came along, my family and I began to say goodbye to my friends and family. When I woke up on my last day in Albania, I had a big smile on my face. I was happy because I was going to a place that I had never been before; a place that sounded and looked interesting. I packed some of my items and went on my way. As I looked at some of the people I said goodbye to, they did not have the same look on their faces as me. Saying goodbye to all my friends was the hardest thing I have ever done. That was the best day for me, but not for the people I was saying goodbye to.

I thought I knew how the world worked outside of my country because of past experiences. My family and I traveled a lot. I saw many things like how people lived and where they worked. Little did I know, the world I thought in my mind was totally different in real life. I have always seen these places with a different point of view; the point of view of a tourist. I did not know people’s problems and what they went through. Moving to a new country was not the same as moving down the block. 

Even after I realized the places, people, and memories that I will miss. I developed a strong feeling that my family's decision to move to the United States of America would lead me towards a better future. After all, that was the main reason why my family decided to move. 

The moment I got of the plane, my whole body felt different. Maybe it was the jet lag, but everything was so gigantic. As we were walking to get our luggage, my dad pointed out the window and said, “Look, that’s New York right there. See the tall buildings?” My eyes were used to small European ‘things’ and New York looked enormous. Starting with the plane, the airport itself, the buildings, and most importantly to me: the cars. When I was younger, my brother and I were obsessed with cars; we still are a little bit. We knew the names to every car in detail, including the horse power. We had boxes of tiny cars. The cars here were huge compared to the one’s in Europe. I missed everything about Albania, but I was also enjoying everything around me in the United States.

After spending twelve years in Albania, I moved to an environment that was totally different from the where I came from. Everything was new and unusual it was a culture shock. Starting from the buildings, the neighborhoods, the people and even the nature. The first couple weeks were very hard because I had to adjust my sleeping schedule, since Albania’s time zone is six hours ahead of us. Those first few weeks were also fun since my family was so overwhelmed from visiting all these new places, that really made us realized  that we're truly living the American Dream.

Yes, I moved to a new house in which we were renting up until last year, but the house is very different from the one that I was living in Albania. The walls in the United States are made of wood, compared to the brick houses in Albania. My family lived in a huge apartment compared to the three story house we live in now. Some things are very different compared to what I was used to. My life has turned upside-down.

The past four years of my life have flown by in a flash. I have faced and overcome many obstacles. The struggles with the language, culture, food, and many more have all made me stronger. I believe that I can overcome anything I set my mind to and achieve my dreams no matter what’s in front of me. I have seen and learned new things that will help me guide the rest of my life.

My family decided to leave our old country for a new one, hoping that we would finally find a more successful future. We were not disappointed. My life changing moment was when I moved to the United States. I have always thought of this changing moment as the first chapter of adulthood as I started to explore the world and live life how I had always wanted. When I came here, I was introduced to a new whole lifestyle which I fell in love with. My perspective on so many aspects of life changed. I learned how to be independent and work hard so I can make my dreams come true. I was not able to live my dreams and accomplish my goals in Albania because of corruption and educational disadvantages. I am lucky to live in the United States of America and even though I still miss my home country and my family there, I believe that I have come so far for a reason and motivated to accomplish my goals that include securing a better future and becoming a worthy member of my society.

Advanced Essay #1 // Dennis

“Here. Set an alarm in my phone for next year at this exact same time. Then I’ll tell you what it means.” I grabbed her phone and found my way across a sea of useless applications until I found the one worth finding at that time. I configured an alarm for July 25, 2011, 3:47 pm.  This would be the only way I could ever try and figure out why they decided on this. Fast forward a year later. I run outside to help my mother and father with groceries from the car. My bigger feet and slightly longer legs graze the top of the pavement, down the steps and towards the car. My extensively longer hair bounced as every step I took sent a shockwave to my chubby face. I proceed to grab a bunch of bags from my mom’s car, avoiding my dad to grab me in the process. At that time, my mom’s phone started buzzing in her pocket. “A call?”, she murmured to herself. She slowly pulled out her phone and moved her extremely long hair to the side of her face. I proceed to run up the stairs when I hear a call from my mom to come over. I dashed to her side and look up at her smiling face. She then holds her phone out in front of me with the alarm going off. “Do you want to know now? Why you have such a ‘weird name’?”
As the excitement rushed to my limbs, I started to flail about the sidewalk and up the stairs, into my house. My mind configures a massive number of questions to ask, as the mystery behind my name is slowly revealed, piece by piece. “What does it mean?” “Why did you decide to call me this?” “Dad had the same name too, right? Why name me after him?” In all of the names that are so common to the human race, why make a name that causes someone like me to stand out? For someone who doesn’t stand out? It like the name drags me on a stage with a gathering of people watching me. Confused about what I say. And I don’t say a thing.

“Men-doo… Men…” My teacher struggled to form the vast array of syllables and pronunciations that she has never encountered before. Her mouth contorted in strange ways as she failed to enunciate the 7th name down on the attendance sheet. She leaned towards me and points at a name that is very noticeable on the vast array of names in her hand. “How do you pronounce this?”, she said with a nervous smile. “Menduyarka”, I said, enunciating every syllable slowly so she could understand what I was trying to say. She repeated what I told her out loud, half-heartedly. I don’t remember if she even pronounced it correctly, but she did say it oddly enough to gain the attention of the classmates around me. Every time I roamed the halls, I would hear people mispronounce my name. Most of the time, it’s unintentional. Other times were just to make jokes. Variations were developed to make saying my name easier as every year went by on the calendar. From “Menduyarka” to “Mendy/Mendi”, to “Mancake”, to “Man-Arctica”. These variations evolved over the years from adorable, childish nicknames, to names with some strangely odd definitions on Urban Dictionary. As the years went on, and I developed into a teen boy, I decided to hide something about me that would only make things progress a little bit slower. “Menduyarka” became hidden under the facade I used. “Samuel” is what I became known by after “Man-Arctica” became very annoying to hear. I can totally describe it as a “handful of consonants and vowels that were pulled from a Scrabble bag.” “Menduyarka” became a part of my life when my dad was named the same thing when he was born. My grandmother came up with the name way before he was born, so it WAS planned. I have no fucking clue where it comes from, but after searching on the internet, I figured out it “wasn’t common in the U.S.” I’m technically not a junior because “Menduyarka” and “Samuel” are switched in the name positionings we have. He’s “Samuel Menduyarka”, and I’m the opposite. Every encounter with someone was like rolling a dice. There was truly a ⅙ chance of someone pronouncing my name right when it came down to it.

Advanced Essay #1 Wes Midgett

This paper has been a great opportunity for me to explore my parents divorce and what affect it had on me as a child and now as a teenager. I didn’t realize until now the depth that this went in to and I’m glad I did. Having divorced parents has made my life so much different from if they had stayed together.

The bell rang like angels in my ear telling me I could come home after a long day at school. However, the angels were quickly shot down by the demon known as Ms. Kolansky who told us to stay in our seats so we could tell her what we learned that day. We were all so ready to leave that we could hardly remember the day we just had. I looked at the numbered circle on the wall like it was a ticking time bomb, like my dad was going to leave me if I didn’t come out into the schoolyard on time. I hadn’t seen him in a week and it was my first one-on-one day with him since my parents split.

Ms. Kolansky dismissed us after my friend Zoe told her that we learned about what palindromes were. I ran out of the room like it was on fire. My bag was only on one shoulder and my hair was like a horse’s mane behind me. I pushed through the heavy blue doors at 3:12 and scanned the schoolyard which was filled to the brim with small children running after each other and parents talking about how they should get together some time. My dad stood out in the corner being the tallest guy around with his aviator sunglasses and balding head. He raised his hand to confirm that it was him and he waved me over. I sprinted in my rainbow knee high socks and black converse to him and hugged him. He smelled like cigarettes and his work uniform felt like a cat’s tongue but I never felt cozier. He hugged me and asked about my day, I told him it was good. He handed me a canvas bag, I looked inside and there was an empty notebook. He told me it was for my art. He knew me well.

He took me to a restaurant that I’ve always loved and I ordered the mac and cheese and he stole a few pieces of my edamame. This was good, it felt normal. Like it used to be. I had been handling the divorce pretty well but that’s because I didn’t really understand what was going on. All I knew at that point was that dad wasn’t living with us anymore, and it sucked. I missed the feeling of him belonging in that house. So we finished eating lunch/dinner at around five o’clock and we started heading back home. A few minutes later I was walking through the brown door that mom thought was green. Dad followed me in and we sat on the rough red couch but we still had an hour left before it was time for our one-on-one to be over. He asked what I wanted to do and I told him I didn’t know, we decided to play a board game. I pulled out Othello from the plywood cabinets that my mom had fixed up when we first moved in. They scraped the back of my hand and fingers as I pulled out the cardboard box. I walked barefoot on the hardwood floor around mom’s dining room table onto the brown carpet with different sized red and orange dots. We sat there for an hour, going from playing board games to drawing to talking. It felt awkward, like we weren’t supposed to be there. Even though it was my home and my dad had lived there my whole life he seemed on edge and things were quiet.

My mom came home at 6:00 as planned, and the look on her face was confusing to me. She looked like she couldn’t decide whether she was confused or startled. She said hi to me and told me to go up to my room. I hugged dad and ran up the open steps, clinging to the railing mom had made out of iron pipes from work. I ran once I got half way up right into my room which was right at the top of the stairs. I grabbed for the lock on my sliding door and pulled it so that I could still hear the conversation my parents were having. They were yelling at each other again about how dad can’t be here anymore. I ran to the back of my room and grabbed my notebook. I picked up my pen and started to draw what I was feeling, salty water shared the page with the ink. That night I cried until there were no tears left and there were no more pages in my notebook. That night drawing was my security and comfort. It has been ever since.

Advanced Essay #1: Toby

This essay was an writing experienced I enjoyed, the freedom and lack of creative boundaries made the process interesting and introspective. The goals of this paper were to find a deeper meaning in the roots of my brother’s adoption, there are a lot of family dynamic issues I am currently struggling with and I thought if I explored areas of our past I could try to understand and solve them. I also really wanted to practice recounting memories and using interesting descriptive language to paint a picture for the audience. I am really proud of some of my imagery and the structure of my piece, this step by step story style is one I enjoy writing in. It is like a film where the character is learning the same information at the same time as the viewer. Some areas of improvement are my more personal parts, the analytical side felt a little thin in earlier drafts and I want to work exploring this emotional side of me in my writing. I tend to feel a lot of things but I find it hard to solidify them into words on a page.

I was an only child for five years. I do not have a lot of memories from this time, but I do remember the moment I was first introduced to my younger brother. My mother entered our living room, while I was toying with the velcro on my shoes as I watched an endless television marathon of PBS kids. She was holding scraps of paperwork in her arms, her hair was awry with a few strands reaching towards our ceiling. She pulled herself down to my level and extended her right hand, a polaroid sat before me with a picture of a small hispanic baby. He sat in a makeshift tub made from a red plastic bucket, he was in a concrete room with a small window behind him revealing a guatemalan sky, the stars were brighter there.

“Who’s that baby?” I asked, sucking on the collar of my shirt. “He’s your baby brother.” My mother replied, a distinct gleam of joy in her tired eyes.

The following weeks consisted of me being a bystander to the adoption process. My parents sat up all night at the dining room table, papers in heaps around them, covering every square inch of our ikea catalog furniture. I lay on our on the splintery floorboards and observing my father rub his sunburned neck as he read document after document. I watched as he flipped a cigarette between his fingers and tried to count the number of furrows in his brow. At school I would sit on the rusted climber with my group of friends swinging my legs and speaking about how even if he wasn’t born from where I was born he was still my brother. One of the boys said,

“That’s messed up. That’s like calling your dog your mom.”

I then replied, “but Bradley, isn’t your mom your dog?” We didn’t speak for the rest of elementary school. There was this air of aggression and confusion that followed adoption, many people assume it has to do with conception issues and would often grow uncomfortable at this implication. There was a strange confidence I held throughout though, I knew he was my brother even before I met him. It didn’t matter that I was only five, I felt a kinship with this boy. I probably received this strength from my parents who wanted to adopt since they married. They spent all their lives researching and finding the most effective means of raising an adopted child, the found the Guatemalan adoption system the easiest to maneuver and then they found the boy in the polaroid.

After a year or so, my parents began traveling across the world to visit the boy. I stayed with the neighbors and their son. I slept next to his dirty basketball gear and ate clam chowder every night for two weeks. I would call my parents on their landline every other night and ask about Guatemala and what the planes were like, but I could only speak for five minutes because it cost too much money. Every time the kitchen timer would signal the end of the call I would panic and cry.

Finally, after a month since parents returned I was able to travel back with my mother to bring the boy back to our home. I wore my favorite wool hat, with a plastic spiderman logo stitched onto the front. I would run my tiny fingers over it as I gaped at the towering glass walls of the airport terminal. I remember gripping onto the elastic waistband of my Target jeans to stop them falling as we sprinted to catch our flight. The plane was cramped with many people yelling in Spanish, as my mother checked her watch and bopped her knee I sat calmly watching us leave the ground from the window. My mother smiled at me as she placed a Kodak film cartridge in my father’s Super 8 camera and proceeded to film me silhouetted by the passing clouds.

We left the airport. This was my first experience away from the first world, I had only seen a life of duplexes and skyscrapers and was unprepared for the aesthetic of an impoverished nation. There were slums lining the craggy road made of tin roofing and dried mud, the nicer homes were cinderblock shelters housing families of eight or twelve. I saw pregnant thirteen year olds and old men dusted with red dirt, you could see streaks of clear cheek paved by tears of irritation. I was filled with a sadness and guilt that followed these images, I felt scared and bad because of it. I had never seen such living conditions, but I am glad I have so I can appreciate the present.

After an hours drive we entered the city known as Antigua. My mother filmed with my father’s camera, she captured grainy images of thousand year old architecture painted with stone colored pigeons. She captured young children in bright handmade clothes silently dancing to the ticks and flaws of the film strip.

We then entered the apartment of the boy’s caretaker. The caretaker’s name was Hilda and she had golden teeth, she was the tallest woman I had ever seen because her knees reached my spiderman hat. She picked the boy from his crib and handed him to my mother, then we walked from the doors and boarded the next flight back to Philadelphia. As we sat in the blue leather seats of the American Airline’s plane, I stroked the bridge of his coffee nose and leaving in the middle of the guatemalan night. And when I looked into Toby’s shimmering eyes I realized the stars were brighter there.

Adoption is a choice a family makes, it brings many feelings into one’s household. Toby is a proud member of our family but there have been times where others have felt strongly against his relation to us, even he has struggled with his grasp of heritage. Personally, I will love Toby until I pass because he is my brother. I have watched him switch from velcro to lases, I have seen him sled for the first time using a trashcan lid, and I have seem him dance to Ray Charles in pajamas and my father’s suit jacket. I know that our family is unconventional, but it is a family nonetheless.

Advanced Essay #1: The Ties That Bind


I wrote this essay with the theme family in my head. Recently, my family has had to overcome a lot of challenges, and I thought about the good things, memories, and souvenirs I have from just being around my family, and the many more memories to come. I hope that when people read my essay, they are reminded of some of the good times they’ve had with their families, and how important it is to stay united as a family.


People are born into this world with no accountabilities, no responsibilities, fresh and new. No ties to anything- wait. That’s not true. We are born with only one tie, the tie that gave us life. Everything and everyone that is born knows this tie, and it is ultimately up to the person, or fate whether they want to keep it connected, make it stronger, or sever it completely. This tie, would be more familiarly known as just a 6 letter word: family. My mom was the first person I ever saw in my life, and from the moment I saw her, the connection, the bond that was made is still to this day indestructible. After I met my mom, I met my sister, who is 3 years older than me, and to this day I cling to her more than anybody else. Since day 1, my mom has taught, and still is teaching me the meaning of family It’s crazy, let’s not deny, when you’re a 17 year old teenager in her junior year of high school, who also has a job & does extracurricular activities, you don’t get much family time. My older sister and I have both been busy off trying to work to start our lives. That’s how it’s been for quite some time ever since we started getting older. However, we always found a way to be a family. That’s something I’ve always admired about us. The 3 of us have always managed to stay a united front, and I’ve learned so much about love, family, and just being a good person from this connection that started when I had only been on earth for a matter of seconds. Family vacations mean the world to me. I love them so much. Just getting away with the people you live with, is not only relaxing and refreshing, but it gave me a chance to experience new things, and learn about different cultures with my family. From a young age, I was exposed to many cultures, food, behaviors, and I keep all of these life lessons with me today. My mom taught my sister and me how to behave when in a restaurant, to be polite & courteous to people, and to mind your manners at all times. I remember the first time we ever took a really big trip was our first trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “Naihema and Zahirah! Let’s go, the cab is outside! Let’s go!” was the scream I woke up to at 9:00p.m one July night: the night of our trip. We had tickets on a midnight train to Providence, RI. We were going to be on the train all night, and by 12:00p.m the next afternoon, we had taken 3 shuttle buses and were in my grandpa’s car on our way to our hotel on the beach. The car ride was humid, with the familiar salty breeze that blows from all beach towns. It was sunny and the road was clear as we zoomed to our destination. I remember I felt my heart jump, and a warm feeling spread throughout my whole body. It was the first time I’d been here, seeing the wonders of this place had me entranced, and I felt greedy because I wanted to just hold it all in. We spent 4 days there, and in those four days, I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. I spent those four days talking to my family, laughing, and having fun. I was so young then, but I knew as soon as I left, that Massachusetts had an effect on all of us, and we left that place with more understanding of the world, and of each other. “Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.” When I was younger, my sister and I loved Lilo & Stitch, and we had that quote hung on our wall in the room we used to share. I feel as though my family’s home life was some of the most influential time in my life. I looked up to my sister as though she walked on water, and my mom as if she actually was magic. I wanted to be just like them. As a family there are millions of memories of afternoons spent being lazy lying down spread across the living room watching movies on Saturday mornings, eating Sunday dinners at the dining room table, discussing our week, and smaller things, like just sitting with my mom at the dining room table creating art. The stained glass models that hang in my living room window, are all a part of me and my family’s history. They symbolize infinite memories of childhood curiosity, and creativity. My mom loves arts & crafts. Out of the 3 of us, she’s the artistic one. Every so often I would hear her call out “Naihema, Zahirah, let’s go to Michael’s and get some kits!” From a young age, we would spend hours together as a family, either sitting at a table, or the living room floor, watching a movie and doing arts & crafts. The room would be filled with laughter, happiness, and love all around. Every time we finished a new glass, my mom would set it out to dry, and we would swap out the ones in the window, and every time they symbolized a new memory.

Advanced Essay #1: Self Confidence

Introduction: My goals for this paper is to help the reader understand what confidence is, why it’s important and how I feel about self-confidence. I also talked about a certain time in my life where I felt confidence in something I was doing. I am proud of the description I wrote in my flashback. The areas for improvement may be my actual thoughts I had written at the end.

It was 2010 and I was in Ms. Shieh’s fifth grade class. On this particular day our class was painting, and I sat completely focused on the crisp white canvas that I had placed on my desk. All around me, tables were pushed together so the other kids in the class could also paint. Plastic cups full of fresh water were put on each table, along with bottles of acrylic paints of many shades and hues. I pulled a paintbrush from the holder and swished the frayed hairs into a cup of water. I squeezed a bottle of a baby blue acrylic paint onto a paper plate that I had taken from the stack earlier. I dipped the brush into the paint and lifted it onto the canvas and made a long stroke along the top edge of the canvas. I had a good idea on what I was going to paint, and had pictured it perfectly in my head. Now, it was time to create that image, and I had hoped not to make too many mistakes so it would come out perfectly. It was only years later that I stumbled upon this painting again after being stored away for so long.

“Ugh, I hate going down here. It’s so dark and it scares the crap out of me.” I thought to myself, frowning as I made my way down the steep stairs leading to the basement. My dad had asked me to go down there to look for some tools, so he could fix the back door. He had said that it was in a brown bag that had a draw string. On the side of the stairwell, there were shelves and drawers with stacks of old books and notebooks we had used when we were younger, and bags of miscellaneous items. My dad had explained to me where the bag of tools may be. I walked over to the shelves and searched through all of the stuff to find nothing. All of the bags were white, or gray, or black, but not brown. I pulled open a sandy wooden drawer and moved things aside looking for it, and to my luck I see the one he mentioned and pull it out with both hands in a struggle. I situate the heavy bag on the ground, so I can close the drawer, but come to a halt when I see that familiar canvas I had painted when I was younger. I was really proud of that painting because it took days and days to create; it even had a golden frame around it! I traced my fingers over the painting, and noticed an edge of another golden frame peeking out from underneath some books. Once I moved the books aside I saw that it was a picture of me, when I was a fifth grader. I remembered that day clearly, we had gone outside the school to take pictures, and underneath those pictures we had little notes we wrote about what we liked and what we want to be when we grow up. I put the painting, and my picture under my arm and grabbed the brown bag, gripping it tightly, and headed back up the stairs. There was a feeling of nostalgia when I saw those two memorabilias. I had probably put them down there when I was cleaning my room, and had forget about it for many years. However, seeing it made me feel a sense of joy, and it was interesting to see my younger self along with what I had worked so hard on and been so confident about. And for me, confidence was a very complicated thing for me to grasp.

Ever since I was little, I have always been pretty quiet and have kept to myself because I’m an introvert. One of the reasons why was because I was never too confident to begin with. In the Dictionary, self-confidence is defined as “a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment”. Many, many people in this world lack this trait, and I am still one of those people who are on and off about themselves. Whether it has to do with schoolwork, or how I look, or if I am doing something well enough, there are always things that I’m not so sure about and it’s really a process to get to a level which you are completely okay and one hundred percent in everything you do. It’s really easier said than done however because in order to gain self-esteem, you need to believe in yourself, and that’ll be how you conquer your fears, or get over an obstacle in your life. All of your years in school, you may gain so much factual knowledge, however, one thing is that self-confidence is something that isn’t taught. Social media apps and websites are always promoting self-love and self-confidence.

On apps like Instagram, people post images, and many post pictures of themselves. You can like these images, which for some people, even boosts their confidence and may make them feel good about themselves. I was always kind of shocked at the fact that some people were just so naturally loud and energetic and open to everyone, but for me, it took a really long time to even become close friends with someone. In my eyes, this showed confidence because they were able to make so many friends and with such ease. I was always over thinking about things, and what other would perceive me as, but I have come to realize that I shouldn’t overthink because it just makes me worry unnecessarily. Sometimes, when I would make a mistake, it would completely change my whole mood - just about who I am and why I made the mistake. I would feel like I couldn’t fix the situation I was in or even move on from it.

Day my day, I am still growing as a person and learning about who I am. Even though I am still not completely confident, this trait is slowly increasing and if I am down about myself, I know how to bring myself up. Self confidence is something that can help you accomplish many things in life by making you an even more successful person, and I have come to understand that over time.

Advanced Essay #1: Submissive, Domineering.


This essay starts with my drawing of Wu Zetian, then it leads off to 婴儿塔(baby tower). In this essay, I discussed about about Wu Zetian, what she did, some discriminations women faces, and such. Like slaughter millions of cute little babies just because they are female. My goal of writing this essay is to reflect on what is the reason why women often got discriminated against, and the society still view it as normal. As for improvement, I need to improve on my grammar, go straight to the point, and stop repeating some stuff.


Another afternoon, another day. Rays of mischievous sunlight had managed to escape from the curtain, casting warm yellow hues. I sat on my desk, pencils in my hand, my imagination dances freely. On the paper is my interpretation of Wu Zetian. She is standing up in a red and gold Tang dynasty dress, coming out of a fog shaded with light red and gold, fading away. She is holding her arms out shoulder height, to the left and the right, as if she is embracing the sky, the world, feeling the wind blowing against her, tasting the unfamiliar taste of freedom. Her long gold sleeves drapes down from her arm, almost to the floor, but the bottom curves, and covers all of her forearm. In the center of the sleeves, is another strip of sheer red silk, a little wider than a palm, that flows all the way down.

Imagine a kimono. A kimono with gold and red highlights. As a matter of fact, kimonos come from China(Han dynasty clothes, Tang dynasty clothes, and Wu clothes). The top is just like a kimono, with the crossing collar. Except in this case, it’s more revealing and bold. The crossing of the collars happens at the waist, where the wide waist belt is located. Under the first golden layer is a small red layer, and underneath that, is a strip of wide fabric across her chest in the color red. Then we have the red waist belt. The dress itself is of a gold a shade darker than the rest, going all the way down and fading. In the middle of the dress, taken up about a third of space is a bright red strip of fabric, also going all the way down and fading.

A woman in gold, a color only the emperors can wear, for the first time ever in history, astonishing.

It’s almost as if it’s the ghost of Wu Zetian, standing there, holding her arms out, looking down at the world from a tall tall tower.


Another day, another afternoon. I stares at the drawing of Wu Zetian that I had hang up. “But why did I draw her?” I asked myself.

Taking a trip down the road of memories, many memories swipe by. The picture is of Wu Zetian, the first and only empress in power with a title, in the long five thousand years of Chinese history. The most powerful women in the history of China.

She is a tyrant, some said. She gave women more rights at the time, and busted the economy, others said. But to me, I don’t care if she is cruel or not, she got it done, she did what she, and many Chinese women want to do. She gave women a life more free than before, a life where they are not caged birds, a life where they don’t have to follow the ridiculous rules setted up by men, a life where they are setted free. Even though it didn’t last.

Wu Zetian rose to power and stay in power until her death, in this world dominated by the males, and granted women more freedoms. Even though it didn’t last long. Women were basically slaves before that time. But she did it. She did it. She unlocked the cage and give women freedom for as long as she can.

So I drew her, holding her arms out, as I imagine how she would, embracing the sky, and looking down at the pitiful world. A fog of golden dragon and blood behind her.

The male dominated world, now ruled by a female. Domineering.

But next to her, on the left, is another drawing of a girl in a green and pink Qi Pao. Submissive looking. Ironic, yet contrasting. Traditional and submissive lady, innovative and ambitious empress, side by side. Funny.


Again, another day. That day, I was reading an ebook as usual, then an unfamiliar word pop into my view. What? 婴儿塔? Baby tower? Tower for baby? What? Why? I asked myself.

So I open up a new tab, as what I tend to do. I copy and pasted the word, and hit enter. Wait, what? 福州(Fuzhou)? Isn’t that the city where I came from? I clicked it open, not knowing what I should be expecting. First thing that pop into my view was a old black and white picture. In the picture, there is a tower, it looks like the traditional Daoism tower, except it look shorter and stubbier. Creepier.

Okay, okay, let’s keep on reading, “A photograph taken by an english female photographer in the late 19th century?” okay? But what is the tower for? “It is normally half a meter tall,” Oh, that’s tiny, it is like a doll house? “Baby tower, is use for the babies who are about to be drowned. ” Wait a second, what? Okay, just keep going, it’s getting more and more creepy. “During Qing dynasty, it was peaceful. The population starts to increase rapidly. Drowning babies become the trend. Millions of female babies are slaughtered. The gender ratio become really unbalanced. ” Wait, wait, wait, so you’re telling me, people start mass murdering female babies in 1890s already? Before the one child law was even a thing? “Local people starts to build a kind of tower, called baby tower, on the countryside. Instead of drowning their own babies, people starts to put their babies in the tower, and let the babies die on their own. They think it’s better in that way, and they would feel better. Then more and more people starts to following the examples.” So, tell me, how could you kill your own babies in a different way and feel better? How? “Of those babies killed, most of them are females.” Off course, off course, it’s the females. Off course. (source:

Do Chinese really hate to have daughters that much? Thinking about that made chills go down my spine. My body, shaking. Why? Why? I forced myself a bitter smile, yeah, right, traditionally, females are lower than males. Since, supposedly, a daughter would be married off one day and become someone else’s possession, so daughters are useless. Why would they want something they considered useless?

Chills, shakings. In my head, I am see babies, crying, lying on a pile of bloody bones and rotten flashes, slowly, slowly, their chest stopped moving. Why would you give birth to them, then just slaughter them? Why? Why females? Chills, more chills, shaking. Why do people always have to put females into the lower class than males. Why?! These kind of stuff even happens today, just instead of leaving the female babies in the baby tower to die, they would left the female babies in a house, in which they will be bring to an orphanage.

Coldness. Why is it, when men do some things, it’s okay, even worth praising or bragging about, but when women do the exact same thing, they are disgusted, discouraged, hated.

I hate it, I hate it, when those men, who doesn’t do anything, despise a woman, just because she is a woman. So just because we are females, we have be submissive, stay at home and do chores? I don’t get it. I really don’t. Yeah, of course, none of those people had come out from a woman’s womb.

I should be nicer and less aggressive you said? Oh, do you mean I should be more submissive? 凸 ^_^ 凸 (Nope, I am just showing you one of the many Chinese characters out there.)

May be, we, the women, have been too submissive and too docile for too long. For so long, it becomes normal for us to be viewed as a lower class in society, even as properties. A lot of times we just overlook it.

Let It Go by Sandra Watson

One Christmas morning I sat on the edge of my bed kicking and swinging my feet back and forth. “Cover your eyes” She said. I placed one hand in front of each eye, trying to peek through my small hands. “NO! Don’t you dare peak” she yelled. I sighed and closed my eyes. My little anxious body was uncomfortably moving. All I could think is what could it be? The room was still for a moment, darkness filled under my eyelids and the only thing you could hear was the shuffling of feet from the other room. After minutes of impatiently waiting. She entered the room and placed an object down that made a loud thud.I opened my eyes to see my mom standing in the doorway and my dad with a camera in his hands, recording every moment of the big reveal. My sister was standing behind the big box that had been perfectly wrapped with Santa Claus Christmas paper. “Are you going to open it?” she asked with a smile. It was a box slightly bigger than me at the time. So I had to stand on my toes to reach the top.

 I started to unwrap the wrapping paper slowly because even then and  still now I loved the anticipation of opening a present. I peeled back the wrapping paper  strip by strip, tearing the clean tucked wrapping paper into many small pieces. “Come on, Sandra, open it already, Do you need help?” my sister barked. I shook my head fiercely no as I opened up the last shreds of paper. My dad grabbed the last pieces of wrapping paper to put into a big black trash bag. I stood there in astonishment to see a big pink cinderella vanity set in front of me. “Open it!,Open the box mom!” I yelled in joy “ Thank you so much.” I hugged my sister tightly as she hugged me back,kissing my forehead. Then I heard a loud thud from above, i woke up to see my dog Trixie on the floor spread out because she just fell off the bed. I look to see that it’s not Christmas morning and I’m not six anymore. I look around to see their is no vanity set and the picture of my sister is still sitting on my dresser and realize  she is no longer with us and tears fill my eyes. I can’t go back to sleep anymore. The memory was way too strong for me to handle. So instead I listen to music. Music that lets me drift away from those memories as I look at the picture on my wall  and get lost into the grey and whiteness of it all. 

Holding on to the past has always been a speciality of mine whether it was good or bad, something about holding on to the past helps me gain a little more power on my life. This probably is how most people feel and a big reason why a lot of people don’t let go of their past . It can be looked through many different perspectives which can shine a light on why holding onto your past can be a good thing and why it can be a bad thing. Holding onto your past can cripple your chances of having a good future but it can also help guide you so you don’t make the same mistakes you made in your past in your future. Is learning from your past the same thing as holding on to it? Is holding onto your past more of a yearning to go back and change what already was or is it letting yourself dwell on something that already happened? Is letting go asking you to forget your past or telling you to move into future? Letting go is something we personally define for ourselves but all us must build up on a general idea of what it is before we can actually do it.

All of us has had either someone or ourselves do something or say something that has affected us in a good or bad way. This something that has happened to us in the past can either had been dealt with and processed in a healthy or unhealthy way. It all depends on our personal processing but those who deal with these things unhealthy are more bound to not to let it go.People who hold onto the past are the people who are dwelling in a moment that can not be changed. They are simply replaying the event over and over not just not in their heads but in their day to day life. When people can’t let the past go they tend to usually apply the good or bad things into their daily lives because if you can’t let go of the past you’ll probably repeat it . We can’t relive the pas7t we bring the our past into the future. It’s a coping method, even though change is relevant to all of our lives not everyone can handle it. Moving into the future is not a task it’s a mission.

Letting go is not asking you to give up your memories or your past, far from it. It is asking you not to focus on it forever. Remembering and learning from your past so that you can transition into the next state of your life is what letting go is asking you to do.You can’t be in one place and want to go to another and not move a step. You’ll remain in that same place until you go. Now time will move on without you weather you like it or not. You can’t stop time but stopping your life is easy because you just stop living it. Living in one moment forever will literally stop you from living life. You’ll be too invested into that moment that you won’t realize the wonderful things you’re missing out on. Moving into the future means to continue with time,letting life take its course without trying to change or alter it to go back. Moving into the future means seizing opportunities to make to progress and be at your best. Moving into the future and defining what that looks like for you is up you but defining how you remember your past in a healthy way is also up to you.

You have to find and define what that means for you, what moving into the future and remembering the past is to you. No one else can define this for you because well all operate, think,breath, and move in different ways. There are the basic steps on how to let go but to make them your goals and make it something you actually want to do you must make it personal because your past and future is personal. How do you make it personal to you? How do you define what letting go means to you? You must define it, first by setting goals for yourself. Aiming to change the ways of your past day by day. Breaking bad habits and finding healthy ones to replace them with. Surround yourself with people who support you, know your struggle and are happy to help you go through it. It has been time for you to you to let go of your past and move into your future. A pause or a break is for vacations not your past.

Advanced Essay #1: Lydia Anderson

Introduction: I wrote this piece to help people understand my problems being a woman of color in a white southern family. Although I love my family, I have problems with them concerning issues of race. In this essay, my main goal was to highlight my relationship to them and show people a perspective on interracial families that is often now shown enough.

During February of 2015, my family and I went down to Virginia to spend Easter with my Aunt and Uncle. During the third or fourth day of our visit, my cousin Walter walked downstairs with a Nerf gun. He asked me to play nerf battle with him, to which I reluctantly agreed. He turns to my uncle and asked if he could get his terrorist hood. When Uncle Teddy replied yes, Walter ran upstairs and gets a green shirt, tying it around his face. His eyes were poking out of the neck hole of the shirt. Ruby and I look at our uncle in shock. He was just sitting there, laughing. I mention briefly to him that it was racist, to which he said that it was just something funny that Walter did. As I have gotten older, I cannot ignore these incidents with my white family, being one of the only black people in a family of white people. Family gatherings usually consist of all white people, along with my sister Ruby, my father and myself. I remember when I was four or five, when my Walter was born. Aunt Ann and Uncle Teddy, my grandmother and my mother all in my grandmother’s living room to welcome the baby. Being surrounded by my family with only my father and sister, wasn’t as weird as you think it would feel for a child. So from a young age I had grown accustomed to being surrounded by people who loved me but didn’t look like me. This left it on the shoulders of my almost non-existent black family to expose me to black culture.

Apart from my father and Aunt Helen I have no black relatives in my family. My dad was the only child, born to Ruby and Arthur Anderson, an older couple living in inner city Pittsburgh. My grandparents moved from Mobile, Alabama to Pittsburgh in the second wave of the Great Migration. They didn’t keep in contact with their families as there were few ways to do so. My Aunt Helen married my Great-Uncle Kenneth, a white relative. She is from Trinidad and I’ve only met her once. These things didn’t start to bother me until I was older. When the Trayvon Martin case really began to get a lot of national attention, it was a heated debate topic amongst my immediate family. We, being my parents and sister, agreed that George Zimmerman should be indicted and found guilty. All of us followed the case and discussed it avidly during dinner, each of us chiming in with our opinions. When we talked about it, I knew it was an issue that uniquely affected my sister, father and I more than it would my mother. She didn’t have to experience that fear that comes with being a black person watching these cases. Although she could relate them to my father, worrying about him and how he would survive around police officers, she never had that fear that we had of police officers handling us. The Trayvon Martin case was really the first time I really remember feeling like I was really different from most of my family. With all that has happened in the years since the Trayvon Martin case, I have become uniquely aware of who I am in American Society and how my experiences as a woman of color will be different from my white family members. What I’ve always wanted to do is find the space to explain to them my situation in a way that wouldn’t make them get defensive. In everyday life, I don’t concern myself with explaining oppression to white people. When I used to explain, it always ended up with them saying something about this is America reverse racism blah blah blah. But it’s different with my family. I want them to understand and be able to play their part in the movement. Being a black woman in a family of white people, makes me feel like I should be able to explain to help them, like it’s my job to include them in my experiences. Today, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I still feel like a welcome stranger in my family.

Advanced Essay #1: The Loud, Ghetto, Black Girl


This essay is about my person experiences in and out of school being a Black Female in America and people’s assumptions on what that means. I feel like people think I am a certain way based on my appearance and that’s not fair. I face racial profiling and falling in line with the people that I have fought my whole life to make sure I am nothing like everyday. I believe everyone in their life has been misjudged before and can relate to my story.

I am loud. I have a naturally loud voice. My friends are the same way. We laugh and we make jokes all the time, that’s what friends do. I do not speak in ¨proper tone¨ all the time because I do not feel the need to. I wear name brand sneakers, weave, tights, and fake nails. None of this has to do with me being black. I feel like because I am black people associate things I do, say, and wear with my entire race. I get stereotyped as the typical mean loud ghetto black girl all the time and that’s just not who I am.

I’ve been looked at this way for a long time. I remember talking to people who are even now my friends and them saying that when they first saw me they thought I was going to be such a bitch because of my face. My facial expressions categorize me as a squidward even though my personality is much more of a spongebob. We get wrapped up so much in people’s appearances that we lose focus on actually getting to know someone who could potentially be an amazing person. Everyone faces this kind of judgement in their life at some point. Based on what you have on that day or based on what you look like people are going to assume something about you that may or may not be true. In my case it was not true.

I am not ghetto. Every black person is not ghetto. Just because some of us act a certain way doesn’t mean all of us are this way. That’s like saying every white person is racist just because some of them are. It is not fair or right to assume based on the little information you know about a person or race to judge them. The word ghetto is used to describe a poorer part of a city usually home to multiple groups or minorities. By calling me ghetto one, is literally referring to me as a minority and saying they are better than me. The first time I was called ghetto I was in the 6th grade. My classmates found out I could not pronounce breakfast correctly. ¨ You sound like someone from the south ¨ they said, ¨you have a ghetto accent¨. Now I’ve been dealing with the way I say the word my entire life. I have always made a joke about it and everyone usually gets a good laugh at hearing the word said a different way than what they are used, but never have I ever felt so ashamed about the way I said it. In that moment I felt belittled. My classmates made me feel less then them then just as someone does now when they call me ghetto.

I think that the problem in current times is that everyone assumes things. You assume that because I speak loudly, I’m uneducated or because I wear certain clothes I’m a ¨thug¨ or a ¨hood rat¨ when both are invalid. I speak loudly to be heard. I spent so much time in my life being silent that when I finally realized I had a voice I discovered it was a loud one. I and the people I associate myself with are seen as that noisy troublesome black girl group. Freshmen year I and those same girls were accused of bullying someone who we were in fact not bullying but because we were who we were we couldn’t defend ourselves. We weren’t even allowed to speak on what we were accused of, they just assumed we did it based off little to no information. Yes we are loud. We laugh loud, we yell loud, we are a loud friend group that’s just who we are. Being loud and being angry are too different things but both also correspond in how people see myself and others like me. Based on someone’s assumption we were bullies and that’s how we were seen the rest of the school year. One little assumption destroyed all of our freshmen year.

Being a young black women in America is already hard enough. Issues like police brutality and black on black crimes is something I struggle with everyday. I don’t need to come somewhere I consider ¨safe¨ and be racially profiled, I don´t deserve to either. It already feels like the world is against me and my kind in this day and place that we call the ¨free world¨, so their are not a lot of places that I consider to be safe for me to be my true self. I thought I could be at school but it is very apparent that I can not be. In order for me not to be obnoxious or ¨hood¨ I would have to silence myself and lose who I am and that’s just not something I can do. Why should I? Do I not have the right as an American citizen to do and say as long as it is not bringing harm to anyone? Or do I not have this right because I am black? I am not going to change. I am going to continue to be loud and I am going to continue to dress and speak as I please. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem not mine.

Advanced Essay #1: Balancing the Equation

Introduction: My goals for this essay was to make it as detailed as possible and I wanted it to be really interesting for the reader. I tried my hardest to make sure that it didn’t sound repetitive because that was one of my biggest problems during m process. I’m really proud of the final product and the comparisons I made in piece. I hope you enjoy it and give me some feedback on what I could improve on because of course there is always room to improve.

I’ve waited 4 years and it’s finally here. y heart beat rapidly as the words changed from downloading to play. I immediately rushed my headphones into the headphone jack and pressed play. The music was blasting. It was the only thing I heard and it was like coming up and taking a breath of fresh air. The first song was entitled Nikes like the sneaker company. The first beat dropped and I felt my body jolt with the music. As I looked up from my phone I saw the abstract painting in my living room. The shapes intertwine, making a beautiful melody. Seeing that gave this song a visual. I saw the complexity of the entire thing. The complexity of the 17 beautifully written songs. The 7th track enchanted my mind as it wrapped itself around my inner soul. It brought out how I felt about myself. It opened my mind to the sheltered soul who doesn’t like to let anyone in because they’re too afraid of being hurt.

I listened to the rhythmic melodies. “I came to visit cause you see me like a UFO. That’s like never, cause I made you use your self control” Thinking they were empty, little did I know they were about me. My fear of letting someone in started at the tender age of 3. I didn’t know my left from my right or how to tie my shoes but I knew what love was. The cozy yet comforting feeling of being loved by someone. It was like falling but knowing you were always going to be caught. I felt that feeling with my dad. I knew him all but 3 little years but our bond was like no other. I clung onto his leg as if it was the last thing I was ever going to hold. But on October 31st he was taken away from me. The news struck me like a bolt of lightning. I felt my body start to run out of water and my throat felt as if someone was clawing its way to the top. My fear of abandonment began there. When meeting new people I always carried my shield of armor with me making sure not to let no one enter my inner soul. I couldn’t be torn down again. I built a great wall of protection. It was covered by fake smiles and endless lies. But who could ever know?

My mind was clouded with the idea that nothing is forever. Love had a round trip ticket into my feelings. As soon it entered my mind I kicked it right out. I never wanted to feel the gut wrenching feeling of being lost and losing my control. The great wall of Nadya was guarded by agony and alienation. They made sure that my body never endured their pain and suffering for I would never come back from it. It became so easy not to let anyone in, it was almost like an alarm clock. It ticked for a while but when time was up I could hear my fears clawing and screeching in my mind to let me know that it was time to let them go. I let that become a norm to me because whenever I let someone in and try to feel that warm feeling of being loved my heart always gets ripped from my chest and torn into little pieces. Then I’m stuck trying to piece my heart together and what went wrong? I always come to the conclusion that it was my fault. I knew better. I heard common sense in the back of my mind begging me not to fall but I didn’t listen. I always fell, and I always fell hard. But this time there wasn’t anyone there to catch me and pick me back up, it was just me this time. Everytime I let myself lose my self control I fell the wall getting taller and taller and my mind starts to lose oxygen, start to lose the sense of life and just become another heartless being walking through the pathways of betrayal and hurt. Love always seemed to wander its way back into my life always trying to convince me to let someone love me. I remember when I finally let someone in, I showed them the real me. I poured my soul into every breath I took when I was with them. I got attached, and once I got attached there was no going back and no letting go. I lost myself, and I lost who I was. It felt like I could finally breathe. The feeling of being loved filled my whole body with warmth. Everything was great but then they decided that I just wasn’t enough. I remember staring at the crisp white screen as it went from those three little grey dots to “I’m not cheating on you, but I can’t promise you that I’m not going to.” It turned my insides out, I felt my heart drop to my feet. I thought to myself “not again.” I felt the tears race down my red cheek as I sobbed into my pillow making sure no one could hear my hurt. My pillow was full of broken hearts and broken promises disguised as wet stains from my tears. But I knew those stains all too well to believe they were just tears.

I seem to always lose who I am in the midst of losing my control. When I let my wall down I lose who I am. I’ve always kept my feelings and when they are finally brought to light it’s never enough and I always lose the person I love and myself. I keep my feelings locked away in a tower and they sometimes try to peek out but I always make sure that they are never to leave. It almost feels like I’m trying to balance an equation. Trying to balance an equation of my life.

Advanced Essay #1

With this piece, I wanted to first connect to my own childhood and show how I grew up as a reference. I then connected the piece to a memory of visiting the Titanic museum where I first realized all of the changes in how people are being raised with technology and the impact it is having. I then went into my analysis and explained all of the negative impacts I am seeing on my own brother who is struggling to detach from technology. I can see it is taking over our society and throughout the piece I want to show how we are losing morals by doing so and how apprehensive I am about technology growing. I am proud of the way I told the stories, because I feel like I pushed myself to use a lot of descriptive language to make my story more compelling. In the future, I would want to make it a bit shorter so that I can really work on getting my point across.

This is it. Now is your chance. There it is. There’s the aisle. “Mommy…”, I said. “Yes Emily.”, my mother responded fully expectant of the next few words to jump off of my lips. “Can I get a Barbie?”, I asked as sweetly as I possibly could with a menacing little smile. “How many dolls do you already have”, my mom said matter-of-factly. “Not that many! And I don’t have any with a sparkly dress like this one. Pleaseeeeee”, I begged. Once we got home, I wildly searched through the matching plastic bags waiting until I found the doll, introducing her to the rest of my collection. I would sit in my room with the box of barbies for hours, talking to myself acting as each different girl. My mind would never tire of moving the plastic people around, creating scene after scene. I could keep myself occupied and simply change their outfits to inspire a new plot. Creativity was a constant flow through my veins just like any other child of my generation. We didn’t rely on anyone I didn’t realize just how much the times have changed until I stepped back and saw how my siblings have been raised. Pieces of the changes I see in them have been left as bread crumbs for me to discover. I found the bread as it all suddenly hit me. This past summer, my family flew to Ireland to visit my relatives. A new exciting experience that was first on our list was the Titanic museum. As soon as I stepped through the boat-shaped glass building, I was transfixed on each artifact hanging on the walls. I read every board to drown myself in the stories of the great tragedy. As we walked through each room and each exhibit, we reached a darker room. As I walked through, there were transcripts of the final communication with the passengers of the ship. There was one worker who stayed in the engineering room to communicate with the other ship sent to help rescue them. “Come quickly. Please hurry. CQD(the old fashion version of “SOS”)”, the worker sent in morse code. “We are on the way”, the ship sent back. Moments later, the worker would send another message. “Please come quickly. The boilers are almost filled. There is not much time. CQD”, the worker said. “We are coming as quickly as we can”, the ship responded. “The ship is sinking quickly. CQ————(radio silence)”. That was the final transmission ever sent from the Titanic. I stopped as I read, chills rolled down my spine and each hair stood up on end. Each dead body had a name, a family, a story. With each word I read, I felt myself growing and learning. I was so in touch with life in this moment. I walked through the exhibit with a heavy heart and a million thoughts buzzing around in my head. I looked around at everyone else walking through, wondering if they felt the way I did. I was met with blank faces. My eyes darted around the room until they finally landed on two boys running through the exhibit with their eyes locked on their bright iPhones. They rushed past each picture, artifact, and piece of history and stood by the stairs never glancing up from the technology. Every ounce of blood in my body began to boil. One of them was my own brother. I was absolutely speechless. The fact that my twelve year old brother had the audacity to breeze by a hundred years worth of history like they were nothing but scrawny morsels of words strung together limply, and had dried up without a single meaning to them. At first, I was tempted to scream at my brother, because he knew better than to disrespect everything this museum, and humanity, stood for. Or did he? My brother was only a small window I looked through to view the larger issue at hand: the new generation. They are being raised in the age of technological advances, which seems to be slowly consuming them. Their childhood is being stripped down the nothingness. Barbie dolls are being replaced with iPads. Creativity replaced with Netflix, real life replaced with artificial conceptions. My brother couldn’t disconnect from his phone for twenty minutes to learn about a real event and discover. He was so ignorant to everything around him, much like millions of others in society. I grew up aware of my surroundings and valuing people and my creativity, while he is growing up in a world where Facebook friends he’s never met are more important. I didn’t have pointless Apps to absorb hours of my life, instead I interacted with others and the world around me to expand and teach myself tools I would need growing up. My brother is missing out on this, and has already surpassed his window of creative childhood. It is sad to watch him reach for his Xbox controller instead of a book, or a soccer ball. Social media and these technologies have become artificial priorities and are taking over. Supposedly we are gaining more from technology, but I see it eating away at the youth. There is nothing to do but sit back as the barbies are thrown away and the iPhones take over.