That's your real name? -- Maciej Pokora

“Is that your real name?”

I knew from a young age that my name will bring a lot of questions. But I never not liked my name, I thought it was unique at least over here in the U.S. Sure it took a lot of tries for people to say it correctly, but after a couple tries of them getting it wrong I feel sorta awkward having to tell them it’s wrong again.

“Yup, that’s my real name,” I answered with a smile on my face, proudly wearing my name.

“What’s it mean?” he asked with a confused look on his face.

“Nothing, it’s just a name. It’s Polish if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Cool.” after that he just walked away with a confused look.

It was the first day of school, that meant new teachers. I already knew that I’m going to have to go through the whole name process, where the teacher needs to learn my name. For most people, they didn’t have to stress or worry about getting their name mispronounced. But that isn’t the worst part of the whole ordeal, them trying to get you to adjust by asking if they could shorten it or call you something else, giving me that feeling of them simply not caring enough …

There I was sitting in my new seat waiting for the teacher to start class as the kids are rolling in, each of them taking seats next to their friends. I was happy to be in the class, I had a good seat where I could see the board and sit next to all my friends. The teacher picked up the paper with all of the student’s name and started going through the list, breezing past all the names. I sat there wondering to myself, what silly sound will he make for my name. There was a pause, silence.. I already knew it was me he stopped for since we just went by the letter “O”. He glanced up to scan the class briefly, expecting to see a big name tag on my forehead. “Ma-ke-edge” the kids in the class that pretty much already knew my name burst into little chuckles, all of them already knew it was me and they all looked at me.

I was a shy kid and I still am. Being embarrassed like that and now having the entire class look at me made me very uncomfortable, feeling really awkward. I hated moments like these, it made me feel just different because I don’t have a “normal easy name”. They always happen on the first week of school, after that it goes away. I raised my hand and utter my name pronounced correctly: “Ma-ch-a” but the a being sound like you were reciting the alphabet.

The idea of names and naming thing is pretty big in our society. When we make new medical discoveries now, one of the first things we do is name it. There’s just a huge system of names and naming things that we all use. Practically everything has a name in our society, especially people. It’s something that gets planned before you’re even born, at least now it is. Name’s are a pretty big deal, it’s one of the first impressions you have on a person, this becomes even more important when you don’t see them physically too. It’s important to have your name respected for what it is. Sure you can have nicknames, but only if you consent to it. Having people force a nickname upon you because they don’t want to put in the small effort to just saying it correctly, is just wrong.

I do, however, understand that my name is hard to pronounce for a non-native speaker and I don’t expect people to get it right the first time. Asking and showing effort of getting the name right is all it takes. Teachers have plenty of students, therefore certain names can be hard but if they still respect it and show or act that they are trying to say it right, it also counts. Names are a part of who you are and if you reduce the name without care you also reduce the worth that person and show a lack of respect for them.

Plenty of times I had people come up to me and ask me what my name meant. Apparently names have meaning to them like “the wise one,” or “lucky one.” I didn’t really know that was a thing so when I got asked that, I didn’t understand.

“It doesn’t mean anything it’s just a name.”

That was my go-to answer, I justed wanted to go back to my cursive homework so I can snack on my gummies..

“I never heard of that before… But are you sure it doesn’t mean something?”

I got pretty annoyed and I didn’t want to go into a full on discussion about my name and it’s origin, followed by a little geographical lesson of where Poland is.

“It’s Polish if that’s what you’re asking, it’s sort of a common name there, but I can assure you it’s not some sort of weird spelling of another name or a bizarre mispronunciation of a utensil.”

That’s usually what got the person to realize that it was just foreign, yet unique name.

"You're lying"

A big part of my life is my heritage, since being Polish is an everyday type of thing. I mean we eat Polish food all of the time at my house and celebrate Polish holidays. I don’t just stop being Polish sometimes, which is why it is weird when people don’t believe me when I tell them I can speak Polish. Here’s a typical scene:

“You’re Polish?” “Yea, both my parents are Polish and I was born in Poland,” “Well do you speak Polish then?” “Yea, I speak Polish fluently,” “You’re lying! I don’t believe you.” “Um, ok? Why not?” “Prove it then, say something Polish right now,” they demand. “Ja mam na imie Marcin Czapla, I ja umiem rozmawiac po Polsku (My name is Marcin Czapla and I know how to speak Polish),” I would say with almost annoyance in my voice. “Wow you really do know how to speak Polish!” they would exclaim almost surprised as if I hadn’t told them already. “Yea..,” I would reply.

I understand people could be from a different country, like for example Spain, and not speak that country’s language. If I tell you I’m Polish though, and you ask me if I speak it, and I reply with “yes”, then how can you tell me I’m lying about that? Why would I lie about being able to speak the language of the country I am from, there almost no benefits to it if any, especially if it’s just a friendly conversation where I am trying to get to know you? Maybe if it was to go on a application to somewhere, like a job for instance, that needed a Polish speaking employee, then I would understand the speculations. For me though, it usually happens during one of those friendly types of conversations where you are just meeting someone for the first time and are trying to get to know them better, or when you just see someone that you don’t talk to as much and you start some small talk.

This has been happening to me my whole life which is why I’m basically used to it by now, but in the beginning it used to always annoy me. I mean I was born in Poland, but my parents came to this country with me when I was only a few months old. Even though I’ve spent almost my whole life here, at my house we all still speak primarily Polish to each other. My parents are both Polish too and were born there obviously, but unlike me this doesn’t happen to them. It might be because since their adults and they are immigrants, it’s almost expected of them to be able to speak the language of the country that they came here from. I also understand that for someone my age to speak another language fluently could be seen as impressive or not very common, but telling me I’m lying when I tell you I speak Polish or telling that to someone no matter what the language is disrespectful. What that shows, or how I perceive it at least, is that you are doubting the fact that I know another language, or you think I’m lying to you. I know that some people use the phrase “You’re lying” as just a way of expressing that they are surprised, but in most cases that I’ve been in the people that said this were being serious. I think that people do this because a new language is something so new and well foreign to them, which is why they aren’t used to it and act like they act. It’s basically the same situation for me every time too, but I could understand why, I mean if I were to meet someone who spoke another language I wouldn’t say the same thing as them, but I would be just as surprised.

I would be walking somewhere, usually down a hallway at school, when I run into someone from one of my classes that I really don’t talk to that much. We would start conversing and create some small talk and eventually the subject would somehow get to me being Polish.

In conclusion, being Polish is a big part of my life That’s why when someone tells me they don’t believe that I can speak Polish it’s pretty offensive to me. I do understand that people might do it without even knowing it could be offensive or they don’t mean it to be, but it does sound a little rude most of the time and it hits me on a personal level if said in the wrong way.

Technology Takes Over

I put my earphones in my ear and turned my music volume on full blast. I did this a lot when I was home; I didn’t like interacting with humans so I was always in my room “TYLIER!!!” I had thought that I heard someone call my name. I pulled my earphones out of my ear. “Yes?” I called out loud. No answer. I plugged my earphones back into my ear. “TYLIER!!!” I paid no attention to it this time and I continued to listen to my music. After about a minute passed, I heard a loud thumping sound getting closer and closer towards me, until my door flew open. As I removed my headphones, my mom said, “I’m taking your headphones.” This always happened in some way, shape, or form in my house. Ever since I was little I was little, I was never the talkative type. You were either told to speak when spoken to or to sit down and shut up. I abide by those rules, I thought about those rules, I lived by those rules. I never interrupted an adult’s conversation unless I thought what I had to say was important. I thought about what I said before I said it. I was extremely shy in front of people, and I never knew what I was until I found a name for myself, the ultimate introvert. I was awkward around people, but not around screens. I really enjoyed music since I was little as well; it’s been a big part of my life. When I found out that I could quietly listen to music without alerting or speaking to people, I changed. My new addiction to technology had begun. I got my first touch screen phone in fifth grade (lucky me), and it was a white and black Droid Razr. I had that phone for the longest time. Now I’m on my fourth touch screen phone, a black Note 5, and I’m extremely addicted to it. Probably a lot more than I should be. I can’t go anywhere without my phone, and I am constantly checking to see if I have my phone on me (I get anxious if I think I lost it). Even if I did lose things frequently, I couldn’t bear to lose such an expensive product. Every portable piece of technology that I’ve ever owned, I’ve had a connection to. Endless hours of typing, scrolling, turning, sliding, and adjusting until my hands started to hurt. I didn’t want to speak to people because I wanted to be on my phone, and I saw myself values and emotions changing into something different. That’s what isolation did to me. When you listen to a lot of music and keep to yourself you change, your feelings towards others change. I remember I was always annoyed at my little brothers because they wouldn’t be quiet, like me. They would scream, yell, and cry. They were loud. I preferred silence, and I wasn’t like them, I didn’t want to be loud so I couldn’t relate to my family. I solved my problems by sticking my earphones in my ears and blocking out the thoughts that crept in my mind. Like I said before, music has always been a big part of my life hence I took my headphones everywhere I went. Music on the radio was overplayed and dreadful, so I put my music on my phone. Thus, further isolating me from people. I had one pair of earphones that I used frequently and four backup earphones just in case those earphones stopped working. Today I don’t use earphones because all of my earphones stopped working. Life was so boring without music, and I had many awkward moments with people because I never talked and always listened. Instead of listening to what other people had to say, whether that be within songs or in real life, I began to listen to myself and my inner thoughts. I’ve just been trying to figure out who or what I am. I have been trying to figure out my likes and dislikes. Recently, I’ve been reconnecting with my family and friends. I’ve been trying to build up those relationships because I’ve neglected people by avoiding them, and they’ve neglected me when I’ve avoided them. I’m not blaming this completely on the technology, however, it played its part. It’s important to acknowledge the things that hurt you, the things that help you, and know that they both can come from one central entity.

"I'm Burmese"

“I thought you were Hispanic.”

I actually find it funny when people say this to me. I don’t know how or why they get this idea, but it’s just a repeated concept that I’ve noticed throughout my life. I find it funny because I’m actually not Hispanic at all.

“Oh no, I’m Burmese.”

“What’s that? Like where is it?”

And from there I explain what my culture is and where it comes from.

Most of the time, a lot of the people I would talk to would then google Burma and try to make out an idea of what or where Burma is. Burmese people aren’t as common as the people of other Asian cultures. It’s one of those cultures that are just as unique but not very well known. The first thing people would normally do is click on images because who would actually want to read articles about what Burma . When this happens, the first thing that shows up in images are those golden high top point temples.They don’t know what-what they are so they would ask if that’s what the houses there look like.

“Um, no. They’re temples.”

From there, most people would think that Burma focuses around temples and that’s what it’s known for. Most people find it fascinating because of how cool those high point tower looking like things look. It grabs their attention. In real life, for a person that’s been to Burma multiple times for vacation, I don’t find it fascinating. I don’t find it fascinating because I don’t see what the big deal is compared to the random tourists who would see them for the first time.

“So like what’s it for, why are there so many of them?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. They’re just there, they’re everywhere.”

It’s true, these temples, they’re everywhere. There are more than two in every city. There would even be one in every neighborhood, let alone city. They come in different shapes and sizes. But the one thing that is unique about them is that they all have the high point at the top of the building. Basically what it’s for is so people can go inside the temple and pray at a statue of a monk. They light up candle sticks and provide it water and/or fruits, it’s basically like a ritual. Every so often people do this to show respect. It is very much similar to the Chinese culture.

“Are these what the actual houses look like?”

Other than temples, people would also find pictures of houses built on the support of somewhat thin wood sticks IN WATER. Yea, it sounds crazy, but it’s actually a thing. There are many parts in Burma that have houses like those. Some are purposely like that to attract tourists attention, like for example, hotels and tourists sites. Other than that, the really poor looking houses are actually made from people who live near high tide rivers or lakes or water bodies of any sort.

“So they are houses?”

“Yes, but not all are like that.”

“Why won’t they just build it on land then?”

In Burma, and I’m sure many other countries, there is a season called raining season. Here in America we have “April showers”, it’s about the same meaning, but it’s way more effective in Burma. What happens during raining season is that for months (about 3), it would rain just about every day. No bright sunshine, like ever during that season. Some days it would just be light drizzles and that’s fine, but on other days it would rain hardcore and not only for one day but for days continuously. It causes the land to flood, and it’s not just any small flood, these are high floods. Floods that would ruin houses and supplies. Since this season comes around every year and it lasts for about three months, these poor people just decided to build their house on top of the water with support sticks because they don’t have the kind of money to build a new house every year when the flood hits.

“Oh, that’s sad. How many times have you been to Burma?”

“Quite a lot, my first time was when I was only 2.”

My first time in Burma, I was young, really young, I didn’t know anything about the place or people or cultures. As I grew older and visited Burma more, I started to notice my culture more and what it means to me.

Defying Expectations -- Jack Sugrue

In the eighth grade, I was an A/B student at Masterman. Most of my teachers liked me, and I was having a decent year. Now, eighth grade was important in that this was the year where everyone chose their high schools. It was almost an unspoken rule that everyone who got into Masterman would go there, and everyone assumed I was just going to Masterman for high school. Getting in would be easy enough, and there was no reason not to go to the best high school in the city, right?

From the moment my sister started as a freshman at SLA, she fell in love with it. There were countless family friends from my neighborhood who praised the school for how amazing of a place it was. As an outsider, I was enthralled. As early as sixth grade, I saw myself at SLA, and was convinced that it was the place to be.

So, when the time for high school application came around, I put SLA first and Masterman second, with Central and Palumbo on my list in case I didn’t get into the first two. I shadowed everywhere, even the two schools I probably wouldn’t go to. I wrote out an essay for each, and went to my SLA interview. After I had finished all the stress that comes with high school application, I waited.

Later that year, I found out I had gotten into every school I had applied to. It was exciting, yet equally overwhelming. I still had my eyes on SLA, and had started telling others that. The responses I got weren’t as enthusiastic.

The mother of a friend of mine was ecstatic at the thought of being able to carpool every morning. I had to break it to her that I wasn’t going to Masterman for high school, and she replied by letting out a despondent “Oh…” and changing the subject.

My math teacher, who I thought was a joy, had a similar response to my news. My history teacher, who went on to say I was one of the best students he had ever had, was simply crestfallen.We had a class period where we all stated our choices for high school, and others were surprised by my decision, some saying I had made the incorrect choice. This wave of disappointment from others turned into self-doubt on my end.

I remember vividly staying up late one night to finish an English assignment. Every month, we would write a letter to our English teacher, telling her what was going on in life, what we were planning on doing, that sort of thing. It was always the most superficial stuff: I saw this movie last week! I’m getting a dog!, whatever was literally happening in life. She would always respond with nice comments along the way.

I wrote my English teacher an emotional breakdown in a letter. I talked about this disappointment I was feeling, and how I hated it. What I really was looking for was empathy. She always wrote really sweet comments, and I really liked her as a teacher. I was hoping she’d understand and be able to help a little, at least. I turned it in the next day.

A few days later, I got my paper back. There were no comments on any of my emotional ranting. In that moment, I felt the insecurity booming inside my head. Not too long later, I would spend an entire English period sobbing. The disappointment, whether real or fake, had gotten to my head, and my own self-doubt led to me believing I had made the wrong decision.

With all this negative emotion bouncing around, I grasped to the support I was given. My family was entirely behind my decision, and I took a lot of comfort at home in those days. I had a close group of friends reminding me how excited I was for SLA. And, through the disappointment, I persevered.

It’s been a little more than a year since I left Masterman for SLA, and, in retrospect, I feel only a twinge of regret for leaving it all behind. In these situations, it’s often better to go with what you think rather than what others believe, because you know what’s best for you. I knew SLA was right for me, and I turned out well, despite what other people said.

Swimming and Segregation

I was in third grade, and my father, mother, sister, and I were spending the year traveling the world. It was spring, and we were all in Bangalore, India. It was an especially hot day, so my family decided to take a break from touring temples and going on hikes, and we went to an amusement/water park called Wonderla. We left our hotel and got into a taxi to take us there. As I looked out my window, I noticed that the street was full of rickshaws, oxen, taxis, and cars. I was also struck by how everyone drove incredibly fast, and they never stopped. There also were absolutely no stoplights. I determined then that these were the craziest roads that I had ever been on. As we entered the park, I was surprised by how similar it was to an American amusement park. It had many rides like bumper cars and tilt-a-whirls and a few roller coasters. After going on a ride or two, we went over to the water park, which was what we were really there for. The water park itself was pretty similar in terms of look and design to the water parks I had been to in America. However, during our time at the water park, my father, sister, and I encountered many cultural differences. On one slide, everyone was staring at my dad because he was not wearing a shirt, whereas all of the women were fully dressed in their salwar kameezes (dresses over loose pants), and the men wore shirts and khaki shorts. On another slide, the other people in line were loaded with questions for us. They asked us a lot of questions about ourselves and about America. Despite all of that, we all had a pretty fun time at the park. After going on several slides, we decided to take a break, and we went over to the wave pool. As I approached the wave pool, I noticed that there were actually two different wave pools, one for men and one for women. The pool for men was a lot larger, and had a lot bigger waves.
“Why are there separate pools for women and men?” I asked my mother. “Because they want to have a pool where the women can swim in peace while away from the men,” she answered. “That’s stupid,” I responded. My father, sister, and I went over to the wave pool for men, where we swam around for a while. I swam, got hurled around by the waves, and was having a great time. Then, a lifeguard approached us. “The women’s pool is over there,” he said to my sister as he pointed to his left. We all stood there looking confused for a second. My sister got out of the pool, and went into the wave pool for women. She didn’t stay there long, likely because she felt a bit awkward. My father and I shrugged and continued swimming around in the pool. After jumping in the waves for a while longer, we got out of the wave pool. We met up with my sister, and she complained about how it was unfair that there were separate pools, and that the women’s pool had smaller waves. We then went on a few more slides. We were a little hungry afterwards, so we went over to the cafeteria to get some food. There, we encountered some more cultural differences. While many restaurants we had been to in India had offered silverware to tourists, this cafeteria did not. We also knew that it is unacceptable to eat with your left hand in India. There was nothing there that I wanted to eat, so I sat and watched as my family had to struggle to tear naan and scoop rice and sauces while only using their right hands. We left that park having encountered many cultural differences. Even though we had travelled to many places prior to Bangalore and encountered many cultural differences, this was one of the only times where they had a direct impact on us. On our previous travels, we had merely observed the differences, however, now we had to decide whether we should adapt to their culture, or we should just be our normal American selves. Should we change our dress, follow their cultural taboo about eating with your left hand, and should we follow their rules about gender interactions. We didn’t agree with many social rules and found them a bit inconvenient at times, but at the same time, we didn’t want to offend anyone.

Burgers and Business - David Roberts

I knew what was coming. My brother had to go through the same process last summer, and now it was my turn. I knew what I had to do and I was not excited to go through that now. It had taken my brother more than twenty online applications to finally get a call back from a local Dunkin Donuts to receive a job. For once, I wished I was younger.

My parents started bugging me after the start of the last quarter of school. I knew this was going to be hard, especially because of my age. Many of the local companies don’t hire until sixteen, and I was only fifteen. But when my mother called the local McDonald’s and was told that they hired at fifteen, I submitted an online application immediately. I went into the restaurant, and was hired on the spot.

My first day happened just as any other first day would go. Words cannot describe how anxious I was. I started off doing drive-through work, but I eventually moved on to do other things. I have done the register at the front counter, and I have even made some people’s sandwiches. After a while, I got over my anxiousness. Now the only thing I worry about is how to make my shift end the fastest.

I do not have a good relationship with one of the supervisors. Every time I have a shift, she seems to be grumpy, and I don’t know why. I remember one incident. I was doing my job of taking orders at the front counter, and she told me to sweep and mop behind that front counter. Now, there was a line of people waiting to have their order taken and yet she still asked me to clean. I did what I was told, even though I disagreed with her.

She was, in my opinion, abusing her abilities as a supervisor. She was ordering me around to do stuff, even when it was busy and I was needed where I was supposed to be. She then often gets agitated that people aren’t working fast enough.

After talking with my father later, I came to the conclusion that her position was going to her head, the power she had access to as a supervisor was overcoming her. Now, in order to earn the rank of supervisor in the McDonald’s hierarchy, one has to work for a time and thus receive a promotion. Now, this particular supervisor is younger than most other supervisors, meaning that she probably has been working there since she was not much older than I am. She’s been working there since her late teens, which is my guess, and is now a supervisor.

My whole point is, she obviously did not care about school. If she worked hard and studied, I would not be making this point, and she would have a better job somewhere fancy. In an indirect way, my supervisor has shown me what life is like when someone who doesn’t stay in school. She has helped me to finally see a reason to care about school and work hard. I don’t want to be working with her or be stuck with a job at McDonalds for the rest of my life.

Getting a job has done more than just teach me things. I get paid $7.50 an hour, and receive the payment every other Friday. Since I am a minor (which is 15 and under) and can only work a certain number of hours, I’m not pulling in pots of gold. At first, small checks like the ones I get don’t look like much, but over time, that money can grow. I’ve been working for a little over three months and have made close to a thousand dollars.

Most teenagers don’t want to get jobs. And yet complaining about how they are not treated like adults is common. Getting a job is a step up. One gains much responsibility, and also learns things relevant to his or her future. One can also mature greatly through this process, just like I have.

I have learned what it’s like to work. I therefore had a small taste of actual adulthood, which is more than most teenagers. I don’t work as much as most adults do, but working twenty hours a week is still a lot. I have also taken on a lot more responsibility, which always helps one mature. But, with responsibility comes freedom. Which is my pay check. Getting this job, in my opinion, has official started my growth into adulthood.

Respect and Relatives

It was an uncomfortably warm September Saturday and my neighborhood reveled in the heat, holding on to the memory of summer. The neighborhood porch sale was that day, and people had tables, chairs, and buckets of icy lemonade, and were selling whatever had been sitting around their house for too long. We knew well enough that we would see most of these stuffed animals and unworn pieces of jewelry being sold again next year, just by different people. Still, the Hamilton Street porch sale was a Powelton Village tradition. We had to take part.
My friend Avery dragged me up and down the 3500 block, searching for cheap jewelry I knew neither of us would ever wear. We stopped, chatting with our neighbor Josh Bruck over a table of my old clothes that my cousins were finally selling.

“Did you know that there’s a guy with a Trump table set up at the end of this block?”, He laughed.

“Yeah, I saw it this morning across the street from my house!” Avery laughed in agreement.

“No! What?”, I exclaimed in disbelief, slightly nauseous as I tried to find reason in his statement.

The notion that there was a table supporting Donald Trump today was highly disrespectful to our family-friendly neighborhood fun. Avery and I stormed down the 3400 block and my stomach began to sink and twist into knots of shame; I knew what was going on.

My heart jumped as we neared the end of the block, navigating through swarms of people shopping.

Avery continued her chatter, clearly oblivious to my dread, “Yeah, it’s an old white guy in a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat”

That confirmed it. “Oh crap. I know who it is.” I sighed. The only old crazy white guy left on this block was my grandfather. He was sitting at his folding table, the surface hidden under piles of flyers, rolls of stickers, and what looked to be a packet with a personal tribute to Trump. He grinned up at me from under his ridiculous hat as I approached him.

“Opa, I can’t let you do this”, I said, shaking my head in disapproval.

“Oh, am I embarrassing my granddaughter?” He laughed as he spoke, making it clear that he didn’t respect my stance.

I looked to my neighbors, trying to apologize for him with my wide eyes.

“Yes”, I finally replied.

I opened my mouth to say more but I knew better than to start this today. It was only weeks ago when we had last fought about this. We were having ‘tea time’ with my 86 year old great-great-aunt Elizabeth. I’d begun to realize my grandfather was turning her against my family politically. Knowing that Elizabeth respected what I said, I tried to reason with him, using her respect for my opinions as leverage. I had barely badmouthed his beloved candidate before he stormed off. His face went surprisingly red, or maybe that was just contrasting from his white hair, and left without a word. He didn’t speak to me for a long while after that.

This is when my mother brought up the idea of ‘respectfully disagreeing’ with him. My ideas on how to deal with him were slightly different, like my plan to lock him in his house on election day. I assume she meant just not bringing it up ever again with him. I still felt like I needed to help him understand, and that I had a right to argue with him. But my mother’s word is law, so I held my tongue that day. I resisted mentioning that most of his children and grandchildren relied on the program he so hated, ObamaCare. I resisted telling him that Trump was supported by white supremacists, and that his Chilean immigrant wife and black grandchildren would suffer in a Trump presidency. I really wanted to tell him so many things, hoping they would change his mind.

My grandfather spoke, “Please, just take this packet. I wrote it myself.”

The conversation we were having with our eyes had shifted. My stony stare had broken his gleeful gaze and he was now looking at me with pleading eyes. Sighing, I took his packet and quickly crumpled it in my bag, hoping that nobody had seen me take it. I left, smiling a smile that more resembled a grimace. I returned to Avery’s porch, where her mother and my father were basking in the shade. My dad asked for the packet after I read it, too embarrassed to cross the street.

“This is bullshit. I’m sorry, but it really is.”, My dad dropped the packet in disgust.

My dad’s retort changed something for me. I agreed with him and realized that if my grandpa’s actions disrespected my morals, then I could disrespect his actions. I decided to stop legitimizing my mother’s excuses about his old age and his over the top catholicism causing his bad choices; if my grandfather still has control over me, he has control over his actions. If he wants to throw away my last shreds of respect for him, he can, but next time he brings up Donald Trump, I’ll say what I mean.

I am what I am

“Hey, how is it in China?”

“I never been there before.”

“What, really? you’re lying, right?”

“No, there isn’t a sign on me that says “Made in China.”

“Well, tell me about it.” I never been there, nothing to tell….

That line “There isn’t a sign on me that says Made in China” has always been a motto for me since I was a kid. But the person who first said this to me was a 7th grader who likes to pick on second graders. He was like three times my size. I never really got his name,so I’ll call him Bob. Bob clearly didn’t like Asians at the time, all he wants is for all Asians to go back to China. My response to that would be not all Asians are from China. Only my mother was from China, otherwise everyone else in my family was born in the U.S. So Bob shouldn’t be

It all happened on the first day of school, this was my first day back at school again. I wasn’t really excited but I was excited to see my friends. But during my first day at school, I had to find my teacher first. And I would do so by looking for my class number which the teacher would be holding with a giant sign our number. When I was a kid, teachers would usually be my worst nightmare, those scary mean teachers. And plus at the time the staffs/teachers weren’t that great at the time, but some few. There was literally this one dean who would pick you up with her collar and choke you if you did something bad. They were scary.

During lunch time I would play fight with all my friends. We were all kids, what can you expect? We would see who’s stronger, who has better moves, the awesome sound effects, and who wins in general. But I usually play fight hardcore with this dark skin guy for fun, and the outcome would be me dropping him on the floor. He wasn’t hurt or anything it was just like a playful drop, none of us was hurt by it. That was when Bob spotted me out, he didn’t like the fact that an Asian wins over a dark skin guy. As we make our way back into the lunchroom, Bob decided to beam a football at my head.

Now, this didn’t happen to 10th grade Jason, where if I fall or get hit by something I would just shake it off. This was second grade small, Fragile, easy to knock over, Jason. When I saw a flying football in the corner of my eye coming right toward me, I knew I was gonna go flying, and that’s what exactly what I did as the football impacted my face. The force dragged me off my feet and I fell over. I burst out crying because of the pain surging through my skull, It hurt a lot. A teacher came over, one of the teacher I used to have, and she just rubbed my head and told me “it’s okay.”

I wasn’t too happy about that since the guy didn’t even get in trouble, but ever since that day, he always picked on me. While in the lunch lines his friend and him would just bust in front of me shoving me out the line, and if they were to get caught. All they would do is start saying Racist joke.

“Get your Ching Chong outta here bitch,” said one of his friend.

“Chill, he’ll get Jackie Chan on your ass!” said another one of his friend.

“Hey, how is it in China?” Said Bob

“I never been there before,” I said

“What, really you’re lying?” Said bob

“No, there isn’t a sign on me that says Made in China!” I said upset

“Well, tell me about it,” said Bob (Laughing)

“You stupid” I said (Because he clearly doesn’t understand I never been there.

“Well, tell me about it when I send your ass flying toward China and the great wall of China!” Said Bob, wanting to hit me but a staff was right there.

I just stood there quiet because I was scared of them. I never really understood why they dislike Asians so much. In my mind, all they were, was jerks who didn’t have a life and had nothing to do. I honestly despise those type of people. Every time someone ask me something related to my race without consideration that can offend me, I would just want to let out my anger on them. I’m glad I never have to see them again. And If I were they would be in a pickle this time.

Normally not normal. - Andrew Rodebaugh

        I usually don’t like talking about my Heart Disease. Even at an early age, you know that some people may define you by it. People defined me as fragile because, of my heart disease. I understand the concern fully, but when you think that you know everything after being told, or you make up, based off of what you think you know, about a kid with a heart defect, that is not always the best answer.

        Okay sorry, you may be confused. Let me give you some background as to what I am trying to say.

        My parents were worried about me going to first grade, even though I was put in a different class than my older brother, was going where he was bullied by the teacher because of his Autism. In the first grade, no one really knew that I had a heart defect. I could do about anything I wanted to do, and  was treated like a regular first grader. They knew that I went to the doctors a lot, but they never really questioned why I did.

        Going to Second grade was great, until I found out that year that I had to get a Cardiac Catheterization. It sounds like a big scary procedure, but it actually is not that. They put something in your heart, and do tests with that device in it to make sure no future problems will arise. If so, they could stop it before it happens. Well, my class was told that I had to have a surgery and that they should pray for me. Which is great, minus the fact that it’s not technically a surgery. The teacher had to explain what my heart defect is.

        Of course, because they were second graders, they think they know everything. The teachers had the same mindset. They apparently  still had a second grade mind that thought the same thing. I am not trying to say they where bad teachers, I mean, I still talk to them at church, but they did what every person would think that. They wanted to protect me, because it is their job. They ended up being overprotective.

 What I mean by that is I could not participate in numerous activities. hey made me   do beginners math, and gave me Fs on it.  I had a stroke, so my memory is bad. The work requires you to memorize times tables. My mom once asked me to have open book, but of course I could not because it would not be fair to the other students.

        t was not fair for me to be in those situations! It was not fair for me to have a stroke! It was not fair for me to have a heart defect! Going back to my first paragraph, education is made to teach and what it should be able to do is make people be able to work how they learned. If I did not become home schooled later on, it could have ruined my life because I was not fairly educated. That school seemed to work for everyone but me, and that broke me down and made me feel like I could not do anything. That I was just a mistake.

        It felt like everyone was against me. I was never picked for games because I was too slow.They were legitimately worried about me! Even though I knew at that time when I was pushing myself too much and when I needed a break.

I mean I should feel lucky I even got to go to school. My heart condition is the most dangerous that you can be born with. Most people do not make it past age 5! I’m tall, which is rare for any person with any heart defect. I do not have to live in a hospital. And heck, a hospital that is one of the best hospitals in the world is 30 minutes from my house! But the stories I hear that have happen to people with defects. Every day,people don’t have the opportunity to be homeschooled, because of how they are treated. They  have to take a lot of medications, when I only have to take a couple, and do not have to bring them to school.

What I am saying is that you should never stop a person from enjoying life. It doesn’t matter who that person is, and what their story is. Also, you should treat them like everyone else, but understand that they may have difficulties. You should also give them help so they can learn which is what schooling should be about.

Changing an image presented by media

We, in America, often have this negative view on poverty, this image that in impoverished communities around the world there are skinny unhappy kids living in small broken homes. Media, literature, and people in general tell a single story about poverty, to make the viewer upset about the issue and view it as a bad part of the world.

I’m not dismissing all of these stories, but I know they aren’t universally true. I know this from my trip to Nicaragua.

It was the third day of our one week trip and the impoverished area we visited really made an impression on me. We were around the capital, Managua. The first 2 days were spent shadowing at an elite school and exploring the history of Managua. For the next three days we were going to be driving an hour out of the city to a rural area where people who had been living in the city dumps had been pushed to. There, we would be working with the Chacocente school, a small Christian school that took over the one room public school previously there. They were working with organizations around the world with the mission of providing their students with a well rounded education that could compete with the rest of the world.

Our drive to the school started at 6 in the morning. After an hour on highways, we pulled off onto dirt paths leading through farms and empty fields of dust. On the side of the road there were tall horses, so skinny you could count each rib. Next to them were little dogs, their legs so flimsy they were struggling to walk. Looking past the animals were small houses built from reused tin roofs and big cement blocks. No running water or full electricity was obvious. This image of poor communities was one I recognized, probably from the way the media represented disparity. I was prepared for what was to come, the sad kids who were losing their will that I had seen in commercials asking to donate for ending world poverty.

We finally pulled up to the school buildings and hopped out of the van. I could immediately feel the dust and heat affecting me. The head of school came over to us, “Hola nuestros visitantes, should we start your tour?” He began to walk us through the close school buildings, each a small classroom. The computer lab was our last stop, a small room full of 2005 Dell laptops. “All of our computers are donated from schools and people from around the US who have no use for them anymore, we are very fortunate to be the only school in the area with computers,” the head of school explained. It really hit me then that the things we throw down as worth nothing really changed their opportunities for education and to communicate with people in the world.

Next, we were going to spend the rest of the day with the students of the school at their field day. We began by playing tug of war over a mud pit. We pulled to our side, they pulled to theirs, and we all couldn’t stop smiling. I looked around and everyone was happy, even the ones I least expected.

The kids of the school were put in a horrible situation by our standards. But looking around this community, they weren’t pushed down by it. I came to the realization that they knew no different, this was how they lived and they hadn’t experienced anything else. I had been very narrow minded before this experience, expecting them to look the same as all those commercials make impoverished people out to be. I’m sure if any of us had been put in this situation from birth we wouldn’t sit and cry about what we didn’t have, because we didn’t have experience of what we we were missing, it was just a form of living. The heat all day led to more complaining than I saw any of the kids of the community complain about. We got more upset by the little unnecessary things we were missing for a few hours, than happy about all the great things we had that they wouldn’t be able to imagine of. When we gave the students little presents, we made them all bracelets, they were full of joy, smiles, and thankfulness, even though these gifts wouldn’t change their living at all. This made me think about how I can be more appreciative of everything in my life and be ecstatic about the little things people do for me that might not mean too much as far of survival, but a lot as far as caring.

Quran's Reading Profile

20160928_122850 (1)
20160928_122850 (1)

When it come to reading, Quran is pretty neutral. He slightly enjoys reading but also really does not care for it. For example, if Quran was asked to read in his free time it would not be something that he enjoys, but he also would not mind it. Just like most people Quran does have a known weakness when he reads. At times he reads over the words in the book and does not comprehend what he is reading.

Quran is a gifted reader and does not have a problem ready any type of book, except for the book ‘The Life of a Slave Girl’. This book is the worst book Quran has ever read he even would like to throw it out of a window. On the other hand Quran still has a sympathy for books. Quran loved the book green eggs and ham when he was younger and still does till this very day.

Reader profile Fabian Colon


Fabian Colon has been a big reader since the 6th grade. His one childhood book that he still likes now is the giving tree. His favorite genre of books is mythical. So he likes books like Percy Jackson and harry potter. When he is happy, he likes to get right into the news! To him, reading is looking at words and taking them down.

Reader Profile

      Kara wants to be a more passionate reader. She wants to take reading more seriously by reading on a daily basis. What's holding her back are other priorities. Things come up that she has to attend to and that takes up a lot of her time, which leaves none to read. A weak spot that Kara has is focus. She often finds herself not being able to concentrate on a book for a long period of time. She has to take breaks to regain focus again. 

      A book from Kara's childhood that she still loves today is Ella Enchanted. She was able to be apart of a play which caused her to have to understand the characters and understand them in a different way than just reading the book. She had to be a different type of person, more so have a different type of mindset when reading and analyzing this book, which caused a deeper connection. 

      When the question "What book would you through out of the window and why" Kara's response was "I have no idea." She hasn't read as much books as she liked which means she had a small variety to choose from. She also was not able to relate to any book that she has read. She found that all the books that she has read that were not like her in regards to race. They were mostly White and as a Black person or of any other race you would not be able to relate with what they are facing. Ella Enchanted has a bossy mother which she could semi-relate to'; and also other books held racism which she can relate to as it is faced today. 

Reader Profile: Elani

Elani likes reading “a lot”. Growing up she always had a book with her. Her greatest influence was her mother, who was an english teacher. She enjoys reading because it allows her to learn about different experiences. Whenever she reads a new book, she gets to explore new topics and adventures that she knew little or nothing about. Although she does love reading, she does not like all types of books. Elani only likes certain books that suit her interests. History, lifestyle, and just boring books do not fall in her list of good reads. A predictable book is a pet peeve of hers.

Elani would like to be a reader that understands everything that she is reading. She wants to be able to understand the purpose of her reads and why they were written. Her struggle with understanding is that she has not read too many books with reasonable morals.

Mohammed Bah's reader profile

 Mohammed is a reader that is mainly into fantasy texts and any other takes a lot of work for you to get interested in them. His love for fantasy books stems from him reading the Harry Potter series as a kid. His favorite being the fourth installment, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire. Harry Potter is a book that he loves till this day because of how the main protagonist is relatable with a lot of depth.
 Mohammed struggles with sticking with a book, it is hard for him to find a book that maintains his attention. He also struggles with finding the motivation to read. His reading happy place is when he finds a book that is so interesting that it doesn't feel as if he is reading. His weak spot in reading is that he doesn't comprehend books with complex sentences as easily. 

Reading Profiles J'lynn Matthews


J’lynn does not find her happiness in books. Reading is not her favorite thing to do. She does not find an interest in most books but when she does she can never get enough of it. J’lynn’s favorite book is Hollow Went Down and she described it as turkey meatloaf. She said it was like turkey meatloaf because you can’t just have one bite, you need more. J’lynn wanted more of the book, she couldn’t get enough of it.

J’lynn tends to abandon books so whenever she finishes a book completely she is proud of that read. She doesn’t feel pride when she abandons books because she knows that she can finish it she just doesn’t have an interest for it. If she could throw a book out the window it would be the Hunger Games. She hated the way that it was over glorified because she found the book to be very predictable and that “the plot was trash.”

J’lynn loves the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. That book was the first book that that she was really expoused too and it was just a large part of her childhood. Her reading happy place was really anywhere but especially on the trolley on her way home. She said it is a nice way to end the day.