By Willie Williams
Ivanna Eudora Kean 12th Grade – First Place
One morning, I found myself sitting down, looking around, and trying to count all the victories and accomplishments that I have to show for myself. I'm a starter on my high school basketball team and we have had enough victories in the past that would make me worthy of a "congratulations," but I constantly found myself thinking-what have I done for myself by where I was truly awarded? I walked up to building 22, apartment 400, every day without any future plans. It was easier to drown in my misery and complain about my discontentment with life rather then actually do something about it. A day later, my teacher announced to the class that it was time for us to write our Laws of Life essay. I came home thinking about just writing a paragraph or two about basketball and then shoving the loose-leaf paper back in my bag to turn into the teacher the next day -but then I thought: maybe if 1 use those writing skills that I usually practice in my journals, I could get somewhere! This made me aware of the fact that I could finally accomplish something that gives credit to no one else but me. I would no longer let failure be an option in my life, and venture towards success. If I dedicate my life to practicing the three laws of life: determination, self-will, and integrity, I would have the ability to surpass any of life's obstacles.
The saying, "life is like a box of chocolates–you never know what you might get," is a statement that relates so much to life. Life carries so many obstacles and battles existing only for the sole purpose of tearing someone apart. My life was never candy- coated. My box of chocolates may not have been as sweet as the young man in the suburbs with a full-paid college education, but it is now my responsibility to find that drive–that determination. Determination is the key to my success. I am determined to pursue my goal as a basketball player or any other profession, allowing nothing to stand in my way. Too often, I find myself sitting under the shed with my boys, as if time is actually, "on my side." The lazy, unmotivated attitude that I've seemed to accept of myself will no longer be a part of my life. I refuse to give up now that I have the motivation to be successful at anything I put my mind and my time to.
Secondly, self-will requires strength more than anything else. I have to be strong enough to deal with all the negative attitudes and judgments from my environment, not allowing it to shake me or my confidence. I am a young man, healthy and capable of many things, but I must have within me, the will power that is so important in life. I must have confidence, strength and faith in my capabilities and I must find the inner me; Not the image that I portray to my environment, but the part of me that no one knows- The part of me that I don't even know as yet, but a part that I am willing to get familiar with. This part of me will help me to be strong and dedicated to my success. When I am surely aware of who I truly am, I would be able to develop a strong foundation and a strong self-will.
Lastly, in order to be on the sure path to success, I must have integrity. From junior high school to the present, I've took on the role of a bad boy, and when I think back, this reputation has not helped me in any way. I can clearly recall how it has not reputation. My grades were always a problem. I have always been content with a seventy way of handling things. Violence, seemed like a way for me to show my manhood, and revenge was an ongoing result of any battle I lost. My days of that are over .My future is at risk, and my hopes and dreams will not be shattered. I must now act like a driven young man determined to live up to my aspirations. With integrity, I will show my peers that I am capable, and that anyone can be if they truly believe.
By practicing the Laws of Life-determination, self-wiIl, and integrity, I wiIl not only make a drastic effort to improve, but I will take my life, and turn it around. Important people in history say that anything is possible, when you apply yourself, and I plan to live by this motto every step of the way. Now, when I go home to Rasvalley, walk up to building 22, apartment 400, I will sigh without a care in the world, knowing that only in a matter a time, I will be walking up to my mansion in Beverly Hills, California!
Finally, I have challenged myself in a major way. I've struggled just to believe in myself, and now, I finally do. I've forced myself to be hard working. I've forced myself to grow up just like I forced myself to execute this essay to the best of my ability. This work is living proof of my potential, and my future will be the proof of my capabilities. After all, the only thing left for me to do is succeed. I will survive and I most definitely will prevail because failure is not an option.
By Jenneca Dawson
Ivanna Eudora Kean 11th Grade – First Place
Have you ever wished for something so bad it ends up the only thing you desire in life? You live for this one wish to come true more than anything else. Basically, without this granting of your wish there is no reason for living. Well these few lines describe me exactly one year ago. I wanted to be smaller so bad that in every prayer I asked for this wish to come true.
As a 14-year-old girl going through days feeling as if the world is caving in on me because of my weight, I prayed day and night to just lose it. I would work out non stop but I would never push to hard or go bulimic just to fit in with the rest girls. I wouldn't try to kill myself over being the biggest out of all of my friends, but I would hate my self and my life. I was 210 pounds, and all of the weight seemed to be in front of me. I looked pregnant and I was not asked, but told, that I was pregnant every day. I am not over exaggerating. I was gocked at and was approached every day by people wanting to know who did that to me. Well no one, I was just big. The most crushing feeling I went through in school was being called into an assistant's office because a teacher reported me to him for not wearing the proper clothing for a pregnant girl It even went as far as the asst. principle telling me he has ways of finding out if I am pregnant or not. For a girl who has no experience of any sexual activity, I felt very angry by this statement. I felt as though every one was against me except for my mother. Even my friends made me feel uncomfortable by making jokes of me being pregnant and wanting to know whom the father was. I know it was meant to be harmless but it hurts.
I had no idea it would be so devastating to be accused by my own father thinking I was pregnant; it came as an insult to me. I was determined to lose the weight no matter what. Through all of this, I had one hope, my birthday wish. It always seemed to give me hope thinking about my upcoming birthday, something just always drew my mind to it until it finally came. February 11th, was the day I could end my humiliation for good. That day I made my one wish; I remembered it as it was yesterday. I wished that I could get better. I never truly understood why I said that. I never figured out why I made that statement – make better until the upcoming Wednesday. Following my wish, I could not eat, or do anything. I felt even sicker than before. For some reason, my stomach actually felt like it weighed a ton. I stayed home for several days until my mom could not bare it any more and took me to the doctor on the 19th. I prayed that there would be nothing wrong with me, but I guess God was busy with some one else. I couldn't be greedy with all of the wishes could I?
It took only 30 seconds for those two ladies to look at me and said something is seriously wrong. I went through the emergency room and all of its downs. I went through all of the nurses telling my mom that she wasted her time taking me there be
cause I am pregnant, but like always my mom believed me and later on the nurses were the ones left feeling silly. Finally, they were all proven wrong – I had a tumor. I had to go Puerto Rico immediately, so my mom, and dad, went with me. Every one was scared now and in a panic. My mom and I were the only ones that stayed strong. My mom was more worried about me being in pain while I was just thrilled that I was going on a plane. We got to Puerto Rico on the 21st of the month and on the 28th the 58-pound tumor was gone thanks to my 15 doctors. Yep, I had a lot of attention. I was thin but I was still feeling sick.
I could hardly stay up to talk to anyone, especially my angel (my mom). There was more to my situation than we all had anticipated. I had liquid around my heart that left me sleepy and made my heart beat very fast, but that's not all. I had two not one but two tumors in the right artery of my heart. I had some wonderful doctors that studied me day and night until they found that out:- To this day I am grateful.
At that point I was scared, no more vacation songs were being played in my head. All of my doctors said I could have died. They were debating as to whether I could undergo two major surgeries one week. They thought it was useless, but they still performed the surgery. All of this time my mom help to strengthen my faith in God. I had no difficulties because I was praying to myself all the time, and I knew god bad answered my prayers.
My birthday wish was granted and I felt special. The operation took place on the third of March. I was so excited about being put to sleep again that I made a game of it. I wanted to see how long it took for me to fall asleep, but this time felt different. I was given an injection instead of gas and I was scared because for some reason I felt as though something would go wrong, but I went to sleep. I awoke during the preparation for the surgery. I felt every thing, I felt the tube being placed m my leg and I was scared. I did not want to feel what was about to happen so I tried everything but I was paralyzed. I could not move. A husky voice in my head said "stop fussing, and open your eyes child." And so I did, next thing you know I was back to sleep. Hours later, I awoke with holes everywhere it had a main vein. I had more holes in my body than a slice of swiss cheese.
Following the operation, I asked my mom about the procedures of removing the tumor because every thing before the last operation was hazy. I felt like I was knocked over my head with a heavy object. I was in a trance and did not really hear or understand any thing that I was being told. My mom told me that my right ovary was removed. I will never forget the look I gave her at that moment. I looked at her as though some one took away my tongue and I had to express to her how I felt through my expression. I felt like a part of me was gone, and that's how she interpreted my glance. She smiled at me then said, "Don't worry" and so I didn't. I was happy that I was well, and happy to know that my mom was o.k. The doctors did not want me to find out certain things but my trusting mom told me any way. It is not easy for a fifteen year old to hear she has cancer. With the frame of mind I was in, I did not care. I felt at ease and it did not affect me in any way. Both my mom and the sympathetic doctor asked how I was feeling. I was a fighter and I enjoy challenges, but one thing I could not deal with was losing my hair. Fortunately, I did lose it. I was not ashamed and hope was instilled in me. I showed no sign of weakness while going through therapy. My mom was proud of me and the doctors were shocked; that's exactly how I wanted it to be. The people I was trying to please were god and my mom. Both of them were there for me, and helped keep me to keep faith in every thing I believed in.
If you haven't gotten the moral of my essay you haven't paid much attention. It is simple to see that God is there for every one once you ask Him to be there. We should always be careful what we ask for. I asked to never have children and my wish came true although I really regret it now. I asked to be smaller and I am; no matter how brutal an experience it was. I guess miracles work in weird ways. The most valuable thing to me on earth is words. They make or break ones life, so we should pick our words wisely. My mom and I learned that the hard way.
By Nyomi Gumbs
Ivanna Eudora Kean 10th Grade – First Place
This was my first time. I had never gone on a church mission trip before, and I was really looking forward to helping people who were in need. We, the youths of our church, had set up fundraisers and other activities to raise money for a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. We decided to go away on the week that our island had it's Carnival, that way we would not miss much school. I remember it like yesterday; we all met at the airport and I was kind of nervous and excited, because this was the first time I had traveled without my family. As we boarded the plane I waved good-bye to my island, little did I know, the next time I saw it, I would have a completely different perspective of life, and the world to me would never be the same.
We arrived in Santo Domingo at approximately 9:00 pm. We spent almost a whole hour gathering our luggage and going through customs. When we finally left the airport, it was around 10:00 pm. Everybody was exhausted, and we still had an hour and a half drive ahead of us. I was surprised how cold it was outside the airport. I guess I just assumed that because it was an island in the Caribbean, it would be hot like our island, St. Thomas. But along with many others, I was wrong. We piled into the vans, and drove for what seemed like all night. We passed many small villages, and I was shocked at the condition in which they were living. I had seen situations like this on TV, but I had never really been face to face with it before, and I couldn't believe that people were actually able to survive like this. They lived in little shacks made out of galvanize, old wood, or sometimes you'd see the odd one that was concrete. They had outdoor fires, which I assume were for light and cooking food.
When we arrived at our destination in San Pedro, we loaded our bags out of the van, and looked around at the village we were in, which would be our home for the next week. It looked similar to the other villages. It had the same kind of galvanize homes, and it was dirty and littered with trash. We stayed in a large building that had rooms upstairs. but served as a school downstairs. We were shown the rooms for the boys and the girls. The rooms were hot, and were not that large. There were about five bunk beds in each room, and one fan; that was pretty much it for furniture. Because most of us were so tired, we didn't tour the building, and decided to save that for the morning. That night I went to sleep wondering what was in store for us, and what tomorrow would bring.
The next morning we all woke up late. Breakfast had already been prepared, so we all sat down, prayed, and started to eat and discuss what the plan was for the day. There were several different things that needed to be done, and I decided to go with the crew that would be painting houses. It took us about ten minutes to drive to the spot where we would be painting. As soon as we stepped out of the van to look at the houses, a group of people approached us. They asked us if we had money to spare or if we had brought anything for them. I looked at the condition of them and their clothes, and wished that I had thought to bring some sort of gift for them. But, then I remembered that we had been told not to give out gifts until the last day, for fear of getting mobbed.
When we had found the house that we were going to paint, we introduced ourselves to the owner, which was kind of difficult for me with the language barrier, and then told her that we would need to move certain things, so that we could get the work done properly. As we
painted, it seemed like we became the center of attention for anyone who happened to pass. It was so strange the way they looked at us like we were movie stars, or famous singers. I myself am not that wealthy, but yet next to them, who had nothing at all, I felt so rich. One of the little girls asked us if she could come back with us. She told us that we were pretty people with nice clothes, and that we must be very lucky .At that moment it was like it just hit me. Damn! I really am fortunate! I used to think that if my friend had a certain kind of sneakers, and I couldn't get them, that it was really unfair, and that life wasn't good at all. But, looking down at this little girl who had no shoes on her feet, raggedy clothes, and probably had never been to school, I realized how fortunate I really am. It's very easy to fall into the everyday cycle of life, thinking that you have things so hard, and you wish you had this or that, but there are people out there who have it so much worse.
Throughout our stay in San Pedro we came across many different people who literally had nothing, and what amazed me was that despite their lack of material things, they were still very happy. They had accepted their situation for what it was, and though they struggled day by day to get through, they still remained content and did what they had to, to get by. During our stay in the village, we had helped a lady clean her yard, which was littered with garbage and bushes. When we had finished she offered us her pair of gold earrings as a token of her appreciation. I found this gesture so selfless and kind. Here there was a woman with almost nothing to her name, and yet she was so ready and willing to give, despite the fact that she had hardly anything. We told her that we wanted nothing in return, and that we had helped her out of the goodness of our hearts. Although I didn't want to admit it, I hadn't really been too keen on the idea of working in the sun, and doing extra work that was not on the schedule, but when I saw how happy and grateful she was, it made me feel really bad for even thinking about not helping her. It made me realize that sometimes just knowing in your heart that you've made a difference is better than any praise or gift you could receive.
On the last day of the trip, I felt like a completely different person, with different morals, and different perspectives. I had set out to help people but in the end, I think they had helped me more. They taught me how to be content and be appreciative and happy with what I have. I have always been a person who wanted more and more, but this trip had exposed me to individuals who had nothing, but were still satisfied, and always grateful. I felt that over those seven days, I had learned one of the most important lessons of my life, "Never Take Anything For Granted Because There Are Many Less Fortunate Than You."
By Jenae Richardson
Ivanna Eudora Kean 9th Grade – First Place
Law of life: Friendship means not only enjoying happy times, but , it also means coping with sad, difficult, life threatening issues.
A black coffin draped with a red velvet interior was blood-crawling. The date was May 30th. The time was nine a.m. The place was John's Funeral Home. As much as I tried to convince myself that the body lying in front of me was just asleep, the truth was that she was dead. I looked at her again and again. She looked utterly serene in her green Sunday dress that I had once given to her as a token of our friendship. Her full lips were pursed in silent approval. How could she look so happy? She had died a silent and painful death, and I felt terrible. If only I had …
A few weeks ago when I reached home, I sat down to take a break. I drifted off into a daydream that was horrific. It was extremely bizarre with descriptive details that startled me. I had just envisioned the funeral of one of my precious friends. What frightened me the most was the date of the funeral. May 30th was her birthday! Oddly enough, this felt like deja vu. Somewhere before I had seen those images. The gut-wrenching feeling I had this time however, did not come from my mind. Instead, it came from a different part of me, perhaps my heart.
Eighth-grade at Bertha C. Boschulte started out excitingly, but ended very unexpectedly. I can remember it as if it was just a few days ago, when in fact many weeks and months have passed; a time span in which much has changed. I can remember drama class and all the plays that my friends and I created with props and much preparation. Our jokes and laughter always made me look forward to come to school. My friends and I had perfect attendances, so we saw each other every day, and together we had non-stop fun! Soon, I started to notice a change however. My friend Sha-sha started to miss days of school. What started out as one to two days per week turned into three to four days per week. When we asked her what happened, she would say, "Ain nuttin, just these tight sneakers does be huttin my foot."
School went on as usual, and Sha-sha missed days more and more frequently. Again the answer to my usual question of "what's wrong" was that her feet were hurting. That started to trouble me because her foot pains affected her every-day activities. Simply walking from class to class was painful. She limped with agony as though she had walked a thousand miles. I started to feel sorry for her, but that pity did not last for long because her personality stayed every bit as bubbly as it was before. However, a few months later, perhaps in March of 2003, another band of suspicious symptoms occurred. This time she became really cold in the air-conditioned classrooms. Her fingers turned yellow, blue, and purple. Her hair started to thin and recede. Mosquito bites would swell and become infected. Cuts and bruises took very long to heal. At this point, I definitely realized that something indeed was not right. I did not know what it was, but what I did know was something was affecting my dear friend, Sha-Sha. I never guessed that these were symptoms of a chronic, life-threatening disease.
Fortunately for her, she was able to complete the eighth-grade and graduate. I was very grateful for that. Even though she was not in the top-ten graduates, I knew she didn't make it because of her poor attendance. She had great potential and could have been so much greater than she was. Before I knew it, summer had arrived. When I went home for summer break, I didn't make many phone calls. In August, Sha-sha called me and I was pleasantly surprised. We talked about our plans of attending the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School in September. I also asked her how she felt, and she said that she was fine. Then she told me about her recent trip to the doctor, and that she had been diagnosed with lupus. I felt my heart stop for a second, and my only thought was "Oh my God." I knew the severity of the disease, but I did not want to lament on the subject. Instead I said a mere "I hope you feel better." When I hung up the phone that night, was distraught.
The next time I saw Sha-sha was at our ninth grade orientation. The first thing I noticed were her cheeks. They were incredibly huge, and I assumed it was a side effect of the medication. When school started the next week, some of my other friends laughed and teased her calling her "chubby cheeks." I knew they teased her because they did not realize the intensify of her situation. "Lupus is a disease in which the immune system attacks the body." That was what my sister told me. It all made perfect sense. Sha-sha' s non-healing cuts, thinning hair and hurting feet were all symptoms of lupus.
At the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year, Sha-sha had a decent attendance. However, in early November, she started to miss two to three days per week. Soon, she stopped coming to school. I thought about calling and visiting her, but I was afraid. I used the excuse, "I'm not going
to call her because she never calls me anyway," to justify my cowardly acts. I wished I had the courage to tell her that I care for her, to talk to her about her illness and to hug her and allow her to cry on my shoulders as long as she needed. But, I truly did not know what to say to her because I did not want to discuss her illness. I felt compassion for her, but I could not deal with my own emotions of fear, pain, sorrow and anger. Why should fourteen year old girlfriends discuss a disease in which the inevitable result is death?
Currently Sha-sha is at a treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, and I do not know when she will be returning. The specialists are tending to her lupus, osteoporosis, and hip deterioration. Everyday I think about her and wonder to myself, "Why does a person so young have to suffer so terribly?"
From such a tragic experience, I have learned that there are many facets of friendship. I recently interpreted my daydream to mean that Sha-sha had died without me having the courage to tell her that I care about her. The dream awakened a spirit of courage. With courage, I am now able to express compassion and articulate my concerns for her by being able to call her and tell her that she's special to me. Also, I have learned that friendship encompasses both the good and bad of life. Friendship means not only enjoying happy times, but it also means coping with sad, difficult, life threatening issues.
Although I have no answers to my terrifying questions about life, no longer will I allow my fears, sorrow, pain and anger to overwhelm me and prevent me from expressing my deepest emotions.
I have also learned that you are never too young to be afflicted with a life- threatening disease.
Therefore, I live life to the fullest. What we have can be unexpectedly taken away, but I am relieved that Sha-sha is alive, and is still a part of my life. Most importantly, I am thankful that I have learned to cope with the sad, difficult issues of friendship and there is still time to rebuild and strengthen our bond.