Student Creative Writing Contest

Each year CATE will host a writing contest, with a prompt publicized in California English and on CATEweb. Any teacher may submit up to three student entries, which must be original work from the current school year. Entries must be sent to and judged in the local council where the teacher’s school is located before they are eligible for statewide consideration. Counties and local contacts for submission are included in the flyer.

Awards will be given in six divisions: Grades 3-4; Grades 5-6; Grades 7-8; Grades 9-10; Grades 11-12; and College.

Statewide winners in each division will be published in California English.

2023 Writing Prompt

Deadline for submissions: April 1, 2023


In an essay, story, poem, or memoir, respond to the following prompt: 

We have recently experienced a “sea change.” Change happens, but we also can make changes. Think about a change you’ve seen, and then write about how it inspires you to make a change of your own.

a sea change: noun

a striking change, as in appearance, often for the better; a radical change or transformation; a transformation brought about by the sea; used by Shakespeare in The Tempest.

Student Creative Writing Contest Winners

  • Celine Cen

    2013 Grades 3/4

    Stone Ranch Elementary School, San Diego

    Teacher: Denise Mikkonen

    “The Mystery Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (Continued)”

  • Audrey Gillcrist

    2013 Grades 5/6

    Live Oak Elementary School, Fallbrook

    Teacher: Mrs. Avila

    “The Potter Legacy”

  • Steven Higginbotham

    2013 Grades 7/8

    Divisadero Middle School, Visalia

    Teacher: Ronni-Jean O'Connell

    “Connection with Alabama Moon”

  • Jordan Brooks

    2013 Grades 9/10

    Olympian High School, Chula Vista

    Teacher: Alicia Pentz-Lopez

    “Lord of the Flies: Epilogue”

  • Karla Mendoza

    2013 Grades 11/12

    Olympian High School, Chula Vista

    Teacher: Steve Rodriguez

    “A Continuation of the Novel Frankenstein”

  • Alexander Wang

    2011 Grades 3/4

    Windemere Ranch Middle School, San Ramon

    Teacher: Deborah Robinson

    2011 Theme: Never More Crucial

    “Breaking Out of Eating Disorder”

  • Arthur Hwang

    2011 Grades 7/8

    2011 Theme: Never More Crucial

  • Lisa Maillard

    2011 Grades 9/10

    San Marcos High School, Santa Barbara

    Teacher: Mrs. Desa Mandarino

    2011 Theme: Never More Crucial


  • Kyle Doria

    2011 Grades 11/12

    Olympian High School, Chula Vista

    Teacher: Steve Rodriguez

    2011 Theme: Never More Crucial

  • Amanda Clopine

    2010 Grades 3/4

    Stone Ranch Elementary School, San Diego

    Teacher: Denise Mikkonen

  • Kirby Anne Falk

    2010 Grades 5/6

    Alder Creek Middle School, Truckee

    Teacher: Vicki Decker

  • Chloe Reimann

    2010 Grades 7/8

    Stevenson School, Carmel

    Teacher: Cindy Gates

  • Haley Berner

    2010 Grades 9/10

    Poway High School, Poway

    Teacher: Divona Roy

  • Maren Peterson

    2010 Grades 11/12

    El Diamante H.S., Visalia

    Teacher: Janet Lynch

  • Shelby Vexler

    Rancho Sante Fe, Rancho Sante Fe

    2009 Theme: Voices at the Epicenter of Change

  • Lauren Weiser

    San Francisco, San Francisco

    2009 Theme: Voices at the Epicenter of Change

  • Haleigh Wayman

    Carmel, Carmel

    2009 Theme: Voices at the Epicenter of Change

  • Pavlina Crowley

    Arcata, Arcata

    2009 Theme: Voices at the Epicenter of Change

  • Teresa Attridge

    San Francisco, San Francisco

    2009 Theme: Voices at the Epicenter of Change

  • Vanessa Pike-Vrtiak

    Eureka, Eureka

    2009 Theme: Voices at the Epicenter of Change

  • Natalie Jacobson

    2007 Grades 3/4

    Brandeis Hillel Day School, San Francisco

    Teacher: Ms. Sarah Kotleba

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “Safe in my Dad’s Arms”

  • Zoya Mirza

    2007 Grades 5/6

    Columbus Tustin Middle School, Tustin Unified School District

    Teacher: Mr. Ronald Siem

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “Mother Querencia”

  • Nicole Larsen-Carson

    2007 Grades 7/8

    Odyssey Charter School, Altadena

    Teacher: Gurupreet Khalsa

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “A Place to Imagine”

  • Christine Wang

    2007 Grades 9/10

    The Bishop’s School, La Jolla

    Teacher: Laury Isenberg

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “The ‘Alice Blue’ Bat Cave”

  • Celeste Pilegard

    2007 Grades 11/12

    Bullard High School, Fresno

    Teacher: Cathy Cirimele

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “Untitled – Querencia”

  • Katelyn Livingstone

    2007 Grades 5/6

    Pershing Middle School, San Diego

    Teacher: Cheryl Rondestvedt

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “My Querencia”

  • Lydia Agacanian

    2007 Grades 7/8

    Santa Catalina School, Monterey

    Teacher: Connie St. Amour

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “The Moonlit Truth”

  • Jordan Calvin

    2007 Grades 9/10

    Fairfax High School, Los Angeles

    Teacher: Pat Abrams

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “On My Roof, In My Notebook, In My Mind”

  • Xascha Diaz

    2007 Grades 11/12

    Sylmar High,

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “Grandma’s House”

  • Anna Schrek

    2007 Grades 5/6

    Brandeis Hillel Day School, San Francisco

    Teacher: Ms. Shulman

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “Me and my Books”

  • Tava H. Espinoza

    2007 Grades 7/8

    Lewis Middle School, San Diego

    Teacher: Mr. Chris Silvestri

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “Flying on Waves”

  • Kia Hayes

    2007 Grades 9/10

    Arcata High School, Northern Humboldt Unified HSD

    Teacher: Elizabeth Erickson

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices


  • Daniella Flores

    2007 Grades 11/12

    Mercy High School, San Francisco

    Teacher: Mr. Charles Schaefer

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices


  • Katie Rice

    2007 Grades 5/6

    Trinity Valley, Klamath-Trinity JUSD

    Teacher: Mrs. Sherry Nissen

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “My Retreat”

  • Michael Luna

    2007 Grades 7/8

    Teacher: Mrs. Surabian

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “My Querencia”

  • Sarah Goodman

    2007 Grades 9/10

    Monterey High, Monterey

    Teacher: Mrs. Kreps

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices


  • Rachel Provolt

    2007 Grades 11/12

    American Indian Academy, Northern Humboldt Unified HSD

    Teacher: Ilza Hakenen

    2007 Theme: Fertile Ground – A Landscape of Voices

    “An Attack on My Querencia”

  • Emma Russell

    2006 Grades 3/4

    James Dukes Elementary School, Ramona

    Teacher: Tori Barlow

    2006 Theme: An "E Ticket" Experience

  • Paul Tran

    2006 Grades 7/8

    The Preuss School—UCSD, San Diego

    Teacher: Mrs. B. Sanford-Fischer

    2006 Theme: An "E Ticket" Experience

  • Mary Felice Chavez

    2006 Grades 9/10

    Central Catholic High School, Modesto

    Teacher: Mr. David Maynard

    2006 Theme: An "E Ticket" Experience

  • Emily Bookstein

    2006 Grades 11/12

    La Jolla High School, La Jolla

    Teacher: Ms. LeCren

    2006 Theme: An "E Ticket" Experience

  • Clark Coleman

    2006 Grades College

    Monterey Peninsula College , Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, Pacific Grove

    2006 Theme: An "E Ticket" Experience

  • Devan Chea

    2005 Grades 3/4

    Lake Elementary School, Vista USD

    Teacher: Patrice Michel

    2005 Theme: The Power of One Teacher

    “The Power of One”

    My father is very ... read more >

    My father is very strict. He’s sometimes unhappy with me when I don’t try very hard in school. But at other times, when I succeed in school, he becomes a nice guy and rewards me. I would like to share with you the three most important lessons how he impacts my life by being a great father, a good teacher, and a very hard worker.

    My dad influences my life tremendously. Every week he helps me with my math and reading assignments. By helping me understand my school work, I now get better grades in school. He encourages me to take swimming lessons in case I eve have to swim for my life. Even though I was not interested in swimming, now I realize how important those lessons were. He had to really convince me to take Karate lessons for self-defense. I didn’t want to because I was afraid of the really, really mean teacher. But now that I have completed the first degree orange belt, I can defend myself better.

    Some of the after school lessons I really enjoyed are, learning to play the piano and taking the Mad Science class. The science class teaches you about how nature works, such as the formation of the tornado by mixing hot air and cool air together, and how 3D animation works by mixing red and blue to create depth.

    My dad is a pretty good teacher because he taught me a lot of the stuff I know right now. He taught me how to read using phonics when I was four years old. He taught me how to peak two languages, English and Khmer. He is constantly teaching me to be polite and respectful of other people, especially grownups such as parents and teacher .

    My father loves to tell stories. His stories help teach me to be more prepared in life. For instance, when he was a boy, he played with hot water that burnt his butt, and another time he ran the slippery stair and tripped and hit his throat that caused him tremendous pain. He reminds me often not to waste water, electricity and paper because that will harm the environment.

    Having dad as a role model helps me understand that hard work has its rewards. When my dad first arrived in the United States twenty -five years ago, he couldn’t read or write English. However, he graduated with an Engineering degree. By doing that he influenced me to work hard and maybe some day become a doctor. He works 9 to 10 hours a day to provide us with good food to eat, nice clothing to wear and a nice house to live in. He sacrifices long hours at works to save up money for my education, so I can have a good future.

    I enjoy having my dad teach me new things everyday such as math and new medical discoveries that he saw on television. My dad is a good father because he has lots of loving care for his family. On some weekends, I enjoy going to visit my dad’s workplace to see all the cool stuff he designed such as the RF filter, aircraft Antenna and radio receiver. That’s how my dad influences my life: I want to do the same for my children when I grow up.

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  • Samantha Stagg

    2005 Grades 5/6

    Raymond Cree Middle School,

    Teacher: Joanie Wilcox

    2005 Theme: The Power of One Teacher

    “Lula, My Special Someone”

    She is a sunflower That ... read more >

    She is a sunflower
    That you can’t help but notice.
    Her hearty cackle tickles my funny bone.
    Her voice is the sweet song of a bird,
    Her smile shines brighter than sunlight.
    She makes me happy.

    She likes to watch the Soaps,
    Oprah, TBN, and the Cooking Channel.
    She loves crocheting blankets, scarves, purses.
    When I visit, we sew and share
    Peanut butter crackers and apples.
    She is my friend.

    She likes to bake.
    Walking into the kitchen,
    I can smell cinnamon and nutmeg.
    That means sweet potato pie! Mmmm!
    Her 7-up cake tastes so good,
    It’ll “make you wanna slap your pappy!”
    You know she can cook!

    She is loving and caring.
    When I am sick, she takes care of me.
    She pours compassion on her garden of grandchildren.
    To help us grow in kindness and bloom with love.
    Lula is my grandma.

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  • Suraj Sampath

    2005 Grades 7/8

    Thornton Junior High School, Fremont Unified School District

    Teacher: Ms. Monica Sousa

    2005 Theme: The Power of One Teacher

    “Power of One”

    My grandpa was an ... read more >

    My grandpa was an amazing man; believe me

    He was not a superman,

    But he was a Nobel prizewinner to me.

    He was always one step ahead of me:

    He knew what I was seeing, and what I was hearing,

    Always one step ahead of me.

    He could move the blocks in my head

    To show and tell the light of truth.

    You would want to argue and best him, but you would often receive the overwhelming

    shame of a loss.

    He had a lot of power;

    He could silence me with a finger.

    And I could hear him talk:

    He was skilled and talented,

    From business to sports,

    He’s what you would call a genius at work.

    He was an entertainment system of his own.
    He would make you think what he said,

    Putting those images into your head.

    What more can I say

    Of such great of a man?

    Give him a round of your hand.

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  • Franny Levin

    2003 Grades 5/6

    Stevenson School, Central Council

    Teacher: Cindy P. Gates

    2003 Theme: Valuing the Voice of the Classroom Teacher


    Sometimes we wish for ... read more >

    Sometimes we wish for all of the voices to go away

    to leave us alone, in peace

    The nagging voices of people, parents, teachers, relatives.

    But what if they all really went away?

    Even the deaf to the vibrations of the earth’s song.

    We would transform.

    Vanished shall the voices be

    Of trees, rivers, water, stars, fire, and even the voice of the Earth.

    There would be a much simpler dance of life…

    For there would be

    no Music

    What then?

    If we should wish

    for all of the voices to be gone,

    it would be impossible

    Simply Because

    We would be left with

    the Voice



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  • Taylor Anne Gobar

    2003 Grades 7/8

    St. James Academy, Diocese of San Diego

    Teacher: Mary Ellen McWhirter

    2003 Theme: Valuing the Voice of the Classroom Teacher

    Whether prayer, verse, or ... read more >

    Whether prayer, verse, or rhyme
    Paragraphs, simple structure.

    Basic white pages,
    Ready to hold words
    Spoken with rhythm.

    Emphasizing syllables—
    Embellish on what the author
    Has given as guidance.

    Punctuation becomes
    Even beats, drumming.

    Melodic chant
    Begin to resonate varied pitches,
    Through notes, bars, systems.

    Unique alphabet begins to form
    Universal dialect for musicians.

    Quarter- and half-lengths
    Indicate duration.

    Ensure clear articulation:
    Brighter tone!

    Reveal your teeth,
    Shape your words.

    Support—focus sound
    Crescendo, intensity, not volumne
    Oral performance

    Capture a writer’s voice
    Make it your own
    Pierce through dissonance to an audience

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  • Phoebe Jin

    2003 Grades 9/10

    Monterey High School, Central Council

    Teacher: Kathleen Kelly

    2003 Theme: Valuing the Voice of the Classroom Teacher


    Yet another Wednesday ... read more >

    Yet another Wednesday had arrived and I prepared for my piano lesson with Mr. Lyn Bronson. There were two sides to my feelings, trepidation and eagerness. I was anxious about how I would do on the lesson, for I wanted to play as well as I possibly could. No one plays faultlessly, but I wanted to impress my teacher nevertheless. My eagerness was for the class itself. I am always enthusiastic to learn new pieces and improve my old ones. I also appreciate my teacher’s grand sense of humor.

    As I stepped into the house for what seemed like the fiftieth time, I marveled once more at its coziness and warmth. The red carpets and cherry furniture generated a sense of grandeur, despite the track lighting on the ceiling. Ornaments twinkled merrily up at me from unique end tables. The two grand pianos shone in the lamplight; the surfaces reflecting that they were well-maintained. It seemed like only yesterday when I had timidly rung the same doorbell and opened the same door into the same house.

    I moved to Monterey seven months ago and even now, I clearly remember the trouble my parents and I went through with the many piano teacher interviews. Some of the teachers were too lax and others just did not teach in the way I learned best. I have been taking piano lessons for about seven years now. Finding the right teacher is crucial at this point because this is the point where one crosses the line between playing as a extracurricular activity and practicing to be a professional.

    The reason we chose Mr. Bronson in the first place was because many of our new friends here recommended him highly. When I first met him, he was in a crisp navy suit and tie. His golden white-streaked hair was combed back evenly and his snow-white beard and mustache were neatly trimmed. His brown eyes twinkled with pride and laughter. His mouth was quirked with a touch of mischievousness. This concerned me a bit because my previous teachers all had two things in common; they were serious and obvious perfectionists. Mr. Bronson was different; he seemed more carefree and fun-loving. I wndered how this would translate in my piano lessons.

    However, after the first few classes, I began to glimpse the painstaking side of him. He used all his energy in playing the music and paid attention to every single note. I ultimately realized that Mr. Bronson was more than he seemed on the outside. He thought about almost everything and his thinking was profound and logical. With his help, my dexterity at the keyboard increased tremendously as the year progressed. The last class before the first performance, he said to me, “You’re our extended family now. We’ll love you just the same even if you make a mistake.” I burst out laughing, despite my apprehension. Countless similar fond memories gathered up in my mind through the months.

    Today, my mind wandered as I fiddled with two crystal elephants. The boy before me was playing a rather complex piece and and Mr. Bronson was criticizing constructively. One part in particular drew my attention away from the sparkling form. “One important thing to remember when playing classical musical is that we have traditions to follow., Decades ago, a pianist from China played Mozart at an international competition. He lived in the time of the Cultural Revolution when listening to western classical music was forbidden in China. Listening to him play was very bizarre indeed, as he played Mozart in the style of Rachmaninoff.”

    While I pondered this, I began to comprehend that playing a piece of music, any piece, requires the knowledge of tradition and the correct application of experience and emotion. I need to express my feelings and my own interpretations of the music into the performance, abiding by the set rules along the way. I will try to do that during my practice hours at home and I can only hope that I succeed.

    Before long it was my turn to show what I had achieved during the week. I took a deep breath and started the song. After I finished, Mr. Bronson clapped earnestly and announced, “Bravo! You’ve made my day! Beautiful!” If there is one thing that I value about him, it is his ability to cheer anyone up. His own exuberance is contagious; it is almost impossible not to enjoy oneself in his presence.

    After my teacher congratulated me on my past week’s progress, he then pointed out the places that needed perfecting. “The biggest room is the room for improvement” is one of his favorite phrases and he repeated it now. He went on to show my mistakes and how they could be prevented the next time. Soon after that, he came to an especially slow and stately portion of the piece. I almost fell off the piano bench laughing when he started emulating Shakjespeare’s characters – with a Marlon Brando accent. “You see, you cannot perform something meant to be done one way in a totally different style. The result you would probably get is something parallel to Marlon Brando acting in Shakespeare’s plays.”

    I have never had a teacher like Mr. Bronson before. Even after months of taking his class, I am still surprised at how fussy he is. For example, one time, he corrected my pedaling in a small section of a complex song, which he said was off by a total of half a second. “A half a second!” I thought, “Who notices half a second in a ten minute piece?” But then I listened when he explained, “Playing does not mean you are practicing, just like hearing is not listening and reading is not understanding. Practicing, listening, and understanding all require hard work on your part.” At first, I did not understand, but then I began to see that hearing and liste3ning, reading and understanding, playing and practicing are not the same. When I hear something, I am just using one of my senses. To listen to something is to hear the sound and then process what it means. The same goes for the other two. Playing is just running through the pieces without taking time to improve the flawed places. Practicing is going over one spot repeatedly until it is as good as it can possibly be. Because of the intensive way Mr. Bronson conducts his lessons, I have discovered that now I practice instinctively at home and rarely play at all.

    Early this week, he informed me about an upcoming performance class. In these classes, students have a chance to develop the skills of performing confidently in front of a small audience. The ambiance is always very comfortable and casual. I am preparing to play the first movement Beethoven’s Sonata Op.31 No.2. It is nicknamed “The Tempest” because of Beethoven’s answer, “Just read Shakespeare’s Tempest,” to a question about the meaning of the sonata.

    Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a romance and reprisal story. The play opens with a storm striking a ship on the way to Italy. All the passengers are dumped onto a nearby island, where a man named Prospero resides. Later on, we find out that he is the one who causes that storm. More events occur, the guilty find themselves justly punished, and everyone lives happily ever after. The first movement of the sonata is in the heavy key of D minor, representing the huge storm. The other two movements represent the rest of the sonata. It is important to understand that it is this thunderstorm that affects everyone’s life throughout the rest of the play.

    As I said goodbye to Mr. Bronson for this week, I wondered how my life would have been different if I had not moved to Monterey and met him. He is my Tempest; he has initiated the big change in my life that will now lead on to even more changes in the future, just as it did in the play. He has been significant not just in developing my music but my outlook on life and how I connect my music to my perception of the world in genberal and my role in it as well.

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  • Teresa Ferrell

    2003 Grades 11/12

    Oaks Christian School, Southland Council

    Teacher: Ryan Summers

    2003 Theme: Valuing the Voice of the Classroom Teacher

    “Broken Voices”

    The view is blurry ... read more >

    The view is blurry – the camera is scanning the school’s concrete quad at ground level, focusing on masses of feet walking, running; two feet crossing one over the other; one foot standing with the other foot slung out. Overhead, muffled voices are heard, each chattering about a different subject: Mr. Hall’s chemistry test, the pop quiz in Spanish, the fight over the weekend, the party tonight, who just asked who to the dance, where so-and-so is going to college. The camera rushes on through the crowd of blur, halts at a single pair of sneakers, then pans up on a boy sitting alone, silent. This is JJ. He has a brain tumor.

    Everyday I put together the school’s televised news. I report on concerts, pep rallies, sporting events with cheering crowds. I film, edit, produce, and anchor, and just lately it occurred to me that everything I cover is loud.

    JJ is not loud. He therefore is not “newsworthy,” and so he becomes invisible. His voice broke three years ago, when he looked in the mirror and saw one of his eyes swinging outward. His parents thought, as parents would, that this was eye fatigue, caused by their fourteen-year-old sitting in front of computer and video games too often.

    The truth was scarier. An MRI pinpointed pineal germinoma, and his strange eye activity was just the first sign of a grotesque conglomeration of cells growing behind his optic nerve.

    JJ was too old for the pediatric wards and too young for the adult, so he spent the next three years bouncing between the two, getting the best of intentions and sometimes the worst of care. A clumsy female nurse getting tripped and ripped the intravenous pick line out of his arm. A male nurse talked all night about his love life: “He actually kept me up until five in the morning telling me how his girlfriend doesn’t respect him,” said JJ. “I was half asleep, saying, ‘Please leave.’” Pressure in JJ’s brain affected his gross motor skills and when he walked, he dragged one foot. Chemotherapy took his hair. Doctors put a patch over his wandering eye. All the while JJ strove to maintain a normal teenage life.

    Today he is seventeen, and that teenage life disappeared long ago. Kids he once considered his friends now make comments like, “There goes Captain One Eye.” JJ remains silent and instead, he chooses to express himself in another way: through art, angry art. One of his pieces, “Broken Lives, Shattered Dreams” has an emotional effect that cannot quite be explained on paper. From the outside, the piece is a refrigerator-size, very white plywood box that stands upright. It has a hinged door with a bent metal handle and light switch, with an electrical wire running down the rear.

    Many who see the box say that it is empty, because it is, sort of. Inside it is painted pure black and lined with pieces of smashed mirror. A clear, bare light bulb hangs down from a cord. Hands with horny fingernails reach at you from the walls, some hands clutching crumpled tin cans. If you are brave enough to step inside and close the door behind you, you are instantly claustrophobic, shut up inside a world of pain, surrounded by grasping fingers and stared at by your own splintered reflection.

    “I try to incorporate meanings and messages.” When JJ finally cracks his shell to tell even a part of his story, there is little he says, and yet much that he exudes. His voice is quiet and he tires easily, but his vehemence comes through, and his longing to get back into the art studio to express the pain. JJ knows he is broken, and knows that peers to confide in are a luxury he doesn’t have.

    “If somebody feels that it is a burden to be your friend, then that friendship is not worth it. Fiund somebody who cares about you enough to really make an effort,” JJ says. “The only real friends I have now are grown-ups, and they act like they are my older brothers or sisters. If somebody can’t totally love you like family, they are not going to be there when you are sick, or get too old. Family never leaves you.”

    At least he has real family to judge by.

    My camera is moving again. In the lens are more feet: feet in white shoes running around on white linoleum floors. The first auditory impression is silence, and then faint beeping and muffled voices over an intercom. We enter inches above the floor into a pale blue room with a green vinyl chair and a hospital bed. The camera angle jumps up and zooms in on painted toenails. Seventee-year-old Rolanda is in the bed, her thin legs sticking out from underneath the rumpled cotton blanket. She tries to whisper, “”hi,” but coughs and coughs.

    Once upon a time, her voice worked. At age seven, Rolanda threw herself over a casket and screamed through tears, “I didn’t get to say goodbye!” Her aunt, the only parent she had ever know, was dead of cancer. For the next eight years, Rolanda ricocheted among parents, or in any case, no parents who cared. At last, fifteen years old and a child of the court, Rolanda was diagnosed with cancer of her own. As liver cancer ate her alive, she kept faith: faith that she would make it to her 18th birthday, faith that when the final day came, she would be going home to God.

    When time was sinding down and she could not physically stand long enough to hold a job flipping burgers, Rolanda and I started work together, creating a website with words of hope and advice for kids dealing with catastrophic illness. She reached dying kids on their level with her straight, strong language:

    There may be someone out there in the world a step away from giving up. If that’s how you’re feeling, I just want you to know that I understand. I have liver cancer, and I am in and out of the hospital because the cancer is now in my lungs and I have trouble breathing. It’s hard, and it hurts to know that I have to live with this disease for the rest of my life. I think about giving up. When I really start thinking seriously about it, I always remember the outcome. I wouldn’t be the survivor that God wants me to be.

    I’m signing off now. See you tomorrow.

    God Bless, Miss Rolanda

    Her words break my heart. See you tomorrow? She wrote firmly, as if they were not dying, leaving no doubt that everyone would be online when the next dawn came.

    Now Rolanda sits all alone in her UCLA hospital room, and when she goes home, if she goes home, it will be to a foster house. She physically has no voice, but she still distributes hope and love to the world through her keyboard. Rolanda believes in her heart that she will pass from this life to more life, and in the meantime she lives happily.

    My camera is moving one last time, panning down from Rolanda’s feet to my own. The two pedicures are identical, hers and mine each carefully dabbed with flowers on the big toes. My feet, though, generally fit in with the crowd, and it is rare to see them on the ground alone. What do broken voices and lonely feet mean to me?

    As I edit together my videotape, this is what it shows: Life is meant to live happily. It is so short, so short. Whether we are sick right now or not, we must take advantage of time, because we all die one day, some of us sooner that others. In rough times, there is tremendous emotional energy, and all that built-up energy inside has to go somewhere. Surrounded by voices that say hurtful things, JJ lives for the company of his art and then displays his art to teach compassion to the world. In a world where comforting voices have not been present, Rolanda lives for the company of others on our website and displays her writing to comfort others.

    Their feet remain lonely, outside of the crowd, so most of all, my video shows me this: When voices are broken, sometimes it is better to listen with my eyes.

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  • Lindsay Hirata

    2002 Grades 3/4

    Lindsay Hirata, Greater San Diego

    2002 Theme: Dream Keepers

    ““I’ve Had a Dream””

  • Sarah Thomas

    2002 Grades 5/6

    Stevenson School, Central Council

    Teacher: Cindy P. Gates

    2002 Theme: Dream Keepers

    “My Land”

    My Land Dream through time Walk ... read more >

    My Land

    Dream through time
    Walk through feelings
    Gallop through the bottomless well of thoughts

    Without means of turning back
    There is no end
    And no beginning

    Only space
    Only time
    Only dreams

    This is my land

    The land of hope
    The land of happiness
    The land of joy
    The land of bliss

    My land

    On the wings of dragons
    Fierce emerald eyes
    Gleaming in the fire light

    On the back of a unicorn
    Flowing sheets of silk silver mane

    This is my land

    Now you may not appreciate
    This land of mine

    Where fortune lies in the murky ominous caverns
    Pirates somberly waiting to call it their own

    This is only child’s play
    They will say to me
    Nonsense and gibberish

    But I have been there
    And I know the place

    Where dragons fly
    And whisper

    In this land of mine

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  • Noelle Miraglia

    2002 Grades 7/8

    Mt. Carmel School, Central Council

    Teacher: Mrs. Clifford

    2002 Theme: Dream Keepers


    My dream is a ... read more >

    My dream is a secret
    Wrapped up in a handkerchief
    Put into a sock and tied with a bow
    Then put into a box the color of snow
    Hidden in a closet
    Behind all the shoes
    Covered with a blanket and shades of blues
    It’s locked up in that closet away from the world
    To catch that dream I’ll go through leaps and bounds,
    Valleys and deserts, over hills and mounds
    Once I’ve got it, I’m halfway there
    Start early in life, and I’ll have time to spare
    Make that dream come alive
    Not in the darkness and dust
    It’s so important
    I will, I must

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  • Elijah Atkinson

    2002 Grades 9/10

    Redwood Council

    2002 Theme: Dream Keepers

    “The Dreamer Forgotten”

  • Frances Wang

    2002 Grades 11/12

    Redwood Council

    2002 Theme: Dream Keepers

    “Bamboo Dreams”

  • Matthew Henn

    2001 Grades 3/4

    Edna Maguire School, Central Council

    2001 Theme: Words, Words, Words

  • Judith Freeman

    2001 Grades 5/6

    PVIS, Southland Council

    2001 Theme: Words, Words, Words

  • Rachel Wyckoff

    2001 Grades 7/8

    Steve Garvey Junior High School, TUCATE

    2001 Theme: Words, Words, Words

  • Jessica Arguilez

    2001 Grades 9/10

    Junipero Serra High School, Greater San Diego Council

    2001 Theme: Words, Words, Words

  • Amelia Whitcomb

    2001 Grades 11/12

    San Diego High School, Greater San Diego Council

    2001 Theme: Words, Words, Words

  • Alexander Kenneth Scholz

    2000 Grades 3/4

    Kumeyaay Elementary , Greater San Diego Council

    Teacher: Cindy Galik

    2000 Theme: Crossing Thresholds

  • Anna Feldman-Scarr

    2000 Grades 5/6

    Rolling Hills Elementary, Poway Unified

    Teacher: Mrs. Wusthoff

    2000 Theme: Crossing Thresholds

  • Alysha Cabrera

    2000 Grades 7/8

    Cherry Avenue Middle School , TUCATE

    Teacher: Cindy Neelands

    2000 Theme: Crossing Thresholds

  • Stephanie Yanez

    2000 Grades 9/10

    Gabriello High School, Southland Council

    Teacher: Kimberly Thorson

    2000 Theme: Crossing Thresholds

  • Stephen Matava-Knighten

    2000 Grades 11/12

    Vista High School , Greater San Diego Council

    Teacher: Arden Adelgais

    2000 Theme: Crossing Thresholds

  • Alex Rousso

    1999 Grades 5/6

    Santa Catalina School, Monterey

    Teacher: Connie St. Amour

    1999 Theme: Metamorphosis

    “On the Wings of a Dove ”

    Life is a beautiful, ... read more >

    Life is a beautiful, precious gift from God. Each moment needs to be cherished, every day of our lives. I had been taught this in Sunday school and in my religion class at school. Yet, I suppose that I really never knew what it meant. My realization began in the summer of 1 997.

    My parents and my sister, Marissa, and I had returned from a vacation in Greece. It was a wonderful vacation. I got to see my Greek cousins whom I had never met before. My Dad’s entire family from California was there. As I look back on it now, what made the trip even more special was the fact that our entire family was all together.

    When we returned home, Marissa and I looked forward to horse show in Pebble Beach. People from all over the country came to show their ponies and horses. It’s considered one of the biggest horse shows in California. There were many new boarders at the stable where we keep our ponies. The people usually come for at least a month because the show is two and a half weeks long. Two sisters from Dallas, Texas, had come to our stable. They were here with their mom and dad. Marissa and I soon became friends with the Sechrest girls. We nicknamed them the “Sechrest girls” because their last name is Sechrest. The younger sister’s name Is Edyn and she Is the same age as my sister, Marissa, who is eleven years old. The older sister’s name is Keller and she is about two years older than I am.

    My mom and Edyn and Keller’s mom, Karyn, soon became good friends They had much in common. They both were only children, born and raised on the east coast, they each had two daughters who loved to ride, and they each had parents who were in a nursing home. And as if that wasn’t enough, they both worked in the medical profession. So it wasn’t surprising that they became fast friends.

    We enjoyed our time with the Sechrests. We rode our ponies every day together and we ate lunch together. Edyn and Keller came to my house to spend the night a couple of times. We swam at the Beach Club all together and went out to dinner together. But time passed so quickly, and before we knew it, it was time for the Sechrests to go back home to Dallas. We promised to keep in touch. This was the first time I had friends who didn’t live in California. I promised to write and call them. My mom and Karyn also promised to keep in touch. I knew that my mom and Karyn had a special friendship. The Sechrests seemed like the perfect family and I was glad that I got to know them. I kept in touch with them as I had promised. My mom and Karyn talked on the phone from time to time. My mom said that Karyn was like having a sister. I knew that the Sechrests were going to return the following summer because they had already rented a home close to my home. I was excited that we would get to see them again. They had also planned to stay the entire summer.

    The week before Thanksgiving, it happened. My mom got a phone call from Karyn. I was home at the time and l could see by my mom’s expression that she had become very sad. My mom called to me and Marissa and said t hat she had just heard some very sad news from Karyn. She told us that Karyn was flying into San Francisco and then my mom began to cry. I couldn’t understand what was so sad about Karyn coming to California. I was happy at the thought that I might get to see Edyn and Keller. Through her tears, my mom told us that Karyn had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and she was coming to San Francisco to talk with the best neurosurgeons who knew the most about this type of tumor . My first remark was, “She’s going to be all right, isn’t she, mom?” My mom said she didn’t know but she hoped so, and she asked us to keep Karyn in our prayers every night.

    Karyn came and the doctors confirmed that she had a malignant tumor called a gleioblastoma. That was a big word for me to understand, but my mom told be that it is called this because it blasts or grows so quickly and that was what made it a terrible tumor. Karyn ended up having surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. My mom talked with her often and said that Karyn had a lot of courage and a love for life. She was a pediatrician so I knew she loved children. I thought about how hard it was for Karyn and I was so sad for her and for KelIer and Edyn.

    Karyn was feeling a bit better and the family decided to come to Pebble Beach over the summer as planned. She looked good but became easily tired. We all were hopeful that she had come through the worst of it and was going to be healed. We visited and enjoyed playing with Edyn and Keller. My mom and Karyn visited often. I was happy because the Sechrests were talking about moving here from Dallas. I would love to have their family here. It was one of the best summers of my life, but it ended too quickly. The Sechrests went home and we promised to talk on AOL and call each other.

    My mom and I talked with the Sechrests over Thanksgiving. Karyn was feeling stronger and was looking forward to the holidays. She had just returned from a glassblowers’ trip to Oregon. She said that she had always wanted to try glassblowing and she was doubly proud because she had made the trip alone. On December 18th, the day before my sister Marissa’s birthday, we got a call saying that Karyn had passed away early that morning. Mr. Sechrest said that her tumor had doubled in size in less than two weeks. Her entire left side became paralyzed as she was decorating the Christmas tree. Karyn had willed that her ashes be spread in Big Sur and Maui. She said that she wanted her family to take a vacation to celebrate her life.

    This very special lady whom I had the honor of knowing taught me a lot about people and life. I was innocent, sheltered in a chrysalis, thinking that life will always be without loss. But now I realize how things can change in a moment; therefore, it’s so important that I make every day count and be thankful for what I have. I picture Karyn being carried to heaven on the wings of a snow-white dove. I will miss her, but I’m sure she’s happy there.

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  • Lindsey Brengle

    1999 Grades 9/10

    Patrick Henry High School, San Diego

    Teacher: Jewel Weien

    1999 Theme: Metamorphosis

    “The Change Within ”

    In an age ... read more >

    In an age and time where having thick, curly hair, and being a perfect size two is the only way to be, it is not hard to fathom that there are many girls around the world with their eyes closed tightly, blinded by misconceptions. They are wishing for smaller thighs, a bigger bust, and whiter teeth. Each day, they look in the mirror, hoping the freckles are gone and their eyes have miraculously turned from brown to green. I, too, used to be one of these girls, praying each night to be “pretty”.

    Upon entering ninth grade, I felt bombarded by the ideas of physical perfection. High school was already scary, but it was even more frightening when I knew that my body did not belong. I was not size 4, or for that matter, size 10. My hair was fine, like a baby’s, and when all the rage was cocoa brown eyes, mine were a grayish-blue. I fell in and out of love with boys easily, as if loving them would make up for the fact that I couldn’t and didn’t love myself. I was, ultimately, depressed.

    So, I went on a “diet”. My diet consisted of a breakfast drink in the morning, carrots for lunch, and a small bit of whatever my mother cooked in the evening. I was physically and mentally weak, but I loved the compliments. I loved hearing people say with adoring voices, “Oh, Lindsey, you look so good,” or “Lindsey, you’re so pretty,” for these were words I had never heard. But these words only fueled my fire. If I were to stay pretty, I would have to continue to eat less and less.

    I looked great, but things were slowly going wrong, and people started to notice. One day, after a grueling two hours of water polo practice in which I had not been able to keep up with the rest of the team, one of my good friends approached me. As we looked on at one of our strong, lean, and gorgeous teammates, my friend whispered in my ear, “We don’t all have to look like that. You’re fine the way you are.” She walked away after that, not realizing what she had done for me. Inside, I broke down, knowing that I could not continue this way. I was pretty no matter what I weighed, no matter what my hair style, and no matter what anyone else said.

    It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly, my self-image changed, and I no longer held myself hostage in a mirror. I started to enjoy life more, to the point that I drank from the cups of excitement and joy daily; I started to gain weight once I started eating properly again, but that was all right. The fat on my body was almost nonexistent in my mind, because I knew that I was strong, and that my weight would not, and could not, stop me from doing anything. I felt good inside, where it counted.

    My school work began to change. Before, I had hidden and stifled my opinions, afraid that no one would care. Now, instead, I was bold, loud, and ready to share my thoughts with almost anyone who would listen. I tried harder than ever in classes that I had never even bothered with in the past. Teachers that I despised became people that I respected as I learned to respect myself more. When the grades were passed out at the final semester, my GPA was at its highest of that year. Seeing myself through loving eyes has made me realize that I can do anything. I do not have to be skinny and tan to be intelligent.

    By overcoming my fear and self-loathing, the bonds I shared with my family and friends were strengthened. No longer was I focusing all my attention on my body; I had time now to devote to people that cared about me, skinny or not. I did not stifle them with my companionship because now I was comfortable enough with myself to spend time alone, which made us cherish the time we did have together. They helped me to realize, too, that I did not have to face the world and my problems alone. They were by my side for every step of the bumpy, rocky way.

    And even as remarkable as it seems, my “love life” got better, even as my weight crept back to its original number. My self-confidence got higher, and I began to exude happiness. The opposite sex noticed a woman who was sexy, not because she was a stick-thin, Kate Moss look-alike, but because she was strong, intelligent, funny, and had a million-dollar smile that she wasn’t afraid to use. Most of all, though, I understood what it took to love someone else, as now I loved myself.

    My metamorphosis wasn’t physical, really. It wasn’t something others could see just by looking at me, but it was something that changed my life so completely. Self-acceptance has given me the courage to be who I want to be, the strength I need to live with that person, and the love I need to enjoy who I am. My hair is the same baby-fine texture; I still don’t fit into a size 10, and my eyes are always going to be grayish-blue. The difference is that now I like the person I see reflecting back into my “unfashionable” eyes when I look into a mirror.

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  • Zhong-Min Hu

    1999 Grades 11/12

    Arcata High School, Arcata

    Teacher: Joan Williams

    1999 Theme: Metamorphosis

    “A Perfect Cartoon World ”

    In a grassy, Pennsylvanian ... read more >

    In a grassy, Pennsylvanian field a few blocks from the apartment complex where I lived, people usually flew kites and played Frisbee, but I was doing something different.

    I looked down at my legs. They were steady and calm like those of a hardened soldier going into battle. Instead of battle, I was entering a pole vault. I looked at the gleaming, six-foot metal pole I had found on the ground and held it with dry hands. I knew I had to slam the rod into the baseball-shaped hole in front of me to leap into the air.

    My best friend, Vabul, watched me with interest. I had many friends, but none like Vabul, who was from India His curly, black hair and deep, penetrating eyes added power to his wiry frame and made him look like Medusa on stilts. I loved his mischievous, audacious nature. Sometimes we would stay outside late at night under a shining moon exploring hallways and trails, which severely distressed my overprotective Chinese parents. Vabul yelled, “Do it! Go for it!”

    I really felt like doing it and going for it. As I began my pole vault, I knew some force protected me. Nothing bad had ever happened to me, and nothing would, I thought. Rushing forward with all the speed a seven-year old boy could muster, I stabbed the pole, my elongated friend, into the ground. The ground obeyed the law of physics that states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In reaction to my downward motion, an upward thrust lifted my tiny, seventy-pound body into the air. But I had forgotten about the other law, the one that states that what goes up must come down. One moment I was flying, doing a perfect pole vault and soaring like a bird. I was an eagle! Then I became a rock, the prisoner of gravity, crashing to the ground. I reached for the heavens and fell to the earth. The weight of my body pressed against my arm, which pressed against the uncompromising earth, creating a torturing broken bone sandwich. My fragile arm split in two with a crack.

    “Aaaaaaaaaah!” I shouted before breaking into sobs. I had never felt so much pain in my life. This must be how Wile E. Coyote feels when an anvil falls on his head. I felt warmth unlike the kind one feels when sitting in front of a fireplace with family and friends. The warmth that enveloped me was oppressive and caustic. I looked in the direction of Vabul, but I could not see him clearly because my tears blurred his image. “Are you all right?” Vabul asked tentatively, feeling uneasy around a crying boy.

    “No,” I managed to mutter meekly. After the initial shock, a series of scary thoughts attacked my brain. What if my parents get mad at me? They’ll say I got what I deserved. They won’t want to fix my arm. I know they’ll get mad. I know it.

    As Vabul escorted me back to my apartment, I felt some invisible force limit the range of motion of my arm. Whenever I tried to bend it, a jolt of pain would make me wince. As he came near my doorstep, Vabul sincerely remarked, “I hope you don’t get into any trouble. Please don’t tell my mom. She’ll think I caused all this trouble. Bye.”

    After Vabul scurried off, I stood in indecision for about one minute. Should I knock on this door so that my parents can blame me? Maybe I can run away so that they won’t get mad. Ultimately, my arm made the decision for me. A jolt of pain from my right arm urged my left arm to knock for help.

    The door creaked open, widening inches every second. My stomach did somersaults, and my throat was as dry as a camel’s tongue. I took a deep breath as the door swung open.

    “What happened to you?” shrieked my mom as her eyes fell upon my twisted arm.

    After her initial outburst, Mom settled down. Maybe she isn’t going to yell at me after all. Maybe I have a chance. “Mm. Nothing. I hurt my arm a little bit.”’

    “Let me see it.” She examined my arm closely. “Are you okay?

    “Pretty much. Are you mad?” I asked meekly.

    “No, of course not,” she replied sweetly before calling my dad. “Senqi!”

    “What?” replied my dad as he pulled himself away from the television.

    “Come here!” called my mom.

    He’s going to yell at me for sure, I thought. If one parent doesn’t yell at me, the other will. My dad is going to get really angry. I know it. Why does everything have to be so unfair? All he said was, “Don’t worry, son. Don’t worry.”

    Encouraged by my dad’s gentle words, I leaned calmly against the door as my mom rushed to her closet, where she found a silk scarf to wrap around my ailing arm. With my temporary sling in place, my parents rushed me to the hospital, where I received medical attention, love, and all the rest, which was nice except my arm still hurt.

    Up to that moment, I had lived in a cartoon world, a world in which nobody felt pain. It was a world where people bounced back from injuries undeterred and ready to live again. The time I broke my arm was the first time I felt pain.

    A few weeks after my injury, while Vabul and I were watching a Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon, Vabul broke into laughter when one of Wile E. Coyote’s plans backfired and a stick of dynamite exploded in his hand.

    “Wasn’t that funny?” Vabul asked.

    All I could say was, “That must have hurt.”

    Since that day, I have always despised the Roadrunner, Tweety Bird, and Bugs Bunny. At the same time, I have felt sorry for the Coyote, Sylvester the Cat, and Elmer Fudd.

    Now I know why. It is impossible for one to understand another’s pain if one does not experience that pain. With my new perspective, I gradually began to see that the world is not a perfect place. People argue with one another everyday. People injure themselves everyday. People die everyday. The world we live in is not a magical land where all dreams come true. The day I broke my arm was the day my childhood started to end, and it was the day that the world began.

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  • Justin Tseng

    1998 Grades 3/4

    Yerba Buena Elementary School, Agoura Hills

    Teacher: Arlene Wilkoff

    1998 Theme: My Personal Odyssey

    “My Personal Odyssey ”

    “What the?” I ... read more >

    “What the?” I said as I listened to the news report.
    “A new scientific breakthrough, light-powered space rockets, allows people to afford their own space shuttles! And, they can go faster than light in space!” The news reporter went on and on about other stuff, but what my mind was on was that I could afford my own spacecraft! My own spacecraft! I couldn’t believe it! It was like I swallowed a million energy pills. I mean I was really pumped up!

    I raced through my homework, and since my parents were at work after school, I was home by myself. I had written down the address to mail a letter to order the spacecraft. I called my mom and dad on the phone and, of course, they did not let me buy the thing of my dreams.

    I spent the next month trying to convince my parents to get the spaceship and they kept on saying no. No, no, no. Why was that word even invented? Well, anyway, after that month ended, my parents finally got so tired of my begging that they bought the spaceship. When the box containing it came, which took another two months, I took the scissors and cut the packaging tape off. It looked like a giant stick, about ten feet, with a big pod section in the front and two light-powered engines on either side of the back of the stick.

    When I went inside, I saw that the controls were quite simple. An instruction manual told me that the ship used a mind link, which required you to keep concentration and kind of fly it with your mind. The controls I saw were the on and off switch, the shield control (on, off), and the computer keyboard and mouse. And the best thing was the whole-shebang cost – $777.

    After I had gone through the instruction manual, I decided to make a test run.

    When I was out of the atmosphere, I looked into the deep blackness of space. But that darkness was illuminated by the constant glow of the bright stars of yellow flame. I hit the faster-than-light-travel button, and I was zooming off. I turned around and punched the button again. Now, when I was back right on top of earth, I thought of my house in Agoura Hills. I directed the ship to my house and landed in the backyard because it was the only place within our property line that was big enough for the spaceship to fit.

    The next day at school I told all my friends about my new spaceship. None of them were very impressed except my friend who lived across the street and had seen the ship land and take off.

    That afternoon I finally got to start my real journey. When I was in deep space after a light speed jump, I seemed to be nearing a planet. It looked as pretty as Earth from this view. I decided not to land or I might get zapped or something. I’m kidding, but who knows? They might have had phasers like on Star Trek.

    I saw a lot of constellations up close and personal such as Hercules, Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Pisces the Fish, and Orion the Hunter. The computer connected the dots and drew the pictures for me so I didn’t have to play dot to dot.

    I’ve always wondered, “How big is the universe?” Like my grandfather used to tell my dad, when pigs can fly, I’ll tell you why. I guess that’s what the masters of the universe were saying to me. When pigs can fly, I’ll tell you why.

    Next, I saw a nebula. It was a bunch of dust particles together with light on them, which helps you to see them. After that I could barely make out the shape of a black hole. I did not go near it because I knew its gravity pull could crush entire planets!

    When I went to a solar system much like our own, I got closer to the asteroids orbiting around the sun. There were only five planets in this solar system. I landed on the fourth closest to the sun and looked around a little bit. I took out my soccer ball and kicked it upward. It took a long time to get back down because this planet’s gravity was not all that strong.

    I punched in the light speed button and zoomed away. This time I got out of the galaxy. I looked towards the Milky Way. It was very pretty. It looked like a big circle with spokes coming out of it. I turned the ship around and saw a lot of other similar galaxies. There were oval ones; circular ones with only two spokes, irregular-shaped ones, and many more.

    When I was just flying along having fun, I didn’t notice I entered the middle of an intergalactic space war. I happened to be eating a banana right then and after I was done, I threw the peel out of the hatch. I finally noticed the war when a great green beam of light lanced towards my ship and missed it by a bare quarter inch. I found the weapon system and grabbed the joystick. Anybody who shot at me I shot back at, careful not to hit them because I did not want an alien race to get mad at me for disintegrating one of their ships. I was having fun. It was like a video game come to life! Since I had a lot of games at home, I had had plenty of practice. The fighting in the intergalactic war seemed natural to me.

    No time to talk now. The sensors of my ship saw a few new alien ships materializing in back of me. I turned around to face the new enemy. They were well trained, and one almost hit my ship with its weapons. I replied quickly with a fire of my own weapons, which nicked the side of what looked like the leader’s ship. It left a dark burn mark on the side of the leader’s ship. After dodging and firing for a while, an exploding sound came from the leader’s ship. Then I realized what I had done. My banana peel had gotten stuck in the engines of the leader’s ship, and the engines had overloaded and exploded.

    While one side retreated, the other side rejoiced.

    I had turned the tide of an intergalactic space war by eating a banana. It seemed pathetic to me, but to the aliens I was a big hero. The boy who threw a banana peel out of the hatch and had caught it in the engine of the leader’s ship to win a battle. Pathetic. Very pathetic. But anyway, now back to normal, sane life because all this seemed too insane.

    When I looked at the air display, it showed that I had about half an hour left of air. After exploring the universe for fifteen more minutes, I decided it was time to go back home. I went through the landing procedure, and I was in the back yard once more, back on Earth, on land. With no artificial gravity or other things like that.

    This whole journey made me think. What started all this? Was it that my parents let me buy this ship? Or was it when this type of ship was invented? Well, anyway, with my exploration or journey over…

    In a few years, transportation relied on this new aircraft to get people around, and I became the first person ever to fly one of these models. Cars are now antiques. Motors are not used anymore. Everything the human race had thought was advanced technology is now primitive. Technology for the human race is headed for the advanced rating in the scales of the universe. Vehicles did not cause pollution anymore. Car racing was history. Now there is aircraft racing with long tubes used as tracks so the aircraft does not go off course. It’s like a road. The speed limits are now ten light years per hour on the new freeways. There are no longer any driveways, just little tubes that lead to the garage in the front of the house. Jets are no longer needed. Just about all the old ways of transportation are all gone. All gone. Poof! No more. All of this because of a new invention that led to a whole new life on planet Earth.

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  • Katie Dawson

    1998 Grades 5/6

    Ramona Elementary School, Ramona

    Teacher: Candace Whitson

    1998 Theme: My Personal Odyssey

    “My Personal Odyssey”

    I am a ... read more >

    I am a mouse
    who lives in a
    hole in the wall.

    And eat banquets
    that are fit for kings
    but I am different from other
    mice `cause I have wings.

    I scamper around
    as I please, at night,
    but during the day,
    I stay out-of-sight.

    but danger lurks around every bend,
    a cat is crouching, looking sly,
    when all of a sudden,
    I take to the sky.

    One night I crept out
    in the radiant glow,
    of the pale moonlight
    on the stuff down below.

    I heard a hoot,
    and gave a sqeak,
    `cause I was almost
    an owl’s treat.

    I turned around
    and bolted fast
    for fear of being
    its breakfast.

    I think I’ll stay in
    forever more,
    and I won’t fly out
    of that door.

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  • Lisa Kovacevic

    1998 Grades 7/8

    Oak Grove Middle School, Jamul

    Teacher: Ms. Kimberly Coppedge

    1998 Theme: My Personal Odyssey

    “The Escape”

    Here I am, And ... read more >

    Here I am,
    And it is pathetic.

    How come me, the hamster,
    Does not get any credit?

    I am a prisoner,
    In my own living room.

    The monstrous columns of my jail,
    Tower and loom.

    Cotton bedding and alfalfa spread everywhere,
    This place is a complete disaster.

    I am claustrophobic, tense
    And neglected by my master.

    Confined in a cage,
    With rodent pellets all day.

    Watching the time,
    And my life tick away.

    How can the humans know,
    Just how I feel?

    While they are playing, laughing,
    And eating a hot meal.

    Anger swells up inside,
    I am an over-ripe tomato ready to burst.

    Of all the time I’ve been trapped here,
    I now feel the worst!

    I have to get out,
    The time is now.

    But something is stopping me,
    ….I don’t know how!

    The door is locked,
    Everything is sealed.

    I am so frustrated,
    I have to SQUEAL!

    The human boy comes up to my cage,
    Looking surprised,

    “What’s your problem?!”,
    He says, wide eyed.

    Puzzled, he goes back to the couch,
    And soon falls asleep.

    Then, I have an idea,
    ….I’ll be a sneak!

    Of course, I have to,
    My life is at stake.

    There is only one choice,
    And that is to escape!

    I rattle the door,
    And destroy a piece.

    Until this door is down
    I will not cease!

    Then I hear a SNAP,
    The hinge has broken.

    I push the door down,
    And it is open!!

    I crawl outside,
    And I am free!

    I leap off the table,
    But something is staring at me.

    It is black, white,
    And extremely furry.

    Whoa! A cat,
    I have to hurry!!!

    The chase begins,
    And I am in the lead.

    But the vicious monster behind me,
    Is picking up speed!

    All around,
    The living room we ran.

    Now I know why hamsters,
    have a short life span!

    Swerving, weaving,
    Through the legs of tables and chairs.

    Zooming, racing,
    Up and down the stairs.

    I can just imagine,
    What’s in store for me.

    Those jaws, those claws,
    I’m history!

    Why did I leave my home?
    How foolish I am.

    Wait a minute,
    ….I have a plan!

    I have to try at least this,
    It will be my daring deed.

    So I run towards the glass door,
    Ahead at full speed!

    I make a sharp turn, and I’m all right,
    However, the cat is not so bright.

    All of a sudden,
    I hear a SPLAT!

    Hee, hee, hee,
    It is the cat!

    Now he is merely a smudge,
    On the sliding door.

    That ferocious feline,
    Doesn’t scare me anymore!

    I realize now,
    How frightening freedom can be.

    Back in my cage,
    Nothing can harm me.

    I miss my spinning wheel,
    And the dirty water too.

    Even the odor,
    Of my week-old poo!

    I make my decision,
    And climb back up.

    I shut the door,
    And sip from my slimy water cup.

    Then I hear the boy,
    “Mom, what happened to the cat?!”

    And that my friend,
    Is the end of THAT!!!

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  • Maria Maitin

    1998 Grades 9/10

    The Charter School of San Diego, San Diego

    Teacher: Ms. Rachel DeYoung

    1998 Theme: My Personal Odyssey

    “My Imagination”

    My imagination takes ... read more >

    My imagination takes me to the heart of South Africa.
    Beyond the world, my city, my people.
    Into the history of the strong African sister and brother.
    It takes me to a place where I lie my head upon a white tiger when I am tired
    And feed upon the fruits of this nation with a great giraffe when I am hungry.
    I run along side the black panther
    or sit and watch his coat shine in the sun
    I lie in a meadow of laughing hyenas without one trying to overcome my power
    for in this land, they know I am queen.
    The one to walk with the king of all kings

    “The Lion”

    I bathe with the unforgettable elephant or take a journey high above the worldon his back.
    I can brush the spots of a cheetah or play the day away with lion cubs.
    My imagination lets me run in the wind filled with pollen.
    And dance in the tears of the trees.
    Do you hear the jungle song of the night
    or see the gold eyes of the Congo?
    The leopard and I prowl deep in the forest.
    Silently in search of a meal.
    In my imagination,
    I am far away from my troubles of the city
    I am in a magnificent place.
    An adventurous land.
    I know this is mine,
    when I ride into a village on the back of a leopard and every one bows at my feet.
    Because in my imagination, I am more than just anyone.
    I am “Queen” ………..

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  • Marin A. McDonald

    1998 Grades 11/12

    Villa Park High School, Villa Park

    Teacher: Ms. Carol B. Mooney

    1998 Theme: My Personal Odyssey

    “My Personal Odyssey ”

    I feel a ... read more >

    I feel a whispering wind cross my face as the curtain parts silently across the stage. The very first thing I perceive is the all-encompassing darkness that, although pervasive, is charged with excitement and anticipation of some unknown event. I feel like Whitman’s spider, “surrounded, yet detached…” from the multitude of nameless, faceless people crowded into the theater for one purpose: to watch me. It’s so easy to lose myself in that feeling of electrification as I stand, unseen and anonymous, safely behind the curtain wing. I drift for awhile … and then I hear thrum-pum-pum … I remember.

    The fiery Spanish music of the flamenco guitar draws me out of my shell onto the stage, now aglow with vibrant colors of red and orange. I move languidly into center view, raising my arms above my head, piercing through the darkness with my gaze, focusing my energy upon distant figures of humanity. My movements are slow now, exacting each turn of my head with extreme precision, establishing my presence as the sole focus of attention. Thrum-pum-pum … it begins.

    The sweet flamenco lets me transcend the earthly constraints of thought and action, I become the gypsy – passionate, unpredictable, haughty. My feet execute pass after pass of footwork, zapaterias, while I flair my skirt about me like the corona of the sun. It is a feeling of inexorable freedom, independent of all inhibitions. I am in control, the guitarist plays to my rhythm and we combine to create a transient illusion of fire and life. Thrum-pum-pum-pum-Bum … it ends as suddenly as it began. Everything comes back to me in a flood of emotion and piercing light. After the applause and appreciation have subsided I am cast into the darkness once more. I am mortal once more, but the happiness and freedom of the performance linger in my mind like the memory of a dear friend.

    My life is built upon a balance of contrasting forces. While I am a passionate and enthusiastic dancer, especially of ballet and flamenco, I feel my true calling in life transcends pure aesthetics. In verity, I am utterly devoted to the study of natural science. So great is my fascination with science that I have spent the last year and a half actively researching the effects human-created disturbance has on intertidal ecosystems. Tromping through the dark night across wet boulders and being ravaged by the waves while collecting slimy specimens is a far cry from the glamour and affectation of the stage.

    When I first discovered the world of science my initial reaction was extreme: either I would dance or I would research, there would be no coexistence of the two. This schism was further widened by the sheer time requirements necessary to pursue each activity. As a result, I took a year’s hiatus from all forms of dance and concentrated all my energies solely on my scientific research.

    Although at the time it was truly impossible for me to spend three hours at the barre and still pursue research, I realized that my life was unbalanced and incomplete without dance. While it wasn’t apparent to me when I first examined the situation, over the course of many years dance had become an integral part of my being. I came to understand that much of who I am resulted from my experience with dance and that I identify myself within my art. In fact, discipline, dedication, and the willingness to repeat actions until perfection is reached are all qualities I gained from dance which aided me immeasurably in my scientific endeavors.

    In reality, my life without dance was not only unbalanced, but unhappy as well. Dance provides me with the opportunity to channel all my emotions and upset into a positive and aesthetic form. Through dance I can shed all my inhibitions, however temporarily, and experience the sheer joy of living. I feel I have achieved a certain balance in my life: science still dominates my interest, but I temper that interest with the aesthetic release and appreciation of dance. It occurs to me that this is one of many metamorphoses that will take place in my life, beginning in the dark, and hopefully coming to fruition in the warm, vibrant light of understanding and happiness.

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