2010 Winning Essays

High School

First Place - Farhana Chowdhury

The bell rings and kids walk into Mr. Madina's Honors iii classroom. “Okay kids; listen up. I have something I want to read to you.”

When I first walked inside the narrow smelly hallway of apartment number four, I knew I was getting myself into something I would completely regret. The smell of curry, Indian food, Thai food, and any other foreifn food you could think of burnt my nostrils. It made me sick to my stomach. Right then and there I wished I could just turn around and walk out. Hesitantly, I knocked three times lightly on the nicely decarated door. I stared at the signd that said in big cursive letters “ WELCOME.” I chuckled. I don't know why I did. It was funny to me. Since when were the people of the Islamic religion welcoming to a person like me? An agnostic. They pray seven or eight times a day to a God and I play video games and seldom say grace at the dinner table. Don't get me wrong; I'am a believer. However I don't necessarily fit the image of a true Catholic. I can think of numerous times where I skipped church to play baseball and when I consumed meat on Fridays during Lent. Before my knuckles even got the chance to touch the door at fourth time, a half-bald, middle-aged man flung it open. His eyebrows were scrunched together as he was confused. A faint voice behind him says something in a language that I wanted to laugh at. I smirked and looked to the side to hide the fact that I was curling my lips in from laughing at the insanely ambiguous form of speaking I just heard. The man stared and gestured me in. Then pointed at my shoes saying, “ Take your shoes off,” in an annoyingly Indian accent. I kneeled down to untie my sneakers and mentally scolded myself for getting into this situation in the first place.

If I had just listened to Mr. Madina that day, maybe I haven't have to be here. I was doing the usually thing in his Englis Honors iii classs. Writing, I write stories that I hope to publish some day. Lost in thought, I wasn't even listening to what Mr. Madina was dictating to the class. My thoughts were interrupted by the girl in front of me, Rachel. Her hand was brandishing in front of my face as if she were trying to get my attention. Realizing that I was probably in trouble, I lokked up and met eyes with the whole class also including Mr. Madina and found him saying, “Well Max, since you are eager to be informed about this program we are holding in our school how about you be the first volunteer?” I strarted to say something but the bell rang and the perios was over. “All right kids remember to read chapters twelve to twenty by Monday remember to keep working on your paper due in exactly in two weeks from today. Have a nice weekend,” Mr. Madina yelled out while using his eyes to imply that I should get up and go talk to him.

As my classmates cleared out, I grabbed my books and approached Mr. Madina. He explained me all of the things required for the program we are holding at our school. “Here in New Jersey, we support diversity and accept it every step of the way. This program is called Exchange For A Change and it requires students to go into families' homes and live there to experience the different cultures all around them. It is a great opportunity and I really think you'd enjot it. It's completely voluntary; however, it can hurt your grade if you don't show any effort to try.”

I hated it when he did that. He tells me I have a choice but then adds a consequence to it. “Fine, when do I start?”

“Max, I know your are a smart kid. But I also know your views on multi-cultured families are...narrow. Please try your hardest to behave yourself. No funny business. It starts this weekend and you're there for two weeks.” He looked at me straight in the eye.

Oddly enough, I respected the guy and I knew where he was comin from. So I replied, “Okay, give me the family and the adress and I'll be there. I won'tlet you down.” Mr. Madina also explained to me we all would have to keep a short personal journal on our experiences there. He told me he was grading the journals, so I can't slack off.

As I walked inside the house with no shoes I introduce myself. “Hi, Max Levy and I'm part of the Exchange For A Change program that's been held for us juniors every year. It's a program that I---

“He knows who you are. He just looks confused sometimes because he can't speak English too clearly. But most of the time he knows what's going on.” She took out her hand for me to shake it. “Hi, I'm Farah.” I shook back. Her hands were soft. Her olive skin glowed from the sunlight shining in from the opened windows. Her hair was black, long and straight. Her eyes were a simple brown. And she was smiling. She was beautiful. Farah showed me around the apartment and led me to my room. It was too big and good size for an apartment. Everything was tidy and had a unique style to it. I liked it and I liked her. However, she became sort of fresh with me towards the end of the tour. And it seemed as if she was bothered by something. When I asked her if something was wrong, she answered blatantly with no. I wonder why she was mad, but at the same time I did't really care.

The first week there I was annoyed about a lot of things. I found out that the family wasn't Indian. It was from a small country in Asia called Bangladesh. I didn't know suchs place existed, but it was there. There was so many diminutive rules to follow. I had a curfew for ten o'clock. I learned how to pray. I had the turn the television and music off during pray time. I wasn't allowed to sing or rest my hand on my cheek at the dinner table. I wasn't allowed to eat pork. It wasn't halaal. I actually got chastised for saying, “You mean kosher,right?” I thought they were the same thing. But I learnes that being a Jewish person and Islamic person are two different things.

My “fake parents” names were Riaz and Nazreen. Riaz was pretty cool. He seemed hard headed first when he greeted me the first day but he lightened up and turned out to be an okay guy. He was my buddy to watch baseball with because we suprisingly shared the same interest in the Mets. Who know a familt like them would sit down and watch baseball together? All I thought they did was pray five times a day. Yeah, it's five, not seven or eight.

There were two kids in the house. Farah and Khaleed. Farah was my age. Khaleed was seven. The kid was all right.Strangely, he looked up to me as a big brother, and we played video games together. Nazreen would cook for us every day. Dinner time was the best. I never thought I'd love the food but I did. The disgusting smelling curry turned into a couple of my favorite meals. I loved knowing that I could come home from school to be greeted with happy people and delicious on the dinner table. It was rejuvenating.

The second there flew by real fast. I was upset that it had to end so quickly. I went into this program thinking that I would be bored and un interested. I wasn't eager to learn about new cultures and new religions. I liked staying in my little box. But Exchange For A Change changed my aspect in thinking. All my life, diversuty has been knocking on door and this year for the first time ever I opened the door and let it in. It's important to experience different things in life. Kids my age every day are complaining how simple, consistent, and boring their lives are. If they had just taken the chance to just turn around and acknowledge their classmates around them get to know them then maybe they wouldn't have to complain so much. Living with this family for two weeks has opened so many doors for me. I conversed with my fellow peers on how they felt about their two weeks spent in those homes, and they had the same answers as I did. Everything was new, interesting, and out of the ordinary. Everything kept my ears listening, my taste buds buzzing, and my attention at the highest level. And I'll shout it out to the world. Diversity is about acceptance and I'll embrace it forever.

One day after school, I saw Farah wilking outside of my school. I wonderes why she was there. She had one of those hujabs on around her hea that women in the Islamic religion wear to hide their hair from men who would stare at them. An odd religious thing if you ask me. It covered her stunning hair. I approached her and questioned her then I saw she had books in her hand. She answered, “ I go to this school. I was in two of your classes last year.” She walked away and I stared at her. There was this queasy and uneasy feeling at the pit of my stomach. I felt guilty. For three years she's been in myschool, and I hadn't even noticed her.

Max Levy's words echoed in every one of Mr. Madina's students' ears. “ I read this journal to my classes every year and hopefully this program will have the same affect on all of you as it did t Max Levy. Now, let's begin.”

Second Place - Iman Abdulrafiu

Walking a mile in my shoes

I am a native of Ghana’, a country located in West Africa.I was born and raised in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.since the day I was born to the day I set foot in the US, I was surrounded with people of my all kind.In school,most of the kids were Akan,one of the first ethnic tribes in Ghana. Also,everyone was required to speak English during school hours.About 95% of the student were Christians so sermons were held twice a week.during the sermons every student was forced to learn the Bible and gospel songs, making it extremely uncomfortable for non-Christians like me.we also had to wear uniforms and cut our hair.If someone was physically disabled, that person was required to attend a special school.at home,I lived with people of the same religion and interests.Accra lacked diversity to the extend that some kids had never seen a Caucasian before.Kids tought that every fair skinned person was white and all Asians were Chinese. The only sport kids were familiar with was soccer.All the songs sung by artist were either R&B or rap.Everywhere I went,I felt as though I was meeting the same group of people over again.

Eventhough Atlanta is known to be diverse, were I lived a two years was a different story.The town in which I lived was occupied by mostly white people who had confederate flags hanging by their doors.there were few public buses because the white people believe that the public buses would give black people the chance to settle there.in Atlanta, the black people were either Africans and Jamaicans.Before I arrived in New Jersey , I had no idea what a Jew was.I also thought all Spanish speaking people came from Mexico.

At the age of fourteen ,setting foot in New Jersey was a new experience for me.As I walk down the halls of West Orange High,I wonder to myself about the possibility of the existence of such a diverse community.Students are not required to wear uniforms or have the same hair style.I know students that originate from all over the world such as Haiti,Germany, Japan,India, Canada,Mexico.Ireland an several others.Also,there are different religion beliefs such as Jews,Catholics, Moslems and Atheists who celebrate different holidays such as Hannukah,Ramadan,and Christmas.There are students who are Republicans,Democrats,either,or both.some students love to listen to rock and roll while others love rap music.some listen to pop,R&B and classical music. Students also have different sport interest. others enjoy hockey while some love football.everyone is given the same opportunity despite physical abilities.everyone in the school seems to have a unique style.

At home,my neighborhood is share among families from different backgrounds from around the world.One of the neighboring families is Jewish, while another is Phileppines.while taking a tour of the town, I realize every place is occupied by people from different races. restaurants located in West Orange serve a variety of dishes.also,their occasions held in West Orange to celebrate different cultures,countries,and religions.eventhough we sometimes have different opinions, I respect my classmates and neighbors because I learn more than I already know about my community. it also enjoy helping the needy although they may not belong to the same culture because it motivates the needy to help others outside of my culture or religion.it also helps me understand more about the different cultures and religions.The idea of diversity helps me grow as a person by forcing me out of my comfort zone to interact with others from around the world.I lie everybody to understand to respect and accept each other because it dominates race, culture and belief superiority. It also helps eliminate the possibility of conflicts in the future. If I appreciate diversity, everyone will benefit because everyone will be motivated to help each other and make the world a better place.

Third Place - Rhina Navarro

My discovery of the world

I am so different from other people. I discovered it when I came to New Jersey.Diversity is an enormous word that not everybody knows or maybe notices. All my life I knew people from just one place El Salvador I taught that the entire worls had the same culture, traditions, religions, beliefs and education. I lived sixteen years in ignorance, not knowing that everyone of us is unique, original, with different thoughts, and believeing that the whole world follows the same boring sequence of life.

Later in December 2008, I said to my self and parents: “it’s time to get out circle and discover knew things and prove my luck.”I came to New Jersey just by myself with a lot of dreams ahead, feeling fear of the unkown. I keft behind my school, my friend, my whole life. Ahaed, only feature over which I had no control. I found a giant country with millions of people contrary to me from all over the worls, with other languages, cultures, and ways of the dress and behave.The only people that I knew who ere similar to me were my family that lives here, but even they were rare for me.I was in shock, thinking how wrong I was and questioned myself, “What am I going to do if I don’t speak English?”

Then my school came.My legs were trembling, I did not know what to wear, how to behave, etc. The same thing happened to my friend Shanice Henriques, who is from Jamaica.She is seventeen years old and came in 2007 when she was fourteen years old.She is Christian and I am Catolic.Is so strange how us two girls from different contry one from the Caribbean and the other one from Central America felt in the same way even though she speaks the language.We both felt discrimination from people who said black and Hispanic jokes but we handle the situation,Shanice said:” I handled the problem by learning their culture respectin them, learning more En glish.” I did it similar BECAUSE I PROVED THEM that bilingual is not bad, is reversed if you are bilingual you count like two people in one. You can work as a translater person, Bilingual nurse, and ESL teacher, you have more opportunities to get the job because in this country and any other a bilingual person is better than just a person who speaks on language.

Moreover, for me it was not so hard make friends maybe because I am a social person. Also, Engllish in one year know I can communicate whomever I want; I knew that if I speak the language, know the culture, make friends from many countries, and have good grades, many doors will open for me and it will be easier for me to reach my goals. In October 2009 was the celebration of the Hispanic culture in Hackensack High School in New Jersey I notice that not just Hispanic student participated in it, also participated African – American , Jamaican, Philippines people dancing, singing, reciting poems from many cultures represented the Latin people. In the afternoon we were celebrating our triumph with delicious food as the Dominican mangu, puertorrican arroz con gan dules, Colombian empanadas with their acid sauce, Mexican tacos and their spicy chicken and the Salvadorian sweet, Salvadorian arroz con leche. Favio Pena, a Dominican student, relies that I was the only Salvadorian there and there were man Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Colombians, Jamaicans; so they made a ceremony telling that since that day I was going to be adopted by all the countries in the school and I became the international daughter of Hackensack High School. I felt so greatful and leave me.I was a bright rainbow, smiling but at the same time crying. I felt like a gold coin that everybody likes. Now they call me “hija mia o cipota,” a daughter or a girl.

How can two people from totally distinct countries get married and get respect each other? I interviewed a couple. Claudia, the lady, is from Puerto Rico, and the gentleman is Mexican. His name is Guadalupe. They met each other at their job five years ago, because they works together in New York. I asked them what they imagined from each other the first time they met. Claudia responded, “When I met him, I did not like him because of his behavior and the way he talks. It is like he is singing, Also, his religion was not the same, so I did nor believe some things that he believed, as time passed and we share more, I learned about his ancestors, traditions and other things, such as the spicy food, the ranchero music, and the folklore, I fell in love with him.” Guadalupe told me: “When I first saw Claudia, I thought that she was a pretty woman, When I got to know her better, I I thought that there was a lot of variation of thinking between us, because she is Catholic, while I am not. But I never imagines that we were going to marry.”

Finally, both of them said that before they got married, they went to Perto Rico and Mexico to know each other’s families, because they had to be sure that what they have get into was right. Claudia knows the food, Mexican landscape, when and why, they celebrate the apparition of the virgin of Guadalupe, and the preserved tradition of dance, quebradita Guadalupe went to Puerto Rico, and know he knows the arroz con gan dules, rice with beans salsa and reggaeton music, and the beautiful landscapes of Puerto Rico.

In colclusion, we are all unique.Often it is just that we don’t know and we don’t notice each other’s native back ground.It is very important to respect each others cultures, because we need to remember the golden rule of not doing to others what we do not want for ourselves.Diversity is everwhere in New Jersey.We just have to recognize it not to be racist.It will be a better world for our generation, and it will help us grow as a person with class and education.If the whole world was same it would be boring and there would not bo anything interesting to discover. We have to be proud that our state of New Jersey celebrate diversity including the celebration of Hispanic Culture and the independence of all countries. Soy yo; soy orgullosamante salvadorena ; soy 100% Latina. Here I am myself; I am proud to be Salvadorian; I am 100% Latina.

Stephen M. Bloshuk - Honorable Mention

Kaitlin Brown - Honorable Mention

Noa Yaakoba - Honorable Mention

Jules Mbu - Honorable Mention

Sweet Diversity

Diverse – this word alone describes the type of state and community that I reside in. Yes, that location is West Orange, New Jersey – one of the most diverse communities any individual could ever live in. How unenthusiastic would it be to go to live in an area where various cultures were nonexistent? This is surely a good question, but it is a difficult one for me to answer because I have been fortunate enough to live in a community where diversity is dominant. There is nothing like the feeling I get from greeting the new faces of people who come from countries all over the world. I am not just talking about Hispanic or Italian, or even Haitian because in New Jersey, it is possible to meet a range of people from Germany, to Nigeria to the Caribbean – The list goes on and on. Being that I am Cameroonian, I was extremely content with the idea of becoming part of the melting pot that is West Orange. I am amazed at the array of cultures that I have encountered while residing in here.

When I moved to West Orange in 2006 I was terrified that, because of my cultural makeup, I would not fit in. To my surprise, I was completely wrong. I felt even better about West Orange when I attended my first day of Roosevelt Middle School. The warm welcoming I received from the diverse student body definitely gave me an incentive to love the fact that I lived in the oh-so-diverse garden state. On the first day of middle school, I made friends instantly, and all of them were as unique culturally as I was. It felt great to have a group of friends who could share their culture with me and vice versa. Truly, this is something anyone can find in New Jersey.

Apart from my middle school experience, diversity has also had a great impact on me at other instances in my life. Once I entered high school, it became clearer to me just how diverse West Orange was. It was not like other schools where most kids are predominantly one race. Take a moment right now to visualize all the races of people that exist. Done yet? This might sound crazy, but all of those races can be found in the rich surroundings of West Orange high school. It is a prime example of the unique multi-cultures of New Jersey. The idea of living in any other state is completely bizarre to me. Who, in one's right mind, would desire to leave New Jersey, with its bountiful and exciting masses of diverse people? No one, that’s who.

Some people may argue that, because I have lived in New Jersey my entire life, I am prone to speak passionately about my home state. This may be true, but it is a known fact that people who move to New Jersey inevitably fall in love with the state and never leave. For example, Bob McGrath, who is from Ottawa, Illinois and Stevie Wonder, who is from Saginaw, Michigan have been permanent New Jersey residents since moving from their home states. With all their fame and money they could have chosen to reside anywhere. However, New Jersey had a stronger appeal to them. McGrath and Wonder's presence in New Jersey is an example of New Jersey's tendency to attract people of diverse cultures. Every corner of the “Garden State” is full of smiling, happy, groups of people from different states and all over the globe. The best part though is that all of these people get along and they do not berate one another, mainly because diversity is a big part of all of their lives. It is too bad other states can’t be as diverse as us, but hey, it’s always fun to be the best at something. Cheers to diversity, our next door neighbor!

Kevin Cosenza - Honorable Mention

Middle School

First Place - Kristin Potocki

Acceptance

The other day I was at my locker when an eight grader grabbed the backpack of a sixth grade student. The sixth grader strarted running after the eighth grader after finally giving up.He leaned against the wall and slid down to the ground with his head in his hand.This boy was new to the school.He was a foot smaller than most of the kids and spke with a thick accent.Sometimes he wore sandals and colorful shirts.I felt bad for him but didn't know what to do”What if it were me?” I taught.

I started to think about my life and how the world has treated me. Have I ever been bullied or treated with disrespect?The only thing I could remember was in elemantary school when another student made fun of my last name.Potocki sounds nothing like taco, this boy wouldn't stop teasing me.It bothered me but I could live with it.I never said anything to anyone and forgot about it until this day.

I consider myself to be different than others yet the same as others. I se myself as an artist, a dancer, an athlete, an A-student, a singer and a good friend.I am of avarege height and weight for my age and I don't have any dissabilities or big scars.I speak English clearly and don't stutter.It sounds like I am full of myself, but that's not the point.I guess I'm lucky that I don't know what it feels like to be teased or disrespected.Sure there have been times when people ignore me when I'm trying to make point, but it doesn't bother me.

My parents tell us stories about kids being teased in grade school.I guess that's why they are very strict about not teaseing others and treating people as you would like to be treated completely agree with them because I can see how upset my mom gets when se hears about bullying because someone is different.I also see the pain that is left by the person being picked on.

The other night at dinner, my parents asked my brother about a neighborhod kid, “Joe” that seems to be very un popular.My brother said that every day, “Joe” asks to play kickball, but the other kids say to him, “No, we don't want you to play with us”.He just walks away and sits alone on the playground.My parents asked my brother to stand up for him the next time it happens and get the other kids to let him play with them.My brother agreed.The very next day at recess, the groups were kicking teams for kickball when the person standing was “Joe”.My brother said, “Joe,you can be in our team.”The other kids started to grumble when my brother came back with, “What did he ever do to you”The crowd finally agreed and they all wen on to play ball.It acually worked!

Doesn't it just tka a bit of courage?Courage is the strenghth within to stand up for what is right.Having rh courage to stand up for others who were not getting respected, can change the way we live in New Jersey as well as in the world.Most children are afraid of kids that are being bigger or stronger.One day, you might be in a situation like that and might be the one and only one to stand up for them.You will make a huge difference in that child's life.

If there is a new kid in your class, you could offer to show them around the school or tell them what they will be learning about or even just welcome them.That person probably feels a little unsecure because they don't know the people around them.You can introduce them to your friends and you could all hang out.Making them feel welcome helps make them a little more cmfortable and welcome in their new school.

Back by my locker, the sixth grader was still sitting on the ground with his head in his hands.I carried on to Social Studies like nothing happened and pretended I knew nothing about an eighth grader taking a six grader's backpack.When I lef my class, I saw the sixth graders backpack stuffed in a blue trash can, so I grabbed it qiuckly before anyone can saw.I just put it under my jacket and went on to my search fot the Pakistani boy who got it taken away from him.

After searching every hall, peeking in every class room, I found the boy sitting in the hallway by the door of Mr. Jones' class.I walked up to him and told him that I found his backpack in the trash can.The boy looked really excited and he took the small book bag.

I asked him what his name was and how he liked the middle school and he replied, “Ahmad and you can see,Middle school isn't going perfect.” I helped him of the ground and told him where I put his hat.He thanked me and started away when I called him back and asked if he wanted to sit with me and my pals at lunch tomorrow.He replied with a grin and an excited “sure!”

Lunch was great because Ahmad and I found out that we have common likes and dislikes, like loving ketchup, but hating tomatoes.We bacame best buddies and I made a difference in Ahmas's life.I was very proud of being a good person and helping Ahmad out.Plus, I was rewarded a great new friend to go with my pride.

What's funny is that th boy who said that my name sounded like taco, and the boy who really is nice, both have the same name.Having this great new friend has made a change to the way I handle things when I see kids getting bullied because they different or new.Next time, I will do something to help the child who is getting picked on, and help him feel accepted.

Second Place - Libby Keene

3 Circles

“Happy Bithday, Beatrice!Wake up!”

“Wow,”I mumbled as I groggily sat up “ I can not believe I am thirteen”My parents’ reply was a shower of gifts.”Ok, I know that I am getting a bunch of presents because I am now thirtheen, but where are we moving to this time”

“Wow, she is good.”My dad admitted.”I am getting transferred to New Jersey. We are going to live about a block away from Point Pleasant, which is a great place to be around summertime. Oh, look, your grandmother’s here. Hi, Mom!“ He finished in a feeble attempt to distract from the fact they were moving…again.

“Hello, Beatrice! Happy Birthday! I definetly didn’t forget this time! That wouldn’t be much fun,now would it?” I gently took the small box out of Grandma’s hand.Inside the box was a medium sized medallion. It was ebgraved with pictures on both sides.

“Grandma, what are the circles for?”

“Those are the three circles. They present the most valuable things in life. The top one divided into three parts, is the Circle of life.It represents the past, present and future, which are three things we should acknowledge constantly. The one on the bottom left is the Circle of Virtues. The three smiliar circles inside represent healthy virtues (eating right, exercising, etc.),pure virtues (avoiding bad things in the world), and generous virtues (sharing what you have learnes with others). The circle on the bottom left is the Circle of Friends.The infinity sembol inside represents true friendship.The sembol on the back is world painted in many different colors, as our world is today with diversity. I understand that you will be movig to New Jersey, so that necklace might make you quiet popular in your new school.Thay enjoy celebrating diversity”

“Uhm, thanks, Grandma. I…love it.”

“Well, I suppose we should get back to celebrating now” My mom interrupted during an awkward moment of silence.

A few weeks later, we, the Johnsons, completed our trip from Austin, Texas to New Jersey.After some confused unpacking, I set out to my first day yet another new school.When I entered Jacobson Middle School, I was engulfed by a large group of people.In a matter of seconds, about half of the group left. I noticed that there were only pale faces and hair left over.

“Welcome.” One of them spoke. “I am Jessica, unfortunately the rest of our group seem to be unfriendly.Sorry about that. Let me show you to your locker.”She took of at a fast pace with the others following close behind.As soon as I started to follow I was un expectedly yanked into the girls’ bathroom.

“You are a newbie, right?” This girl had dark hair and caramel colored skin.”Hola, I am Annika Alvares.”

“Hello.” I replied.” I hate to be rude but what is with the strange behavior of some of these people?”

“ It is not just some its all.” She answered.” Eveyone here is prejudiced against everbody for one reason or another. I’ve tried to end it, but nothing works. All of the newbies gets suckes in like that unless I get to them first.”

“What? That’s crazy. I thought New Jersey was abour celebrating diversity not destroying it.”

“Me too.Anyway—Hey, what’s on your necklace?” I gave her a basic explanation of what my grandma told me.”I knew you’d be able to help us” Annika confirmed.”Do you want to sit with me at lunch?”

“Sure.” I replied.”It’ll be good to have someone help me navigate the cafeteria.”

Later that day, Annika introduce me to her somewhat meager amount of friends.in a metter of minutes, the group that I met earlier now angrily surrounded our table.

“So.” Jessica spoke.”You managed to suck another newbie into your little ‘cult’.That’s getting really annoying.”For a while, I listened to the argument going back and forth while thinking about the possibility of this actually happening.All of the sudden, they began to turn on me.They started calling me nasty names and gave me rude judgements even though thay knew me for two minutes at the most!When Jessica said something particularly nasty, I lost it.

“I cannot believe it! You people are absolutely ridiculous!”I climbed onto our table.”Look around, everyone.What do you see? You see divisions, and biases people separating themselves by the color of their skin or hair. Even these group of race have biases and most likely forms of civil war because of other matters such as religion or how much money they have. What do you think?Do you like this system? Do you like how everything has panned out in this school? I didn’t think so. Last time I checked, New Jersey likes to celebrate diversity not destroy it.Do you think this whole system is dumb? Do you want to make a change? Well, I do so, who’s with me?” For two minutes I stood there in an embarrassing silence all the sudden I heard the scrapping of a chair and saw my friend Annika stand up.

“I am with you” she answered.After two seconds, I heard a wave of scrapping chairs and people standing up.These were people who ere actually eager to contribute to the cause.

“So what are we going to do?” I yelled.

“Celebrate diversity!”

“What?”

“CELEBRATE diversity!!!”

“I cannot hear you!”

“CELEBRATE DIVERSITY!!!!”

“WOOOOOOW!!!!” Everyone cheered as we prepared for our new way of life and celebrating diversity of others.In order to do so, we’re organizing a fair with exhibits about different cultures. Whoops! They reminds me!I better finish the essay I’m writing for the opening of exhibits! Thanks for listening!

Third Place - Leonela Vega

Do you believe that diversity is beneficial? Do you believe that the world would be a better place if everyone respected and accepted each other? D o you believe others should be respected even though they are not the same? Diversity is an essential factor in a society. People are all puzzle pieces in a picture puzzle. We might all be different shapes with different images, but when combined ,we perfectly form a picture. It is what helps people learn about variety of cultures, others ways of living, and different styles of doing things. One must value that there are different people in the world because if everyone was the same, having the same race ,gender, social or economic status, abilities and beliefs, there would be no more interesting moments in life People mostly criticize people by their race and it is very commonly seen in New Jersey today. Unique people in a society are what give the people the vibrant spark and delicious flavor their lives are in need of. People with diverse backgrounds should all be able to respect and accept each other. The world would be completely different if everyone would accept each other for who they are as an individual.

Respect is something necessary in a society and without it there is no chance for the society to prosper. One must give respect to gain respect, and many miss this concept in the world of today. many take it as one must receive respect in order to give it back. In a society as the one in New Jersey with such a wide range of cultures, one must learn to be more humble and set differences aside. There is no need to judge others by their ethnicity or beliefs. As Anne Frank once said, “We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same. “one could achieve so much if people would just close their eyes for a mere mille second and open their hearts to get to know people and understand them for what lies inside. Doing this ,one will receive the opportunity to see that many differences we see today are going to be seen as not so different at all.

Difference benefits us all in some way or another. Many should know by now that one could take advantage of being surrounded by such a diverse group of people. If everyone were the same, there will be nothing different and exciting about to learn and experience. People residing in Africa would not have the opportunity to learn about the Hispanic cultures of Mexico, including their “tamales” which is a very well-known food from that country. Those residing in South America would never learn about the activities of Canadians such as hockey, one of their favorite sport activities. In Europe, they would never know the culture of India such as the dances used in Bollywood movies, which is a very famous dance style there. We all a happy melting pot, and together we from a strong bond that makes us all be unified.

I currently live in New Jersey ,but I was not born in here in New Jersey or the United States. I was born in Argentina, and in my home country I was not exposed to such diversities as I am today in New Jersey. One thing that I will never get out of my head is beans. In Argentina one is barely seen eating beans and when one eats them it is something strange because it is not something to see everyday. When I came here I was merely only five year old. The first city I lived in was Jersey City, but no long after I moved to Elizabeth. Being that the majority of the population in Elizabeth is Colombians, I was introduced to variety of different customs, especially in the food category. One of these was beans. Even though I was young, I can somehow still remember the delicious taste and the sweet and salty aroma of steaming black beans that my stepdad made for us one day, so we could try it. After that day I became a lover of beans. Reflecting on that today, I see how different my life would be without diversity. I would have stuck to the same menu everyday and not have tasted a bit of anything new. Many people say that the United States is too different because people from all around the world live here, but that is just what we must love it about. We are such a unique country, and we should be proud of living in New Jersey because it is one of the states that hold the most amount of different ethnicity. Instead of complaining on how we are different we should rejoice and feel joy for where we live in and the people that surround us.

There have been ongoing situations in the world because of diversity. Some of these are discrimination and genocide. Unfortunately in 1994 genocide occurred in Rwanda where two groups, Tutsi and Hutu, had differences resulting in genocide. Tutsis were seen as superior but ere the minority; the Hutus, being the majority ,rebelled against the power of the Tutsi and began a massacre against them resulting in a loss of thousands of people. An uncountable number of situations similar if this type have “happened, some being even worse, both before and after. Seeing this, one would say “never again”. Has it really been put to a halt? No! we still see it in the Congo and Sudan. These factors must be things that tell us that differences have to be solved in order to truly take advantage that we have differences.

In every single kind of way ,every single person is created equal ,whether they are children ,women or men. Diversity is a a part of everyday life. Life without diversity is like limiting knowledge of the world. Life without diversity is like seeing rainbow with dull colors such as brown, navy blue, and black. This horrid rainbow is definitely not as a pleasant as seeing the vibrant colors of red, orange ,yellow, green, blue ,indigo, and violet, penetrating one’s pupils. I believe diversity is beneficial .I believe that the world would be a better place if everyone respected and accepted each other. I believe others should be respected even though they are not the same.

Rachel Martinez - Honorable Mention

Lotta Meriluoto - Honorable Mention

Luisa F. Goytia - Honorable Mention

Angus Fung - Honorable Mention

Natalie Levine - Honorable Mention