But she fell in love and eloped with the man that eventually became my father. He loved her in an unhealthy way, and was both physically and verbally abusive. My mother lacked the courage to start over so she stayed with him and slowly let go of her dreams and aspirations. In the summer before my junior year I was offered a scholarship to study abroad in Egypt.
Not to my surprise, my father refused to let me go. I accepted the scholarship. And before I returned to the U. I received the unexpected opportunity to travel to London and Paris. It was surreal: a girl from the ghetto traveling alone around the world with a map in her hands And no man or cultural standards could dictate what I was to do.
I rode the subway from Cambridge University to the British Museum. Despite the language barrier I found I had the self-confidence to approach anyone for directions. While I was in Europe enjoying my freedom, my mother moved out and rented her own place. We were proud of each other. And she vicariously lived through my experiences as I sent her pictures and told her about my adventures.
I currently live in the U. S with my mother. My father has gradually transformed from a frigid man to the loving father I always yearned for. We plan and execute school dances and create effective donation letters. After the political turmoil of the Arab Spring many Middle Eastern countries refuse to grant women equal positions in society because that would contradict Islamic texts. I believe these Islamic texts have been misinterpreted throughout time, and my journey towards my own independence has inspired me to help other women find liberation as well.
My Easter will drastically differ from past years. Rather than being locked at home, my mother and I will celebrate outdoors our rebirth and renewal. Mi madre vino a los EE. Y antes de regresar a los EE. Nos sentimos orgullosos de una misma. Ahora vivo en los EE. Mi vida no es perfecta, pero por el momento estoy disfrutando de la tranquilidad y la estabilidad con mi familia y nos comunicamos mucho mejor que antes.
In eighth grade, I was asked to write my hobbies and career goals, but I hesitated. Should I just make something up? I was embarrassed to tell people that my hobby was collecting cosmetics and that I wanted to become a cosmetic chemist. I worried others would judge me as too girlish and less competent compared to friends who wanted to work at the UN in foreign affairs or police the internet to crack down on hackers.
The very fact that I was insecure about my "hobby" was perhaps proof that cosmetics was trivial, and I was a superficial girl for loving it. But cosmetics was not just a pastime, it was an essential part of my daily life. In the morning I got up early for my skincare routine, using brightening skin tone and concealing blemishes, which gave me the energy and confidence throughout the day.
At bedtime I relaxed with a soothing cleansing ritual applying different textures and scents of liquids, creams, sprays, and gels. My cosmetic collection was a dependable companion - rather than hiding it away, I decided instead to learn more about cosmetics, and to explore. However, cosmetic science wasn't taught at school so I designed my own training.
It began with the search for a local cosmetician to teach me the basics of cosmetics, and each Sunday I visited her lab to formulate organic products. A year of lab practice taught me how little I knew about ingredients, so my training continued with independent research on toxins. I discovered that safety in cosmetics was a contested issue amongst scientists, policy makers, companies, and consumer groups, variously telling me there are toxic ingredients that may or may not be harmful.
I was frustrated by this uncertainty, yet motivated to find ways of sharing what I was learning with others. Research spurred action. I began writing articles on the history of toxic cosmetics, from lead in Elizabethan face powder to lead in today's lipstick, and communicated with a large readership online. Positive feedback from hundreds of readers inspired me to step up my writing, to raise awareness with my peers, so I wrote a gamified survey for online distribution discussing the slack natural and organic labeling of cosmetics, which are neither regulated nor properly defined.
At school I saw opportunities to affect real change and launched a series of green chemistry campaigns: the green agenda engaged the school community in something positive and was a magnet for creative student ideas, such as a recent project to donate handmade organic pet shampoo to local dog shelters. By senior year, I was pleased my exploration had gone well. But on a recent holiday back home, I unpacked and noticed cosmetics had invaded much of my space over the years.
Dresser top and drawers were crammed with unused tubes and jars — once handpicked with loving care — had now become garbage. I sorted through each hardened face powder and discolored lotion, remembering what had excited me about the product and how I'd used it. Examining these mementos led me to a surprising realization: yes, I had been a superficial girl obsessed with clear and flawless skin.
My makeup had given me confidence and comfort, and that was okay. I am glad I didn't abandon the superficial me, but instead acknowledged her, and stood by her to take her on an enlightening and rewarding journey. Cosmetics led me to dig deeper into scientific inquiry, helped me develop an impassioned voice, and became a tool to connect me with others.
Together, I've learned that the beauty of a meaningful journey lies in getting lost for it was in the meandering that I found myself. Transformers are not just for boys. I loved these amazing robots that could transform into planes and cars the first time I saw them in the toy store. The boys had all the samples, refusing to let me play with one.
When I protested loudly to my mother, she gently chided me that Transformers were ugly and unfeminine. She was wrong. I joined the robotics team in a desperate attempt to find a community, though I doubted I would fit into the male-dominated field. Once I used physics to determine gear ratio, held a drill for the first time, and jumped into the pit to fix a robot, I was hooked. I went back to China that summer to bring robotics to my friends.
I asked them to join me in the technology room at my old school and showed them how to use power tools to create robot parts. I pitched my idea to the school principal and department heads. By the time I left China, my old school had a team. Throughout the next year, I guided my Chinese team-only one of three that existed in the country-with the help of social media. I returned to China a year later to lead my team through their first Chinese-hosted international competition.
Immediately upon arrival to the competition, I gave the Chinese head official important documents for urgent distribution. I knew all the Chinese teams would need careful instructions on the rules and procedures. I was surprised when the competition descended into confusion and chaos. I decided to create another source of knowledge for my fledgling robotics teams.
It took me several weeks to create a sharing platform that students could access through the firewall. On it, I shared my experience and posted practical practice challenges. I received hundreds of shares and had dozens of discussion questions posted. When a head official reached out to my Canadian mentors, warning them to stop my involvement with the Chinese teams, I was concerned.
When a Chinese official publicly chastised me on a major robotics forum, I was heartbroken. They made it clear that my gender, my youth, and my information sharing approach was not what they wanted. I considered quitting. But so many students reached out to me requesting help.
I wanted to end unnecessary exclusion. I worked to enhance access to my platform. I convinced Amazon to sponsor my site, giving it access to worldwide high-speed servers. Although I worried about repercussions, I continued to translate and share important documents. During the busy building season, my platform is swamped with discussions, questions and downloads. I have organized a group of friends to help me monitor the platform daily so that no question or request is left unanswered.
Some of my fears have come true: I have been banned from several Chinese robotics forums. I am no longer allowed to attend Chinese robotics competitions in China as a mentor. The Chinese government has taken down my site more than once. Robotics was my first introduction to the wonderful world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. I am dedicated to the growth of robotics in places where it is needed and wanted.
I have used my hands and mind to tear down all barriers that separate people, no matter gender or nationality, from the inspiration and exploration of STEM. As a non-Catholic in a Catholic school, I knew I had to be cautious in expressing my opinion on the abortion debate. However, when I saw that all of the armband-bearing students were male, I could not stay silent. Some of my peers expressed support but others responded by calling me a dumb bitch, among other names.
One by one, I responded. I was glad to have sparked discussion, but by midnight, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. But instead, they told me to remove the post and to keep quiet, given the audience. I refused to remove the post, but decided to stay silent. I gradually began to realize that refusing to conform to the conventions of society is what propels us toward equality.
As a junior coach, I spend my Monday and Thursday afternoons with middle school girls, running, singing Taylor Swift songs, discussing our daily achievements I got on my math test! The girls celebrate their accomplishments and talk about themselves positively, fully expressing their self-esteem. I want to fight for social justice in the courtroom. Wake up! It's late already. We were supposed to open the restaurant earlier that day. Sometimes, they needed me to be the cashier; other times, I was the youngest waiter on staff.
The restaurant took a huge toll on my parents and me. Working more than 12 hours every single day even holidays , I lacked paternal guidance, thus I had to build autonomy at an early age. On weekdays, I learned to cook my own meals, wash my own clothes, watch over my two younger sisters, and juggle school work. We began working at 11pm all the way to 5am. So I started a list of goals. After two unsuccessful attempts, I got in.
The rigorous eight months of training paid off as we defeated over international schools and lifted the 2nd Place cup; pride permeated throughout my hometown. Despite the euphoria brought by victory, my sense of stability would be tested again, and therefore my goals had to adjust to the changing pattern.
During the summer of , my parents sent me to live in the United States on my own to seek better educational opportunities. New responsibilities came along as I spent that summer clearing my documentation, enrolling in school, and getting electricity and water set up in our new home.
In the midst of moving to a new country and the overwhelming responsibilities that came with it, I found an activity that helped me not only escape the pressures around me but also discover myself. My 15 years in Mexico forged part of my culture that I just cannot live without. Trying to fill the void for a familiar community, I got involved with the Association of Latin American students, where I am now an Executive Officer.
I proudly embrace the identity I left behind. The more I scratch off from my goals list, the more it brings me back to those days handling spatulas. I want to explore new paths and grow within my community to eradicate the prejudicial barriers on Latinos. So yes, this IS how I want to spend the rest of my life.
A Chinese American with accented Chinese, a Florida-born Texan, a first generation American with a British passport: no label fits me without a caveat. I even spend my free time doing nonograms, grid-based logic puzzles solved by using clues to fill in seemingly random pixels to create a picture. It started when I was a kid.
One day, my dad captured my fickle kindergartner attention a herculean feat and taught me Sudoku. As he explained the rules, those mysterious scaffoldings of numbers I often saw on his computer screen transformed into complex structures of logic built by careful strategy.
From then on, I wondered if I could uncover the hidden order behind other things in my life. In elementary school, I began to recognize patterns in the world around me: thin, dark clouds signaled rain, the moon changed shape every week, and the best snacks were the first to go. I wanted to know what unseen rules affected these things and how they worked. My parents, both pipeline engineers, encouraged this inquisitiveness and sometimes tried explaining to me how they solved puzzles in their own work.
In high school, I studied by linking concepts across subjects as if my coursework was another puzzle to solve. PEMDAS helped me understand appositive phrases, and the catalysts for revolutions resembled chemical isotopes, nominally different with the same properties.
As I grew older, my interests expanded to include the delicate systems of biology, the complexity of animation, and the nuances of language. I was and remain voracious for the new and unusual, spending hours entrenched in Wikipedia articles on obscure topics, i. Unsurprisingly, like pilot fish to their sharks, my career aspirations followed my varied passions: one day I wanted to be an illustrator, the next a biochemist, then a stand-up comedian.
When it came to narrowing down the choices, narrowing down myself, I felt like nothing would satisfy my ever-fluctuating intellectual appetite. But when I discovered programming, something seemed to settle. In computer science, I had found a field where I could be creative, explore a different type of language, and yes solve puzzles. Even when lines of red error messages fill my console, debugging offered me the same thrill as a particularly good puzzle.
While to others my life may seem like a jumble of incompatible fragments, like a jigsaw puzzle, each piece connects to become something more. However, there are still missing pieces at the periphery: experiences to have, knowledge to gain, bad jokes to tell. Someday I hope to solve the unsolvable. Growing up, my world was basketball. My summers were spent between the two solid black lines. My skin was consistently tan in splotches and ridden with random scratches. My wardrobe consisted mainly of track shorts, Nike shoes, and tournament t-shirts.
Gatorade and Fun Dip were my pre-game snacks. The cacophony of rowdy crowds, ref whistles, squeaky shoes, and scoreboard buzzers was a familiar sound. Hidden in the cracks of a blossoming collegiate level athlete was a literary fiend. I devoured books in the daylight.
I crafted stories at night time. After games, after practice, after conditioning I found nooks of solitude. Within these moments, I became engulfed in a world of my own creation. Initially, I only read young adult literature, but I grew to enjoy literary fiction and self-help: Kafka, Dostoevsky, Branden, Csikszentmihalyi. I wrote my first novel in fifth grade, my second in seventh grade, and started my third in ninth grade. Reading was instinctual. Writing was impulsive.
I stumbled upon the movies of Hayao Miyazaki at a young age. I related a lot to the underlying East Asian philosophy present in his movies. My own perspective on life, growth, and change was echoed in his storytelling. Then, I discovered the books of Haruki Murakami whom I now emulate in order to improve my writing.
Like two sides of a coin, I lived in two worlds. One world was outward—aggressive, noisy, invigorating; the other, internal—tempestuous, serene, nuanced. Internal and external conflict ensued. Many times I was seen only as an athlete and judged by the stereotypes that come with it: self-centered, unintelligent, listens to rap. But off the court, I was more reflective, empathetic and I listened to music like Florence and the Machine. But why should I be one-dimensional?
I had always been motivated to reach the pinnacle of my potential in whatever I was interested in. Why should I be defined by only one aspect of my life? I felt like I had to pick one world. Then I had an ACL injury. And then another. After the first ACL surgery, my family and I made the decision to homeschool. I knew I wanted to explore my many interests—literature, novel writing, East Asian culture, and basketball—equally.
So I did. I found time to analyze Heart of Darkness and used my blog to instruct adult authors how to become self-published authors. I researched Shintoism, read dozens of books on writing and self-improvement. My sister and I had been talking for a while about starting a nonprofit focused on social awareness, education, and community outreach.
Finally, we had the time to do it. While basketball has equipped me with leadership skills and life experiences, it is only one part of who I am. As a socially aware, intellectual, and introspective individual, I value creative expression and independence. When I was a little girl, I imagined I had superpowers. Deadly lasers would shoot from my eyes pulverizing the monsters hiding under my bed. Mom would wonder where I had magically disappeared to after I turned invisible as she forced me to eat that plate of broccoli.
It was the wish I made on every birthday candle and upon every bright star. I discovered my first power when I turned My mom had been diagnosed with Ovarian cancer my freshman year of high school. Seated alone in my room, I became lost in a cycle of worry and panic.
In the midst of my downward spiral, I reached out for a small bristled paintbrush, guiding it across the canvas—the motion gave me peace. My emotions spilled out onto the canvas, staining my clothes with a palette of blues and blacks. A sense of calm replaced the anxiety and fear which had gripped me tightly for so many months. Painting gave me the power to heal myself and find peace in a scary situation. Little did I know, sharing my superpower would lead me to unfamiliar parts of my city.
From paper masks in October to pots of sunshine crafts in March, it did more than teach students to freely draw and color; it created a community where kids connected with the power of art to express joy, hope, and identity. The program, now in its third year, has succeeded in reaching kids deprived of art. Sharing art with these students has given me the power to step outside of my familiar surroundings and connect with kids I never would have met otherwise.
I am grateful for the power of art to not only heal but to also connect with others. I knew my powers worked on a local level but I wanted to reach out globally. For four years, I have been searching for a way to defeat the scourge of child marriage, a leading cause of poverty in rural India.
I took my powers overseas, flying 8, miles to arrive at a dilapidated school in the bleak slums of Jaipur, India. While conducting interviews with pre-adolescent girls stuffed into dusty classrooms, I learned of their grey routines: rising early to obtain well-water, cooking, cleaning and caring for younger siblings prior to rushing to school. Despite the efforts of keeping these girls in school to prevent child marriage, their school relied on rote memorization without any creative arts programming.
As I organized my art project for these girls, I was unsure if my powers would reach them. Their initial skepticism and uncertainty slowly transformed into wonder and joy as they brought their bright paper fish cut-outs to life. The experience opened my eyes to the power of art to form universal connections, and it inspires me to share and strengthen its force within the lives of all children.
Much of the little girl yearning for superpowers remains a part of me. But now I have moved beyond wishing for powers to acquiring a deeper understanding of how superpowers work. While I never fulfilled my wish to run at lightning speeds or shoot spiderwebs from my fingers, my experiences with art have taught me that the greatest superpowers lie within each of us—the powers to create, express, and connect in meaningful ways.
Every girl deserves the chance to dream, I am just lucky mine came true. Does every life matter? So I was surprised when I got a part in the class play, notwithstanding that everybody got a part. I played t Last night I was thinking about ink. When rain falls on a handwritten page, the ink spreads out a bit, loses its crispness. But every now and then, hidden colors emerge.
Suddenly you discover that simple black ink is green and shades of blue and a fragile pink edge. If so I never intended to hire anybody. In fact, I never sought to obtain employment myself. I was too busy having fun with computers to be bothered with any of that.
But as soon as you know how to hit "ctrl-alt-delete," it seems everyone wants tech support, and one thing leads to another. It is the summer before Kindergarten. Face ashen, she stumbles toward me, the heavy footfalls syncing with my throbbing heart. I wait as she feebly attempts to p I step up to the starting line-palms sweating, heart racing. Three short blasts of a whistle followed by one long blast and the trembling commences. After three nerve-wracking seconds, the gun goes off.
Trupe, World History teacher and former Torrey Pines volleyball coach, was taken aback when he heard I was an athlete. I could knock you down with my breath! I don't have the fram I tried to hold the canvas as close to me as possible without risking touching it.
It was dry, but with oil paints you never really know. Any artist worth her salt knows that. But if you had spent the bett With neither cure nor vaccination for this disease, it can develop at any age. Its sympt It won a few agreements, but I sat stunned. His face scrunched up a little. At the time, I was years-old, and I was plain.
He, however, had summed up Some people seem happy regardless of whatever they are going through in their lives. Others feel secure and satisfied even when they do not have the material things that other persons have. Another group seems happy And I stand up, my dark blue dress cascading down my legs, the last note still echoing in my ears. Carnegie Hall. This was supposed to be a dream, seemingly unattainable.
Yet, here I am. Looking bac After a long school day, I frequently come home and rush straight to my piano, where I close my eyes and play out my emotions. But though I have been playing traditional piano for ten years, you will be hard-pressed to find me churning out a vigorous Chopin etude for fun; instead, my greatest joy co I told him that it was like aliens. Like flying saucers.
Like Star Wars. Like Transformers. But no matter what analogy I made, the little boy standing in front of me could not grasp the concept of science fiction. My brother and I have never thought twice about the technicality of being twins. It has always been, for us, a matter of fact. One bead of sweat splashes across the newspaper headline. Still dressed in full football pads, I sit alone in the journalism computer lab, editing copy a few minutes before 9 p.
Three hours after football practice, my cleats, untied, remain stuck on my feet and I have barely even made a dent in th Often, people look back on their failures and obsess over how they could have prevented their mistakes. They ask themselves, "What could I have done differently?
Focusing on unforeseen outcomes hinders our ability to pick ourselves up and move forward Details, honors won, and accomplishments: High school community service organization which I helped coordinate as Club President. What did you do? The car comes to a quick stop, the kind that should have smashed my knees into the back of the Increase the pressure in my bow-arm. Bring the bow closer to the bridge to get a resonant sound. Pull the bow while keeping all my weight in my shoulder. Build up the slow pulsation to a swift vibrato.
It is all of these motions and thoughts that lead to one beautiful For as exclusive as it was, Copley's soloist room was rather simple, furnished with only a piano and a bench. It was narrow too: the architect must not have considered the consequences of claustrophobia before a solo performance. In any case, I took a seat on the bench and started to set up my clari There has always been a disconnect between the have and the have-nots in society.
Wealth and poverty has been perhaps the single biggest dividing issue since the introduction of money thousands of years ago. Every weekend after my karate class, I volunteer for an hour and a half teaching kids ages The first class is the "Little Ninjas," who are just years old. These are among my favorites to teach because they have no preconceptions or attitude. They look at you unjudgmentally and li Sometimes all it takes is one person, or one assignment, to make an indelible impact.
In my case, freshman year Western Civilization and my eccentric teacher allowed me to learn the benefit of hard work and determination. My lanky, bald, and animated instructor, who often wore various cultural outfi My life was drastically changed on January 6th, It was about 7 A.
I was awakened by the sound of an explosion. When my eyes opened I found myself suspended in the air and unable to move. Below me, the floor began to cave in and split, the ceiling started to crumble abo Daydreams are often regarded as a distraction and a sign of laziness. However, I believe in the creative power of daydreams, which allows me to escape from reality.
Daydreaming allows me to look within my mind, which I need as an introvert. It's essential for introverts to recharge themselves af Bare skin meets raw iron. Such a relationship can only be found in this exact situation. The focus is so intense that nothing else matters. Pure concentration and expression translating into perfect execution - it's a physical marvel.
It's the art of the perfect lift.
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