The World that Could be
Grade 7, 13 years old
Great Falls, VA
Have you ever thought about what you would do if you had the power to change the world? Would you end hunger? Cure cancer? Send humans to explore the universe? I’d do something different. I’d make us get along.
The world my generation will inherit is divided beyond belief. Rich, poor, east, west, political party. Just about every problem in the world stems from that stubborn part of human nature that refuses to allow us to work together. What if we could get along? Is it outrageous to want to see the world united? That naive?
More than ever, people fear the future. It’s a tragedy that, every day, hundreds of thousands wake up and wonder if they will eat. Nuclear weapons and climate change could end humanity tomorrow, and it’s all because no country wants to give up an inch of foreign policy ground. Burning cars and hailstorms of bullets should not be something anyone should deal with, and yet that sight is what’s plastered over screens every day of the week. How much consideration is given to skeletal children and families torn apart? It varies.
Maybe I’m just impatient. Change is gradual, after all. And, of course, this is “just how the world works.” But I want to do something! Anything! It’s maddening to just sit and watch. People say, fairly often, that “the world is a cruel place.” This is true. Does it have to be? Should our generation settle for that? The individual isn’t responsible for the injustice of the world - that’s a silly thought. But I refuse to believe unity is impossible, and I refuse to believe that the voice of the young is powerless. Surely, we must be able to do better. We have to do better.
The Red Bell
14, 8th grade
A smell filled the air, a smell so aromatic, a smell so delightfully grand, it filled up the house and into my small blue room. This smell was the food my grandmother made, I could feel my excitement waiting to hear it. The bell, the big red one, sat right at the entrance of the kitchen. She would ring it, reminding me to come down and indulge in my favorite meal.
It was a basic meal, not too complicated, it consisted of Longanisa, egg, and rice. The sweet Filipino sausage complemented the salty eggs and rice, and all of it went together quite nicely. After the meal was finished she and I would watch her favorite show.
She would yell at the old TV when it went static. I was always the one to fix the loose cords. I always remembered “The red cords with the red, the yellow with the yellow.” She would call me a genius when I would fix it, though I wasn't much of one, it made me feel brighter, brighter than a star.
It was quite a hassle at the time because the TV was pretty much older than me, but I knew that this time I spent with my grandmother was priceless. As the clock struck 11:30, my sadness started to sink in, and my grandmother grabbed her maroon bag and told me it was time for her to go.
I cried and wept, “oh please don't go.” But, she always told me “I love you so, and I'll always be within your heart.” Though my grandmother no longer visits as much, I can still feel that same warm feeling whenever I hear that big red bell.
13, 7th grade
As soon as I stepped into Cooper Middle School, I shuffled amongst the bustling, loud, croc wearing teenagers that I had to spend the next two years of my life with. Walking into the 7th grade gym, I stepped over multiple rowdy kids to try and get to my friend. I sighed, thinking about how different it was from the elementary school I had known for the past 7 years. And how it would never be the same.
In these first few months of school, I have kept excellent grades, been successful in the school play, and even made some new friends. However I have an issue that has been holding me back from total happiness. That issue being the fact that I have found "Having friends" isn't enough in middle school.
In Elementary school, it was easier to maintain healthy friendships, as well as have a bigger social circle filled with one main friend group. As middle school has begun, social life has shaped a hefty problem for me. In 6th grade I had developed a sturdy friend group with about 7 people.
Although I am still friends with most of those kids, our friend group has mostly grown distant. Don't get me wrong, I still love all of the friends I had made in elementary school, but it is hard to support all of those friendships in a much larger school.
The hardest aspect of it all is, while being friends with everyone in some friend groups I would like to be a part of, I still haven't explicitly joined them yet. To anybody that may relate to these experiences, know there are always people that know what you are going through. Real friends will help you get past these tough social issues. You are not alone.
Trying To RunJah-Ia Vang
13 and 8th Grade
Do you like math? Younger me would’ve been disgusted just by the word. Growing up, math was always the subject that I detested the most. Numbers and scribbles all over my papers, yet nothing made sense. So I thought, why try if I’m going to fail anyways?
Constantly I felt hopeless walking into the classroom, dragging my feet against the shiny porcelain-white floor. In middle school, the social comparison of people academically, struck me. I started to regard how far ahead the rest of the world seemed. Envious as I was, it made sense. It’s impossible to run alongside everyone else if I walk the whole time.
Though, rather than giving up entirely, I knew that I couldn’t fall behind anymore. This time, I pushed myself to do things that elementary me would never even think of doing. Being the one kid who didn’t understand always made me feel culpable. It felt like there was something erroneous with me. Asking questions invariably seemed unbearably shameful.
Even with how uneasy I felt inside, nothing would change if I didn’t try. Every class I picked myself up and forced myself to ask at least one question when I didn’t understand. Soon enough, it became a subconscious habit. With reassurance that I could get help, each assignment began to seem less overwhelming. Math seemed less scary. It felt like I could do anything, if I just tried to run.
Changing is bitter, but after a while, it can be really sweet
13 - 8th Grade
I still remember that day, I don't think I will ever forget it. I have realized not many people have been through the same, especially people my age. I'm not saying it's bad, but it's not exactly ideal. You may be wondering, what happened to you? Well, I moved to another country.
July 24, 2022. That was the day. My parents called me and my sisters, they said they had a present for us. We went downstairs and they gave us a present. A photo album. An empty photo album. After that, I heard my mom’s voice saying we would collect lots of memories there, especially since we are moving.
My eyes immediately filled with tears. What was I going to do? My friends, my family, my school, my house, everything. I felt like I had lost everything. I cried all day that day, I didn't like the idea of starting a new life.
The worst part was leaving my house. The day we had to leave was the worst day of my life. I had lived in the same house since I was 5. It was my home, all of my best memories were created there. I really don't know how my parents managed to get me out of the house.
All the airplane ride, I cried. My aunt gave me a small picture of us, I still keep it inside my phone case. Everywhere I go, I take it with me.
But now I live here, in McLean, and life is not as bad as I believed it would be. I have lived here for almost 3 months now, and I have made some really awesome friends. Life has taught me that change can be really difficult, but eventually, it can be for good.
The Day I Followed My Heart
12 (7th grade)
Have you ever thought about what you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to be paid a lot? Do you want to do something that you’ve always wanted to do?
On a rainy, somber Saturday morning in 5th grade, I lay on my teal duvet with red and pink butterflies, leaning against matching pillows. It was 10am, and I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. I reached over to grab my book. I was about to start reading the first Keeper of the Lost Cities novel. The cover had a brown haired blue eyed boy and a blonde haired brown eyed girl standing on a fancy lamp post. I open the paperback to the first page. I make it through the first chapter and close the book. Sighing once again, I placed the book back on the white nightstand.
Around 8pm the next night, I grabbed my white notebook with golden butterflies and a purple mechanical pencil. I tapped the eraser of the pencil against the lined page of the notebook. At the top, I scribble ‘Sweetie Pie Honey Bun’. Then, I drew a girl in a stained apron, standing next to a girl in a ballet outfit.
Afterschool the next day, I got my black Samsung Chromebook laptop, opened Google Drive and made a new document. I titled the document ‘Sweetie Pie Honey Bun Ideas’. I typed ‘characters’ at the top of the document in Arial 12 font. I named the normal girl Annika DeVaren, and the ballerina Amber Jones. I created another document, and named it ‘Sweetie Pie Honey Bun’.
The next three days, I wrote a nine page story about Amber and Tony moving from Paris to NYC, and how her neighbors, Annika and Alec meet and become friends. When I finished, I wrote ‘Happy 44th Birthday Mommy’ at the bottom.
On Friday, I gave my mom the story since it’s her birthday. She read through it, and she told me she loved it. Since then, I’ve created many stories for my parents’ birthdays and for Mothers and Fathers day and I know that I’m destined to write.
My First 100% On a Test
12, 7th grade
Great Fall Virginia
I was taken to the library for our math test, and I was quite nervous. Today was the day of our unit test. As soon as I was handed my math test, I went to work. I finished and thought to myself, "I probably did so poorly." Some of those questions were extremely difficult. I completed a word search with my friends, then we headed back to the classroom for recess. That day's recess was indoors. I talked with friends and played Uno the whole time. I'm not great at Uno, so I lost most of the rounds. After that, we went to lunch. I refused to eat much, which was normal for me. I am never very hungry during lunch.
The next time I had math, we received our tests back. I figured my teacher would hand me the test face down because of how terrible I believed I did, but when I received the test, I noticed that it was marked with a 100%! It even had a smiley face drawn in the corner! My eagerness to return home and tell my parents how well I did was unrivaled. The bus ride was so long and humid. My legs were sticking to the burning seat. I finally got home with a massive smile on my face and showed my parents the test. They were so proud! Particularly since math was not my strongest subject in elementary school. I would never think math would be one of my best subjects in middle school. Remember, even if you are less strong at a subject, it is always important to try your best, even if you don’t do amazing.
Super Duper Looper
13 years old, 8th grade
Have you ever felt the exhilarating rush of adrenaline as you dive down tall drops and get whipped around with your hands up in the air? If you have never been on a roller coaster, you are definitely missing out. My name is Audrey and I love fast speeds and cheering sounds of people having the time of their lives.
The first roller coaster that I remember going on was the Super Duper Looper at Hershey Park, Pennsylvania. I was so scared as I waited in line for the coaster with my mom. The wait for the ride was pretty short but when I stepped onto the platform it felt like forever.
I saw the carts filled with people go by over and over again until it was my turn. I cautiously stepped over my mom’s seat and sat down on the hot, sweaty, plastic seat. My mom got settled in and we pulled down the seatbelt. It clicked until it was holding us down for dear life.Then, the operator came and checked the belts.
And we were off. The heavy chains pulled us up to the top of the hill and I saw the entire park from my cart. The cart began to roll down the drop as I held my breath as my clammy hands clutched my moms. We free fell for about 5 seconds, it was the best feeling in the world.
I swung back and forth as we whooshed around the bends and loops with my hands up in the air. The breeze on my face felt amazing and relaxing. But then the ride was over.I was so glad to have that experience with my mom. I looked over at her with a smile on my face and she looked right back at me.
"How I honored my late mother with Joy Jars"
I was very excited because I was just a few months away from my 13th birthday. I was preparing for my Bar Mitzvah since I turned 12. I was practicing prayers and 3 parts of a Torah portion so I could do them on the bima. The Bar Mitzvah was scheduled to be on the Saturday night after my birthday.
I was looking for a charity to support for my Mitzvah project. While thinking about it, I decided I was going to do something connected with cancer to honor my mom. I knew how hard it was to fight cancer because of my mom, so I wanted to help kids that were currently suffering. I found a charity called the Jessie Rees Foundation. The foundation was created after Jesse Rees passed away from brain cancer when she was only 12 years old, the same age I was when I started preparing for my Bar Mitzvah. Jessie Rees wanted to help kids with cancer just like I did, and she started when she stuffed brown bags with old toys. Her father realized that Jesse Rees wanted to help kids with cancer. He and Jesse came up with the idea of Joy Jars. Jesse made Joy Jars often before she passed away. I honored my mom and Jesse Rees by doing Joy Jars just like how Jesse Rees would’ve wanted to.
My mom had been diagnosed with cancer when I was only 7 years old. She fought the cancer for every single moment and she never ever gave up no matter what, just like Jesse Rees. In October 2019, we thought that the cancer was gone, but it grew back. My mom sadly passed away in March 2021. I am happy that I could honor my mom’s memory with my Joy Jars project. Hopefully, more kids with cancer will be encouraged to fight, just like my mom did.