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I’d get rid of guns to save innocent lives
1st place $50

By Alan Anaya, La Puente HS

This essay is dedicated in loving memory of Edwin Sanchez. Jan. 18, 1990 - March 26, 2005.

Did you ever ask yourself, "Am I going to lose someone I truly care about today?" No one ever does, but if you really think about this question hard, then you can see why I think gun laws should be changed. Or why we should get rid of guns for good. If gun laws were changed, maybe death rates would decrease. Or if the age limit to own a gun were raised or if we could control how many guns people can own, everything would be better. If we get rid of guns, innocent people wouldn’t be killed.

I just recently lost a really good friend. I loved him and still love him like a brother. His name is Edwin Sanchez. He was only 15 years old and he was gunned down because some stupid idiot decided he needed to prove to himself that he was a man. My friend wasn’t involved in any gang activities, but if only that idiot couldn’t have gotten hold of a gun, then everything would be better. Like a wise man once said, "I’d love to go back to when we played as kids, but things change, and that’s the way it is," (Tupac Shakur). If we really take the time to look at our faults, then maybe we can help each other. Every person, no matter what age, sex or race, fears the "man," but it’s our own kind killing each other.

If gun laws were changed to raise the age limit or limit the number of guns owned, then the world would be better. Nothing is ever perfect, but if we help ourselves then the world would be a better place. Or maybe we get rid of all guns. I think that will help. People really don’t want to experience the feeling of losing a loved one due to some stupid act. Like Tupac said, "I lost so many peers, shed so many tears."

If guns were really banned, then maybe we wouldn’t have as many deaths. I’m only one person speaking up for what I believe in and if everyone did the same, then everything would be better. I’m only 14 years old and I would give anything to just talk to my friend one last time. The only reason I gave my age was because killings keep going from young to younger. Like Tupac said, when the time comes, "Only God can judge me."

My neighborhood would be safer without gangs
2nd place $30

By Biancamia Alvarez, Jefferson HS (Los Angeles)

This is a world that is unsafe. This is especially true where I live in South Central Los Angeles. At my high school you can’t wear red, blue or white because of the fear that you will be shot on the streets by gangsters. Gangs are what make my home unsafe and unsightly, so if I had a choice I would say that I would get rid of gangs.

Gangs, or crews, are like pests that you can’t get rid of. They can hurt you whether you are in one or not. Last year a person near my school who was completely not gang-related got shot by someone in a car driving by and shooting. Every night I hear about innocent people just minding their own business, getting shot and killed or severely hurt by gang members. To me it is sad to see so many people throwing their lives away. These gang members could be doing better things with their lives, like getting an education and changing the world in a positive way. These gangsters could be bringing up my neighborhood instead of bringing it down.

Where I live you can’t go down a street without seeing some gang’s name on the walls of mini-marts and on buildings. Graffiti is what makes my neighborhood look so threatening. It’s not just around my neighborhood. You also see graffiti on freeways and buildings.

I know people who refer to South Central as a dangerous place. I’m sure that is because of all the gangsters living around here. People who dress like gangsters get hassled and sometimes killed by gang members. That means if you want to be safe around here you can’t dress up in bright red Phat Farm and walk down the street and not expect to be asked where you are from.

If gangs didn’t exist, it would mean a great difference in my community. People wouldn’t be afraid of driving down the streets with their windows rolled down. The community would look very clean and non-threatening without so much graffiti. Fewer people would be shot on the streets of Los Angeles, without drive-bys. Also, the number of people going to jail would go down because gangsters who sell drugs and shoot people sometimes get caught and go to jail.

This is a world that is unsafe, but without gangs it would be a better place. Gangs are not the only thing wrong with this world, but if they go away there would be much less to worry about.

Small steps would make people feel better
3rd place $20

By Sonia Mouradova, Birmingham HS (Van Nuys)

Unfortunately, there are many things I would like to change about the world, but if I could choose only one thing to change, I would make it so that people wouldn’t have to suffer, whether it is from disease, poverty, illness, war, etc. True, this is a pretty general answer and pretty common, but it’s a common answer because people recognize that this is a problem in our world. It’s something that everybody can do. You don’t have to have a master’s degree in psychology or be a doctor to help someone feel better. This deed only requires that you care about who you’re helping. Your heart can do wonders, especially when it comes to easing people’s pain and reducing even a little bit of pain from their daily lives, whether it be physical or mental.

There are many examples of what I’m trying to convey. Let’s say that you have a friend who is very insecure and thinks that nobody likes him or her. There are a million ways to make this person feel better. Even a simple "Hey" and a smile can make this person’s day. Sadly, we don’t do this. This may not seem like a lot, yet slowly but surely, that person will start to build their confidence and start making more friends.

On a more serious side, let’s say that somebody you know has cancer and has to stay home. There are so many things you can do to help make that person feel better and ease the pain, even if it’s just a little bit. You can read to them, play board games, watch TV together, solve crossword puzzles, or even just talk. When you do any of these activities with that person, you are making their mind drift from the fact that they have cancer, or whatever other disease it might be. Even if it’s just for an hour, it makes a big difference to that person. That hour you spend with them might last them the whole week. These might not seem like major issues, such as curing cancer and AIDS or getting rid of world hunger, but these little steps are what lead to those big steps.

I would make this change because I think it’s very important for not only our society, but also our world. Just like Anne Frank said, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." This is something that doesn’t need to be approved by a council, judge, senator or the president. You don’t need to wait for approval or permission. That is another reason why I think this is an important change to make. Granted, it’s not that major of a change, but it’s one that most of us need to start doing.

This change would make things different for myself and others, but in a good way. People would be much nicer to each other and more caring. I also think that people would be more genuine because once you see somebody in a situation that you wouldn’t want to be in, you start to realize where they’re coming from. You need to understand somebody in order to help him or her. Sure, this change would make things different, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just because we’re not used to something, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to benefit us, or humanity.

I would find a cure for diabetes
Honorable Mention

By Mariana Zepeda, Cleveland HS (Reseda)

If I could change anything in the world, it would have to be deadly diseases. But one in particular I would give my heart and soul to find a cure for: diabetes. Diabetes is a disease where you constantly have to check what my mom calls "sugar." Also, you have to have a minimum of one injection of insulin a day.

My mother, Araceli Zepeda, suffers from this disease. She got this disease genetically from my grandfather, in other words, her father. My three aunts also have diabetes.

I only have one reason to find a cure and that is all the pain my mom and her sisters have gone through. I cry when I see them at night counting the units they have to inject into their blood system. All the pills for heart attacks, high blood pressure and many more. That is my only reason. I have run out of tears from crying. I love my mom. She is my hero.

I would give my heart and soul to find a cure for my mom and her family, my family.

My mom has suffered too much to have to worry about her disease. It’s pain to me watching my mom inject herself night and day. I believe having to worry about regular mom stuff is driving some women crazy. Well my mom can’t get mad, like smoke coming out of the ears mad.

I remember once my mom got really sick. She felt like a heart attack was coming. My dad called 911. The ambulance came and took my mom to Northridge Hospital. This was in the morning; by 8 p.m. I was in her room. I felt my heart drown with all those wires all over her. Once I left her room I went with my cousin and just cried. I thought that was it–I’m losing my mother. But fortunately, she is well now.

I love my mother. So please someone out there find a cure for all diabetic mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, etc.

That is the one thing I would change in the world. Not for being selfish but because I love my mother.

Free Slurpees on Friday!
Honorable mention

By Shana Durang, Birmingham HS (Van Nuys)

Have you ever heard of a Slurpee? It’s a frozen, blended ice drink served exclusively at 7-Eleven, a 24-hour mini-mart. If I could, I would make it so that everybody could get a free Slurpee every Friday, because they are just about the best frozen drinks imaginable. In my experience, Slurpees can always make your day better. One way to make sure everyone gets free Slurpees is to start a big fundraiser every week and raise enough money to buy Slurpees for everyone.

One way of making the world a better place is to bring everyone free Slurpees on Fridays. Drinking a Slurpee on Friday would be a perfect way to end a hectic week at work or school. Because Slurpees are so delicious and tasty, it would be unthinkable to use anything else as the free drink. I love drinking Slurpees, so getting a free one every week would be a great way to start the weekend.

Slurpees bring happiness and enjoyment to many people in the world today. For me, a Slurpee is the perfect solution to dehydration on a hot day. Other people really like drinking Slurpees as well. Every day after school I see a long line of kids walking into 7-Eleven. When they come out, nearly all of them have a Slurpee in their hands. This goes to show how much people enjoy drinking Slurpees. Therefore, free Slurpees would not only benefit me by satisfying my thirst, but others will also enjoy them because they taste very good.

Making Slurpees for everyone isn’t cheap however. In order to fund this, there is something I can do right when I go home today, and that is to start a fundraiser. I can bake food or have a yard sale, and put up a sign telling everyone what the money will go towards. Using this money, I can pay 7-Eleven for all the Slurpees, and then give them extra money to deliver the Slurpees to people’s homes.

As you can see, Slurpees make the world a better place. By giving away free Slurpees on Fridays, people will be much more happy and content. Also, I would be very happy about getting a delicious Slurpee for free. To do this, I will use a fundraiser to make money for buying the Slurpees. To sum it all up, remember this inspirational quote, "A free Slurpee on Friday makes everyone say ‘Hooray!’"