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Essay contest: What can’t you live without?

My cell phone connects me to my dad

1st place $50

By Jessica Zamora, Monrovia HS

The one thing I can’t live without would have to be my cell phone. I know that may sound really selfish of me but I think I have a good reason. My father and I have ALWAYS been very close. People always tease that I am a daddy’s girl and I will admit it. My father and my mother have been separated for almost 10 years. It was really hard for me to accept because I was young and was clueless about how it would affect my life.

After my parents’ separation, my father moved out and took a job in Barstow, California, which is pretty far from where I live. But nothing changed because I would still see him almost every day. My dad, or “Papa” as I call him, would drive to my house where I lived with my mom and we would spend time together like nothing had changed. Well, a year and a half ago my dad got laid off from his job in Barstow. The company he worked for had a position for him, but the problem was that it was in a different location. It was in Hawaii, and he had no choice but to take that job so he could have a job and pay for his living expenses. When he told me that he would be moving very soon it honestly broke my heart because I was so close to my dad and I also knew my family couldn’t afford to fly me out to see him.

At this time I didn’t have a cell phone because my family couldn’t afford one. Which meant when my dad left a few months later, in April 2008, I would have no contact with him because I didn’t have the Internet on my computer either. So the only option we would have would be to write letters to each other. But a month before he left my papa bought me a cell phone that he would be able to afford and he would pay monthly. It was very hard to say goodbye to my father before he left for Hawaii, but I know it was the best thing for him and me.

I cannot live without this cell phone that I am actually writing this essay on (since I don’t have the Internet on my computer) because it is my connection to my papa, who is still working in Hawaii. Since I have this cell phone I am able to talk to my father whenever I want—day and night—and I can also send him pictures or videos of me and he can do the same. It is still very hard because I haven’t seen my father for about a year, but with my cell phone it does make it a lot easier. And that is why I cannot live without my cell phone.

I’ll always wear my ribbons

2nd place $30

By Carmela Feliciano, Mayfield Senior School (Pasadena)

While some people treasure a lucky pair of jeans or a photograph, my prized possession is a basket full of ribbons. The colors vary from crimson red to lime green and even several patterns. Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves but I prefer to wear mine in my hair. Emotions are only one reason why I cannot part with my beloved hair ribbons. They have enveloped the gifts my friends and family have given me. They have traveled halfway across the world to caress and complement my hair. More importantly, they have been passed down from generations of women in my family. Literally and figuratively, the ribbons have become threads that tie me to my loved ones and the happy moments in my life. Most of all, they remind me to be steadfast to what I believe in and who I really am.

The “hair ribbon style” has come and gone but I have firmly and continually worn them. Because of those little ribbons, people have tried to put me down. In middle school I was one of those kids who was persecuted for not following the rules of the playground. I based most of my happiness on the hope of not being teased, but as I grew older, I learned that I should not base my happiness on things outside of myself. Instead, my hair ribbons taught me that I should seek joy in myself . Also, because I wore my hair ribbons even when it was not “in” I learned to find my conviction. I learned to love and respect myself. I no longer strived to be one of the cool kids because I knew that somewhere between “geek” and “cool” were morals that had to be sacrificed. One ribbon—a sunlight yellow ribbon made of silk that my sister had given me—reminded me that the hardest thing is always the right thing. And when I found myself at a crossroads between being cool and being me, I was reminded of that small piece of fabric.

Now when I wear my ribbons my friends talk about how they look so beautiful in my hair and they always ask where I bought them. I cannot help but chuckle inside because I am the keeper of the lessons learned from these minute fabrics. Beauty comes to those who have been waiting for something bigger than themselves, and I have received what I was waiting for. I have obtained a newfound confidence that reflects me. I do not really know if I will be able to hang on to the hundreds of ribbons for the rest of my life. I do know that I will be able to keep the spirit, the memories and the love that the ribbons have given me.

My childhood brush

3rd place $20

By Yoselyn Rafael, Gardena HS

As a kid we always have something we need to have by our side because it’s our favorite thing we cannot live without it. And as we get older, different things become important. For me, I have a pink princess brush that has been part of me since I was 8. It will always be a special brush filled with so much love.

Every morning before going to school my mom would brush my hair and do my favorite ponytails. Then I’d be ready for school. I loved watching my mom do my hair and having her soft hands run through my hair. I would always use my hairbrush because it was my favorite and it would sing a Cinderella song every time it was shaken. I would sing along as well and sometimes even my mom sang along with me.

It was a birthday present from my mom, which makes it more special to me. As I got older, my mom stopped brushing my hair. Now I’m the one who brushes my own hair and styles it. I must admit, I miss waking up every morning and taking a quick shower so my mom could brush my hair while we would sing the Cinderella song. When she would finish she would kiss me on my cheek and say, “Beautiful as always my princess.” That hairbrush brings precious memories of my mother and I and that’s why I’ve kept that brush with me and put it in my room.

I use it every morning to brush my bangs. It may not feel the same as when I was 8 and my mom brushed my hair, but sometimes I get that beautiful feeling from when I was a kid. Sometimes when I see that my mom is not busy I tell her to brush my hair and she smiles at me and says, “Of course my princess.” And when she does, the memories and the same feelings come back as if I were 8 again. It may not be the same anymore but I know she still brushes my hair with love and her hands are still soft, running through my hair with her precious love. That brush has been an everyday part of my life and it’s something I can’t live without. As years pass, my princess brush will be with me forever as a beautiful memory of my mother and I.line

Gotta dance

Honorable mention

By Michael Arcana, Downtown Magnets HS

B-boying—is that a boy with the letter B on his shirt? Is it a name of a toy? Is it a new game for PSP? Those are logical guesses, but b-boying is something that encompasses a person’s heart, mind and soul.

It was born in the Bronx, N.Y., in the 1970s when gang violence and other crimes were high. Many thought that kids who lived in ghettos had no future. However, they were proven wrong when a man named Clive Campbell, a.k.a. Kool Herc, threw a party at a recreation center. At the party, people were doing a dance that was never seen before. Many saw it as gymnastics, others saw kung fu moves. It became known as b-boying, also called b-girling or breaking. The dance was an alternative to violence and gave people hope for a better future.

Before I started to b-boy, I was a quiet kid who lived without a care in the world. However, when I was introduced to b-boying through watching a group that was part of the Real Youth Center perform in Echo Park in July 2007, I was overwhelmed. The dance they did was so inspirational. It gave me hope and encouragement. After that, I did what I could in order to b-boy. Later that year, I decided to join hip-hop classes at Real Youth Center and practiced at Justice by Uniting in Creative Energy (J.U.I.C.E.). Both places focused on bringing youth into the hip-hop culture, which included b-boying, and out of the life of violence.

B-boying allows me to stay productive physically, mentally and emotionally. B-boying doesn’t take a day to learn. I spend a lot of time trying to perfect moves. At times, I may not have been flexible enough or strong enough to hold certain positions. From one-handed handstands to windmills, they are all tough at times, but I never give up. Mentally, I have to figure out moves that would make me look fresh and different from all the cats that are already b-boying. Originality is very important. In addition to originality, I listen to the music and make sure I am on beat. Finally, b-boying allows me to unleash my emotions. Whenever I am angry, it shows through my explosive moves, but when I am happy, I am bouncing around like a toddler.

B-boying teaches me the importance of hard work, determination and patience. Moves are not perfected in one hour or even one day. It is an ongoing process that should never be stopped. Once you stop b-boying you lose all your skills. I learned that I had to increase my stamina in order to continue a set and that it was also important to be humble. Everyone works hard to get their moves down and it’s important to give respect to the other b-boys and b-girls.

B-boying is much more than a dance to me. It is a way of life. It helps me to achieve goals and pushes me to be a better person. Through b-boying, I am able to show a part of me that people hardly see.

Next essay contest—a different gender for a day

Write an essay telling us what it would be like if you were the opposite gender for a day. How do you think your life would be different? Would people be more accepting of you and the things you like to do? Maybe you think life would be harder trying to live up to expectations of feminine beauty or masculine toughness. Explain to us what your life would be like from the other side for one day.


L.A. Youth
5967 W. 3rd St. Ste. 301
Los Angeles CA 90036



Deadline: Friday, June 19, 2009