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A new day, a new life

First Place $50

By Ramon Murillo, Soledad Enrichment Action Long Beach

The way I picture Thursday is that every Thursday is kind of ordinary but still somewhat the same in its own way.

Not only is the school week almost over, but also it is the time to think about what I can give myself for working hard at all school all week. My weekend is focused on how Thursday goes; if I become angry or my joy is interrupted by anything I may not be so happy during the weekend.

Most people wouldn’t realize it but Thursday is the day when you feel so tired that you might just want to take it easy and not end up worn out before the week is over. Thursday is a day of relaxation and joy so I plan to keep doing the same as on every other Thursday and find something not too tiring to keep myself busy.

There was one very important Thursday last year that made me realize that not all Thursdays are exactly the same.

I was in jail for six months thinking about doing good so I would manage to be free when this day came. It was my only wish: I wanted to be with my daughter to give the biggest birthday present ever, HER FATHER! When I got out of jail I began to change my life around. Since I spent all of my days and nights wondering if I would get released in time to see my daughter turn 1, I began to wonder what would become of our future. I wanted to be free by the time Oct. 10, 2002 came around so I thought to myself, "Why the heck am I in jail when I have someone depending on me to be by her side?"

I am now going in the right direction because I have a good future to look forward to. I have a daughter to teach and to show her how to go in the right direction. I do not want her to commit all the mistakes I have made in my life.

When I come to think about it, Thursday was the day that made me realize what would really become of my life, my family and myself.

If a Thursday changed the way I looked at my life, what will it take for all of those who feel that they do not have much to live for to realize the realities of life?

A magical visit with nature

Second Place $30

By Hilary Clark, Gabrielino HS

The Thursday that rings out most clearly in my mind came just this past summer. My dad, brother and I had decided to go camping. I had never done anything of the sort. We decided to make our way up the California coast, go through Oregon, Washington, Idaho and even spend time in Montana. It was on the first day of this trip that I learned something valuable about taking chances and saw something that will remain imprinted upon my mind for years to come.

We left very early on Thursday morning and set out driving for hours. Because this was my first time up the coast of California, my dad, a fairly good camper, and my brother, an extremely experienced camper at 21, were more interested in what I wanted to see on this trip.

"We’re heading to Big Sur," my brother said to me as he pulled the map inches from his nose to examine its fine lines and numbers. "Is there something you wanna see on the way?"

"Well," I replied, rummaging through the short mental list of landmarks I had accumulated over time, "I have no idea what there is. So it’s all up to you."

He nodded slowly, then tapped his finger on a spot. "You would like Elephant Seal Beach."
My ears picked up instantly. Seals interested me, and the elephant seal was one I had never seen.

"Definitely," I agreed. My brother spent the next bit of time on the way there telling me about when he went, and what a great place it was. As he went on about how it was a special preserve where the seals stayed, and how he was pretty sure they were there year-round, I became increasingly interested.

We turned off the highway and stepped out of the car, where the crisp sea breeze ruffled my hair and sent sand sticking to my eyelashes. Suddenly, I became a child as I ran to the gate, looking down at the beach, the empty elephant-seal-lacking beach. Just then, my brother tapped my shoulder and pointed. There out in the distance were 50 or so elephant seals. They were too far out to really be special, but they were better than nothing. I then turned to see my dad and brother opening a gate. It wasn’t locked and there were no "Do Not Enter" signs, so I followed them as cement became a beaten down path that had, on both sides, big bushes of sandy-colored plants. It was then that it occurred to me that there were no other people here, and despite the fact they were still very far away, no fences keeping the elephant seals away. I felt nervous at this point, but when they turned off the path and headed down the hills straight toward the seals, I was scared.

"Wait!" I shouted at them. "You can’t go down there!" They didn’t even turn around. I took a deep breath. I could taste the sand and salt and fear that surrounded me. Images of elephant seals popped into my head. I had seen a video in science class. The seals were huge, and one irritated seal in particular was especially vivid in my memory. He had been slamming his body into cars, something to do with mating, the narrator had said. At the end of the rampage, he had practically totaled three small cars.

"Great," I whispered under my breath. I started walking down the hill, leaving the path behind. The sand was fine and pale. It took hold of my shoes and tried to pull me under with each uneasy step I took. We were apparently heading toward the hill or dunes behind the seals.

"You have noticed that no one else is down here, haven’t you?" I demanded. My brother just shrugged.

"The signs say ‘Don’t approach them, make loud noises or feed them.’ They don’t say you can’t come down here," he said, as if it was in part to reassure himself, not just me.

"Come here!" my dad said in a loud whisper. We ran over to the top of one of the small hills. It was astounding. There they were, a safe distance away, down at the bottom of the hill. Many of the seals were asleep. Some were snoring. Some were tossing sand on their bodies as sun block. Some were lumbering around and some were sparring in the water. The ones sparring (practicing fighting) would rear up in the water, open their huge mouths exposing gigantic teeth, then scream out a wondrously beautiful and awe-inspiring sound before slamming into the other seal. Suddenly, my brother pointed to the group that was sleeping.

"Look at the babies," he murmured. I looked down and saw two beautiful baby seals tumbling along the sand to their mother. It was fabulous.

Had my dad and brother not gone down there, or had they not encouraged me to leave the path that Thursday, I would have stayed where all the other people stay—on the concrete, behind the fence, straining to see the small brown mounds of seal in the distance and missed out on one of the greatest moments of my life.

That day, I learned that sometimes taking a chance is good, maybe even necessary, to get the most out of life. I’ve never been a risk-taker, so it was a hard lesson to learn. It did, however, make the whole trip more fun. Things that I would normally steer clear of, like slippery rocks and steep climbs, were things that I was willing to experience. It’s amazing how one Thursday and a few seals can change how a person sees the world.

I learned how to say good-bye
Third Place $20
By Samantha Root, Birmingham HS

Thursday, Dec. 13, 2001, 4:15 p.m., the phone rings. It took time to answer it, but I did. "Hello."

"Hi, Sam, it’s Carmen." I could tell something was wrong, so I sat down.

Then I heard her say, "Adam, she doesn’t know."

Adam is my brother. He lives in San Diego, and at that time I rarely got to see him. Then my brother got on the phone; I could tell he had been crying.

"Sam," he said. "I have to tell you something: Jory passed away." Jory was like a brother to me; I had practically grown up around him.

The only words that came out of my mouth were, "I’m so sorry, Adam. I love you." I just repeated it, just so that he knew how much I cared. But, I still felt as though it wasn’t enough. At that moment I felt as though I was as small as an ant and that my life was so insignificant compared to Jory’s. I finally got off the phone with my brother, who was on his way home from San Diego. I ran to the bathroom and cried until nearly all of my energy was gone. My parents were at work and my sister wasn’t home from school yet. So I laid on the floor until my puppy came and laid with me. She could tell I was upset.

Finally, my dad came home. He could hear me crying from the living room. He already knew what happened. At last, I had someone who truly understood the pain I was feeling. He sat on the floor and cried with me. Once I stopped crying I realized it was going to be a while before I would be OK. Why Jory? Why now? Why this way? I had so many questions and no answers to follow them. It was frightening to know that the next day I still had to go to school, all alone. My mom got home a little later that night and by that time I had some time to sit down and write, one of the things that I do well. I decided to write a note to Jory’s parents.

"Who ever knew such a big heart could exist in one person’s soul. I know now, as I knew not then, that you’re heaven sent. If only there were enough words to express what you mean to the world and how your life has changed us all. You’re so full of life, and you’re such a beautiful person that the thought of you not being around to share your wonderful smile makes my heart drop. You’ve been around ever since I can remember, but now, well now, you’re not. I love you, Jory. You’re amazing and true, but I say that now knowing that I won’t see you again. I’m sorry I couldn’t say goodbye before you left, but I can say goodbye now. Jory, you’re one in a million, and I wouldn’t change you for anything in the world. Goodbye. Sleep well."

Now I finally had the chance to meet his parents. I wished it didn’t have to be under these circumstances, but I understood that everything happened for a reason, even if I didn’t want it to be that way. I was nervous walking up to the door. I though, "What do I say? How do I act? What if I start to cry?" I had butterflies in my stomach, and I felt like I might faint. I quietly opened the door.

I walked up to Jory’s mother and introduced myself. Just by looking into her eyes I started to cry. I covered my face as quickly as I could. She hugged me, then whispered in my ear, "That was a beautiful letter you wrote me. Jory always told me you were the closest thing he had to a sister." All I could do was cry. Her words took me back for a second, but then I finally felt that what she was saying was true and came from her heart. It wasn’t some act to try to make me feel better. The entire time I was at their home I was greeted by people thanking me for writing the letter. I felt this was the one day, the last day I could truly connect with Jory.

Freeway fear and adventure

Honorable mention
By Jeremy Long, El Camino Real HS

A couple of weeks ago, on a Thursday morning I received a phone call as I was leaving for school. To my surprise it was my ex-girlfriend, Zoe*, and her good friend, Mya.* In my mind I was saying. "What the hell are they calling for?" We chatted a bit and then got down to the real reason the two called. My ex asked me if I was going to be attending the Senior Lip Sync, which was tonight, Thursday night. I hadn’t planned on it because none of my friends were going. There was an uncomfortable silence and then she just replied by saying, "Oh, I wanted to know if you could come pick me up and bring me."

Now normally I would automatically say "yes," but there was a catch, and I could hear it in her voice. I would have to pick her up from her mom’s house in Los Angeles. In my head I heard "yes, yes, yes" and then "no, no, no." This would be at least an hour-and-a-half trip in rush hour traffic. Insisting that Mya make the journey with me, I said, "Yeah, I’ll come get you." I guess you can say I gave into peer pressure, but how could I say no?

On my way to second period I crossed paths with Mya. We arranged to meet in front of school and leave at 3:09 p.m. when school got out. She got directions but had never been there. Neither of us trusted ourselves to get there on our own so we invited Sean and Tiffany, both of whom knew exactly how to get to Zoe’s house and back to school for the Lip Sync. After school I met the three and we started walking toward my car when I thought about my mom. I had to make up something because she would never let me drive to LA by myself. After explaining to her that I would be staying after school to help a stage crew friend set up for the Lip Sync she thanked me for checking in. If only she really knew what I was doing and where I was going. She said it was all right, so we set off.

Immediately after getting on the freeway we ran into bumper-to-bumper traffic. We soon came to the conclusion that we wouldn’t make it back by 6 p.m. when the Lip Sync began. The major possible occurrence I’d been thinking about was if I got pulled over by the police or caught by mom. My six months weren’t up, which means I can’t drive with anyone under the age of 25. I’d be in double trouble—with the law and screwing up my relationship with my parents. While everyone else was laughing, having a good time and listening to loud music, my heart was pounding with fear. I don’t think I’d even driven with such caution before. Saying a quiet prayer while slowly gaining speed was the only thing I could think of that might help me this far into the predicament. "Dear God, please let all of us get through this safe and sound" I repeated over and over. When Sean finally saw the Slauson exit I couldn’t help but smile, for we had made it this far. We drove for about another 15 minutes before we reached her house only to be let down. When we knocked on the door we were informed that Zoe wasn’t at this house but at her sister’s house. Sean knew where this house was, too. The four of us piled back into the car for another 15-minute drive across town. This time only Sean got out and knocked on the door and proceeded inside. At least we knew we were at the right place, we all said aloud.

When I saw Zoe come out of the house with the smile of all smiles, it was all worth it. I got out of the car to give her a hug, open her door and say "hi." We embraced and the feeling of "us" came flooding into my head. To my surprise she gave me a kiss on the cheek. From this point on we flirted with one another. Once all these greetings were complete we loaded into the car once more. I made sure Zoe was up front with me. Back on the jam-packed freeway I was more relaxed, but still nervously driving as we got a chance to catch up with each other. Ever so often I would glance over at her to admire how much she had changed from the last time I’d seen her. From the sound of her voice to the scent of her perfume, she had matured into a beautiful young woman. Sort of abruptly my cell phone began to ring. I immediately assumed it was my mom. We rolled all the windows up, turned off the music and I somehow managed to calmly answer my phone. I was relieved to find that it was only my friend Mark. He called to check up on us and see where we were. It was about 6:15 p.m. and the Lip Sync had already started. Luckily we were about half way back to school, just getting off the 405 and merging onto the 101. My mom wasn’t expecting me home until after 9:30 p.m.

Arriving at the Lip Sync a fashionably 45 minutes late is the best way to go if you’d ask me. Of course when it’s all said and done I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The five of us sat in the very back row and watched as the Lip Sync came to an end. After it was over we casually walked to the parking lot so everyone could get their backpacks and other belongings out of my car. We said our good-byes and I returned the pack on the cheek to Zoe. Then I drove off into the night. My last thoughts before I went to bed were, "even though it (the Lip Sync) wasn’t that great, the journey to get there was one none of us will ever forget."
* names were changed to protect privacy

Thursday’s child

Honorable mention

By Tiana Ross, Booth HS

Wednesday afternoon I was in Daniel Freeman Hospital getting my final pre-natal check-up. My doctor told me I was overdue and I had to go to St. Francis Hospital to have my labor induced.

I checked into St. Francis on Wednesday night, Feb. 7, 2001. The doctor placed me on the heart monitor. Once I was on the monitor the nurse took me up to my room. I was excited to finally have my baby, but at the same time I was a little nervous and scared. This was my first time having a baby and I was scared and nervous because my family and friends were telling me it was going to hurt and be very painful. I didn’t know what to expect being so young and not knowing how to raise a baby. I was happy that I had my family and friends there to guide me through everything.

It was around 6 in the evening. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and I was extremely hungry. I kept asking for food but the nurse wouldn’t give my any because it is possible to throw it up during labor. Around 8 p.m. my family and friends began to visit me. I was so happy and excited to have my family and friends by my side. I felt less nervous and scared. They really made me feel more comfortable because they were by my side. It was almost time to have my baby and the pain was really kicking in.

A couple of hours passed. My water broke and I was ready to have my baby. I went into labor after that. I was in labor for about three hours, but it felt like I was in labor all day. My baby was born at 10:35 Thursday morning. He weighed 7 pounds 2 ounces. When the baby came I felt happy because the pain was over. The doctor handed the baby to my mom and my mom handed the baby to me. When I first held my child I was happy and proud because now I was a mother to my beautiful child.

Ever since I had my baby on Thursday, every Thursday thereafter has been really special to me. Thursdays bring back memories of pain and anxiety, but also great joy. Cory is now 2 years old and he is very active and smart. It is really great to have him in my life. I am very proud of him; he makes me happy to have someone like that in my life. All my happiness started on that Thursday morning.