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Essay contest winners: What would I do with $1,000?

Grant a Yankee fan’s wish
First Place $50

By Tony Hayes, Jordan High School

Many people would spend $1,000 on themselves or maybe that one thing that they always wanted. Some might give it to a person in need. There is a lady who lives down the street from my house. She stays in a deviant-looking, rundown little house. I visit her sometimes. Once she showed me a scrapbook of her life, and I knew it meant a lot to her because it was wrapped in so many decorations and it probably was the cleanest thing in her house. She showed me baby pictures, birthday pictures and even pictures of her family. But she skipped one particular page in her book; maybe she was embarrassed for me to see it.

One day she invited me over for some tea. She seemed very tired but tried to stay awake, weaving in her chair. Every few minutes she dozed off. I would wake her up, but when I noticed that she had trouble staying awake, I just let her sleep. I started walking around looking at photos on the walls like I was at an art gallery. I was curious about that page she didn’t show me in her book. I found the book and scrambled through the pages until I came across the one I hadn’t seen.

I didn’t understand the picture at first, but I did notice that she was standing outside of Yankee Stadium. I thought that maybe she had moved from New York to Long Beach. I tried picturing her living in New York but it was hard for me to imagine. I wondered if she had seen the Statue of Liberty or maybe even the Twin Towers. But then I stared at the picture and tried to figure out why she had such a sad expression on her face. It looked like in the picture she was maybe begging for something, but it was hard to tell because she was dressed pretty fair compared to the background people in the picture. I couldn’t imagine what she might be begging for.

Then it hit me: I knew somehow that she had never seen the inside of that stadium, although I didn’t understand how I knew this. Then I started wondering who took the picture I thought it probably was a Yankee fan or maybe a friend who had brought a camera. When she woke up I asked her about the picture. She was angry for a minute, but then she explained to me that she had been trying to buy herself a ticket from a fan who didn’t want his, a scalper. She had saved $25 from the money she had used to get to New York City for this. She had always wanted to see the Yankees play, that’s why she had gone to New York in the first place. I asked her if she had ever gotten to see the inside of the stadium, and she said no. The one scalper she approached wouldn’t accept anything less than $30 for the ticket.

So for my $1,000 I would buy her a ticket to a game in Yankee Stadium and maybe a little more money for whatever food she wanted, and maybe some clothes so she could feel like she fit in – and of course, the plane ticket. That’s how I would spend my thousand dollars.

Me, myself and I

Second Place $30 (tie)

By Sarkis Srakisian, Birmingham High School

What would I do with $1,000? In this country a grand is nothing. Bill Gates probably fills his pillow with about ten times that much in dollar bills. But if someone gave me nothing, I mean $1,000, I would use it to make myself feel better and nurture my ego to its fullest potential. Since money is the root of all evil, I figure, why use it for good?

I would greedily use it all on myself. First, I would buy myself a couple of hours at a massage parlor so to relieve the stresses of everyday life without the abundance of money. After the stress is completely rubbed out of me, I would use most of what is left of the money for a shopping spree at the local mall. A nice Citizen watch would look better around my wrist and a bling bling cross would look blingier around my neck. One or two Calvin Klein dress shirts would make me look GQ for later on that night, when I go out. Then there are the shoes, what kind should I buy? maybe a pair of Skechers or Dockers or maybe a pair of DKNYs? Wait, I know, I’d buy them all. At this point I would have spent about $550, all on me and at this time of the day I would probably start feeling guilty about my self-indulgence.

It wouldn’t be right to be this greedy, so I would treat my friends to a blissful and refreshing night at the good old strip club on Sunset. It wouldn’t be very Christian of me to spend all the money on myself, right? So I would buy a couple of lap dances for all my chums. Then being the humanitarian that I am I would take my friends out for a pleasant dinner at the nearest Taco Bell. If I get any change back from the zit-faced cashier behind the counter I would whole-heartedly put it in the little charity box next to the cash register, with the picture of tiny Timothy from Venezuela who desperately needs food.

Help Ho Yee with her education

Second Place $30 (tie)

By Stephanie, Schurr High School (last name withheld)

If I was given $1,000 five years ago I might have considered spending it all on candies, clothing or toys. As I have grown a little older, I have learned that no matter how small the amount of money, I can make a major impact on someone’s life and also in mine.

Growing up as the second oldest, I learned to understand my mom through her different expressions. Lately, she has been worrying over her brother (my uncle) in Hong Kong. According to what I know and what I’ve been told by my mom, my uncle has applied to several jobs but his chances of getting one are very slim because he doesn’t have an education. Fifty years ago, my grandparents were financially unstable and did not think that their son could make it out of high school. Those decisions have changed the course of his life forever.

Two years ago, when I was visiting them in Hong Kong, I met their daughter, Ho Yee. Seeing the hard work my uncle put in to keep his daughter in school made me think twice about where I am and how fortunate I am. After the in-depth conversation I had with Ho Yee, it was very obvious to me that she had the intelligence to excel in her dreams and the determination to reach her goals, but because of their financial status, she couldn’t go beyond her comfort zone. In addition to that, schools in Hong Kong are not public; Ho Yee could stay in school only as long as her parents were able to pay the regular monthly fee. She had to sustain good grades. Otherwise, she’d be taken out of school and her chances of entering another school would not be very good.

Seeing Ho Yee in that position, it very much resembled how her father was. Because my grandparents’ financial status and beliefs hindered him from getting an education, I don’t want to see her taking the same route her father took. I want her to make a difference in her generation so that she can become an influential parent and grandparent to the next generation.

Thus if I was given $1,000 I would give it all to my uncle’s family. Though it may or may not make a large impact toward the whole family, I believe it will alleviate the minor difficulties that may be causing serious problems. After all, if $1,000 is to be used properly it can make a difference in someone’s life and even my own!

Pay my respects

Honorable mention

By Maria Martinez, Walton Middle School

Honorable mention
Illustration by Carlos Beltran, Birmingham High School

Our family may be ruined. Why? Because exactly one month ago my dad’s sister died. I will never forget how I felt. Somehow I felt how my dad was feeling. He really didn’t talk to us at all.

I will never forget that day. It was a Thursday. I was arriving home at 4:15 p.m. I was coming home from MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) program. When I got home I was surprised to see my sister’s black truck parked in front of our house. My sister had told me that she was going to work that day and that was the reason she wasn’t able to take me to the library. When I entered the house I saw my sister there on the couch looking at the floor. When I entered the room she didn’t even look at me. I just heard her sobbing quietly.

I didn’t need her to tell me that something was wrong. Just looking at her here told me all I needed to know. So I just sat there not knowing what to say or do. So in a low quiet voice I asked, "What is wrong? Why are you crying?"

She just kept sobbing. Then she replied, "Your Auntie Yolanda has died."

Those words really stunned me. I didn’t know what to think or even say. I just felt the tears quietly rolling down my cheeks. I didn’t bother to wipe them off. I just couldn’t move. It was as if somebody had just pressed the freeze button. I just couldn’t believe it. My Auntie dead? I thought that maybe they had made a huge mistake, this couldn’t have happened. It seemed unreal and at that moment I wished it was just a horrible nightmare. But then I realized that unfortunately this was no nightmare. This was the real world. Questions popped into my head. How? Why? Questions that I couldn’t answer my self. So I went to look for my dad. He was in the computer room crying. When I entered the room he looked up at me. I didn’t know what to say. So I just sat there crying with him.

I knew that this was horrible for my dad, because during his whole life he spent just six years with his sister, Yolanda. That was during their childhood. Later on my dad came to the United States and my Auntie stayed in Mexico so she could take care of their mother. My dad meanwhile sent them money. She was a lot of help to him. She was the one that was always there for him. She was the only sister he had. They had spent precious moments together. Precious moments that will never happen again, that will stay in the past and hopefully never be forgotten.

Then my dad suddenly stood up. He said, "I need to call the airport so they could make an arrangement for a flight today if possible." So then I helped my sister find stuff about flights. My dad didn’t have enough money to afford a flight, so he decided he was going to drive all the way to Oaxaca, Mexico, which is 1,850 miles away. It was way too far for him to drive by himself, so my sister offered to go with him and they took turns driving. My sister really cares about my dad. I didn’t want them to go because I was afraid that something bad might happen to them but my dad had to because he wanted to go to my Auntie’s funeral. So he borrowed a lot of money from the banks. He left the next day.

He stayed in Mexico for two and a half weeks. I really missed him a lot even though he called almost every day. When he came back the bills started coming, too. He had taken a lot of money from the bank. And now they were charging him. Even though his attitude hasn’t changed and he seems to act normal, I know that he is worried about how he is going to pay all the money he borrowed from the bank. Lately, he’s been working late and overtime. He doesn’t seem to get any sleep. So if I were given $1,000 I would definitely give it to my dad. Even though I know it is not much compared to all the debts that he owes, I think it will still help him a little bit.

I really just can’t stand seeing him suffer. So I want to help him, because he has done so much for me. I need to help him as his daughter. He hasn’t gotten over his sister’s death. I think he never will. Even though I really never saw her, I talked to her on the phone often. She sounded like a great person. What really hurt me the most was that we were planning on visiting her. I just never got the chance to see her. I just hope that we will be able to get out of all these problems. I know that together we will!

Whatever I want

Honorable mention

By Cindy Hernandez, Hollywood High School

A thousand dollars is not much these days, but I’ll work with it. I have been wanting more T-shirts, since it’s the middle of November and still burning hot. I’ve been planning to go to the mall so I will spend $60. I know that once I go to the mall I won’t stop spending. I’ll buy the new $60 Adidas (baby blue) and that’s it. Oh! Wait. I just passed the See’s Candy store, rewind. I hope they will give me the samples so I don’t have to pay for anything. Man! She forgot. I should report to her manager, but I’m not. OK, OK, I will buy the $1 candy bar. Eight hundred seventy-nine dollars left. What to do? What to do?

I guess I can buy my father a Christmas present today. He needs a VCR. He always buys those huge old VCRs that damage the video and stop working. We are at Best Buy now. The employee has just told us how much better it is to buy a DVD player. He says, "everyone has one." I know that this reason is not a good excuse to buy one, but he is so cute. Looks are irresistible. I settled and a bought a DVD/VHS player. It costs more, but my dad likes to watch old movies (those that are on VHS only). It costs $250, along with an extra $100 for insurance. The cute guy told me to buy the insurance just in case it breaks down or I accidentally shove two DVDs in at once. Let’s see how much money I have left. Eight hundred seventy-nine minus $350, that makes… wow! I’m in Trig and I am still having trouble subtracting. Just give me one more minute … $529.

I have to get on the bus now; $1.35 isn’t that much, and the bus is so creepy and disgusting. There is gum on the seats, an old lady took my seat, and a man smells like he smokes five packs of cigarettes daily and a child with big evil eyes won’t stop staring at me. Oh! And there’s sticky orange juice spilled all over the bus floor (I think it’s orange juice). I am off the nasty bus and in front of the Pantages Theater. "The Lion King" is playing. I don’t know what the hype is all about. I bet it is just as good as the animated version. Why don’t I just watch it? They are leaving next year. It’s not that I will regret not watching it, but it is a good reason. I’ll assume that the tickets cost $300. It’s dark inside and I am the only Hispanic. Everyone glows in the dark except me. Someone will probably think I am an empty seat. The show is starting. I cannot tell you what is happening during the show; there’s a sign that says "no talking." I am out of the theater now. I was right, it was just as good as the animated version.

I have $227.65 I’ll get on the bus again and stop by "Los Burritos." The burritos are delicious. I’ll buy everyone at home a burrito. They are expensive, but buying burritos is a family tradition. My dad has been going there since before I was born. It is $7 for each burrito and $2 for each drink. I will order five burritos and drinks. Now I have $182.65 left. I’ll put that in the bank for my college tuition.