Every year as part of the annual Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration, we invite high school students from Middle Tennessee to participate in the essay and multimedia contest for young Latino writers. The purpose of this contest is to listen to the voices of young people reflecting on the theme “My Present, My Future, My Generation.”
All four finalists received a prize, and the grand prize winner received a laptop. Gracias to this year’s essay contest sponsor, Nashville Soccer Club and to the Hispanic Heritage Month sponsors.
Grand Prize Winner
Diana Rattanavong Junior–Centennial High School
“Since I grew up mostly around my Hispanic side of the family, Spanish became my dominant language. I grew into the vibrant culture of music and colors making the world seem lively. I always felt included with my family and I always felt that tough Hispanic love, which shaped me into who I am today and has influenced my personality. So many of my happiest moments are family gatherings. We celebrate and grieve together, standing as one united and loving family
Our goal as a generation should be to represent our culture and break social stereotypes, both Hispanic and American. We should break machismo ways and be more independent. Women should have the choice to build careers and lives instead of confining themselves to their homes and taking care of others. Even though we are females of a minority race, young women are being raised to be more independent and harder to push around, not letting anyone make decisions for them. We should educate people about how other countries helped build America, such as the Bracero program in 1942 when Mexican men worked in America in World War II. We need to start putting more Hispanic minds into leadership roles, having someone from our ethnicity represent us to the world, people who know how we think and operate speaking for us and not against us. We should expand our influence by taking more influential government positions that help us fight for the undocumented and spread awareness of the influence of Latin America on the world.”
Jennifer Calo Junior–LEAD Academy
“Defining my Identity as a female of the first generation in the US is hard. It is hard to know what you want and what you really represent. “Do you want to go college? How could you not? Me and your cousins back in the day couldn’t even get an education,” says my mother. As a young teenager, I wish I knew the answer to everything, and we say we do, but we don’t.
Till this day I still struggle finding my true identity and reasons in life and what to do with it. Our skin, our race, our background shouldn’t define us, we are people and the main reason our parents do all this is to better our future . My dream for future generations is that they don’t struggle the way I did. I know for a fact my children will struggle less because I lived the pain of not knowing but now I do and I will teach them the ways my poor parents couldn’t. My advice to our generation, my generation, let’s not give up, society sees us differently but in reality we are in our own unique way but let’s be proud of it and show them better than they’ve ever seen.”
Edisrael Torres Junior–LEAD Academy
“Para empezar, mi presente. En el momento de escribir esto, tengo 16 y he estado aquí por todo mi vida viviendo como un latino. Tengo influencias Americanas que creo que me influenció para ser la persona que soy en este momento. Para mí (específicamente en Tennessee donde yo crecí) la música ha sido un parte de mi vida cuando era chico. Me gustan bandas de rock como “Red Hot Chili Peppers”, “Aerosmith” , y “Grateful Dead.” Estos grupos me influyeron mucho y ahora una de mis aspiraciones es hacer música.
Para acabar, viviendo aquí en los Estados Unidos ha formado mi identidad y (hasta aquí; en este momento que estoy escribiendo esto) lo defino como sigue : “Un niño hispano que le gusta la música y también con un futuro brillante. No importa que tan difícil sea esta vida, él lo puede hacer”. Mi sueño para esta generación y las que vienen es algo muy simple: que mi generación siempre anda aceptando, apoyando, y ayudando a otros ni importa quienes son. Que la historia no se repite. El sueño para mi también es algo muy simple: tener un buen futuro para mis amigos y familia, que mi familia sea orgullosa de mí, y (para mi) haciendo un músico exitoso (o también un 1960s fender stratocaster cómo es que John Frusciante tiene).”
Eva Muterspaugh Junior–Centennial High School
“My generation is capable of ending social and racial injustice. There’s something about our fiery willpower to fight that makes us a powerhouse when it comes to seeking change. We have the potential, but we must change within ourselves first. We could give our children a world where they won’t feel outcasted for the way they were born. We can make a place where little kids can express and be proud of their heritage, culture, and morals. We can do that, but we have to remove the logs from our own eyes before we remove the thorns from others.
Maybe I will never answer some of my questions about who I am, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try. All I know is that whoever I am, I am proud to be myself. I am proud to be a first generation Hispanic American. I am proud to be the daughter of an immigrant. I am proud to bond two families and two cultures together. I am proud to be myself.”
Thank you to Conexion Americas’ Hispanic Heritage Month sponsors!