Write It Poetry
Critic's Picks: ESSAY

Math and science always made sense to me because there is a right and a wrong answer, whereas writing encourages the use of the "grey area". With such a slanted view of writing, I saw no point in working on my writing past getting an "A" in English class. This changed when my junior English teacher forced me—literally sat me down at a computer beside her desk—to complete my Scholastic Portfolio because she saw a voice in it that I had no clue existed.

Editor's Comments:
Becki proves that a non-fiction, persuasive essay can be full of creative imagery and description. She makes her point and entertains with well-chosen images that stay in my mind.

Ethnic Background: Check Yes or No

By Becki Kielaszeki
age: 17
Teacher: Lynne Dozier Lynne

College and scholarship applications always leave a spot to check your ethnicity/race. After the boxes labeled African-American, Pacific-Islander, and Asian-American falls the "White, Non-Hispanic" option. I despise checking this box because I am not the color of this typing paper, I am not the color of snow that falls along my grandparent's Brooklyn steps every January, and I am not the color of the Yankee's home jersey before the green and clay stains caused by sliding into second. I do, however, have the same auburn locks that danced across my father's forehead as a teenager, the same gold-flecked eyes that my little brother bats in order to avoid punishment, and my mother's same wrinkled brow that only shows when she concentrates on a particularly tricky crossword puzzle. Along with sharing these physical characteristics with my family, though, I share a proud Polish heritage with my father's side and an even prouder Italian culture on my mother's.

Besides being quite large (thirty eight and growing by the day, counting only immediate first generation maternal members and an additional thirteen on the paternal branch), my family is quite loud, quite blunt, and quite noticeable. For example, preceding my performance at Carnegie Hall and dressed in concert-appropriate attire, my family dedicated a wave in my honor that ran down the row and back a few times - in the midst of other politely applauding families. My mother grew up in the Juliano family with eight brothers and sisters on 74th Street in Brooklyn, New York, directly across from their Catholic Church and school, Our Lady of Angels.

Within fourteen years, the Juliano women birthed nine girls including myself and only one baby boy to balance, catapulting the estrogen level considerably. Because my mother was the first of nine children to move away from the city, her family continually expects us to visit New York every summer. Most people consider strolling down Broadway, across from Times Square, and into Central Park the trip of a lifetime while I consider it - July. Every July since birth, with the exception of four years ago where we flew during the winter in the midst of a blizzard, I have explored the various boroughs: shopping in Manhattan, eating a slice in Brooklyn, jumping the waves on the Queen's shore, and deciphering subway maps on Staten Island. This past summer I even made my first solo trek from Times Square to my aunt's house in Staten Island without any serious errors- officially inducting me into the Honoree New Yorker Society (at least according to my aunt).

Though my culture does not show through the clothes I wear, the songs I sing, or the Texan colloquialisms that unconsciously slip out, I still embrace what my family represents. When my great-grandparents left Italy for Ellis Island, they understood that with increased Americanization came decreased Italian, and accepted this price. In coming over the mighty Atlantic, though, they set the roots for a family that would blossom into an orchard within the following two generations. With my great-grandfather's name carved into Ellis Island's walls, I welcome my Italian-Polish-Scot-Welsh-Irish background. Now if only I could lobby admission's directors to place a check for girls like me who are more than "White, Non-Hispanic" applicants.

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