UrbanNationals010813FlagReversedEssay Contest Winners

AW3U2479U13 Winner
Diego Lazaro,
@diegolazaro: Dreams Become Reality #ilovesports #respect #success
Describing my individuality and my goals using hashtags made me think about who I am and what I represent. I reflected on all areas that make me, Diego. I started with my individuality and I created the hashtag #ilovesports. I love sports because they make me feel good about myself. It also makes me feel like I’m doing something important. For example, I feel a smile stretch across my face when the refs say “Game”. At that moment I know I am the champion of the tournament. Squash is my way of life.
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The next hashtag that represents my values is #respect. I’m polite to my teacher, Mrs. Marcello. When everyone talks I stay quiet. I raise my hand. I use my manners all day. I try to lead others to do the same. I give respect to my teacher and classmates. For example, at my house I ask if I can play on my Xbox. Asking permission is being respectful. I also show good manners to my mom and dad. I say, “thank you” when they get me anything. I also like giving back to others.

The final hashtag that represents my goals is #success. My future goal is to go to Fordham University. I want to make my family proud and be the first one to graduate. I also want to make a good life for myself and my family. I want to take care of my family. After going to college I want to become a squash player and play with professional squash players. If that that does not happen I want to be a coach to help kids who want to play squash. I plan to give back to my community. Inspiring young people is so important so they find success. Seeing little kids smile and learning a new sport would be amazing.

In conclusion, all my hashtags, #ilovesports #respect and #success, represent me in a special way. I know my goals will make me a stronger person in the future. Learning about myself through hashtags will push me to know myself that much more. I am an individual that will make my dreams come true. #DreamsBecomeReality.

AW3U2484U15 Winner
Zeinab Andrea Bakayoko
StreetSquash Harlem
You can change your ways when you are challenged #Squash #Life #School
My class and I came up with this quotation during our English class when we were reading Gilgamesh. These past three weeks in class, we’ve been discussing the Epic Of Gilgamesh and how Gilgamesh was challenged by Enkidu. They had a battle, and they both realized that they are equally matched. Gilgamesh was a tyrant king who terrified the people of Uruk. Only after meeting Enkidu and becoming his friend does Gilgamesh evolved into a hero worthy of memory. At first, my class and I were brainstorming; we wanted to create a moral out of the beginning of the story between Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and that’s how we came up with the quote above.
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When we first came up with the quote, Geraldo, my classmate and teammate at StreetSquash yelled out my name. I turned around and stared at him. He told me to read the quote once again, and I asked him why. He told me to read it and think about it. “This quote is perfect for you because you don’t like playing people who are better than you at squash. You hate when Gabby gives you challenge matches and you even get upset when you are in a court with people that are better than you.”

“That’s not true,” I yelled at him, as always.
“Really?” he said, and started laughing.
“What’s so funny?” I asked him.
“Take for example Tuesday, your match with Karen. You got mad at everyone just because they matched you with someone that’s better than you. You even wanted to quit squash because you thought you are not a good squash player.” I stared at him, angrily, as always.
And he said, “What? Are you mad? Well don’t be mad because you shouldn’t let one loss define if you are good at the game or not.”

Then my teacher added, “I’ve heard a lot of things about you, Zeinab, and I think you are a great squash player, plus challenges are going to make you even better at squash.” Neither of us knew she was listening to our previous conversation.

I stared at both of them. They knew I was mad, but they kept on smiling. I turned and continued doing my work. I was angry, even though I knew they were both right.

After school, I went home and thought about what Geraldo and my teacher said. I started to relate the quote to myself. I wanted to start challenging myself during squash, and accept challenges. The next day I came to StreetSquash and found Leana. I share almost everything with her. I told her about the quote and how it changed the way I see things.

So I took the challenge: to not get angry when I am playing someone better than me at squash but to give my best effort even if I know I’m playing someone superior. I also determined that in the future when I’m in the court during practice, I will not get upset with myself or anyone else.

Through these conversation with my teammates, teachers, and friends I realized how important squash is to me and how badly I want to improve at it. So that’s the main reason why I want to go to Urban Teams: to challenge myself and try my best and enjoy the game. Now I understand that challenges are only going to make me greater, and won’t impact me in a bad way.

Talking about squash reminds me of when I first moved to the United States from the Ivory Coast. Squash was the first sport I played in the U.S. I was introduced to StreetSquash with the help of my teacher from Frederick Douglass Academy 2 in 7th grade. Now I’m in 9th grade and I get good grades in all my classes. I also have lots of friends, and even now in high school, my classmate from middle school that didn’t want to speak to me is one of my closest friends in school.

Though things weren’t always this amazing in school: when I first started at FDA2, things were pretty challenging. I had to deal with bullies, control my anger, keep my grades up and most importantly, learn the language. I was bullied because I didn’t speak their language and I was from another country. I could have defended myself with words but couldn’t speak the language, so I was always having physical fights.

Since I was used to fighting and getting mad easily, it was now a thing in my school life. However with lots of help from friends, family and teachers I realize that fighting is not worth it, it’s useless. Even though I’ve improved, anger and bad attitude are part of my life. It’s a challenge that I have to face everyday, but this challenge will make me a better person.

Now I know the benefits of challenges and the fact that it’s part of life. Taking a challenge is one of the most important thing we can do to increase our quality of life. Challenging yourself daily is a surefire path to success in all areas of your life. We don’t often get opportunities to shine and be our best selves, but a challenge can be that opportunity.

AW3U2548U17 Winner
Terrence Broughton
Chucktown Squash
Good things come in unexpected ways and meeting new people is a blessing. #changeisgood #yesnewfriends #chucktownsquash
It was two A.M on August 28, 2000 my mom was in labor with her third child. The clock struck 2:07, as the doctor said “Push out, push out” with hostility in his voice. It was then that moment my mama knew I was a big one; it’s now 2:08 and Terrence Broughton was born, A.K.A TB.
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Born and raised in Charleston, SC I went to Fraiser Elementary School. I loved that school and it meant the world to me, the teachers, the students, and the learning environment was magnificent. However one day I went home and my mom told me to check the mail. Suddenly it was a letter from my school; at that moment I was curious about what it was. The news I heard from my mom just crushed my heart, it was a letter saying that our school would no longer be occupied. Sooner or later I had to get over it and started at Sanders-Clyde. I was going into fourth grade, at a school I had never been in, and didn’t know a single person. Luckily it wasn’t that bad, I finished fourth grade with no problems even after I was worried about how it would go.

Even after a good first year at my new school I didn’t want summer break to end, to start waking up at six in the morning; especially to go somewhere I did not want to be. But as a child I had no choice but to get up and go to Sanders-Clyde.

Astonishingly, I met a woman named Anna Minkowski; she is probably one of the most important people I have met to this day. She casually walked up to me and asked me if I wanted to play squash.

I thought to myself,“ Squash, what is squash? Who wants to play squash, what does she expect me to do.” I took it in into consideration and said “Why not?”

I was the first one in my whole school to sign up for the first urban squash program in Charleston. A small group of kids and a woman who barely knew us went to the MUSC Wellness center, and got on the squash court for the first time. I loved it so much, even though I didn’t get the hang of it right away; I knew I was going to improve.

That year with squash went by quickly and I was getting good. I was in 6th grade when the team really started to get up and improving. Lynnie Minkowski was now our squash coach along with Sam Candler the program director. This 6th grade season was the best.

Every time I would serve the ball you would hear the crowd saying, “TB with the lob serve,” my signature shot which helped identify me as a player. We had an upcoming tournament, our first tournament to Atlanta. I was so excited to go and experience something new! We finally pulled up in the city where we saw beautiful skyscrapers and a wonderful landscape. That tournament was our first and it was a learning experience for us all. However, we gained a lot and learned from our mistakes. It was a great experience for my first squash trip. Since my first trip to Atlanta I’ve been able to travel to Baltimore and Philadelphia. Now we’re on our way up to Boston to play in our first ever NUSEA urban team’s tournament.

Chucktown Squash, now known as Chucktown Squash Scholars, has taken me places that I would have never been able to go. I’ve met many important people such as Remy Starker, Lauren Herterich, and Chris Herren. Herren’s visit included a speech that motivated us to never ever get involved with drugs and to keep our goals clear.

I know that I owe special thanks to all the supporters and donors who believe in us and help keep this program going. Through my time with Chucktown Squash Scholars, I have not only had the chance to meet important people but also I’ve made an awesome friend. His name is Javier Gathers, he joined squash in 6th grade, but ever since then he has been rocking it on the court. Our friendship has given me nothing except motivation to become a better squash player and to always try my hardest on and off the court.

Who would have thought that with my elementary school closing I would have stumbled into Chucktown Squash Scholars? Trusting someone new and joining this program was most definitely and without a doubt the best decision of my life.

U19 Winner
Johnny Hayes
Access Youth Academy
Somehow, you still manage to hurt me from beyond the grave you dug yourself. But I’m still kicking.
One thing I value above all is honesty. That 140-character tweet, though it is a bit depressing, it is completely honest. It’s how I feel at this present moment, and though the tweet I would use to describe myself changes every day, it holds as much weight as stone tablets passed on by some empyrean being to a world waiting for an answer.

It’s also why this is my fourth rewrite of this essay. I’m still kicking.
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We all live with individual truths that are based on the world we live in. These truths make up unique realities that we call lives, and are mostly comprised of how we react to what is done to and around us. We develop based on an infinite number of influences and set a course where we avoid or chase these influences again and again.

One of my biggest influences is my Mom. She is the reason I get perfect grades in school, I am a strong person, and I pursue my passions with unapologetic abandon. She is also the person who clouded my mind until I couldn’t think outside of her innocence, showed me what hell looks like, and has now managed to possibly ruin my chances at receiving financial aid due to some non-custodial information being available. Keep in mind, I haven’t had contact with her for nearly four years. Despite this, she still maintains her grip over my heart.

My mom twists the knife in memory as I relive the past every time I have to explain how she abandoned me. Drugs are a powerful thing, especially when someone is so weak. It is incredible how this sort of pain is never truly gone. It can come back at any moment and take over, leaving its victim in tears and out of breath.

However, I can’t deny the progress I’ve made either. Two and a half years of therapy in order to be dubbed ‘okay to stand on my own.’ I was able to stay within myself and approach situations from the outside in, even when I was at the center of it. Smiles lasted a lot longer. Laughter bubbled up and didn’t shatter when my brain returned to my reality.

The entire time I wanted nothing more than to feel better. I fought for my happiness. It’s why I made it out to the other side stronger than I was when this whole thing started.

I can’t help but recognize that many of the opportunities I’ve had wouldn’t have been afforded to me had none of this ever happened. I was forced to mature, but in that way I’ve been able to serve the people around me better, both as a peer counselor and as a friend. I learned a lot, including how to love someone in every way.

Plain and simple, I love my mom. There are days when I miss her so badly that I break down once more. But I pick up, and I keep going.

“Somehow, you still manage to hurt me from beyond the grave you dug yourself. But I keep kicking. This is my reality, and I choose to live.”

138 characters, and I feel better already.