Thursday, December 29, 2011

Scholarships 3...

When I think back on the past several years, I can’t think of a single time when I’ve been bored. Since I was four I have taken music lessons and helped out in church. Now, going to a boarding academy has placed countless extracurricular opportunities at my finger tips. Outdoor activities, social activities, and fine arts (along with many other extracurricular activities), have taken a large part of my time for the past three years, and they all have left me with timeless memories and lasting life lessons.

When I first went away to school, I had an interest in outdoor activities, but little experience. Now, my friends and I hike the rugged Canadian wilderness once a week. Mountaineering, trail-running, backpacking, snow-camping (in an real snow cave that I made myself), and creek- and waterfall-climbing, have all taught me to reach higher, push harder, go further, and expect more of myself. I’ve also learned the values of teamwork and dependable friends. On one canoe trip in northern British Columbia, a large group of students was staying at the base camp, while a smaller group of students canoed up the lake. Just as we were about to push off shore, my canoe group learned that we needed to take another student. One of the canoes made room for her, and we set off. The catch was that this girl had few supplies and no food. My friends and I didn’t even blink. We simply shared what we had and made sure that everyone was cared for.

Another place where I have learned and practiced teamwork is in music. I love playing violin, and as part of our student-run Classical Concert (both in our student orchestra and as a participant in chamber groups and duets), I’ve needed to be diligent, responsible, and professional. Practicing with friends during our precious “free” time has taught me self-sacrifice and commitment. I have learned the most, however, in teaching. I have two young violin students that I teach once a week. Creativity, resourcefulness, patience, and flexibility are all tools that I am learning to use so I can better share the musical ability that God and my teachers have given me.

Giving what I have received is a practice that I’ve been able to use in a radio program that I take part in. Ask the Pastor is a national radio program on which three of my friends, two of my teachers (one of them is also a pastor), and I, discuss and use the Bible to answer questions like: Is there anything left you can trust? and Did God create the Devil? Sharing truths that I have learned since I was a child hasn’t only increased my faith, but it encourages and strengthens the faith of others. I find encouraging others even more rewarding when I do it anonymously. Having a secret sister that I give little notes to and make little gifts for is very rewarding. Another rewarding activity was making Spanish food for an International Supper that my friends and I held for the community. Not only did I make special Spanish dishes with my friends, but I got to share a piece of my culture with the community.

So, I do a lot. Big deal. Many teens do a lot. For me, each moment is an investment. Either an investment that will give me what it takes to reach my goals or one that will waste my time. So far, my time spent on extracurricular activities is profiting me with many life lessons, life lessons that are preparing me for my future.

Scholarships 2...

My parents instilled a deep love of learning in me at an early age, and I really love school. Writing, however, has always been a challenge for me, so when I found out that I would have to write a term paper this year, I was quite intimidated. Not only did I have to write a term paper, but the paper had to be about my identity and how relationships influenced my identity. What teenager knows enough about their identity to be able to rationally construct an entire essay on it? Not to mention the relationship part.

Thankfully, however, I discovered that I would have this assignment last summer. Seeing that I had a couple months before I would have to put the pen to paper (or my fingers to the keyboard), I started to gather information and improve my writing as much as I could over the summer. I read books on identity, on relationships, and on writing well. When my family went on a road trip I listened to audio books on the effects of relationships on identity. I also started keeping a journal of essays, forcing myself to write at least one short essay every day. “Practice makes perfect,” I would tell myself when my writing seemed pointless.

When school started again I felt ready. Within the first week or two I had my thesis, introduction, hook, and outline. Ideas were flowing, examples were appearing, and my teacher was excited about my thesis. Overall, things were going very well. Then I hit writer’s block. Overnight I got tired of my essay. My anecdotes were no longer funny, my logic didn’t make sense, my references didn’t correlate, and no matter how long I stared at my computer screen I could not force myself to write another sentence.

For at least two weeks I didn’t touch my essay. I wouldn’t suggest that approach to anyone else, but it worked for me. I edited my friends’ essays and talked them through their ideas. I read more books, and started writing posts for my blog. Eventually, however, I started to realize that the end of the term was coming up, and I had better finish writing. For a few days I attempted to reorganize my outline and freshen up my ideas in hopes that my writing juices would start flowing, but they just weren’t coming. I generally work well under pressure, so I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to pull things together as the deadline bore down on me. In discouragement I went to my blog page and scrolled through my posts looking for comments. Soon I found myself reading my own writing. My identity and relationships were right there looking at me. Words jumped off the screen, shouting out all the thoughts and ideas that I had been mulling over for so many months.

And that’s how I finished my term paper. The many posts that I thought had been pointless, the essays in my journal, favorite quotes that I’d found in my books, illustrations that I had used to help my friends sort through their thoughts - they all came together to make my paper what it was, a picture of my relationships and how they make my identity. It was the little habits that I created and kept up every day that gave me just what I needed when the writing got hard. Not only have these habits helped me overcome my fear of writing in high school, but they are the tools that will continue to help me through countless writing projects in the future.


With college around the corner, Christmas break this year has been full of applying for scholarships. That means writing essays. I figured I might as well post them, so here's the first one.

“Speak English Daddy,” I lisped with my newfound baby voice. Daddy sighed in frustration. It was too late. By the time my mom had convinced him that a baby really could learn Spanish, I had already figured out that he knew English too. He could talk to me all day in Spanish, and I would still reply with a babyish “speak English Daddy!”

Now, I desperately wish I had learned Spanish as a baby. Listening to my relatives’ musical chatter has taught me to understand a few phrases, but I long to be fluent. If I was immersed in an environment where I was forced to learn Spanish, it would not take me long to pick it up, but with all my relatives so eager to practice their English on me, I haven’t got a chance.

Thankfully, both the universities that I am considering attending have programs that will allow me to work on my Spanish. If I attend either Southern Adventist University or Walla Walla University (I have been accepted by both) I can spend at least a year at either Universidad Adventista Del Plata in Argentina or Escuela Superior de EspaƱol de Segunto in Spain. These Universities have exchange student programs that will allow me to continue my college studies while I learn Spanish, and they are not far from some of my Spanish family.

As for now, I’m trying to do all I can to get ahead in school so that I can take time to immerse myself in Spanish in college. I’ve skipped a grade, I’m planning to finish a college level calculus course by the end of this year, and I’m studying to take several music exams that will well prepare me for the courses I plan to take in the coming years (I plan to study Biology and Music). I also plan to practice my Spanish this spring when I take a trip with my class to build school buildings and work with poor and underprivileged children in Honduras.

Even though I cannot yet speak Spanish, my Spanish heritage has been woven throughout my entire life. From helping my dad with his English to wishing that I could communicate with my grandparents, uncles, and aunts, the importance of the Spanish language and the value of being bilingual are lessons that I have learned the hard way. Not only will learning Spanish be valuable in my family life, but it will also be a priceless tool in my career as either a High school Biology teacher or a Physician.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Sorry that I haven't written for a very long time. Here's another one of my English assignments.

Sabbath is our special day with God, therefore Satan does all in his power to distract us from its purpose. We can honor the right day, go to the right church, give our tithe, and even actively participate in the morning service, and still not fulfill the purpose of the Sabbath – spending special time with God.

Not long ago, my family and I were part of a program that was going to be presented during the main service at a church a few towns away. Even though we all woke up tired and groggy, we scurried here and there, trying to get everything ready so we could leave on time. We all made our beds, took showers, ate our breakfast, and watched a Sabbath-school program on TV for our personal devotions. Then we put on our Sabbath clothes, and that is when things started going downhill. My little sister didn’t want to wear the dress that mom had asked her to wear. Grumpily she marched about the house, complaining about every fault that she could find in the dress (or in anything else for that matter). I’m ashamed to say that her bad attitude quickly spread to me. Bluntly, I told my sister what a rude, disrespectful, and ungrateful little girl she was. I couldn’t believe the behavior she was exhibiting. Of course, I didn’t improve her mood at all, but she greatly influenced mine. The grumpy, complaining spirit gradually settled on my family, and by the time we were pulling out of the garage, we had all tangibly realized it. Before we drive anywhere, especially to church, we always say a prayer, and as my mom started to pray, the Holy Spirit started to work on our hearts. Here we were, on our way to present the church service for another congregation, and we were bickering and carrying on as though we didn’t even know Jesus. To top it off, this was the day that we were supposed to be extra close to Jesus.

All of a sudden, my sister’s behavior didn’t matter so much to me. Look at my own behavior! On the day set apart for me and God, I had spent plenty of time worrying about myself and others, but I hadn’t spent time with just me and God. Sure, I had listened to someone else talk about Jesus, but that day, I hadn’t experienced Him personally. The Sabbath is a holy day, made for holy communion between God and me, between God and you. I didn’t receive the blessing of the Sabbath until later that day, because I couldn’t receive the gift without coming in contact with the Giver. The power and blessing of the Sabbath aren’t in its strict observance; they’re in its Maker and our continuing relationship with Him.