Opinion: Paying it forward pays off



This past year, I experienced the most terrifying two hours of my life when I realized I had lost my wallet. Inside was my driver’s license, credit card, insurance card, house key, everything that helped me get through my daily life.

In a moment of forgetfulness, I had left it behind outside of my friend’s house, and my first thought was that I was never going to see it again. I was proven wrong when I returned home and found my wallet lying on the front porch of my house.

A wave of relief passed over me, followed quickly by a flood of appreciation. In addition to all of the important items in it, that wallet was given to me as a birthday present. It was a great feeling to know that whoever found it had the goodness to drive all the way to my house and return it with everything intact.

The two boys around the age of 10 who found my wallet came back the next day to make sure I had seen it on the porch. I thanked them for not just going out of their way to return my wallet, but for opening my eyes to the good of people and how we should all be acting

People are always quick to judge others, automatically thinking the worst. Most would think that the person who found the wallet would steal the credit card and the identity. The newspapers or news channels that post stories on the evils of people perpetuate this idea. Yet, here was my wallet, home safe and sound.

The fact that someone was good enough to return my wallet got me thinking that we all need to be better to each other, take the two minutes to go out of our way for someone else and pay it forward. This is not a new concept: a quick search on the Internet will tell you that the phrase was first used back in 317 BC in a small play. The phrase “you don’t pay love back, you pay it forward” then reappeared in 1916 in the book “In the Garden of Delight” by Lily Hardy Hammond.

In fact, there are others out there still trying to make “pay it forward” happen today, and that’s how all of us can get involved. April 30 is International Pay it Forward Day. The founder of the organization, Blake Beattie, lives in Australia and is aiming to inspire 3 million acts of kindness around the world. Last year, people from 70 different countries participated, whether it was from buying someone a cup of coffee or collecting books and distributing them to the less fortunate.

Paying it forward doesn’t have to be anything big. It can be something smaller such as holding the door open for someone or just simply smiling at a person who is looking down and asking him how his day is going. Just make it count.

That means all of us. If someone is walking in the parking lot with no umbrella while it’s raining, offer her one. If someone drops a backpack and everything spills out, stop and help him pick it up.

I guarantee that the feeling after will be rewarding.

To learn more about Pay it Forward Day visit www.payitforwardday.com. This website offers more about the day and ways that everyone can get involved.

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In my opinion: music festivals should not have age restrictions


Music festivals consist of much more than just sweaty, screaming, poorly dressed people. Being a fan of the music festival scene myself, I have witnessed it all, and while some argue that there should be an age limit for concerts, it seems to me that the atmosphere is just fine for a middle schooler who is seeking to enjoy a favorite DJ.

Some fail to realize that the music is actually the reason to attend, not the “party” or the “raging.” Music played at festivals ranges from computer-generated EDM to rap, to country. Some festivals that feature electronic music, such as Ultra Music Festival, Electronic Daisy Carnival, and Sunset Music Festival, have been putting age restrictions on entry. This forces those who are not of age to miss out on what could have been the best day/days of their lives.

The establishment of age-restriction policies means young fans must watch these festivals as videos when they are released on YouTube or in the form of live-streams. The supposedly safer atmosphere of watching from the comfort of one’s home eliminates middle schoolers from the crowd, and even those who are simply not yet 18, depending on the restrictions.

It is unfair that these fans are deprived of a rich cultural experience simply because they are not of age. Age restrictions are usually set to allow those that are ages 16+, 18+ or 21+ into the events. Setting an age restriction of 16+ is suitable; elementary schoolers might not be safe in these crowds but middle schoolers definitely are.

What this age restriction is basically implying is that the atmosphere of a music festival is not safe for an emerging teenager. But I disagree. Colorfully dressed people, good vibes and blasting music is more than suitable.

In September 2014, the Ultra Music Festival in Miami placed a new age restriction on entry to the event, only allowing those 18 and older to attend. This left out 17-year-olds, who are more than capable of surviving in a crowd full of sweaty, screaming ravers, as well as 16- and 15-year-olds.

Setting age restrictions gives a negative connotation to festivals, suggesting that the atmosphere might be dangerous for younger people. This is not the reputation music festivals should be have or be judged on since there is much more to it. Music festivals serve the sole purpose of bringing people together for music. This is what they are all about.

Music festivals have recently acquired this bad reputation of being prone to deaths among young people, but this is merely something that may occur anywhere else. One death in a festival, although tragic, shouldn’t stop thousands of younger fans from attending. There are other solutions to promoting safety at festivals. For example, eliminate dehydration by lowering of the price of water. Water fountain stations scattered throughout festivals could also be useful. Ultra charged $5 per water bottle last year. If this festival’s organizers really want a safer environment, affordable water is the least they can do.

The best days of my life have been at music festivals. The two times I’ve been lucky enough to attend these concerts, I was 16. I was there to enjoy the music and they were experiences I wish I could re-live once again but will be unable to next year because I am not yet 18. From a 16-year-old’s point of view, the atmosphere was safe. It might’ve gotten sweaty, but the crowd of positive energy was just fine.

Maybe it’s the provocative clothing worn by young girls, the flashy bracelets or the word “molly” that’s thrown around that can give electronic dance music festivals a bad reputation, but in reality, this genre of music is much more than that. There may be the festival-goers who are there for the illicit drugs, but there are also those that are there to enjoy the music. Electronic dance music is like no other genre. The music festival experience is indescribable and fans of all ages should be able to live it.

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Opinion: Sign me up


We humans, as a race, are cyclic creatures, and nobody should ever break our routine, or they face our wrath. Unfortunately, closed doors seem to take the brunt of this abuse.

My friends and I have created a game thanks to the students here at the Bay: on days the Media Center is closed, how many people will disregard the sign that clearly says MEDIA CENTER IS CLOSED in the mornings and will still try to open the obviously locked door and stare at it frustrated until someone from a nearby picnic table says “Library’s closed.”IMG_0371

It gets more entertaining when the library is closed for the students but open for staff and faculty. Then, the students will walk into the unlocked library and will have to be escorted out of there by big, burly security guards.

This incredible phenomenon isn’t, however, limited to only the media center. Countless times, teachers will lock their rooms, post a sign outside telling their students that they’re either: a) not available during that period; or b) have moved the class to another room.

Students will try the door, sometimes pounding it and kicking it until a mysterious student, one with the ability to read, tells the others exactly what the sign says.

Now this may just be my opinion, but I think that when a teacher or faculty member posts a sign outside a door or a window, she means for the students to read it. I know, I know, that causes too much work. But don’t think of it like reading that assigned book from English class you hate, think of it as a text message, but on paper. And instead of sending it, the teacher put some Scotch tape on it and hung it up for all to see. So not exactly a text message, more like a group chat.

Even outside of high school, people ignore signs. Store says that its closed? Expect people to cup their eyes and try to peer in the darkened window. Even the Nicktoons show “Spongebob Squarepants” made a comment about this, having a customer knock on the closed doors and ask Squidward if they’re open. When the Squidward tells the customer to read the sign (which, spoiler alert, says CLOSED) the customer proceeds to place an order.

Bottom line: Read the sign and accept the fact that some people just don’t want you inside.

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Opinion: Beware the Ides of February



Yes, it’s that time of year again when it is socially acceptable to complain about unsatisfying relationships and dream about unrealistic, Hollywood-based, super-human beings that will sweep us off our feet. The incredible time when grocery stores are having entire chocolate aisles on sale, and the time flowerbeds bloom in red and pink. The time of the year when lust is in the air.

You read correctly. Lust is a word that is typically accompanied by negative connotations, and you all know which ones I’m referring to, whereas the word we would all love to hear, LOVE, is nothing but fluffy, sugarcoated, goodness. We are wrong for thinking in this way.

In reality, (aka the high school spectrum) lust should be what we connote as light and fluffy, because deep inside, most of us acknowledge the fact that in this time of our so-far-short-lived lives, lust is all there typically is. The teddy bear you received from your significant other last year now lies indifferent and dusty in the cold, desolate corner of your room. The flowers you received have withered and the baked goods that were exchanged have been eaten, digested for nutrients (their prime function), and then forgotten. I do not believe this to be a tragedy, don’t get me wrong. In fact, I prefer the hard truth of lust’s temporary, superficial nature, rather than the intense, all-consuming, platonic idea of love.

Valentine’s Day has become an obligation almost. Something like love, that at our age is not very common (since fewer than 2 percent of marriages are to a high school sweetheart according to the website 20 High School Sweethearts Marriage Statistics” by Brandon Gaille), has morphed into something we are ashamed of not having. We wonder where we went wrong, what we could have done differently. We obsess over how every person around us seems to be roaming the hallways with emoji-heart-eyes. How the sensation that overwhelms the atmosphere cyclically through the Ides of February seems like love, when really, it is merely just lust. It will most likely end, and there is nothing wrong with that, or you.

The best way to accept this and not live like a cold, soulless robot for the rest of your life, is to enjoy the moment, immerse yourself in the feelings your significant other gives you, and all the while remember that this is just another chapter of your life. So go ahead, make mistakes. Type that text message with all of the hearts and exclamation marks your little heart desires. Trip, fall, and get back up again. It’s a cycle, so don’t think of it too much.

This Valentine’s Day, remember to beware of the temptation to make something ephemeral, eternal. Beware the Ides of February, but don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it.

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Opinion: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge true purpose should be known



What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? Most of you can probably find the answer on your Facebook feed.

Throughout the past few months, it’s been impossible to go on social media without seeing “ALS ice bucket challenge” pop up. But let me ask you a question: why are you pouring a bucket of ice on yourself?EMILY C COLOR copy

Most of us are capable of dousing ice-cold water on ourselves for the world to see, yet I bet only a fraction of us can say what ALS is and what purpose the ice bucket challenge serves for those affected by it.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Due to the degeneration of motor neurons, ALS often results in death. The life expectancy of an ALS patient is two to five years from the time of diagnosis. Only 30,000 people in the US have ALS, and there is no cure for the disease thus far.

Unlike those who roll their eyes every time they see another ice bucket challenge pop up on their Instagram feed, I feel joy seeing such a little known disease getting attention. Since the ice bucket challenge began, the ALS Association has received $15.6 million in donations compared to $1.8 million in donations it received last year. The only thing I roll my eyes at is how little people will care about the disease once their video is posted.

The problem with the ice bucket challenge is it has become such a pop culture phenomenon that people are forgetting why it began in the first place. If people are not aware of the importance of ALS research, and the impact the challenge has had, the ice bucket challenge is in danger of becoming just another fad that will be buried into the depths of social media in a matter of months.

Why do I say this? Let me take you back to a time when everybody wore “I Love Boobies” bracelets to support breast cancer. How many people still wear those bracelets today? While those bracelets stood for an excellent cause in breast cancer awareness and gave attention to a life-threatening illness, most people bought them for the comical phrase written or to blend in with their friends. The bracelets, which were made to promote breast cancer, became a fashion trend rather than a charitable donation.

The ALS ice bucket challenge is on the path to a similar fate as the “I Love Boobies” bracelets. Due to people’s ignorance, participants have no care to keep the trends going. When such great causes are getting attention, we cannot let them turn into fads.

This is the first time the ALS community has received so much attention, and it would be a shame to see the ice bucket challenge become just another forgotten hashtag on social media. Instead of caring how many likes we get on our ice bucket challenge videos, we should care about how much the challenge has helped ALS research.

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Opinion: College applications break the bank


Tapping away at the keys on my computer on a Friday night while sipping on some much-needed coffee as I fill and refill what seems to be endless question boxes about classes, grades, accomplishments and incomes, my head starts to pound. That’s right, I’m talking college applications.

This process not only consumes first semester seniors mentally but also financially. As a hopeful and dedicated applicant, I make time during my weeks and weekends to fill out the endless sections of my applications and even worse, write and rewrite my essays. But when my decisions on where to apply are affected because of the application fees, I begin to feel as if the application process is not a fair one.
College admissions offices should make applying to schools free or they should at least partially reimburse the students that get rejected from their schools.PRETTY SAB

Normally when $300 is charged to my mom’s credit card in a single hour, a grand purchase has been made. Unfortunately, this has not been the case lately. Large sums of money have been spent, except it has not been on a grand purchase but on a few of my college applications.

Why do some schools ask applicants to pay an $85 application fee? If our application is sent via the web, almost like an email, why do colleges need to charge us this much money to send in our information? Where does the money even go? I understand the people who evaluate the applications need to get paid, but $85 seems like too much money for the amount of work required.

The financial aspect of my college application process has not only overwhelmed me, but it has also made me feel as if all colleges worry about is money rather than education, as if they do not give importance to me or my application, and as if instead of reading my name all they see is dollar signs.

Granted, by allowing students to send applications for free, the number of applications admission offices would receive would increase. However, students’ chances of getting into college would also increase due to the fact that they could apply to more schools. Paying $85 dollars to apply to a school makes me feel as if I am paying for rejection.

Not only is sending the application a financial worry in students’ eyes and in parents’ checkbooks, but also add sending SAT and/or ACT scores along with transcripts to the list – both of which are necessary and not free – and the price becomes absurd. As if college is not expensive enough, the application process just adds to the financial hardship that is college.

Making this process a free one or at least partially reimbursing students who get rejected would allow applicants a wider variety of schools to apply to, further changing the course of future collegiate careers.

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Opinion: Labels hide true identity




Filling out college applications, I come across the same question: How do you describe yourself?

An infinite list of adjectives comes to mind. However, the only options in the drop down menu are African-American, White, Asian, Hispanic, Indian or other.

I select white. In this declarative moment, I feel a sense of incompletion. Does “white” really define who I am? I am more than just a color. There is more to my character and my background than an unclear, broad label.

Growing up in a city such as Weston, I have been exposed to many different cultures, especially at the Bay, where more people speak Spanish than English.

Sixteen years in a diverse community equals 16 years of different cultures I collected. These are cultures that have formed my identity. These are cultures that are hidden behind my “white” label.

I consider myself part Hispanic. No, my parents are not from Colombia nor Venezuela. Yet, the majority of my teammates on my swim team embrace these backgrounds. My swim friends constantly speak Spanish at practice. When I visit their homes, I am immersed in a completely new culture with different food, different values and a different way of life.

Even though being Hispanic is not in my blood, it is in my heart. Unfortunately, it is not in my accent. My Hispanic friends constantly joke about my “gringa” voice, but I’m working on it.

I also consider myself part Israeli. None of my family is from Israel, but I am an observer of Judaism. I am immersed in a prominent Jewish population at my school. Some of these Jewish students are native Israelis or have lived in the holy-land for some period of time.

This summer, I traveled to Israel for the first time. I thought I would be confused and unable to understand the language. Although I don’t speak Hebrew, I immediately felt welcome there – partly because of the warm, friendly vibes I received from Israeli citizens, but also because I went with a strong background. My connection to the Jewish community in my school and in my synagogue helped me ease my way into Israel, feeling at home in a foreign country.

Besides Hispanic and Israeli, other cultures shape my identity. The US is a unique and culturally diverse nation. Walking through the crowded school halls is a feeling that equates to navigating the busy streets of New York City – unfamiliar faces all from different places. My school brings global local.

The environment on campus is similar to that of Disney’s theme park, Epcot. I walk around the park experiencing a taste of Italy, China and Spain. I walk through my school hallways surrounded by people speaking Italian, Chinese and Spanish. It is these micro-moments of connection where I am learning, growing and observing, becoming a more culturally-aware individual.

The label “white” does not define who I am. It may imply my ethnicity, but it does not represent the person I have grown and matured to be. Beneath my white skin and white label lie other cultures and traits. These are traits acquired from eating dinner at my Cuban neighbor’s house. These are traits learned through my friends from China, Russia and Greece.

Colleges desire a diversely populated campus, which is the purpose for their inquiry about my heritage. People are diverse not by the color of their skin nor by their place of birth, but by the skills acquired and by the activities pursued. We, as current college applicants, should not be mandated to label ourselves.

So, when asked how I would define myself, I select white. But this selection means nothing. Here’s the thing about labels: there is much more underneath.

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Opinion: Twitter is not the place for grief



I didn’t know Robin Williams personally. Neither did many others who flooded Twitter with 140-character-or-less messages mourning the loss of the beloved actor and comedic genius on Aug. 11. Still, in typical Twitter fashion, #RIPRobinWilliams managed to become a trending topic within hours of the sad news breaking.JEN JPEG

It’s natural for people to feel a connection with celebrities and to get emotional when they pass away. We admire and appreciate them for making us laugh, for making us think, for bringing some form of positivity into our lives.

Unfortunately, as can be seen in the event of Robin Williams’ passing, this admiration doesn’t always manifest itself as respect once it reaches the Twittersphere. There’s a time and a place for grief, and that day it became evident to me that Twitter is not the place.

It started that evening when my mom came into my room and told me about Robin Williams. I felt a pang in my chest, and immediately thought back to the days of my childhood when I fell in love with the story of “Jumanji” or when I had a “Hook” VHS tape playing on repeat as Williams took me to Neverland and made me never want to grow up.

After I reminisced, my next reaction was to open up Twitter to check how others were reacting to the news. But when I saw all of the #RIPRobinWilliams hashtags flooding my timeline, it disturbed me the way a hashtag symbol, something that is more often used lightheartedly with #tbt or #sorrynotsorry, was now paired with such a serious and grave statement.

I spent a minute trying to come up with a respectful tweet of my own before feeling guilty for how immediately taking to social media to share my emotions has become a natural reflex not only for me, but also for everyone of my social-media-obsessed generation. Why does sadness need to be publicized? Answer: It doesn’t.

It’s true that Twitter is all about giving users the right to express themselves, but it’s also true that there are no Twitter police blocking us from writing anything our hearts desire. This is why it’s up to us to know when we’re going one step too far with our words and crossing a line of respect. This line is bound to be broken when people try to take on such delicate subjects as suicide or depression.

Twitter can be used for good or for evil, and unfortunately, deaths bring out the worst of people on the Internet. On the day of Williams’ death, underneath all of the sympathetic comments celebrating his life were comments of harassment aimed at his 25-year-old daughter Zelda’s Twitter account.

She received hundreds of messages saying her father’s suicide was somehow her fault, and crude, Photoshopped pictures showing fake bruises around his neck. This ruthless Twitter attack during such a tough time pushed Zelda to sign off Twitter and Instagram for weeks to avoid harassment, which in turn pushed Twitter to make a statement on updating its safety policies.

“We will not tolerate abuse of this nature on Twitter,” Del Harvey, Twitter’s vice president of trust and safety, said in a statement. “We have suspended a number of accounts related to this issue for violating our rules and we are in the process of evaluating how we can further improve our policies to better handle tragic situations like this one. This includes expanding our policies regarding self-harm and private information, and improving support for family members of deceased users.”


Incidents such as these make me question not only human nature but also the nature of social media – what type of person would use Twitter as a platform for bullying? Let’s all do Twitter a simple favor and try not to abuse the right of Freedom of Speech given to us in the First Amendment. Let’s try to be respectful. Hint: It’s not that hard if you’re a decent human being.

Not everything in life comes with instructions. There is no grieving-on-social-media handbook. (No, “Twitter for Dummies” doesn’t count). Simply treat celebrity deaths with the same respect you would if a loved one had died. We all know how the old saying goes: If you don’t have anything nice to Tweet, don’t Tweet anything at all.

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Opinion: Embracing the ‘pro’ in procrastination



We’ve all been there.  Calculus homework due tomorrow, English project due Friday, physics assignment due Tuesday, and a dozen quizzes and test scattered sporadically throughout the next few weeks – so the logical thing to do at this point would be to sit down, get it all done, and call it a day.

But guess what I’m doing. Nothing. Should I be doing my schoolwork? Probably.  Am I going to? Definitely, but later.

To dawdle, to lag, to defer, and to loiter all translate to mean basically the same thing: to procrastinate.  In literal terms, when one procrastinates, he/she puts something off “until tomorrow.” The word procrastinate is even derived from the Latin pro, meaning “forward,” and crastinus, meaning “belonging to tomorrow.”

My grandmother was a procrastinator, my mother was a procrastinator, and now I guess one could say I am a pro-procrastinator. The trait is in my genes and is a part of who I am. Although the procrastination lifestyle is not exactly encouraged or accepted by all, it is the way that I function the best.

Procrastination has a negative connotation, so to be accused of being a procrastinator is usually taken badly. But whenever I am faced with this accusation, I embrace it. The “pros” in procrastination tend to be ignored since not all can harness their procrastinating powers usefully, but the actual concept of it should be reevaluated and accepted.

In order to successfully procrastinate, one must be aware of sudden and looming deadlines. For me, in those precious last moments before I’m supposed to be done with whatever needs to get done is my most crucial time.  My stressful race to completion combines with frantic desperation to produce something that I would not have been able to make otherwise. Therefore, determination and procrastination generates innovation.

Procrastination also becomes useful when dealing with unpredictable circumstances. Events can get canceled and deadlines can become eradicated. That outdoor event that you’ve been decorating for the whole week – gets rained out.  That math test you studied with a tutor for weeks – gets postponed. That party you bought the perfect new outfit for – gets canceled. These situations can and do happen, but are avoidable by procrastinating until a reasonable time to start preparations, arrangements and plans.

Procrastinating has also saved my physical and mental health. People tend to put a tremendous amount of stress on themselves when they plan so far in advance for what has the potential to change.  Ironically, prioritizing more hours working rather than hours necessary for sleep is unhealthy and can actually make someone less efficient, which has the complete opposite result from the intention. While my classmates are already sprouting gray hairs from stress, I experience relatively much less stress since all my stress runs its course within a short time period right before something is due.

Evolving into the pro-procrastinator that I am now didn’t just happen overnight. It took time, experience, and a few last-minute successes to reaffirm my procrastinating confidence. I am fully aware of my responsibilities and deadlines, so whatever needs to get done will always get done and on time, and I guarantee it will be spectacular.

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Opinion: Identity can sometimes be a surprise

Opinion: Identity can sometimes be a surprise



It happens every time. Whenever I mention where I’m from, someone around me is shocked. It shouldn’t bother me, but the fact that I am so often judged by my appearance is disappointing. I have strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes, a German last name, and an American accent. I used to love saying where I was born whenever I had the chance, but now that I’m older I realize how unfortunate it is that my looks determine others’ expectations.

I was born in Bogota, Colombia. Although I moved to this country when I was a year and a half old, Spanish was my first language and I speak it fluently. My parents were both born and raised in Colombia, and lived there until they decided it was an unsafe place to raise a baby. My family moved to the United States in order to pursue opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have.

Moving to the U.S. gave my parents the freedom to practice their religion comfortably, and to not live in fear. I am Jewish, and this is mainly how I identify myself. As a Jew, I’ve learned that my ancestors suffered persecution and discrimination, and my parents have instilled in me the idea that education is the one thing that cannot be taken away. Even as a young child, I strived to do my best in school, and I earned the label of gifted. This led to an even greater struggle with my identity. I became a Jewish, Colombian gifted student.ilanaimo

I have had mostly the same people in my classes since middle school, and at one point or another my peers have found out that I am Hispanic. Although some are surprised but try not to act it, I often receive very dramatic reactions from those who have just met me.

Usually after people first find out, I am asked to speak in Spanish. This question makes me uncomfortable since I’ve lost my Spanish accent due to constantly speaking with my American friends in English. My Colombian family makes fun of my accent, so in a way, I’ve become ashamed of my language.

My traditions are more Jewish than they are Colombian, making it difficult for me to relate to the 2,165 students at school who are from South American countries.

As a Colombian Jew, I often find it difficult to fit in, and I feel as though I don’t belong in many social circles. This is extremely difficult because of the preconceptions people have and the stereotypes they form in their heads when I talk about where I was born and what my religious affiliation is. This has led me to feel uncomfortable when filling out questionnaires, especially on college applications.

Being judged by my appearance has caused me to fear being judged by my representation on paper. Although colleges won’t know what I look like when they read my application, they should develop a sense of who I am from the information I provide and the voice in my essays.

Identity is integral to one’s sense of self, and because of the struggle I have faced in deciding who I am and what I should portray myself as, I feel as though my sense of self is fragmented.

Being Colombian is like my secret weapon, but it’s one I’m not always comfortable carrying. I love being able to understand those around me who speak Spanish, and communicating with people in two languages is a skill in which I take pride. But being Colombian and Jewish has also made me self-conscious.

When I was choosing which college to apply to, one of the biggest factors I considered was whether or not there was a large Jewish population. Being involved in the Jewish community has allowed me to feel a sense of belonging, and this involvement with my religion is something I will take with me when I am no longer living at home. However, I know that in the future when I have my own family, I will want my children to speak Spanish, because being bilingual is so beneficial.

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