A Voice for the Voiceless

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A Voice for the Voiceless
Zurisadai Hernandez

I saw the fear in my two year old sister’s eyes as we were separated from my mother before crossing the border. I hugged her tightly and assured her that everything was okay as I held back my tears. The next couple of days, my sister cried endlessly and persistently asked where “mommy” was. I kept my sister by my side, made sure she was safe, and attempted to make her smile as often as possible. Finally we arrived in a bus stop in Los Angeles where we were embraced by my mother. I was only six. We settled in Mendota. Everyday I would ask my mother “When are we going back to my house?” I missed the scent of the dirt roads where my best friend and I played. I missed being surrounded by familiar faces. Most importantly, I missed being able to speak in a language that everyone understood. The next couple of months, I refused to speak. I refused to betray my native tongue and speak in another language. I was held back in the first grade because of the language barrier. I had no friends and was extremely shy and quiet. I was afraid that if I changed those familiar faces would not recognize me when I went back home and I would be as strange to them as the new country I lived in was to me. Eventually, I realized that we were not going to return to “my house.” America was home and I had to make it mine.

Struggling to speak English, I asked my teacher for help. She suggested that I read out loud as much as possible. That was how I discovered the power words have when they are written down. I read any chance I had. Every time I discovered a new word I felt a sense of accomplishment and excitement. The more I read, the more confident I felt when I spoke English. My teacher encouraged me to participate in class and speak up. My English improved and I began to excel in academics. I was no longer afraid to lose my identity. I realized knowledge and language are powerful enough to surpass any borders or...
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