Calif. 5th-Grader Wins Writing Contest on Immigration

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The American Immigration Council has announced the winner of its 14th Annual “Celebrate America” Creative Writing Contest, Hispanically Speaking News reports. Maya Young Wong of Altadena, California, won for her poem entitled “My Grandfather Ben.” Maya’s entry was chosen out of more than 6,500 entries from fifth graders across America. As the grand prize winner, Maya will attend the American Immigration Council’s annual benefit in San Diego, California where she will read her winning entry.

Maya’s poem describes the life of her grandfather coming from his Guangzhou village in China to America, his “Gold Mountain.” In less than 500 words Maya, a student at Castelar Elementary School in Los Angeles, was able to tell the saga of her grandfather’s journey to the United States, working in a laundry business, becoming a soldier and getting married.

From China sailed my Grandfather Ben.
He came to America when he was four plus ten.
His Guangzhou village was small and poor
And he helped his mother with farming chores.
Every morning he gathered bits of firewood
And drew water from the well as much as he could.
From morning to night he slaved like an ox.
But it was never enough to fill the rice box.
So his parents said, “You’d better leave home
And go to America where you can roam”.
Until you find a great place of your own.
America, Gold Mountain, is the place to go
Big and wide, and high and low.
Everything is yes, and there are never any nos.

Maya never knew her grandfather, who died before she was born. But she heard of his adventures from her grandmother who Maya describes as a “super, super, amazing storyteller.” Maya admits it was hard choosing between the stories of her grandfather and grandmother but ultimately she thought her grandfather’s tale should be told “because he needed to be recognized for all the great things he did in his life.”

Maya’s teacher, Dianne Manke, has been teaching at Castelar Elmentary School in the heart of Los Angeles’ Chinatown for 40 years. According to Maya, “Ms. Castelar has been teaching us how to write poetry since September and will help us put together poetry books of our writings for graduation.”