|Alitzel, class of 2013, is a senior at Urban School|
We begin by highlighting a poignant and beautifully presented essay by Alitzel.
"I had never seen so many girls in the same identical uniform before. The little chapel on Broadway street swam in navy and white plaid suits, and I felt like I was
drowning in them. Knee-length skirts with pleats and almost black blazers that I had
only seen businessmen in movies wear, cloaked the minuscule girls. The royal blue
chiffon ties were all tied methodically under the harsh square collars of their oxford
shirts, while I looked down at my own tie-less neck and felt my stomach drop. It
was my first day of school and I was clad in an inadequate uniform. Not only was my
uniform inadequate, but I, myself, felt inadequate. My caramel skin did not match
the milky skin of the girls around me and I found my eyes searching the crowd of
girls hungrily for a familiar face.
Walking into the grandiose marble mansion that morning, I knew instantly
that I was far from home. I realized that although I was still in San Francisco, I felt
like a tourist. The decaying bungalows I was used to learning math and social
studies in could never compare to the Corinthian columns which supported the
foundation of the palace I would now call my school.
The elementary school I had left, Buena Vista, did not match the high economic
standards that Convent of the Sacred Heart held, but it was not void of all richness.
In Kindergarten, I befriended a girl named Jackie, as we colored in the garden. She
was Jewish, went to temple, had a nanny, and her parents were lawyers who spoke
Spanish as a second language. I, on the other hand, lived in a small apartment, rarely
went to church, and came from immigrant parents who were learning English as a
second language. From this early stage stained with finger paints, I was engrossed in
cultures different from mine and grew to add others’ experiences and beliefs into
my own radiant painting of the world around me.
During my first weeks at Convent, I got to know the girls who would become
my best friends. When I introduced myself with my name, Alitzel, they all crowded
around me and exclaimed, “That’s so cool! Can you say it again?” Soon after, I
decided to introduce myself as “Ali” for the girls who could not pronounce my name,
but also to save me from cringing every time someone mispronounced it.
I taught the girls how to take public transportation, introduced them to the
best taquerias in the Mission and shared my own life story. I will never forget the
look of shock on my friend’s faces when I told them my parents chose not to become
naturalized citizens of the United States, or the shock I felt when they could not
point to Mexico on a map.
Though I left both schools years ago, the experiences I had at Buena Vista and
Convent are engrained in me forever. Through the conversations I hold, the
opinions I argue and in the way I maneuver around the world, it is evident that the
richness from all the diverse experiences in my life are worth more than each
individual experience alone."