Photo by Ken Robinson
Some of the winners of the ELL Writing Contest lined up for a photo at city hall in Burien June 4 following the awards presentation. More than 40 local students, all of whom wrote in a language other than their native tongue, took part in the contest.

ELL Writing Contest Winners

Some of the winners of the ELL Writing Contest lined up for a photo at city hall in Burien June 4 following the awards presentation.The contest was coordinated by the Highline School District and

More than 40 local students, all of whom wrote in a language other than their native tongue, took part in the contest. Sample of some of the entries are below.


Trang Khuc
Highline High School
Ms. Herink
Learning – what it is like, what it should be, what it will be?
Can you imagine when you put your feet on a new land that you’ve ever seen before? Have you ever felt thrilled and exhilarated when you open the “knowledge treasure”? You just have these feelings when you acquired knowledge by study. When you are learning, you will feel like you are in a magic world. That’s so amazing! I’m Trang Khuc and I’m from Vietnam. I’ve been to the United States about half a year. I love learning and I learned a lot when I came here.

I think most people have to go to school when they are young but not all people know why they need to go to school. There’s just a reason: learning. So, what is learning? Learning is a process to gain knowledge, to find out something new, to get more information about everything around the world and to build your “knowledge base”. For example: in math class, we were taught to calculate numbers; in history class, we can know what people did in the past, etc. Learning is a way to improve ourselves as well. Why do I say that? Learning connects with everything we do in our life. When we were a child, we had to learn how to do the very basic things such as brush our teeth, get dressed or comb our hair and so on. All our activities are known by learning. When I was a three-year-old girl, I had to go to kindergarten but I didn’t like school because I didn’t know why I needed to go, I didn’t know why I had to go to the place that had a lot of “witches”, then my mom said to me that school had a lot of fun and she was right. I learned many things in kindergarten, my teachers taught me how to draw and know about triangles, squares, circles. Besides, I was taught how to treat my grandparents, my parents, my siblings and my friends. In school, I learned a great deal of interesting things, therefore I love school so much. There is a quote of Jiddu Krishnamurti and I like it very much. It is “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning”. That’s right! The process of learning is forever, it never stops.

Learning is a long process, therefore we need to know what we learn. People have to learn everything and that means our body also learns. Our brain learns about Math, Science, Chemistry or a language, our heart learns how to love, how to be a pleasant person and our muscles can learn about how to play a sport such as soccer, basketball, baseball or swimming. We learn from everything and everybody. We can learn not only from our teachers, our friends, our family and people who have experiences, but also from failure and animals. Winston Churchill said: “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” That means we learn anytime and anywhere. We learn at school, at home, outside and learn when we are going by bus, when we are eating and when we are walking on the streets. Every second in your life, you always learn more about something. If you don’t learn, you are wasting your time.

In the end, I just want to say to people that we need to learn, we can learn anytime and anywhere. If you learn, you have lots of benefits. Learn as much as you can when you live. Don’t waste your time. Learning can change our life and of course it is changing my life. I want to share my first poem to you. I was glad because I can make a poem in English. This was the first time I made a poem and it is according to my experience in the United States.
Hi my friends
who are white,
I am an immigrant.
I am from Vietnam.
In my country,
I didn’t have an opportunity.
I came here
to have a better education,
to have a better life.
My family had to
leave everything
in my country
and come to this opportunity land.
Do you know
how hard it is being
in a new country?
My family had
no house,
no car,
and no English.
when I have trouble,
please help me!
When my English is wrong,
please help me fix it!
When I am quiet,
please come and talk to me!
Not because I don’t want to talk to you,
just because I am so shy.
And if you don’t like me,
please don’t be rude to me!
please have sympathy for me!
If you do that, I will appreciate you
so much.
But although you hate me,
I always want to be your friend.
Thank you so much,
my white friends.
And thank you so much
because you taught me
a lot
about my life.
Thank you!
A beautiful evening America, 2014


By Maria Rios Montes
Ms. Esrick
English for Academic Success

Have you ever had a positive or rough experience impact you in a way that has shaped who you are today? I have! I’ve been through a lot of experiences that shape who I am. Some of these that represent me are family, school and sports.

I have experienced many life lessons from my family. One of the messages I have taken in from is my mom. She has taught me that communication is the key to everything, I often tend to fight/ argue with my parents and make them feel upset. Eventually I feel bad so I just stay in my room until I feel ready to talk. I always have a hard time apologizing because I don’t know if they are still mad at me or not. At the end of the day we all sit down and talk it all out. Another lesson I learned from my dad is cooking. My dad is passionate about cooking and teaching me, as well. He always tells me “you need to learn how to cook because eventually you’re going to want to move out and I don’t want to see you getting fat for eating too much unhealthy foods or getting sick because of the lack of nutrients” he also tells me that I can’t depend on other people because they won’t always be there to help me when I need something. I learn a lot of things from my dad because he always gives me lectures about life telling that if I don’t continue to study life might get a little hard.

Secondly, two lesson I found out in school is that teachers never want you to give up because they aspire us to go to college and be someone we want to be. I remember that whenever something was difficult for me to understand I would give up easily and sometime the teacher would come and talk to me to ask me why I’m not doing my work, I usually said “because I don’t understand it”, or “I just gave up”, my teacher would stay there next to me until I start doing my work or she would try to help me. Next, an experience I realized that could help me throughout the school year is when the principal told me to not fight, nor argue with anyone because it’s not worth it. I remember how freshmen year I kept going to the principal’s office where it got to the point that I lost track of how many times I would keep going in there for problems I never started. Sophomore year came along and the year started off great, I even remember saying “this year is going to be great that I won’t even go to the principal’s office” but I guess it wasn’t so great at all since I started going to the office again for no reason. Once I began going again I kept thinking that people actually wanted me to defend myself since they thought that I was to much of a goodie goodie normally I don’t like to defend myself at school because it’s worse for me.

Thirdly, my cousins taught me how to play soccer and later on I realized that soccer is my passion, when I figured that out I soon started playing soccer every day, it became an addiction. My cousins saw that soccer was a habit now because I would play every day after school and during the weekends too, so then they decided to teach some tricks so that I could become better at it, thanks to my cousins I became a really good soccer player. As I kept growing up my uncle and I had a closer connection, we would go out to places such as parks, go out and have either breakfast, lunch or dinner together. I remember when we began going to the park we would play basketball, he taught me this because I kept getting bruised when I played soccer so he thought that it was about time to change sports and to try something new. Later on I found myself playing where ever I went, my mom would usually tell me that I spent about 2 hours or more outside practicing no matter what the weather conditions were, if it was raining I would be still out there still practicing on my skills.

What I’m most grateful for is having an amazing family who are always there for me no matter the obstacles “family are like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one”.


by Chalachew Shiferaw

Ms. Schicht
Advanced ELL

Learning English

I recently started in 2009 here in Global Connection High School. When I was in my writing class, I was so confused about how to use writing process because I was a new student. In that time I thought I would never speak English. But now I improved a lot. So there I was asking to myself. “Why am I unable to speak English at times? Why do I not believe in myself?” These questions are coming up in my mind now. My other question I am thinking about is, “how can I socialize with other people?” What kind of strategies do I have to use to communicate with other people? My biggest challenge at the moment is with English, and being misunderstood in my communication. I am going to explain why this is my challenge how it is shaping me, how I plan on dealing with it.

I cannot write words perfectly. Some words are a struggle for me when I use them. I just spell those words incorrectly. Not knowing all words make me misunderstand other people, and other people misunderstands me. Also, I know when I read a books, I read some unknown words I cannot understand word because I don’t know the meaning of the word. That is when I get stuck. Most of the time, I use a dictionary when I get to an unknown confusing word so I can understand it. I believe working with a dictionary has helped me in reading books, in writing in assignments, and in speaking with people because I learn new words and when to use them. When I have problems with unknown words, I tend to use dictionaries to help me communicate better. The dictionary is a great tool to do this because it has a lot of words in them and it has explanations of how to use the word correctly.

Communicating with different people is very difficult for me and that makes me feel like a failure or make me depressed and not want to talk to people. When I began speaking to other people, I knew that I understood very little English. This made me shy and withdrawn. This often made me feel very sad and, over time very depressed. I trust this communicates with people who are connecting to my life. How do they connect in my life? I will explain how they connect in my life. When the first time I came to the U.S.A., everything was new to me. I couldn’t even communicate with students when I start in Global Connection High School. At that time, the teacher gave me some homework I thought I was stupid at that time, because I never knew anything. That time, I was feeling depression when others were talking to each other. Sometimes I think back to my language and say “Why is my language different than other language?” Why does Ethiopia have its own language? Also why do people speak different languages?” These questions still come up in my mind because I have problems communicating; I spend most of the time by myself. I spend all my time only by working. This does not help me to become fluent in English. It is hard for me to communicate with other people especially for the first time. But it is important in learning English to communicate with other people.

However, when I do communicate with other Native Ethiopians, I have a much easier time compared with Americans and people of other ethnicities. It is difficult to understand when someone talks, because the pronunciation is hard to understand especially with students. This is because, as students we are all still learning the English language and our language backgrounds can create misunderstandings. Speaking clearly and learning how to pronounce perfectly is a challenging and time consuming process. As I go through school, I anticipate getting better every day because I will learn about other people’s backgrounds and they will learn about mine. Also, every day we will all get better because we will all be learning more and more and practicing it.


By Dorian Rodriguez

Why are lessons important in your life? People have very unique experiences in their life. They experience hate, happiness, sadness, and depression. Although most of those feelings are bad people turn up to be good. I could see this in my own life experience.

My first life experience was when I was very small I lived in Mexico in a little town called El Valle Del Uraca which means The Hurricane Valley. The town was on a small island surrounded by water I lived with my grandparents in the store. Next to the store there is an enormous tamarind tree which cover most of the store. My parents weren’t there for me because they moved to the United States when they had my brother. My grandparents were very old and too busy to take care of me. But they took care of my brother because he was little. I didn’t have any friends only a girl who thought we were married; well I also thought I was married to her too. We thought this because one day my cousins who were much bigger than me always played pranks on me. They made me think I was married to her. I didn’t talked to her very much because I was very shy. Every day I always got bullied because of how I looked. Every day the kids came to my house there were always three or four people. They always call me names and pushed me around. They made me cry, too and they called me cry baby. After a while I grew I learn how to cook for myself I learn how to be my own friend I did this changes base on the fact that nobody would ever help me.

After some time I moved to the United States. I was 9 or 10 year old. I don’t really remember very well I met my dad in a little town close to Nevada I thought to myself “it was cold but not that cold to I would have to wear a sweater outside”. It was really different from Mexico there was a lot of car driving there were a lot of house there was also a lot of apartments. When I got to the place where my dad was I got of I was really terrify at first but when I saw my dad and my brother with it was one of my best happy moments in my life that I found out later in the day this was my dad friend’s house. We live in apartment in Nevada so I got to the new home that I live I saw my mom it was very exciting because I haven’t seen her for a long time. A month later, it was my first day of school it was really terrifying. When I got to my first class students stared at me like I was a person from a different world. I didn’t know any English only what I knew it was from the show Cliffor the big red dog so the teacher had to translate for me. But every time we talk about science and math I understand everything it seem like I knew English as my first language. I learn that that I would love to do something with science in the future.

Later I moved to after my mom got pregnant we were moving there because my uncle an aunt move to Seattle my aunt has three kids one boy and two girls when we got to Seattle I was that scared to come a different place because I grew my bigger and I moved a lot of placed in my live. Don’t get confused I was a little scared of coming a new place. I didn’t have any friends so my aunt force my Cousin who I live with to take me places so I went sometime later he invited me because he wanted to. He was very confident her wasn’t afraid to say or do what he wanted. I was very different I was quiet also I didn’t like to go anywhere by he was a year older than me, every time I was in trouble he help me and every time he was in trouble I help him. That how I learned that I could trust family and also learn the confidence that I have today.

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