Hispanic Heritage Month Essay Contest

September 23, 2013

Forty English Students Enter 7th Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Essay Contest

            Students in Ms. Chesley's English 2 Honors classes wrote essays for the 2013 Hispanic Heritage Month contest on the theme "How Latino Culture Strengthens My Community."  Sponsored by the Nebraska Latino American Commission, the contest prompt asked students to "share their personal stories, opinions and experiences on how Latino culture has made their community a better place."  In addition to the 39 students in English 2 Honors, one student, Andrea Ceja in English 2, answered the challenge to write the essay.  Her essay is published below.

            "The contest is open to Nebraska students of all ethnicities and backgrounds currently enrolled in a Nebraska public, private or magnet middle school or high school (grades 6 - 12)."  Essays may be written in either English or Spanish.  Ramon Otero, assistant principal at Bryan Elementary, has served as a commissioner for the NLAC for nearly 12 years.  Otero says last year's contest drew more than 600 essays from across the state.  This year's contest is expected to increase that number to nearly one thousand essays.

            Due September 18, essays for high school students were to be 500-700 words.  Although the contest accepts legibly handwritten essays, all LHS's essays were word processed and submitted digitally. 

            This is not the first year that Lexington's English students have submitted essays.  Ms. Chesley's students have submitted essays six of the seven years the contest has existed and with outstanding results.  Over six years, Lexington has sent ten students to Lincoln in October for recognition of their writing efforts.  First place winners have been Luz Lucero, Alex Lopez, Yobana Ramirez, and Luciano Ramirez.  Last year Kevin Tobias and his family traveled to Lincoln with Mr. Otero and Ms. Chesley to accept his third place award.

            The contest allows students to write for an expanded audience.  The Nebraska Latino American Commission gathers educators, business professionals, and organization leaders to read and select the winning essays.  This year six awards will be given to winners in both the middle school and high school categories.  For the first time, McDonalds will publish the winning essays on tray liners to be distributed in its Nebraska restaurants.  Winners will be awarded certificates and cash prizes on October 4 at the Nebraska Capitol. 


Andrea Ceja

Ms. Chesley
English 2 pd. 3
12 September 2013


How Latino Culture Strengthens My Community

Welcome to Lexington, Nebraska, a town with a population of 10,230 people according to the 2010 census. Half of the population in this town is from the Latino community. When I came to Lexington in 2005, this community welcomed me in right away. The Latinos in this community make it better because of their work ethic, their school system, and the beliefs and values of other Latinos and the community members who live in Lexington.

We, as Latinos, have a belief in hard work. In Lexington, there are lots of parents, including mine, who get up early in the morning to go to work at Tyson. My mom gets up at 3:40 a.m. to get ready for her new day. She comes to my room and tells me to behave and take care of my sister and brothers, to try my hardest at school, and then she tells me "bye" and leaves. The same story happens when my dad leaves at 1:30 p.m. for his shift and leaves my two little brothers with the babysitter. My parents, like so many other Latino parents, sacrifice time, energy, and their bodies to give their children a better education, a better style of life. Both my parents work every single day, so my sister, my brothers, and I don't have to work in a place like Tyson. All these people who work endless hours at Tyson make Lexington a better place to live.

Schools also make Lexington a higher quality place for everyone. At the high school, teachers don't see their students' color of skin; instead they see young people who want to

learn and who do not give up easily. Teachers and administrators are supportive and are coming up with ideas to send more Latino students off to college, so their education will not stop. At Lexington High School we have a program called "Destination Graduation" that encourages students to graduate from high school and go for a career. Destination Graduation has helped me understand that I can keep studying, graduate from high school, and go to college to study for a good career and become someone in life. I will be able to pay back my parents who gave me a chance at better education. Teachers aren't giving up as easily on students, they try and keep trying, and they don't leave any student behind. Also the boy soccer coaches have made the community even more proud because not only do we have lots of Latino boys on the soccer team, but we also have made it to State Soccer six years in a row. Definitely, the Latino community has had a change in how people see them and has the courage to keep living their dreams, by continuing school.

Latinos' values and beliefs make Lexington stronger by letting people know we are not going to let anyone down. As a Latina, I have many beliefs and values. I believe that people make their own barriers, and they are the only ones who can break them-­?-­?with dedication and hard work. My family believes that if you do well in your life, life is going to give you back everything in good measures. Many Latinos believe in la Virgen de Guadalupe (Virgin Mary). We make a celebration in Lexington on December 12 because it's the saint's special day. St. Ann's Catholic Church opens its doors at 12:00 midnight and noon for people to go and sing to the Virgin, and then there is big celebration just for her. Lexington doesn't put barriers on people's religions; instead, it lets them know that no matter what, they can hold strong beliefs and they aren't going to be judged.

Lexington is a small community with big dreamers. Latino people make this community better by their hard work ethic, their schools, and their beliefs. Lexington has impacted me. I was seen as a person who could not get anywhere, but Lexington has changed that, and now the questions are "Where will I not go?" and "What will be my next achievement?"