Sophomore Jasmine Fernandez won third place in the High School Literary Arts: Poetry Division of this year’s Siegelbaum Literacy and Visual Arts Competition! This year’s theme is The People Who Inspire Us.
Jasmine is a student in Theresa Baker’s Honors English class. She will be honored June 7 at Rockland Community College.
Read her award winning poem:
Some families pass down recipes. Some families pass down heirlooms and brooches. My family passes down dreams.
Dreams about what we will do. Dreams about where we have been. Dreams about who we are.
My grandmother didn’t come from much. Her father worked at a hardware store. Her mother stayed at home to take care of four children.They didn’t have much, but they loved their little island life. She adored the tropical breezes and the dazzling sunsets. But, my grandmother dreamed of more.
The blue-green rivers of Puerto Rico became the murky brown of the Hudson River. The mountain views became obstructed by towering skyscrapers. The sound of coquís croaking was obscured by honking horns and blaring sirens. The weather was cold in New York. The people were even colder.
“You need to learn English,” they told her. “We speak English in the United States,” they said. She looked at them and laughed.
Over the years, she bounced back and forth between Puerto Rico and New York before ultimately deciding to stay.
Here, she built a life, with kids, with a job. It was never easy, but she persevered.
It was 2006.The year I was born. My grandmother smiled.
Everyone has always told me that I look like her. The dark brown curls.The deep chocolate eyes. The way we both squint a little when we smile.
She always fed me sweet mangos and ripe pears. The fruits that shaped her childhood.She told me stories of life in Puerto Rico. One about a chick her sister was raising, another about an aunt who made gorgeous dresses in vivid floral patterns, one about taking pictures with her friends while they played in the river. It all sounded like a dream.
I grew up in New York, but her stories always made me feel as though Puerto Rico was a part of me, just like it was for her.
As I grew older, she told me stories about the bad times in Puerto Rico. A time her family went hungry. The time her parents couldn’t afford to send her to college, so she spent her life working in factories, wishing she could have studied to become a teacher. All the jobs she was fired from because of her broken English. All of the slurs people on the street called her.
I saw her smile whenever I told her that I got a good grade on a test. She would pat my head and tell me that I would go far. She told me to work hard and to dream even harder.
I spent my life inheriting my dreams from her. I spent my life learning to see the world how she did. I inherited her resilience like the steadfast Flamboyan tree that withstands a hurricane.
I learned to see brilliant blues in the muddy browns. I learned to enjoy the little things in life, like exotic fruits and time with family. I learned to work as hard as she did, so the life that she built wouldn’t go to waste.
She came here with nothing, but she gave me the world