Personal essay

College Essay: Appreciating the skin I’m in

Imagine being in a classroom where everyone else is in on a secret, except you. What you hear is silence, but their stares say it all: You’re different, you don’t belong.

College Essay: The art of storytelling

“Ahlao, do you want to hear a story?” said Dad, addressing me by my childhood name more than 10 years ago in our living room.

No other option but success

I SAT IN MY dad’s taxicab waiting for my sister, silently observing all the movement around me.

Beating the blues, with help from the blues

“Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond.” —Ray Charles

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

Finding myself in a foreign country

DESTINATION: Liberia, West Africa.

Travel distance: 7,690 miles.

Mission accomplished.

604 pages of the Quran, memorized

AT 4 A.M., MOST TEENAGERS are usually sleeping in their cozy beds. I was 12 and wide awake. Memorizing the Quran.

My journey to happiness

I STARE INTO the antique body-length mirror mounted on the wall in the bathroom.

Turning my disappointment into a high note

IT FELT AS IF bandits had banned me from lead clarinetist in my high school band ensemble.

Discovering the power of language

I NERVOUSLY STEPPED through the classroom door­way with my father trailing behind me.

Finding a voice through sports

“WHAT SIZE ARE your shoes?” the man asked.

“What?” I turned to see the only person waiting at the bus stop.

“Your shoes,” he said, gesturing at my feet.

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