How does your America compare to the one you’ve been promised by the founding fathers?

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That’s the question that Ms. Zeynep’s eleventh grade students at San Francisco International High School sought to answer through poetry, as part of a project with 826 Valencia. 826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resourced students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills. 826 staff lead trained volunteer tutors to provide individualized attention in the classroom, working in partnership with San Francisco Unified School District teachers on writing projects. San Francisco International High School, in Potrero Hill, caters to recent immigrants and English Learners. Read on for insights from these young writers’ on their immigration experiences, and the America they were promised.

Essence of America
By Omar Hameed

To me, America is as kind as my brother  helping me do my homework when I forget to do it.

I left because I want to have a better life. 

I left because of a war that destroyed all the doors that belong to all the people who were poor. 

I left because my dad wanted me to come with my brothers so I can have a better place and stay away from others.

I came for a free and better education. 

I came to have a job that will make my future bright and beautiful like a star.  

I came to learn English. 

I was promised,

“The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only object of good government.”

So I thought the government’s job was to take care of people.

So I thought the government’s job was to make sure people have their rights and their voices are heard.

So I thought the government’s job was to see what people need.

So in my America there is a free election.

So in my America there is affordable housing. 

So in my America there is healthcare.

America is what I imagined it to be.

America makes me feel brave.

To me, America is as kind as my brother helping me do my homework when I forget to do it.

I Didn’t See the World like That!
By Lely Chacon 

To me, America is like  fetching water from a deep well.

I left because my future was lost.

I left because the gangs invaded my education.

I left because every day was harder than the one before.

I imagined the United States with many opportunities for me.

I imagined that the United States would help me make my dreams real.

I imagined that the United States would give me opportunities to live.

George Washington said,

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to slaughter.” 

So I thought this meant that everybody needs to say what they think  because if people don’t say their opinion people who have more power will take advantage of them.

But in my America people who have more power can express their ideas and other people will care about them.

But in my America, if you are poor you cannot say what you think.

Your words don’t matter to rich people.

America is not what I imagined.

Feels like stagnant water. 

To me, America is like 

fetching water from a deep well.

The World Is Not Equal
By Asem Naji 

To me, America is like stairs with different colors. 

Different people have different levels.

I left because I want to get a better education.

So I can celebrate my graduation.

I left because in Yemen there is no school open.

All schools in Yemen closed because they are broken.

I left because I want to be able to afford important things.

Like food, clothes, and water.

I imagined that the USA is very clean. 

And it has big buildings. 

I imagined that education in the USA is so RIGOROUS.

But also I imagined that people in the USA hate all Muslim people.

I was promised that, “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 

So I thought everyone has the same right. 

That people deserve happiness in their life.

But in my America, rich people are the ones who have all the power.

The poor people are not treated equal and are not feeling happy.

America is not what I imagined.

Feels like the rich people taking the country.                       

To me, America is like stairs with different colors. 

Different people have different levels.

Don’t Give Up, Just Continue
By Keibeli George

To me, America is like a cold night in the winter at a dark mountain.

I left because I want a better life for my future.

I left because I want to be with my family.

I left because I want to support my mother as she has done with me.

I imagined the U.S. so clean, where you weren’t going to find trash in the street.

I imagined that the money was made easy, that you don’t need to work so much.

I imagined I wasn’t going to see a lot of immigrants, working hard.

Hamilton said, “I am not throwing away my shot 

Hey yo, I’m just like my country

I’m young, scrappy, and hungry 

And I’m not throwing away my shot.”

So I thought people of America will never give up and keep going.

In my America you need to work hard to get money. 

In my America you have to go through challenges as though you want to.

In my America you have to study to get a good job. 

In my America you have to keep going if you want to achieve your goal. 

America is not what I imagined, it feels depressing, frustrated, and disappointed.

To me, America is like a cold night in the winter at a dark mountain. 

American is a Phoenix Coming Out from Ashes
By Elisa Aguilar

To me, America is like a key to unlock the door to your future. 

I left because my father was arrested, and I stopped going to school.

I left because I wanted to work hard to support my mother.

I left because the government doesn’t provide opportunity to the poor people.

I imagined myself working without sleeping, 

to have the opportunity to continue with my studies.

I imagined myself helping other people.

I imagined the USA was dangerous because for me coming to a different place, it was going to be unfamiliar. 

I was promised, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” 

So I thought leaders also cared about human rights, to hear people’s opinions, ideas of their happiness, overall how to build a perfect, joyful, and peaceful government that includes the community’s voices.

So my America is having the opportunity to get an education, health care, legal papers.

So my America is the inspiration to have the job that you always dreamed to have  in your childhood. 

So my America is working hard to achieve your goals and make them come true.

America feels like hope, having the passion to become successful. 

To me, America is like a key to unlock the door to your future.