Todavia Estoy Aqui Para Ti--Jonathan Maldonado

Todavia Estoy Aqui Para Ti, Photography by Jonathan Maldonado, Grade 12, Age 17, Essex Street Academy, New York, NY

We continue our series on the 2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards’ Gold Medal Portfolio recipients with Elizabeth Lee and Jonathan Maldonado. As a writer, Elizabeth explores on the beauty that can be found in gray areas of life and the similarities between people from different sides of an issue. In his photography, Jonathan shows both sides of a personal story, the good and the challenging, and how sometimes those two aspects can be one and the same.

Elizabeth Lee

“Life is messy, but there’s beauty in the messes, the in-betweens, the broken places. I hope that people feel the realness in my writing: nothing is cut-and-dried. I want people to notice the contrast of an old man reaching the termination of his life against that of a young Chinese American boy who doesn’t yet comprehend the world’s complexities; the disparities between the haves and the have-nots; the misconceptions dividing people from people. I hope people realize that even within factions we are different, and our differences render those factions useless.

“There is beauty in contrast, so I focused on sameness, hoping people will feel the dullness of conformity and appreciate the pull and tug of variety. Perhaps then we will be brave enough to push down society’s standards and dare to eat a peach.”

Korean American

Poetry by Elizabeth Lee, Grade 12, Age 18, Boise High School, Boise, ID

I could write a poem about the Korean rice paddies, five o’clock in the morning and
the mud squelching underfoot
the thick morning air mixing with sweat
I could write about a crowded one-room apartment, bursting like an overstuffed dumpling
Ten families who need food and clothes and English
I could describe high school, age sixteen, unable to comprehend
that the kids who pull their eyes out towards the sides
are not friends
But I’d rather talk about me
about being American
about being an American who Americans think is Asian
about never fitting in.
I’d rather talk about
Me, sitting next to my grandfather in a California nursing home
the world a paper-thin room with sterile air.
His hands and feet swell from water retention
Ribs jut out above hospital garbs
Yet his grip on my hand is firm and gentle and fierce–
“He’s a tough guy,” the nurse tells us,
and I am glad
That I have toughness in my blood
My grandfather, he gave me, above all, two things:
Stubbornness and Love
two things that never stop, not with distance nor death.
Sometimes the pain is unbearable
His body is agony; his blood is morphine with a drop of red
Sometimes he says, “God, let me die.”
But other days are better. Other days he says,
“God, I want to live.”
My grandfather’s eyelids droop with the weight of consciousness.
He holds my hand and holds it and holds it and holds it
There is stubborn in my blood.
There is love in those hands,
Those hands that hoed rice paddies
fought the Korean War
immigrated to America
and now lie remarkably still, hateful cancer eating away his insides…
Sometimes the pain is unbearable
Sometimes he says, “God, let me die.”
But other days are better. Other days he tells me,
“Study well. Work hard.”
And I promise that I will
because I don’t know the rice paddies or the Korean War or seeing America for the first time,
But I know about being American. I know about being Korean. I know about hard work.
I know I have stubborn in my blood.

Mirame A Mi, Photography by Jonathan Maldonado, Grade 12, Age 17. Essex Street Academy, New York, NY

Mirame A Mi, Photography by Jonathan Maldonado, Grade 12, Age 17, Essex Street Academy, New York, NY

Jonathan Maldonado

“My father is strict, loving, patient, calm, caring, thoughtful, hard-working, and tired. At times, he is the man I want to be. At times, he’s the last person I want to be. These quiet moments in my father’s life demonstrate how we are similar, different, and how we overlap.”

Todavia Estoy Aqui Para Ti

Untitled, Photography by Jonathan Maldonado, Grade 12, Age 17, Essex Street Academy, New York, NY

To see more Gold Medal Portfolio recipients, past and present, visit our Eyes on the Prize series.

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