2017 Winner

Zennia Dillon

Soquel, CA

"My right cheek pressed against the coarse carpet. The hungry wires of aged bed springs poked through my cotton shirt and fought for my skin.  My hands and feet fought the tightness of the space, forcing my squished body further and further beneath the bed. After a moment of focused silence, a slow pensive walk  headed in my direction, and once its neat shoes were staring me in the eyes, my Dad calmly said, “Zennia, it’s time to go.”

That day I left my favorite house. It had green carpet in all the upstairs bedrooms and beige walls that echoed the forest outside. The soft, yellow atmosphere of the inside sheltered me in the precious years of my youth, and seemed to thaw any anger or frustration I had. As I watched the big cozy house shrink through my backseat window, I realized I had left something inside: my childhood. In the secret nook behind my dad’s frigid collared shirts I left my loose tears and first missing tooth; in the never ending tree swing at the rear of our yard I left my wind-swept exhilaration and wonder; in the serene creek across the road I left my uncontrollable laughter and inexplicable tranquility.

It was not my first uprooting, and it wouldn’t be the last. Trekking from Texas, Hawaii, Belgium, Spain, Illinois, and California, along with their varying cities and towns in between, became a huge part of growing up for me. A new school every year or two seemed routine, and leaving my good friends behind grew more and more numbing. As I got older, friendships grew stronger and my experiences began to sculpt my character. With every snip of a friendship, I became increasingly familiar with the emptiness of loss. And with every new school, the exciting opportunity of making new friends was draped with looming dread and sadness.

On the first day of 8th grade, I wandered the unfamiliar hallways with a sense of awkwardness and solitude that, no matter how many uprootings and new schools, never gets easier. This was the fifth school I had attended, and I realized that I probably wouldn’t be here for long. So what would be the point of making friends, right? If I am just going to lose them and watch their emails change from a flow of interest to a trickle of obligation, why put myself through that pain yet again?

That was my motto for about two years. Loneliness crept up my spine and into my heart, and sadness weighed me down wherever I went. There was no one I could talk to about how frustrating Mr. Malley’s tests were, and no one to share the new series of books I had discovered. With my final school change, I was midway through freshman year, and my outlook changed. I realized, in order for my health, happiness, and sanity to improve, I needed to dive in and embrace the change.

It was not my first uprooting, and it wouldn’t be the last. Trekking from Texas, Hawaii, Belgium, Spain, Illinois, and California, along with their varying cities and towns in between, became a huge part of growing up for me… With my final school change, I was midway through freshman year, and my outlook changed. I realized, in order for my health, happiness, and sanity to improve, I needed to dive in and embrace the change.

In this time of exploration and acceptance, my passions bloomed. I drenched myself in my town’s music community by becoming the section leader in my local youth symphony, and joining a quartet and trio. I began to play in numerous competitions, winning and placing in nearly every one, as well as playing at gigs and parties. Friends were woven into my life, each one adding something new and different to my scope of knowledge. I began to join countless clubs in order to quench my long restrained interest in differing activities, and eventually became president of Math Club, Key Club, and Mural Club. My academic life bloomed too as I valued my teachers and class options, and my past gloom was redirected into determination for academic excellence. My new mindset has improved my life, both physically and mentally, and truly acted as the catalyst in shaping my eagerness for life’s next swing.

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