Immigration Essay Contest

The Immigrant Learning Center offered students at Malden High School the opportunity to participate in its first annual essay-writing contest. The topic for 2022 was “How Malden Benefits From Immigration.” Learn more with the contest handout and read the winning submissions below.

Out of the 59,675 people living in Malden as of the 2020 nationwide census, 42.7% are immigrants (“Malden”). This is over twice the number of foreign-born residents in 1990. Malden has quietly become the leading destination for new members of this nation, meaning that almost half of the people we see on a daily basis were not born in the United States, and this plays a vital role in our city. Immigrants from Haiti, Morocco, China, Pakistan, India, and a collection of other nations, come to Malden because of its exceptional schools and safe neighborhoods (Sachetti). This has helped build a strong community in the workplace, in education, and in a variety of other places. The embracing of others has been a prominent characteristic of this city for decades. Malden, for instance, has aided in harboring “Jewish immigrants who fled Europe before and after World War II” (Sacchetti). It is through immigrants that this city has become the area with the second most foreign-born residents in the entire state and they have resulted in a large number of benefits as well. Programs such as the Immigrant Learning Center, for example, provide individuals emerging from all over the world with free English classes and grant them the opportunity to be heard (“English”). These actions serve to form an even stronger bond between residents of Malden and further enhance the community around us.

The diversity in Malden is personally one of the biggest reasons I am so proud of my own culture. It is typical for one to lose touch with their heritage when moving to another country, but this will become less likely living in a city as saturated and full of immigrants as Malden. The wide variety of cultures in this city allowed me to understand that just as others have a country they or their parents came from, I also have my own, and no one deserves to be abashed or ashamed of their distinct traditions. Living in Malden has helped me relate to so many new people around the city each and every day, and helped elevate my understanding of my own culture as well. Having two Ethiopian immigrant parents, and seeing Ethiopian restaurants and shops revealed to me how culturally diverse and genuine the residents of Malden are. It is always a shock to observe the different ethnic groups that sit at the tables of an Ethiopian restaurant and it is constantly reassuring to see that. Recognizing this is what helped me break through the mental barrier of the thoughts that people may judge where I come from. Attending a school where the majority of the students identify as a person of color or came from a different country has been a true blessing as well (Wilson). Instead of losing touch with my ancestry, I have grown closer to it as a result of the overflowing number of immigrants in Malden and the heritages I am exposed to daily.

Malden being a largely immigrant populated area not only allowed me to get in touch with my own culture but also the cultures of those around me. Attending Malden High School opened up the opportunity to learn about traditions from all around the globe including the Middle East, Asia, and South America. Living in multi-cultural neighborhoods can allow others, as well as myself, to fully grasp one another’s cultures and experience what it is like to be a part of a community separate from our own. It is simply impossible to act as if our ethical and other differences do not exist; however, we can learn to embrace one another’s customs and lifestyles instead of disregarding them. Our distinctiveness is, after all, what makes us human, and brushing these things aside will only end in ignorance. The Drexel University School of Education article “The Importance Of Diversity & Cultural Awareness in the Classroom” illustrates that exposing youth to the endless quantity of heritages that immigrants introduce can teach students to be more open-minded and accepting in the future. It can also allow students to “empathize with people different from themselves” as stated in the same article. Young developing minds will be able to acknowledge from a young age that not only one view on a given topic exists and it may vary based on individual experiences. The sooner adolescents can absorb this, the better the community around us will flourish.

In closing, immigration has an infinite number of benefits for Malden including growing kind communities in multi-ethnic neighborhoods by allowing others to assimilate the variety of cultures in our city. The soaring amount of customs and heritages also allows the individual to eject any doubt they may have of their traditions, through understanding that each human also has their unique lifestyle. Learning about other cultures will also open the minds of countless students around the city and the multitude of immigrants will teach the idea of acceptance and embrace for others.

Works Cited

“English Language Programs > The Immigrant Learning Center.” The Immigrant Learning Center, 10 Mar. 2022, www.ilctr.org/programs/.

“Malden, Massachusetts Population 2022.” Malden, Massachusetts Population 2022 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs), worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/malden-ma-population.

Sacchetti, Maria. Boston.com, The Boston Globe, 23 Dec. 2009, archive.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/12/23/immigrants_transforming_malden_anew/.

“The Importance of Diversity in the Classroom.” School of Education, drexel.edu/soe/resources/student-teaching/advice/importance-of-cultural-diversity-in-classroom/.

Wilson, Maria. “Malden High School Named among the Most Diverse in Massachusetts.” Wicked Local, Wicked Local, 15 Nov. 2021, www.wickedlocal.com/story/free-press-observer/2021/11/15/malden-high-school-named-among-most-diverse-massachusetts/8586749002/#:~:text=About 52.7% of Malden residents, at the Malden Public Schools.

Immigrants are lazy. Immigrants take all the jobs.

Immigrants don’t know English. Immigrants speak multiple languages.

Immigrants are criminals. Immigrants are disadvantaged.

Immigrants are poor. Immigrants are hard-working.

Many people have misconceptions about immigrants. They are a walking paradox. Always one thing and another. Some people have a hard time seeing them as three-dimensional people.

My parents are immigrants. My father came to the states in 1988 and my mother in 2004.

In the fall, I will be moving out for college 20 minutes away. I will be nervous, and likely homesick, but then I’ll remember how my parents moved 8,568 miles away from their homeland for me.

How brave they were to leave behind everything they’ve known for children that weren’t even born yet. How determined they were to give my brother and I a life that was worth sacrificing theirs for.

America is the land of the free. Free for citizens and free for those born here. Free for families with ancestors rooted into this country’s soil.

American children are free to take risks and pursue their passions. They don’t feel a strange disconnect from their parents. They aren’t blocked by a language barrier, or worse, a physical wall at the borders.

How brave were my parents for having children they may never be able to communicate with. They encourage us from a young age to learn English so we can get further in life than they ever will, but that only pushes us further away from them.

My mother was a student at the Immigrant Learning Center when she first moved here. I have vague memories of accompanying her to some classes, waving hello to her diverse group of classmates.

As a senior in high school, I have been able to see the rise of immigrants and diversity in our community first-hand. Looking at yearbook photos of classes from even just a few years ago, you can see the lack of color and culture that is so present today in my class and even more so in the ones following us.

Thanks to people like my parents, my friend’s parents, and all of the people that immigrated to this country and decided to settle in Malden, I am able to grow up in an accepting and welcoming environment next to people that resemble me.

To be able to share interests and hobbies with a person is one thing, but to be able to share cultures and experiences is so much more personal. It wasn’t until high school that I was able to connect with people from my background and really start to embrace my identity.

The best way I can describe Malden is like a mirror, or a reflection. When I look at the city of Malden, I am looking at myself. I am looking at the generations before me, and the ones that come after me. I am looking at my childhood self and my future self. At people that look like me, and people that look nothing like me.

I am looking at one thing and another.

When my parents settled down here, they planted new roots for my brother and I. Roots that will be sowed by all the people we meet and learn from, all the different paths of lives we will cross. The cracked sidewalks and flickering streetlights. The public library and the teen center. The pho restaurant that opened down the street from us and the Asian supermarket in the nearby plaza.

No matter how far away life will take me, Malden will always be the place I was made.

In a city with seeds of diversity planted at every cornerstone, I find that every individual in Malden has contributed their own fragments of “home.” This flourishing city is none like anywhere else in this state, for it is one that breathes and cultivates rich diversity and multiculturalism. As a citizen that once resided in urban Boston and now lives in the suburbs of Malden, I’ve learned that the beauty of the city lies in its prioritization of all those who live there, regardless of social class or background. Malden is a city of immigrants, and it is evident in the buildings, in the stores, in the events, and especially in the school district.

Immigration indubitably fuels Malden, providing it with cultures found from across the world and accumulating a community that advocates for one another, all the whole sharing traditions and different worlds that may have never collided otherwise. With my family being immigrants from Vietnam, I am always wonderstruck by how fortunate we are to live in a community where our voices not only matter but are held in such high esteem by our Mayor and Council. I can look around and see the influences of immigrants, draped in Latin, Asian, and European cultures from across seas and draped with immigrant dreams.

Truly, being a student of Malden High School, I’ve redefined the meaning of diversity and culture, being encompassed by it everyday. By conversing with peers, by studying distinct regions in language and history class, by learning from my friends, by involving myself in clubs, I both form a unity with people of varying cultures and recognize all the world has to offer to us. I learn of numerous religions and of traditional dishes. I learn of individual holidays and their significance for the ones who celebrate them. I learn how to extol the deviations that make ourselves unique. Malden High School is the foundation in which the new generations discover and acknowledge the diversity its corridors and its city bring, as well as the need for immigration to enrich a city’s minds and their willingness to assimilate.

Immigration benefits Malden not in economics or politics, nor for superficial appearances and highly regarded praise. Immigration grants Malden the gifts of the world, more precious than any other: the spreading of culture to every inhabitant and acceptance of the different people of the world. As the daughter of immigrants, this city is my home, and to it, I offer a little piece of Vietnam too.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Linh Le
  • Saad Mecbah
  • Hadjar Yousfi

Evaluation Guidelines

  • Submissions were evaluated on content, presentation, creativity and message.
  • Submissions were not judged solely on English proficiency.
  • Submissions by multilingual learners were encouraged.

Judges

Cash Prizes

  • 1st place: $500
  • 2nd place: $300
  • 3rd place: $200

Eligibility and Rules

  • Open to all students at Malden High School
  • Essay word count: Maximum 1,000 words
  • Must be an original piece of writing
  • All entries must be sponsored by a high school teacher, parent, guardian or other adult.
  • The sponsoring adult will be the primary point of contact.
  • Essay must be in English. English learners are encouraged to apply.
  • There is no entry fee.
  • One entry per person
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