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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)

TITLE: Across 110th Street
By c clemons


Kenisha thought the boarding school that she attended was lonely and boring. Granted she appreciated the opportunity that attending here afforded her and her family. But she could not help but feel different; she just did not fit in. The other girls were from upper middle class families, and she definitely was not. The only reason she was here was that her mother’s boss was her benefactor. He probably thought that helping an underprivileged kid would look good on his charitable deeds list.

Unfortunately Kenisha was the cynical type who thought everyone had ulterior motives for whatever they did. Like today, the last day of the school year, one of the instructors gave a summer vacation assignment. For extra credit in English, those who would be going abroad to Europe could write an essay about their trip.

“Yeah, right, go to Europe,” sneered Kenisha.“Let me check my itinerary for the summer and see when I’m going on my European vacation. I’m sure Buffy and Chelsea will be going. Just another way to make me feel excluded.” she thought.

Kenisha’s mom Alicia was waiting for her when she left the dormitory with her bags for the trip home.

“Hi Momma.” Kenisha said dryly, as she got into the car.

“Hi Baby. What’s the matter? You look like you just lost your best friend.”

“Nothing, I just hate this school is all. I don’t fit in. No matter what I do, it’s like there is a conspiracy to bring attention to the fact that I’m different. I don’t talk or dress like the other girls. Today is the last day of school, right? But Ms. Collins gives a summer assignment for extra credit.”

“What was it?”

Kenisha told her mom about the assignment and how unfair she thought it was. For the rest of the ride home Alicia tried making small talk with her daughter but all she got was one-word answers.

After arriving home Alicia turned to Kenisha and said. “Listen to me Kenisha, you are different from most of the girls that go to that school, but in a good way. You have a sense of who you are and you are going to take advantage of this opportunity that has been given to you. This is just a stepping-stone to the miraculous that will happen in your life.”

“Now, look out the window. You have Europe right there. Across 110th Street, there’s Luigi’s Little Italy Pizza Parlor, couple doors down is La Maison’s Fashion Boutique, and Takac’s Hungarian Takeout. On the corner Jaworski’s the best Polish Bakery in Manhattan. I want you to interview them about their lives back in Europe and if they are second or third generation ask for permission to speak to their older family members. You might even learn something about yourself.”

The street that separated Harlem from Manhattan was 110th Street. Kenisha realized she had never ventured across before. “Okay Momma I’ll do it. I don’t have much else planned for the summer. It might be interesting.”


What a summer! Kenisha not only got to interview Mr. Luigi’s father, but she also got a part-time job in the process. Salvatore Luigi had so many stories of growing up in Naples. He shared his private dream of becoming a famous Italian chef and owning his own restaurants. Famous chef no, but he had the best deep-dish pizza in Manhattan. Madame Tousseau of La Maison had grown up in Paris, she was a former model with a penchant for fashion. She regaled Kenisha with stories about shopping along the Champs D’Elysee and describing the view from the Eiffel Tower. The Takac’s brothers told of their hard scrabble life and being very poor in Hungary before coming to America, which they referred to as “the land of opportunity.” Mrs. Jaworski ran the bakery since her husband Stanley died. Her memories of Warsaw were bittersweet ones. The war there had taken both her parents but it was where she had fell in love with and married her Stanley.

“Mom was so right.” thought Kenisha. Everyone had been eager to share memories of their homelands. She found the experience of interviewing and fact-finding so interesting she decided that journalism was what she wanted to do. She had received an A+ on her essay. Going across 110th Street was one of the best things Kenisha had ever done. “Never again will I allow anyone including myself to put limits on me, certainly not a street.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Mildred Sheldon02/27/09
Your story bears many good points. We can learn about other countries just by talking to our neighbors who came here to the land of opportunity. This is a very well written article and the mother was very wise in the way she handled her daughters situation. Loved the ending.
Anne Linington03/04/09
I thought the secene-setting was a bit long and the article really got going when your MC decided to interview the European emigrees. Would it have been possible to start at that point, and then flashback to why she was doing it?