Scholastic Writing Award Winner: Grandma Grandma Scholastic Writing Award winner By Emma, Grade 8 The leaves on the almost-bare trees ripple gently, and the autumn breeze tickles my face as I leap off the last few steps of the rumbling school bus. Upbeat music flows seamlessly into my ears from my earbuds, the wires plugged into my sleek black phone. The beating sun glares down on the girl walking home. Clutched in her hand are short, powdery sticks of chalk she snuck from her classroom because her parents could not afford for her any art supplies. She is six years old. Decades later, she would be my grandma—or wai-po, I call her in Chinese—the woman who planted the roots of who I am today. My grandma is a woman with a kind soul and blazing black eyes, a strong individual who emerged from a life of hardship. Both of us are artists at heart, but our lives were led in sharp contrast. While I began taking art lessons at the age of four, she could barely afford a pencil. As soon as I could understand, she reminded me to cherish my education and to appreciate my privilege. Privilege is everywhere in my town. It lingers in the Starbucks where nine year olds stroll around wearing their crisp white shoes, in the glowing blue waters of swimming pools behind houses. Even simpler, it is the kids who are able to attend school from kindergarten to 12th grade. It is getting asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as a young child. My grandma lived in her cement home with her five other siblings when she was young, during the Cultural Revolution, when millions of households grappled with deep, despairing poverty. Every day revolved around the desperation for food. There was no place for hobbies, and certainly not enough money for a girl’s education or her delicate dreams. Still, my grandma was determined. With stolen chalk from her teacher’s blackboard, she drew on the walls of her house beautiful princesses, silky birds, and anything that sprung from the pockets of her imagination. As years passed, my grandma continued to study and work hard as a teenager. In her free time, she flipped through old magazines and newspapers, observing the photos sprawled across the page and meticulously copying them. Soon, she began planning to become a teacher until a policy in China forced every teenager to leave school in order to farm in the countryside. After she was released from the countryside and my mom was born, she got a job. My grandma has never attended university to this day, never able to pursue her dreams despite her fervent passion for art and writing because of the life she was born into. However, she made sure this was not the case for me. When I was three years old, my parents were struggling and made the hard decision to send me back to China to live with my loving grandparents for six months. One particular day, my grandma gave me a couple markers and a piece of paper. My tiny hands quickly picked the markers up and drew a person—four legged, with a triangular body and a button nose. I still remember the picture they took of me in my pajamas, holding my new drawing with a toothy grin. From that moment on, my grandma made sure to give me plenty of art supplies. When I returned home, she urged my mom to sign me up for art classes. Every time I flip through my old artwork, there is not once that I don’t think of my grandma. With every brushstroke on the canvas that I can see, every mark drawn on with charcoal, and every splash of color, I can always picture the woman who has taught me to appreciate what I have and pursue what I love.