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Student writing from Atlanta English Institute, Atlanta, Georgia

Should cigarettes be made illegal? Why or why not?
by Dmitrijs Zitans, Atlanta English Institute, Atlanta, Georgia

                        To smoke or not to smoke? What will you choose? I do not smoke, and I do not like it when people smoke around me. Cigarettes are highly addictive and dangerous for your health, but I still do not think that they should be made illegal.

            "A drop of nicotine can kill a horse!" Have you heard this expression? Nicotine in high concentrations can cause intoxication or even death (50 mg is a lethal dose for a human non-smoker and 120 mg for a heavy smoker). That is as much nicotine as can be found in five cigarettes if it were all absorbed at once.

            All of us have our weaknesses. Some people like to smoke as much as others prefer not to. Cigarettes have become a part of our society like cars and cell phones. We realize that smoking can kill us, but people continue to smoke even with all the bad examples of people who are suffering from cancer and other illnesses. This means that most smokers do not want to stop smoking. They are adults and we cannot force them to stop. The truth is that cigarette smoking has a strong anti-depressant effect, and for many people it is the only way to relax during or after the work day.

            I accept that in some cases and in particular situations smoking should be banned. For example, smoking and being pregnant is totally unacceptable since it can cause serious diseases for the unborn baby. Every smoking mother knowingly does harm to herself and her baby. I think that such women should be punished by the legal system in order not to do it again.

            Tobacco is part of the global economy and it cannot be banned so easily. Banning smoking would only create an underground market. That would work as well as the prohibition of alcohol in the last century. Organized crime would like this very much.

            Smoking here in the U.S. has become a lot less common that it was 40 or 50 years ago. During this period, cigarettes have never been illegal. I think it should be like this all the time. People should have the right to smoke and they cannot be banned from smoking in the privacy of their own homes and cars. If you do not like cigarettes, you can certainly get away from them, but other people have different viewpoints.

            As I mentioned before, I do not smoke. I never have and never will. But I would never tell anyone not to smoke. It is a personal responsibility and personal choice. But you had better think twice before taking a cigarette in your hands!


Student writing from Northwest High School, Omaha, Nebraska

by Nwe Htwe Soe

I disagree when people say that friends wait for an opportunity to attack you. My friends are good and kind. They always help me with my problems. When I don't know how to fix the computer, my best friend, Poe Shy, fixes it for me. Sometimes he helps by giving me good advice. He says, "Don't fight when people say bad words to you."

When I'm sad and lonely my friends who live in another city still make me happy. They tell me jokes and sing for me online. We keep chatting online and telling stories to each other about friends, girlfriends, and school.         

But sometimes I get mad at some friends because they bully me even if they joke. They bully me when they say, "You are scared to ask a girl out." Once my Karen friend told me that I was little and short and that I ran like a chicken. Another time, a friend at school said, "He doesn't know how to speak English like us." That makes me sad, and sometimes I don't like to come to school. But on the other hand, I know who I am and what I can do so I don't pay attention to those friends.

Friends can be good and bad. Good friends will help you in what you need. They make you happy when you are sad and share bad moments with you. But I also learned from my experience that there are bad friends who can be bullies. I don't consider them friends anymore because sometimes they try to teach me bad things. Now I know how to choose friends.

Are there true friends?
by Patience Taye

            Is it always true that a friend is a caring, wonderful and respectful person? Sometimes we get hurt from the friend who pretends to be a person we can trust… because some friends just wait for a good time to attack you! This is why I agree when people say that friends may just wait for an opportunity to attack you. Because I have seen that things happened to lot of people and even me.

     A friend can be a gossiper because when one girl named Linda went to a party, the next day, her friend spread rumors that Linda had kissed her boyfriend, which wasn't true.

      Sometimes friends can be really jealous. For example, the girls who I sit with at lunch are jealous of the other girl because she's going out with the boy they are all dreaming of dating so now they aren't friends with each other anymore.

    A friend cannot be a supporting person and enhancing your life because sometimes they may make you to think and behave in darker ways that you never thought you would. One day when I was in the hallway taking my class report to my science teacher I saw my friend who I always thought was a nice person. She was really kind but then she started to tell me to hug a boy I didn't even know. When I said, "No, I'm sorry, I'm late to my class," she and the boy started to laugh and make fun of me and they even called me with bad names.

   It is not that I don't have any friends but these are the friends I used to hang out with. Now I realized that they are not trustworthy and now I have to be careful of who I hang out with. Now I have much better friends but not many. They are trustworthy, caring, and respectful and I hope I won't change to become one of those bad friends I used to hang out with before.

by Alberto Perez

     When I think of a friend, a caring and kind person comes to mind, but is it always true? Sometimes we get hurt from the actions of a friend who pretends to be someone we can trust. But one day a friend was just waiting for an opportunity to attack! Here is why:

     One of my friends was usually very nice. He always helped me with my homework and let me borrow money when I needed it. But one day he became a bad friend because he liked the girl I liked. He knew that I liked this girl and he knew she liked me too. But one day he got the opportunity to "attack" me. It happened when I had a fight with my girlfriend. He asked  her if she wanted to go out with him and so they did. Then I was upset with him about the girl. She changed me for him. That is why my friend turned out to be a bad person and I felt like I was betrayed. I felt very sad.

     That is why sometimes I don't believe my friends anymore because when they have an opportunity they can hurt me. That is why I have to be careful with my friends. Because sometimes friends may tell me to do something and if I don't do it they can hurt me. They start telling bad things about me. Sometimes they can ask me to smoke or do other bad habits. But I don't want to smoke or do the bad things. That is why I agree some friends can be bad.

     Now I have a few friends but I have also learned to be careful with friends because of my past experience. I prefer to have few friends but good friends who I can trust and who will not tell me to do bad habits.

Student writing from El Rancho Adult School, Pico Rivera, California

My life
by Maria Arzate

          My name is Maria Trinidad Arzate.  I was born in Jalisco, Mexico.  I have two sons, Andres and Sebastian. When I was a child I was lucky to have a wonderful family and close friends.  When I was living in my country,  I finished my university education.  I worked with children in preschool for ten years.  I came to the United States five years ago.  At this time I'm going to the El Rancho Adult School to study English in the morning.  In the afternoon, I'm going to the Rio Hondo College to study child development.  Now my life is very good for me.  My family and I live in Pico Rivera.  It's a good city and the weather is beautiful.

My life
by Maria Salazar

          I was born in 1973 in Sinaloa, Mexico.  My mother was a housewife and my father was a rancher.  When my mom was 14 years old she had her first child.  My father worked very hard because his family was big.  I was brought to the US when I was 15 years old.  I lived with my sister.  I took care of her daughter for two years.  When I was 17 years old I got my first job.  When I was 20 years old my first child was born.  Today I come to school to learn English to help my child with her homework.

How my life changed without my parents
by Olivia Ruelas

          I came to the United States in January 2004.  It was a little bit hard for me because I left all my family in Mexico.  I was living with my aunt and her family in Palms Springs.  They were really nice to me.  But in December, we came to El Monte to celebrate Christmas with my other aunts and uncles.  One of my cousins was a year older than me.  She got jealous because my aunts and uncles gave me many gifts.  When I went back to Palm Springs to continue high school, my cousin started acting really bad with me.  She did a lot of bad things to me.  The hardest one was when she talked to her parents about me.  She was calling me bad names.  She never said my name.

          One time I did a homework poster and I left it on top of the TV.  She was talking with her sister about my poster.  They were saying that I was acting like it was my house.  They were talking in English thinking that I didn't understand them.  But I understood everything and I was feeling so bad.  I didn't say anything to my aunt because I was thinking they might say I was lying.  I lived six months like that.  One Saturday she was in the room with her friend.  I was cleaning the living room.  Then I heard her friend was reading something of mine because my cousin didn't know how to read Spanish.  I knocked on the door and I told them to give me my notebook.  They didn't open the door.  I got super mad.  I left the house and I went with one of my friends to ask her if I could borrow her phone to call my other aunt so she could pick me up.   Her mom got mad because I called her sister.  She was saying that I made a big deal.  I explained everything to my aunts and uncles and they asked me why I didn't tell them my situation with my cousin. 

          Now I haven't talked to her or to my aunt for about six years.  But I'm really happy with everything I have now.  I work in a restaurant as a cashier.  I send a little bit of money to my parents.  I'm married to a beautiful man.  He makes me really happy.  Now I want to learn a lot of English to make one of my dreams come true.  I want to get my GED and then go to college.

My life
by Laura Acosta

          I was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.  I have four sisters and three brothers.  When I was a child I went to elementary school and middle school.  After high school I studied to become a secretary.  I worked seven years for Ingeniero Agronomo.  Later I came to the United States.  My first job in this country was at the Laundromat.  Five years ago I worked at the company Valet Services.  Now I come to adult school because my goal is to speak English to get a better job.

My life
by Rosa L. Perez

          I was born in Sinaloa, Mexico.  My mom was a homemaker and my father worked in a hospital as a security guard.  I grew up with my three younger sisters.  When I was 15 years old my parents separated.  When I was 20 years old I came to the United States. Then I got my first job as a baby-sitter. There I met my husband.  One year later we married.  In 2002 I went to the school to learn English but I was scared because I didn't understand anything.  So I gave up.  In 2008 I went back to school again.  Now I don't give up.  Right now I'm learning English.  Now I have a small family.  They are my husband and my two daughters.  I like to learn English because I can help my daughters with their homework.

My life
by Marcela Cortes

          I was born in March 1968 in Acapulco.  July 30th was my graduation from high school.  In 1988 my first son was born.  In 1993 my second son was born.  In December 1994 we came to the USA.  My first home was in San Diego, California.  One year later I met my husband.  My husband had two children.  I take care of my stepsons.

My life
by Isidra Michel

          I was born in Jalisco, Mexico.  My mother was a homeworker and my father worked at the field.  When I was 20, my father died.  I have four brothers and four sisters.  In 1996 I was married.  We have a daughter.  She is 10 years old.  Her favorite movie is Eclipse.  She helps me with my homework.  My husband was born in Jalisco, Mexico.  In 2008 I went to school to learn English.  Now I'm learning English.

My life
by Sandra Nava

          I was born in 1967 in Guzman, Mexico. I graduated from high school in 1986.  I went to college and studied computer for one year.  After I got a job in an office in Guadalajara, Mexico.  In 1990 I got married and we worked together.  On year later my daughter Isabel was born and we are very, very happy.

My life
by Yanet Zepeda

          I was born in 1970 in El Salvador.  My mother worked teaching mathematics and my father worked driving a bus.  When they got a divorce, I and my six brothers moved with my mom to a little city where my grandmother lived.  I graduated from high school in 1989.  The next year my father died.  Then I went to university in 1997.  I worked in a big company.  My mother died in 2002.  One year later I came to the United States.  The next year in April my daughter was born.  Today I live with my husband, my daughters and my sister and I am studying English

My life
by Irma Vergara

          I was born in 1974 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.  My mother was a homemaker and my father was a farmer but sometimes my mother helped my father to work the earth.  My first day of school was in 1980.  Six years later I had a graduation from elementary school.  In 1988 I came to Tijuana, Mexico and I had my first job in this city.  I married when I was 21 years old.  My husband and I worked in the same place.  After one year we decided to have our first child.  My first vacation with my family was in 2000 in San Felipe, California.  In 2001 we decided to come to the USA.  After three years we had our second child.  Now my husband and I are very happy because we have two children.

My life
by Veronica Oregel

          I was born in 1977 in Michoacan, Mexico.  My mother was a homemaker and my father was a mechanic.  When I was little I liked to be with my grandmother.  At 11 years I made my First Communion.  One year later I graduated from elementary school with honors.  When I was 14 years I got my first job.  And then I married at the age of 17 years and we came to the United States to honeymoon.  In 1996 our first child was born.  It was a beautiful girl.  Later we had two more children.  Actually we are very happy.

My life
by Argelia Silva

          When I finished my second year of high school I came to Los Angeles in 1990.  My brother worked very hard because my sister and I went to school.  I have three sisters and two brothers.  My mom worked in a factory.  Two years later I married.  I have four children. My daughters are 16, 15, 13 and 7 years old.

Student writing from Benson High School Magnet, Omaha, Nebraska

My Country -Thailand
by Thart

         My country has a lot of people. Some people live in the forest and some people live in the city.  My family lived near the forest and we went to school every day. My country has beautiful waterfalls and mountains. We have tall trees and long bamboo plants.

         Sometimes we went to the mountains and shot  other animals and birds for food. Some people in my country ate dog meat.  Sometimes we found vegetables near the forest and river.

         Our house was by a little river by the mountain. Every afternoon we would swim. We saw different kinds of beautiful birds. Some birds had many colors and some birds had one color.  We had monkeys, crocodiles, birds, and other animals. We also had different kinds of fruit. Some people had cows, pigs, and dogs.

         Sometimes we went to the city to buy food and vegetables. I went to school every day. The school was far from my house.  I had many friends in school. I had good teachers. They loved the students very much. Some of my friends lived in the city and some friends lived in the forest. Every day we had fun. We had to study eight subjects in school. We had to wear uniforms; the colors were black and white. The teachers had uniforms too.

         I had a lot of fun in my country. We loved to play soccer very much. Saturdays we had free time. We went to the forest to see the waterfall. We had fun together. I miss my country very much.

My life in Thailand and in Omaha
by Shaw

            I was born in Burma and I moved to Thailand. I moved to America because of the Burmese takeover of Thailand. I have a better and easy-going life in America. When I was little, I lived in Thailand. Lots of Karen people live in refugee camps in Thailand. I had lots of friends, some bad and some nice. We played lots of games. We went swimming in the river. Sometimes people who didn't like us when we played by their house tried to shoot us.             Sometimes we went fishing, hunting for birds and looking for vegetables on top of the mountain for dinner. It was very dangerous trying to find some food on top of the mountain because some people made a trap and there would also be bombs. Luckily I never got caught by those people or stepped on a trap.

            People who lived in camps couldn't go anywhere without a license. If they stepped out of the camp, they could go to jail. Every month people brought us food. Sometimes during the war we had to hide in a cave.

            Our school started at 8 o'clock and ended at 3 o'clock. We went home to eat lunch between 12 and 1 p.m. We didn't have breakfast and lunch in school like we do here. In school we learned science, math, history, art, Karen, Burmese, world history and English. The teacher hit us with a stick if we didn't do our homework.

            I moved to America when I was twelve. My life is better and easy-going. I have seen many beautiful things in America. Everyone has freedom and people can travel around to different places. I get to eat better food, stay in a better place and I feel safe in America. Many Karen people have better jobs and make more money. When I go to school, I see many black people, many white people and brown people. But they are all together. The teachers are very nice and the students are working very hard. When students do something wrong, they are told the right way and shown the right path. I want to grow up in the United States and learn many things in school. I want to learn about different cultures and meet many different people in the U.S. I have big dreams and I hope those dream will come true.

My Beautiful Country ‐Thailand
by Yin

            I will tell you about my beautiful country. I miss my country very much. When I am in my bed, I remember all the things I did in my country and I cry. My country is so beautiful. I remember the river and the trees. I remember all the friends I left behind in my country. We spent a lot of time with each other. We went to the river and we all got wet.

            Some of my teachers in Thailand were kind but some of them were mean. Sometimes I got punished in school because I forgot to do my homework.

            I saw a lot of poor people in my country. I want to help them, but I can't because I don' have money to help them.

            My grandma had a pretty house. In front of her house, she had many flowers. She also had a vegetable garden. She had lots of plants and fruit trees. Whenever she would go to the market, I would go to her garden and get some fruit. She would kill me now if she knew.

            I remember many good times I had with my sister. If we heard the ice cream truck come down the street, we would quickly run as fast as we could to get ice cream. We enjoyed playing in the garden.

            I did a lot of fun things in my country. Even if it is so poor, I still love it. I hope someday, I can go back to my country.