To Houston, Texas, My Home That Will Always Be With Me

To Houston, Texas, My Home That Will Always Be With Me

I will bring the warm Houston sun to shine on anywhere I go with love and kindness and offer a little piece of every culture to my peers.

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My world is a beachside. Houston, Texas is filled with immense diversity yet to be explored just like our vast bodies of water. With that diversity comes with a variety of values held on by each individual, and together, it creates a community that has proudly shaped me into who I am.

My family is the water. Always there. Loud and present. Encompassing me with love. Without it, the beachside would be a desert, dry and nearly lifeless. My parents taught me the importance of embracing not only my culture, but they also exposed me to the beauty that lies beyond my roots so I could embrace my surroundings and learn about other cultures. My older brother taught me how to swim. From there, I dove through many obstacles and nearly drowned through failure, but I persevered despite how much water filled my lungs; my teammates and coaches pushed me to "just keep swimming." They taught me the value of hard work and resilience and how to be humble.

Sometimes I encounter a chipped shell along the shore. My friends and teachers have taught me that a chipped shell is as beautiful as a whole shell, just like people. Because of their kindness, they influenced me to be understanding and I developed my love for helping others.

Like an oyster, bits of different qualities slip in from my community so I form pearls. I will bring the warm Houston sun to shine on anywhere I go with love and kindness and offer a little piece of every culture to my peers.

Cover Image Credit:

Jay Moirangthem

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For Camille, With Love

To my godmother, my second mom, my rooted confidence, my support

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First grade, March. It was my first birthday without my mom. You through a huge party for me, a sleepover with friends from school. It included dress up games and making pizza and Disney trivia. You, along with help from my grandma, threw me the best birthday party a 7-year-old could possibly want.

During elementary school, I carpooled with you and a few of the neighborhood kids. I was always the last one to be dropped off, sometimes you would sneak a donut for me. Living next door to you was a blessing. You helped me with everything. In second grade, you helped me rehearse lines for history day so I could get extra credit. In 4th grade, you helped me build my California mission.

You and your sister came out to my 6th grade "graduation". You bought me balloons and made me feel as if moving onto middle school was the coolest thing in the entire world.

While you moved away from next door, you were a constant in my life. Going to Ruby's Diner for my birthday, seeing movies at the Irvine Spectrum and just hanging out, I saw you all the time. During these times, you told me about all of the silly things you did with my mom and dad, how my mom was your best friend. I couldn't have had a greater godmother.

In middle school, you pushed me to do my best and to enroll in honors. You helped me through puberty and the awkward stages of being a woman.

Every single time I saw you, it would light up my entire day, my week. You were more than my godmother, you were my second mom. You understood things that my grandma didn't.

When you married John, you included me in your wedding. I still have that picture of you, Jessica, Aaron and myself on my wall at college. I was so happy for you.

Freshmen year of high school, you told me to do my best. I did my best because of you. When my grandma passed away that year, your shoulder was the one I wanted to cry on.

You were there when I needed to escape home. You understood me when I thought no one would. You helped me learn to drive, letting me drive all the way from San Clemente to Orange.

When I was applying to colleges, you encouraged me to spread my wings and fly. You told me I should explore, get out of California. I wanted to study in London, you told me to do it. That's why, when I study abroad this Spring in London, I will do it for you.

When I had gotten into UWT, you told me to go there. I did and here I am, succeeding and living my best in Tacoma. I do it for you, because of you.

When I graduated high school and I was able to deliver a speech during our baccalaureate, you cheered me on. You recorded it for me, so I could show people who weren't able to make it to the ceremony. You were one of the few people able to come to my actual graduation. You helped me celebrate the accomplishments and awards from my hard work.

When your cancer came back, I was so worried. I was afraid for you, I was afraid of what I would do without the support you had always given me. When I was in Rome, I went to the Vatican and had gotten a Cross with a purple gem in the middle blessed by the Pope to help you with your treatments. It was something from me and a little bit of my mom in the necklace, the gem.

Now, sitting so far from you away at college just like you wanted me to. I miss you. I wish I was there to say goodbye.

I'll travel the world for you, write lots of stories and books for you, I will live life to the fullest for you.

You are another angel taken too early in life. Please say hello to my parents and grandma in Heaven for me.

Lots of love,

Haiden

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9 American Wonders To See Before You Retire

This is a list of several sights in America that are breathtakingly beautiful or symbolic and must be seen.

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As our world becomes more and more technologically connected, we begin to lose touch with the natural beauty of our country. According to the National Park Service - a branch of the United States Department of the Interior - "over 418 areas covering more than 85 million acres in every state, DC, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands" are protected National Parks. Here is a list of sights - many of whom are national parks - or monuments that YOU must see before you retire.

1. The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

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The Grand Canyon is one of America's best wonders. Located in Northern Arizona this wonder is accessible Year Round and possess natural earthen beauty unlike anywhere else. Additionally, there are several opportunities to hike in and along the Grand Canyon as well as even ride a Donkey through the Canyon itself. I believe this is the #1 place one should visit before entering the workforce, as it truly shows you the raw power that nature holds. The Colorado River ran down from the Rocky Mountains and chiseled the Canyon over thousands of years, making it into what it is today. Finally, as evidenced in the picture above, it is extremely gorgeous at and after sunset.

2. Abraham Lincoln's Log House

Abe Lincoln's Log Farmhouse

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Abraham Lincoln's Log house or Log Farmhouse - both located in my home state of Illinois - are attractions that one MUST see. To me, it symbolizes the true American Dream. It shows what individuals had to do back in the 19th Century just to survive. It symbolizes the hard work and perseverance that our past generations possessed and it shows us how we as a nation and as individuals need to work hard in order to become powerful, as opposed to wishing for the government to give it to us for free.

3. Redwood Forests

The Redwood Forests

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The Redwood Forest is a place that can truly return us to our roots. It shows us the power and beauty of nature and allows us to witness some of the tallest tree's in both America and the World.

4. The World War Two Memorial

The World War Two Memorial

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This - as well as the one that follows it - is by far is one of my favorite monuments to visit. I am an avid military guy and I loved learning about World War Two. When I visited Washington D.C a few years ago, the power and sheer awe of this monument truly highlight the titanic struggle and immense sacrifice that "The Greatest Generation" made for our great country.

5. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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Like mentioned above, the Vietnam Memorial is another memorial that honors the service and sacrifice of our nations bravest soldiers. This monument is extremely powerful, yet it is the most simple of the war memorials in Washington D.C. This memorial consists of two long rows of black granite blocks conjoined in the middle. What makes it truly powerful, is that each and every name of all of the soldiers who passed away are inscribed on this memorial.

6. The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty

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Like it was to immigrants who were legally trying to enter into the United States throughout history, the Statue of Liberty is something that I would recommend everyone see. A short ferry ride off of the coast of New York City, one has the ability to climb up to the top of the statue and view the surrounding area around the statue: An amazing view of New York City and the Hudson Bay area.

7. The Washington Memorial

The Washington Monument

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Although it certainly does not look like much, the Washington Monument - a concrete pillar that salutes the dedication to our nation given to us by George Washington - is one of my places I would recommend. Like the Statue of Liberty, one has the ability to climb up the stairs to the top and view out over the entire National Mall: Quite the scenic view.

8. The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

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Many say he is the greatest if not the second greatest president of our history - behind George Washington. However, the history and accomplishments of Lincoln truly come alive when you walk up the long set of stairs towards a giant statue of "Honest Abe".

9. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

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I have actually never been here before. However, just like the Redwood Forests and the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park is a true symbol of the natural beauty of America. Additionally, there are several types of animals at the park that you can see as well as amazing geysers (like the one pictured above) that only add to the experience.

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