Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

‘I am America’ poem wins Tucson student national prize

Maya Ohana, 10, and her mom, DeRose Yuhuru-Ohana are seen here at their home Wednesday. Maya won second place in a national writing contest for her poem about immigration.

Maya Ohana, 10, and her mom, DeRose Yuhuru-Ohana are seen here at their home Wednesday. Maya won second place in a national writing contest for her poem about immigration.

A Tucson fifth-grader reached back centuries into her own roots to pen a poem about immigration and won second place in a national writing contest.

Maya Ohana, a home-schooled 10-year-old, is part black, Cherokee Indian and Asian on her mother’s side and part German and Scottish on her father’s side.

“I am the faces of those who walked ‘The Trail of Tears,’ ” Maya wrote. “I am the faces of enslaved cargo ship holds brought to America. I am the faces of the worker who built the railroad across the country.”

Maya’s poem “I am America” was one of 5,000 submissions in a creative writing contest jointly sponsored by The American Immigration Law Foundation and the American Immigration Lawyers Association. A student from Chicago won first place, and a student from northern California won third. The top five submissions were judged by some members of Congress and several children’s authors.

Maya learned in March that she won first place in Tucson out of 200 applicants and was informed last week about her national award.

“I wasn’t expecting first place for Tucson,” Maya said. “I was speechless with the second place overall.”

Gloria Goldman, a Tucson immigration lawyer who helped organize the local competition, said Tucson has never placed so high. The competition is meant to help children think about the contributions immigrants make, she said.

“I think it’s important to understand the positives of immigration because I think it’s the fiber of our country,” Goldman said. “It always has been.”

As part of the program, Goldman and handful of volunteer attorneys make classroom visits during the school year and talk with students about immigration.

Maya’s mother, DeRose Yuhuru-Ohana, a school nurse, learned about the contest from a bulletin board where she works.

“This is awesome,” Yuhuru-Ohana said. “It’s not everyday you win a contest that represents the foundation of the country.”

When not writing poetry, Maya spends time raising guinea pigs and taking care of the family’s five horses, which she shows in 4-H competitions. She hopes one day to become a veterinarian.

The top 10 students from Tucson will be honored at a luncheon Friday at the El Parador Restaurant.

———

I am America

I am the faces you see of immigrants coming to America

I am the faces of the pilgrims who sailed across the Atlantic

I am the faces of those who walked “The Trail of Tears”

I am the faces of enslaved cargo ship holds brought to America

I am the faces of the worker who built the railroad across the country

I am diversity

I am sacrifices

I am civil rights

I am democracy

I am the mixture of sweet potato pie, tortillas, pretzels, fry bread, rice and pasta of many shapes and sizes

When you look at me you see faces of those from around the world

I am the modern day 21st century melting pot

I am the immigrant past, present and future

I am freedom

I am laughter

I am pride

I am America

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

Search site | Terms of service