West Seattle Elementary essay winner: ‘I never gave up’

(Photos and video by Ellen Cedergreen for WSB)
As West Seattle Elementary School fifth-grader Allamagan Anod returns to school today, he has an extra reason to be proud.

He wrote an essay that won a school contest!

West Seattle Elementary, you might recall, is in the first year of an intensive improvement plan. One year after landing on a list no school wants to be on, the school is “soaring,” as new principal Vicki Sacco recently told WSB. That’s not the result of her work alone – her staff is generating innovative ideas as well as emphasizing stepped-up academics.

This is where WSES school counselor Laura Bermes comes in. She suggested an essay contest to help inspire better attendance – fewer absences, fewer tardies. After all, the more you are at school, the more you will get out of school.

The theme: Attendance Matters. It’s not just an emphasis for high schools, as they work intensely to keep students from dropping out. It’s a value that elementary schools work to instill as well.

Laura asked if WSB would be interested in publishing the winning essay. (Of course!) So the essay’s appearance here is part of the prize package, along with a pizza party for the winner’s whole family. The winner (and two runners-up) received certificates too.

Participation wasn’t mandatory, but Laura reports it was sizable. Essays were evaluated for criteria including thoughtfulness and – most important – what life could be like with an education. We were there as Allamagan read his essay to classmates Friday afternoon:

Here’s what he wrote:

“When I first came to America, I lived in San Diego for about two years. I went to a school called Porter Elementary School. I was nervous about the first day of school because it was my first time going to school in my life. I never went to school when I was in Africa. When the teacher was talking, I didn’t understand what she was talking about. Then, when I wanted to use the restroom, I didn’t even know how to say it. But now, I am starting to learn how to speak English, because I never gave up. Now, I see myself driving a beautiful car, coming from my important job as a lawyer, and donating money to build a park for children to enjoy. To keep that dream, I must go to school every day and never be late!”

Laura also is tackling attendance problems by working with parents/guardians. When a student has an unexcused absence, a letter is sent home requesting “a meeting mandated by the school,” she explains. At that meeting, the importance of regular attendance is explained, and a school magnet is given , with information including how to contact the school. The family is also offered the chance to discuss any issues affecting attendance, and how they might be resolved. Laura says these meetings are working well, with a dramatic reduction in the number of second-time unexcused absences.

She’s optimistic that, once everyone is clear about the necessity for good attendance, it will improve exponentially. If the students’ enthusiasm regarding the essay contest is any indication, she is on the right track.

P.S. Here’s a look at Allamagan’s essay, with the drawing that accompanied it:

P.P.S. A “best picture” winner was chosen too – here it is, by Ashley:

Congratulations to the students and staff of West Seattle Elementary!

16 Replies to "West Seattle Elementary essay winner: 'I never gave up'"

  • ad March 7, 2011 (10:40 am)

    Way to go, Mr. Anod! Never give up! Even when things get rough, and they will, never give up.

    Miss Ashley, I admire your ambition as well! It doesn’t make someone a bad person to work at McDonalds, but there is so much more you can do in this world!

  • onceachef March 7, 2011 (11:59 am)


  • Cynthia T March 7, 2011 (12:14 pm)

    Way to go WSE Huskies! Keep up the good work!

  • Dennis Grace March 7, 2011 (12:23 pm)

    I am inspired by and admire this boy for having set goals for himself and understanding how to achieve them. However I am saddened that our culture has instilled in him the desire to drive a beautiful car and to have an important job before he can focus on giving money to help others. Really! Does he really need a fancy car, an important job and to throw money at a charity to make a difference or can he volunteer his time and energy to make a real difference in this world? I’m not saying he shouldn’t do something he enjoys and be paid to do it, but are rich people the only people who can make a difference?

    • WSB March 7, 2011 (12:40 pm)

      Dear commenters, tread lightly here. Criticism of little kids is off-limits. Dennis’s point is more a general societal observation than a criticism, so it stands, but remember that everything is subjective. Beautiful car doesn’t mean BMW or Mercedes. Lawyer doesn’t mean rich – spend some time in the harried criminal-justice system at the levels where frantic young prosecutors and public defenders are going through sheafs of cases in sequential cattle-call-style hearings (I have been to too many of those lately) – and that’s just one example. My mother was a lawyer as about her fourth career, after finally getting her bachelor’s degree at 40 and then going to law school … ultimately didn’t work out (and she still had student loans pending when she died), but for better or for worse, our system requires experts in many things, including the law. And I applaud the awareness that even has charity contributions on a fifth-grader’s radar at all! – TR

  • ws March 7, 2011 (12:49 pm)

    Congrats Allamagan Anod! You should be very proud.

    What is sad that the efforts that Laura Bermes is instigating are exactly what the school district is trying to end by removing funding for counselors and Family support workers. This type of direct involvement makes a huge difference for so many kids across the district.

  • goodjob March 7, 2011 (1:29 pm)

    Great work, Allamagon. You strike me as intelligent, compassionate, and articulate. You will go far in life! Good luck to you!

  • RG March 7, 2011 (1:31 pm)

    Yea for WSES! Keep writing kids; everyone is a writer!

  • dailycommuter March 7, 2011 (1:35 pm)

    Congratulations and a hearty “Well done” to Mr. Allamagan Anod, Miss Ashley, and counselor Laura Bermes. I am so impressed that a young man who is still learning how to speak English could write such an inspiring essay. Thank you for sharing it with us. Allamagan and Ashley, I am confident that you will achieve your dreams of success, however you may define it. West Seattle Elementary students, teachers and staff, great job!

  • kte March 7, 2011 (2:37 pm)

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • JLBWA March 7, 2011 (5:42 pm)

    Why did WSB remove my comment about McDonald’s employees having something other than a “life without an education” as Ashley titled her drawing??? I don’t get it… It was insightful and decent, yet it was removed. WSB, feel free to email me directly and explain why…

  • Marco March 7, 2011 (6:17 pm)

    Allamagan thank you for your inspiring essay!
    Marco Behar

  • laura March 7, 2011 (6:44 pm)

    Thank you WSB for covering this story! With over 200 entries, it wasn’t easy choosing a winner – but Allamagan’s ability to articulate his dream impressed me. There were a number of amazing stories and dreams shared through this contest – these students, the majority living in poverty, really understand the “American Dream.” They long for a home of their own and a good job. They want to make a difference for their community. Hopes of becoming lawyers, teachers, police officers, doctors, scientists, secretaries, bus drivers and more… these kids are ready to work for a better life. What they need is the support of their community to help make these dreams come true. If you’re out there wondering what you can do to help, feel free to give the school a call. We can find a role for you. It takes a village, and our kids could use your old books or musical instruments, your talents and expertise, your care. Thanks! Laura Bermes

  • john March 10, 2011 (7:57 pm)

    goood work!!!!!

  • Jen March 24, 2011 (6:47 pm)

    This video and story warm my heart. I was Allamagan’s 2nd grade teacher when he first moved to San Diego. Luckily a friend of mine ran into this article and passed it onto me. I will never forget my year with him as a student. It changed my entire perspective on teaching. I’m so happy to hear of his success and see the person he is growing into.

    If anyone works at this school, give Allamagan (and his siblings) a big high five and “Congratulations” from Miss B.

  • maax April 13, 2011 (8:56 pm)

    goooood job

Sorry, comment time is over.