My Parents' Dream
Christopher Vazan, Fourth-grader at St. Bernard's School in New York

Two days before New Year's Eve, my dad opened an envelope that came by mail. Inside were two little cards with a green stripe. They had numbers and letters just like most cards but these were different. These little cards have the power to give immigrants freedom in this country. I didn't understand the happy looks on my parents' faces because I see my mom all the time longing for her home country and even planting this love and bond in my sister and me. I was puzzled: Is immigration a good thing or not? Does it really offer people better lives? What does it mean for someone to leave his or her homeland and start again in a new place? 

There are different kinds of immigration. Some people have to run away to escape the tragedy of war, hunger, or persecution. Others leave with a hope for a better life or to pursue their dreams. But no matter how or why, they always bring the little pieces of their past with them: their traditions, songs, food, ideas, talents, and their very own special ways of doing things. I think that their happiness in the new place depends on whether they can continue living with all these things so dear to them. This country is a special place where talents of immigrants are recognized and supported, where people can speak their mother tongues, where they can live while still being connected to their faraway homelands, can share their memories with their children and preserve them for further generations. 

An immigrant is like a plant transplanted into new soil. That plant needs to be taken care of by a good gardener whose love and support makes it blossom. Two such gardeners are Marica and Jan Vilcek. We were really the lucky ones because by some strange twist of fate my parents happened to meet and become friends with them, which made the often-difficult process of adjustment to a new soil so much easier. As the occasion for tonight's gathering indicates, Jan's and Marica's generosity and friendship is so tremendous that many others may experience their blessing. God bless the Vilceks! God bless the immigrants in America!

Christopher Vazan was born in 1997 in New York City, one year after his parents came to the U.S. from Slovakia. Chris is currently a fourth-grader at St. Bernard's School in New York. Last year, he received the Junior School Roger Platt Award - the prize is given every year to a third-grade boy for excellence in academic achievement, personal character and integrity. He loves math, piano, and chess. Chris also loves to explore Slovakia, where he travels every summer with his mom and sister Terezka.

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