Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

When I first landed in America to live with my mother after being raised by my grandparents, I was in third grade and knew only a handful of English words. As a single parent, my mother had to leave for work early every morning, while I went to school on my little purple bicycle with sparkling streamers. Even though I envied other children, all of them dutifully sent to and picked up from school, I never regretted my circumstances. My lifestyle helped me become more independent. After school, I came home to a small, lonely apartment, struggling to finish reading a picture book as I waited for my mom. Sure enough, the hours alone passed by quickly as I started to travel with the characters of the Magic Tree House series. One after another, I gobbled the chapters up and soon moved onto the darker adventures of Jane Eyre and The Iliad.

Music was another trusted companion when I was home alone. Notes floated off my piano and painted the empty space. The toy baton flew in the air and brought me to my fledgling dream of becoming the middle school band drum major, and soon enough, imagination became reality. I felt so proud, leading the group around the streets for my city’s Rodeo Parade, until I saw my first high school marching band...

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