The Valley

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.

We have a saying here in The Valley: The world will take us where we want to be. In essence, this little bit of wisdom accurately embodies the world I come from, what it has taught me, and the many ways in which it has shaped my dreams, aspirations, and the person I hope to become.

The San Fernando Valley, or The Valley, as it is commonly referred to by its residents, has always been my home. Nestled among five mountain ranges, it is home to almost two million residents, each with a unique story. It is through learning the stories of the people who I have encountered here that my own story begins.

The exploration of different cultures and religions is a dream I know I want to pursue in my life. I recognized this dream two years ago when I had a traditional Jewish dinner with my friend Lisa and her family on Hanukkah. Being raised in a Presbyterian home, I had never been exposed to another culture in such an intimate way. The meal and the ceremony that accompanied it were beautiful and my eyes were opened to a different culture as we feasted on latkes and brisket and lit the fourth candle on the menorah. Enchanting music played; strange syllables were uttered; and a hushed meaning registered on the assembled faces. At that moment,...

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