One City, One Story 2015 “Tell Your Story” Contest

Category:  Grade 9-12

2nd place

Anyone Can Be Successful

by Julia Nail, Grade 9


Kira came to the United States of America because her family was seeking a better life. Her mother stayed at home and took care of the children, housework, and cooking, and her father was a successful software developer. They were not poor, so they were able to seize the opportunity to leave Japan and move to America for a safer environment and better education for their children.

Kira’s younger sister, Nagasaki, had cancer, so they wanted to leave the radioactive environment that began after the 2012 earthquake and tsunami that hit the nuclear power plant, located near their home. Their family came to the United States for better medical care and advanced medical technology only available through American engineering and research. Doctors in America could diagnose and treat Nagasaki’s illness more effectively than the doctors in Japan.

Kira’s family had to speak, read, and write English fluently before the move. With great difficulty, they managed to learn the English language fluently within the 2 years before they left for the United States.

In the United States, Nagasaki’s medical condition was diagnosed. Her medical treatments were so expensive, her mother had to work and eventually found a job as a Japanese translator for a large American airport.

Kira and her family are expected to conform to American society. Kira must attend public school. She is a seventh grader at the local middle school. She is quiet, and doesn’t talk to anyone, because she lacks confidence in her English skills. She eats lunch alone at her own cafeteria table, and bikes home from school at the end of the day. School is difficult for Kira because of the language barrier; but even back in Japan, she didn’t receive the highest grades. The school mandates that she must get a tutor, because she is not going to pass seventh grade. She has trouble grasping math concepts, and cannot write well, but she is very interested in science. She wants to do well, and she tries her hardest, but at the end of the school year, the school places her at the 6th grade level. Kira is devastated, and all summer, she worked with the school tutor to improve. She passed the 6th grade the following year, two years older than the rest of her peers. Her parents cannot help her because they are too absorbed in their work, or taking care of Nagasaki and her failing health.

Kira feels very alone in her family. She is jealous that her sister does not have to go to school, but instead takes online classes, which are in Japanese, so she excels. Kira is angry that her sister caused her family to move to this foreign country. Her family was only thinking about her sister when they decided to move to America, and not how the move would affect her. Kira wanted to move back to Japan and go to school with the rest of her friends, but she couldn’t. The move to America had set her too far behind on her Japanese schools’ coursework, so that if she were to return to Japan, she would pick up where she left off, and her friends would be in the grade above her.

Kira was angry at her parents and wanted to rebel, and see if they ever noticed her. So, she decided to do something that she had enjoyed, but her parents would not approve of- sports. Since the new school year had just started, tryouts for volleyball were coming up. She knew how to play volleyball, and remembered enjoying it during the gym class back in Japan. She wasn’t horrible at it; in fact, she was quite good at it. The volleyball coach back in Japan had wanted her to join the team, but her parents wouldn’t let her.

So, when the tryouts came around, she tried out for her middle school’s volleyball team, much to her classmates’ surprise. She was the best player in the school, and all of the girls who tried out along with her were impressed at the quiet girl’s skill. She was elected team captain of the Varsity Volleyball team. The year before, the Varsity Volleyball team was weak, and always lost to other schools. When Kira joined the team, they won every single one of their volleyball games, shocking all of the other schools in their division. They advanced to state championships, a feat never before accomplished in the history of her middle school. Unfortunately, they lost at the state championships, because other teams had more talented players than on Kira’s team.

However, at the state championships, she was recruited and offered a sports scholarship to a private high school near her house. If she were to accept the scholarship, that would mean having to tell her parents about her participation in volleyball. Kira decided to accept the scholarship, and tell her parents. When she told her parents, they were angry with her for not telling them that she had joined the volleyball team, but they were also relieved that Kira had found something that she excelled at, because school was not her forte and they were scared that she would not go far in life with her barely passing grades.

They allowed her to accept the athletic scholarship, change schools, and continue playing volleyball. During the summer, they sent Kira to an exclusive volleyball academy, where she thrived. She met many nice people, and made many friends her own age. She was not as quiet, and came out of her shell a little bit more.

When she started school in the fall, she was so busy with volleyball, her grades were slipping. She had to pass all of her classes, but she had C-‘s and D’s. She had to use her free time in tutoring, which helped, but not as much as she had hoped. Her coach had to let her skip every other volleyball practice to meet with her tutor; otherwise, if she didn’t pass, she would be removed from the team. She managed to remain on the team, barely passing with one A in her AP foreign language class, only because she took Japanese as her foreign language. She earned one C+ in history, and the rest of her grades were C’s.

Kira brought her high school team honor with many wins, and they dominated the nation during the four years that she was a student there. She was given full scholarships to many colleges; all of them begging her to join their volleyball programs. Kira went to the college with the best volleyball program, played successfully, and eventually won a bronze medal on the United States of America’s Olympic volleyball team. She never graduated college, but she became a professional volleyball player. After she stopped playing professionally, she coached volleyball for other Olympic volleyball hopefuls.

Kira never returned to Japan. She met a professional soccer player who had a similar immigration story as hers. They married and had two children in the United States. Her parents died in their 80’s, and her sister Nagasaki passed away from her disease not long before her parents’ deaths. Kira was devastated, but decided it would be therapeutic to write an autobiography and share her inspiring story with others, even if she had insufficient writing skills. With the help of five different editors and 10 years later, she finally published her story. Kira’s book was about an immigrant from Japan, whose family had settled in America. In her book, she described her failures in the American, English-speaking public schools, but highlighted her successes as a Bronze medal Olympian volleyball player on the team of the United States of America.



View a list of the all the winners: