Teen among ‘Oprah’ essay winners

first_imgIn the essay, titled “Be Aware: Ignorance is Near,” Yang writes that people shouldn’t ignore sacrifices past generations have made, including during the American Revolution and the civil rights movement. And she writes that ignoring history and events like the Holocaust is dangerous for today’s world, admitting to some of her own past ignorance about the World War II genocide of 6 million Jews. “She’s very honest about confessing that we tend to take so much for granted,” Liebe Geft, director of the Museum of Tolerance, said after reading the essay. “And (she) realizes and articulates that realization,” she said. “That each and every one of us is responsible for the choices that we make and responsible for the larger society and the world in which we live.” The William S. Hart Union High School District has students read “Night” in their sophomore year, and many other school districts also make the book part of their curriculum. The book was first published in English in 1960. When Yang arrived in the United States with her family in 2001 from Seoul, South Korea, she spoke almost no English. After five years of hard work, she has only a trace of an accent. When she was only 12, Yang spent five hours a day listening to English tapes and reading. She swallowed her pride as she took out library books meant for much younger readers. “(It’s) amazing that she’s only spoken English for five years and won this national contest,” said Kathy Wilson, Yang’s journalism teacher at Hart High. The “Oprah” show’s “The 50 Young People Oprah Wants You to Meet” aired May 25. [email protected] (661) 257-5253160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2“I won’t, like, die if I don’t get into Harvard,” said Yang, 17, an incoming junior at Hart High. “What (Wiesel) went through was so much more serious and doesn’t even compare to what I was going through.” At the urging of her journalism teacher, Yang entered the “Oprah” show’s student essay competition on “Night,” which Winfrey earlier this year chose for her book club selection. To her surprise, Yang’s essay was one of 50 chosen by the show out of 50,000 submissions. She was flown to Chicago to appear on the show along with the other winners, and she met Winfrey and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Wiesel, 77. “It was an awesome experience, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Yang said. The Saugus student also won a $10,000 scholarship, with $5,000 coming from Oprah Winfrey’s show and $5,000 from AT&T. SANTA CLARITA High school stress was getting to Iris Yang – all the competition she saw around her over test scores and Advanced Placement courses. Then she read a book that put it all in perspective. The book was “Night,” Elie Wiesel’s account of the Nazi Holocaust, based on his own experiences in the death camps where his parents and little sister died. Yang said the book made her see a bigger picture. last_img read more