By Ashley Vang, St. Paul Harding High School
Sweat dripped down the faces and bodies of the 14 exhausted teen dancers and scattered onto the slippery hardwood floor. Several stifled yawns.
“Let’s do one more round, then we can go home, ladies,” leisurely said my captain. The group pushed through one last routine as the clock struck 12:30 a.m. It was hot and musty in the spacious basement studio at Sunrise Plaza in St. Paul. There were no windows to let in the cool breeze. Instead, a fan by the door wailed loudly, forcing us to turn the music up higher.
We were days away from the Minnesota Hmong New Year dance competition, an annual event that draws in as many as 60,000 people. At that point, we were eating, breathing and dreaming about dance. Our lives were already packed with homework, jobs and house chores, but we squeezed in practices, too. Our lower backs, knees, ankles and shoulders were strained and bruised. But instead of stopping, we massaged and iced them and pushed forward.
The night before our intense competition, we were at it again, practicing. While we rehearsed in our brown and maroon edgy-like fitted costumes, we cheered each other on. Cries of, “You can do it! Push through! Together, we got it girls!” filled the air. We reminded ourselves that there was a lot at stake. The money. The fame. The trophy. But most of all, we wanted to show people what we were capable of.
On the day of the competition, Hmong families crowded the massive arena in their finest traditional clothing adorned with coins that jingled and swished. Some people tossed a ball back and forth while flirting with other attendees. Others devoured some delicious, greasy Hmong food and sipped on sweet cold drinks. The vendors sold crispy fried egg rolls, and the scent of the spicy peppery papaya salad had my mouth watering.
Uneasily, I arrived in the backstage area and walked up to my teammates, who looked superb in their costumes. As we started preparing for the competition, my nerves were shot. My heart was about to burst from beating so fast. Pausing, I took a minute to remind myself of how profoundly dance has impacted my life.
Dance trained me to heartily motivate myself to unexpectedly be the champion I wished to present. Struggling to push through, doubting myself and my abilities, I leaned on others for support and to never give up. I mentally and physically felt stronger when I gained the self-confidence to express who I am and strengthened what I had planned for my future. “Dream. Believe. Achieve,” as I recall our dance slogan.
That evening at the 2016 Minnesota Hmong New Year dance competition, we were named champions. Hard work does pay off.
Ashley Vang, St. Paul Harding High School
If all people in the world could engage their minds to work relentlessly and persistently under all circumstances, the word poverty would have become a history. Every hour becomes productive simply because nobody entertains laziness. Making every second count enables people to overcome all impossible obstacles and the throwbacks in lives. To work hard is to be responsible for everything done regardless of being watched or not. No pain, no gain is a phrase mostly used to steer people to great success. The phrase teaches resilience in all undertakings that everyone must strive to earn something in spite of the harsh conditions.
A story is told of Arthur, an African young man who despite all his parents being alive, they meant nothing to him. They had no idea of how he clothed, ate, or went to school. Being humble parents does not give anyone a right to neglect parental responsibilities. The struggles he encountered in his lifetime were visible to every student in his class. He wore a torn uniform, walked to school barefooted.
Rising at the crack of dawn has never been anybody`s cup of tea, but Arthur, young as he was could do it. He used to supply water to an industry located at a distance of five kilometers away from his home before going to school to cater for his needs, school fees included. His father neglected him completely. He used to work at the construction site, and the little money he could earn will be spent on alcohol and cigarettes. At times, he could come home late to find Arthur doing his homework. He could kick him off the table and implant himself their smoking somberly on a sofa. Arthur could just go and strain in his dark room.
To utter surprise, teachers could punish him thoroughly whenever he came to school late. This was in spite of them being aware of the adverse hardships he was undergoing. Nevertheless, he has never pushed away from his academic excellence. He kept his faith towards his goal. Nobody in the entire class could beat him academically. Generosity was his great virtue, being always there to uplift the weak in class anytime he was consulted. He never wanted his colleagues to suffer while he was around.
Everything that has beginning will at some point end. He sat for his final exam, and as many expected, he passed so well. He attracted so many well-wishers who promised to sponsor him in advance level. Their small sluggish rental house was flooded with different brands of vehicles. Everyone was eager to know the little hero who proved, so genius to break all records nationwide. Their little room was filled to the brim with different types of gifts.
Several years later, Arthur graduated as a neurosurgeon from one of the top university in the world. His father kept on with his drunkenness, and as he was on his way towards home, a fast moving vehicle hit him, breaking his both legs and damaging his head badly. The local medical experts referred him to an international hospital. Coincidentally, that was where Arthur had been posted. He wept bitterly seeing his dad in such condition and promised to do his best to restore him back. Three months later, he was discharged. Tears of joy misted his vision when he learnt that his son was able to cure him. From then henceforth, he promised never to take alcohol.
Through his hard work, perseverance, and determination, Arthur made to his destiny despite all the challenges he encountered. Paying attention to a problem is digging a grave to enter anytime. Success never comes on a silver platter but through hard work. Nobody was meant to stay in every situation permanently, change is inevitable.