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Student Work
English BW

Hariklica Bezhani
Sophornzana Sam

Hariklica Bezhani

Short Biography

My name is Hariklica Bezhani. A lot of people think of it as an unusual name! It’s a Greek name; however, I came from an Albanian background. I was born in Albania, a small place close to the Greek border where people spoke Greek. When I was five, I moved to Greece and lived there for almost nine years before I came here. Four years have passed since I came to America. I came for a better education as my parents say, yet it seems that I have spent my whole life in Brooklyn.


Madison was the school that I attended after Marine Park. I made friends, met people from different countries and learned a lot about cultures from all around the world. I am a very athletic person; I love sports. Sports are my life; therefore, I joined the girls’ volleyball team and have been a member since my sophomore year. I wanted to join more teams; however, practices were all at the same time and I couldn’t do everything at once. I wanted to get involved in more things because a person gets to be a part of something and make new friends when they join activities. Therefore, I joined the Spring Musical during my junior year. I also became a mediator and started helping people solve their conflicts. Now in my senior year, I am in Sing. I got to make new friends and got to be around my old friends. I also learned a lot about acting, singing, and dancing which I am really interested in doing in the future.


I love Madison. Some of the best moments of my life I have had here--having all these great classes, making all these friends, learning who I am and what I am interested in. Madison has all kinds of great programs and activities for everybody!

College Now Essay

Is it necessary to know how to “play the game” in order to succeed in life? What does “playing the game” really mean? Playing the game means pretending, lying, cheating, stealing or even “kissing butt.” It is also known as conning. Some people might think that it is the only way; therefore, they go along with it. Others go against that idea because they feel that conning is not a way to success, and others are even forced to go along with it.


People con one another every day for whatever reason. They cheat, scam, swindle, dupe, and deceive others. They have witnessed it and experienced it as well. I have witnessed it; I’ve done it; I’ve also been a victim of it. I remember back in first grade, the person who I thought was my best friend turned out to be the opposite. I thought we had so many things in common and that we were real friends because we used to spend a lot of time together and tell each other secrets. I trusted her; however, I was wrong. That was probably the biggest mistake because she used to talk to people behind my back. We used to talk about people that we couldn’t stand and others that we hated. She told all of them how I felt about them; therefore, they turned against me. She also put words in my mouth and turned everything I had said to something negative so others would hate me and become my enemies. I don’t know why she did what she did, but I sure didn’t like it. I’m not against conning; however, I’m not for it either. In some situations, for example “kissing butt” in classes in order to get a better grade, is often accepted. When a person is conned, the way my friend did to me, it is not acceptable because it truly hurts somebody’s feelings.


“Miss USA,” an interview of Emma Knight written by Studs Terkel, explains how people see the outside of things to be perfect, and how from the inside it is all corrupted. It is true that for some people, their American Dream is to have a title such as “Miss USA,” to have a lot of money, to live a life of luxury, and to be someone that other people idolize. However what it is shown to be everything a person might want is actually the opposite—a life that most people would not want at all. The reality is that these winners often pretend to be everything they always wanted to be, but they are actually miserable. Miss USA had to live her life as a lie. It looked like she was living a great life; however, everything that she was doing was just for show. Everyday when she would wake up, she would know that she would con people. The audience, for example, thought that she loved her life, and that everything that was being shown was true. She was also being conned because she did only what others told her to do, so basically she has no control over her life. Despite the fact that she had to con others, she actually had to con herself by lying to herself pretending to be someone she was not. “I’m feeling awkward and ugly,” she said, yet she was Miss USA, a beauty queen. She conned herself because she felt that she was not beautiful, yet she still went through with the pageant, and didn’t quit.


Right after she was announced as Miss USA, she had to sign a contract, which she wouldn’t even get the chance to read completely. The next morning when she woke up, she had to wear a negligee and eat breakfast in bed. Of course that was for the newspaper picture and to show the people what a great life she had; however, the reality was that she didn’t actually do that. She let people control her life. Basically she was forced to because they were paying for her; therefore, she had to act in a certain way. The way she was told how to “play the game” for example, was by putting a smile on her face any time she would be in front of a crowd. “They wanted to shut me up,” she said, meaning that she couldn’t have a mind of her own. She was forced to “shut up” and just smile. At last, however, when they announced the new Miss USA, she conned the world by rubbing her nose. “The sting,” as they called it, meant that the con was on, and that everything was phony.


“Miss USA” was considered to be “perfect;” however, the only thing she was judged upon was her beauty. The judges didn’t even consider the fact that she might be smart. Only her body and her looks got her the title. She became an idol for a lot of people just because of her figure and looks. People held high opinions of her; even though, they didn’t know her. People based their judgments on her appearance.


We are judged by the way we look. If we have good looks, people think of us in a positive way. However, if we are ugly, they often think of us in a negative way and make it impossible for us to fit into their group. Let’s face it, if a good looking woman auditions for an acting part and she doesn’t have as much talent for it, she might get the role. This would probably be just the opposite for an ugly, talented woman auditioning for the same part. “The looking glass self,” a theory of Charles Horton Cooley, helps to explain how we begin to get a feeling of self-origin through our interactions with others. This gives us a definite image of ourselves. “We imagine how we are judged by others,” according to Cooley, and “We experience a feeling or some type of reaction.” This means that if we don’t look a certain way that society expects us to look—sexy, showing cleavage, etc.—society’s expectations put pressure on us. That is often why many women suffer from eating disorders. This is also why people have plastic surgery, which costs thousands of dollars. When we look in the looking glass, we feel we need to see what others expect us to look like.


Television also influences us. All of the hot stars such as Britney Spears have sexy, perfect bodies and good looks. People try to look like her and other stars like her. We sometimes even act differently in order to fit in, like a child seeking attention. According to Cooley, “When we meet a new person, we want to make a strong impression and awaken a desire to interest and please this person.” Michael Jackson, another example, was very famous in a positive way. People loved him. However he didn't think that he was perfect enough; therefore, he started having many plastic surgeries and destroyed himself and his image. Michael Jackson and Miss USA both tried to change themselves to fit the image the public expected. While Michael Jackson surgically changed his appearance, Miss USA changed her ethics and beliefs in order to fit the image.


“Salvation,” a story by Langston Hughes, explains how people con each other. Langston was waiting to be saved by Jesus, see the light, and hear the voices, as he was told he would; however, he didn’t because “…he (Jesus) didn’t come” as he said. “I wanted something to happen to me, but nothing happened,” Langston stated, meaning that he wanted to be saved but Jesus wouldn’t come. He then lied about the fact that Jesus saved him, just so he wouldn’t have to keep the people waiting there in church. He, in other words, conned them. He did , however, regret the fact that he had to do it because of the fact that he cried in his bed that same night. He “played the game;” however, he regretted it.


Miss USA, Emma Knight, and Langston in “Salvation” are similar in that both of them had to play the game in order to succeed in life. Miss USA had to play the game in order to keep her fame, and Langston had to play the game in order to make people think that he was saved and not to create a bad name for himself in front of the others. However, Miss USA, at the end conned the world by rubbing her nose; therefore she didn’t really go along with it. However, Langston Hughes went along with it because he couldn’t tell the truth about the fact that he hadn’t been saved by Jesus. Some people are forced to play the game. They can either go along with it, as seen in the story “Salvation,” or fight it in the end, as seen in “Miss USA.”


The streets that we walk on,

The ones that cry out fear at night,

With the street lights watching our every move,

Shining their dim light upon us,

Revealing every little secret,

With the cars passing by like oars paddling in a river,

With the uncaring drivers pretending to see a picture full of roses,

Clouds follow us and drown us in the pouring rain,

Trees that scream don’t,

But far down in the horizon the rainbow

Makes us keep going because

Brooklyn is the future,

Brooklyn is our lives

- Hariklica Bezhani

Sophornzana Sam

Short Biography

My name is Sophornzana Sam. I was born in a small, Southeast Asian country called Cambodia. My father left us and moved to America to work for the Cambodian embassy. Many of my father’s friends suggested that he bring his family here to the United States. So, after one year, he decided to get us here.

I attend James Madison High School. It is a good place to be in. I have had a lot of good teachers and have made numerous friends. I learned many things here. In my spare time, I like to stay on the computer chatting and playing video games. Sometimes I also play sports. Some of the things I like to take advantage of in Brooklyn and Manhattan are movies, shopping and visiting those wonderful landmarks and buildings in Manhattan.

I am taking a College Now course and have learned a lot from it, especially writing. I actually improved my writing skills. I learned how to write an enhanced college essay, which is very important because I will need to know how when I go to college. I want to be a successful businessman after graduating from college. I want to get a job which will earn me enough money to live well.

College Now Essay


Why do people have to play games? How do they deal with it? Most often, people play games to achieve a goal and get what they want. They con other people when they lie, cheat, pretend, steal, and even “kiss butt.” Some people have to lie to get out of trouble. Thus, they have to play the game. Some don’t actually play it, but they have to pretend that they are playing. In the interview, “Miss U.S.A., Emma Knight,” by Studs Turkel, and “Salvation,” by Langston Hughes, both literary pieces demonstrate how and why individuals had to con other people. As a matter of fact, the game is not always a good thing to be reckoned with. Therefore, some people go along with it, while some fight it.

Emma Knight was one of those who experienced what it was like to play the game and the one who actually opposed it in some ways. According to the interview, she was told that if she liked a man, she had to get interested in what he’s interested in, and let him win when playing cards. Someone told her, “Subvert your interests if you have a crush on a guy, get interested in what he’s interested in. If you play cards, be sure not to beat him.” This is one thing that she didn’t like to do. She wanted to do her best; she wanted to win no matter who her opponent was—either a guy or a girl. Even though she was asked to enter the beauty contest, she never believed that she could win. What she would say was, “No, uh-uh, never, never, never. I’ll lose, how humiliating.” When she had been accepted to the contest, she found out that her sponsor was a lumber company, which made her wear jeans, hiking boots, and even carry an axe. It was ridiculous that she had to wear that kind of costume for the beauty contest. During the evaluation process, she was assessed based on her astrological sign, personality, poise, and so on. More importantly, they only needed the “young, untouched, and unthinking human being.” They wanted a virginal, young woman—a woman who would keep quiet and never think and question them. They made it seem as if the person were an animal who couldn’t talk or a slave who wasn’t allowed to talk.

When Knight was to sign the Miss Illinois-Universe contract, she was told not to read it—“Oh, you don’t have to read it.” Knight, however, didn’t like the idea that she had to sign the contract without actually reading it. She said, “I never sign anything I didn’t read.” She wanted to do things she liked, things that contradicted what they wanted her to do. When a newspaper man asked her if she was a “Miss” or “Ms,” she answered, “It’s Ms.” “He wrote an article the next day saying something like it finally happened: a beauty queen, a feminist.” However, Knight was a feminist before she entered the contest, and she would still be a feminist, even if she won the beauty contest. She didn’t care what they wanted her to say or what they wanted her to be. She wanted to be what she wanted to be—an independent woman, who had equal rights as men with no one telling her what to do. Finally, she won the Miss U.S.A. pageant. She stated, “I started to laugh. They tell me I’m the only beauty queen in history that didn’t cry when she won.” She didn’t follow what they said. She just didn’t want to play this whole game. The press stated, “There she is, Miss America, your ideal. She said, “Well, not my ideal, kid.” She was considered to be everyone’s ideal, but she never thought that being a Miss U.S.A. was her ideal. She tried to show people that she would fight it (the game).

As soon as she won the contest, she felt that she became their property. She said, “The minute you’re crowned, you become their property and subject to whatever they tell you.” She became a slave to those people. She became their property and had to do whatever they told her to do. “I got fifteen thousand dollars, which is all taxed in New York.” Knight didn’t actually get the money she earned. “Almost two months, I got a day and a half off. I made about two hundred fifty appearances that year.” For the whole year, she spent more time working and had less time for a vacation. They gave her so little time off. They seemed to own her.

After she was crowned for Miss U.S.A., she had to compete for Miss Universe. According to the interview, Miss Universe took place in Athens, Greece when the junta was still in power. Although, there was an overthrow of the government, she still had to be there to participate in Miss Universe. After the new queen was crowned, Knight became an unknown person. She stated, “I was gone by that time. I had jumped off the stage in my evening gown.” Nobody actually cared about her any more. According to the movie, “The Sting,” the characters rubbed their nose to signal that the con was on. Knight used the same gesture to tell people that it was on (the con). She said, “I looked right into the camera and rubbed my finger across my nose.” She showed people that she was pretending to play this game the whole time. She wasn’t going along with it.

Knight might have made the right choice by going against it (the game). She wasn’t treated fairly. First she was judged based on what she liked, not what she was capable of doing. She was to sign a contract, which she didn’t know anything about. Then they put her into danger by sending her to Greece. They were controlling her and using her. Not only was her freedom limited, but so was her dignity. They were trying to get her to play their game. However, in some ways, Knight fought it for herself, her freedom and for her self-esteem.

We usually think of ourselves as “ugly-looking” and we try to perform any changes to make our appearance look better so that we can fit in the society. According to “Looking Glass Self,” by Charles Horton Cooley, we imagine how we seem or appear to others. We see our own images through other people. We don’t look at ourselves and say, “I am satisfied with myself.” We actually listen to what other people think and feel about us. Such feeling happen to many young women. Many of them think that they are not cute or “sexy” enough compared to other women around them. They see famous movie stars and singers who look “perfect,” and they want to be just like those people. They have to play the game. They are not satisfied with what they have. They want to have what other people think they should have and to look like what people think they should look like.

To be successful, people need to be “perfect.” Britney Spears, for example, became successful in life. She gets everything she possibly wanted. But before she achieves her goal by becoming a famous singer and making a lot of money, she has to go through this whole idea of “playing the game.” She has to look “perfect” in order to appear on any TV shows or concerts. Being talented isn’t enough for her. What people think of her is more important than what she thinks of herself. If she looks hideous, her popularity will shrink and not too many people will be interested in her anymore. “Physical attractiveness” is the key to be successful, and it is not solely a female issue. Not many women, who are not attractive, get a good job in the entertainment field, especially, becoming movie stars and singers. They have to look pretty and “sexy.” This same stereotype also applies to boys and young men. Most young men look at other men and compare themselves to those men. One usually thinks the other man is better than him. He looks less attractive. Similar to female movie stars and singers, male movie stars and singers have to look “perfect.” If they fail to complete this requirement, they’ll lose the job. Therefore, they have to be just right and look like what other people think they should look like. They have to play the game.

Emma Knight, in some ways, was opposed to the game. On the other hand, Langston Hughes became the one who actually went along with it. As a boy, Langston was convinced to believe in God—in Jesus. He said, “I was saved from sin when I was thirteen.” He believed that God would help him and get him out of sin. This idea affected him mentally, and it got him to pretend to believe in Jesus. He started to go along with it. During the revival at the church, he was waiting for Jesus to come to him. He stated, “Still I kept waiting to see Jesus.” He had only one thing in his mind that Jesus would come to save him. He would be saved from sin. He “kept waiting serenely for Jesus—but he didn’t come. I wanted to see him, but nothing happened to me. Nothing! I wanted something to happen to me, but nothing happened.” Although, he began to realize that Jesus wasn’t going to show up, he couldn’t get out of it; he couldn’t get out of this game. Many people were expecting him to tell them that he had seen Jesus. So he “decided that maybe to save further trouble, I’d better lie, and say that Jesus had come, and get up and be saved.” Langston didn’t want any troubles. He had to lie to many people to save himself. He had to continue playing the rest of the game along with other people, who felt the same way as he did.

Many people around Langston might have believed in something that wasn’t true. They didn’t face the reality. They were in a denial. They just wanted to accomplish something that would satisfy them. They were playing games. They also pulled someone else to take part in their game and that was Langston. He was just a thirteen-year-old boy. He would possibly listen to what people told him. He had to believe in this untrue concept that God would come to him. And at the end, when he realized that it wasn’t factual, it was too late for him to turn back. He had gone too far. Langston lied because he had no other alternative. Consequently, he would have to play the game.

Knight fought the game in some ways. On the other hand, my aunt and uncle had to play the game as well as Langston. Their benevolence allowed them to be conned. Their relatives usually called them on the phone and asked them for money. They had so many reasons to say why they needed the money. Sometimes, they said they needed money because someone was sick and needed money for the treatment. Sometimes, they said they were broke, and sometimes they even told my uncle that they needed money to open a business. Eventually, my uncle and aunt realized that they were being cheated, and people were lying to them. It seemed like they never stopped asking them for money. They always came up with something to say—treatment, business, bankruptcy, etc. My aunt and uncle were upset and disappointed when they learned this. They couldn’t believe that people lied to them when they were being so good to them. However, my aunt and uncle had to pretend that they didn’t know what happened; they had to play the game. They didn’t want to break any relationships with them. Therefore, they had to continue helping them as much as they could. They still give them money.

Going along with the game might not be the best choice. That’s why people have to fight it. However, some people go along with it, either intentionally or unintentionally. People like Emma Knight and Langston Hughes and even my relatives had different perspectives about the game. Knight had to fight it because it was her way. She just didn’t want to do what she believed was wrong. Langston, however, had to play it because he didn’t want to get into any further trouble. My uncle went along, as well, but to keep a good relationship with his friends and relatives. People always have different reasons to either play or fight the game. They might actually face the later consequences, but that’s what they have to do to get what they need. Their need is so important that they have to con other people.


Page last updated on March 5, 2004