This piece was part of the Ánimo Voices Competition, which invited students to write about innovators, upstanders, visionaries, or rebels that have made a difference in their local or broader communities. The competition was an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing and art.
by Karen Hernandez , 6th grade, Ánimo Westside Charter Middle School
It was like any other day. I walked onto the bus, as usual, ready to learn about female innovators of the 21st century. I sat in the back of the bus with my friends right beside me, talking about what was going to happen today at school and what we were going to do after school. Then all of a sudden, SCREEEEEEEECH! The bus came to a screeching halt. At first, I thought that we missed a student from the last stop and we stopped so we could wait for her. But then, I looked out the window from the back of the bus. There was no one running up to it. In fact, there was no one trying to get to the bus. Then, I hear the doors open. These men in dark clothing come stomping hurriedly onto the bus with huge rifles. There was a long silence. The men were looking through every row of students, seemingly for someone specific. All of sudden, one of the men’s eyes were entranced into mine. I sat frozen, deathly afraid of what he may do next. They stared at me and I stared back, afraid to look away. I didn’t know who they were and why they were staring at me. Then it all came back to me. I knew who these men were and I knew why they were on THIS bus. All of a sudden, it everything went blank.
Months passed before I finally opened my eyes. Today, I am scared, nervous, and excited. I am going to do something I have never done before. I am going to give a speech to Pakistan. I have never done this, I don’t know what to do or how to do it. I have practiced my speech over and over again. My heart is beating so fast. I tried to calm myself. It sort of helped. What if they don’t like my speech or I mess up? I am going to look like a fool. I don’t want to look like a fool because…I am NOT a fool.
Then, I knew it was time. I went to the stage and saw everyone with cameras. It was all eyes on me. I started to say my speech. I knew what I had to say in order to save my education, every girls education. “How dare the Taliban take my basic right to learn.” I needed this out there. I am not afraid. I am dedicated. Everyone is listening and taking pictures of me. Everyone is in connection with me. I am no longer nervous, scared, or excited. I feel alive! I have this opportunity to say something that needs to be said. To protect this human right that we all deserve to have and enjoy. I am 10 years old and I am doing things like this while other kids have fun and don’t have to worry about these problems .
I just hoped that people would understand what we're going through. I am determined to do this and want to be heard as the girl who needs justice and is willing to fight for it. I don’t want to be a girl who makes a complete fool of herself. I want to make an impact on everyone and inspire them to help me with this situation which is that us girls in Pakistan can’t go to school. I wrote all the words I needed to say in this speech. I don’t care if they hate my speech because I am still going to fight for what is right and nothing is going to stop me. I am doing this and not one single person will discourage me, not one single soldier will frighten me, not one single child will persuade me to stop. After a few continuous moments, it is silent, everyone is still looking at me. I think they hated my speech. But that’s when everyone starts clapping, cheering, and yelling my name so that they can take pictures. I walk off of the stage with a big smile on my face and happy that everyone enjoyed my speech. I feel proud of myself because I was able to do this. You see, I’m a survivor. That fateful on day on the bus; those were my eyes staring at the face of the gunman. A bullet to the head does not usually amount to what you see today. But, I decided that not one single person will keep me quiet, not with death threats and certainly not with bullets. There is no possible way someone could have survived that, at least that's what I thought. It was a miracle that I survived and I am grateful for every second that I have being alive. Now, I can keep doing what I love and spend time with my family knowing that they are so proud of me. The Taliban tried to end what I was doing. But, it was just the beginning. I have a whole future ahead of me. Like going to college and giving more speeches to help girls like me. I have always wanted to inspire people by what I say and do and nothing will stop me because I am Malala Yousafzai and I can do anything.