College Entrance Essay

(Original Illustration: Kirk Anderson/

During my twenty years of living I have made some really good and really bad choices. The worst choice I made was getting involved in gangs and drugs, which led to my unwilling trip to Mexico and life-changing events. Being in a gang is like playing chess: Only the king and queen survive, while the rest are and always remain pawns.

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Remembering Dorothy Day

A 1968 photo of Dorothy Day from the Milwaukee Journal. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette University Archives)

Dorothy Day and I go way back. Granted, I never met her, but I can’t help but feel a connection after volunteering every third Saturday for the past twenty years at the Dorothy Day Center in downtown Saint Paul. I first went there on a lark, something to try once because I had just moved to the Twin Cities and wanted to meet new people. I never got around to stopping.

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It’s spring! DerFrühling! Printemps!

Ring bells! Play the sackbut and shawm!

Excel. Rise and shine...

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My Name Is Hmoob: Call Me Freedom

(Photo: Patience Zalanga)

My name is not “Exotic . . .”
My name is Freedom
My people are worth more than eye
candy and shallow praise,
My people have no home, no country
We are from stolen territory...

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What Saint Paul Owes to Whiskey

Father Lucien Galtier, circa 1855. (Image courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)

During an 1883 visit to Saint Paul, the great Mark Twain observed: “How solemn and beautiful is the thought, that the earliest pioneer of civilization, the van-leader of civilization, is never the steamboat, never the railroad, never the newspaper, never the Sabbath-school, never the missionary—but always whiskey! Such is the case.”

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City Trees, Coffee Shop, Spring

Nina’s Coffee Café. (Illustration: Ken Avidor/

Some days trees are all I see.

Today they’re getting fringed in leaves

at the crown. Underneath

there’s a huge ball of root

that nobody sees except my son...

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A Stranger’s Opinion of St. Paul

(Engraver: John Chester Buttre, 1860, courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)

Harriet E. Bishop is a name familiar to anyone interested in the history of Saint Paul. Born in Vermont, Bishop came to Minnesota in 1847 and here achieved many firsts—Saint Paul’s first teacher, founder of the first Sunday school in Minnesota, first leader of the women’s suffrage movement, and a driving force behind several social movements. She was well known in the city’s literary ­circles and wrote about Minnesota and Saint Paul, though her writings often include language that today would be considered racist, ­revealing attitudes toward Native Americans common to the era but whose effects are still felt to this day.

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Bald-headed Men and Sundays

Exhibit A. (Photo: Tony Ernst/gamelaner on Flickr)

My boys viewed their mid-1980s births
in the old Midway Hospital on University
between Porky’s and Ax-Man
as an embarrassment, a slight
their Saint Paul mom had designed to punish them
by withholding the polished corridors
of HCMC in their own hometown...

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Skeleton of a Nation

(Painting: Tom McGregor/

jagged rocks dusted red

bleed rose water from ancient springs

who was baptized here

saved and sustained by sacrificial land...

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