Shaynah J.

$1,000 History Scholarship Award Winner

"Shay, Columbus ain’t do anything; all he did was kill Indians and spread syphilis!" My grandmother shouted as the ABC news anchorman spoke about the upcoming Columbus Day parade. I was listening; like a dried up sponge wallowing in the heat, I embraced her words as if they were the water I needed to regain my softness. Her tirade is the very foundation and evolution of my intellectual interest in history. My grandmother made this assertion when I was six years old and I was so proud of my newly acquired knowledge that I carried it to school with me the following Monday, which turned out to be Columbus Day. My first grade teacher, Miss Kahn, gathered my classmates and me in a circle and posed a question that she would soon regret she had asked: "Does anyone know who Christopher Columbus is?" Of course, I raised my hand up high and waved it around to get my teacher’s attention. When she pointed to me, I stood up and proudly proclaimed that, "Columbus killed Indians and spread sissyphus." Although my pronunciation was off, Miss Kahn’s dropped mouth and bewildered look told me that she understood what I said.

When I walked into my house that afternoon, looking for my grandmother so I could tell her the great news, I encountered my mother. She looked down at me over her folded arms and sarcastically asked, “So how was school today?” After taking a step away from my mother told her what grandma had told me and how I explained to Miss Kahn what Christopher Columbus had done. Letting her face rest, she began to laugh and tell me that my grandmother was bitter and that I needed to find things out for myself. So from that point on, I began to explore come to my own conclusions. Looking back on that hilarious (and somewhat embarrassing) moment, I now believe that my grandmother’s bitter and rebellious remarks sparked my interest and love for history.

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