Hi, everybody. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Emily Zaragosa, and I’m a new writer for the Westside Express. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to use my writing in the newspaper, as well as give back to the Los Banos community by informing you of the latest news in town.

Let me give you the chance to really get to know me.

My story begins one day in late May, when I was born the youngest child of Salvador and Melissa Zaragosa here at the Memorial Hospital in Los Banos. From the very beginning of my life, I seemed to differ from the rest of my siblings.

I was significantly younger, with over a five-year age difference to be exact, and possessed a quality that none of my other siblings seemed to have, unwavering impatience. Now you may believe this to be a bad quality but let me explain why it’s the exact reason I’m writing this article right now.

I spent the first 10 years of my life as an avid reader, when I read books daily. I would read in the car, during late night car rides with only the passing streetlights to light up my page, at the store and especially at school.

I was so keen and impatient to finish a story, I would sometimes even read the last page of the book so I could know how it ends.

Sadly, I slowly lost my passion for reading when I migrated into junior high. I spent a lot of my time trying to figure myself out and got caught up in the mess of what it’s like to be a teenager in a whole different environment. I was eager to finish this chapter of my life in school and start over during high school.

My impatience was put on hold when my life got interrupted in the middle of my eighth-grade year when the world shut down due to the pandemic.

While some people thrived during this newfound alone time, I quickly realized that isolation was not for me. I fell into an extreme depression once online school began. My constant state of boredom, stress and loneliness clouded my vision of ever having a normal life again.

Yet there was hope. My parents and I made the decision to send me to the Adventure Risk Challenge, a leadership and literacy program out in the forests of California. I spent thirty days of my life in the Yosemite Forest surrounded by trees and kids I didn’t know.

I routinely carried the weight of survival on my back in a 70-pound backpack, while my feet traveled over six miles daily. Nevertheless, it made me wake up with a purpose again. I spent thirty days in the forest, surrounded by nothing but beautiful views and a motivation to exist. Which is exactly what I did.

When we weren’t backpacking, we were writing. Every individual student has got to write a poem about their story, who they are and who they want to be. We presented our poems at a conference in Yosemite for visitors and parents to watch.

All of a sudden, the words I had read, that I had spent hours on, meant something to people. I had adults coming up to me afterwards congratulating me, telling me how my poem personally impacted them or how they could relate. I had always been a reader, but it never occurred to me I could be a writer. And just like that, I felt the desire to leave and exist on my own.

My growth as a person led me with a new sense of purpose to start writing. Coming back after a month away, in-person school quickly began, and I finally got the chance to start over. I worked harder than I ever had before in school, with my new passion for writing, and for life.

My impatience to become a better writer than I ever have brought me to take a journalism course as an elective in my junior year, which is how I’m here. I am absolutely delighted to write and inform all of you for the Westside Express

The Westside Express