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Wasteland to Wonderland This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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A horizon line cut by the edges of red mountains, a clear expanse of sky that extended beyond the eye’s domain, a parched, dusty landscape dotted by sage and yucca plants, thriving in an oppressive heat – this vision has grown dear to me. This was not always so, however; when the move I had dreaded became reality and I was confronted with the lights of the Las Vegas Strip and an uncertain future in a wholly new setting, I promptly decided that I hated Las Vegas with a burning passion. No place, I thought sullenly to myself, could possibly be more different from Naperville. Ah, sweet Naperville, the best middle class suburb of Chicago! My place of origin! Home! No place could be better.

And so I left my hometown completely prepared to despise my new location. For a while, I did. Stubborn though I was, however, I came to love what I had once perceived as a desert wasteland, not only for its sparsely beautiful landscape, but also for the friendships I built there. My family’s steadfast support eased the transition as well, and my parents encouraged me to be more outgoing. When we finally left Las Vegas in the summer of 2009, I knew I could count on their loyalty to ease my way back into Illinois society. My family was always there; they taught me to value hard work and determination, and to be flexible in difficult times. They bestowed me with an indomitable spirit.




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