The American Immigration Council’s 19th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest winner is Eliana Jaffee from the Pardes Jewish School in Scottsdale, Arizona. The contest gives fifth graders the opportunity to learn more about immigration to the U.S. and explain, in their own words, why they are proud America is a nation of immigrants.

Eliana’s poem “Why We’re Here” describes America as a place of freedom, hope, and refuge for new arrivals. She drew from her own family’s experience how her family left Germany after Hitler rose to power and that her grandfather took advantage of the opportunities in the U.S. to become an electrical engineer.

She considers herself “lucky that I live in a nation where people are allowed to practice their religion and express their culture without being punished. I am proud to be a part of a nation that opens her doors to those in need and provides opportunities to people who may not otherwise have any.”

Read her first-place winning entry below:

Why We’re Here

That morning when the sun had risen,
my shores, my seas,
my hopes freed from prison,
the poor,
the rich, and
all the forgiven came to me.

ask that girl to compare,
a life of despair to a breath of free air,
ask her why are you here,
not somewhere over there?

She’d say to you, that long ago,
her ancestors came here,
through hail, sleet and snow.
Sunrise and sunset,
they stayed there until the end, and
when my job was finished,
their hearts all had mends.

I have been many things,
and most are quite clear,
a haven, a refuge, that people hold dear.

These waters of mine, so brilliant, so light,
with hopes of tomorrow, a future, so bright.

Coming from places of sadness and fear, I open my arms,
welcome them here.