Local 8th Grade Student, Alexandra Matthews, Wins Grand Prize Award in 'Listen to a Life Contest'

Alexandra Matthews, 14, with her grandmother InSook Carlin, 80. 

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Alexandra Matthews, an eighth grade student at Columbia Middle School, is the Grand Prize Timeless Award winner of The Legacy Project's annual "Listen to a Life Contest."   

Donna Marcy, an 8th grade English teacher at Columbia Middle School, has been entering her students essays in the "Listen to a Life Story Contest" for many years. She's seen firsthand how the contest genuinely connects generations and how much students learn about the lives of grandparents and grandfriends.

"Even when students enter with a grandparent they're close to, the interview and writing process strengthens the relationship and brings it to a different level," said Marcy.

Sign Up for E-News

Marcy also likes to shine the light on students interested in writing. "Often sports get all the attention; a contest like this one gives students interested in writing a chance to also be recognized," said Marcy.

Alexandra Matthews is interested in a variety of activities including skiing, music, swimming, and painting. She enjoys writing "because I can express myself in different ways." Interviewing her grandmother and writing the contest entry gave Alexandra insight into her grandmother's perseverance and strength; she has always admired her grandmother.

The Legacy Project is an independent group that works to "interconnect the dots of economic, ecological, physical and social health in the big-picture context of lifetimes across generations," said Susan Bosak, MA Social Researcher and Educator Legacy Project. The Legacy Project reaches millions of children, teens, adults, and elders in families, schools universities, community groups and other organizations across the continent and around the world.  The Listen to Life Contest is open to young people 8 to 18 years of age, with a grandparent or grandfriend 50 years or older.

Alexandra's winning entry:

"Wake up, my darling. It is time to go." 

My grandmother, 13 at the time, threw off her covers, stumbled out of bed, grabbed her bag and ran after her father. Her siblings followed, all ready to leave their home. "Goodbye, mother. We will see each other again." 

As InSook kissed her mother's cheek, she felt a warm tear brush her lips. "Be strong, my daughter." Those words have never left my grandmother.

Now 80, my grandmother lives in New York, traveling to see her family, enjoying the life she has built. This does not mean she forgets her past. At night, when the rain pounds hard on her windows, she remembers her life as a child in North Korea. She would sit around the dinner table silent until spoken to, and help her mother clean and cook. She also remembers fleeing her childhood home. The experience scarred my grandma, leaving a permanent mark.

That night back in North Korea, my grandmother was forced to push herself to lengths no child should have to. Her family scaled a metal fence, and ran away from their community. Racing to a waiting boat my great-grandfather had procured, they met a river. When InSook swims, she can hear the crash of the water on the shore and the cold water slowly filling her lungs. That is why my grandmother does not swim.

Years have passed. My grandma lives the life she was always meant to live, with her children and grandchildren. Those scars fade as each day goes by, but some experiences will never leave my grandmother. The rushing tides, the choppy waters, and the never leaving, but fading, scars. 

I will never forget what my great-grandmother said to my grandmother, "Be strong, my daughter." She is strong, indeed.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

TAPinto Spotlight on Business Features New Providence Dentistry

July 17, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - TAPinto "Summer Spotlight on Business" features local businesses and their owners who are important to our communities. Follow this column to receive a fresh perspective on small business owners and their unique needs while shining a spotlight on their stories.

This edition features New Providence Dentistry, operated by Dr. Beth Herko and her staff of ...

Avoiding 10% Tax Penalty

Do you want access to money from your retirement accounts but aren't sure of the real costs involved?

Most retirement accounts have a set age requirement you must reach before making penalty-free income distributions, which is usually 59.5 but can sometimes be as early as age 50. If you decide to access your accounts earlier, you could face penalties ranging from 10%-25%, which is not ...

Enjoy a Lifetime of Discovery in Union County Parks

July 18, 2018

July is National Parks and Recreation Month, and Union County residents are invited to celebrate this year by exploring “undiscovered” programs and activities found throughout the nearly 6,200 acres of the Union County parks system.

“Union County was one of the very first counties in the United States to establish its own county-based park system for nature conservation and ...

Union County Honored for History Projects

ELIZABETH, NJ - The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to announce that two national achievement recognitions for history projects have been presented to the Union County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs, a division of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

“Union County is rich in history, and this Freeholder Board is committed to engaging the public with ...

Union County College Foundation’s 3rd “Close the Gap” Campaign Surpasses Goal

CRANFORD, NJ – With over 150 guests and volunteers in attendance, the Union County College Foundation surpassed their goal and raised nearly $55,000 at their 3rd Annual Close the Gap Campaign cocktail reception. Held on July 11, in the Richel Student Commons at the College’s Cranford campus, this campaign was developed by a small group of dedicated community volunteers to support the ...

ReNew Salon and Spa Welcomes Senior Stylist Joan Mormilo

GILLETTE, NJ - ReNew Salon and Spa welcomes Senior Stylist Joan Mormilo to their staff. Mormilo brings with her over 20 years of excellent customer service in the salon and spa industry.

She has extensive product knowledge, focuses on keeping up-to-date on industry standards and practices, believes in mentoring young stylists, and is a team player who strives to ...

Geoffrey the Giraffe Moves In To New Brunswick Children's Hospital

July 12, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Over a stretch of nearly 70 years, Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us stores was the symbol of happy times for generations of children, and now he may provide those same feelings for children coming to a hospital.

"From this day forward, Geoffrey stands tall in our lobby to encourage our smallest patients to smile when they enter our facilities," said John ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, July 21, 10:30 AM

New Providence Memorial Library, New Providence

Cuba: Observations of a Photographer

Arts & Entertainment Travel

Sat, July 21, 10:30 AM

New Providence Memorial Library, New Providence

Cuba: Observations of a Photographer at NPML

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, July 22, 2:00 PM

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Moths and other Pollinators

Education Green


Tue, July 24, 3:00 PM

Grillestone Restaurant , Scotch Plains

Hear the Story of Amelia Earhart, America's Most ...

Arts & Entertainment Food & Drink


Tue, July 24, 5:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Summit Area YMCA Swim Team Tryouts July 24th

Health & Wellness


Tue, July 24, 5:30 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Summit Area YMCA Swim Team Tryouts July 24th

Health & Wellness

Special June Episode of 'Berkeley Heights Here & Now' Features 6th Annual Street Fair

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The Berkeley Heights Communications Committee (BHCC) today announced a special edition of Berkeley Heights Here & Now is available on the Township website,


The special episode features the 6th Annual Berkeley Heights Street Fair held on June 24 and includes onsite interviews with attending residents/visitors, event ...

And Over Here is the Dining Hall 2

My very first job in admissions was while I was still an undergraduate myself as a tour guide.  Very early on they indoctrinated us with some tricks of the trade.  It’s a dining hall, not a cafeteria.  A residence hall, not a dorm.  If you have to divulge some negative bit of information, sandwich it between two positives.  There were instructions for glossing over ...

Women Have Special Financial Needs That Advisors Overlook

Women have special financial needs that advisors overlook in two ways: 1) advisors don’t always acknowledge the different planning needs women have and 2) advisors don’t always communicate well with female clients – especially if the client comes to a meeting with her husband. It’s very common for a male advisor to spend much or most of the face time in meetings talking to ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...