Well Done Personal Essay


I close my eyes and can still hear her, the little girl with a voice so strong and powerful we could hear her halfway down the block. She was a Russian peasant who asked for money and in return gave the only thing she had—her voice. I paused outside a small shop and listened. She brought to my mind the image of Little Orphan Annie. I could not understand the words she sang, but her voice begged for attention. It stood out from the noises of Arbat Street, pure and impressive, like the chime of a bell. She sang from underneath an old-style lamppost in the shadow of a building, her arms extended and head thrown back. She was small and of unremarkable looks. Her brown hair escaped the bun it had been pulled into, and she occasionally reached up to remove a stray piece from her face. Her clothing I can’t recall. Her voice, on the other hand, is permanently imprinted on my mind.

I asked one of the translators about the girl. Elaina told me that she and hundreds of others like her throughout the former Soviet Union add to their families’ income by working on the streets. The children are unable to attend school, and their parents work fulltime. These children know that the consequence of an unsuccessful day is no food for the table. Similar situations occurred during the Depression in the United States, but those American children were faceless shoeshine boys of the twenties. This girl was real to me.

When we walked past her I gave her money. It was not out of pity but rather out of admiration. Her smile of thanks did not interrupt her singing. The girl watched us as we walked down the street. I know this because when I looked back she smiled again. We shared that smile, and I knew I would never forget her courage and inner strength. She was only a child, yet was able to pull her own weight during these uncertain times. On the streets of Moscow, she used her voice to help her family survive. For this “Annie,” there is no Daddy Warbucks to come to the rescue. Her salvation will only come when Russia and its people find prosperity.


This essay opens with an engaging introduction, creating a vivid, detailed picture of the experience in the reader’s mind. Using the character Little Orphan Annie as a way to give the reader a sense of Elaina’s qualities is successful. Though the student knows most people will have knowledge of the character, she adds extra detail to make Elaina distinctive. Such descriptive phrases as “Russian peasant,” “Arbat Street,” “old-style lamppost,” and “shadow of a building” help establish the unique setting in a creative manner.

The middle paragraph develops the significance of the issue, comparing it to the Great Depression of the 1930s. This specific evidence, combined with the detailed explanation of the student’s personal experience, wins over the reader to the student’s argument.

This essay is interesting because the thesis is at the end of the essay. Since the student has been subtle with her points, using a vivid description of the anecdote to plead her case, the strategy is successful. The student comes across as a mature candidate, because she has an opinion she backs up with evidence without being preachy.

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