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I fought to get free from an attacker

1st place $50

Author’s name withheld

One night sophomore year I decided I wanted to be bad and sneak out of my house. So around one in the morning, I hopped out of my window and snuck out to meet friends. I wasn’t thinking about what my parents told me about people who raped girls. I wasn’t even afraid of that. The only thing I was afraid of was getting caught, but even that wasn’t a big deal to me.

I started heading home at about three in the morning. My friends didn’t live in the same direction as me so I was walking by myself. As I was walking a man came from the side and started walking in front of me. I slowed down because I didn’t want to be anywhere near him. I didn’t think he’d seen me. I kept walking and the man turned at the corner into the alley. I felt relieved because I thought he was gone. But he was there waiting for me. I walked past him and saw him from the corner of my eye. Once I saw him, I knew it was over for me.

Before I had the chance to run away or even think, he grabbed me from behind and put his hand over my mouth. Then he started to drag me into the alley. I somehow made myself fall to the ground so I wouldn’t be dragged any further. As I fell to the ground, he got on top of me. I had no way to escape and his hand was still on my mouth. The only thing I could think was that I was going to die. I never knew it was possible to be as scared as I was at that moment. I didn’t think I had any chance of surviving.

The instant he moved his hand off my mouth to touch me in my private area, I started to scream. I screamed as loud as I could for somebody to help me. But nobody came. I think my screaming must have startled him. After moments of my loud screaming, he slapped me across my face. He had a very heavy hand. It was the hardest I have ever been slapped. After he slapped me, he got up and ran away. I ran as fast as I could in the other direction toward my house. I ran the whole way home.

I made it home fine. I didn’t get caught by my parents. I was almost wishing that I would get caught. At that moment I didn’t want to be alone. I needed that comfort that you can only get from a mom or dad. When I got home, I broke down and cried. I sat on my bed with the lights off and cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t believe what just happened to me.

This experience is something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I will forever be affected. It’s extremely important for all girls to know how serious this can be. Listen to your parents when they warn you. Even though I went through such a traumatic experience, I feel very lucky. I’m lucky that I still have my life. I was able to escape a situation that many girls are not able to. I am extremely thankful. I believe that God was looking out for me.

Visiting a hospital to say goodbye

2nd place $30

By Jessica Chong, North HS (Torrance)

It was a normal weekend. My family and I were kicking back watching a movie when the phone rang. My mom got up to answer it. A few minutes later she came back with a look of apprehensiveness. A spine-chilling sensation suddenly overtook my body and I was panicky to hear what my mom was about to say.

The call was from a close family friend and the news was about my friend, Dale, who had been battling leukemia for almost as long as I’ve known him. He had been in and out of Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach since the age of 2. Before my mom could say a word, I knew that this time Dale wasn’t coming home.

My heart dropped and the world stopped moving as my mom told us that we had to leave for the hospital immediately and that Dale didn’t have much time left. I watched my family run about the house, grabbing their jackets and keys, and there I was as stiff as a board. I couldn’t move an inch. The thought of seeing Dale lying there on his deathbed terrified me and I didn’t want to go. I mean, what was I supposed to say to this 9-year-old boy who loved life more than anything and who fought with all he had to beat this stupid thing called cancer? How do I say goodbye to my little friend who was not ready to die?

Death scares me more than anything because it’s irreversible. Death is so cold, so permanent. It’s the end of life and there’s no way back. I felt as if I would be lying if I told him that everything was going to be OK because I didn’t know that for sure. All this was going through my head and I couldn’t think straight.

The next thing I knew, I was standing in the lobby of the hospital in front of a huge aquarium waiting to go up to visit Dale in the intensive care unit. I stared at the fish swimming around and I wondered if they were afraid of dying. Who wouldn’t be afraid of dying?  We all are, right?

My thoughts raced and my heart was pounding so hard that it was about to burst through my chest. The loud clock on the wall was ticking and I knew his was too. Tick, tock, tick, tock. I had to compose myself. I couldn’t let my friend see the fear in my eyes. I had to be brave for Dale.

There he was, lying there with a million different tubes hooked up to him. He couldn’t speak, neither could I. I was afraid that if I tried, I would start crying. I held his hands and he squeezed mine with the little strength he had. Dale looked at the Beanie Baby bear I was holding. I wanted him to see how I cherished it because it was one that he gave me. Dale was always so proud of his huge collection of Beanie Babies and if this really  was the end for him, he had to know that I would always remember that. I’d always remember him.

Just as I found the courage to speak, he was struggling to keep his eyes open. The nurse had him heavily sedated to minimize his pain. After seeing him hooked up to all those machines and drugged to a point that he couldn’t even speak, I realized that through death, he would be in a better place. It had to be better than this. As they took me away, I couldn’t hold my tears back any longer. I told him that I loved him and to be strong no matter what. I never did get to say goodbye.

It’s been almost three years since Dale died. And although I have come to accept death as a part of life, it still scares me. I’m scared of losing the people I love and never being able to see them again. The only thing that eases my fear is knowing that the ones we’ve lost have found peace in a place where there is no suffering. I’ve learned that once they’ve left us, all we can do is share their memory and carry on with life, looking to them for inspiration. Dale was, still is and always will be my beacon for strength and perseverance. Now when I am afraid, I look to him and find the courage it takes to rise above anything that stands in my way.


Would people laugh at my brace?

3rd place $20

By Lauren Sullivan, North HS (Torrance)

When I was 8, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. This is a curvature of the spine and it may or may not need to be treated depending on its severity. When I was younger, I was never affected by my disorder. In fact, I often forgot I even had it. It wasn’t until the summer before seventh grade that it started to affect me.

My mom noticed that I was walking slightly lopsided and she immediately made an appointment for me to see an orthopedic specialist. “There’s nothing wrong with me,” I thought. “How bad can it be?” Well, according to the doctor it was bad. Really bad. So bad in fact that I would have to wear a brace every day for the next two years. The goal of the brace would be to align my spine as straight as possible to prevent any future problems. I wasn’t sure what it looked like, but there was one thing that I knew for a fact—my life was officially over.

“Here it is!” the doctor said. He handed me the brace. It was hard and oddly shaped, with straps and buckles and plenty of rivets. One side sunk in and the other protruded out. I was in utter disbelief. I would have to wear this horrible contraption for the next two years! Oh joy! The doctor wrapped the brace around my torso and he violently tightened the straps. The brace crushed my lungs and pressed deeply into my sides. I couldn’t move! I tried to bend over, but the brace constricted me so much that I could barely even reach my knees.

“So what do you think?” he asked. I couldn’t respond. My eyes began to swell with tears and I could feel my muscles tense up. I was afraid. Afraid of how different my life would be from that moment on. Afraid of what the kids at school would think of me. Afraid of being different from everyone else. Afraid of change.

The doctor reassured me that everything would be OK and he began to describe what I would have to deal with on a daily basis. I would be in the brace about 22 hours every day. I could take it off only to play sports and shower. Other than that, I was imprisoned in it. Every few months, I would get it tightened, much like tightening your braces. “It will be painful,” he admitted, “but you’re just going to have to push through it and not let it prevent you from reaching your goals.” I wanted to believe him. I really did. But there was something telling me that this was not going to be fun.

It was the first day of seventh grade. Everyone would have on their cutest outfits they had taken hours to plan the night before and I would have on a baggy T-shirt and a pair of loose sweatpants. As I looked at myself in the mirror that morning, I tried to gather up the courage to face my friends at school. I feared the teasing. It was frightening knowing that everyone would know about my deformity. My mom dropped me off at the front of the school and I apprehensively stepped out of our van. Today was the day that I would face my fears and show everyone the real me.

The day did not go even close to how I’d imagined. Everyone noticed the brace, but they all thought that it was pretty cool. I even got the nickname “Rock Hard Abs.” Not one person made fun of me and I felt content knowing that the brace wouldn’t hold me back. I realized that all the things I had feared were not true at all. I had a newfound confidence, one that I’d never had before. I couldn’t believe that I thought that a stupid brace could change people’s opinions of me and I felt foolish looking back on how scared I was. The brace helped me come to the realization that you shouldn’t let your fears hold you back from being who you are because the only one who can hold you back is yourself.


Should I get an abortion?

Honorable mention

Author’s Name Withheld

About six months ago I was sitting in the bathroom, crying because I had just taken a pregnancy test that turned out to be positive. I didn’t know what to think; all I could do was burst into tears. A couple hours passed and I took a second test. I got the same result. I was in shock and I couldn’t believe it.

The first person I told was my boyfriend. Unfortunately we were broken up at the time. I didn’t plan on being with him again because there were too many problems between us. The first question we asked was, “Do we keep the baby or do I get an abortion?” The thought of killing my own blood broke my heart, but I couldn’t help but think it was what I had to do.

I told my so-called friends I was pregnant and still undecided about what to do. Right away I heard comments like “Alexis, you need to get rid of that thing” and “You’re going to ruin any chance of having a future.” It hurt me to hear them be so cruel about it because this wasn’t an easy decision for me. I still loved my boyfriend and was not sure of what to do. I had selfish thoughts—thinking of myself before an innocent little baby growing inside me. I remember talking to my friend Sabrina who was so strongly trying to convince me to keep the baby. She told me, “You should be thankful you have the opportunity to have a child when other women can’t.” That helped me realize God had blessed me with a beautiful gift. Why would I want to throw that away?

My decision was getting harder and harder to make. My boyfriend felt the same way I did; he didn’t know what to do. On top of all this my mom was giving me a hard time about me wanting to keep the baby. She told me I would ruin my life like she did when she  got pregnant so young. We argued and screamed at each other. It hurt that she didn’t want me to keep it. There was a reason she didn’t have an abortion at 16, so why would she pressure me to have one.

I made an appointment to get an abortion. I felt like I had no choice. My appointment date came and I had my friend take me and my boyfriend. I didn’t want to go through this alone and neither did he. The whole way there he didn’t say a word. When I looked in his eyes I saw that he was hurt. We finally got there and sat in the waiting room. I was in no rush to get this done. I was scared and hurt; I knew I would never forgive myself for doing this. As time passed I was so nervous to go in. When I walked through the exam room door, the doctor asked me some questions and then I changed clothes. This felt like the scariest and worst experience for me and I hadn’t even got it over with yet.

A nurse did an ultrasound and I was exactly two months pregnant. I started crying. I thought “What if it’s a boy or a girl?” and “I wonder what my baby would have looked like.” I hated myself for doing this. I felt I had already loved my baby and it was only two months in my womb. I was heartbroken. I cried while the nurse was tying up my arm to give me anesthesia. She didn’t say anything so I knew I had to speak up for myself. I told her I changed my mind and couldn’t do this. I left to go change and when I walked out I told my boyfriend I didn’t do it. His face lit up and I could tell he was a happy.

All I could do was thank God for helping me make the right decision. This was a gift I wasn’t going to let myself throw away. Knowing I had my own son or daughter inside of me gave me the feeling of a mother’s love and I didn’t want that feeling to go away. I knew I was going to love this baby and do all I could to make him happy. This brought me and my boyfriend back together.

I know I’m going to prove everyone who ever doubted me that they were wrong. I stayed in school, I’m graduating and I’m headed to college. Having a baby young is a challenge and I’m ready to take on every obstacle. I promise myself and my son that I will not fail to be a loving mother to him. He has given me motivation to want to do better in life. He’s helped me want to set goals for myself and he has helped me want to achieve them. I am blessed and have something so special to look forward to.

Now I am eight months pregnant with a baby boy. My boyfriend and I are committed to doing everything we can and ready to start the family we never had. My little Angel, I promise you Mommy and Daddy will be here to protect you, to guide you through life and to catch you when you fall. We will never leave your side.

This essay isn’t to show teens that getting pregnant young is OK. I know I made the mistake of not waiting. But this is to show that even through your biggest struggles you can still move forward. Don’t let anyone tell you that you CAN’T do something.

New essay contest

What’s on your summer wish list?

It can be fun to come up with a wish list of things you want to do. If you were to make a list of things you want to do this summer, what one thing would be at the top? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity? Maybe you want to take a road trip with friends, visit every museum in the city, run a marathon or learn how to tango. What do you want to do and why? What makes this the one thing you would love to do before the summer ends?

Write an essay to L.A. Youth and tell us about it:

Essays should be a page or more. Include your name, school, age and phone number with your essay. The staff of L.A. Youth will read the entries and pick three winners.Your name will be withheld if you request it. The first-place winner will receive $50. The second-place winner will get $30 and the third-place winner will receive $20. Winning essays will be printed in our May – June issue and put on our website at

Mail your essay to:
L.A. Youth
5967 W. 3rd St. Suite 301
Los Angeles CA 90036
or to

DEADLINE: Friday, April 29, 2011