I turned bad—and now I’m paying the price
1st place $50
By Peter M., Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall School
A lot of people act different for a lot of different reasons. They might be showing off, wanting to feel important, trying to impress someone or just want to be accepted. I was one of those people.
All my life, I had been a goody-goody. I got straight As in school and everyone trusted me with everything.
But for as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a gangster. In my eyes, gangsters had power. What they said was done. I wanted to be bad, so people would take me seriously and fear me.
So I started to act like a gangster. I stayed out late, fought with people, started doing drugs, playing with guns, stealing, and worst of all—I started to disrespect my parents. All my friends began to notice my change and didn’t like it.
"Who cares?" I would say to myself. "I have new friends. Bad a** friends." I decided to prove that I wasn’t a goody-goody.
I was involved in something that I will regret for the rest of my life. I have been incarcerated at Central Juvenile Hall for eight months now, facing a charge of home invasion robbery with a firearm.
I got what I wanted.
People think that I’m bad, including the judge and district attorney. I could get 30-years in state prison, because I tried to be someone I’m not. Was it really worth it?
People don’t realize that there could be consequences to being someone they’re not. Their friends, family and loved ones can be hurt because of their choices—not to mention hurting themselves. I learned that the hard way, and I could pay dearly for it. Now I know to be who I truly am—no matter what people think.
I wish I said ‘I love you’
2nd place $30
By Lizbeth Valdivia, Dominguez HS (Compton)
Two months ago, I was in a car accident and lost my sister and brother. My sister and I were really close. She was only 13 years old. She was still alive when she arrived at the hospital, but by 8:15 p.m. she was considered brain dead. My baby brother was 5 months old. He died on impact.
That’s why I feel that I want to become someone else. Anybody who doesn’t have the problems I have. I feel that if I become that person again, everything will be all right. That by becoming that person, all my problems are going to be solved, and my feelings are going to go away.
I want to be the Liz that I was about three months ago. I wish that if I could go back to that time, then I would know how to appreciate my sister and brother more. I wish that I told them more often that I love them.
Now when I tell them that I love them, I say it to their gravestones. That’s why I want to be the Liz that I was about three months ago. If I go back to that time, then I wouldn’t feel sad and lonely. I would tell my sister and brother how much I love them.
I changed my bad attitude
3rd place $20
By Cynthia Romero, Dominguez HS
Being a 16-year-old female trying to settle with a good, caring foster home is really a challenge.
I’ve been in five or six different foster homes over four years, and I’ve met a lot of different girls. Some are real cool, attitude wise. Some won’t let anyone get close to them, because maybe they’ve been hurt before. I just go with the flow. I try to be myself as much as I can.
When I was new in the foster care system and got through my first three to four homes, I tried to be someone I knew I wasn’t. I acted like I didn’t care what happened to my mom, my brothers, my sister and myself. I didn’t care where I was headed. My attitude was really lame. My grades were going downhill, and the whole time I acted as if I were blind. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with me.
Looking back now, I only acted like that to cover up my hurting. I didn’t want anyone to see the pain that I felt. I was unaware that my actions only made it obvious that I was reaching for help. It got to the point where nobody in my house spoke to me unless it was absolutely necessary.
One of the girls in our home gave me "pep-talks" and said that don’t nobody care about me or any other foster kids. And how our foster parents only kept us for the money they received for taking us in. I was young and took in her every word. I’m not going to be childish and blame my actions on her, but she did influence me a great deal.
This girl didn’t stay in our home very long. She ran away and took all my belongings with her. She only left behind a few of my old clothes. I thought she was my friend, and I had trusted her with a lot of things. I guess I got what I deserved.
When I moved to the house that I stay in now, I got the reality check that I needed. I’ve been living here for one year and six months. I decided to go back to my old self and stop being someone else. I was tired of acting. My foster mother loves me and so do the girls in our house. We had to go through a lot to finally realize that.
Everything is going real good now, and my life is coming together. I’ve established a relationship with my mother and am very active in school activities. And to think—I have a great life, lot of friends and good grades because I am myself.
By Danny Brown, 14, Venice High School
When I moved from my old apartment, I had to change because I was going to start high school. I had to act a different way, so I could hang out with the big dogs.
I started to wear baggy clothes and fat shoelaces. I changed my nice attitude to a bad attitude to impress the ladies.
But I learned that it’s easy to make friends. I didn’t have to change my attitude, because all the girls say that I’m too cute to change.
By Ashleigh Cunningham, 17, Venice High School
"Why do you feel you would be right for a position here at Western Dental?" The office owner was firing questions at me, one after another.
"Well," I replied gently, "I’m responsible. I have ample customer service experience. I am very organized and have a positive attitude."
I crossed my legs and flashed him my daintiest smile, as I successfully ignored my excruciating level of discomfort. Only to a job interview would I wear my hair in a ponytail, plain black shoes, black pants and a plain white blouse. "I can’t wait to get out of here," I said to myself.
"You got the job. It pays $8.50 an hour, and I assume this is part-time, because you go to school. I’ll give you a call tomorrow and tell you your schedule. Any questions?" the interviewer asked.
"Nope. Not a one," I said with a smile.
I walked out of his office and made a stop at the ladies room. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for since the interview began. I let my hair down, puffed up the old ‘fro, put on some of my favorite purple velvet bell bottoms, a super spiffy halter top and some shiny stiletto heels. Boy, was I comfortable!
I walked by the front desk on my way out and waved goodbye to my new boss. He never called the next day. I guess I shouldn’t have shown him the real me.
By Jillian Davis, 14, Venice High School
In some ways I feel I have to be someone else. I’m a 14-year-old, live with my mom, grandma and two sisters. My father left us, me and my sister Roxanne, 11 years ago.
I feel I have to be strong. I can’t be weak! If I were, I feel my sister and mom would be. We don’t talk about my dad. I have always tried to make myself hate my dad, but lately that’s not possible.
Now that it’s the holidays, I find myself remembering holidays with him. I can’t help myself, but I miss him so much! Every time I think about him, I cry.
I feel like I have an empty space inside me.
I feel I can’t talk to anyone about how I feel. I talk to my mom about everything. I just don’t know why I can’t talk about my dad with her.
My father thinks we want money. I just want love! Why can’t I have it? Why don’t you love me dad? Why am I so messed up inside?
I ask myself these questions all the time. I just want to have a dad! I want to have the perfect family. I love my family, but it’s not complete. My wish will never come true. I will keep wishing though.