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She was like a mom

1st place $50

Author’s name withheld

"We all make mistakes." These can be the four most comforting words that someone can hear only after they make the biggest mistake of their life. Among all the people that I trust, there is one special person who was really there for me throughout the hardest time of my life.

At the age of 15, I became sexually active, which was the first big mistake of my life. My boyfriend and I were in a very committed relationship, and we planned to save sex until marriage, but somehow we ended up at his house, in his room, alone, and that’s how things started. We had grown accustomed to the new schedule, which was: school, his house, my house and then we went home and did the same thing again the next day. One time while I was over at his house, things were getting hot and heavy and he ran out of condoms. We decided together that one time wouldn’t hurt. He hadn’t been with anyone else, and neither had I, so we assured each other that we were both clean. As far as pregnancy went, we ignorantly thought that one time wouldn’t hurt. What a mistake.

A little less than a month later, I realized that something wasn’t right. I knew I was pregnant and only 16. Somehow I believed that something like this wouldn’t happen to me. I had too much on the line. This was my senior year. I already had a full scholarship to a university. I had major dreams, and a baby certainly wasn’t part of it.

The first person I told was my boyfriend’s mom, Joyce. She let me tell her everything I was scared of, and told me that everything would work out for the best. Personally she wanted me to have the baby only because she didn’t believe in abortion. Joyce told me that she would definitely be there to take care of her new grandchild if she had to. I trusted her with all of this because she understood how my parents would react, and she kept our daily conversations to herself. Joyce made me believe that even though this was a huge mistake, the world will keep turning. She was right by my side while I told my boyfriend that he might have a baby on the way, and she found lots of information about the pros and cons of abortion.

She was the one who took me to the hospital for the abortion, but her power stopped there. The only way to proceed with the abortion was by letting a parent know what was going on.* I went home that night so scared about how I was going to tell my parents. They were going to be so mad and disappointed in me. I had been in trouble before, but nothing like this. I knew that I had two choices, either to have the baby or not have the baby, and both ways my parents were going to find out.

Once again my superhero stepped in and said that she would be there when I told my parents. The talk was as bad as I expected. There was shouting and cursing, and all in all it was a bad experience. My parents told me that they never wanted to see me again in their house. Joyce tried to get them to calm down, and told them that it takes two people to make a baby so it wasn’t entirely my fault. Apparently they didn’t hear her because I found myself living with Joyce and my boyfriend the very next day. I was in shock at how my family reacted. They completely disowned me as if I made an unforgivable mistake. At least at my "new home" I was loved by everyone around me no matter what I did.

A week or so later I had the abortion, which was one of the most depressing, humiliating and downright sad things I have ever done. Joyce was there though, and that was the time I needed her more than any other time. With the persuasion of Joyce, my parents allowed me to live in their home again. They apologized for their explosive reaction and now everything is back to normal.

I trust Joyce with everything in the world. I still can’t believe that my mother let me go through an abortion alone, but because of Joyce I didn’t have to. She was there for me when even my own mother wasn’t. I love her, and I hope that she trusts me as much as I trust her.

* Editor’s note: Under California law, a teen does not need to tell a parent before having an abortion.

Surviving Great Loss

2nd place $30

By Lissett Cova, Lincoln HS

It was a long afternoon outside L.A. County jail. My cousin was coming out after a long time in prison. He was doing time because he was found with weapons while on probation. My aunt and uncle were so happy for his arrival, not only them but the whole family, especially his little brother.

At home, we all celebrated because he promised he would change. He wouldn’t be the same as he used to be. He wouldn’t hang around with his friends doing drugs and gang banging. Of course, we trusted him because he got a job in Arizona for two months, then came back. He did this because he couldn’t stay in the neighborhood. If he did stay, he would ride with us in the car while hiding in the back seat. Then we would get out of the car to cash his check fast and go back home as soon as possible. Then he would leave for Nevada and work for two months. Then again the same routine happened.

It was the end of December when the construction company gave him a vacation. He was going to spend time with his family and especially his little brother. It was a good Christmas, but not so great New Year.

My cousin had a best friend. We all knew him really well. They grew up together in the same neighborhood. Therefore they were both in the same "gang." They somehow got in touch again. My cousin wanted to go out on New Year’s. He asked his parents:

"Dad," he said, knowing he didn’t have a chance.

"What do you want?" my uncle responded.

"Can I go out this New Year?"

"No. You know how dangerous it is. How could you even ask?"

"Please! Don’t you trust me? C’mon."

"No! Please, you’re doing so good, don’t let it go to waste."

"I don’t care. I’m going," my cousin said.

While this conversation was going on, his little brother was hiding, listening to everything. He wasn’t worried because he knew he trusted that his brother wouldn’t do anything stupid.

It was late New Year’s Day. I was sitting down on the couch and the phone rang. I picked it up.

"Hi, Tía. What’s happening?" I said.

"Hi. Is your mom home?" she asked.


I was listening on the other phone, even though you’re not supposed to. So I heard my mom’s voice and then my aunt’s. I wished I hadn’t because I heard the sound of the bullet. No, not the bullet, but the bomb that would destroy my family. My cousin was killed that day. He was shot in the head.

He was with his so-called "best friend" at a so-called "party." Well, it all came down to what was betrayal. My cousin trusted his best friend, but lost. Then the chain began. My uncle lost trust for his son had betrayed him too. Actually, we all lost it that day. Not only us, but the biggest one was his little brother.

This chain keeps going on. His little brother gained the trust again toward his mother. My aunt had a sickness, I cannot explain. He trusted in his mother that she would get better and live. He took so much care of her and knew she would work on doing what was best for her. But her body thought differently. Well, my aunt died five months after my cousin was killed. Well, tell me; I want my little cousin to trust me, or should I say my new little brother. How am I going to break this chain of losing trust before it’s all gone?

She helped save my life
3rd place $20

By Veronica Fuentes, Birmingham HS

The most popular magazines like Vogue and Cosmo have beautiful skinny women in them, page after page. I have always been so fixated on one day being as skinny as them. The result of my fixation made me end up in the hospital with an eating disorder. Luckily I had a friend that I trusted with my secret and life.

I have always been unhappy about my weight. My father’s side of the family is obese. My mother’s side of the family consists of petite females. They all wear anywhere from size 0-3. I, unfortunately, have never been that small. I inherited my father’s genes. I need to be happy with being just me no matter how much I weigh and what size pants I fit in. It was only about one year ago that I came to this realization. I lived with my mother at the time in Miami, Florida. My mother is a health nut who goes to the gym five days a week. And she feels fat when the scale tips from 109 to 110 pounds when she steps on it.

We were about to go on a cruise in March 2003 when I was on a mission to be as skinny as her! I, at the time, weighed my heaviest ever. I tipped the scale at 140 pounds. I started with the cabbage soup diet, then Atkins and then I went straight to just depriving myself of food completely. I got to 120 pounds in three and a half weeks. Five of those days I did not eat anything. At the time I was proud of my weight loss, even when I was admitted to a special treatment center for people with eating disorders.

Prior to being admitted, my best friend Mandi was very concerned about my rapid weight loss. The turning point for me was when I confided in Mandi that I did not have my period that month. This was one of the results of me starving myself. I screwed up my body! Mandi talked with me and stayed with me when I was going through this horrible experience. She ended up telling her mother about what was going on with me. Mandi’s mom then in turn informed my mother of my eating disorder. At that time I recalled being angry at Mandi for not keeping my secret. I felt she ratted me out, as if she betrayed me.

Now I can look back and be thankful for trusting her not with a secret, but with my life. I’ve gained 10 pounds since then and I accept and love who I am. Thanks to Mandi I can talk about it. I was really lucky to have a friend like Mandi. I trust her with secrets and my life. We all need a "Mandi" in our lives.

My cousin turned to me

Honorable mention

By Daisy Galvez, Paramount HS

Every person has someone to turn to when they are upset or need some advice on something. Usually if they don’t have someone to turn to they will try and look for someone.

Well, about one year ago my cousin and I were watching videos and having a good time. I noticed she had something on her mind, so I asked her "Is something wrong?" I never expected her reaction. She said, "Well, since I trust you will keep it a secret, yes, there is something wrong." So then I turned off the movie and told her to tell me what was going on. She told me she had been trying to lose weight for a while, but nothing seemed to work. She paused for a couple seconds and hesitated to tell me the rest. I told her she didn’t have to feel uncomfortable because whatever her secret was, it was safe with me. She continued to tell me that a couple months before, she had started gagging herself to vomit. I was shocked because I would have never thought she had such a serious problem like bulimia.

She kept telling me she wanted to stop but she couldn’t. Still in shock, I stood frozen for a couple seconds. I finally said "You know what? You need to go to the doctor because it might not seem like it, but that is a very serious disorder." She began to cry and said she was scared of what would happen if her mom were to find out. We both went on the Internet and researched bulimia. We found there were many different hotlines and confidential doctor’s offices. I told her she could count on me for whatever and she did.

I think in some way I contributed to her overcoming her disorder. Now, she thanks me everyday for giving her good advice and for helping her overcome her disorder. She says, "If it weren’t for you, I’d probably be dead right now." Every time we have a problem we turn to each other to help the other one out.