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A former gang member regrets his life

The essay “Gang life sucked me in” caught my attention because it talked about a subject many people are ignoring. I see people like this around me every now and then, but they don’t seem happy. One of my friends once told me how his cousin was in a gang, but didn’t want to be in it anymore. He couldn’t leave though. The gang members threatened him. I realized that gangs were dangerous and that they didn’t care about you.
Jorge Callela, Hollywood HS

I thought the essay “Gang life sucked me in” was an inspirational story because it shows the true color of the writer’s “homies.” It shows that your homies are nice to you now but once you’re in trouble they will turn their backs on you.

I am in a gang and to initiate me I had to do petty crimes and get beat up. But [the other gang members] don’t care about me and how my family is doing. When I get an A in school my family praises me, but when the gang members see it they taunt me because I’m a nerd. They take care of me, but a few weeks ago when they had weed they put it in a new member’s jacket when the cops came. They blamed it all on him and said they didn’t know that he had it.
Name withheld

I think many people have the same struggles when it comes to gang life. The only thing I would like to add is another perspective about how and people join gangs. I am 15 years old and joined the gang I am in two years ago. Growing up was not hard for me. Everyone has struggles but we shouldn’t blame those struggles for what we do. At the end of the day we must accept that we chose to be in the gang and we must try hard to get out if we choose.

I grew up in the same neighborhood for most of my life. I would always see the same gangsters walking up and down my street. They looked cool to me walking about 20 deep every time they passed by. They looked like they had a lot of respect and no one wanted to mess with them. That caught my attention and influenced my decisions when I was a pre-teen and teen. When I joined everything was cool. The people we beefed with weren’t around that much so it was just mostly kicking it. But as soon as the beef started coming through everything started getting hectic. I started getting into fights with people I didn’t know but had to fight because of what gang they were in. I would get chased when I would walk alone. I wasn’t safe on my way home from school.

My mom couldn’t take anymore of the way I was acting. She began to get sick. So I decided to man up and stop all of it—the kicking it, fighting, looking for people to mess up badly—it all had to stop.

I’m glad that I chose to before I ended up behind bars regretting my decisions. I hope that people realize that it may seem difficult but if it is the right thing to do you won’t regret getting out in the long run.
Name withheld

I was very moved by the essay “Gang life sucked me in.” It hit my soft spot when he started talking about his father. I could relate to having a deadbeat father. I can see why he turned to a gang lifestyle. I was left curious when he told us about him going to jail. I want to know why he went to jail. [Editor’s note: the writer didn’t reveal that in his essay.] I don’t judge him for doing the stuff he did since no one was there to tell hi otherwise. It’s hard growing up with no one there to tell you what’s wrong or right. His story will hopefully convince others to leave the ganglife and not to follow his road. I hope he is let out early.
Xavier M., Hollywood HS

I admire how strong of a person you are for realizing that the gang life is not the best choice. Even though life is not the best at the moment, never lose faith. Life always gets better no matter what. The essay really moved me. For some reason it captured my heart and gave me a boost of motivation to keep striving for the best.
Kelly Martinez, Hollywood HS


An undocumented student hopes college is in his future

I have friends who are illegal immigrants and they are the students who always try their best in everything. They give their everything to be able to go to college, but because they don’t have social security numbers they can’t. This made me realize that I have a social security number so I shouldn’t be lazy and not do my work. I’m really glad the governor passed the California Dream Act to give people who work hard a chance that they deserve.
Abel Luis, Hollywood HS

I believe the writer of “What now?” should be given a chance to go to college. You were brought here [by your parents], so why should you be punished for that? I support you all the way and if I could help in any way I would. If you take the time to learn you should be able to use the knowledge you’ve worked for. Just because you weren’t born here doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to go to college.
Damont Johnson, Taft HS (Woodland Hills)

I can relate to the article “What now?” Many people don’t understand what we have to go through. They think we are criminals but what they don’t know is that some, if not most, of us didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t talk back to my parents at the age of 3. I’m a hard-working student. It is my dream to become a book publisher, but I can’t because of my legal status.
Name withheld

I really have you to thank for making me realize that many other students may not have the same opportunities I do. I wish you the best in your life and your education. From what I read, I know you’ll make your dream of becoming a journalist come true.
Gaby Cordova, Hollywood HS

I have always believed that illegal immigrants eat up our valuable resources and are more trouble than they are worth. I am, however, empathetic to children and I believe the DREAM Act is a wonderful way of giving kids with a tough deal the break they deserve.
Trevor Hock, Taft HS

A girl learned that success takes an education

It was depressing to read about how tough Precious’s life was. I’m not surprised she acted out so much. I probably would too if I were in her position. It must have been hard to always be moving from house to house. I think she is incredibly smart for realizing that doing better in school to become successful is much more realistic than dropping out and trying to become a rapper. I always knew education was important, but reading this article made me think about how much trying your best in school can dramatically change your life.
Annie Haig, Wilson MS (Glendale)

The article “Reality check” really sunk into me. I’m not saying that I went through the same experience as Precious but I can relate to her. I thought it would be easy to make it big in life. I wanted to be this rich person with a big house and fancy car. But then somehow I realized that it was not possible if I kept up with what I was doing. I was slacking off in school. I didn’t do my homework and I would fail tests. If I wanted that dream to be a reality, I would have to start focusing on my work. I now have a plan to get to college and study to be an architect. And if I do this right, I can be whatever I want to be.
Nicholas Wofford, Hollywood HS

I really enjoyed reading the article “Reality check.” The struggles she went through are heartbreaking but her achievements are extraordinary. It really goes to show how effort and perseverance can take you anywhere. It’s very inspiring and it motivates me to continue doing good in school.
Angie Quintanilla, Hollywood HS

One thing I learned from that article is that life is hard and you have to fight for it. You have to fight in order to reach your goals. If you don’t fight for what you want, you won’t reach it. And when I say fight, I don’t mean fight with punches, and hurting other people. I mean working hard for what you want.
Jimmy Vasquez, Hollywood HS

Can guys and girls be just friends?

After reading “Friendship is enough” I clearly saw that it’s possible for a guy and a girl to be just friends. I think that everybody should stop staying behind invisible boundaries of boys versus girls. They should mingle more and then we can see a point of view other than our own.
Christian Leyva, Wilson MS

I prefer hanging out with guys because girls are too much drama and they make a big deal about everything. I also feel more comfortable hanging out with guys because what Tiffany said (“Around most girls I have to be more careful about their feelings”) is true. With guys everything is more fun and they are fun to joke around with.
Kim Cherisse Cruz, Hollywood HS

I have asked myself the same thing over and over again. “Why couldn’t a guy and a girl just be friends?” I also have more things in common with guys than girls for pretty much the same reasons. I can always be myself and laugh and be happy not worrying about my image. My guy friends are reliable and make me feel welcomed all the time.

Every time I am walking with one of my guy friends, someone immediately thinks we are dating. I always smile and say we are nothing but great friends. I think girls are not as strong when it comes to personal image. Guys on the other hand accept who they are. I think it is what I love the most about our friendship. Thank you for being someone I can relate to.
Vanessa Huerta, Hollywood HS

Schools should keep their fine arts programs

I was able to connect with the article “Don’t cut what I care about” because I was also in a music program when I was in middle school. Being in orchestra taught me how to be responsible and dedicated. I would stay after school and practice and would also practice my violin at home. When I graduated eighth grade, I found out that my high school would no longer have a band because of budget cuts. This was unfortunate because I enjoyed playing with other people. I hope some day schools will stop cutting back on performing arts programs.
Jose Cruz, Hollywood HS

The article “Don’t cut what I care about” was really informative. It made me realize that budget cuts don’t just affect whether our science books are new and the number of textbooks we have in English. I don’t care about having to be extra careful with science equipment because it’s ages old or having to share history books because half of them are torn up. But the arts? Choir, music, drama? I care if my friends have their plays cancelled because budget cuts wouldn’t let them buy props and costumes. This article made me care.
Lauren Alparaz, Wilson MS

Homework without distractions is hard

I liked the article “Too much temptation” because I also have a problem with homework sometimes. I listen to music while working, which can be a distraction. I loved the article so much that I am going to tell my family and friends about it. I was thinking about doing the same challenge. I think the whole idea is responsibility, knowing that even if your homework is boring, be responsible.
Dominique Robinson, Hollywood HS

When I get home I always get distracted by something. It will make me say “I’ll do homework later.” Luckily, despite getting distracted sometimes, I know how to balance homework and time to have fun. People might say balancing is hard, but in the end it is worth it.
Kevin Flores, Hollywood HS

A girl walked to help find a cure for AIDS

It’s nice to see young generations make a change towards important and critical causes. I joined my school’s involvement in the AIDS walk this year as a freshman. Getting there and seeing thousands of people made me feel a part of something bigger. I carried our sign throughout the 6.2 miles and it was definitely rough after adding the heat into the equation. It was the most rewarding feeling seeing everyone come together and cross the finish line. I am anxious to participate in the next few walks and promote the cause to a wider audience.
Monica Martinez, Hollywood HS