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How thin do I have to be?

This article caught my eye because it addresses the many stereotypes that teens often deal with in society. I am referring to shows on BET and MTV that compound the growing problem [of eating disorders] by showing skinny models with long hair and perfectly shaped bodies, and tabloids and magazines with pictures of men and women who look perfect. These shows are saying that to be beautiful you must be perfect. This, I feel, is wrong.

The author of this piece started by criticizing people who starve themselves, but she fell victim to the stereotypes because of the Internet and television. She began to feel pressured about her own weight. She became sucked into the victim’s world of "pretend happiness." She began to exercise excessively and starve herself and became one of the people she was trying to warn others about.

I have had situations in which I’ve felt self-conscious about the way I look. When I was younger people talked about me. I kept seeing images of people who looked nothing like me but the media portrayed them as beautiful. Seeing these images made me think about starving myself, but having great mentors made me change my mind. They helped me to love myself and change the things I disliked about myself, but in a positive way. I still often get caught up in the way the media portrays people and I sometimes find myself wishing I looked like those girls on the videos. But I have also come to realize that the more I pay attention to the everyday people around me, I am beginning to see that they look more like me.
—Ashanti Williams, Paramount HS

I can understand where this author is coming from because I, like many girls, have fought to keep my weight under control. I felt when I was reading this story that I was reading about myself.

I always used to make fun of girls for getting sucked into being so self-conscious about their bodies, but then one day it happened to me. Slowly, I started becoming more aware of how my body looked, and I thought that I had gained a ton of weight.

I started checking Web sites to see if there was anything I could do to maintain my weight. I came upon a few Web sites that showed girls I thought were perfect. The way they were positioned in the pictures made them seem popular and like everyone loved them, because they were thin, too thin, thin enough that if you were to touch them they would break. That’s how I wanted to look.

I pushed myself to so much. I wouldn’t eat and would exercise every day for at least two hours. I would make myself sick so the food I had eaten wouldn’t digest and I wouldn’t become fat. I even pushed myself so far as to do drugs that would keep me up all night, give me energy and make me sick at the smell of food.

Thankfully I realized that what I was doing was hurting myself and that I had given into the pressure surrounding me.

I think this story is a wake-up call to many girls who would have ended up going down the same path. If I were to give advice, I would say that you shouldn’t believe what the media says [about body image]; don’t think that behind thin is beautiful. You are perfect the way you are!
—Marissa Ueno-Martel, North HS (Torrance)

Nowadays society expects so much from us girls. They expect us to be as thin as possible, but do they not know that we’re only teenagers and we will get influenced to do just about anything? Especially if we see or hear about stuff all the time on TV, radio or simply just on billboards.

This summer before we started school, my cousin and I were spending our vacation together. We bought magazines to read, as we were flipping through them we would see girls with the most perfect bodies and not an extra pound anywhere. Their faces were pale and their hairstyles were beautiful. I knew exactly what was going through my cousin’s mind—the same thing as mine: we were far from being like those girls. As my cousin would try to imitate how they talk and walk I knew the disappointment in her face when she would look at her face and body in the mirror.

One day when I went to visit her I started to see something different in her. Her face was pale and she had become skinnier. I’d ask, what’s wrong and all she’d say is, "I’m sick."

One day she told me that she felt bad and that she couldn’t eat anything and that her stomach hurting real bad. They took her to the doctor and to everyone’s surprise she had anorexia. The doctor asked her why she was starving herself, and she said, "I want to be like those girls."

The funny thing is that now that I think about it, all those girls aren’t really that skinny. They touch up their photographs to look that good.
—Erika Bautista, Jefferson HS

I am writing because someone close to me went through the same thing as the author. I appreciate this person’s article, because it probably took a lot of guts to admit all of her problems to people they don’t even know or trust.

In the article the writer talks about going online and reading blogs about people’s lives. After reading these pages, she started falling into the anorexia world. My friend would also read blogs about these things, so she started watching her weight. She would also write poems about the pain she was going through. She finally realized that what she was doing was wrong and stopped just like the author. It hurt watching her go through these things and knowing that nothing I did or said could stop her. Luckily she was smart enough to know it was wrong.

Doing these things isn’t just hurting yourself, but also the people around you because they have to watch you go through the pain. I agree with the author that the creator’s of these Web sites should take more responsibility because if they don’t want other people following their paths then they shouldn’t show them how it feels to or what to do. The only thing I didn’t understand about the article is why her friend got mad at her when she told her about the sites. She shouldn’t have gotten so mad; she should have watched her friend for signs of problems and helped her get through them.

Thank you for putting this article in your newspaper, because it made me realize that I’m not the only one in the world having problems.
—Kellie Randolph, North HS

It was nice to see an article exposing pro-anorexia Web sites, because so few people know they exist. When I read what people post on their "ana" sites, it left me sad and disgusted. You would think that people’s friends would tell someone if they logged on to their friends’ pro-anorexia Web sites, but for some girls that isn’t the case. It also doesn’t help anorexics when their comrades in weight loss encourage them to remain life-threateningly thin.

When you think about anorexics you think of emaciated people who are self-conscious about their weight. But it’s so much more than that. Anorexics exhaustively monitor their eating as a way of expressing emotions they keep bottled up. People need to realize how serious anorexia is and that rather than just being a physical illness, it is more of a mental disease.

I’d like to thank you for shedding light on the seriousness of a sickness that most people really don’t know that much about. Maybe now people won’t be so overly concerned about losing weight or, as many anorexics worry about, being perfect.
—Arielle Laub, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (S.O.C.E.S.)

The author of this article really expressed emotions that a lot of teenage girls feel. Some girls think that just because some movie stars look the way that they do, that they have to look the same.

I had to deal with a really close friend that was both anorexic and bulimic, and there was nothing I could say or do that would talk her out of feeling the way that she did. So, she continued this habit for many weeks and even months. Both she and I realized she was getting sick and very weak, and it progressed a little bit at a time. She really didn’t like feeling that way and she finally realized that what she was doing was hurting her both physically and mentally.

She was very depressed and began to feel emotionally disturbed. Later, she stopped these habits and she slowly recovered to her normal self. I really have strong feelings that articles of this nature will have the same effect on people and will definitely change their lives forever. So to the author of this article, I say thank you for the many lives you will change.
—Atiana Duran, Nightingale MS (Los Angeles)

You can succeed at a troubled school

I liked this article because it was good to let people know about South Central high schools. I relate to this article because I live in South Central and I attend Thomas Jefferson High School. I know what it is like to succeed at a troubled school; you just don’t join the trouble.

One true thing is that teachers do leave for a semester and many substitutes show up without even knowing what we need to learn. My French teacher left and about five substitutes showed up, and out of all five, only one knew French. The other teachers couldn’t even pronounce the words. No one was there to help us.

Many people say we don’t learn anything from these schools, but they’re wrong. It doesn’t matter where your school is located. If you want to learn, you will learn. And if you don’t, well, bad choice. Students usually blame the teachers for not teaching well, but students should be responsible and pay attention and listen in class. Students are the ones who make schools look bad by not wanting to learn or putting in any effort. Just like Bernandina people can succeed in a troubled school. It’s our choice whether we want to succeed or not.
—Diana Villegas, Jefferson HS

Me and my brother

I really liked this article. I have an older brother and I really related to this story. It’s almost as if you wrote that story about me. My older brother and I used to get along really well when we were younger. Then he replaced me with friends. I had some friends, too, but I wanted to hang out with him. When I hit ninth grade and I got a job, I had more clothes and I dressed better and was much cooler. Now he and I go everywhere together—the movies, the mall and even some parties. I am glad we hang out again.
—Sergio Ramirez, Paramount HS

This article caught my attention because of the way the writer tried to be just like his big brother. It seemed just like the way my little brother tried to do get close to me. The connection these two brothers have in this story is just like my brother’s and mine.

In the story, the way Jesus tried to impress his brother is just dumb. He doesn’t have to impress anyone. A big brother is going to be cool with his brother no matter what. I understand changing because you want to, but don’t do it just to impress your big brother. So just be yourself and do what you have to do because you shouldn’t have to impress anyone.
—Edward Prado, Paramount HS

They got me through

This is a very touching article about how a family is not just people related to you by blood. The people who are your family are the people who take care of you and love you no matter what happens. I have never had a foster parent, but I can understand Teresa’s feelings about her foster parents and the love she has for them. I can relate to her closeness with her family and how they are the ones who made her who she is today.

After reading this article, I thought about how my family stuck together and how lucky we are. We are a very close-knit family, just like Teresa’s foster family. It felt good to read an article about a success in a foster family, because it seems like most foster families don’t get along. The newspaper should get more touching stories on the love between families because it makes all of us think about our own families and be thankful for them.
—Ting Chen, North HS

It is really nice to read about a foster child that has a nice family. I appreciate that even though Teresa went through tough times when she was younger, she never gave up and always made the best of things. I also appreciate what her foster parents have done for her. Teresa is a strong girl and her foster parents are wonderful people because of the way they showed their love and generosity. Teresa’s story is very inspirational because it gives out a message that even though you might have gone through tough times, it doesn’t mean that you have to give up.
—Vera Hovhannisyan, S.O.C.E.S.

I am not a foster kid, but I can tell that you felt sad when they separated you from your sisters and brothers. When I read your article I felt so sad that I almost cried. Even though they were not your biological parents, your foster parents seem to love you as their real daughter. You know that’s good because I know other kids that are in foster homes where they are treated bad. I would like to congratulate your foster parents and your foster sister because they really got you through. They make sure you do the right things for your future.

Even though you are not with your real family, you know that you will always love them, miss them and wish they would have been with you in the good and bad moments of your life. I hope that you never give up so you could be a good example for your sisters and brothers.
—Gabriela Tovar, Jefferson HS

Don’t judge me essays

I also went through the same things as one of the essay winners. It’s not my fault that I like wearing big clothing. That’s my style and I’m not going to change that for anybody. I am not going to be fake like others and try to be somebody that I’m not.

A teacher also judged me in my last school. The minute I stepped into the classroom she thought that I was a no-good troublemaker. I must have given a wrong impression by the way I dressed. The look I had maybe made her think that I was a gangster. Some of the other kids had that more conservative, preppy look. Since I live in South Central Los Angeles I have that more urban look. At the end of the semester, I proved her wrong by passing her class with an A. She confronted me and told me how she felt about me the first she saw me. Overall, she was a pretty good teacher and I gave her a little advice: "Don’t judge a book by its cover."

The one that got me absolutely angry was when a cop stopped me. I thought that the cops were supposed to protect and serve. They weren’t protecting me or anybody around me. I guess since I was wearing a big white T-shirt and some baggy pants I must have seen seemed suspicious. I was on my way home, coming from my friend’s house. The cop accused me of being a gangster. I think he should have noticed that I couldn’t be a gang member because I didn’t have any tattoos and I wasn’t bald enough. Then he accused me of being a tagger. I got into an argument with him because of that. He kept telling me that he was going to lock me up and take me to jail. Afterwards, he must have gotten a call on his radio, because he left me alone.

I don’t like people judging me. I’m a pretty decent kid and people such as cops like picking on me. I wouldn’t judge anybody and hopefully others would stop judging me, too.
—Oscar Ochoa, Jefferson HS

Why do we always get criticized? We get criticized for many reasons: our friends, the way we look, the way we dress, our race. We Latinos always get judged as lowlife wetbacks. Adults judge teenagers right away. I like how the essay writer Luis Guzman spoke his mind. He had an excellent point when he said that our friends’ parents criticize us without even knowing us. Why don’t people sit down for a while and think about how their lives would be without Latinos, those who work hardest in the United States.

I’ve had so many people see me as a Latina who would never graduate high school. I didn’t take ninth and 10th grades seriously. I ditched 40-50 times a semester when I still attending school at the Jefferson High School main campus. However, I got my act together for my junior and senior years thanks to the Los Angeles Trade Tech College/Jefferson High School program. I’m proving that all the people who criticized me were wrong. I’m even graduating a semester early. This makes me feel really proud of myself.

We as Latinos always have people that are ready to judge us. Adults of other races are always ready to judge us. Thanks for my teachers and my hard work I am another successful Latina, who gets to prove people wrong. I’m not changing the way I am for anybody. If people are going to like me, they’ll like me the way I am.
—Maricela Reynoso, Jefferson HS

Hurricane Katrina

The article "Their city is gone" by Caroline Golum touched my heart. Reading this article made me wonder if the fortune teller, the dancers and the captain of the airboat are safe. A quote from the article "No matter how reconstruction goes, there will always be a cloud hanging over them," is true. This is because some people will suffer for a long period of time from trauma caused by the hurricane. This article encouraged me to want to help and to encourage others to help in any way possible. So, all I can say is thank you Caroline Golum for sharing your pictures and thoughts with me.
—Michael Reed, S.O.C.E.S.

Two teens tried to follow the new food pryamid

I thought that the article, "I held my nose to finish my milk—yuck," by Victoria Imtanes was so completely true. So many girls around our age have tried diets, including myself. I just love how Victoria made it so personal, but at the same time you could relate. You could taste her veggie and fruit smoothie and the huge glass of milk. You felt how she felt; you connected to her. I completely agree with her and give props to Victoria for sticking with the challenge.
—Jennifer Perlin, S.O.C.E.S.

Under pressure

In Kathryn’s article, I can relate to her uneasiness and anxiety when I took the SAT. When I took this test, I got nervous and worried about how I would do. This actually caused me to do worse than if I had been calm and relaxed.

Something that people should remember when they are unsuccessful is that you learn from your mistakes. Thomas Edison said: "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work." One thing I learned from this article is that when you fail you do not lose anything, instead you gain knowledge, something no one can take away from you.
—Julius Weng, S.O.C.E.S.

Can we end global poverty?

I agree with the writer of this article—poverty is a terrible thing. You can see poor people living on the streets so many places in just Los Angeles, so you can just imagine how bad it is everywhere else. I was surprised to learn that one out of six people in the world live on just one dollar a day. This appalls me because some people makes millions of dollars and spend that money on useless things, like cars or large houses. If this continues I think that it will be impossible to end poverty. When an actor works on a movie set earning millions of dollars and a family works even harder to earn minimum wage, it is not helping to improve the poverty rates. I think equal work should be rewarded with equal pay. In taking these steps, it may help to end global poverty.
—Molly Isken, S.O.C.E.S.

I totally identify and agree with this article. I, too, feel sad when I see homeless people and I think that everyone deserves a chance to have a good life. I think that the United States should deal with all of our big problems first before we give all of our attention to ending global poverty. Though, we could be more concerned about global poverty than we currently are, which the article says.

The online sites and bracelets are a way to help with global poverty, and even though they aren’t huge things I am proud to say that I own a bracelet. As a kid, I find it hard to devote a lot of time to this cause, but every little bit helps. I’m glad to see that L.A. Youth has an article about something that truly matters in our world, and is educating others. Just as the bracelets say "ONE" person can make a difference.
—Briana Juarez, S.O.C.E.S.

Finding time for friendship

I could totally relate to this article. When my best friend and I found out that I was moving to a different school in the summer of 2001, we started to tear up. The first thing that came to our minds what that we were not going to be able to see each other every day, five days a week. We were devastated. Our mothers told us that we could get together on weekends and talk on the telephone every day. We planned out the rest of the summer so we would get together three times a week. There was one problem with that plan: she spent her days at camp and I spent my days volunteering at my temple’s children’s center. Like Kristian and Bianca, we told each other everything that happened during the day. On my phone bill, the majority of calls were to her.

During the first year of our separation, we called each other every day and got together twice a month. This is our fifth year not going to the same school. We see each other maybe once a month but talk on the phone every night. She is my other half; I truly think separation made us closer.
—Lisa Kitay, S.O.C.E.S.

Are you ready for a disaster?

I’m a high school student and I am not prepared for any big disaster that might hit Los Angeles. After reading your article, I realized that not many people are prepared for any emergencies or disasters, including my family. I was talking to my mom about a big earthquake that could hit Los Angeles and I asked her if she was prepared and her answer was no. I then started to realize that it wasn’t just my mom’s responsibility to prepare for an emergency or disaster. We have a responsibility to help, too. I also asked my mom if we had at least a supply of water and food and she said no.

So I translated the L.A. Youth article into Spanish for my mom and after that she realized that we had to get prepared for a major incident that might happen in Los Angeles. Now we are starting to get prepared for anything.

I think that this article will open many teens’ eyes. It will let them see that if they are not prepared for something terrible, then something bad might happen to them during an emergency. I think that it is not only the parents’ responsibility to get prepared, but also the teens should help.
—Martha Chavez, Jefferson HS

Harry Potter

After reading the article "Harry Potter’s magic spell" I have thought about the huge popularity of this book. In the article, the writer says that the most recent book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was very good, but that kids under 13 should have been warned that there are romantic scenes. I disagree. I think that it’s fine for children who are not teenagers to read about romantic scenes in a book.

I read the first and second Harry Potter books but never really got into the series. After reading this article, I am thinking about buying the other four books. I don’t understand why so many people would wait for midnight just to buy a book, when you could just get it the next day. It amazes me how so many people have gotten into this book, who don’t even like to read normally. I think it’s great that so many people are interested in it, because it will improve their reading skills. After reading this article, I think I am going to buy this book.
—Jonathan Ratne, S.O.C.E.S.

The article about Harry Potter was fantastic. I loved that article! I myself am a huge Harry Potter fan. I actually waited a long time to get my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and it was worth the wait. When I finished reading the book, I cried. I got so emotional! I guess I really felt J.K. Rowling’s writing. You should put more articles about Harry Potter or his fans in your newspaper. I would be one of your greatest fans. Also, it would be very interesting because little by little, everybody is getting affected by Harry’s spell.
—Elizabeth Munoz, Nightingale MS

Sure reading may educate you, but this Harry Potter fad is just getting out of control, as you can tell in the article "Harry Potter’s magic spell." You know it’s getting out of hand when you hear about little kids with their parents waiting in line [at midnight] just to get a book. It’s so stupid that people make sure there are no stains or marks on or in their books and act like it’s their most-prized possession.

The book to me is very absurd. It takes the imagination level way too far. When my two cousins came from Baltimore and slept over at my house for a week, one of them read a Harry Potter book in about eight hours. It’s amazing to me that people actually want to read this ludicrous book. I’m sick of these unrealistic, ridiculous Harry Potter books.
—Hank Glassner, S.O.C.E.S.

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