<< I wish the violence would stop

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We don’t often receive letters to the editor in response to our essay contest winners. However, many readers wrote to respond to the winning essays from the contest “How has violence affected you?” in the November-December 2008 issue. We decided to print them here to let others share their experiences with violence. The essay contest winners wrote about hanging out with a gang, being scared in their neighborhood and an uncle who was shot.

One of the most sad and scary essays I have ever read was “Sucked into the wrong crowd.” Just a few days around gang members can change your life. Knowing that the author hung around a gang just because of a friend made me feel I should watch out for who my friends are. I had a friend who was gang-banging but sadly lost his life avenging the loss of his friend. Clearly it’s not worth going into a gang just to feel stronger than other people.
Brayan Lopez
East Valley HS (North Hollywood)

The essay “Scared for my life” was inspirational. I can relate to how life can be so dangerous sometimes. I know how it feels to live in poor communities where there is always gang-related activity going on. I really feel sad for those who have to live in such poorly managed neighborhoods just because their parents cannot afford to live in better communities. I always hear about gang-related shootings and other types of violence on the news. After hearing about these types of things on the news it really scares me, especially when I have to walk home from school. I like how this person described how her life was affected by violence and how she prayed every night that the violence would stop. This is why my heart goes out to those who are constantly affected by violence.
Byron To
San Gabriel HS

The essay that really caught my attention was “Sucked into the wrong crowd” because living in North Hollywood there’s a lot of gang violence. You can’t even go outside without seeing graffiti on the walls and alleys. This essay shows that anyone can change but they have to really want to change. Kids nowadays have the mentality of “I’m so cool because I’m smoking” or “Look, I’m in a gang, I’m so cool now.” If this person can change, anyone can.
Gabby Rodriguez
East Valley HS

I think the people you hang out with are very important. That’s why “Sucked into the wrong crowd” really caught my attention. If you hang out with gang members, that doesn’t mean you’re a gang member but to another gang you’re just as good as a gang member. So you can get jumped or shot just because you hang out with gang members. I think it’s important to choose your friends wisely.
Angel Siajes
East Valley HS

It’s sad to know you almost lost your uncle to the violence that was going on around him when he was selling drugs. I’ve been in that situation where I didn’t feel safe walking around an area, wondering if me and my family would make it through the day without something happening. I always wondered if my uncle would live until the next day. I’ve lost two uncles to gang violence.
Jose Pulido
Hutchinson MS (La Mirada)

“Sucked into the wrong crowd” really opened my eyes. Everybody knows there are gangs and violence in our cities, but they don’t put so much thought into it until it happens to them or to a person close to them. When we are teens, we are naive and believe that we know everything and that we are too young to die. We hang out with the wrong people— people we think care about us and for our safety—because they are going through what we are going through. They feel like our second family. I have been through something like this, but I finally realized that if they really did care about me, they wouldn’t allow me to do crime and get chased by cops or do drugs.
Diana Tran
San Gabriel HS

I liked this essay because the things that happened in it related to real life out here. I feel bad when I walk down the street. If you were to walk down the streets you would see many words on the wall claiming rival gangs, sometimes with a line through the words, meaning “war.” All the drug and alcohol use that happens now is ridiculous because people don’t know that if this doesn’t stop we’re just going to keep passing this to our siblings and our younger generations.
Anthony Acosta
Hutchinson MS

After reading the essay “Sucked into the wrong crowd” I began to think about all the people in this world who are like that. It’s sad how teenagers get killed, injured, even mentally damaged because they went into the wrong crowd. I’m glad that the author found her way out, yet she still had to suffer the loss of her “best friend” Gabby. This shows that even if you go the wrong way, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel waiting for you. All you have to do is choose to find a better crowd.
Bernice Portugal
San Gabriel HS

It’s amazing to hear about the everyday events that threaten someone’s life. I’m lucky that I can go outside without any fear of harm. It’d be wonderful if everyone else could say that too.
Robert To
San Gabriel HS

“Sucked into the wrong crowd” shows that making the right friends can shape your future. My friends and I were kicking a hacky sack back and forth when this gang came up and started trying to steal it. We knew if we did something there was going to be fighting. So we played it smart and just stood there. The gang saw we didn’t try to get it back so they threw it back at us and left. Sometimes thinking smart pays off.
Jonathan Lam
San Gabriel HS

It must have been hard to see someone you know lose their life, especially a close friend. Growing up hanging around a gang must have been hard. It’s sad that violence is an option some people take, even though there are other solutions. I wonder if gang violence will ever stop.
Calvin Hwang
San Gabriel HS

Click here to read the transcript and watch the video of our roundtable discussion about violence in the community.

Click here to see the results of our survey about violence in the community and schools.