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Nothing Has Bended To Me Students from

the East Central Independent School District Mise en place Drop-Out Recovery Pilot Program in san antonio, Texas

Write Their Truths Spring 2010

Readers and writers today and tomorrow

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Nothing Has Bended To Me Students from

the East Central Independent School District Mise en Place Drop-Out Recovery Pilot Program in san antonio, Texas

Write Their Truths in partnership with Gemini Ink, readers and writers today and tomorrow Spring 2010

Edited and with an introduction by Writer-in-Residence Abe Louise Young Funded by East Central Independent School District Layout & Design Anisa Onofre, Writers in Communities Director Special thanks to At-Risk Coordinator and Grant Writer Patricia Stone-Reyes Site Coordinator Susan Beatty Community, Adult, and Family Education Program Specialist Paula Ring Retired Principal and Substitute Teacher Ernesto Casas Student work has been edited as lightly as possible in order to honor the original voices Š 2010 Gemini Ink Cover art www.classroomclipart.com

Gemini Ink 513 S. Presa St. San Antonio, Texas 78205 www.geminiink.org 210-734-WORD

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Telling Truth Together:

Introduction by Abe Louise Young The wonderful writers in the Mise en Place Drop-Out Recovery Pilot Program in San Antonio’s East Central Independent School District share hard and beautiful news about their lives here. We met for a six-hour writing workshop in a portable manufactured building, one in a row of older portables on concrete outside a huge area high school. Guided by writing prompts and poems, the writers filled page after page with news, revelation, and witness from their individual locations. They listened to each other read aloud, snapped in appreciation, and nodded or cried when they recognized themselves in someone else’s story. The challenges these young writers face are very grave. Poverty, incarcerated parents, early abandonment, sexual and physical abuse, class and racial oppression, learning disabilities, and early parenthood are some of the factors that blocked students’ paths to traditional high school education. Those factors are part of the story, but they are not the whole story. The overarching story is the strength, compassion, insight, and beauty that the writers have wrought out of their circumstances, how much energy they have to give the world, and how they make sense of things, and keep moving. The Writing Day culminated with all of us bursting through the doors to do the last writing exercise outside in the crisp wind and sunshine. The students climbed the bleachers that circled the track with notebooks in their laps. The writers sat as close to the vivid, completely blue sky as they possibly could. We took a moment of silence, looking out over their school. The stark aluminum risers were silent as the young people gathered up their freedom to say anything on paper. Writing can give us that kind of wide, aerial view of our lives: the freedom perch. It’s a space of reflection and power. The young writers here are not drop-outs. Far from it. They are stepping in to 1


their lives, stepping up to large responsibilities. They are dropping down into healing and forgiveness. The poems and stories here illustrate the hard work, blessings, and contradictions that come when young people are supported in a process of working out their own stories. Their words are a gift, a privilege to hear. They articulate the past, claim the present, and imagine ways into the future. As student and mother Perla Chavez says, “Life has always been a constant struggle. Nothing has ever been bended to me. Everything always had to be earned. Dropouts, teen parents, and trouble makers are always put down and told they will not achieve anything, but that’s not even close to true.� With loving respect to the young people for sharing their truths, and for All Our Relations, a luta continua, may the struggle thrive until we all live in freedom, Abe Louise Young May 2010

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Contents Bradley Braaten Growing Up... 6 Brad’s World... 7 Dreams... 11 Brandi Dockery My Life... 9 Heather James Taking Shape...10

Jenine Hernandez What I Know...11 Somebody That Cares...12 How I Got Into Welding...13 Kel Guerrero Breathe...14 Kenneth Garcia My Life...15 A Better Reputation For Myself...16 What I Know...19

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Kristen Olvera Letter... 20 I Forgive... 21 Thinking About The Future... 22 Michael Harwood My Life... 23 And Magic... 24 Meeting My Dad... 25 Perla Chavez Born Into The World...26 Guarantee...27 My Life As Perla...28 Samantha Jimenez My Life As Samantha...29 Letter To Someone Who Changed My Life...30

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BRADLEY BRAATEN

GROWING UP

I grew up poorer than homeless people. I had no socks. I walked barefoot. I hated life and everyone in it, like if I was in the hole for no reason. I was surrounded by so much smoke I couldn’t see, so I didn’t have to think about life. Woke up every morning not remembering where I was or what I did. My baby being born made me the opposite who I was. I killed the old Brad to be a good dad. And it's the best feeling in the world.

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BRADLEY BRAATEN

Brad’s World Things I love are: My baby Samantha is the most important thing to me cause she is so beautiful, smart, cute, and a lot of other stuff. It feels like she’s a baby, but to me she’s a young lady. I would get a tattoo on my face of Samantha. And I would die so she wouldn’t get sad. My favorite weather is fall weather. like Halloween weather when it is cool but not cold. My mom -- she was always there for me when no one else would be. Of course girls, cause they ain’t guys. Money cause it makes the world go around. God, for everything.

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BRADLEY BRAATEN

Dreams

A career I can see myself doing is being a talk-show host. If I had the power to change the world, I’d make no more hungry people and no more sick people. My goal is just for my kid to love me like I love my mom. To always be there for them like my mom was always there for me.

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BRANDI DOCKERY

My Life

Growing up in my life was easy, at first. We all loved each other. We all got along well, until things started to change. Attitudes were different. No one looked the same. My mother changed the most leaving her husband - my father and three of her children behind while she traveled the globe. She only came back when she got hurt and my dad always let her back in. I had fun while she was around but when she left again I was hurt and miserable. I felt so alone. The times I spent with her were amazing. She always made me laugh. Here one day and the next, off with the wind. After a while I was used to it. I grew up wondering why she did this to her little girl. But the person I am now can tell me the answer. I am stronger and much wiser and I won’t let her mistakes get the best of me any longer. I am loved by many people and I know that by her being my mother she loves me. Although she wasn’t always around, she’s my motivator and I love her for that. My goal is to forgive her and eventually I will, but to forget, I can’t and I won’t. Do I want to lose us? I don’t. 9


HEATHER JAMES

Taking Shape

Born in mountain land of snow, gone before first flake could touch me. My momma was gone; I didn’t know where she was. A small child is taken from her father. It would be years before she understood why. Older cousin became my new mother, and the center of my world. Wolfish father was forgotten. Years passed, we leapt across the map, like a game of leap frog, we would move soon after settling on the ground. Child became sister, who became surrogate mother. She would never be the same. Young woman returns to the snow, her life wholesome and good. But it was a short lived utopia, taken by the erratic mother. Dead inside, mother in every way but literally, life consisting of nothing else. Young woman flees, hides in gutter, building up her own pedestal. Fearful reunion with father, I find he was a sheep in wolf’s clothing, instead of the other way around. My pedestal is taking shape now, a foundation complete and waiting to be filled with the deeds of my future. 10


JENINE HERNANDEZ

What I Know

I was born October 29, 1992. Not too long before that my mom was given an ultimatum from my father, and given that I am alive, she made the right choice. As a child I was fairly happy. I didn’t really mind all the moving. Bouncing around from family members, back to my mom or dad at the same time. Always a daddy’s girl until I got older and realized, how naïve I was not to know what he was doing, because I was too young to know. Some people never change, not even for the best.

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JENINE HERNANDEZ

Somebody that Cares

Wonderful long term friendship potential. He is basically everything a person can ask for. Ray is his name. Ray knows just about everything about me. He even knows how to calm me down when I’m beyond mad or frustrated. He brings out my good and bad sides. Ray gives me encouragement when I’m down or lost. He knows all my attitudes and gets my jokes, and personality. He is so special to me that he is not only my best friend but my boyfriend.

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JENINE HERNANDEZ

How I got into Welding

I’ve always enjoyed being the baby of the family. My brother joined ROTC and my sister joined welding. I had one year before I’d make my decision to follow in one of their footsteps. When I finally got into high school I picked welding because it turned out to be more pros than cons. Three years passed and I’ve learned so much. All the basics and then some stuff people can’t imagine any girl can do. But overall, I could see myself sticking with it for life.

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KEL GUERRERO

Breathe

I was born in the summer, and that day was a surprise to some. I was a quiet child, never had much to say. I was content. Still in that phase of youthful imagination. Started to look awkward in my preteen years, but I got over it. Growing up was always confusing, trying to find who you are. When you’re older you realize how much you’ve changed, and what you’ve missed out on. Sometimes you end up with the wrong people in your life, people that hold you back. Then you blame yourself and have a weird way of dealing with reality. Then that’s when you have to get a hold of yourself, and just breathe! Once all of that is over, you can finally break free, and have the love you’ve always wanted.

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KENNETH GARCIA

My Life

My life, I could say, is good when days are bright; bad when days are dark. So far, I see they’re just days. But what I can say? There’s nothing to say when things are the same everyday. It’s always going to be the same. Same with the old President or having someone change it.

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KENNETH GARCIA

A Better Reputation for Myself (as told to Abe Louise Young)

I’ve never been a writing person. What do you want to know? Right after the first time my dad got out of jail he would come see me and my brother one or two times. But then he kept just going back to jail. The people that I care about the most are my son, my mother, my stepfather, and my brother. They’ve all been there, but my brother’s just been there through the hards. Even when I had my son, he had his daughter way before me. My mom started to have her breakdown because she didn’t know what to do when I had my son. I told her on New Years Day, 2008. My brother told her it would be all right, and I told her it would be all right. She was going through a lot. She works for a beer company. She takes the orders, she’s a setup cashier and organizer. Since that day, my brother had work. He was working with my mom as a stocker, stocking beer into the 18-wheelers. It’s hard because he’ll come home late, 2 am, because he’s working. In 2009 I dropped out of school because I started going to Ms. Bailey’s program (the drop-out prevention program). I was looking for work, just simple work, to get money. I just kept on looking. It’s all the same. All the jobs tell me “no.” “Did you go online?” But I’m not good on the computer or online. I went to Payless. They told me “no.” “Why can’t you just help me out like someone helped you out 16


once?” I said to the lady. She said “No.” So I came back to the school program and I’m working hard to just get out of here. Being at school is just like going to work, but not getting paid. My mom and my stepdad now don’t tell me nothing. They know I’m going to school and I plan to be an electrician. I checked out the pay on that. At home when the wiring gets messed up, I fix it. My parents don’t tell me nothing because they know I’m trying to get out and do it. My baby’s mom doesn’t tell me nothing, until it gets hectic. She sometimes says, “I don’t know why we’re still together.” She feels like a single parent when she’s there alone at the house. But I’m trying to do something good so I can get more pay for her and my son. Her mother didn’t like me, and she put me in the paperwork on the computer for child support. When my baby’s mom went to WIC with my son, her mom went in her room and got my information so she could make me give for child support. I don’t know how I’m going to work out transportation to get to a job. The bus is how I’m going to get to work, but how am I going to get home if the bus stops running at twelve? I’m not focused on a job right now because I’m trying to get a diploma first. I’m not just a kid with a bad background. I’m here to fix it. I need to get a better reputation for myself.

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My son makes me happy. Girls make me happy. The smiles on my son’s face make me happy. My ideal jobs are to be the manager of a club, a barbershop manager, and an electrician.

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KENNETH GARCIA

What I Know

No matter what happens, 1. still be strong, 2. hard working, 3. and do the same for my kids. The perfect weather is not too cold, not too hot, just right with a summer breeze. If I had the power to change anything in the world it would be to give people jobs and housing. If my life was going to end, I would party one last time with everyone there and jump from a plane with a parachute.

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KRISTEN OLVERA

Letter

Dear Mom and Dad, I just wanted to tell you thank you! Thank you for being there for me no matter what and fighting my fights and not letting me get into trouble. I’m so glad to call you both my parents. I have no idea what I would do without you. What would I have done if you wouldn’t have encouraged me or helped me to do better for myself? We’ve had our ups and downs, but no matter how mad at me you were, you still helped me. All I can do is pray that I can be as good a parent to my children as you were to me. I’m so sorry for all the heartache and trouble I’ve caused you. And I hope that in the upcoming years, I can make it up to you guys. I love you! Thank you! I’m sorry. Always, Kristen

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KRISTEN OLVERA

I Forgive

I woke up to hear my mother crying and beat up, and asking her what happened. She said she fell. The drinking got worse and he turned the beatings from my mom to me. Brothers and sisters brought into the world, it was a happy time for me. As the years passed the drinking and the beatings got worse. The beating went to the other kids, and I was forced to protect them. Mommy started fighting back, and so did I. Moved to San Antonio for high school. Moved from house to house with lots of different people. Still hurt by it, I turn to drugs and hanging with the wrong crowd. My sophomore year he has a breakthrough and changes his life. My life gets so much easier. I realized that no matter what he did before, he’s still my family and I love him. I forgive him.

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KRISTEN OLVERA

Thinking About the Future

What makes me happy is my family, Steven, my puppy, shopping, talking, the color green, boys‌ My ideal job is to be an entrepreneur. If I had the power to change something, I would end poverty. I want to teach my kids about the importance of family, which is similar to what my parents did. If I were to die today, I would say goodbye to my family and go to church and repent. And just have fun all the way up until I croak.

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MICHAEL HARWOOD

My Life

I was born in the west-side ghetto. I learned how to cook when I was 8. I was in the foster home when I was 8. When I was 14 years old, I earned my first hundred dollars. I learned to do magic to hide the pain. Making money is my life.

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MICHAEL HARWOOD

And Magic

I want to be there for my kids, that’s how I’m different from my dad. I want to pass my mom’s Santeria culture to my kids. If it were my last day on Earth, I would make sure I had a girl and some brewskis. My ideal job would be to explore, to be a travel photographer so I could see the sights, all kinds. What makes me feel happy is money, and girls, and that’s about it. And Magic. And If I could change one thing in the world, I would stop pain.

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MICHAEL HARWOOD

Meeting My Dad (as told to Ernie Casas)

I met my dad when I was 18. When we met, I was amazed at how many things we had in common: We have good social skills with women... Our handwriting is almost the same... We both have bullet scars on the wrist... We both have scars on the left eye... And we both had identical surgeries for the same reason. My dad was surprised that I was a weight lifter like him, and how much I lifted. I was also amazed with how young my dad looked. He looks like he is 20 years old. Hell, I am 19. I was impressed that my dad has found God and is now a responsible father. My dad left me and I still feel hurt but I know people make mistakes.

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PERLA CHAVEZ

Born Into the World

Born into the world with only love from my mother. Hardship and heartache. Bad times and struggles. Illness and pain. Overcoming the negative and being optimistic. My mom is gone all day and night working hard to provide us with the best. Once things seem to be getting better, they get even worse. Never had a childhood. I have always been an adult. Reflecting back on my life and problems, I made a lot of mistakes that I could’ve prevented, but I don’t regret it. I shouldn’t have put my daughter in a position I hated being in growing up. Being without a father isn’t an easy thing to live with. Questions running through my mind, why isn’t he here? Why doesn’t he care? What did I do wrong? A beautiful girl who isn’t, but feels alone in the world, feels unloved. It hurts because as much love as I give a coward who ran away and disappeared and isn’t important to me will cause the most pain to my daughter who is my life, my world, and my everything. The one person I wish I could keep pain and hurt from, I can’t and won’t be able to no matter how hard I will try.

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PERLA CHAVEZ

Guarantee

Life has always been a constant struggle. Nothing has ever been bended to me. Everything always had to be earned. Dropouts, teen parents, and trouble makers are always put down and told they will not achieve anything, but that’s not even close to true. With the right motivation and support, anybody can do what they dream of doing. Before, all I had was my mom and I didn’t have much ambition to get anything done in my life even though I wanted to. When I found out I was pregnant I didn’t want my baby to struggle or not have the things she needed or wanted growing up. She became my biggest motivation. Wanting to provide for my daughter, I enrolled back in school and started preparing for my daughter to come into this world. Here she was, 6 pounds and 1 ounce. She looked at me as if I knew all the answers when I really didn’t. The most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life. I know I am going to want to protect and keep her safe from trouble, but in reality I can’t. Life doesn’t have guarantees, but I guarantee she will always be loved by me. I am now almost done with school and so happy that I am on the right path to be able to support my daughter and be able to give her everything possible. In life anything is possible and you can achieve anything no matter what you have been through.

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PERLA CHAVEZ

My Life as Perla

I want to be just like my mom. She’s a strong and independent woman and has always done things for herself and been there for her kids. I hope my daughter grows up to be the same. My ideal job is being a medical assistant, but in a children’s doctor’s office. I like when it’s sunny outside, but not too hotttt! Really fresh and nice. If I had the power to change anything in the world I would find a cure for all cancers. Write my daughter and let her know how much I love her, that’s what I would do if I were going to die. What makes me happy is seeing my daughter’s beautiful smile. What makes me happy is getting up and getting ready for school in the morning. What makes me happy is making my mom proud. What makes me happy is that I am blessed with life.

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Samantha Jimenez

My Life as Samantha

What makes me happy are my boys. My boys make me happy when they tell me that they love me very much. I want to teach my kids to be respectful, loving, caring, and helpful to each other. My favorite weather is cold and rainy because it makes you want to cuddle and watch movies with the kids. If this was my last day on Earth, I would make sure my kids are with my parents. I would take a trip around the world. If I had the power to change anything in the world, I would make sure everyone had healthcare. My ideal job would be as an X-Ray technician because I want to help others when in need.

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Samantha Jimenez

Letter to Someone Who Changed My Life

Dear Ms. Beatty, I am so grateful that I had met you 4 years ago because I had to repeat the 9th grade three times. I didn’t see myself going anywhere. But in 2006, I dropped out because I got with someone that was very controlling of my life and when I was going through all of these hardships, I ended up having two wonderful boys that mean the world to me. But the day I had to give up on their dad, 'cause he was abusive, I told everyone that I needed to go back to school to better myself and for my kids. I wanted my kids to know that they can do it when they get older. If it wasn’t for Ms. Beatty letting me come back to school, I don’t know where I would be today. Ms. Beatty shows that she cares that you do well and went out of her way to make sure you get what you want or need. I just want to thank you for everything that you have done for me and my kids. Samantha Jimenez

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Abe Louise Young teaches workshops for young writers in schools and community centers around the country. She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and holds an MFA in Writing from the University of Texas at Austin. She's the editor of numerous anthologies of literature by teenagers, including Hip Deep: Opinions, Essays, and Vision from American Teenagers, and the author of one collection of poetry.

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Readers and writers today and tomorrow

“Gemini Ink nurtures writers and readers and builds community through literature and the related arts,” is our mission. Our four programs serve an average of 5,000 patrons annually: Writers in Communities (WIC) sends professional writers into diverse community settings to work alongside students of all ages, needs, interests, and abilities in free workshops based in oral traditions, reading, and creative writing. The Autograph Series presents writers of national or international stature — many of them recipients of major prizes such as the Pulitzer or National Book Award — in a free public performance and a ticketed colloquium luncheon the following day. University Without Walls (UWW) offers three semesters of feebased reading groups and workshops and also many free literary events, all led by professional writers, scholars, and interdisciplinary artists. Dramatic Readers Theater (DRT) features professional actors interpreting literary works in free performances, often accompanied by original music. For more information, visit www.geminiink.org or call 210-734-WORD (9673) Toll-free: 877-734-WORD (9673)

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Nothing Has Bended To Me  

Students from the East Central Independent School District Mise en place Drop-Out Recovery Pilot Program in San Antonio, Texas Write Their T...

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