My Thank You To Saxbys

I remember walking into Saxbys Rittenhouse Square in August of 2015 looking for a job. I was 15 years old at the time. I walked in and said “Hey I see you have a job opening are you hiring can I get an application?”

I was nervous as hell. The guy look at me with a huge smile and told me

“Really man apply online, they are really looking for people.”

He showed me the website and told me good luck. I asked for his name he said “Quran”. I didn’t fill out the application at that moment but decided to hit up every store on South 20th street till South and once I got to South I hit up every store on South till Front street. After getting to front and South I made my way back to the Rittenhouse Square area and sat in the park. There I filled out my application for Saxbys. I got a call back from aurelina a few days later and did a phone interview. It was the only place that called me back out of the dozens of businesses I had been to.  I than was asked to come into Headquarter for a face to face interview.

Getting Ready. My first job interview. I wake up a nervous anxious wreck. My interview wasn’t until the afternoon at 1pm. The whole day I’m pacing back and forth in my room wondering what are they going to ask. What if I get the job and hate it? What If I don’t get the job? What if they look at me like I’m a joke? I’m just 15 years old. I don’t really need a job I want a job. All of these things made me even more anxious. It was getting closer to game time so I took a nice warm shower. I decided to wear my royal blue dress pants. Hey that reminds me I need to look for them. I also wore my sky blue buttoned up shirt with a royal blue tie. I was looking what my grandmother would say “casket sharp”. I began making my way to Saxbys Headquarters.

Interview Time

Upon arrival I was greeted by the security guard who cracked some awful jokes. I made my way to the elevators then up I went to suite 310. I walked out of the elevator and was greeted again but this time by the most beautiful glass wall with a really nice medallion. After admiring the glass wall I walked through a  glass door and past a few offices with glass walls and doors. I was finally in the main space which was so bright and had huge ceiling and huge windows. Holy Shit this place is beautiful. I stood for few seconds a little confused at what to do until some guy came up to me and asked “Hey how can I help you?” “Umm Umm I’m here for an interview”. Shoot I just said umm twice I’m ruining my chances. “Okay great you can sit right over here can I get you drink?” I decided on a water to calm myself down a little. Me wanting to leave an impression I came about 15 minutes early. Within those 15 minutes I was able to really observe the space and and the people. One person stood out to me in particular. It was this really tall guy who was really put together. I knew I saw him before but didn’t know where I knew him from. After about five minutes of thinking It clicked I saw him at my school. It was finally interview time. The interview started off great. We got to the part where they asked

“So what do you like to do outside of school” I responded

“I like photography and hanging out with friends.”

All I could think was wow that's the most ridiculous answer. To vague. To basic but it’s very true. Also the fact that I was 15 gave me less points and then that answer would leave me looking like any other person who applied for this job. Other than that one incident in my head, the interview went great. The nerve wracking part was finally over

“Thank you so much for coming Kaamil we’ll contact you if we offer you a position”

“Okay thank you for your time”

I felt with all my heart I didn’t get the job. I left wondering “How do I tell people I didn’t get the job.”

It's September 4th around 4:30pm and I just satisfied my stomach with a greasy slice of Fairmount Pizza. The only thing on my mind is I didn’t get the job. As I walked out of the shop my phone began ringing.


“Hi this is Aurelina from Saxbys Coffee, I’m calling to offer you a position with Saxbys”

“Yes of course”

“Okay, can you come in to fill out paperwork tomorrow”


Training and Shadow Shifts

I began training a few days after filling out paperwork. I trained with Lauren.  A really nice tall women who made training super fun! I trained with a group of adults who I thought I wouldn’t fit in at all. I don’t remember much of my training other than that I was really quiet because I was the youngest and it was really cool to learn something new. What I do remember is my shadow shift. My shadow shifts were really fun but super nerve wracking. It’s going to be  my first time in a real cafe with real humans paying real money for a really good drink. What if I mess up. Turns out the shadow shift wasn’t bad at all. I shadowed this really really tall guy at Rittenhouse cafe. At first I was really intimidated but he made the shift super fun and easy. But now it’s time to go to the real cafe and work for real. My gaming practice is over.


I began working at the Upenn cafe in November of 2015.. I sat at this long table with all of my co-workers for a team meeting and a chance to meet everyone. Even though we were all new I still felt odd. I was still the youngest. But at the end of the table was the really tall guy from my shadow shift Reed. He was my manager. From the November till June Reed was my manager he currently works at HQ. Reed encouraged me to always do my best and has made me much more of a professional and so has Heather a former co worker who works at HQ now. After months of being just a barista I was promoted to be a team lead. As in someone who manages a  shift and make sure the cafe stays active and can remain active when I leave. So at the young age of 16 I’m basically in charge of running a cafe for a couple of hours which doesn’t seem that hard but is really stressful. For example If something at the cafe happens like a crazy person comes in and threatens to kill someone I have to deal with the issue. If we run out of something I have to deal with the issue. If someone doesn’t show up I have to pull more weight or ask someone to come in. This all when I’m still the youngest person working in the cafe. I still have to get people to warm up to me and to respect me as a team lead even though I’m super young it just takes time.


When I worked under Reed we would take long walks after work and talk about our future. When I told him I needed to do an internship he encouraged me to do an internship at our headquarters. I didn't think it was possible due to no other high schoolers ever interning there. I emailed Nick Bayer the CEO of Saxbys about an internship and he hooked me up with Allie. Allie has been my go to person for everything interesting and has created a really cool job where I get to have a peek into everyone's job. From Marketing and Social Media to HR. I’ve been able to create skills and gain knowledge from adults who work. Being able to use my own skills and applying them to my internship has been the most difficult. I never know if my skills are good enough. I’‘m only in high school these people are legit adults I’m working with. Every single event and job that I’ve done I’ve been the youngest. From parties like the Inc.5000 party where adults get super dressed up and have a great night to our Holiday christmas party I’m still this young little guy that’s surrounded by adults and has really only worked with adults.


There's a huge change from coming to school and going to work. On one end I have people arguing over crap and on the other end I have people talking about rent. I sometimes feel like an adult trapped in the life a teenager. I don’t have much in common with teenagers other than the fact that I go to school and live with my parents. I always think about all the things I’ve been able to do and the trust Saxbys has given me to not only be a team lead but to intern at HQ and give me responsibilities the normal teenager doesn’t have. When I come to school I think of how much my life is going to change. I see my future in all of my coworkers. I think of all the things they have taught me and all the things I am gonna have to do and I thank them for giving me the biggest head start. As I continue to grow and the world continues to change through my eyes I think of everyone who has given me a professional balance and the best head start in life. Thank you so much and let’s continue to make life better.

Jamie's trip to Genoa

In January of 2012, my parents and I left for Genoa, Italy.  When my parents initially told me about it, I was hesitant because it meant I would have to leave all my friends and family in Philly and wouldn’t see them for 6 months.   The departure day came and we flew to Milan.  When we landed there was a large taxi waiting to take us to our apartment building in Genoa.   We lugged our suitcases into the tiny elevator and then into our apartment.  It was a nice little apartment and after a while, I was able to get used to it, but at first it was pretty hard.  Every night for maybe a month I had trouble sleeping.  I would start thinking about Philly and all my friends and I would start to cry. This lasted for maybe 10-15 minutes and then I would try to stop.  I missed my friends so much  

A few days after we arrived when we had recovered from jetlag, my mom told me about a school called ISG (International School of Genoa).  I was to start attending the following week.  My mind started racing.  I thought, “What if no one speaks English there?” and “What if no one likes me?” My parents went with me to take the bus over to the school.  We didn’t have a car and they needed to show me the bus route.  They made sure that the right people knew that I was there.  We all got a tour of the building and then they hugged me and said,

.“Have great first day at school” they left me with the school secratery.  “This is Noah Rossi,” she said indicating a young boy.  “You will be following Noah today.  You and he are in the same classes.”

Noah led me through a courtyard , and to our first-period class, which was English.

I walked into the classroom with Noah.  At first, I was anxious but then I noticed that everyone was smiling at me.  I smiled back and soon they were bombarding me with questions, like “Do you celebrate Christmas in America?”,”Do you have McDonalds in America?” and other typical questions that we ask people of different nationalities.  The teacher interupted.  Her name was Ms. Ryder and she was very tall and wore high heels to make herself even taller.  She had amazing posture.  She got up from her desk and asked if I would share a little about myself.  I was flattered, and got up in front of the class and told them a little bit about my family and life in the States.  

After a couple of hours it was time for lunch.  I got in line and grabbed a tray.  After a few minutes it was my turn at the front of the line and I said

“Hi can I have some pasta a piece of bread and some pear juice?’  The lunch lady looked very disappointed she said,

“No you must have lasagna first before anything else.  It felt weird to me that she was telling me what I could and could not eat but I went with it anyway even though I don’t like lasagna.

I remember one day in particular that was pretty intense for me.  It started out as a normal day.  I woke up, got dressed, poured myself some milk and cocoa puffs into a bowl, and watched an episode of the animated Mr. Bean series.  Then I got my backpack ready for school and started walking down the long hill that leads from our apartment building with my dad.  We waited at the nearest bus stop.  What normally happened is that my dad and I would board the bus together, get off at the stop close to my school and play some 1 on 1 soccer before school.  Then he would say goodbye to me from there.  That did not happen on this day.  When the bus pulled up to the bus stop I realized that it was extremely crowded.  I got on but my dad did not.  I was terrified because I did not have the route memorized.  At the time my Italian wasn’t very solid so it was hard to explain to people what had happened.  My dad was running after the bus as fast as he could, and he yelled to me,  “Get off at the next stop!”  So I tried, but it was pretty difficult to get out of the bus since there were so many people.   I managed to get off the bus but my dad was still far away.  The bus stops are far apart in Genoa.  I just looked around and it looked foreign to me. I did not see my dad and I feared I was going to be late for school.  There were two  Italian girls with me at the bus stop and they seemed concerned.  They asked me what was wrong, in Italian, and I responded in English.   I said, “My dad didn’t get on the bus with me and I don’t know how to get to school”.  The girls didn’t understand what I said.  It seemed to make them nervous which did not help me at all.  After a couple of minutes, I saw my dad running to where I was.  When he reached me, we hugged and talked about what we should do next.  We agreed that we should wait for the next bus.  Luckily it was not nearly as crowded as the first one so we could both fit on board.  We got off at my school and I was on time!  I was so happy.  After that day I had a much more positive view of Italy.

Not long after the my bus adventure my grandfather came to visit.  We took a short trip with him to a park called Nervi.  First we headed to the”passeggiata” which is a sidewalk that is really close to the sea.  We got to the park gates.   Unlike most of Genoa, the park was very green and had lots of palm trees that were all pretty close together.  We saw lots of people walking their dogs, jogging, hanging out with their kids at the playground, and sitting around on the grass.  My dad and I had brought our soccer ball when all of a sudden I had an idea.

I said “What if we played soccer with the goal being the space between those trees there?!”  My dad really liked the idea so we got out the ball and started kicking around.  We played for close to an hour and I got really sweaty.  It was one of the first times when I felt really good about being in Italy, because I got to do something that I enjoyed, with people that meant a lot to me, in an awesome place.  

My experience in Italy in 2012 was mixed.  There were some things that happened that were frustrating, but they did not overpower all the wonderful things that happened. Over time, I totally forgot about the bad things.  I can think of many more examples of great things that happened, rather than bad.  I look forward to going to Italy again in 2018.

This connects to The Things They Carried because, at first, like me, Tim was very keen on not going to war and wanted to do everything he could to get out of it.  Eventually he found some good in it and ended up really liking it.  I realize that I wasn’t faced with the challenge of war, but I had to adapt to a new home, in a new city, in a foreign country, where they spoke another language, in the middle of the school year.  It wasn’t easy but it was worth it .

Strugges to Happiness|| Alex Chuon

Struggles to Happiness

Being the place I grew up in, southwest Philly is pretty harsh.. I experienced three shootings growing up there, and saw many news of shootings near my house. I barely had any friends growing up, and I didn’t really know what it was like to make friends, so I usually kept my distance. Since I was asian, I was usually picked on and bullied in elementary school. There was something like a school band where we had a music teacher teaching brass instruments, but I never really paid attention in it. There were many times where people wanted to befriend me, but I never really trusted anyone, and avoided contact.

My middle school experience felt worst than my elementary school’s. I went to Pepper, a neighborhood school, and I had a love-hate relationship. I loved it because the teachers tried to give students the best time of their lives in middle school, but I also hated it due to being continuously bullied. In the fifth grade at the time, and I decided to try and make some friends, but during the year, my eyesight got worse, and I had to wear glasses. I was very scared to talk to people because I thought people would mock me for my glasses, but people actually started to like me. I was happy, but I was not able to communicate with people, because there were people who stayed in their group. I was bullied like always, but I endured it.

In the sixth grade, and I still haven’t been able to make any friends. Living in a harsh neighborhood, and going to a neighborhood school. I have to take the school bus to and from school. One day on my way home from school, I overheard people talking about me, and how they might jump me. I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. I then tried to avoid being in their sight as much as possible, but I couldn’t hide forever. As soon as I got off the bus, I heard them say my name, and they pushed me against the fence of my elementary school. I ignored them, hoping that they’d just forget about me and leave me be. I thus, walked away but I heard running, but I knew what was going to happen next. I could’ve dodged, or ran away, but I froze. I felt my right cheek get crushed by a fist and then get pummeled towards the fence. I tried to protect myself when I realized that I can’t always be a coward, so I then tried fighting back myself. I was swinging my fist as hard as I can, and I felt my fist hit something at least 4-5 times. I knew I lost, and wouldn’t be able to fight back, but I wanted to go down, and at least bring 1 person down with me. A day later, I was going to depression, because of how easy of a target I was, and how I didn’t have any friends. Then, I started to listen to music, and I found out that music, can be an escape route for me. I was able to be immersed into another world, or dimension. I was immersed into the music, and lyrics.

Throughout the whole year, I’ve been listening to music trying to get through the tough times. During that year, I also took up piano, and learned piano during that year and the next. Piano was one of the best of fun instruments I played. It calmed me down so much, when I played. I wanted to learn as much as possible, and learn music theory for it too. 7th grade, I met this one person who grew up ghetto, and my best friend today. Even though we didn’t have almost nothing in common, we clicked, and just started talking to each other more. We became closer than I imagined, and I was happy that I made a friend. He became dependable to me. He helped me get out of fights, due to how his reputation was. He was someone that not a lot of people would want to mess with. We chatted, he does what he has do, and I do what I have to do. I still played piano, and listen to music, while having a good friend close towards me. Because of him, I was able to socialize more, and be able to have the ability to make more friends. I was also able to pick myself up, get out of depression, and look forward to the future. I wasn’t scared of the past anymore, and how I would get bullied. I wasn’t scared if I’d lose a fight, of if I’m going to go in a fight. I became more open, less scared, and more straightforward. And to be honest, I don’t even know whether or not I would be scared, if a gun were to be put up my head. I lost the fear of something that people would think I’m crazy, but that’s how I feel.

In eighth grade, and I went to another middle school, because the school I went to, shut down. During that time, Instead of playing piano, I wanted to trumpet. And coincidentally, it was the same music teacher from my elementary school, and middle school, so I wasn’t that hesitant to be close with him. When I tried to play the trumpet, it was difficult, so he found a better solution of an instrument to play which was the baritone. It was very similar to the trumpet. You can say it was the bass for the trumpet, more deeper, but plays the same notes, on a different scale.

I played baritone for at least 4 months now, and I felt like I mastered it, and asked my teacher if I can try the trumpet out. I played a few notes, and it wasn’t as difficult as I thought, and I started being cocky, and saying how I'm soo good. Surprisingly, I was actually good with trumpet, I didn't have trouble playing it, so I wanted to play clarinet, flute, saxophone, and alto saxophone, and It was very easy to play. The hardest instrument was flute, due to having a certain position with playing it. After playing multiple instruments, I gained quite a bit of fame. I realized after I stop practicing for a bit was that I was barely picked on. Rather than being picked on, I became friends with many people at the school that I didn’t think I’d become friends with.

Of course I was in multiple fights, but it was different than being picked on, or being bullied. I was one of the people that everyone at the school knew, I didn’t feel popular, but I felt like I was noticed, and I have friends. I started talking to my best friend, and we just started to hang out like always. Even then, whenever I was having troubles, in a bad mood, etc. I would just listen to music, or talk to my best friend, or my other friends. If I talk to my friends, they would always try to understand, and help me through it, and give me good advices. I started becoming more and more open.

I don’t know if it was obvious or not, but music and friends are some things that became a big part of my life. It was as if it was like a gift from god. It was something I hold dearly towards me. I see questions on facebook where they ask “What is your biggest fear?”, and I constantly argue with myself whether or not if my biggest fear were that I’d lose all my friends I hold dear, or never be able to listen to music, which I simplify to being deaf. It’s the two I never want to lose, same goes for family too. I grew up never laughing, now I’m someone who people consider a friend, and I laugh with people, people I consider friends, and able to listen to music that I can be in a different dimension, if I ever want to be in a hole alone.

Media fluency reflection (Mike Ing)

Tech Class (2)
When I went up to present my slide I was a bit nervous but prepared myself, especially since we were set up to fail. And yes it did happen and most of the critiques I was given I did expect. So If I were able to redo this project over again I would 1. Make sure the colorization of the slide was correct and also make sure there was no digital errors in colorization or pixelization. My slide was originally intended to be orange but then came out to be red but I did not really care since either color would have worked anyways. Also something else that I messed up on was the fact that when choosing a picture to put for my background it came out a little pixelated which was not intended. If I were to redo this I would find a background with more detail so when I were to enlarge it, it won't pixelize. Also another error I made was that I tried to make the Image cut off and ended up doing so for no logical reason, I cut off the logo and it interfered with being able to see the picture. 

Taking a Step Back

We had just landed in Phnom Penh, Cambodia less than 6 hours ago after a 21 hour flight and departed the city towards Svay Rieng Province. The sky was getting darker as the moon shone brighter. We were at a wedding reception in the countryside. This one in particular was outside in front of the bride’s house. Like many houses in rural Cambodia, this one was wooden and uplifted by tall pillars so that the first floor was just open space to sit and lounge. Two long, wooden staircases extended from different entrances to the inside of the house to the ground. There was a clearing in front of the house which was supposed to be the dancefloor. Tables were set up all around the dancefloor. On one side, stacks of large, black speakers blared out Khmer music.

I was wearing a light pink cardigan with a lacy white blouse and distressed jeans. The other girls had a full face of makeup on, their heads of hair were stiff like cardboard, and their dresses looked like something out of Toddlers and Tiaras. They must’ve prepped all day for this wedding, I remember saying to myself. It was night time and I was struggling to stay awake from the jet-lag. Even all the food on the table couldn’t make up for it. I stared at the beef larb, the Khmer-styled sweet and sour soup, and rice in front of me. There were flies and mosquitos everywhere, and they had a special liking for my face. I kept wiggling my arms and stomping legs to shoo the mosquitos away. The locals are never preyed upon by those bloodsucking vampires. “They can smell foreign blood,” my mom would say. I guess my agitation was apparent because some guys were setting up a lamp near my table that attracts and then zaps and kills the flies that comes into contact with it. Some of the men and women standing right in front of me found it very amusing that I couldn’t stand the aerial pests. They did not bother to try and hide their laughter. My vacation was already starting off terribly.

I was born in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. My parents and two older siblings moved to the U.S. when I was around three years old leaving me with my grandmother. My parents worked for several years to build a life there for my family. By the time I was six, they had saved enough money for me to move to the U.S. to be with them. I began first grade in a charter school in Philadelphia not knowing how to speak any English. I remember having to be separated from my classes frequently to go with the English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. However, it didn’t take long before I became fluent in the language and caught up to the rest of my classmates. I didn’t think much of it then as a first grader, but my life would never be the same. Because I was so young when I learned, I don’t carry an accent when speaking English. Now, there was nothing to set me apart from the rest of my classmates. I grew up doing everything my classmates did. Even in high school, my friends forget that I am from a different country.

The mosquitos wouldn’t quit. I was itching all over. I was so ready to go home and get some sleep. I alerted my parents that I had to use the restroom. My dad motioned for me to follow him. We walked away from the house and out to the fields. “Go ahead,” he said, pointing to a corner of the field were tall plants were clustered. I stared back at him in astonishment.

“What, you want me to pee behind the plants?”

“Yeah, where else? No one will see you,” he said, pointing at the plants once again.

“No! Nevermind, I don’t wanna go anymore,” I exclaimed.

“Alright then, wait here. I gotta take care of my business too,” he responded and headed off.

I crossed my arms and released a big sigh as I looked up at the sky. The moon in Philadelphia was much bigger, but here there are stars. There are palm trees and fireflies. There are motorcycles, coconuts, and breathtaking beaches. The smell in the air was dewy and I start to remember how much I missed it. Everything about the place. I wanted to cut open a pocket in the sky where I could crawl into and breathe this air forever and be smothered. This was my home, but people were treating me like an outsider because I was already having issues with the insects. What was once something I did not pay attention to was now so foreign. I used to pee by bushes all the time when I lived in Cambodia. Everyone did it because not everyone had money to install toilets. I was surprised that once again, I did not fit in with everyone else. I didn’t like how that felt.

In contrast to that, my mother intentionally tried to set herself apart from everyone else. She went to the salon run by ladyboys daily to get her hair, makeup, and nails done. In the U.S., she never did anything like that. She made sure to flash her earrings, necklaces, and rings and always carried her finest purses which were never taken out of her closet in Philly.

“You’re going to get snatched,” my grandmother warns my mom. In Cambodia, no one really wears fake jewelry.

If my mom didn’t do all of that to look fancy, she would fit right in. Moving to America didn’t change anything about her identity. She doesn’t speak English and she never did grow up around Americans like me. In the future I will become even more distant from my past which I cannot control. I struggle to hold onto my identity which is largely defined by my culture in a country that holds different traditions. My homeland will become a distant memory after my parents are gone and I don’t want that to happen, but I know it most likely will. I don’t know how to deal with this internal conflict until I do grow up. All I can do is continue to speak my language, eat the food I eat and maybe cook that food in the future for my family.

I ended up leaving the wedding early that night. So much has happened since the last time I set foot on my grandmother’s house and I have grown so much. Everyone is always moving from one thing to the next. Our world is constantly changing as we are experiencing new things that shapes our lives and we adopt to it and it adopts to us so quickly that we don’t even realize what is happening until we take a step back. That is why we must surround ourselves with the people, places, and things that reminds us of who we are and where we came from so that we don’t get lost.

E2 U2 Desfile de Moda

Interrogatorio / Inquiry

  • Why do companies choose to have their products manufactured in other countries? Why does it matter? Companies manufacture in other countries because it is cheaper which means they don’t have to pay the workers that much. When workers are paid so little the working conditions are terrible and many workers die. In addition, countries that a company's products are sold in can’t do anything about said company breaking the law

  • What are maquilas? Why is it important we know about them?  Maquilas are sweatshops, we need to know about them so we can help end them or at least give voices for the workers who can’t speak up.

  • What can we do to be more mindful consumers? To be more mindful consumers we can check the brands we buy and wear and research where they are made. We can make goals to buy less sweatshop brands. It will be hard to stop buying from these places entirely but by being aware of how the workers are treated we can make better decisions when shopping.

Investigación / Research

Brands like H&M, GAP, Walmart, and ZARA are made overseas in sweatshops. However, there are still some companies that manufacture their clothes in the US. Some of the smaller brands that manufacture completely in the US include Flynn Skye, Grown & Sewn, Beau & Ro, and Welcome Stranger.

Reflexión / Reflection

En el fin, el proyecto dio nosotros un más bien idea de que marcas es bien apoyar. Escribiendo el guión y buscando para información dar más perspectiva en la situación. Mirando allá, más bien gerencia de tiempo y todos haciendo trabajo equal habría sido beneficial. El trabajo fue muy desigual de persona a persona. Si nosotros todos hacemos trabajo equal, el proyecto estaría más pulido.


1:Hola todos!

2: Bienvenido a nuestra moda video!

1:Tenemos dos models ahora, Simone y Grace!

(simone walks out)

2:Simone se destaca en su suéter con mangas largas! Lo vey muy buen.

1: Si! Si! Está de moda en su mallas negras también!

2:  Ella se luce en su 2000 Converse! Lo es hacer en los Estados Unidos

1: Si. Un hecho divertido, solo previo a 2001 los fueron en los Estados Unidos. Pero, ahora hacerlos todos de el mundo.

2: Esos converses verdes son fabuloso!

1: Simone usa aretes de Harry Potter!

2:Simone lleva un anillo plata, lo es sencillo.

1: Sus accesorios son muy fantástico y están en tendencia

2. El suéter y las mallas de simone son de american apparel!

1: La ropa de American Apparel hecho de en los estados unidos!

2: Muy bien Simone!

(Simone walks off like a boss)

(Grace walks out)

2: Alli es Grace!

1: Grace se veste en una suéter azul de (forever 21). Lo tiene una muy bonito tono de azul.

2: Si. Pero, ese suéter no hacer en los Estados Unidos, desafortunadamente. Los restos fabrica en china. Aquel, el salario es 2 dólares en un dia, y las circunstancias no está bien en las maquilas también.

1: Si, estas mallas de (Target) negras está el mismo, desafortunadamente. Estarlas muy suave y cómodo.

2: Muchas gracias Grace!

1: Bien, creo que lo es tiempo para un comparación!

2: Si! Dejarnos compara los trajes de los modelos.

1: El traje de Grace, tenemos las mallas bonitas de (target), el suéter muy fantástico de (forever 21), y los zapatos blancos de adidas, para sólo ($80)

2: Si, pero para solo un poco más para el valor, tu puedes el traje de Simone! Más caro, si. Pero los converse, el traje y los accesorios todos hacer en los Estados Unidos, no con las maquilas.

1: El traje de Simone es solamente $100!

2: increíble!

1: En conclusion, ? comprar ropa barata de maquilas o ropa un poco más caro de los estados unidos?

1: Si. Muchas Gracias para los modelos bonitos, y todos de los espectadores! Adios!

2: Adios!

​Loss, Depression, and December 17th, 2015

Luis-Manuel Morales

January 8th, 2017

English Quarter 2 Benchmark

Loss, Depression, and December 17th, 2015

Thursday, December 17th, 2015,  I sat on the grass of the Cira green roof park, ignoring the sound of my fellow students laughing, chatting, and having fun. The final few days leading up to the holiday break are normally filled with great joy and spending quality time with the people I love and care about. Yet I sat there alone, as reality crushed hope and realism slayed optimism. The cold breeze and cloudy, dark sky didn't help to my situation either. I sat looking out at my city. The beautiful, chaotic concrete jungle I call home. A view that never gets old for me, yet  I could not connect myself to it. I couldn't get the upcoming events out of my head.

For the past few months, My Great Grandmother had been getting more and more sick. The doctors had given her months, then weeks, then days to live over the span of less than half a month. She was the foundation of my mother's side of the family, and losing her seemed impossible to me. I couldn’t imagine a world in which Abuelita wasn’t sitting in her signature recliner when we went to visit. However her condition was the worst it had ever been. She had stopped moving and eating, and she hadn’t said a word in weeks. The impossible was becoming possible, and I was trying to hold on to that impossibility for as long as I could.

On our way home that evening, my family and I told one another that things were going to be ok. That Abuelita was going to be ok. At that moment, my grasp onto the impossible slipped. It hit me that sooner or later my beloved Abuelita was going to pass. Immediately I shut myself off and turned on autopilot, somehow getting through the night doing the minimal. I was prepping for the worse, but I had no idea it would hit so fast. Early the next morning, she passed away.

I successfully got through school that friday, the day of Abuelitas passing, without breaking down. However,  I was really going through a lot of pain on the inside. My friends Nate and Asher kept me company as I took my lunch period to go out and take some pictures for photography class. My face was covered up by the camera for almost all the shots where I was visible, except for one. A selfie with the  three of us. Nate, his happy self. Asher, his goofy self. Me, dead. My face was the pinnacle of depression. Looking back at that day, that was the result of me burying all the shit I was feeling extremely deep down and ignoring myself. It was the punishment I put myself though for not staying home to deal with what I was going though.

The world did not stop. Everything continued as is. Except for me. I had stopped walking but the world continued to spin. I felt as if I had been driving a car at a hundred miles an hour, however suddenly the car vanished. Leaving me flying with a collision course with the ground. Even though the world hadn’t changed, I had. I was kicked back and forced to attempt to adapt to a new, foreign society where the holiday season was in full swing. Happiness, family, and all this positive energy that I had begun to hate a few weeks back, however now i despised it. I had been disconnected from the cheer and festive spirit, and wasn’t ready for the challenge of trying to function in such a place where I felt like the oddball.

Even though the Holidays are all about spending time with loved ones, I wish it was under better conditions. Family from Florida came to stay with us, but It wasn’t for the reason of the season. They came for Abuelitas viewing and funeral. Trying to keep myself composed, it wasn’t much help hosting family. Obviously, I love them, but this was a time where I’d rather be alone, contrary to what my parents and family suggested, along with every damn song on the radio.

Monday, December 21st, 2015. Another day of choosing to go to school even though I clearly wasn’t fit for the job.  I dragged myself through the day, putting my emotions wherever I could. Not knowing how to express my emotions properly, I instead plowed through those seven God awful hours with terrible decisions and starting beefs that I wasn’t ready nor intended to cook. Any sympathy people had for me was taken away, which would’ve been a lot worse if I had attended school the final two days before break. Abuelitas Funeral saved me.

This was the beginning of my journey. Although there was plenty of build up dating back to freshman year, my tumble down the road of depression and coming back into a normal life kicked of with the passing of Abuelita. December of Sophomore year. Over a year later, I still haven’t fully transitioned back into the life and world I once knew. Honestly, I never think I can. This event shaped me more than any other experience in my life. Of course, I love my family and my friends. I’d catch a bullet for any of them any day. But Abuelita was the center of my heart. With that crucial piece of my life missing, everything came down.

Still working on myself, I’ve lost some touch with the world. Obviously I know what's going on, but I can’t relate or accept them like I used to. All the tragedies, family issues, an incoming Trump Presidency, I know they’re a thing. I simply can’t grasp them properly. Previously, I had a balance and connection between everything and my emotions. Now, that balance has been dismantled. I struggle to put the pieces together. Over the past year I definitely have improved, but that struggle still effects me on a day to day basis. I’ve been thrown through a loop, but at the end of the day I reflect on where I’ve come from. Nothing or nobody can replace my Great Grandma, but I know she would want me to stay strong. When it comes down to it, the only person who will never leave you is yourself, and you have to learn how to love and lean on yourself.

December 17th, 2015. The day before my life took a major turn. My world put the brakes on, slamming me forward, leaving the comfort of the reality I once knew in the dust. I’ve learned, and I am still learning how to support myself. I adored Abuelita more than anyone can imagine, and her passing destroyed and built me back up. More than a few pieces are still missing, but even though I will never be the same and I continue to struggle with some things, I’m more mature and more well prepared to face the ever changing world. Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. That fact slapped me silly when I least expected it. I learned from that one slap, however, that it’s a matter of taking those slaps and making the best out of them. In the end, the pain and suffering will pay of, no matter how far that payoff may seem. It’s there, you just have to keep charging for it.

From Here To There

For four years, I attended my local neighborhood school, Mastery Hardy Williams. Being that I spent such a long time there, one would think that I liked it. Sadly enough the experience was everything but. To quote my best friend Tk, who also attended the school with me, “It was a jail. They try to keep us in line like prisoners, insteading of actually providing education.” These words came about due to several instances in which we felt as though we they expected nothing more from us than trouble, and by any means meant to keep us in line. Such as two hour detentions for something so miniscule as to wearing pink socks not navy blue, despite our socks barely being noticeable. Or the always memorable sneaker gate, when my friend Umar was forced by the dean, to color in his white Nike check black because the school had a strict all black sneaker policy. The pinnacle of the madness was during an afternoon in eighth grade, right before lunch. My friends and I stopped by our lockers for a second so that Tk and Victoria get a few snacks. We then walked around and down the hallway, only to be stopped by Dean Robinson who stated, “class ended five minutes ago, and you're late to lunch, so give me your demerit cards.” That was the first and last time I ever heard that you could be late to lunch. But this was my school. More obsessed with expressing their authority, than gaining the trust and respect of the students. This type of environment made me feel that adults didn’t have faith or trust in me. As though in order for me to do something right, I had to be policed, and that I couldn’t have an authentic and trusting relationship with a faculty member. Maybe that’s why I left as soon as the opportunity arose.

Going into eighth grade I had one goal and that was to get into SLA. Tk and I had talked about it since the beginning of seventh grade. We went to the open house and interviews, and for weeks prayed that we got in. I was ecstatic when I finally did, and what a blessing and self transformation it would lead to. I remember my very first day at SLA like it was yesterday. Around 7:30 I stepped off the last step leading from the trolley station, to the wet sidewalk. I stood impatiently at the corner, waiting for the stop light to allow me to cross. A few moments later it turned green, and suddenly a rush of fear and anxiety ran through my body. I was almost at SLA. Truth be told, this was the farthest I’d ever ventured out alone.I slowed down, wondering what it would be like when I walked in. I began to think about middle school, wondering if it was the best decision to leave the place I’d spent my last four years at. A place that with all its issues was still safe and comfortable. I was quickly awakened from this trance by the sounds of footsteps and car tires making their way down the street. Everyone seeming to know where they’re going, and what to expect from their day. Before I knew it I was in front of the green doors. I had no chance to be scared as the presence of bodies behind me urged me in. All at once the noise and atmosphere took over. For a second I was overwhelmed, not sure where to go. I saw dozens of people laughing, hugging, and screaming with joy. Not sure what to do, I took a seat at an empty table by the window. I took my jacket off, setting it on my bookbag, and I sat there waiting for Tk, knowing her, she wouldn’t have gotten their until the last minute. I turned my phone on to see 7:40am on top of my screen. I was slightly irritated that I came so early. I focused my eyes on the dreary scenery outside. Too nervous to turn around and take part in the chaotic environment taking place behind me.

This nervous energy encompassed me for a few days, as I had to adjust to a new place. The one bright side about middle school is that their was a familiarity with one another. Most of us had been attending Mastery for numerous years, and although we may not have all got along, which could be inferred by the numerous physical altercations, there was still a sense of reassurance from the fact that I knew who I was with. However, SLA forced me to step into a new environment, interact with a new breed of people, and in turn introduced new aspects to myself. My experience has been both similar and different to what I anticipated. It has affected me in ways that I had not expected. I remember asking myself things like “Am I smart enough to go here?”, “What if it’s too much?”, “Will people like me?” I was worried because I was stepping into a scene that was very different from the one that I had been in for most of my life. But I realize now that I was carrying the insecurities brought with me from middle school to high school, instead of having open arms to the experience. SLA welcomed creativity, friendship, trust, and family. The worries I had quickly subsided as I began to adapt to my environment and change for the better. I learned to be more accepting of people who don’t agree with me or think like me. I also learned to be more comfortable with and around people who don’t look or act like me. I now expect more from myself concerning the treatment of others and how I interact with different types of people.

My transition from middle school to high school showed me that as people we learn to change and adapt to better function in a new environment. In middle school I was constantly around people who look, act, and sound like me so it was easy to stay in a certain state of mind. However, when I went to high school I changed my outlook on the interaction and acceptance of people. We are people who change ourselves to the ever changing world so that we can feel comfortable in the environment, and so we can be more productive people.

Best Personal Essay Ever

The Sound of Growth

Freshman Year

The wind whips my hair, stinging my eyes that are rolling at my lack of sleep. My viola hangs haphazardly on my shoulder weighing my body down and bringing an ominous soreness to my back. I glide through the glass door after a cellist whose instrument is decorated with cool bumper stickers. One of the stickers is Olaf from Let It Go and I could swear that he winks at me.

The woman at the front desk smiles at me and I try to smile back but I imagine it looks more like a wince. The turnstile bangs against my legs and shuts as I try, and fail, to follow the cellist’s movements into the building. Right ahead of me, a wooden panelled room is packed with lingering teenagers and instruments. I assume this room is my destination. In a few minutes, my viola is in my hands and I am nervously plucking a mindless tune, eyes searching for a friendly face. I sigh, longing for my bed and a few more hours of warm sleep.

We are herded upstairs and before me, a room opens up, stuffed with young musicians banging away on their instruments. Everyone is in their own little world, their eyebrows bunched together in focus, bodies creating spheres of musical colors. I am amazed and intimidated. I can feel the intense passion these people have for their craft and know that, while I do find music enjoyable, I rarely feel so enthusiastic.

When I reach my section, I am self-preservative about choosing my seat, making sure that I’m not right next to the booming horns. My seat is in the middle of the section, close enough to the front so that someone could hear my mishaps, but far enough away so that I have trouble hearing the conductor who looms before us on a platform. He is unrecognizable to me, as are most of the musicians in the room. I will eventually spend tedious and thrilling hours of rehearsal with these strangers.

My standmate is abrupt. He wants to focus on the music entirely and I am a distraction. He looks older than me, everyone does, but I can’t tell if he is in college or high school. I can see that he is sizing me up, hoping that I won’t elbow him in the face or knock over the stand. I soften him up with some pretty impressive small talk for someone who didn’t have any caffeine. My skilled page turning is appreciated, but I don’t dare ask questions, knowing that I am expected to know what col legno means. This rehearsal is a mess of contradictory expectations: I am supposed to play fluidly right away but I have never played a piece this complicated. What does the instruction col legno mean, anyways? (Col legno battuto is Italian for “hit with the wood” of your bow.)

The music notes are a scribble of marks on the paper, a language whose words I can understand separately but can’t string together into paragraphs. Only halfway through the first piece and I am a mess - hands shaking, tears pricking my eyes, heart beating as fast as a stallion’s gallop. This music is like nothing I've seen before; it's Philadelphia Orchestra worthy, can I learn to play this?

Sophomore Year

We are crammed in the room, giving us just enough bow room and just enough heat for us to want to yank off our jackets. It’s impressive that the cavernous room could be filled with people and sound. The banging of the percussion and tooting of the winds pounds on my ears, blocking me from hearing my own instrument. I'm used to trusting my fingers so it doesn't startle me as much as it did last year.

The music notes are a scribbling mess, a language whose words I can understand but can’t pronounce. I take deep breaths to calm my sweaty palms and remind myself how far I had come in a year. And I perfected that Stamitz concerto, didn't I?

The music coaches stand around the perimeter of the room, providing feedback when needed but mainly observing. I can feel their undying support and know we are expected to love music half as much as they do. The symphony finishes and all the string-players flourish their ending notes, with the bows raised in the hand. I laugh to myself - such drama queens. Did you know that when we’re rehearsing and someone plays their solo beautifully, all of the string players stop to wag their bows in the air? Can you imagine how ridiculous we all look? 100 students, shaking their bows in unison to “applaud” someone’s success? I admire the relatively new conductor, whose easy smiles and laughter ease my nerves, and I manage to not get lost in the symphony music or my nervousness.

Junior Year

Even though my feet are enveloped by socks, they are numb from the cold seeping from the wooden floor. I wiggle my toes as my teacher flies her fingers across her instrument, playing our next passage in Symphonie Fantastique. I nod and set my jaw, allowing my eyes to transcribe the music notes in movements for my hands.

My teacher lifts up her viola to cue me and we play the measure in a loop, over and over. After the fifth round, I could feel myself tiring and overthinking my fingers. After pausing, I put a star next to the measure, signifying it as a spot I would have to practice at home. My teacher nods and wishes me good luck for my first rehearsal. I thank her, thinking to myself: I’ll need it.

Truthfully, I was more prepared for this rehearsal than my two other experiences. I had looked over the music for starters, had listened to the complicated rhythms and eyed the syncopated sections, highlighting them with yellow sticky notes. I knew the entire viola section vaguely and had friends that I could laugh and relax with. The coaches were friendly with me the only difficulty was coping with their oppressive expectations.

In “The Yellow Birds”, the main character, Bartle, returns home after serving in the Iraq War. He returns to his family and friends who expect him to be unchanged and mentally sound. Bartle cannot meet either of these expectations and feels a disconnect between himself and the people he loved before the war. In my music community, I am expected to become a musician. In classical music, it is normal for successful musicians to dedicate their entire lives to music, especially since most musicians begin their careers young.

The idea that I had been playing an instrument since second grade, was involved in different orchestras and took private lessons, was the minimum for most of my friends. The Philadelphia All City Orchestra is considered prestigious - the finest student musicians in Philadelphia. The majority of the students arrived early, took pride in their seating and were involved in musical competitions that earned them scholarships, but also popularity.

My music teachers held me to the popular expectation of a professional music career path. Some teachers don’t fully understand that I am included in multiple extra curriculars and have not committed to one activity that prepares me for a career. Rather than one passionate hobby, I am spread across multiple pastimes not intensively.

Like Bartle in “The Yellow Birds”, I have to face my mentors’ expectations and be clear on what I want for my life. Interestingly, I have found that most of my teachers understand or at least accept my decision, as long as I stay diligent in my practicing. Not fulfilling other’s expectations and not conforming to my friends’ paths can be difficult, but I remind myself of the joy my varied interests bring me. Bartle and I fight internal and external battles that may make us feel lonely or different, but staying true to our complex selves provides a satisfactory reward.

Magic Is Real | Tito's Personal Essay

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Tito Mazzucchi
English 3
Larissa Pahomov
Jan. 9th 2017


Six gardens, each one bearing different life, some elevated, and others low. Three different types of trees; figs, lemons, olives, were the base of my food pyramid… and rosemary. A courtyard, a terrace, two balconies, a dining hall, two living rooms, five bedrooms, one fireplace, one firepit, a wine cellar, a tennis court, a garage, and a three-walled ballroom; all this was surrounded by a forest. Situated at a crossroads between the planted love and wild beauty of the wilderness would be my home. Sounds like a rich life and that it was, but not in a physical sense. The house did a good job at holding an appearance which would blend with the nature around it. The bright sun and arid currents of northern Africa created a mirage in which the walls and tiles of the home appeared old and not as wealthy as they may sound on paper. As a matter of fact, the true richness and my true home was never really the structure where I’d sleep, it was the forest surrounding it.

See a man can lust all day about how large a house may be or all the parties that could be hosted, but in the eyes of a young boy, those things hold little value. Although I mean no offense to my grandfather who did a great job at building the home, it was nowhere near what I loved about the place. I lived in a great home but I chose to grow up in the wild. Looking back I wouldn’t be able to count the amount of times that I ran away from my mother and grandparents into the forest that was beside the house and right above the sea. I speak of richness outside of a physical meaning because that is the prized gem of our earth. Money, it doesn’t give wisdom. I speak of richness outside a physical meaning because nature is the greatest giver. Choosing to grow up wild rather than rich never would have taught me the valuable lesson: “watch your step,” as well as me climbing a cliff over waves and sharp rocks did. Or that I should always prepare before going anywhere, because I realized at halfway that I had nothing to keep me alive besides my hands. A pool wouldn’t have been able to teach me to remain calm on the water like how swimming against a storm did. Dancing at midnight through gale and lightning was when I realized that my happiness did not depend on the weather. Every day at dawn I would run much of the forest floor. I taught myself how to build shelters, and how to create accurate maps I learned how to set up traps, and about cause and effect. Being wild allowed me to create a river and a well, from that I taught myself how to garden and how to build structures using clay. The trees took care of me and in return, I protected them.

Looking back, I can say that of the many lessons I’ve learned, there are two that stand out the most. The first lesson is that someone is not born a hero, or villain, wise, cruel or anything really. The changing world around each and every one of us is responsible for many lessons that we learn. The second lesson is that the world around us has no say in who we choose to become. There have always been countless instances when I felt a certain way about something that had happened, and then I looked back and realized my opinion to be completely different from the previous one I had. There are hundreds of wealthy people whose senses have been dulled by an overdosage of fortune, and hundreds of people that live in poverty and thank the stars every night, for their eyes and their hearts have been conditioned to find love and beauty in everything. In many ways, nature is a mirror, whose meaning can be derived opposite of what it reveals. Observing closely teaches you to see the bigger picture, and looking widely lets you notice even the tiniest of details. That is in many ways the secret to wisdom, and as a matter of fact, it was how I learned so much about the magic surrounding our changing world. This is a story about a time in my life when I came to realize all of these things...

...What I’m really trying to say is that magic is real. Although cartoons, movies and fairytales have fantasized and glorified it’s meaning, making us sceptic of its existence, the vibrations, occurrences, and lives around us really are the true form of magic. The colored texture of a garden flower, the soft beat of the ground, even things we humans created. A hum of a single car engine driving past your window under moonlight. The distant winter lights of a mountain village celebrating a holiday. The hearth of a campfire, vivid cheers of a ballgame, the embrace of a loved one, it’s all magic in its humblest of ways. I now learn this on a calm night as I see over the waves and stars.

I breathe, look to the side and see a bat fluttering along an invisible trail of sound. I shift in my seat, lean my head back against a stone wall and look up. Of all the times I ran out at night while my parents were asleep, never had it occurred to me to sit and observe the world as it was. Until now I had always been distracted by a planned mission or task I was determined to accomplish before sunrise. I always was told by people who called me a “wild-boy” that I possessed vitality, but now I realize that the word “wild” can be completely independent from its bearer; it could be a state of being, a title, a name. Wild because energy can derive from anything, not just sunlight. Tears of sadness could water the seeds of joy, outside chaos may inspire inner peace… Wild because significance can be understood without order. Wild because I love the truthful light of the moon.

I kinda understand now why I love the night more than the day, it was this hour in which my spirit grew. It was in these summer days, when I would rise up at noon and fall asleep at midnight, that my heart and mind received full nurture of the universe. I love the night more than the day because the light shone by the moon reveals to us a face too transparent to detect during the early bright. There it is, the whole cosmos before my eyes. Sitting in my balcony on a foldable wooden chair, older than me for sure, worked perfectly so that the surface almost bent down to accompany you. The very same chair that once hosted a wealthy and renowned engineer, a fighter, a fisher, and an inventor. The very same chair that once held the first laptop ever made. The very same chair that now holds the skinny legs of a young boy, whose skin would tense up with every breeze of the sea and later relax, as if it was breathing in perfect harmony with the waves and currents. It was these nights here, where the moon would kiss my eyes and reveal everything before the next sunrise.

I am sitting on a wooden chair which is warm, but my feet remain chilled by the coolness of the tiles that lay on the floor. Everything is smooth, the chair, the ground, even the bricks on the wall behind me, everything holds the tranquility of the sea except for the railing. That too is made of wood but this wood remains splintered and ragged. I’d study it from time to time and find the holes where salted wind would pick away at the wax and notice the jagged surface of a thousand needles all pointed in my direction. It is a barrier, that is for sure, and it seems like the moon, waves, and wind, are all slowly attempting to wither it away. I wish they would, because this railing is covering some of the stars out in the sky, like how cloth can seclude the skin of a beautiful woman. This beautiful woman must be Nut, the stars, the night, the moon and its light; and even if it seems that this woman wants to let said cloth be carried away by the breeze of the sea, perhaps it’s best that she doesn’t otherwise I might fall from my balcony.

Growing as a person


Siani Davis

Personal Essay

Ms. Pahomov

December 22, 2016

I went through the beginning of my life not knowing who I wanted to be. I went through the beginning of my life accepting what was given to me. And because of this, I found myself not finding happiness. It took years for me to realize myself. And to become a better person overall. The choices I have made, to get me where I am today, I am very grateful for. I have learned so much, and have changed so much in a positive way.

I went to a school full of sameness. The dull green walls and brown floors were filled with people who were not like me. Infuriating loudness filled your ears before you could even reach the doors of the building. It was everywhere. They never seemed to stop talking. Every morning I’d walk into people just being loud, mouths extended to their fullest, blurting rowdiness. People will be sitting right in front of each other, inches apart, but for some reason be yelling. As if trying to compete with the rest of the noise the world itself produces. I hate it here. I do not belong here. I despised that when people get frustrated they deal with it with their fists; not thinking about consequences that could arise when they did these foolish things. I hated that school, a place where I was required to go to, felt unsafe. No place should never be that way. In my old school everyone was so overly judgemental. I felt that I was being squeezed into the person they wanted me to be. Peer pressure was common because of this. “C’mon Siani, just say one curse word!” the kids surrounding me pressured themselves to a closer proximity, “No. I really don’t want to. It’s wrong.”, “Just say bitch, just once!”, and then after years I said it. They wanted me to be rowdy, rude, and foul like them. They wanted me to make choices based on automatic impulse and instead of taking the time to sit back and think. I did not want to be that person. And I never will be.

The first day of ninth grade I arrived at a place of diversity in every aspect. I arrived at a place where I could be free; to have the freedom to embrace myself. And in my early life I did not think it was possible to discover and be apart of a place like this. In the past I was never able to voice my thoughts completely, in fear of judgement. But when I arrived here, it was a total different environment whereas it was okay to be whoever you wanted to be. Everyone was enforced to discover and embrace themselves. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to come to this school and be apart of this community for this reason. Me being here is such a pleasure. I have met someone I love dearly and great friends too. If I did not come here to meet people I have met, and learn the things I have learned, I do not know what type of person I would of become. I might not have liked that person at all. I have learned how to be a better person. Being kinder benefits everyone, including yourself. I have learned that working hard really pays off and that it is extremely important in succeeding in life. Coming to this school has really given me many opportunities to grow. For one, being that we are required to have an internship which is so unbelievably amazing. This allows you to investigate your passions further by getting real world experiences that can truly change your life. Having this opportunity sets you up in a good place when applying for colleges. Because of this, you can have the potential of being favored over another applicant when being viewed by colleges. Aside from the good educational aspects, the people that go to SLA are so strong willed and driven that it really makes you a better person. It is always important to surround yourself in a healthy and smart environment to go as a person positively.

Going to the middle school I went to, made me a stronger and smarter person entirely. It made me realize the type of people I did not want to be around and the type of person I did not want myself to be. It made me grow an urgency to get out of there. It made me work harder to be able to prove to everyone else that I could be in a better place and be a better person. I know that if I believe in myself, no matter how cheesy that is, I can get to the place I want to be. I can fight hard against the people that are trying to confine me in a tight area and get beyond that wall. I know that people can not control me, and that only I can control myself. SLA made me realize that there are truly valuable people out there. People that genuinely want to see you succeed and will even help you get there. At my middle school, I did not know anyone like this. But I knew that there was a place for me out there, so I reached to get there.

Hazel Eyes

I sit on the concrete floor playing with the dogs. There are small prickly dark green cacti right next to me. My curious mind touches the spike on the cactus, I know that it will hurt but I still do it. The feeling of a sharp needle grazing your fingertips slowly starts to wash over me.  I slowly push more and more till I can feel the cactus prick inside me. I release my finger and the dark red blood that I held is slowly oozing out. All the dogs, but one, start to bark at the sight of blood. Peace, the dog not barking, looks at the large brass gate that shields our property from the outside world. The gates’ hinges that have rusted from years of being beaten by rain water slowly start to turn right. As the gate is being opened I see an elderly figure holding a letter. My grandmother slowly starts to walk towards me with glee. With every step it seemed as though the 60 year old woman wanted to hop or skip. As she gets closer I notice a smile on her face. Every single white tooth is shown and the sunlight reflecting of them almost blinds me. When she is within arms distance of me she lifts my three year old self into the air and spins me around. Soundless words are uttered as I am spun till she places me done and says with a big grin; “You’re going to America.”

America. The average African yearns for a chance to enter this beautiful country, but I was different. From a young age I had been told that my parents are in America getting ready for my arrival. This repeated story that I was told made me start to hate this country. At the mere mention of the name America, my blood would boil as if a flame was burning deep within me. Matter of fact there was a flame. A flame of hatred for the parents I did not know, a flame of hatred for the parents that left me, their first and only son for this country. A flame of hatred for America, the country that took my parents. As my grandmother placed me on the ground her joyfulness slowly morphed into confusion. Her face showed confusion as to why my 3 year old self seemed upset but her eyes showed understanding. Her deep brown eyes showed a perfect reflection of me and in that reflection I felt as though she understood everything. As I stood there she took her rough, strong hand, wrinkled from years of working in the farm and patted my bald head. “Nipa trew baku”, she said. One week,I had one week to decide what to do. Would I stay in Ghana, the country who has grown me and I have come to love, or would I go to America the country that I had grown to resent, yet was called the “best” country in the world.

The next morning I woke up greeted by the rays of sun that had sneaked their way through the window and landed on my face. As I lay there staring at the bright pink ceiling analyzing the cracks that ran through the paint as if they were a massive spider web, I remembered. I needed to make a choice. The weight of this decision caused me to feel as though I was in the middle of two planets. The gravitational pull of both planets splitting me in half. On one planet was the warm rays of the African sun, the loud, annoying, and yet loveable barking of dogs, and my grandmother edging me to embrace that world. But the other planet was foreign. It held nothing I knew, it held nothing of grave importance to me. Yet there was one thing, Family. At the center of the planet there was a man and woman edging me to accept this world, a man and a woman holding open their loving arms waiting for me to embrace them. Inside me I was being told by a voice to go to the man and woman, it felt right, it felt like that was where I am destined to be. As I slowly stopped resisting and allowed foreign world to pull me in a scent slowly creeped its way into my nostrils. The scent of jollof, a simple dish that is made up of rice and stew. This scent brought more than a yearning in my stomach for the dish, but memories. Memories of the times spent with my grandmother. Memories of the constant times I had grown bored and played with the cacti. Memories of Peace, the dog that I have always loved. “Be didi.” These words knocked me from my trance like state and as I look towards my open door, I see my grandmother holding a wooden spoon in her hand. It is now that I realize the scent of jollof was not an imagination but a reality. The scent bombards it’s way into my room blocking all my senses and causing my mouth to water. “Be didi”, my grandmother says these words once more, urging me to come eat. I slowly get up from my bed to go brush my teeth. There may be a choice at hand but for now the only thing I care about is jollof.

The day continues as normally as most African days were. I ate, I played, then I ate again. A repetitive pattern I had grown accustomed to. However, for the first time the pattern seemed unique. It seemed as if I did everything for the last time. It was the voice. The voice was telling me to leave my home, leave the dirt roads, the deep brown eyes of my grandmother, and to leave the jollof. Once again the man and woman made their way into my minds. Arms outstretched waiting for me. However this time there was a difference. The woman had the deep hazel eyes of my grandmother. As I stared into the woman’s eyes I saw myself. I saw myself embraced by the man and woman being held as if I was the most precious object in the whole world. Around us, we were surrounded by numerous foreign monsters slowly making their way closer and closer to us. The figures stopped embracing me and grabbed my hands. The man held my left hand. His rough strong muscular hands showed experience and years of hard work. The man stared at the foreign monsters with a look of protection. The man brought a sense of security. His rough strong hands and the daggering look he administered to the monsters brought upon an unspoken promise. A promise that I would never experience pain, a promise that I would be guarded. The woman holding my right hand was not looking at the monsters, in lieu she was staring at me. Her deep brown eyes pierced my being in the gentle way the cacti would pierce my fingers. The only difference was that unlike the cacti, who brought a sharp pain, the eyes delivered a deep love. This love added with the protection brought by the hands caused the man and woman to slowly start changing. Not a physical change like that of a butterfly in metamorphosis, but an internal change in opinions that I felt. The man and woman were no longer foreign strangers pulling me into a foreign world. In contrary the man and woman where now my sources of love and protection against the monsters that I will face. The man and woman where my family.

Angle BAD

[PROGRESS NOTE] Eleanor Shamble: Eleanor Shamble - Summer math course (paid)

From: Erin Giorgio <>

To: to progress+esham., Elizabeth, me, Robert, Kathryn

Eleanor will be taking the Geometry online course during the summer. ​She has paid in full ($175). As soon as all summer students have paid (deadline: Tuesday, May 26), then I will be able to register Eleanor and the other students for the online course through Florida Virtual School.

I am looking forward to tracking Eleanor's progress in Geometry this summer!​


From the beginning of freshman year on, I heard whispers of Summer Geometry, and how it was a ‘good opportunity’. I didn’t know much about myself when I was a freshman, especially in terms of my interests, but the one thing I knew for a very long time was that I wanted to do something with math when I was older. Math had always been comfortable, in that it made sense. With summer geometry, I had to face a brutal reality check.

I signed up for summer geometry because it was the only way I could hope to take calculus as a senior. I was doomed from the start due to the lack of opportunity from my middle school teacher who taught only pre-algebra. I completely bombed the placement test.

Algebra freshman year was… easy at best, boring at worst. English and Social Studies were challenging, but Algebra 1 was not. Everything clicked at the same rate as in middle school. My teacher tried to challenge me, but the challenges lost their definition when they clicked as well. I didn’t have trouble understanding anything, which was precisely the problem.

I signed up for summer geometry in hope of a challenge.


I had went on a vacation to Savannah, Georgia with my Girl Scout troop in the beginning of the summer. I had a lot of fun and  loved the experience, but it took a week out of the time I had to work on the first deadline for class.


Geometry didn’t feel like math. At all. Geometry was the things I hated about English in middle school.

I was faced with proofs, which were writing paragraphs about things that were easily understood, to prove that they were something that they obviously were. Two little lines on two lines proved that they were parallel by themselves. I didn’t need to prove anything with angles because the signs were already there, I thought. My work said otherwise. Whenever I had to write a proof for the course, which was often, I pretended I was writing to an absolute numbskull and resisted the urge to bash my head against the wall.

I procrastinated by going on, a programming site I use to animate. I acquired a number of online friends I could talk to, and talked to them often. My projects rose to popularity relatively quickly. I thought, perhaps, that being loved online could compensate for my poor real social life, and that it would help me be happy. It was nice, maybe, but it wasn’t near enough. I still felt like garbage, I still deteriorated in my seat. Days blurred together. I didn’t shower as much as I could have, I didn’t eat as much as I could have. I probably would have gotten through it better with an adequate support system, but I didn’t have one. We were supposed to collaborate on at least one project. I didn’t know anyone taking geo well enough to comfortably ask to collaborate, so I didn’t. I disobeyed the rules of what I was supposed to do because I didn’t have enough friends.


Three days before my second deadline, I hosted a livestream and pretended everything was fine. Seven people came, and I made shitty microsoft paint art to my heart’s content. My hand ached from excessive use of my mouse, but my ego swelled because hey, all of these people liked my art and liked talking to me.

By the end of the livestream, I had put several people through the hunger games simulator, shipped myself with an actual snow globe, and called one of my characters a fuckboy in comic sans. It was great to relieve the stress. My dad called me downstairs for dinner, stir fry for maybe the third time in July alone, so I told everyone goodbye and I closed out. The second it disconnected, I sat up in my chair, and noticed the tension returning to my shoulders and the tiredness creeping back into my brain.

I headed downstairs, several windows of Microsoft Paint and Chrome still open. I ate the stir fry. The grease from the oil, instead of tasting good, oozed down my throat in a very unpleasant manner. I faced the TV, watching the Daily Show. Instead of Jon Stewart, John Oliver was there, talking animatedly about some politics of the time, but I was not really listening. No words were exchanged during dinner. When I was done eating, I simply returned upstairs to work.

I went back upstairs, I checked my scratch messages and saw twenty responding to the photos I uploaded to the stream in a project endearingly called “gwvfdefvewiufewqb”. Instead of working on geometry, I responded to comments and neglected my responsibility. The work was nagging in my brain, but I pretended it wasn’t there in favor of doing what I liked to do. I had a feeling that my followers preferred that second option anyway, which, hey, my parents were two people that wanted geometry done. My followers were 500 people who wanted more animations. When it came down to the numbers, who should I have listened to? (My parents.)


I was upstairs, and on the cusp of a nervous breakdown. It was 6 hours until the deadline, the day the 3rd quarter of the work was due. I took a deep breath in and out, I clenched my fists. I then asked my dad to come upstairs.

“I want to quit summer geometry.” I said, looking not at his eyes, but the hardwood floor.

“You want to… what?” His voice lowered, indicating that he wasn’t pleased. I gulped. “Eleanor, we spent money on this. You’re almost done. You’re going to do calculus senior year.”

I did want to take calculus senior year. I really wanted to take calculus senior year. I loved math, I still do, but geometry, it was more words than math. I didn’t like words nearly as much.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I said, softly, the rushed out of the room. My dad followed me. I was sobbing by then.

What followed was a screaming match that I can not describe in detail, it is too much of a blur of emotions and hopelessness and fear to discern any words from it. I ended up finishing that evening, with my father’s help. We went through two units, and the deadline passed with all my work being done, despite a large portion being incorrect. When we finished at 11:59 pm, I knew that I would continue suffering until we went on vacation that summer, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.


I finished Geometry two weeks before the deadline, because I had to if I wanted to go on vacation. When I started Algebra 2 Sophomore year, Ms.Giorgio asked me to never turn in a picture of my foot for an assignment ever again, even if it looked like a right triangle.

The Lost Soul

My past is something that I don’t like talking about. It brings back emotions that I buried inside me long ago. Thinking about what to write and my past I realized that I haven’t dealt with it. I didn’t want to and I was never forced to, so I didn’t. I hid behind a blank face and blackened heart. I cut off all the emotions that I didn’t want to feel. Life became easier when you didn’t feel pain and disappointment. I think the biggest disappointment of my life was my childhood, well what little of it I remember. For 12 years my mom, sister and I lived with my aunt, my younger cousin and my uncle. Living with them was an uphill battle. There were good times and then there were bad ones. The biggest challenge/annoyance was my aunt’s attitude. She was always so rude and nasty about everything. She made it clear that everything was hers. The tv, the couch, the refrigerator and even the dust bunnies that often resided on the floor. It was tolerable, sometimes. I never got along with my younger cousin. Her being the only child made her selfish. She didn’t have to share her things and she could say and do basically anything she wanted. Most of the times I don’t even think it’s the fact that she’s an only child, but the fact that her parents allowed her to get away with her actions.  I remember one time Anaiya, my cousin, and I were arguing; which we often did. My mother was in the same room while my aunt was in the kitchen. I know as the oldest I should lead by example but at the same time I’m not just going to let her say what she wants to me. As we argued I apparently said something that was so tragic that my aunt had to yell from all the way in the kitchen to tell me and me only to stop and shut up. Of course I was threaten and I tried to explain that Anaiya started it and was saying things that were way worse than me but she didn’t want to hear it. I looked at my mom and she just shook her head and said leave it alone. So I did. It was always my cousin and I going back and forth and me being the only one in trouble. At the time I never understood why my mom just told me to leave it alone. I knew that I was right in the sense to stand up for myself but why wasn’t I able to do that when it came to my aunt?

During the time I was living with my aunt I use to visit my dad.  My dad was married and had a son, my younger brother. He also had two other kids by another woman, my older sisters. When I was younger I would visit my dad’s house over the weekends. I would see my family and occasionally spend time with them. I felt like an outsider. Everyone was always together and developed a bond while I only visited twice a month. I felt like I didn’t belong. I was never comfortable and just wanted to go back home with my family. When I was around them I didn’t feel like they accepted me. I never really had an opinion about my dad’s wife at the time, but she was someone that I grew to dislike. To me she was just simply his wife. I already had a mother and didn’t need another one. I didn’t look at her as a stepmother but I respected her as an adult because that’s how I was raised. I didn’t like spending time with them. I would have preferred if it was just my dad and I. I always wanted to go back home but I was too scared to say it. One day while I was over their house I was sitting on the end chair, where my dad usually sits. It was cold and that seat was the furthest from the air conditioner. Ms. Sandy, the wife, was in the kitchen and when she came back she looked at me like I stole something. She said “That’s your father’s seat. I don’t know why you think you could sit there.” I didn’t say anything because what would I even say to that? Coincidentally, my dad and brother were coming down the stairs at the same time she said that. I was thinking that he would have said I could sit there but he sided with her. He told me that was the “man’s” seat and kicked me out of the chair and sat down with my younger brother in his lap. In the corner of my eye I could remember seeing Ms. Sandy smirk. I sat on the couch and said nothing. I didn’t care it was just a seat to me, but the fact that I felt outcasted made me want to go home even more. There was always something little that Ms. Sandy would do and say that I never realized was wrong. When it came to me I always felt like I was treated differently. I  knew I wasn’t wanted at that home and I didn’t understand what was the purpose of having me there. I remember one day I didn’t want to stay and I said out loud that I wanted to go home. Ms. Sandy said “Well you can’t. You have to be here for the weekend.” As a kid I didn’t know what that meant. I thought it was the simple fact that my dad wanted to spend time with me not because he had to. Years later I learned that the court ordered me to spend every other weekend with my dad. At that point in my life I already became numb so I had no feelings about the situation. I didn’t and still don’t consider that man to be my father. It’s just something that I made myself believe.  

A challenge of me being a kid was my hair. It was so thick and very hard to do. It didn’t help that I was tender headed, meaning I felt a lot of pain when getting my hair done. My mom or aunts did my hair and they became use to doing it and so did I. They understood what to do to prevent the amounts of pain that I would feel. My dad wanted to go to the my grandmother’s house. Before we went Ms. Sandy decided to do my hair. It was strange because she’s never even attempted to do my hair before. She said that it “looked a mess” and that it needed to be fixed. I sat on the chair that was moved from the kitchen to the living room. My brother along with my step cousin were sitting on the couch waiting for me to get my hair finished. My dad was in the kitchen. As she was doing my hair it hurt really bad, more than usual; so I began to cry. She kept telling me to be quiet and began combing my hair even harder which made me cry harder. I subconsciously reached my hand up to touch my hair because it hurt. Then as I did I felt a throbbing pain on my hand. One. Two. Three. She hit me on my hand with the comb three times. I saw my dad watching and did nothing but go upstairs. I immediately stopped crying because shock took over. I stayed quiet. That was the day when I felt hatred for my dad. I hated him because he didn’t care, he let her do and say whatever she wanted to me. My own dad never hit me so why would it be alright for her to? I didn’t want to go to my grandmother’s house. I didn’t want to be around them or see any of them. From that day forward they were all dead to me. I didn’t tell my mom for years about what had been happening. I don’t know why. I think it was a mixture of being scared and the development of me not caring. I just felt like it wasn’t important. There were a lot of events that happened in my life and it would be impossible to explain in one simple essay. It’s harder to understand my life with so many missing pieces. That’s similar to how I am. I’m a puzzle with missing pieces. They’re lost but eventually they will come back and fit into their predetermined places. To this day I do not have a relationship with my dad and his family. I don’t acknowledge them and they don’t acknowledge me, I like it that way. I’m not mad or sad because that’s just a part of life. You have to move on and do what’s in the best interest of yourself. I can’t predict the future but I would like things to stay as they are now. I already have my family and incorporating people who have not fought or cared enough to fight for me are people who I do not want in my life. It’s easy for me to not care about and forget you. Just like a light switch, on and off.

Changing Not Just Schools

Before it was all different; I had the usual classes at the usual times, having the same schedule every day. On Mondays we always had a grammar quiz, on Tuesday we’d always start a new unit in History. On Wednesday we’d do a “math rundown”. On Thursdays we would always have a Science quiz, and on Fridays we would always go to the Library at the end of the school day. However, going into highschool changed everything. SLA was different though; instead of a rigid and structured class schedule everything was fluid, on Mondays we might have a history class but the next day we didn’t.

I walked into the cafe of SLA, hearing the echoes of people screaming and talking down the halls. I walk by the gym, up towards the back staircase where I see people laying down by the windows, sleeping. I finally reach the back staircase, just past the stairs to go downward towards the basement. I start walking up towards the stairs, to room 209, where my advisory is, and I walk past a giant hole in the wall on the second flight of staircases from the second floor, and keep going to avoid it. I finally reach the second floor and turn the corner, there’s a giant series of lockers there. I walk down through them and turn left, scanning for room 209. I finally find it, and I’m already late. I walk in and sit down, and hear Mrs. Martin talking. She says Hull wasn’t here, but then I realized I was in the wrong advisory, and so was Justice. I raise my hand and say I’m in the wrong place and leave, going to the right advisory right across the hall, in room 211, the physics room. I go across the hall and walk in slowly, trying to avoid suspicion from me being late, but to my surprise they hadn’t started yet. I sat down next to one of the people who weren’t in the advisory, one of the people just volunteering. I wondered why they would take a week out of their own summer to help out. My advisor for my next four years, GIorgio, starts to explain about what the summer institute is all about, as I almost fall asleep. She then says we’re gonna do a team building exercise as an advisory, and everybody groans. The other volunteers even look sad about it, besides the one I sat next to. Giorgio said that we’re each gonna teach each other something new and exciting, and I got paired up with the only excited person in the room about this, the volunteer. She taught me how to do the Cotton Eyed Joe.

Giorgio told everyone to start sharing, going in a circle. I was the last one in the circle, and stood up and did the Cotton Eyed Joe.I was nervous, all the new faces starting directly at me. A few people started to laugh, but they stopped after a few seconds. She then explained a lot of random stuff about advisories and stuff but I phased out and looked around the room. To my back was the lab bench that the teacher usually sits at, with a cluttered sink and an empty table. Towards the door to the right was a cluttered lab bench again, filled with random cardboard. The other lab benches were the same, except in the middle was a gap with a door leading to another room exactly like this one. However, I phased back in and everyone was getting up and going to their expedition groups. I got up and went to the fifth floor; back to the hallway with the lockers and the holes in the wall. Why are there so many holes in the walls? Why aren’t they fixed? I walked to the staircase and climbed all the way to the fifth floor, turned right and walked and turned right yet again. At the end of the mini hall, I turned left and went into room 501. Just a few months ago, I was walking down a newly painted hallway. It was a Friday afternoon, and we were walking from our homeroom classroom to the library in a single file organized line. If we talked, we were usually yelled at. Everything was always cleaned overnight and kept pristine and in good condition. If somebody was yelling in the hallways, they were often just given detentions. Comparing my old school and SLA, they’re polar opposites.

Skip forward a few months later, no longer new to high school. We’ve already started our classes, gotten to know the schedules and our streams, and the worst part of each quarter begins, benchmark season. Before this time, I’d always ask myself what benchmarks were, until the first teacher, Ms. Jonas, explained them to us. Basically, they’re a project that’s worth a big portion of your grade, which for me was a big change from middle school. We could never even see our grades in junior high until the end of the quarter; and we certainly never had projects worth this much. She had assigned a thesis essay on the book, “The Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano”. It wasn’t that interesting, despite what the title says. I struggled with the concept of what exactly a thesis essay was, she never explained it so I just came up with a question and ran with that, and honestly I learned more writing this essay than actually reading the sparknotes for the book. My ways of learning changed when I came to SLA, from what I had done in reading class in junior high, where we just read books and explained what they really meant, to going to SLA where we would write essays on them as well.

Jump forward all the way to now, junior year of high school. Throughout SLA, my learning style has changed a lot as well as my own opinions. However, one big thing that changed as well is just how I present myself. All throughout junior high and even freshman year, I would just wake up, put on some random clothes and leave the house. However, because SLA is so different, I started to change the ways I present myself. My hair was changed from the what it was to a more fashionable style, my clothes changed from ill-fitting jeans to more of a comfortable and skinny fit, and not only did that change but as I changed how people viewed me, I gained more confidence. SLA didn’t just change how I learned, or even change what I viewed of others’ opinions and ideas, but it changed the confidence I have in myself.

direction of direction

“How can I paint this picture when the colorblind is hanging with you?”

Doubt is entwined in our DNA like the bones to our skin, hidden by layers of fat and muscle. I do not believe there has ever been a moment in the span of human sentience where there was not uncertainty in the world. A species lacking of instinct, traded for control and freedom, leaves them without a proper place in the world with options so open.

Hey that’s just like me, approaching my adulthood without direction! My life looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, except the top is four and a half inches from the ground. There’s a lot of things you can see if you just pay attention to people. If you just take into account that they are a person, and everything they do becomes so much more childlike and malnourished of maturity. I can see their fear, or maybe that’s what I like to tell myself in order to feel stronger.

As an artist I do this a lot. Sometimes I take pictures of things to refer to later, or maybe I’m in the middle of class and use someone standing at the board for gesture practice. I look at the characteristics of these people and after all of this staring and studying it leaves me in an almost constant state of over analysis and distant thought. Body speaks a lot more than the word. The alphabet is an abstract concept of passing information, pushing thoughts through a filter of audible shapes and sounds someone else decided on, to the ears and mind of the listener. It’s even stranger that we think in our spoken language. Somehow that makes the idea of safety of the mind a little less safe, an intrusion. Words don’t have to mean what they mean. They can lie. They string long like pinocchio noses and dusty fables. The body tells the truth to me. Because if I can see you in all your nakedness, stripped of all emotional coverage, I can see that we all came from the same place.

I’m talking to someone and they snap me into focus. I’m not entirely sure what we were talking about before or what I was thinking about beforehand, as if I had just awoken from an eventful dream, yet too eventful to remember the events after. Drifted from life or something. That reminds me.

When my mom told me that a someone close to me from my childhood (our parents were close, close enough that I call his mother “auntie”) had died, I felt the same. I really didn’t know what to feel. Not even emptiness. It was more like, apathy. I think I was scared, actually, like pushing away the grief of another in order to avoid it for myself, to push myself far enough from death as possible. Which is funny because I spend so much time floating away from life, in daydreams, yet I still just as equally push myself off of death. Like water limbo, and his scythe is an oar to keep me between. Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen him in a while, last time I saw him he was about, my age. He was finishing college, it was his last year. His heart failed playing ball on the court with some friends. He had some heart problems I didn’t know about. I have so many thoughts on this but none at the same time.

Cool. But that doesn’t effect me, We move in on the same direction we’ve always been moving. Collectively, as a planet. I can’t do much about it, I’m technically forced to keep moving by whatever forces are keeping the earth together, regardless of how I feel the gravities of the situations.


All I can really see is this fuzzy blackness. It’s not totally dark, but there certainly isn’t very much light. There never really is, here. Not since the lights went out. It was about a month ago, I think. The lights hanging over my head stopped giving that pure, white light they used to and just, blink. Yellow. Occasionally.

But that’s alright, I don’t really need to see. If I wanted to see I would have my glasses on. They’re sitting right next to my bed on a chair that I have just for that purpose. They lay upside down, open fully. But I can’t really move to grab them. I’m sorta stuck where I am, laying on my back, head perched up with my right arm underneath it, followed by pillow, pillow, mattress.

It’s something like 2 in the morning. I’ve just been thinking. Well, it’s more worrying. I’m worrying about being a successful person. That may seem like something stupid to worry about, but it’s less about whether or not I can do it but more about whether or not I will do it. It’s just so hard to define what that even means, to be successful.

Does it simply mean to complete a goal? Surely that’s too easy, because a goal can be as simple as walking down the stairs without tripping and falling. That’s exactly where the subjectivity plays into it. If I break my legs and I finally can walk down the stairs by myself, that would be a big deal to me.

But that’s only a huge feat in my head. The world will look at me walking down the stairs and probably not even notice. It doesn’t seem possible to treat success objectively, as each person considers different things to be successful. When I moved all of the pieces of my bed to my room, something that took a long time since I did it myself, and I put a lot of work in to make it good and I actually made that bed myself, I felt successful. I had achieved my goal, but the world doesn’t really care. The world doesn’t care whether or not I have a bed.

If I figure out how to stop cancer, something that has plagued humanity for generations, that would be something that the world cares about. And they would show it. I would get countless awards recognizing what I have done. My name would go down in history as one of the greats. That’s clearly a success, right?
What if my goal was to create a new way to pack potato chips. I hadn’t even been considering cancer when I set out my goal, and what I ended up with was not a way to pack potato chips. I didn’t complete my goal. Does that mean I’ve failed, even though I found a cure to cancer?

Well I want to be successful, so why not just do alright, come up with something, and consider that a success. The problem with that is it removes the drive to improve. What reason do I have to get better, I’m already successful by default. If there are two people and only one can be successful, suddenly there’s competition to be the best. To be the winner, that’s how you be successful. But is it really? If you’ve gotten third place four times in a row and you REALLY want to get second and you train really hard and you actually make it to second, are you successful? You’ve reached your goal. Is that a problem with the goal or the way success is defined? Is there even a problem with the goal? You haven’t gotten first. Though that limits the amount people are allowed to succeed, saying that if you don’t get first, you’re a failure. That’s calling most everyone a failure; some people do actually get first. I don’t think most everyone is a failure.

And then where does failure play into it? That’s the antithesis of success. Surely something like failure would invalidate success. It has to be impossible for me to fail and succeed at the same time if all that I’m considering is my point of view, but the world thinks differently than me. If I had tried my absolute hardest to make that bed work and I just couldn’t do it, I would feel like I had failed. The world still wouldn’t care whether or not I have a bed.

That’s what’s stressing me out about this. I go through my life day by day, and then eventually something will come up that will matter to the world and it will actually matter whether or not I succeed, but I won’t be able to tell.

Though maybe it is possible to define success. Maybe it’s like a coin. Maybe you can quantify it, with each success being a shiny green coin, and each failure a dull, red coin. And maybe each success and failure can be given a value based on how much of a success it was, or how much of a failure it was, and the coin is given a corresponding size. That’s determined by each person, meaning that if you think that walking down the stairs is a great success, then you get a big coin to match.

Maybe you can treat the green coins like positives and the red coins like negatives, where if you have one of each that are the same size, they turn into a zero. A neutral. Or maybe it’s more like owing money to the world, where for every failure that happens the world expects a success of the same size, maybe not from the cause, but from somebody.

Maybe when someone dies, they take all of their coins, green or red, and throw them into a big pot, and melt it down, and the world refines it and takes out what’s useful to them, and puts that into another, bigger pot, so we can later come back and look into the huge pot as a whole, and see the history of every success and failure as one big bowl of humanity.

I guess that means there’s no reason to worry. I’m not the refinery of the world; I don’t choose what’s important. I don’t know who does, but it’s not me. So as I roll over to my side and close my eyes, I flip my coins, not knowing what color they are, but hoping that when I throw them into the pot, it will end up just a little bit more green.

Change, Chance, And The Evolution of Identity

Although my palms were clammy tucked into one another, my fingertips felt cold and numb. My stomach felt like it was trying to pull itself through my throat. I wasn’t sure if I was nervous or just suddenly feeling the guilt of my actions falling onto me all at once. I sat restless on the wooden bench outside of the windowless room I knew I was gonna be pulled into at any moment, tapping my toe anxiously on the cream-colored linoleum flooring. My eyes were pinned on the white fluorescent light hanging above me, surrounded by off-white paneling that seemed like it’d be more suitable for a high school band room than a court house. The door next to me swung open as the judge peaked her head into the hall before calling my name to come in.

I sat down in a hard plastic chair across from the judge, with nothing between us. Her typist sat behind her, eyes glued to the laptop in front of her. My eyes stayed attached to my feet as she began to speak. I could recognize the fact that she was speaking, but her words weren’t registering much at all. My brain went on autopilot as I responded to her questions in quick, silent succession. No, my dad never hurt me. Yes, I liked my step dad. No, I didn’t like my step mom. Yes, I did miss my mom. No, I didn’t like my school. The deeper she got into the line of questioning the more it felt like I was slipping into some sort of an odd dream, as her words faded out of recognition more and more and the keyboard clicking behind her faded out into a dull hum.

“So?” She said, snapping me out of my own thoughts, “Who do you wanna live with?”

I couldn’t even bring myself to meet her eyes. I rested my hands in one another. The words sat on the tip of my tongue for a minute, hesitant to come out. Finally, “Mom. I wanna live with my mom.”

My dad’s eyes looked sad and hurt when I saw him after. I wanted to tell him that it had nothing to do with him and I just needed to get out of that town and that school, but I knew no words I could say would sufficiently catalyze the healing process for him. After all, it was my decision to go to court and get the custody reversed, and he knew it. There was no ambiguity in my actions. No excuses I could make. This was fully my burden to bear; his sad gaze rested softly on me, his throat flexing slightly like he was holding back tears, or he just couldn’t bring himself to say what he wanted. Instead, he bent over and hugged me tightly. Like he wasn’t sure if it would be the last time he’d be able to do that. To be honest, at the time I wasn’t so sure myself. I told him goodbye before stepping into a separate hallway to leave with my mom. I had nothing to say to her, despite knowing how happy she likely was. I didn’t feel happy, even though it was what I wanted. I was almost sure of it. Almost.

Much of my childhood was composed of biscuit and gravy mornings, baseball games, and long bike rides down the trails that were paved over the old rails that used to cross through what felt like nearly every town in Michigan, but had since been decommissioned. I lived in a good area, I had a handful of close friends, all the time in the world, and nearly everything a kid could ask for. Still, I wasn’t happy. Things hadn’t been the same for years. Not since mom left. I often found myself romanticizing aspects of my time with her and longing to be back in Philly, back in that tiny, 2 bedroom apartment up on Spruce Hill, spending time with her and my sister. Playing board games, going for walks, watching movies, just the three of us. I longed for that, especially in an environment where I really did feel so alone. I had my friends at school, but my nights and weekends were spent simply sat in front of a TV waiting for my dad to finish working so we could eat, or sitting in my room in dim lighting, drawing for hours on end with a terrible local radio station playing beside me. As I got older, I found myself growing into myself more and more, and I felt less alone over all, but I began to feel like I was disconnected from the town we were in, like I was just meant for a bigger city with people who were more like me, in a school that challenged me. I guess that’s when the idea of changing custody first began.

After 7 years of going to school in Michigan and Philly being somewhat of an afterthought being reserved for school breaks exclusively, in late June of 2013, 4 months after I went to court to testify to get it changed, the custody order was reversed, with my mom being granted primary custody. It was a pretty happy day for my mom, sister, and I. We began to make plans concerning high school and where we would be living. West Philly was a home to me and my sister, but not so much for my mom, who spent most of her time in Center City with her boyfriend of 8 years, Robert. In what seemed like nearly sudden succession, I was thrust into a new school, a new home, and what felt like a new family.

The funny thing about moving to a spot that you view as almost a vacation destination is that once the honeymoon phase is over and the real world sets in, the novelty disappears very very quickly. After being put into a higher pressure situation of a prestigious preparatory school, with my mom now being the one who had to take responsibility for my grades and such, her true parenting style began to reveal itself. Her emotionally driven anger when things weren’t falling in place as she wanted them to, her lack of empathy towards me and the constantly morphing environment around me, her long lists of rules. It was somewhat of a shock to my system compared to my dad’s near laissez-faire parenting. When she didn’t have to deal with the pressures of things like school and how they affected me, she was a great mother. But when she tried to interject herself into my school and social life it just complicated things and made me feel like I just was never good enough. It was nothing like what I had expected or hoped for, and absolutely nothing like what I was used to. The new school that I was placed in was a complete shift from the terrible public schools I’d been going to, but I soon found that the workload was just barely manageable and I was unlike the vast majority of the students who attended there as well. It all took a major toll on me. I felt more alone than ever, suffocated by my home life and new school, spiraling into depressive patterns, crushed by the weight of my constantly evolving environment.

I could do nothing about the situation I went through as a kid, but this situation was one that I intentionally and deliberately manipulated to get what I thought I wanted. Why then did I feel so absolutely out of control? In essence, I believe that it boils down to the relationship between oneself and the changing world. When things are out of your control, you have no choice but to let go and accept it. When things are in your control and need to be changed, you can simply just hope that you have the strength to change it. But what kind of a person chooses to do something for no reason other than selfishness that didn’t need to be changed, knowing they’d potentially hurt someone in the process? Nothing reveals who you are as a person more than the decisions you meticulously plot out.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” - Leo Tolstoy

I tell this anecdote not because I want sympathy for the repercussions of my actions; I know I don’t deserve sympathy as my actions were all my own. The relationship between the changing world can cause one to strike out as the environment around them becomes more volatile and damaging as they become desperate for change to escape the claustrophobic situation that they feel trapped in. That’s what happened to me. While the repercussions for my actions have been, to say the least, drastic, growing from the experience is the most important factor when it comes to a metamorphosis into a more developed person who, in the end, finally reached a point of what I can only describe as being completely content with my current situation and a person who looks forward to seeing how their life will play out. For that, I don’t regret a thing.

A Thank You Letter, Three Years Late

I’ve always told this story in pieces; never giving someone the chance to put it all together and figure out the big picture. There’s a line in the book The Things They Carried that goes “What I should do, she'll say, is put it all behind me. Find new stories to tell.” I should just put the past behind me and let myself move on, stop talking about it like it defines who I am. But- I haven’t told myself the full story yet, and I can’t let go of something I haven’t fully put together yet.

So before I move on, and finally accept what’s happened for what it is like I need to, I’ll put it all together for the first time, and tell the whole story.

I killed myself for the first time when I was thirteen years old. The murder weapon was a pair of scissors and the word “short.” People talk about transitioning like it’s an easy thing, ya know? Just restrict your breathing, hunch your shoulders, avoid speaking, you’re fine. You’re a boy no matter what they tell you. You are loved.

You are a narcissistic asshole who hates himself. You are not loved.

I tried to kill myself again when I was fifteen. It was the summer after my freshman year and I was disappointed in myself for not succeeding the first time. The scars on my arms, and the burning in my fingers when I’m around sharp objects, reminds me that I’ve never been brave enough to succeed. That I never will be.

Deep breaths, smooth sailing.

You are okay.



  1. Satisfactory but not exceptionally or especially good.

Okay is all you remember how to be. Continue the story, don’t panic yet.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder around the age of fourteen. I went to therapy for it, just for a little while. My therapist gave me a task- a way to cope with it. I turned the illness into a person of sorts. His name was FACE. He was everything I hated about myself. I found him being associated with the version of myself from 2014, before I came out and began transitioning. You’d think he’d be a girl, then, huh? I thought so too, but I think what I hated most about myself was that I was a boy. (That I felt like one, at least.) This diagnosis, and the creation of FACE, turned into the second suicide. It scared me at first, but I got used to it. I found ways to cope- I wrote down everything negative, and labeled it in red. Anything in red was his, not mine. Every negative word, every curse or scream or pain was his. I was fine.

There’s a lot of lost time between the first time and the latest suicide; time I don’t remember, or don’t want to remember. There was a lot of confusion, and changing of mind. I don’t remember who I was then, and I think that’s part of why I never told this story to anyone in full. However, none of this really has any significance; it’s just backstory for the real point of the essay - A thank you letter, three years late. A thank you letter to the version of me from 2014 that turned into FACE.

I should’ve written this when I still allowed myself to remember everything I had to say, but I didn’t. So I’ll try and write this letter as best I can with what I still remember of the story.

To 2014,

I wanted to thank you, but also apologize? For taking everything from you before you even knew it could happen. We’re hurting lately, in a lot of ways. We keep telling ourself it’ll get easier, but it hasn’t yet. Maybe we just can’t remember when it was harder? (That’s not true, we always remember)

I should formally apologize before I thank you, it looks nicer on paper that way.

I’m sorry for - hell, everything?

I’m sorry you’ll never be a mom, or a grandmom, or a wife, or anything. I’m sorry you’ll never be proud of who you are, or what you create. I’m sorry you’ll end up hating yourself. I’m sorry you’ll end up hurting yourself because of me. I’m sorry for ruining you and still trying to make the best of the situation when I know this isn’t what you wanted. This isn’t what I wanted either. I’m sorry for the relationships I ruined, for the friends I drove away, for the distance between you and your parents- I’m sorry for everything. I made things so much harder for you later on and I’m so sorry. Things could’ve been so easy for you. It could’ve been so simple if I’d just kept my fucking mouth shut.

I’m sorry I can’t make it better. I’m sorry I can’t prepare you, or make it easier, because I’m struggling with it just as much as you are.

I renamed you, and changed who you were. You’ll grow to loath your birth name and every word from your parents will send you spiraling downwards all over again and remind you of what I took away and I’m sorry.

But - I wanted to thank you. For letting it happen, for not giving up, for suffering with me.

For that year you told me to kill myself, and I nearly listened. For letting me change your name again because I didn’t want to think about being the one saying any of that. For the depression, and anxiety, and sleepless nights. For making things just as difficult for me as I made them for you. I took everything from you and you showed me what that felt like. So, thank you, for the disconnected emotions and shaky hands and absolute hell you put me through. I deserved it. I still do, but I’ve learned to shut you out. I’ve found it’s easier to do when I stopped caring.

I used to think dying was hard. It sounded painful, not just for the person who was dying but for the people they knew. Then I stopped caring. I stopped worrying about what would happen to everyone else, and I realised dying wasn’t that hard at all. I’ve always just been scared of making things harder than they needed to be.

So thank you, for making it easier to stop caring. When I realised I was too concerned about other people, I stopped worrying so much.

Things are better for us now. I hope they’ll stay that way.

You have to let them stay that way.



Becoming a Better Person

I was perplexed. There were so many choices, but so many did not seem like enough. Enough for me at least. This was the first day of high school. I was dead center in the middle of the room. There were missing tiles in the ceiling above me. The stage in front of me sat crooked as many new freshies ran across it playing. I could hear the whispers of others. “They are so immature.”, “This is high school.”, “They aren’t going to last long here.”. I turn around to see where these comments were coming from. It was the bougies. They have not yet been labeled, but that’s who they were. What if they were judging me? I was standing alone in the middle of the room. These thoughts roamed around in my head for a while until I was distracted by another group of students. They were sitting in the corner of the room. All chill, seeming like they didn’t have a care in the world to give. Their surroundings did not matter. I corrected my posture and stood tall. I found myself trying to be like one of them. “You’re changing yourself J’Lynn!” I almost thought out loud. This was not good. I shouldn’t have to change myself to fit in. Well, at least not on the first day. I didn’t even know who these people were. I moved on. I realized that there were a few students scattered throughout the room, just sitting in random places. Their hands were holding their faces and their phones were holding their attention. They did not seem to be connected to the world around them. In fact, they were disconnected from the world around them. Unbothered and uninterested in the mild chaos of a new class. Maybe I should take a seat and decide later. My phone was on the verge of dying, so this was not a good idea. I saw the girl I was with not too long ago. The period just before we were dancing to the incredible songs of High School Musical. What else would new freshmen be dancing to on the first day of school? But she. She did not seem to notice that I was all alone. After a couple of jigs, she left me. She left like we’d never even associated with each other. Like we did not just bust out dance moves from a Disney Channel classic. I guess that means I just did not matter.

It seemed like a hack. A hack that I just could not get the hang of. How come everyone else had no difficulty with what I was trying to do? What I was trying to do was fit in. These groups of kids scattered in sections around me seemed like they have know each other for an eternity. And I knew no one and no one knew me. This was when the idea of change came to mind. Thoughts of “if I do this then that will…” or “maybe if I wear this then they will…” flooded my head. It became a constant thing. A custom routine. These thoughts appeared so frequently that I could no longer concentrated on the important things. My thoughts were unimportant. There were better things to be worried about at the time. Like school.

I had coped with the idea of change. The you should never change yourself for others quotes were settling in. I could change myself if it was for me though, and in a way, the change was for me. I wanted to become a better person. To me, becoming a better meant that I was a positive spirited person and made everyone feel appreciated. It also meant that I had an open mind and did nothing to provoke anyone. Even if nobody cared at all, which would most likely be the case, I wanted to do this for myself.

The further into freshman year I got, the more I realized that being a nice person was not the easiest thing to do. Apparently, to some, it was a crime to be nice. No matter what I did there was always someone who took my kindness for granted. They would notice it, take it, and stomp on it. Sometimes in my face, but most times behind my back. Sometimes it was appreciated but more than most times it was not. “You’re too nice,” a few would say in the most bitchy way possible. And others would disagree. “What? J’Lynn’s not nice!”, in the highest voice ever. This all confused me. So was I nice or not? This only made me push harder. I decided that I was going to stick with this tactic of being nice. My goal was still set. I still wanted to be a better person. And I was going to do whatever it took to achieve that goal.

Sophomore year was a lot easier. I actually knew people. I had my share of friends and teachers that I liked. But what I did not have was somebody who knew me. I had my two best friends and an upcoming squad, but these people did not know who I was. I say this because I still did not know who I was. The process of changing yourself was a little disconcerting. I never knew what to expect. I was never certain of where my actions would lead me. It was like that movie Yes Man with Jim Carrey. Living in the affirmative, he was never aware of what he was getting himself into, but he continued to follow through with his conviction. This was me. I was so determined to finish achieving my goal and as a result, I could barely predict my future.

As I was on the journey of becoming a “better” person, there were also a few other thoughts going through my head. I had set my past life aside to start a new one. Was this the best idea? All my accomplishments were going to be buried in the shadows of my new life. So what was I working with? Who was I going to be. At SLA it seemed like giving yourself a new name was a trend. Was I going to be apart of that trend? My name was already good enough, anyway the hassle of getting people to remember that you changed it was too much. What did I want people to know about me? I was not too sure. I was already in the process of putting myself out there, or at least I thought I was. People should know enough, but is enough ever enough? If people want to know something about me then they could ask me. I didn’t feel obligated to tell people about myself, unless they asked. Imagine walking up to someone and telling them what you ate for dinner two nights ago. It’s oddly strange, but that’s how I imagine it would feel like if I were to tell someone about myself without them asking.

The identity crisis didn’t end in freshmen year nor sophomore year. It stuck with me through my journey of high school. It rode with me in the sidecar of my motorcycle. Forever. And we traveled down an endless road. To this day I still consider my actions to be of better quality than they ever were before. I’m pretty satisfied with what I done with my life. If it was not for me wanting to become a better person, I would have never known the people I know today. That includes mentors and, best of all, friends. I never believed the phrase “you can do anything if you put your mind to it” because I took it too literally. But now I understand. I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it and never give up. Even with little motivation, if I want it I can go get it. I feel my goal being achieved, but this isn’t the end. If I could change myself for better over the course of two years then imagine what I could do in three or maybe five years. Time seems endless, until it ends of course, so why not make the most if it?

English Benchmark

Everything, I believe, starts with a question. So I think it is fitting to pose a question to start. “How did I get here?” Let me rephrase that since that seems a little broad. I do know how I got into the world. I’ve had the bird and the bees talk so maybe the more fitting question/s is “How did I get here in SLA? How did I change to the point that I am comfortable here in this school that I, at first, didn’t even want to go to?” I have asked myself this question constantly. And now as I sit here with my friends in a huge circle as we trade gifts, I will finally sit down and try to answer it.  How did I get here surrounded by such wonderful people?

Walking down the halls of Wagner Middle School, I walked through the middle. There were only three types of people who walk down the middle, the trouble makers, teachers and the student government. And being in my third year of student government, I walked down the middle with all the confidence in the world . It was almost the end of my eighth grade year and it was around the time that everyone was receiving our acceptances to high schools. Finally making it to the office with my friend Kierra in tow we walked in collecting our paper that told us what schools we got into. We were hoping on going to Central together for the longest while. We took a deep breath before opening our letters. I didn’t even bother to read the letter carefully opting to look at the schools I got accepted to.

‘Palumbo-Center City- Accepted


Some other school I don’t even remember- Accepted

Science Leadership Academy- Accepted

Central High School- Waitlisted’

Despite everything, I was angry. Not sad. Angry.  I felt like they should be honored that I was applying to their school. They should be saying, “She’s 12 and she’s applying to our school!? We have to let her in!” If you couldn’t guess, I had an ego and a large one at that over the fact that I was younger than everyone else. Trying to shake off my anger,  I looked over at Kierra to see if she was having a better time than me. She, however, was not. She was bawling her eyes out. I thanked the secretary and led Kierra out of the office. We went to the bathroom, cleaned her up and then went back to where our other friends were waiting. Turns out Kierra had been flat out rejected as well as everyone else. I was the only one that was waitlisted. They tried to convince me to go there held my ground saying I would rather go to Palumbo with them until our math teacher heard us. He gave the class a worksheet and called me outside and asked to see my list of schools that I  got into. I still remember the words Mr. Oh said to me to this day. ‘Paul-Ann, I know you want to be with your friends and all but you need to think about what’s best for you. Palumbo won’t show your true nature and waiting on a school that waitlisted you will not be good for you. Go to SLA. You’ll love it there.” Not even wanting to listen to him, I nodded and he let me back in the class.

I went home to my mother and told her the results of what schools I got into and my decision. She said “No.” She didn’t believe that was a good idea. “ You are going to SLA, you can make new friends.” I couldn’t believe that she was doing this to me but I nodded and accepted that I was going to SLA whether I wanted to or not.

Fast forward to August 2014, Summer Institute of SLA. I still haven’t changed my mind about not wanting to go to SLA. I still knew no one. No one except Sam and even then we weren’t close. My ego had gotten me in trouble with him already. I rather not share how but it was not fun. All I can tell you is that it was a wake up call. A wake up call thatat I’m not better than everyone. I’m not the best even if I am younger. Thankfully, this lowered my ego but it also lowered my self confidence into dangerous territory. I no longer would walk in the center of things but tend to stay closer to the walls. I wouldn’t speak up about my age in fear people would judge me rather than praise me. So going to SLA after this change while knowing no one, it was very scary. I didn’t have any confidence to make any friends and I was scared of staying alone and becoming a loner.

“Are you okay?” Meet Alexa Lahr, a sweet and model worthy girl who decided to talk to me.

“Y-Yes. Sorry.” I also had a habit of apologizing for no reason.

“No problem. You look scared, how about staying by me for today?” I nodded without hesitation. She was really nice to me and I realized that being here might not be so bad. Until the first day of school. We were shown our advisories and luckily Alexa was in mine, however, she had already formed a group and I was once again left alone. We were forced to do ice breakers and sit with people you didn’t already know, so I chose to sit with three girls. They introduced themselves as Lily, Jhazzelle and Jae. I grew closer to Jae until we were split into streams and once again I was forced away from someone I got close to. I decided from then on not to talk to anyone. In our streams, we were introduced to our Bio-Chem teacher, Ms. Sessa. She put me at a table with Sam, a  girl and a guy. The girl introduced herself as Avery, very wildly. I already liked Avery. She was everything I wanted to be. Not afraid to be who I want to be without the ego. The other person was CJ. CJ introduced himself with a joke following it. I really liked my group already. Who knew these would be the people I grew the closest with these following high school years,  

“Paul-Ann are you there?” I hear Sam’s voice ring out. I was brought out of my memories from his voice. I smile and shake my head as CJ makes a weird joke. CJ, my wonderfully weird friend. Avery proposes a game and while everyone says yes, I decide to sit out choosing to observe. Avery, the girl I like to think of as a sister. Eleanor proposes BS. Eleanor, the one I like to think of as a motherly figure, the mommy of the group. Jessica smiles deviously but we all know she sucks at lying. Jessica, another one that I like to think of as a sister. Halfway through the game, Zoe screams, a sure sign that she is losing. Zoe, although I was never close to her, I’m glad to have her as a friend. Claire tries to calm her down. Claire, a total sweetheart, a great friend. Sam just shakes his head. And then there’s Sam. My ex but we’re not those exes that hate each other. Nah we’re still friends. My friend group that I love soo much. I’m glad to have them. No matter what I went through and how much I have change, I will never regret my change and how much I left behind. If anything, I’m glad.