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.

The Greatest of All Time Personal Essay

My sister was waiting for me right down the street from where my new school was. It was late August and my new school wanted me to have three days of work inside the school before we actually started the year. I couldn’t believe how old I became. I was a freshman in high school. My sister and I met up right next to Trader Joe’s.   She looked at me and said “Hey, how was today? Did you meet any new people? How do you like the school so far?” I hate answering  these type of questions because they feel too broad and not specific enough for me to answer. My response was “Okay. Some. It’s fine I guess”. I never respond in a way that my sister ends satisfied. We walked towards city hall where we were going to take the el home. I never have taken public transportation before with one of my parents. It was going to be a whole new experience. We get on the el and sit down. It was around 1 o’clock so not many people were on. The entire ride I thought about how long the commute is. “Rachel, you do this every day, huh?” I asked. She answered in a sarcastic tone, “Yep, and you are too. Better start to like it.” We get off at the last stop, Frankford. “You’re going to need to remember that.” I sat there and thought about how my commute is going from a 5-10 walk to an hour train and bus ride.  
We got off the el and walked down the steep, long staircase toward the bus. It was an easy process getting to the bus from the el. Go down the stairs, turn right and through the gated swivel door, go out the doors leading outside, and then turn left. The bus stop is right there. My sister and I walked up to the bus stop and waited for the bus. She looks at me, “This is the 58 bus. This will get you home. Any of the 58 buses will take you to our stop and even the express stops here. We will be getting off at Bergen St. That is our stop.” I looked at her and nodded my head. Nothing else was said because the bus drove up as she finished her sentence. We sat on the bus for a while. I thought the bus ride would never end it was so long. “Rachel, why is this ride so long? I feel like it shouldn’t be this slow.” I pondered. “Chill out, this is nothing. I do this all the time. Suck it up because you are going to do this for the next 4 years.” she uttered. We were slowly coming closer to our stop. She pulled the yellow wire to signal the bus to stop as my 5-10 minute commute would stop.  
Transitioning from 9 years at one school to 3 out of 4 years at another has brought a big change in my life. Specifically, the teachers in my life because I started off with mediocre teachers and slowly progressed into having better teachers. Additionally, the teachers interact with me differently. Which influences why my relationships with teachers are very different. One specific teacher I had, her name was Ms. Jodi.  Ms. Jodi was an educator who wasn’t an actual teacher who regardless taught a class, but helped out around the school and supervised lunch and recess. Ms. Jodi would always hang out with my group of friends when it was our lunch period. She was closer to my friend Nick, but we were pretty close ourselves. During recess, we would never hang out with other kids in the hard cement, schoolyard. We would never do anything else like normal other kids because we thought we were cool and would choose to talk to Ms. Jodi all day. She was one of the coolest people I have ever met and it was sad when she wasn’t there for the last year I was at school.
I never had this kind of relationship with any of my real teachers. In middle school, they were just there to teach. Some were actually cool teachers, but I never had a real friendly relationship with them that I actually enjoyed. They were just more fun educators than the rest of the teaching staff. However, I was never close to any of them. They tried to connect to students and actually did with some. I just was never the kind of kid who became one of the ones who got close with any of the teachers that taught classes. I only became friendly with the other staff in the building whom helped out with the special ed or watched the kids during lunch. I never felt that the teachers could be “friends” with the students. The principal was even rough and never thought one could be friendly with the kids. I also imagined principals as strict people because that is what I grew up with. But coming to SLA was completely different. 
Coming into SLA, really turned all of my previous perspectives on teachers around from middle school. The teachers are more personal and more charismatic with the students. Also being apart of an advisory for all 4 years in high school with the same advisor shows the development of how close with them you are. They are your school parent(s) and they treat you with respect and help you along the way. They also are there for you when you are going through tough times and when school is just too much for you. They really do have your back. I never experienced this in my old school in any sort of way. It really is a different experience for me and probably for most people coming into SLA. 
One experience I’ve had with a teacher I remember specifically was during freshman year in the engineering class. I remember this moment like it was yesterday and it always reminds me of how awesome the teachers are in SLA. It was getting towards the end of Mr. VK’s reign at SLA. Soon Mr. Kamal will fill in the roll of the engineering teacher and remodel the entire program and class itself. VK had nothing for us to do that day so of course my friends and I fool around. We were freshmen so it’s nothing surprising. “Ok class, well since I have nothing for you to do today, you have a free work period.” We all were all in joy in the magical words he spoke of. Getting a “free period” is always something to celebrate especially when it is benchmark season. Of course I was anti-productive and did not work on any of my other classes’ assignments. Instead my friends and I fooled around and listened to obnoxious music out loud in class. VK, being the awesome guy he is, didn’t care about of music and made some jokes about it too. I felt that being in an environment such as SLA brings out the best of you and allows you to enjoy the work you are doing even if you go off task sometimes. 
Growing up and transferring into new environments have huge impacts on one’s life. It is just mind blowing when thinking you can have a 5-minute commute turn into a long road trip that is an hour long each way every day. Sitting on the train and bus is something I did not look forward to as a change in my life but nowadays I am used to it. My life was different in middle school and coming into high school really changed me as a person, and a learner. 

Espanol Benchmark Q2

Esto es desfile de grupos. Tratado de encontrar toda la ropa de los Estados Unidos pero no pudo encontrarlo. Por lo que sólo vestían ropa desde cualquier lugar pero china con una excepción con Sanaa. Trabajamos como un grupo con pequeños problemas. 

Friends, Elephants, Witches & Me

White Elephant:

  1. a possession unwanted by the owner but difficult to dispose of

  2. a possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner

I’ve never really felt as though the term White Elephant quite fit me. I have my problems, everyone does. I’ve never had a wide network of friends, but for the most part, I’ve had a group of people that’s wanted me around. I think really, throughout the majority of my life, I’ve very rarely felt unwanted. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy; I’m kind of a nervous kid. Making friends is hard, for me, at least. Whenever I have to deal with new people, I don’t really know how. Because that’s not something that’s explained to you, is it? People tell you how to treat your friends, how to keep them, but they always seem to leave out how to make them. Luckily for me, though, I’ve made it through the years. I’ve made friends. Like I’ve always thought, like I’ve always hoped, I wasn’t a white elephant. So, imagine my surprise, when suddenly, I was.

Let’s take a step back from the white elephant thing for a minute. Actually, let’s just drop the white part, and talk about a different elephant analogy: Addressing the elephant in the room. When someone says, “Let’s address the elephant in the room,” they’re really saying, “Let’s talk about that thing that no one wants to talk about.” Do you know what it feels like to be in a situation like that? Like, really in a situation like that, when no one at all will even attempt to address it? It’s a big elephant. Rough gray skin, beady black not-quite-creepy-but-not-so-cute eyes, big floppy ears, a trunk like you’ve never seen. Massive, earthshaking feet, a huge mass of muscle and fat, completely covered in mud and dirt. It’s an elephant, alright. But it’s as if you’re the only one who sees it, somehow. As if no one’s noticed it, not even looked it’s way. Have you ever experienced that before? Because let me tell you, I sure have. Walking down the center city streets with a few of my friends, something’s not quite right, just off, in some way. No one seems to see it, except me. We’re walking, they’re all laughing, having a good time; I’m watching the cars go back, one by one, they go zoom, zoom, zoom. The cool air of mid March, pale sunlight peaking through the paler clouds, a jungle of hard pavement, faded bricks, peeling paint, rusting steel. Something’s wrong. What’s wrong? How’s it wrong, why’s it wrong? What is this elephant, walking along side us, that no one else seems to see, and that I can’t seem to decypher? Huh. A small, quiet pop of realization. That elephant? It’s the white elephant. It’s me.

I remember how I felt when I realized the truth. I remember how I felt when I figured out what was going on. I remember how it sucked. How I hated it. How I was angry, how I was sad, how disappointed I felt. My friends didn’t all hate me. I could tell, but I knew that some of them did, and the others were keeping it from me. Even still, I couldn’t help but hate it all when I was going through this. I suppose, looking back on it with hindsight (they say it’s 20/20, you know,) I really had no clue what was actually going on. I didn’t know half of it. In fact, only one of my friends hated me, and the others weren’t telling me for good reason. But I didn’t see that. I didn’t know that, I couldn’t have. I was looking at it like it just on the surface level. Part of me felt like it was my fault. Like I screwed it up. But as time went on, as it became clearer to me who it was who hated me, I started to feel more and more angry. I felt betrayed, I felt like what happened to me wasn’t fair. I felt like it wasn’t my fault, like I had been wronged.

I suppose something else I felt was a total sense of lucidity. I felt like what happened was black and white. I lost my friends, whom I had loved, because they no longer wanted me. Not very complicated, from my point of view. To create an analogy, it felt as though some witch had come along and cursed me. They gave me something wonderful— Something supernatural, maybe— and then they had lumbered on back and seized it from me. Took it back away, like it was never mine. Some evil witch had laid a terrible hex upon me, and took away one what I believed to be the greatest thing to happen to me. Then again, there’s something else that, prior to this, I’d never thought about.

Baba Yaga:

  1. A famous witch from Slavic folklore, often appearing as a deformed or ferocious looking old woman, usually seen flying around on a mortar, wielding a pestle, and dwelling deep in the forest. Baba Yaga appears as a donor or villain, helping or hindering those who encounter her or seek her out.

The “Baba” in Baba Yaga roughly translates to old woman or grandmother in Russian. An old woman, riding a wooden receptacle used to contain ingredients, carrying a tool used to crush up said ingredients, living deep in European forests. Quite an interesting take on witches, I would say. Personally, though, my favorite part is the whole donor and villain thing. She helps or hinders those who encounter her. Helps, or hinders. You know, the two things that are complete, polar opposites. “When you run into Baba Yaga, you better watch out— She’s gonna do something to you! It could be good or it could be bad, but you know it’s gonna be something!” So basically, the Baba Yaga is like… everyone else. Sure, you could say she’s not like everyone else, because it says she will help or hinder, and not everyone else will always do something to you, but that’s a thin argument. I think given the ambiguity of those words, you could say almost anything, including nothing, is helping or hindering. But back to the point: I had felt like a witch had cursed me. I lost a good thing, and that had to have been a bad thing. But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe a witch didn’t come along and curse me. Maybe it was the Baba Yaga.

I only lost one friend. Everyone else, I’m still good friends with, and even if we’re not close, there’s still no bad blood. The friend I did lose, wasn’t a very good person. I didn’t realize at the time, but he was manipulative. He was mean, he was selfish, and he lacked basic empathy. When he first started hating me, I caught on pretty quickly. I texted one of my other friends when I left Center City that day. Asked what was up, if there was an issue. He told me not to worry about it. Something was happening, but it would pass. I understood that, so I let it be. At least that’s what I thought, but as it turns out, I thought wrong.

It was close to Spring Break when it all started, and it was closer to Spring Break when it all ended. For me, at least. The last day before break, actually. I was talking to my friend on Skype, just hanging out. He was the one who got the messages, not me. The man of the hour sends him some messages, explaining his personal hatred for me. I don’t know if he knew the two of us were talking at the time. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. He sends him this drawn out rant about all the issues he has with me, how he can’t deal with me anymore because they’re just so bad. It’s all a joke, really. His reasons are one step away from what you would call, “utter bullshit.” Really petty things, like having repetitive humor. I think really what it boiled down to, though, was he just didn’t feel like I was a very important person to keep around. Really great way to treat people. But hey, at least I wasn’t in the dark anymore, right?

I confronted him myself, eventually. Not in person, break had already started, but I messaged him to see if I could just get anything out of him. He responded a few hours later. Pretty much told me everything I already knew, with a few small additions here and there. I have to say, looking back on it, I handled it surprisingly well. I didn’t freak out, or lash out, or break down. I just sort of backed out. Really, I think what I was the most upset about was the fact that I didn’t get to hang out with people I liked. For the next few weeks, I didn’t do a whole lot. I talked with a couple people, but for the most part, I kept to myself. It wasn’t until a month or so afterwards that I started to get back into the real world, outside of my little puddle of depression. I think I’m fairly lucky I escaped that. It could have gone a lot worse, if I hadn’t.


  1. noun; a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.

  2. noun; a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter

I’m going to get a little sappy for a moment. I think it’s okay, though, because this is pretty important. I like having friends. People who support you, people you support, people you spend your time with, people you’re close with. People who you share things, feelings, experiences with. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but having friends is pretty important to being happy. The most fun I’ve had in my life has been in the company of friends. Losing friends sucked, but I also saw things in a new light. Being happy isn’t a state of mind, it’s a choice you make. You have to want it, you have to fight for it. The problem with me, and I imagine with some of the other people that suffer from the pain of depression, is that I didn’t want it enough. I couldn’t perceive how I could possibly be happy like this. There were still people who cared about me, there were still people I could call my friends. But I was so caught up in my own emotion that I couldn’t see that. The ultimate irony, I feel, is that in the end, I didn’t even lose a friend at all.

If friends are two people attached to one another by feelings and affection, two people who support one another, then the person who left my life wasn’t a friend to begin with. They weren’t attached to me, they didn’t care about me. It goes both ways, both parties have to give for both parties to take. That isn’t what I had. It was fake, and now it’s gone, so good riddance.

Eventually I found out what had been happening. He’d been manipulating my other friends, controlling them. Every aspect of him that had ever appeared to be a good person to have around was a facade. Where I thought he was caring, he was really manipulative. Where I thought he was fearless, he was egotistical. Where I thought he was funny, he was really, well, funny, but he was also unempathetic, so I’m sure it wasn’t worth it. When everything was explained to me, I understood. I forgave. It wasn’t their fault, there wasn’t really anything to be forgiving in the first place. But I did it anyway. I remember how it felt to have it explained to me. Part of me was happy that he was gone. Happy to have my friends back. Part of me felt a sense schadenfreude. I’ll admit it. I usually see myself as a person of little vindictiveness, but he got what was coming to him, and that seemed fair to me. Another thing I felt was relief. Relief to have friends again, yes, but also relief that I was wrong. I wasn’t the white elephant, he had been. That helped me sleep at night, a little.

I don’t claim to have the whole world figured out, but I feel confident in saying that you’ll never gonna be happy if you don’t want to be. It can be a hard choice, but it’s always a choice. I had made the choice to not fight back. I guess that’s what I regret the most. But we all make mistakes. You can’t cling onto the past if you want to be happy. You never stop moving forwards. You don’t need to understand albino elephants and Slave witches to do that. You just need your own perseverance, and a will to want. Of course, it helps to make a friend or two.
Image Sources:
  • Anthony McDonnel (Facebook)
  • Thomas Lennon (Facebook)

Adapting To A Difficult Change

The day is September 8th, 2014. I arise at 6:00 in the morning to prepare for another day of school, however this time it’s my first day of high school. The eagerness to start this new step in my life that I had throughout the summer was gone because of the increasing nervousness every minute closer to 8:15, when school officially starts. I’m ready to get through the rough times of now attending a new school with new people surrounding me everywhere I’d turn, or at least I thought I was on this day. Coming to SLA on the first day I looked around and saw the most obvious difference between my old school and now current school. Besides the fact there was no rule of wearing uniforms, the diversity was shocking. I walk down one hall and I see white students, I walk down another hall and I see Hispanics, and walked into the cafeteria on the first floor of the school and stop to look. I see everyone. Right here is where I feel I learned my first lesson of change, expect EVERYTHING to be different and out of one’s comfort zone.

*Flashback to the world I grew to feel most comfortable in…

Growing up I attended Kearny Elementary/Middle School from Kindergarten to Eighth grade. Residing across from the community the school was apart of made it easier for me to establish a name and a picture to that name throughout the school and neighborhood. With this being said, I was able to quickly make friends and be apart of my own group or team of people who were good friends of mine. Teachers at Kearny watched me grow from a little boy to a young adult, and obviously I became accustomed to being around certain teachers as well as certain peers. Peers, that were more so African American. Being around mostly my own race growing up, I sort of fell into a comfort zone where I only talked to people that acted like me. My thinking growing up was “that’s probably only my race”. The way we talked to each other. “What’s up bro”, “yo bro”, “what’s the move today” I only seem to hear from people throughout the African American race, the people who were similar to me. There were no more than two white students in my grade or that was around my age to be considered a peer to me, and because of them acting and even talking different it created a barrier between white students and my friends and I. “Why is he so uptight”, “why is he so weird” is the question we were so quick to ask and judge upon. Even when we were forced to interact because of table discussions there was this blatant awkwardness between both sides. Everything between us was different which made it really uncomfortable for us and them as well.

Many people might say “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, you have to try to adapt to the change and new environment.” Specifically this because my mother is the one who told me this. As I listened and took this advice, the beginning of a new change was here in full effect and I felt I had to first figure out how to stop running from it because no matter what, this problem was going to catch up to me as the SLA school year continued. It’s easy to just say I will change or become more of this, but when the situation comes along where the opportunity appears to attempt whatever it is one needs to do, it’s easy to become stagnant. The enthusiasm and care to seriously adapt to that new thing is loss because at the end it is common for one to dislike change. Stick to what I’m used to right now was the mindset I had and when I’m willing and ready to adjust I’ll put the effort into doing so or at least hope to do so. Change is in any form costly because it involves time and effort to adapt to a new reality. Because of this I thought I was acting rationally by resisting change. I knew that I wasn’t the only student going through the same uncomfortable change, probably most of the incoming Freshman felt the same way.

Communication in a relationship is key no matter how deep the relationship is. Communication acts as the judge, jury, and executioner who has the final say on whether the relationship lives or dies. Learning how to talk to different types of people is important as well and coming to SLA for me it was critical for me to master. “Why is he so quiet”, “Why doesn’t he like to interact”. These are things I would hear a few times out the day a lot between the first two weeks of high school. The feeling when I heard these things to me was first a funny one. I used to chuckle when I heard this because the transformation from me being a somewhat talkative person to feeling like one of the most laid back student in the school was amazing. Also, it was hysterical to realize how one of the most hushed personality student in the class could still receive as much attention. At my old school, I received the attention but I was more involved with my environment. I was confident to approach anyone at my old school and communicate to them about anything, something I clearly had to learn all over again coming to SLA since I literally only knew one person from my old school that attended SLA. There was an obvious difference between how I acted, my mood, and my comfortability speaking to my old friend I been really close friends since 1st grade and my new classmates I only knew since a week ago. I was around a like minded person for sure. Coming into SLA, I had a tendency to speak with a lot of slang which comes from being around and interacting with my fellow race. There is a stereotype of black people being more illiterate compared to whites when speaking because of the constant use of slang or profanity and was another reason for it being easier to speak to my friends or at least peers that have a better chance of understanding what I’m saying and can relate to the exactly what I’m saying. Especially in a school like SLA, you can be judged for that especially when there are a lot of students coming from different environments when attending their previous schools.

This change in environment was definitely tricky and made me face an obstacle that was harder than expected. However, the changing reality contributed to my ability to present myself to other races in a more comfortable way. Also, I feel as though I came to an understanding that change is nothing more than a learning experience that I will continue to go through throughout my existence however will approach me in different scenarios. Mary Anne Bell from The Things They Carried relates to going through a change and seeking ways to adapt to it like I did with the curiosity of how difficult this change in environment from Kearny to SLA would be. Still to this day SLA helps me with having the confidence to be able to speak to peers outside of my race, personality, and the people I’ve grown accustomed to interacting with which is a great thing to be the best of both worlds in my opinion. Having the capability to be professional when needed and understand the slang that is widely used throughout all races but more so popular in the African American race.

Best Personal Essay Ever

To my apparent acquaintances,*1

I am not like any of you. I am not rich, I care about my work, and I try my hardest not to be judgemental.*2 While I know you all view public school as some sort of awful place where education and freedom die, I hope you all realize that when you get to college with all the money your parents have, you all know nothing.*3

You all have known each other for years. This was my first year at this homeschool co op because this was the first year my family could afford to send me. For people who all profess themselves as being “accepting weirdos” it's amazing to me how little you wanted someone different from yourselves present. For people who have realized the importance of social justice through the wonders of social media, it’s interesting to look around the room and be the only one who isn’t rich or white. I don’t think that you were racist, or necessarily even classist, you just didn’t want someone there who wasn’t exactly like the rest of you. My sin was my lack of a smartphone, my dislike of consumerism and my disdain for social media. For daring to cause any kind of debate or actual learning in a room filled with one dimensional conversations, if any at all.*4

I am sitting across a table from Ned’s Mom.*5 The previous week the group had been talking about government, and Ned had been talking about how his favorite government was “Anarchy government”. Given that anarchy's definition is “absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual” I had asked Ned if he knew what anarchy was, before explaining this. Ned’s Mom is explaining to me how my actions had “hurt” Ned and the “community” by so rudely correcting what he had been saying. I am timid and she is an authority figure, so I back down and apologize. This is all happening a week after I made the comment, because I can only afford to go to the homeschool co-op once a week, not the other days available. Obviously in the intervening time they met about the horrible thing I had said, and this “radical unschooling” parent had decided to cover up her son’s lack of knowledge by having a stern talking to with someone ¼ her age over a comment made and already forgotten.*6

The co op, while also being a social area where teenagers could sit in rooms together and use their phones, is also meant to serve as a learning space. They would teach “classes”, one per semester. One of the classes was a “film class” We all would sit in a room, watch a movie, and then talk about it, any of you remember that thrilling class? The film class had a horribly random feel, no distinct curriculum or direction, and a complete lack of focus.*7 The discussion after the movies would often come down to heaping praise upon the parts everybody had liked or finding ways that movies from 50 years ago were sexist or awful. Now if I ever tried to say something negative about a well liked movie, or defend a movie that was being hated on, the entire group would turn on me in an instant. Not in a scholarly fashion, but in one where I was the clear enemy and where voices would be raised. This would often culminate in even the present adults, meant to stimulate insightful debate would attack a 14 year old for disliking a movie.*8 This would go so far as to accuse me of potentially being sexist for disliking a rom-com that had a strong female lead.

You all didn’t like me. That much was obvious, but I didn’t want it to be. There was about a dozen of you. About a dozen people who lived in houses nearly double the size of mine, were only children, and had pools in their backyard. My parents didn’t have the time to come to the co-op to hang out with the kids and make sure they didn’t do anything too crazy, like ever get off their phones. That was because my Dad had to work almost everyday to pay the bills, and my Mom had to actually teach my brothers. Meaning the other parents didn’t exactly love mine, and I could feel the animosity when they came up. When I came in every morning, nobody would really say hello, and none of you seemed to particularly want to talk with me. My family couldn’t afford to get me a smartphone, and when you all found out, you laughed. Most mornings I would spend simply sitting in the middle of an overheated room, waiting for the class to start, in which case you all would be forced to interact with me.

There were board games in the room and nearly every morning I would try to get you all to play them with me. The parents there supervising were meant to make sure it was a stimulating environment and that the kids did something like play, so in the first few weeks you all let the games be played. Issues quickly began to arise, immediately strategy games began to quickly die off as often the same person would win them. That person incidentally being me. After a few weeks though, nearly all game playing was stopped and the time spent in the trailer simply degenerated into nothing until a “class” was taught. Why was this allowed to degenerate so? Because these parents meant to foster a learning environment couldn’t handle seeing their kids lose a board game, nor could the kids handle losing. They would pout or refuse to play at the age of 14 their parents would choose to cancel all game playing at all. Just as they would shut out anything that disagreed with them or the kids there, even if that something was another kid. A kid whose only crimes were that he couldn’t afford to be there until now and was different. I am glad I didn’t change for all of you though. For now, I have left and I can see that any change to be like you would simply have been a change for the worse.*9


That Weird Kid


  1. Oh god, what a cringy way to start.

  2. I say this. Then I directly go on to be horribly judgemental and hypocritical. Ah, sweet irony.

  3. Oh. I am oozing with an non judgemental tone here. Literally right after I made my brilliant point about me being ever so fair.

  4. To elaborate on this point, the average hangout in this group was disgustingly boring. The room would be filled with numerous bodies so unmoving one might think they were recently dead, with their glazed eyes, slouched countenances, and still twitching thumbs.  They were not cadavers though, but living breathing children draining the life out of their bodies and directly into their iphones. For a child who didn’t even like texting, these were some of the most boring times in my life.

  5. Ned was another kid who went to the co-op. He was a massive nerd and never bothered with schoolwork as far as I could tell. Although there I go being judgemental again!

  6. Ugh. Even now I can’t believe this adult’s immaturity, at least I can excuse mine to age! Given that she was, by my estimates, in her late 40’s to mid 50’s she hardly has such an excuse.

  7. Looking back on it now, this curriculum was not so “random” as I thought. But simply a collection of our “teacher’s” favorite movies. Ah, what a learning experience.

  8. Well I guess in retrospect since it was one of her favorite movies though, it makes sense she would so vehemently defend them huh? To the point of saying that I obviously just didn’t have any idea what makes movies good, and probably just saw trashy cheap movies before then. (This in response to me saying I thought the movies musical portions were a bit forced and I didn’t think the boyfriend in the movie was “dreamy”)

  9. So yeah, it was a cheesy and pretentious little ending for a letter with the same qualities. With the added bonus of being horribly judgemental to top it all off. Still there in a message in all this that’s good, albeit cliche. I was an outsider, and instead of changing who I was or just shutting up I stood up for myself (even though I didn’t stick to my guns with the whole “Ned’s Mom Situation). I had to realize what was and wasn’t important to me, and since this time I have found what is important to me in things like books and film, in pursuing knowledge. They made me realize that fitting in does not necessarily mean one is happy, and that I could be far happier by just doing what I wanted to do. Which is even cheesier than anything I wrote in the letter, so sue me.

A Story About a Familiar Stranger

I want to tell you a story about two strangers. One of these strangers wasn’t always one, but he is now.

My story starts here on an average foggy day, but the memory remains clear. Three missed calls from my best friend Indee, and two from my mom. Weird. Indee texts, and tells me to check the news. Quickly, I type on the keyboard with my slippery fingers, as my heart begins to feel heavier in my chest. Then instinctively, my foot starts tapping on the floor, and I start biting my nails as the page loads. There right in front of my face, as if he was looking right at me, was the mugshot of Quadir. I sit there in complete silence, an empty house, with Quadir across from me, while I hear the clock tick as if his time was slipping away, and the time that had been taken away from that innocent girl. It was mocking me.

Quadir Gibson, a “standout running back for the Crusaders”, a friend of mine, was being charged as an adult with murder, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy. He may not have pulled the trigger, but then the trigger would have never been pulled if it wasn’t for him. Towered over us all, known as the “troubled” kid in middle school. Walked in the halls as if no one was there with him. Cold front but a warm heart, I always liked to think. I had the pleasure to spend a lot of my time with Quadir. Often paired up for projects, or we sat together in class where my teacher thought I could be a good influence on him. At first I thought nothing of it, but after almost every class sitting together, and many major projects together over the year, it became clear to me: this kid needs a lot of help. Time and time again he would either come in with a smile on his face, or mid-class he would leave the seat next to me to walk out of the class and slam the door. Visits to the principal's office became less of a coincidence and more of a pattern. Teachers would often pull him aside and ask, “How are you doing? How are things at home?”, receiving the same answer almost every time, “Fine.” I remember the times in the play yard where he liked to play football, and soon yelling out of enthusiasm turned into fights with other classmates. He had matured so much faster than the rest of us, bragging about his girlfriend and how he was part of a dirt bike gang. He was a disturbed child, yet the days sitting next to each other remained no different. Small talk, but interesting conversation. Silent class periods turned into sporadic laughter and inside jokes to fist bumps in the hall. He’d call me “Ella Enchanted”, as if I was in my old little perfect world, and I got to welcome him into it.

Me amongst many didn’t expect this day would come, but weren’t surprised to say the least. It was like reality came knocking on my door, holding the mug shot of him. Adjusting was the hardest part, memories triggered by miniscule actions, images of Quadir sitting in a jail cell with men twice his age, or the family grieving over the life of their beautiful daughter that was now gone forever. It was hurt to believe it, but it was reality smacking right into me. One pull of trigger left a mark on many, and I still don’t even know if he cares. I alongside many others built a safe place for him, which he quickly decided to move out of. The countless second chances, extra help, endless amount of forgiveness didn’t seem to matter, and that hurt. It was like everything I knew about this boy was no longer true, where he became a stranger that none of us seem to know. Remembering times he would call stupid names, or push me against the lockers as a joke and how he could’ve easily hurt me, but I never saw him like that. All the days spent in the same classroom when he could’ve brought a gun, when I could’ve been that girl.

Not only did I question who Quadir was, but when that changed I had a hard time understanding who I was too. What kind of person was I if I was friends with a murderer? How do I feel bad for a friend of mine who did so wrong without disregarding the innocent life that was lost? Who am I to think someone who committed an unforgivable crime is a good person? To this day I still continue to wonder, and many of these questions continue to stay unanswered, but others became clearer to me.

After the horrific incident, I began to realize that I was no longer living in my perfect world Quadir insisted I was in. Quadir was only one of many who made the choices he made and I felt it was up to me to tell my story and to help people understand that a gun is not a toy, and a quality education is not something to be taken for granted. He shined a light on many aspects of my life that seemed foggy, and allowed me to make them seem clear. Gun control quickly became an interest of mine, where I subscribed to various newsletters, and followed the news to study how common these Quadir types of incidents were. School projects promptly became dedicated to this new passion , and in a way it felt like I was doing it for the girl, in honor of her. Then I discovered my love for education. Quadir had a crummy childhood, the particulars I don’t know about. His elementary and middle school gave him tremendous support thanks to caring, nurturing teachers and supportive classmates. He graduated and went on to a top-notch high school where he starred on the football team. So what happened? Why would he involve himself in something so awful after so many had tried to lead him toward a better path?  Without Quadir, I would have never been able to discover a new side of myself, and I would never be able to fight for a life that is now gone. Although I never knew this girl, the past few years I have felt so close to her and I wanted to do this for her.

Here I am now, about 3 years since Quadir, a friend of mine killed an innocent girl, where he now roams the streets of Philadelphia, in which he no longer is in jail. A huge part of my life became obvious, and I learned so much about myself and many of who I affiliated with, but I continue to live my life with the many unanswered questions. I like to think that Quadir feels remorseful and does realize his actions hurt many, but that part is still murky. When I think of Quadir, I no longer see him as a friend, but as a stranger who I thought I once knew, but no longer know. . Three years ago I wrote about this, only months since it had happened and I knew nothing of what was going to come next and still had no idea where things would move forward from it, but so much managed to change in the past few years and questions still continue to roam my head. Quadir Gibson is a stranger to me, yet the girl he murdered I couldn’t feel more connected to.  I leave you with not much, where my life is still quite conflicted, unable to conclude this story, because as of now, there is still no ending.

Personal Essay Celli

Dear Abigail,

You’re almost eleven now, and halfway through your first year of middle school. At first, I wanted to write this about how much I remember in regards to becoming your big sister, but I quite frankly don’t remember too much about it. I was in that awkward stage of life where I can remember some strange or traumatic events (like flushing myself down the toilet in preschool) but can’t remember the feelings of my six year old self. So, I’ve decided to write you a small field guide on how to deal with getting older.

While your goofball cousin Sarah and I have started your introduction into the teenage girl world, I figured that I should write all of this down in a better and more appropriate setting without your favorite two knuckleheads (as mommy calls us) laughing and making jokes you don’t understand yet.



You may or may not recognize this picture. Every year, we took annual holiday photos dressed as angels sent them to send to our large extended family. Ms. Gooden, the same woman who does our dance portraits, brings us into the cold messy photo room after we got all dressed up in the kitchen. We sit down, snap some pictures and leave. Ms. Jackie and Ms. Gooden eventually choose their favorites to hang on the wall, and for some reason this one made the cut. What you might not know about it is I got my first period during this. I was literally dressed like an angel, in all white, and there was blood coming out of me. Of course, I didn’t KNOW it and to this day I have no idea if I stained that dress. I didn’t notice until I had gotten home and was ready to get in the shower. I even know the exact date, November 6, 2012 the very minute we heard that President Obama was reelected for another term. So, after four years, I can finally tell you the reason that we no longer take angel pictures. It was never because we don’t have the time or mommy forgot the order form once again; it’s because every time she brought up the idea all I had to do was raise an eyebrow and say “period” and she’d drop the issue. Ever since that incident, I almost always avoid wearing white near my bum.

I did try it again once, but that was an even LARGER disaster, I wore white shorts on my 8th grade forensic sciences trip and bleed through them and beyond. It was my then boyfriend who had nervously pointed out that I had a rosebush that was running from the seam of the seat of my pants to the halfway mark of my thigh with a “You’ve got… There’s something on your… Your pants are.. Dirty?”  Naturally, I was only halfway through the trip at the time, and had to ride the bus back sitting in my own blood. Yes, being afraid to wear your AWESOME white sparkle tights is an unfortunate part of getting older. I don’t know a single menstruating human who hasn’t lost an article of clothing in this bloody battle.

2. Bust and Build

My crazy best friend Julia had once told me that if you put a bar of soap in between your boobs and smushed them together while in the shower, the bar of soap will launch into the air. I am happy to have proved this theory true. It is so true in fact, that I knocked the overhead shower light out with the bar of soap. (Sometimes, theories don’t need to be tested, so I saved you the trouble there.) While this is a hilarious joke to tell my friends, it isn’t exactly a thing my family should be hearing about. Although, as you know, our family seems almost overly comfortable in discussing our bodies to each other. This doesn’t just hold true for our family I’m afraid, but women’s bodies will always be under scrutiny by everyone. People will hate you just based on how you look. It gets worse as you get older, trust me. I know as a plus sized little girl, you’re going to get it a lot worse than I ever did. I hope that this ever changing world finally will acknowledge the beauty of girls that look like you. Some little voice is telling me that this is a too far fetched dream, but standards change constantly, every ten years it seems. You’ve already been alive for ten years, so hopefully by the time you’re my age another change will happen.

3. Moving on

Whether you leave your school for high school or college, I’ll tell you first hand that all those year book “Keep In Touch” messages mean nothing. People get older, busier and new people come into our lives constantly. Sometimes holding on is a lot harder than letting go. PTSD doesn’t just hit those who have lost someone through death. Sometimes, I know that reliving those seemingly happy memories isn’t good for me. It’s like being stuck in this world that no longer exists. These people are no longer in my lives. In a way, we deal with death even when they aren’t gone forever. You want to keep yourself surrounded by the people who already know who you are, so you aren’t under any pressure to make yourself seem interesting. Abigail, you are so young, and you never ever have to be the same person you were twenty minutes ago. Now is the time to keep changing until you find the person you want to be and are happy being. Don’t become like Mommy who is nearly 50 and still says she still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. Allow yourself to grow and change. Meeting new people is hard, I know, but surround yourself with new people. Meet people who are different from you, who you never would have thought you’d be friends with in a million years. Chose the company you keep carefully because whether you want them to or not, people will change and shape who you become. Sarah and I have been trying to make sure we shape you into a good person from the moment we realized how toxic people can make us. Move on from toxic people, and be the beautiful person I know you are.

There are thousands and thousands of other things I wish I could write to you Abigail. I wish I could tell you that as you get older the world gets easier. It didn’t for me, but you and I have been different children since the days we were born. Try not to change too much squirt.

With love,

Your favorite older sibling

(And your only)

Best Personal Essay EVER

Sydnye Misero 
     My not so Mid-Life crisis
Sydnye Ilise Hill. That is not the girl writing this essay. Sydnye Hill was a girl who struggled a lot with her own identity. The root of this crisis stemmed from my name. Your name is something that follows you for your entire life, it is how other people identify you and attach memories to. It is the center of your identity. To me, my name is as important as the oxygen I breath.
     My birth name, Sydnye Hill, was not the name I wanted to live my life with. Why would my name reside so strongly with me? It was the last name of my father. I can't remember a time my father was in my life. I felt so confused for such a long time. I felt like not enough. I felt that it was my toddler selfs fault that he left, inadequate at such a young age. I felt that I would never fill that gap of a father in my life. I looked at my last name and saw him, and I did not want to be a reflection of him or want anything to do with him. When I saw my last name I thought of loneliness and abandonment. My grandparents had raised me, and they had the beautiful last name Misero. In Italian it means ¨wretched¨, which I find ironic. I decided that was the identity I wanted. I associated this name with nurturing, love, and a sense of what felt natural. I began the process of changing my last name legally
      It was the big day, I could finally be at peace with my past and embrace my future. I approached the courthouse with my grandmother and grandfather on both sides of me, I felt my jaw become tense from the stress. I looked forward and saw our family friend who has helped us through this whole process, he was our lawyer. We entered the courthouse, the same courthouse my grandmother had come to take her citizenship test. It was freezing compared to the hot july sun, I felt myself shivering but I'm not sure if this was from the change in temperature. I faked a smile at the guards, trying to fool myself that I wasn't bursting with nervousness.  We entered the courtroom and were greeted by the judge, who seemed like a nice man. I was wrong. He noticed we had not contacted my father that I would be eliminating his mark on me for life. He did not approve my application, stating that 
       ¨We must send a letter informing the biological father that his daughter wishes to receive permission for change of name¨.
      Thousands of thoughts swarmed in my head. I had no idea where my father was, nobody did. I thought this was the end, that somehow my father was still apart of my life although he wanted nothing to do with it. It wasn't until weeks later that we approached the courthouse again.
     This time, I had received approval. I started crying right away, I was nervous yet happy. I wanted this to be a solution, that somehow my emotional turmoil would go away. I looked up at my grandfather, Papa was what I called him. His face was red and he had tears brimming, it was the first time I had ever seen him cry. He looked at me and gave me a big hug, and I saw my grandmother watching with the same teary eyed expression. I could feel how happy they were, we had always been a family but I felt like I was proving how much I loved and valued them. I let myself hug my grandfather, hoping that he could feel the happiness radiating off of me. My grandmother came and made it a group hug, kissing both of us on our cheeks. These were the two people who she loved most in the world.
 Would changing my last name really change how I felt inside? Yes. After I changed my last name, I felt apart of my family. Looking at my last name now, I see so much growth. I feel warm looking at it, I think of everything my grandparents have provided me with, and how much they love me. I can see how after I changed my last name, it gave me so much clarity that I could be who I wanted and be free of the last name that weighed me down. I will continue to change a person. As I continue to change, maybe my last name will change as well. If marriage is in my future, I would change my last name to be my husbands. Embracing the atmosphere I am in, helps me understand that I change with it. Another change of name would have a big impact on me, something I feel others do not experience. My name has gone through all my hardships with me, and will go experience all the good in my life that is yet to come.
     I am now so much more at peace with myself and the world around me, I feel that I am my own person and that I can make my future and give my all to those around me. I no longer have a predetermined destiny saying I will follow in my father's footsteps. I embrace the possibility of new chances, and the things yet to come.

My slide part 2

Untitled presentation (1)

For my new slide I have decided to change it completely. I wanted it to be more creative so that’s what I did. I kept the quote the same. Instead of having the background blue I changed it to black. It’s because I feel like the black background makes everything stand out more instead of the blue. I also added a picture of New York because that’s the place where I grew up and was born in. What I learned was be more creative and have a little something about yourself.

E1 U3 Escaped

A normal day at SLA is drastically changed when an escaped convict appears and attacks students starting with two love birds. Will the two survive? Find on tonight´s episode of ¨Escaped”

E1 U3 Lost Child

Billy and his mother are going to the store to get a new toy. Billy ends up wandering off in the store, and gets lost. Will Billy find his mother?

Micah como Billy
Niya como Sandra
Andrew como Jamal

Best Personal Essay EVER

As I sit on the pews, waiting for my cue, I shake my foot anxiously. I know that I am completely prepared and I am perfectly capable of performing, but I still don’t want to. I don’t know why I agreed to this. As they announce our names, my mother and I approach the stage. I pick up my guitar, adjust my skirt, and put on my capo. My mother counts us off and I begin to strum chords I know all too well to a song I barely know. The tension in my shoulders refuses to ease as the song comes to a close and the audience stares. They clapped, I cringed. I make every attempt to  avoid eye contact. The next song flies by in a heartbeat and I still can’t shake this uneasy feeling. The pit in my stomach is bouncing on a trampoline with every beat. Finally, it’s over. The crowd gave an acceptable amount of applause. I put the guitar down, stood up, adjusted my skirt, and returned to my seat in the pews.

This was the first time I had performed since my grandfather, Clarence Matthews, passed away in January of 2015. Not that I was big on performing before that anyway, but it felt different. He is the main reason that I play the instruments that I do. Way back in the 50’s, my grandfather was a bell ringer for the Salvation Army in Harlem, NY. He began going to the church services to listen to the band and he fell in love with the music. There, he met my grandmother and they had my mother and four other kids. They all took up an instrument or two. My mother learned to play the piano, the trumpet, and the EAlto horn.

I was born in the Bronx, NY but then my family relocated to Philadelphia, PA in 2005. At my church, I learned to play the trumpet, the guitar, and the piano. At my school, Shawmont Elementary, I was taught to play the violin and the cello. I was also involved in the school musicals. My last year there, we did Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and I played Charlie’s mother, Mrs. Bucket.  

Recounting the night we got the news my grandfather passed, my sister and I had just come back from our friend David’s house. It was movie night and we watched the Green Hornet. We took our jackets off. As I set up Netflix on the Wii, my sister went and told my mom we were home. We sat on the couch to watch tv, just the two of us, while my mom was in the back watching a movie. Suddenly, the phone rang. It was my Aunt Valerie. We payed it no mind and continued watching the show but what came next was completely unexpected. My mother screamed, “What? What do you mean?” My sister and I ran to her room. My mother was in tears. She hung up the phone. She could barely get the words out. “Your grandfather is dead,” she stuttered. She told me to call my father and tell him to come home. The three of us went out to the living room, sat on the couch, and cried together. My father came in from the garage and sat with my mother. Later that week, we found out more information about what had happened. They said he died in his sleep, peacefully and that’s all we could have hoped for him.

After that, I sort of stopped playing the guitar. It wasn’t intentional, I’d just lost interest. I readjusted my priorities. School and friends and family trumped my music, then more than ever. It was my first year of high school and I decided that it was no longer going to be a part of my identity. I wasn’t interested in going into the music industry even in the slightest. It was hard even though I didn’t notice a change.

During that summer, the church where I currently attend Youth Group went on a Mission Trip to Vermont. One of the nights there, we had a bonfire at a farm that was the worksite I was stationed at earlier in the week. There, we had somewhat of a confessional time. I was there with some of my closest friends and I had developed a fairly strong bond with the other teens I had met there so I decided I was comfortable sharing about myself. We got to open up about our struggles in life and prayed for each other. It was there that I remember for the first time realizing I shut myself off to my music after my grandfather passed away. As soon as I returned home, I got into playing again.

Later on that summer, my dad, who is a college professor, arranged a meeting with one of his co-workers, Ms. Jackson, and I. He said he wanted us to talk about my options for college and my plans for after. We ended up talking about scholarships and schools that I could apply for regarding my musical abilities. I told her that I didn’t want to pursue a career in music however, she said that I shouldn’t completely rule that out. If it’s something I’m good at then I should go for it. We talked about how I could expand my audience and she suggested I start a YouTube channel and post videos of myself singing. The next day, I began filming a video of myself singing Lost Boy by Ruth B. A little while after posting three videos, I began to think this wasn’t for me. The I decided to post recordings of myself on SoundCloud. To date, I have 5 tracks posted and I intend on making more.

As of right now, I still don’t perform for people often and when I’m practicing and someone opens my door I stop immediately, but I’m a lot more open to performing than before. I think that self-reflection is extremely important and sometimes you need to check in on yourself more than others.

Reflection on Media Fluency

All About Monie Reflection
I've learned several things from this media fluency unit. First is how every decision you make is important when it comes to making something appealing to the eye and how to portray the message you want it to express. Every decision needs to have a reason of why you decide to do it. I also learned some new vocabulary words for elements of art such as value, hue, and intensity which are all properties of color. Lastly, I learned about the rule of thirds and empty space. The rule of thirds are useful for organizing elements on your slide which sometimes uses empty space in order to achieve a certain look. 
I made several changes to my slide for the following reasons. One change was the color of the background. The intensity of the pink hue was too high so not much of the pink was showing so I made it a deeper pink. Next change was the font sizes. Before I had a gradation but it wasn't a good balance gradation that was center so I just made all the letters the same size. This made the slide look more balanced and have an even amount of empty space. 
Research is the base of your knowledge when it comes to beginning a project you know little of. It's important because you need to learn what is right and wrong before doing anything. If you don't do research, then you could just be doing everything incorrectly which reflects on your effort and how much you have learned. Research teaches you how to look for answers when it isn't given to you. You could also find ways to exceed expectations. This is why research is important when beginning a project. 

Reflection on Media Fluency

All About Monie Reflection
I've learned several things from this media fluency unit. First is how every decision you make is important when it comes to making something appealing to the eye and how to portray the message you want it to express. Every decision needs to have a reason of why you decide to do it. I also learned some new vocabulary words for elements of art such as value, hue, and intensity which are all properties of color. Lastly, I learned about the rule of thirds and empty space. The rule of thirds are useful for organizing elements on your slide which sometimes uses empty space in order to achieve a certain look. 
I made several changes to my slide for the following reasons. One change was the color of the background. The intensity of the pink hue was too high so not much of the pink was showing so I made it a deeper pink. Next change was the font sizes. Before I had a gradation but it wasn't a good balance gradation that was center so I just made all the letters the same size. This made the slide look more balanced and have an even amount of empty space. 
Research is the base of your knowledge when it comes to beginning a project you know little of. It's important because you need to learn what is right and wrong before doing anything. If you don't do research, then you could just be doing everything incorrectly which reflects on your effort and how much you have learned. Research teaches you how to look for answers when it isn't given to you. You could also find ways to exceed expectations. This is why research is important when beginning a project. 

Tangled, Non Gender-Bias

Mako Mori- a female that has her own narrative and story isn't based around a man.
Bechdel - women that talk to each other not about a man
These two types of test exist to show that females are valued and can defeat gender bias. That women do not have to have a purpose in life because of a man. That these female characters do something because they themselves are passionate.

Tangled is a story about a girl named rapunzel. She is kept away in a tower by a lady who kidnaped her to use her hair to keep her young. She is a princess. She has never left the tower. Rapunzel, every night on her birthday sees glowing lanterns and is fascinated by them. She wants to leave the tower on her 18 birthday so she can go see them in person. She travels along with a criminal named flynn rider, acting as her guide to see the floating lights.
Tangled could be compared to frozen. Both movies each, have a strong character that wants to escape their life and have freedom. Rapunzel from tangled, and Elsa from Frozen. Both characters also have men that come later in the story but are not the reason they live their lives they way they do.
These movies relate to both lenses because; in a mako mori lens, rapunzel has her own passion about leaving the tower to go see the floating lights she is fascinated by.
She also passes the Bechdel test since has a conversation with her "mother,"about leaving the tower for her 18th birthday.

A gender-bias lens I have is if a man doesn't kill people with a weapon. This teaches that men are suppose to be violent and associates men with violence, which is a stereotype standard society has. There are movies that have men without weapons included, but it is uncommon. I like movies where I can see a man that isn't trying to kill someone to the death with weapons. I would also like to see that a movie doesn't make a women strong by making her a badass killing machine. Violence does not make you strong.
Rapunzel doesn't use a weapon to be a strong women. He personality and brains is what makes her strong.
Rapunzel is a strong and independent woman, and tangled passed all my my test.

E1 U4 Telenovela: Triángulo​ ​de​ ​amor

Intro: A love triangle between the two best friends Pablo and Enrique for one girl Angel. Pablo will do anything for Angel the beautiful, even murder! Will Angel love Pablo? Will Enrique fight for his life? Will this be the end of the love triangle? Watch the video to find out.

Zeyah como Enrique
Tobi como Marianna
Tyah como Angel
Naseem como Pablo. 

E1 U4 Telenovela : "¿Quién Eres Tú?"

Julio and Rosalita have been bound by marriage but separated by their own endeavors outside of their home life. Both Julio and Rosalita have secrets to hide but none want them to be revealed. Watch the telenovela “Quién Eres Tú?” to see what happens when one of Julio’s biggest secrets gets revealed and how his wife reacts to it...

Amani como Rosalita

Jeremiah como Julio

Alexis como Natalia

John como Sebastián