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Age 17, Long Beach

I’m from California, but my family is originally from Louisiana; my Southern background and family have shaped me more than California has. I live with my mom, who’s an elementary school teacher aide and I am the oldest of two younger sisters and one younger brother. Growing up, I went to three different elementary schools. Middle school life was rough – people would pick on me and I was seen as a bully just because of my loud and deep voice. People would make fun of me on social media, but in the 8th grade I learned not to care. I’m glad I had the support I needed from my mom and my therapist, they helped me get through the bullying and gave me a space to express myself and my feelings.

High school is going okay, but it’s moving a little too fast. My freshman year was a new environment for me; I didn’t like my teachers and I took school seriously but not as seriously as I should have. Now, I like my teachers and I like learning about what’s going on in the world. Sometimes I don’t, because I’m empathetic and take on people’s emotions and it’s a rough time for a lot of people right now. I really enjoy the arts program at my school – I like drawing, painting, poetry, and theatre and I’m glad I have more space to express myself.

I wish I had more encouragement and inspiration to join more groups in school. I became involved with the Female Leadership Club this year after being in the Female Leadership and Ethnic Studies class, and now I work as their Treasurer. They helped me become more confident as a female leader and be comfortable with who I am. I am Black, brilliant, and resilient.

I am going to college and I will study to be a general surgeon. I want to go out of state to Louisiana–maybe to Tulane or Xavier–so I can call it my hometown and be close to my family. My mom is helping me through the application process and figuring out FAFSA. She used to work in a financial aid office and used to be a high school teacher aide, so she knows a lot about college applications.

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