I grew up in North Philly. My family and I lived in a beautiful town house with central air, huge rooms and a back yard as big as a golf course. My mother had a job in a lunch truck. My father had a job delivering pizzas. I remembered jumping in his car and just driving. I would stick my head out the window and pretend I was driving. My father would laugh. Now it seems funny, but for a 12 year-old it was the best.
I had many good times there but as I grew up I saw things I had ignored as a child. One summer day I was walking down the street enjoying a piece of cheese cake, when I stopped in complete shock. I realized that the houses on the block were abandoned. There were homeless, drug-using people, accompanied by children that had lice on their heads and filthy bodies. I was hurt.
I saw what Philly was really about. People always on guard, fights all the time, drugs everywhere. My sister and I were the only Latinas in a school full of racism. From the age of 13 to 15, I hid from the world. I spent my time home, not going out, and no friends. I hoped for change.
On July 2, 2001 something happened that changed our lives. Walking home, I looked up and saw police cars and officers in front of my house. I WAS MORTIFIED. I ran up the street, my heart racing. In front of my house, my father was being taken out in handcuffs. I fell on my knees as my father walked to the police car, with a calm look on his face. My body was shaking. My mother lifted me up and explained my father had stabbed two men in self-defense. She looked into my eyes and told me everything would be ok.
3 months after my father paid his debt to Philly for the stabbings, my mother talked to her brother who convinced her to move to Massachusetts. It was the best thing that could have happened, but my mother and father had to work hard to start our new lives. After living in my uncle’s house for 2 weeks my mom saved enough money for an apartment. Holyoke isn’t perfect but I was able to find myself here. The schools are big and filled with people who want to help, the houses are big and colorful and the people are different. We met neighbors who are still close friends. I was finally comfortable being who I was and I noticed that who I was, was just enough.
This move has changed me in so many ways. Emotionally, physically, and mentally, I am a new person. I’m stronger and confident. I was blessed to have a second chance and that’s what change has meant to me… A SECOND CHANCE!!
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