I had come to the US last year and was living with my cousin, my aunt, and my sister. I was planning on going to high school and I was excited to start classes. I tried talking to my cousin about how I could get enrolled. However, my cousin told me that because I was 18, I had to start working in my aunt’s nail salon instead of going to school. I could not contain my feelings and started crying. I had a lot of questions: “Should I give up and go back to my country?” “Should I call my mom and tell her what has happened here?” But I did not want her to worry and be sad. My aunt was being selfish. My relatives just wanted to use me because of money. Every morning, I woke up and went to the nail salon. I had to help until nighttime. Day by day, I did the same thing for several months. I felt so tired. But she was my aunt so I always did what she asked. One day, I could not stand that. I told my aunt that I wanted to go to school, not work. I remembered what my parents had told me: “Do what you want, say what you think, do it now because this is your life, not anyone else’s.” I decided to move to another place and start over. My older sister and I found our own apartment in Roxbury. She works in a nail salon. I now know that life is not simple. When I was young, my parents always protected me. Now I am in school studying. One day, I hope to own a restaurant.
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Senior Sayonaras (Series) Advice from those who have been there, done that

  Dear Students,   The past four years of my school career have been very rocky and fun at the same time. The three biggest pieces of advice I can give to you guys are: 1) Know who your true friends are; 2) Procrastinating -- not an option; 3) Have fun during your last years of high school. Knowing who your true friends are was one of the most challenging things I faced during high school. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make new friends or the friends that you are making are not real. Throughout my high school years, I learned that most of the people that I thought were my friends were not because they took advantage of me. I don’t like saying no to people so they used that against me. So, choose your friends carefully. Procrastination can mess you up on so many levels. It can not only affect you academically but also in your real life. If you know that you are a person who procrastinates a lot and then gets upset when you don’t do well in class, you shouldn’t blame anyone but yourself. You should try to change and not wait for the last minute. You should join clubs and go to school dances because you might regret not having any fun in high school. By the way, when I say to have fun, I don’t mean to go out and party every day. When you look back on your high school years, you want to say: “I miss those days. I had so much fun. And I actually did something with my life.”
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  Campesino: hard working, gritty, and hopeless. There are many of these farmers where I lived in Bani, a small part of the Dominican Republic with a very poor but strangely beautiful culture. A jungle filled with mango, avocado, and banana trees in your backyard; dogs roaming free; and bets being placed on cockfights held in the streets that never knew the smell of cement. Many kids who didn’t work were free during the day to do what they wished while their parents toiled in the fields. Me? I stole 1,000 pesos from my aunt’s store, threw hot milk in my sister’s face, and even failed first grade. My father, a campesino, worked 12 hours straight in the hot sun, five days a week, farming sugar cane, plantains, and avocados. On the weekends, he made extra money building houses. He never said it aloud, but I could always hear his disappointment: “Who the hell fails first grade?” He knew we needed to change if we were going to be any different. So my mother went to the United States to see her sister using a visitor’s pass and came back a few months later to tell us we had received our visas. The day to leave arrived. From Bani, it took us two hours in an old 1960s bus filled with over 100 people to reach the airport. All I could think about was all the family and friends that I had left behind -- and even worse, all the new friends that I had to make. We landed in Boston on the night of February 30, 2005. I felt deeply alone in school because I had no friends and in the class only two people spoke Spanish. They all ignored me like a shadow in the darkness. I figured out that watching cartoons like SpongeBob might teach me simple words in English and I started to comprehend the teachers. I began to change and was not that immature little boy who knew nothing, wanted to be nothing, and was going to be nothing. Today, the six-year-old boy who was addicted to troublemaking wants to be the guy who stops the trouble. I’ve grown fond of criminology -- especially detectives -- and in the near future I hope to be one. This year, I will graduate high school. I hope that my parents embarrass me by screaming from the crowd, “Ese es mi hijo!” -- that’s my son! And the words of my father -- “Who the hell fails first grade?” -- fade from my memory.
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TVR
Breaking the cycle of girl-hate

A WOMAN’S WORTH (Series)

Everywhere you look, a woman’s identity is defined for her, whether it’s through language, media, or entertainment. Teen Voices Rising participants investigate the blatant messaging meant to oppress women.

  Today’s popular insults include “pansy,” “sissy,” and “fairy.” They’re almost always used to describe someone who appears weak, and they all have feminine connotations. It has been said that comments like these give boys an unhealthy idea of what it means to be masculine and teaches them that what is feminine is inherently bad. These words also have negative effects on girls who hear them and begin to incorporate these ideas into their own lives. Anyone, when in a group labeled as inferior, wants to be the exception -- the opposite of what her “peers” are. To become the exception, a girl can decide to belittle the character of others in attempts to flatter her own. This is what many call “internalized misogyny” and what others (including myself) like to call “girl-hate.” Girl-hate is almost exactly what it sounds like. It is the distrust, dislike, or hatred by girls, directed toward other girls – and it’s caused, in part, by insults like these. It’s pretty easy to develop. A girl hears that the entirety of her gender is shallow, trivial, mean, and “catty,” but knows that she is not. Thinking that there is no reason for so many men and quite a few women to lie about this, she starts to believe that these gender stereotypes are true for everyone, except for her. This is what many people’s fascination with being “not like other girls” comes from. These stereotypes of girls being vain and vapid are not grounded in reality. Think of your best friends, your family members, your classmates, and your senators -- amazing women who defy this stereotype so often and so effortlessly, making it almost moot. So, who wouldn’t want to be like “other girls”?
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TVR staff May_June 2015

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