Instead of being excited, I got bitter and asked my parents to give me a choice. But I had no choice. I had to move because my life depended on my parents. I got the ticket from my mother as I stood in my bedroom. I wanted to tear the ticket in half right away, but I didn’t. I couldn’t see anything through my tears. I blinked and the tears fell down slowly on my cheek. And so I quit school and came to the US two days before my 17th birthday. In school here, I didn’t talk to anybody. In my head, I had to translate what everyone said from English to Vietnamese, and then translate what I was going to say from Vietnamese to English. I soon realized that the other students could learn English by talking to each other. I built a conversation in my head and spoke the words out loud to myself. After two months, I came to school and talked to other people automatically. I got a little satisfaction from my accomplishment, but I also was dismayed because, during learning English, I became more American. I felt like a stranger, not the person I was in Vietnam. It made me anxious. Sometimes I believed I was losing my culture. In Vietnam, all the young people have to obey the elders. We had the lectern where the teachers always stand. They don’t come closer to the student when they don’t understand, while the teachers in the US do. The Americans are more equal; they express themselves if they don’t agree. After 11 months in the United States, I can fit in. But one thing I didn’t forget is that I’m proud of being a Vietnamese girl and I love my “home.” I’m going to keep my culture by asking my mother to teach me more. I will return home after I succeed. I want to be a nurse or pharmacist and then go back to my country and help the poor.
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There I was looking at my mother back in 2004. Everyone was very solemn, giving each other hugs and kisses. I was crying and wishing she wouldn’t leave me and screaming in my head for her to stay. I was only five. I thought to myself: “My life is over.” I remember when it happened that I was at our house and the darkish hallway smelled like slow death. The sounds of the ambulance got louder as it approached. The EMTs saw me sitting next to my mother and holding her hand. One of the guys picked me up and put me in my room and closed the door so I couldn’t see her. I was very upset because I wanted to stay with my mother. She was very loud and outgoing. She was a good person. I learned that even though my mother is not here, I know that she is in my heart. I can keep going on even though there are times when I want to give up and just let myself go. I still write letters to her -- telling her how much I miss her and how I’m doing in school -- and put them on her grave in a bottle. I go back and put more there for her even though I know she can’t read them. I want to go to college and make something of myself, become an in-house therapist for autistic kids. I think my mother would be proud of me.
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On the plane, I watched my brothers and sister sleep and wondered what our new life would be like. We reached New York City and that was the best place. We were freezing cold, dressed in short sleeves and short pants for a tropical island. But New York was perfect. I had never seen so many restaurants in my life. When we arrived in front of our home in Boston, I thought: “This is the biggest, prettiest house ever.” In school, however, everything was difficult for me. I hated sixth grade so much because everyone laughed at my accent. “Look at that girl over there. She sounds so weird.” I felt sad and left out that whole year. However, in seventh grade, everyone who had made fun of me apologized. I felt happy after that. Life was getting better but every time I talked to my dad on the phone, tears dropped from my eyes. It was like a pin stabbing me in the heart. “Baby girl,” he would say, “make daddy proud, OK? Become something good in life.” "OK, dad, you know I will,” I’d say. “I’ll make Trinidad and Tobago proud, as well.”
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  Jonney Santos, 17, is a headbanger.

He admits to liking heavy metal, headbanging music. Santos has been listening to this blasting sound since he was eight years old. He first heard it while playing video games on his PlayStation. He remains a fan.

“When I listen to it, it gives me peace so I listen to it every day,” says Santos, who goes to Dorchester Academy.

While many teens are known to tune into rap or pop, there exists a small underground of headbanging devotees.

Marcus Wade, 18, is one of them.

“It actually brings people together sometimes,” says Wade, from Dorchester Academy.

He says he was 10 when a friend introduced him to the genre. One of the first songs he liked was “Sulfur” by Slipknot.

Wade says he also listens to rap, soul, jazz, and pop.

Bachinge Bembeleza, a sophomore at Dorchester Academy, enjoys hip-hop, soul, jazz, and a little country.

But she is not a headbanger.

Says Bembeleza: “It’s too loud and aggressive.”

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WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD (Series)

In many places, women endure double standards about where their roles lie in the community. As our Teen Voices Rising participants focused on these biases, they reflected on the contradictions imposed by their own cultures.

  The expectations of Dominican society towards the women of Quisqueya are for them to serve as the base of their families. Growing up, I’ve discerned the many values a Taino woman holds. Yet Quisqueyanos and people of most cultures worldwide have integrated aggressive dominance over women -- the machismo nature, for example. Skewed gender roles do not only create an unhealthy environment but they also violate our human rights. Respect is earned through actions and humility. Oftentimes in the society of Quisqueya, women are treated like fragile glass -- protected and supported. But these women are also respected and placed on thrones for their hard work and dedication towards a community. For years, I have seen how women have obeyed their husbands submissively, but also how that same man has brought the most precious of treasures up to her feet. Society itself has been extremely hypocritical. Although the issue of men having power over women has always been controversial, the women of Quisqueya have been able to stand up firmly for feminism. In a community, Quisqueyanas are known as women of character and leadership and they are teachers, demonstrating that, regardless of gender, it is our human right to be treated equal.
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