Joshua Villanueva, 15, says that he likes the military knowledge he is being taught in school. “It helps me with my leadership skills,” says Villanueva, a member of the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science. Times have certainly changed since even the mid-2000s, when anti-JROT C activists argued at a City Council debate on the issue that the program was sidetracking Boston students from more well-rounded activities. Today, according to the Boston Public Schools, JROTC representing different military branches is present in 10 district high schools. Many students can be seen proudly strutting around campus in their uniforms. Merari Reyes, 16, an NJROTC member from the O’Bryant, feels the military instruction promotes respect for the nation. However, NJROTC member Kianah Moss, 15, is not a fan of the program. “It takes up time that could be used for other activities,” says Moss, who goes to the O’Bryant. “If kids want to join the Navy, they could do it after high school, right?” The author belongs to the NJROTC program at the O’Bryant.
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Where do I begin? I know that in this letter I will not say all that is on my mind, but I guess I’ll start with this: For a long time, you were the person that I tried so hard to impress. You were the one I wanted to make smile. After that turbulence in our lives, everything changed. My grades dropped, my weight rose. My best friend wasn’t there. I had no one to turn to. You pretty much made it clear that you didn’t want to be that person, that type of mom. I don’t even call you my mom anymore because I have acknowledged that she left a long time ago. After all you have put me through, I will never look up to you. I will never want to be you. I will never want to be by your side. Do you not realize that I’ve hated myself for so long because of the power I gave you? I have tried so hard to become something other than that little girl who allowed others to get to her and who felt worthless. But you make me feel like all that work was for nothing. Every time I look at you I see failure and disappointment -- in both me and you. You make me feel so alone. Do I matter to you? All I ever hear out of your mouth are complaints and orders. Why is it that you’ve hated me? What did I do to you? But now you come out of nowhere trying to be my friend. When I tried my best to impress you, I was invisible. Now that you see I’m happy and have friends who care, you want to talk to me about your petty problems. Well, it’s too late to build a relationship with someone who takes and never gives. Being your daughter is something I’ll never be able to do because I can’t grasp the idea of the person who brought me down seeing me rise up -- and being able to brag about it. I will respect you as the head of the household, but that is it.
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My mother is a flower. She had been handpicked by whoever is the one who picks flowers. But we all know what happens to a flower when it’s picked. It begins to deteriorate. It begins to fall apart right before our eyes. My mother is a flower. She fell apart, petal by petal. Petal by petal. She wasn’t given enough water, or sunlight, or love, to grow. She was picked too early. I will never be a flower. My mother showed me what it was like to be a flower and I will never be anything that needs to rely on other things to keep me going. I will be strong. I will not be susceptible to the harsh realities that are known to kill flowers. I will be indestructible. I must not be a flower. I will be untouchable. I cannot be a flower. I will help myself. I will not be a flower. My mother is a flower. My mother has let her last petal drop to the ground. Her fragrance is no longer there. Her leaves have shriveled up. Flowers are dependent. Flowers are easily stepped on by those careless enough not to watch where they’re going. Flowers require a lot of attention. Flowers have a temper like you’ve never seen, a temper you wouldn’t think existed. But they’re constantly upset by the change in weather and the lack of sunlight. They are easily bent by the strong winds of the world. Now, one may say I am too harsh on my mother. One may say that I don’t understand. And they wouldn’t be completely wrong. I do have harsh judgments because I know what my mother was like before. Before everything. Before life got a little more difficult than usual. If she were not a flower, she would have been able to handle things when they got tough and wouldn’t have dragged me into it. She would have been able to stand up against the harsh winds of the world and wouldn’t get angry about things she could not control. She wouldn’t need to rely on artificial strength. She would be able to allow me to depend on her, but I can’t, because she can’t even depend on herself.
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I never really had problems with my body until middle school. One day I came home from a long day of school and piled food onto my plate like I hadn’t just eaten three hours ago. You walked into the kitchen and looked at the mountain of food in disgust. Suddenly, I wasn’t so hungry anymore. Seeing something like that from my mom, of all people, hurt worse than the actions of bullies at school. 2. Be worthy of you If there is anything I learned, that even school could not teach me, it is that money brings out the worst in people. I just came home with money in hand, ready to use it for food, clothes, and other frivolous things teenagers spend their dollars on. It was not on my itinerary to give you my only source of income that I worked hard for— as you demanded. That night, in big, fat letters, I wrote in my diary that I hated you. I quickly scribbled it out and silenced those thoughts. But what I could not stifle is the voice in my head that tells me you don’t love me. 3. Be one of the objects of your true love I hate hugging people, and that is because of you. Every time I hug you, you shrug out of my embrace like I burned you. Now I’ve become an anti-sentimental person. I don’t do hugs, kisses, or I-love-yous so that I’m not reminded of all the fake ones you gave me.
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I think I found a way to love you. But I learned to keep it all in. And learned to never trust a soul again. I learned that I could live without it. When I took everything you said to heart. I know that family’s everything and everything can feel so dark. Tell me lies before you say goodbye. Don’t say goodnight ‘cause the sun won’t come back again. You know exactly where I’ve been. Oh, sticks and stones didn’t break your bones. But did you know that me breaking down is still okay? Before you rot away, Are you here to stay? I already know that you raised me. So don’t tell me who or when to love. Don’t tell me to appreciate what I have when you were never enough. Did you know your warmth could have saved me? Your touch used to make me smile. So don’t ask me, “Why are you cold?” when you know it’s been a while. Oh, sticks and stones didn’t break your bones. But did you know that me breaking down is still okay? Before you rot away, Are you here to stay? You know you broke your promises. And you killed my every dream. Please stay with me. You know I still have faith in you. I find new ways to keep my strength. I still check if you’re breathing. Please stay, please stay, please stay, don’t be leaving. I told you lies before you said goodbye. I won’t say goodbye ’cause the sun won’t come back for me again. I know exactly where you’ve been. Sticks and stones did break my bones. I didn’t know me breaking down was still okay. Don’t want you to rot away. I want you to stay.
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