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Changing Our Lives This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Drugs, violence, crime and death. These are the sad words that circulate in ayoung gang member's mind. Pain, fear, tears and punishment. The words thattorture a frightened parent. Will it ever end? Is there a way to fight gangviolence? Throughout the country young teens are becoming more involved in gangactivity. Why are they drawn to such a crowd? Selling drugs to children,murdering innocent people and filling up Youth Authority Centers; it's time toopen our eyes and help rather than live in fear. We need to stop writing "InLoving Memory" with candles burning on street corners. This is not our purpose inlife and now is the time to overcome that pain and clean up ouryouth.

Driving through the streets of L.A., you feel trapped and lost.Your heart beats in your throat as you step out of your car to go to the store.You look behind you to make sure you're not being followed. Is this the way itshould be? No. It is time to rise above this problem. It won't work with only thehelp of the police or probation departments, it has to start with family.Children raised among gang violence are likely to join at some point. This iswhere we as a community come in. Why let a child go that way if we can help themfind another path in life?

I work as a Youth Specialist for the StateEmployment Office. I work with at-risk youth. I hear heartbreaking stories ofwhat children have been exposed to. I wonder every day how life can be so unfairfor them. I deal with high-school dropouts, gang members, drug addicts, fosterchildren and tons of teen mothers. It is hard to find them work when they havepolice records and other obstacles - but if I have learned one thing through thisjob, it is that you can't turn your back on them. I try my hardest to enroll themin education, employment and training programs. I know deep down that I am tryingto make a change for our youth.

Gang life is one of the hardest things toovercome and stay away from. When you see the pain and the tears they shed, yourealize they aren't living happily ever after. They are lost and scared; theydon't know what else to do, so they put on a mask to the world, wanting everyoneto fear them. It becomes their sense of security and freedom. If only societywould learn to take the time to reach out with that special hand, those specialwords and touch someone - sooner or later things would change.

No matterhow much help is out there, some won't make the effort to change, but as asociety we should never give up. We have to try to make a difference in theseyoung peoples' lives. Hopefully one day everyone will be able to say, "I changedsomeone, or that person helped me change." Changing our youth for the better ischallenging.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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