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Each year, 826LA partners with one Los Angeles public school for the Young Authors’ Book Project (YABP). Volunteers work with students for seven weeks to write pieces around a central theme. In collaboration with students from Alain LeRoy Locke High School, the 2017 YABP publication, When the Moon Is Up, contains stories from young people in South LA, inspired by the 25th anniversary of the 1992 LA Uprisings. The book’s 61 student authors depict the modern lives of youth in stories about responsibility, family, loss, courage, and favorite pairs of sneakers.
Julio’s “Living Life As It Comes”
I come from a small beautiful town called Ahuachapán in El Salvador. There I was raised by my grandparents who loved me so much. I did not have the opportunity to be raised by my parents because they divorced when I was only one year old. After they divorced, my dad disappeared from our lives and my mom got married and decided to migrate to the United States with her new husband. My mom immigrated because she needed to make more money, to help my grandparents out. She couldn’t take me with her to the United Stated because I was only five years old and it was a risk for them to take me with them because you never know what situations you will face on your way to the United States. I stayed with my grandparents.
“My mom immigrated because she needed to make more money, to help my grandparents out. She couldn’t take me with her to the United Stated because I was only five years old…”
My grandparents and I lived on a farm for part of my childhood. I used to go play soccer every afternoon on the nearby soccer fields by my house every single day after school until sunset. My grandmother would wait for me at the door of our house to make sure nothing would happen to me on the way back home. Thank God nothing ever did. I felt protected by my grandparents who care a lot about me. As the years passed, my grandparents started to get old and my grandfather couldn’t work in the fields anymore more because it was too hard. However, my uncle decided to take them with him to the United States. That way, my grandparents could have a better economic and healthy life. My grandparents had to immigrate the following week. At the time, I was only eight years old and I did not know how to take care of myself or protect myself. My grandparents used to protect me and care about me in situations where I did not know what to do and they were always there for me and I got used to it. Now I was sad. Why me? First my parents left me and now my grandparents. What am I going to do without them? But my grandparents had already made a plan with whom I was going to stay. This person was my aunt. They told me all this the day before they were going to take an airplane to the United States.
“Why me? First my parents left me and now my grandparents. What am I going to do without them?”
The next day, my family and I went to drop them off at the airport. To me, that day was like a day without sun, like one of those days where you do not want to know about anything and just be alone. I was sad but I had to move to my aunt’s house the same day. I did not want to move into my aunt’s house, but I had no choice. My aunt lived in the city of Ahuachapán, where I knew I was not going to be able to go out to play soccer after school anymore. I knew my life was going to change. Which it did. I got enrolled in a private school, for which my mom was paying. Now I got in a basic routine to go to school and come back home right away after school, do my homework, and do the chores at home. Now I had rules in my aunt’s house, and she became really strict. If I was home three minutes late after school, my aunt would wait for me at the door of her house holding a belt in her hands. Not to make sure I was safe, just to make sure she could give me a lesson and I would never come back home late again. As the months flew by, I was becoming a different person. I was getting depressed because I was only at home. She used to not let me go out with friends or visit my friends from where I used to live with my grandparents. I was tired of all of that. I was not that happy kid anymore.
“The next day, my family and I went to drop them off at the airport. To me, that day was like a day without sun…”
One day I woke up early and I prayed to God. I got ready to go to school and I said in my mind before I left the house, “I wonder what is going to happen today?” That day, the man who disappeared from my life when I was a baby—my father—decided to appear while I was in school, looking for that baby who was a twelve year-old kid. When I got home, they told me, “Your dad was looking for you and he wants to take you to live with him and his family.”
I did not want to go with him at that moment because I did not know that man. What if I make a wrong decision? But at the same time, I said nothing worse than this could happen. He left his phone number with my aunt so she could give it to me. I called him later in the day and he invited me to go out with him and his family. I was nervous and scared but I accepted his invitation. Later in the afternoon, he and his family picked me up. I was nervous to see my dad, two sisters, and his wife. I was happy but sad at the same moment.
That man had the same eyes and hair color as me, but he was a stranger when he hugged me. We started a conversation and we started to get to know each other. We went to eat and we ended up going to their house by the beach. We stayed there for the night. They treated me as if we knew each other for years. They were really nice to me. That day, I felt happy and I didn’t want to go back to my aunt’s house. We came back from the beach and on the way back home, my dad asked me if I would like to live with him and his family. I said yes! I did not think about it twice to say yes. I talked to my aunt about it and she said agreed. Then I talked to my mom and she didn’t agree at first because she thought I was going to stay with my dad forever. But I convinced her that I just wanted to live with my dad to see what it was like to have a dad. So I moved in with him.
“I made friends that could speak both languages—Spanish and English. Some of them used to help me to understand what the teacher was saying and sometimes help me with my homework.”
That lasted for only one year. My dad told me that my mom wanted me to live with her in Los Angeles, California. I said, here we go again! Moving to a new place, I had seen Los Angeles only through the TV and I had an idea about how Los Angeles was going to be. I moved to Los Angeles to live with my mother. I was impressed how beautiful the city was and impressed to see so many people, cars, and big buildings in Downtown LA. My mom and I live in South Central. When I got here in South Central, I felt like finally I had found my home.
I was happy and excited to be with my family but the hardest part for me was when I got enrolled in my new school, Locke High School. There, I got enrolled in ELD classes because I did not know how to speak English at all and I could not understand what the people around me were saying. Some of my teachers could not speak Spanish at all. It was frustrating for me because I was not able to communicate to the people around me even when I wanted to. But I made friends that could speak both languages—Spanish and English. Some of them used to help me to understand what the teacher was saying and sometimes help me with my homework.
“I’m about to graduate from high school, and I’m planning to go to college and play soccer. Taking me to live in Los Angeles was the best decision my mom and dad have decided…Los Angeles is home, and I’m home!”
The months flew, I made more friends, I passed my ELD classes. Also I do what I have loved to do since I was a kid, which is play soccer. I joined the soccer team in my high school. Playing for the Locke soccer team was an amazing experience because my coaches always pushed me to be good on the field and off the field as well.
Now I’m doing sports in high school. I play soccer, cross country and track-and-field. I’m taking regular English classes. I’m about to graduate from high school, and I’m planning to go to college and play soccer. Taking me to live in Los Angeles was the best decision my mom and dad have decided. I’m happy with the decision they made for me. Los Angeles is home, and I’m home! I’m happy, comfortable and excited about how my life has changed in LA. I’m thankful for all the amazing people I have met in LA.
About the Author
Julio is eighteen years old. He cannot live without sports. He is planning to become a professional soccer player. He likes going to places and helping people.