My mother was raped and murdered when I was 5. After that, my dad went downhill. He's an alcoholic, so when he was clean I would go with him. But when he wasn't, I'd go with whomever could have me at the moment. I think I started really understanding what happened to my mom when I turned nine or ten, and that's one of those stages where I felt like I needed her to be there. I didn't keep relationships. I acted out a lot in school (if I went). I would just be a bad kid. I cut classes and fought with teachers and students. I was very depressed. I wouldn't eat. I would go home and my dad and his new wife were always arguing - and me and her kids were always fighting. So I wasn't at peace at home and I wasn't at peace at school. Straight out of school I would come home and sleep and wake up the next day and go back to school then go back to sleep again.

I would call my brother in the middle of the night because my dad would get so drunk he'd start arguing with his wife. She'd lock him out of the house to protects us kids, but he'd come knocking on my window with a machete and be like, "Come here, we're going to go where your mom is." Since my brother was already supporting me financially, he was like, "You're not happy. You're calling me in the middle of the night telling me you want me to come sleep at my house, you might as well just live here." So I moved in with him and his wife and they were only 23 and 20. They'd just gotten married yet they took me into their home and started raising an 11 year-old. Luckily high school was easier; some of the best years of my life. But my dad got deported back to Honduras when I was a freshman and I haven't seen him in a while. He got into trouble here, drinking and driving and stuff. He got into trouble there, too. So he's hiding. But he'll call me whenever he can. All this happened while I was living in Miami. I moved to New Orleans a year ago to get away from it all.

Those are {the) types of things that when it happens to you, you never wake up one day and are not in pain. You learn how to live with these kinds of issues. With my mother passing away, I learned how to live with that.

My brother raised me from when I was 11 to 18; the crucial years. He and his wife took care of me and pushed me to be better. It felt like a normal family. She was a really good person and she was really the one helping me get through my issues. My brother would be the tough one and she was the one who would talk to me and tell me everything's gonna be OK. She was like my best friend.

Teachers would also trust me more than other students because I would be honest with them like, "Yes, I did that," or "Yes, I'll take myself to the office." They knew that I was a troubled kid so they didn't really discipline me much and they would let me sit in their office all day - but that was it. Nobody took notice of anything and tried to help me out. As long as I passed their classes, they didn't care. I would have preferred if my teachers had noticed the signs of a student acting out. If only they'd talked to me. I think it would have changed a lot of the decisions I made from then on. But it didn't happen, so I realized if I just sat around moping all day, I'd just be sad and not be a better person. I'd never be someone my mother would be proud of. So I just kept pushing and didn't deal with my problems. If I put them on the back burner and just hid them for a while, when they came back I'd deal with them then. I'd cry it out for two hours or a couple of minutes, and then I'd keep moving. That's how I shake it off, just letting some tears go.

I wish people would have paid attention more. It could help out a lot.

I think I'm in a better place now, but it would be nice to see a professional to talk about everything. It's one of those things that's never a bad thing. That person is there for that reason, so they can tell you things to make you better. I wish somebody would've told me earlier to go seek help. At 19 I was so broken. I'd just gotten out of a bad relationship and I'd never felt like that before. But I didn't know where to start. I didn't know who I had to see or what to do. I really thought asking questions would make me look crazy. So I didn't.

I'm 23 now and I'm at this point where I'm feeling old and like I haven't accomplished much. I work like 66 hours a week for a cell phone operator, but I want to go back to school. I don't wanna work for other people the rest of my life. I like helping kids and I like criminal justice a lot. Ever since I was a child, my dream was to open up a rec center for underprivileged kids to come and do their homework. If they need to run away from their house a little bit, they can come over and talk to people at the center about it. Maybe that's something I can figure out while I'm here. It's a calmer life for me now, which is pretty weird because New Orleans has a high crime rate. But I feel calmer and a lot better to be somewhere where nobody knows you and can just meet you for who you are. Life is tough, but life is beautiful. And you just have to look around and be like, it's amazing!