[dropcap]When I was eight[/dropcap] years old, my world was very small. Of course I didn’t know that back then; I did very few things and went very few places. I was almost always at home or at school, playing the important role of good student, good sister, and good daughter. Compared to now, life was simple.

In the morning, my dad would always engrain into my memory: “Look both ways before you cross the street, don’t talk to strangers, and look out for trains, planes, buses, trucks…”

I didn’t want to hear it, but I always expected to hear it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t feel comfortable. I was impatient, timid, and never really told anyone what I wanted.

My school was close by. I was able to walk there with my older brother in five or ten minutes. The air was often cold and have a sweet, but slightly putrid smell. I had no idea what was causing that smell, but in winter and spring it was always present and impossible to ignore. I was told it was the smell of wine being made; I didn’t even know what wine was. We would pass up two giant mulberry trees, several houses, and an upholstery factory all on the same walk. Upon arrival at school, my brother and I would go our separate ways.

I didn’t think of school as a place for learning. It was a place to get away from home, a place where parents could put their kids while they go to work, and a place that was about work before play. At school, I would absentmindedly do my work, just wishing for lunch to come. I wanted to be in the cafeteria where I could be a big kid by getting my own tray, choosing the flavor of milk that I wanted – chocolate. Most of the time I would eat by myself, not looking up until my food was gone.

[pullquote_right]I wanted to swing over the top bar. I really thought I could do it.[/pullquote_right]

Afterward I would go out for the lunch recess, spending the whole time on the swings, going as high as I could. It was one of the few times I had made a goal for myself; I wanted to swing over the top bar. I really thought I could do it. I would try, and fail, and keep trying. I believe that sometimes while growing up, I lost that determination.

At home, I was a different child. I would yell and play and be happy. I felt protected and safe, but I guess I couldn’t put that into words then. I just felt like…me. I was ignorant and oblivious to all of the sad, serious, and traumatic happenings surrounding me. My mom had a stroke just the year before, and was still recovering. If I had known how vital a peaceful recovery was for her, I wouldn’t have been so hardheaded, and I would have helped her out more.

Instead, I was just a silly child, selfish and naïve. My brother and I would leave home, taking long walks by ourselves to find where we could use our Coca-Cola Cards. I was always worried about having fun, or going somewhere new, though the opportunity for that hardly ever came about. I would find ways to have fun – playing in the freeway construction site was one of my favorite things to do. On the way there, new privacy fences, made of wood, were set in place. It smelled just like hickory – just passing by it would make me salivate.

The construction site was a bit dangerous. There were large blocks of concrete and metal was all around. The dirt was soft and unpredictable, but it was a nice open space where I could run around and be as loud as I wanted. I didn’t care if I got hurt. I was having so much fun, the idea of getting hurt was nowhere in my mind at all. I had no room for caution.

In retrospect, I don’t think that being a child was that bad. I realize that I was a more innocent, fun-loving being. Now I understand when adults told me that when I am an adult, I would want to be a kid again.

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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