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Photo ofAlipate Ngata

The day that changed my perspective of our world was when some older teenagers tried to steal my shoes while I was waiting for my mom to pick me up.

Growing up, I was always the playful and  funny kid. I was taught  by my parents to always keep trying in life no matter what life brings,  mind my manners and have respect for everyone. In 2016, I was twelve years old. We moved to San Leandro and I had to transfer to a new middle school. My parents were always working and my job was to make sure my sister made it to class on time and that she was safe. At the time I wasn't so confident in myself, I lacked motivation and didn't take anything seriously. 

One day after school my sister, my friend and I made plans to walk to the mall, hang out at the food court and grab something to eat. The walk was about five minutes from our school. Knowing my mom is so  protective and I always worried for our safety, I knew she would have a problem, but I asked anyway. I'm not gonna lie, she was mad, but eventually gave in and said yes. She only agreed because we promised to meet her at the food court after her class. 

We made it to the mall, ordered our food, sat down and waited. I noticed three teenage boys that were acting suspicious around us. I tried to ignore them, but when my sister put her ten  dollars down on the table, those same three teenage boys walked up to us.  One of them snatched the money from our table and then all three circled around me and told me to take off my shoes Mind you, those were brand new Jordans 5’s that my parents bought me for school. Unwilling to give up my shoes, I stood up to them, because the shoes were mine and they did not have the right to take them from me.. All this time, I was thinking the security guards, or the people who were sitting and eating or the people who were at their booths selling their goods were going to jump in and stop it… but no. They just stood there and were rather quick to grab their phones to record what happened to me instead. During the altercation one brave lady out of the crowd jumped over the counter and stood up to all three of them and they ran away. After that incident, it made me realize why my parents are always worried for our safety and questioning why our society is the way it is. 

That was a turning point in my life, a sign for me to keep going and to never give up no matter what. So, I joined MMA fighting class to help cope with what happened that day, also to help defend myself and my family. I realized that not everyone is always going to lend a helping hand when needed, regardless of how respectful and kind you are to others.

© Alipate Ngata. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.