We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofRicky Loza

On the day I turned sixteen, I realized I was transitioning away from childhood and into adulthood. When I heard there was going to be a break from school for two weeks, I was pretty happy. I was fifteen then, now being away from school for more than a year, I am on the verge of turning seventeen. Once they declared quarantine, I was shocked how many stores were closed at once just for a virus; slowly but surely, I started to recognize that I had taken for granted the privilege of going to restaurants, not being able to wear a mask, and going in big crowds. I started to respect the things I lost; I started to be mature during quarantine. 

I seemed not to care about childish things, no longer getting into petty fights with my brother. I started to be a bigger person. When I was in my sophomore year, I was still a kid with kid problems such as how I was going to be able to buy video games. Now, my concerns lie with needing to pass a college class, get a job to pay for my car insurance, take care of my little cousins, and apply to colleges. Having these significant responsibilities changed me to see the bigger picture and to prioritize the important things in life. 

It dawned on me since I was not in school physically, I had more time to invest in improving myself. I recall my friend getting a job and it made me reflect on the fact that he got a job at my age. What am I doing? What am I doing to prepare for the next phase of my life? It was customary for me to sit in my room playing video games while my friends were doing something with their lives. After that, I started to think about the kind of person I wanted to become. I noticed that my brother had his life together at my age. At my age, he had a job and a car. He had more than enough credits to graduate from high school and had his college career already planned out, ready to go. That was when it hit me; I want to have my life together at an early age. 

I felt excited to be introduced to new things. He was not the type of person to live in the present; he was a type of person to think about the future, to think about his actions and the impact they could have later on. That was what inspired me to start taking on more responsibilities, to accomplish goals my former self would never want to complete because they were boring. For example, I never wanted to take an AP class because I thought of it as more work, and I was not too fond of work. I felt lazy and not interested in doing an extra hour of homework. Now, I want as many of these as I can get my hands on to get college credit to show how dedicated and passionate I am about school. 

I act differently and more age-appropriate in certain situations. I have taken responsibilities that can take your life somewhere instead of relying on Mommy and Daddy. I have taken a part-time job at a restaurant taking orders and cleaning tables. For the first time, I traveled without my parents, which was a big step for me to do because I had always depended on other people to do everything for me. I have started to make breakfast and dinner for my parents, clean the dishes, take out the trash, routine chores that used to bother me, but now I do not care. Other people have noticed that I am more dependable and allow me to babysit my little cousins and take care of my mentally ill grandfather. I am fully embracing the responsibilities of life.

© Ricky Loza. 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.