This Graduation Poem About Being Young And Misunderstood in South LA Will Make You Feel Unstoppable
Kids who enter L.A.'s foster system, experience homelessness or spend time in juvenile detention are far more likely to drop out than earn their high school degrees.
At a graduation ceremony earlier this week, 13 students from New Earth Organization defied the odds and were handed their high school diplomas.
Based in Culver City, New Earth provides mentor-based arts and educational programs -- like poetry, music production and fitness -- to students ages 13 to 25. They partner with SIATech Charter High School to provide the academic courses needed for a diploma.
Alumna Garricka Pott read a powerful poem at the ceremony about her time at school.
We hope that by publishing her story, it can give hope to others.
I am black, living in South Central, surrounded by violence, drugs, young black thugs and poor single mothers.
This is unstoppable.
I am constantly harassed by cops. I am constantly harassed by men who are 40 years old trying to get into my 13-year-old pants.
This is unstoppable.
I walk home every day because we can't afford a car. No food in the fridge. Do you know what it feels like to starve?
I'm tired of the struggle. I'm tired of the pain. I mean, why not hustle and join a gang? That's what I am. That's what the statistics say I should be.
This is me. Three years in jail. No one cares. No one who fully understands. They say it's a help. But I must have missed that helping hand. Because I am here in a cell with four white walls thinking this is the end. Can this be unstoppable?
I'm released back into the same society, back into the struggle. How do you expect me to change? New Earth? A new way of life? Sounds good. But my life is unstoppable, remember?
They don't understand. They can't offer a helping hand.
See, I've been stuck in a society that has made me small-minded. All I know is the streets. But I swear all that changed when I met HG. He reminded me that I am unstoppable. He reminded me that I have a voice. He reminded me that my life matters. I am the soil to the tree. We are the branches that sustain the apple.
We are unstoppable.
I went from the streets to the books. From surrounded by gangs and violence to positivity.
I'm a mother. I am a college student. I am a soon-to-be businesswoman and a leader. And if you think for one second that my skin color is worthless. If you think for one second that I will fall back into my society. I will tell you this:
My name is not black. My name is not gang. My name is not violence. My name is not struggle. My name is not poor. My name is not delinquent. My name is not hoodlum. My name is not hate. My name is not criminal.
Because my name is unstoppable.
MORE STORIES FROM THIS YEAR'S GRADUATES
AHMIR RINGO, Valedictorian
"The arts program was a beautiful resource to come together and be able to express yourself and just that place of peace, that place of happiness," Ringo said.
He said he was determined to get his diploma to show his children that "nothing can stop you." Ringo plans to apply to college and continue working.
BRITNEY YERKS, recipient, "Unstoppable Award"
"I'm just so amazed at how far I came even when they said I wouldn't make it or when they said that I would be like my mother," Yerks said in her speech.
She's a music artist now, but wants to study child development to give back to her community and help youth who have also been in the foster care system.
ALEJANDRO CALDERA (right), recipient, "All-Around Student Award"
"I've never seen myself in this spot, it's crazy," he said in this opening speech. Caldera thanked his family and friends who supported him in this journey.