New Voices: Gardens that nurture growth and change

Artwork courtesy 826LA

This spring found the 10th grade students in Mary Hayes’ English Language Skills class at Roosevelt High writing chapters for their version of Seedfolks, a novel that describes how a garden transforms lives and an inner-city neighborhood. Working with the 826LA literacy and tutoring center, the Roosevelt High writers in Boyle Heights were encouraged to draw upon their own experiences for their fictional stories that would become chapters.  “The students brought their characters to the garden during challenging times, giving them a chance to grow and change in positive ways and become a truly valued part of a community,” according to information provided by 826LA.

Here are two of those fictional stories by Roosevelt High students  Jasmine Reyes and Jesus Zamora:


By Jasmine Reyes

My name is Jasmine. I live in Cleveland. I have a boyfriend named Miguel. He is the nicest boyfriend ever. He always makes me happy. Miguel always tells me to not mess up in life because he stole from the mall, went to jail, and messed up his life. The last time I had seen him, my life changed.

I was nothing if I didn’t have him. A week passed and I met this girl named Stephanie; she seemed like the coolest girl ever. I skipped school with her to go to the park. She asked me if I wanted to smoke. I said yes because I was so depressed about what had happened with Miguel.

Stephanie and I started to be close friends and skip school. I would always hang out with her and smoke. But once, Miguel’s friend saw us. Miguel was so mad that he didn’t want to talk to me. So I didn’t care about my life anymore and started to smoke a lot even though he told me to stop. My mom would see me and cry because she wanted me to be something in life. I ran away to Stephanie’s house. I changed completely and wouldn’t go to school. So I had lost everything I had until one day, we went to this guy’s house to hang out.

Drawing courtesy 826LA

That day we were gone; we didn’t know what we were doing. Stephanie was acting so stupid around the guys. So I was just ignoring her and kept smoking. Then I had a flashback. I looked back at things I lost because of her. My boyfriend, family, and friends because of a friend like that. She was a bad example to me. So I had left the house crying to myself, why did I become her friend? I left walking on a very sunny day. I didn’t know where to go. I was feeling scared, lonely, and frightened. I saw this girl chasing me wanting to ask me what’s wrong.

I had seen a nice big garden two blocks away. The girl chased me and we were talking about my life and hers. Her name was Kim. We started talking and she asked me if I wanted to help her plant an apple tree. I said yes so we were digging the dirt and I was taking my anger out. Kim told me to not cry because my family didn’t hate me. “They’re just mad. They’ll talk to you again,” she said. I started to water the apples so they could be healthy. Kim had walked me to my house to tell my mom I was with her planting.

I had told everybody sorry and I would never do that again. They had told me it was okay and Miguel had come out of jail. I was happy to see him again next to me. I had told him about Kim’s garden where I planted apples to eat. He went with me there and saw my apples. We went and I saw Kim. She was happy to see me again. We became good friends and helped each other in life. I thought I would never meet a friend like her. Stephanie was a bad influence. She wanted to lead me down the wrong path, but Kim was a nice, sweet girl who wanted to help people in life. So I continued in life with Miguel and my family. The garden made me realize that I can reach my goals in life.


By Jesus Zamora

I can’t believe I just robbed a store. I’m Tony Zamora, and I was born in Los Angeles, California. My mom and dad, they always wanted to do what was right for me. I’m very tough, buff, and very smart. I’m also nice. But when I was growing up, there were a lot of gangs in the neighborhood. So it was plain impossible to not join a gang. One day when I was walking to high school, my friends invited me to join this gang. I remember I was scared to join because I thought that getting into a gang was the fastest way to die. So when my friends kept talking about it, I was trying to look excited about it and brave and told them I was going to become a gang member. To join the gang, I had to rob a store. So I started to panic but they were pressuring me, so I decided to do it.

Drawing courtesy 826LA

Then I thought of all the bad things that could happen and that I could get killed fast. So when he told me that, I realized that I had a better future in life than gangs. So I looked up and saw the sky and trees. I felt that I could turn into a better person and be someone in my life.

My friends gave me a gun. I was scared to death. When I went inside the store, I was thinking of all the bad things that could happen. But I gained confidence and pointed the gun at the cashiers and I said with a deep voice, “Give me the money, and put it in the bag.” The cashier gave me all the money and I started running. I didn’t know where to go so I decided to go to my friend Pablo’s house. I told Pablo I actually did it. He was surprised and told me that he was already a part of the gang. When he heard that, he thought that it was all wrong to do it. I was thinking that if I had people telling me to not join it, I would never have joined it. So when I was walking in the street, I thought that I had enemies from other gangs and I couldn’t pass through the places I used to walk. So one day I decided to go to the gardens to relax and to take my mind  off all the things that were going on with me. When I went there, I saw some old friend Philip, and he told me that he was in gangs too and that he got out to be a better person in life and to have a better future. So together Philip and I decided to plant an apple tree so we could build a better future, a better lifestyle, and help the environment. I would get into planting instead of gangs.

Then I thought of all the bad things that could happen and that I could get killed fast. So when he told me that, I realized that I had a better future in life than gangs. So I looked up and saw the sky and trees. I felt that I could turn into a better person and be someone in my life.

The Seedfooks writing project at Roosevelt High is an In-School Program sponsored by 826LA.

Young writers and readers are always welcome  at The Eastsider.  Teachers can submit student work or samples of classroom writing projects to hello@theEastsiderLA.com. Publication is subject to review and parental approval.

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