By Q. M.
I am 17-years-old, from Fort Myers.
I was brought to this program after charges of burglary and grand theft. I was doing crimes to make money because I didn’t have any. I didn’t want to rely on other people, and there were not many people to rely on.
I came into this program hoping to get my GED and then get home, as soon as possible. Although I have had bumps in the road throughout my stay, I have learned a lot of different things. They include how to walk away from distractions that could jeopardize my freedom or get me into trouble.
This program has helped me mature and become “the bigger person” in different situations. I want every newcomer here to understand that rebelling in this program will never help your situation. It will make it worse.
You can take two different paths in this program. One is easier than the other. You can be a follower or a leader. The follower watches kids who they believe are cool and then tries to be like them. The leader does what is best for himself in any situation, because he came in by himself and he’s going to leave by himself.
That does not mean you cannot have friends, but it’s important to surround yourself with the right friends. If you do, you’ll be fine.
As of now, I have my high school diploma and a Safe Participants Staff food-handling certificate used in commercial cooking. The only hurdle I have not yet overcome is relapse prevention. I will not know if everything is going to go well on that issue until I get back into the world, to my city, and do what I know I should be doing — instead of going back to what I did before. I believe this is going to be the hardest thing to accomplish, because it’s easier to go back to what I knew before I came here.
But what I have realized is that I can conquer anything I put my mind to. It just takes effort and hard work, so I will strive to do better, not just for my family but for myself.
Q.M. has graduated and is back at home.
Me and Only Me
Excerpts of rap lyrics by Q. M.
They wasn’t outchea for me when I was on my down fall
They wasn’t vouchin’ for me when I couldn’t stand tall
I dropped to my knees, I prayed the lord take ‘em all
See they laughed at me and thought that I was dumb. . .
Switch it up see, they thought I was dumb
I got my GED, despite where I came from
I know it’s not much but look what I have done
I got some younguns lurkin’ to put down dat gun
Survivin’ in dis jungle, it’s hard to shake sum
You don’t like to look stupid, so you play dumb
My father looked me in my eyes and said you need to change son
I been despised so many times, but dat don’t change nun
This the reason I slang iron, but I pray change come
Momma I hope you proud of your son you made some
They say change gon’ come
I bet I be the one to change some
The articles above are reprinted from the Titan Tribune, a newspaper written by students from the Miami Youth Academy, which is a commitment facility for teenage boys. The newspaper is part of a journalism class run by Exchange for Change, a Miami nonprofit that teaches writing skills at MYA and adult correctional facilities. Photos are blurred for purposes of the participants of the program.