"I Felt As If I Was the Apocalypse . . ."

The diary of a promising student describes many pitfalls

Two years ago, Hector (a pseudonym) was one of Angela Kirkendall's best students, a boy so taken with Kirkendall that he sat close to her desk and imitated her speech patterns. Like other students who find themselves in Kirkendall's sixth-grade class, Hector discovered new motivation and became a better student than he ever had been at Rose Linda school.

But his junior high school years at Rose Linda have put Hector on a different trajectory. He tells New Times that he's frustrated with his treatment and wants only to get to South Mountain High School, where he says he expects to get more respect and fewer hassles.

As an eighth grader, Hector became a popular boy and a good athlete. But his increasing behavior problems put him at odds with his coaches and got him thrown off two teams. Meanwhile, he's begun showing increased gang wanna-be behavior. Assistant principal Irene Lopez included him in the small group of "knuckleheads" that Arizona Cardinals football player Allen DeGraffenreid mentored throughout the year. But Hector's behavior continued to deteriorate until, near the end of the term, he was caught with a smoking pipe at school. Hector was suspended for three weeks, and when he came back, the other knuckleheads say he lost his cool and blew up at DeGraffenreid.

Kirkendall says she's disappointed to see Hector faring so poorly after being one of her favorite students. She theorizes that disruption at home--the adoption of two younger children by his family after an aunt and uncle abandoned them--has dislodged Hector, who was accustomed to being somewhat spoiled.

Hector's eighth-grade teacher, Joanna Meyer, says he still shows great promise, particularly as a writer. And she asked the boy to turn over his journals to New Times, which he did. They document a difficult year for a talented boy who, his teachers fear, will soon become another statistic in a neighborhood's fight against ignominy.

--Tony Ortega

9/9/98 The funniest thing that ever happened to me was when I knocked some guy out while boxing. I don't know why it was funny, it's just funny watching someone fall with a punch. The funniest thing I ever saw was when my friend Ruben got hit by a car on Paul A's bike. You just had to be there. I took it serious at first, but when he said he was all right, I just started cracking up. Those are the funniest things that ever happened to me.

9/21/98 My grandmother died yesterday morning. All my family took it hard, especially my father. I didn't cry until I saw my father walk in the house when he had barely found out. It was a bad day that my parents woke up arguing then that hit us by surprise. Maybe God thought that she was going through too much and it was time for her to go to heaven. Even though we were not very close I'm going to miss her very much. I loved my grandmother and I know she'll be able to "rest in peace." This reminds me that next week will be a year anniversary that my uncle died.

9/28/98 Mom has not gotten home yet. She broke her leg in Mexico. She won't come home till tomorrow. I actually really miss her. I can't wait till she gets home.

10/5/98 I had a lot of homework today. I'll finish it in no time. Why, you ask? Because I'm smart. That's right, smart.

10/6/98 I had a lot of homework today. I also had a football game. We lost, supposedly. It was really a tie. But we'll give it to them.

10/8/98 I sparred today. I was sparring smooth. I flowed like a butterfly and stung like a bee. I was like "Iron" Mike Tyson. Except I didn't bite anyone's ear.

10/12/98 This is a true story. It happened in El Paso to two of my neighbors. At a party there was some guys from this gang called Little Locos. My friends were from a gang called Los Stones de Lugas. One of the guys from Little Locos said where are you from and Carlos said puro Stones, b*o*H. THEN THE GUY ANSWERED GIVE ME ALL YOUR JEWELRY, JACKET AND THE REST OF YOUR SH*o. CARLOS, GUERO, LUIS AND SAUL REFUSED TO DO THIS AND THEY TOLD THEM TO GO F*@K THEMSELVES.

CARLOS SAID THAT MINUTES LATER THEY WERE BEING CHASED BY LIKE 20 GUYS FROM LITTLE LOCOS. LUIS AND SAUL GOT AWAY SOMEHOW, BUT CARLOS AND GUERO KEPT ON GETTING CHASED. . . . WHEN GUERO TRIED TO JUMP OVER A FENCE THEY PULLED HIM DOWN AND STARTED TO STAB HIM. CARLOS HAD ALREADY KNOCKED ON A DOOR AND TOLD THE PEOPLE TO CALL THE COPS. THEN ALL CARLOS HEARD WAS GUERO CRYING AND SCREAMING LOUD TO HIM. CARLOS COULDN'T TAKE IT HEARING HIS BROTHER SCREAM LIKE THAT, SO HE DECIDED TO GO HELP GUERO. . . .

AROUND 3 A.M. THE COPS WENT TO THEIR MOM'S APARTMENT AND TOLD HER WHAT HAPPENED. SHE SCREAMED SO LOUD YOU COULD HEAR HER SCREAMS IN MY APARTMENT. THE NEXT DAY MY MOM AND BROTHER WENT WITH ANA TO VISIT CARLOS AND GUERO. MY BROTHER SAID THEY LOOKED DEFORMED AND THAT YOU COULDN'T TELL IT WAS THEM. THEY ALMOST GOT KILLED . . .

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