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.
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 . . .
I JUST FELT LIKE KILLING WHOEVER DID THAT TO THEM, BUT I COULDN'T DO ANYTHING. ALL I COULD DO WAS TO TRY AND PUT IT BEHIND ME AND GO ON WITH MY LIFE.
10/13/98 TODAY WAS A GREAT DAY FOR ME. I WON MY FOOTBALL GAME. MY COUSIN . . . OWES ME $5.00. I FINISHED MY HOMEWORK EARLY. AND MY EX-GIRLFRIEND CALLED ME AND SAID SHE MISSED ME AND SHE KEPT THINKING OF ME SINCE WE BROKE UP. I LOVE BEING ME.
10/13/98 I WOULD LIKE TO LIVE IN EL PASO, MY HOMETOWN, FOR A FEW MONTHS. I WOULD LIKE TO LIVE THERE AGAIN TO SHOW EVERYBODY HOW MUCH I CHANGED. I WOULD CONFRONT EVERYBODY WHO EVER TRIED TO PUNK ME BECAUSE I WAS SMALLER OR WEAKER. I'LL GO PUNK EVERYONE WHO TRIED TO PUNK ME.
10/26/98 I WENT TO THE STATE FAIR THIS WEEKEND. IT WAS FUN. WE GOT ON A LOT OF RIDES AND WALKED A LOT. THERE WAS ALSO A LOT OF GIRLS. WHEN WE LEFT THE FAIR [A FRIEND] AND I GOT SOME GIRLS' NUMBERS. THEN WE WALKED TO MY MOM'S FRIEND'S HOUSE AND THERE WAS A CUTLASS LOWRIDER, MAROON COLOR, ON THAT STREET. WHEN WE PASSED BY THEY SAID SOMETHING BUT WE IGNORED THEM. WHEN WE WERE LOOKING BACK THEY KEPT ON SAYING STUFF TO US. I THINK IT WAS BECAUSE [A FRIEND] AND I WERE WEARING RED AND WE WERE ON 19TH CRIP TOWN.
11/17/98 I'LL NEVER FORGET THE FIRST TIME I WAS INTRODUCED TO DRUGS. IT WAS IN EL PASO, TEXAS. I WAS ABOUT 7 OR 8. THE FIRST TIME I TRIED TO EXPERIMENT WITH DRUGS WAS WHEN I WAS 10. SOME OF MY FRIENDS WERE SNIFFING PAINT AND I TRIED A LITTLE. I DIDN'T LIKE IT. IT MADE ME FEEL SICK. WHEN I MOVED TO PHOENIX IS WHEN I REALLY GOT CLOSE TO DRUGS. WHAT I MEAN BY CLOSE IS PEOPLE DOING IT IN FRONT OF ME OR SELLING IT IN FRONT OF ME. THE FIRST TIME I REALLY GOT HIGH AND DRUNK WAS WITH MY FRIENDS. IT WAS ONE OF THEIR BIRTHDAYS. I FELT AS IF I WAS THE APOCALYPSE, AS IF I WAS UNSTOPPABLE. I KNEW IT WAS WRONG BY DOING DRUGS BUT SOMETHING MADE ME FEEL TOUGH LIKE IF A VOICE TOLD YOU YOU WERE PLAYING WITH BIG BOYS NOW. MY FRIENDS KEPT ON ENCOURAGING ME TO DRINK AND SMOKE, BUT MOST IMPORTANT THEY TOLD ME I WAS ONE OF THE HOMIES NOW. NOW I TRY NOT TO GET AROUND DRUGS. IT GOT ME IN A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH MY FAMILY, ESPECIALLY MY MOM. I REALLY HURT HER. I PROMISED HER I WOULD TRY NEVER TO DO DRUGS AGAIN. I HOPE DRUGS ARE NOT ALWAYS PART OF MY LIFE.
11/23/98 I WRITE LIKE THIS BECAUSE TUPAC SHAKUR INSPIRED ME TO WRITE AND SPEAK THE TRUTH. I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE ADMIRED TUPAC AND STILL DO NOT ONLY BECAUSE HE WAS A THUG BUT BECAUSE HE HAD AN OPEN MIND AND SPOKE THE TRUTH ABOUT HOW OUR COUNTRY IS F*@KED UP OR MESSED UP. HOW THE GHETTO IS NOT ONLY IN THE STREETS OF NEW YORK OR CALIFORNIA BUT IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY. . . . HE COULD HAVE MADE A GOOD PREACHER IN A WAY.
1/11/99 I DIDN'T GO TO SCHOOL TODAY. THANK GOD. I GOT UP AT 1o30 P.M. TEN MINUTES LATER I GOT A CALL FROM MY FRIEND NICOLE. WE TALKED TILL 2o00 p.m. Then I told her to call me later because I was going to watch Jerry Springer.
2/23/99 One of my favorite movies of all time is American Me. . . . This movie reminds me of my dad in some ways. My dad used to dress like some of the guys in the movie, with his shined shoes and creased pants and shirt.
3/4/99 Today was a good day. I didn't have a lot of homework. Today I also had a meeting with Allen [DeGraffenreid]. It was a very serious meeting. He is very determined to change our grade, behavior, and attitude, especially my attitude. He also said he was going to get the teachers to let me go to California. I'm glad Allen came back. I thought he was kind of all bull at first but he is a man of his word and very committed.
3/23/99 I have a feeling that teachers like Mr. Barry and Coach Pena don't like me. That's okay because I don't like them either, at least not anymore. I don't know why they have some grudge against me because as far as I could remember I never did anything to them. As I said earlier it's okay because what goes around comes around, and payback is a bi*@h. I hope one day they realize what they made me go through this year.
3/23/99 I'm getting lazy. I got to start to get my sh*@ straight because I'm flunking like two classes. I also got to start thinking a little more positive. I got to take action and let my mom know when I think I'm getting treated unfairly for she could take action and get everything straight.
3/24/99 I've had one of the best days since like two weeks. I didn't get in trouble at all in school today, and I think my highlight of the day was during softball tryouts when I think I impressed Mr. Barry. And it still doesn't stop there. Today after tryouts I got some action from my girlfriend, too. Don't worry, Ms. Meyer, I don't mean sex. I mean a kissing kind of action.
From now on I'm going to try to make the best out of the rest of the year. I've been through too much to mess up the rest of the year. I never been through so much in one year. It has been the worst year of my life. Hopefully with a bigger effort of mine, a little help of Allen [DeGraffenreid] to help keep me on track, and some help from teachers too I'll think I'll make it through the rest of the year.
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3/25/99 Life is a bi*@h then you die. I have so much anger inside of me. Sometimes I feel like exploding on the world. It seems like the whole world is against me. I can't wait to leave this stupid school to try to start all over at high school. I know things will be much different in high school. I've said this so many times I don't know why these people are against me. I've never done anything that bad for them to treat me so unfairly. This is the way I am and probably will always be. I don't think of myself as a bad person. I think more of myself a regular Joe, but that's life, I guess. I guess I'll try to live with it.
4/8/99 I got caught with a smoking pipe at school last Friday, but you already know that, Ms. Meyer. The whole damn school knows. The pipe wasn't mine. I was holding it for a friend. I don't blame him even though he told me to hold it for him. I'll take the whole blame. I was stupid enough to bring it to school and I was stupid enough to hold it for him. It's funny though, because every time I get in trouble it always seems to happen at the end of the day right when school is about to be out. Now the school and staff think I'm a pothead, but I'm not a pothead. Anybody who is criticizing me can go straight to hell because they ain't sh*t compared to me, piece of trash punks.
4/20/99 I'm finally back in class from my suspension after 3 long weeks. It's been a good day until Allen [DeGraffenreid] came and tried to get crazy with me. I have nothing against the brother because he has been good to me, but when he tried to get crazy with me when he don't even know what's going on in my life it's different. He says he knows where I'm coming from but he doesn't. I don't think he sees drugs almost every day pass right before his eyes. He don't live in the gutter. I do. I live in the gutter. I see drugs pass right before my eyes all the time. I put up with bullsh*t every fu*@en day. I just want to get through this year with no more problems, no more bull, but some people just want to keep fu*@ing with me.
4/28/99 One time I felt alone was a while back when I was having a lot of problems. I felt like nobody was there with me. . . . It's not a good feeling. It makes you mad. But it makes you realize that there's so many people that say they're your friends but they're really hypocrites. It also makes you less afraid of the world. You have less fears and feelings. They say I have a bad attitude, but I didn't just wake up with one. People help give you a bad attitude.