PEOPLE Amplified


by Alexander Alvarez
PEOPLE Amplified Writing Director


I’ve been asked to write the foreword for this collection. It is an honor and it gives me the chance to talk about PEOPLE. This generation is very politically charged and that is a constant throughout this collection. You will see these scholars share their views from the deepest parts of their soul. Each entry contains a dive into the identity of the author, a dive into PEOPLE scholars and this generation as a whole.

We are working together to create a lasting memory of what PEOPLE was in 2019-2020. This is a collection of the students from this program. A collection of what makes these PEOPLE scholars people. It is also a chapter. It is the first chapter of what will hopefully be a long story of our society. A story of our youth. A story about art. A story about humanity. A story about what was and what could be.

So, on behalf of all those who are working on this project, I would like to say hello. Hello to the beginning of something great.

PEOPLE Amplified Signatures

Signatures of the PEOPLE Amplified Creation Committee

If you would like to contribute to this project, submit your creative works to using the Subject: PEOPLE Amplified.

“The River”
Varun Gupta

God of the waters
but the water’s too cold
Varun’s just a name
but it’s mine and it’s old.
Last I put in my toes I was fifteen years old
Last I put in my toes I was five years old
The water is the river that connects us all
Compared to the current my name is small
but even if the stone is taken away
the ripples it leaves will be there to stay.
But I bend to the river,
as we were born to do.
I bent to the river,
for the river had turned;
for the river had changed,
I faked my name.
But for all my charades,
the river’s respect never came.
Instead it spat out over 20
ill-fitting names,
from vaccuums to running
till I was numb to the pains.
See, the river bends us
to a point where we break.
Of course, the more flexible you are,
the more you can take.
But when you do break
(as we all must)
You lose the ability
to stand up and/or out
and feel the water
slip past your fingers.
And then it’s only
a memory that lingers.

Unless you find
a way to recover
Look around and
accept the help of another
If you can pull up each other
If you can find a sibling, sister, or brother
If you see a way to get out of the river
Then go before you break for the river
Before you can’t help one another
Before you get washed up on the shore
Before the only think you can think of
is just that:

“I Am”
Alexandria Rapp

i am from brown skin
hispanic, loud, vibrant
i am from white skin
european, loud, unique
all blended to create me
i am shown and live the lives of both
both same and different
i am all mixed up

i am from the cherry black of my mom’s hair
i am from the blue of my father’s eyes
From the flowers to the dirt
I am me
She is she
He is he
who are you?
I am me

i am from the orange lilies between the walls
i am from dusted sidewalks
i am from the little house
in the middle of the street

i learned from girls not to stare in the street
i learned from my mother how to get home safe
i taught others what to do when they get lost
i taught the girls not to stare in the street
i relied on the love to push through
i relied on myself to know the way

“I am a manifestation of dreams that were lost at the border. Education became my route to independence and a means of survival.”

–Chelsea Maldonado

“Find people who can see and hear you, not just talk to you.”

–Shamyan Xiong

“Don’t let your life be a blank piece of paper.”

–Carolanne Weir

"My Life Growing Up in Refugee Camp" by Abdifatah Abdi

The sun was setting in Somalia… bright shades of red stained the fringes of the refugee camp. ‘’Bop: Bop: Bop;’’ an AK47 booted out the death call shattering the silence. In the year 2006, I encountered the Somalian War when I was six years old. Different tribes were fighting about the land since the year 1995, too long to fight. Somalia is a beautiful country on the Indian Ocean. The land used to be covered in lush vegetarian but there exists an obstacle because of the bombs that destroyed the peoples, animals, and lands.

Life is never easy growing up in refugee camps. It is a life of poverty, absence of education, scarce recreational support, poverty and despair a bound. I knew very little of this world and my thoughts and opinions were very narrow. I did not have the best education and I thought little about my future since I lived in a refugee camp. I also could not open myself up to people of different backgrounds because of the lack of diversity while living in the camp. But moving to America I was introduced with a new culture, education, and diversity that changed my life and my views.

In the evening, I was playing soccer on the street having a good day with my friends. Suddenly, I heard a gunshot… I didn’t remember where it came from… I saw my friend hiding from the gunshot going onto the ground… I felt worried, my heart was pumping so fast I thought it would burst from my chest. I ran to my house which was close to the soccer field. My family and I locked up into one space that looked like a basement. My mom said, “Don’t make sounds or they will kill us.” I was a little bit scared. I didn’t know what to do, I was frozen and having anxiety all day. We stayed there about two weeks, no water, no food, no nothing. Everything silence at night… all one could hear was a bird’s song as every single person, place and thing in our village was destroyed.

Eventually, we fled to another country. We didn’t know where we were. We saw a forest that looked like tall, thick trees. We rested there for about eight days as my legs were worn out. I saw people dying because due to lack of food/water no horror was impossible at this time. The next day, we started our journey to Morocco and we met a person who was Black who gave us food and water. Then, told us the direction to go. We hid ourselves on the mountain for about a month. After the sunset, we saw a house, so we went there. They treated us with much respect and took us to a place where there were lots of people and gave us food. After a month of walking between the different countries borders, we were asked, “Where you guys going?”

We all shouted back, “We don’t now!” And that was the truth – we didn’t know where we were going. They told us a direction to go get some food to carry for a four-month trek into the desert. Time passed and again we had nothing, everything was empty. One blazing hot afternoon as we trudged along, we saw army forces. They pointed their guns on us and ordered, “Go to the ground!” They took everything we had, raping women, beating up men and putting us in prison.

Eventually, we ended up travelling to freedom in a chicken truck. At that point, I didn’t really care where we were, I just wanted to get out of that chicken truck fast. I took a long breath and I looked around to know if we were in a good place. The other 20 Somalis and my family who were with me in the truck started to change their clothes quickly. I didn’t really have any good clothes. All I had was dirty jeans and an ugly jacket. I didn’t know what to do. I was expecting the police to come at any time and arrest us. But for the moment I just tried to enjoy the quiet and clean air after a long, noisy trip. I didn’t know any of the other refugees who were with me. We only met at the smuggler’s house back in Budapest. “Wait for 15 minutes and then go away from here,” the truck’s driver told us. Then he drove away. We waited. And then we decided to look for the first police officer we could find on the road.

After traveling to different countries experiencing harsh conditions. We finally made it to Morocco and then we travelled on to the United States to start a new life. When we arrived in America everything was perfect! I started at a school here and I saw all the different backgrounds of the people of this country!

i sat in my room,
thinking about who my roommate was going to be
this was my last year
it had to be a good one

once she arrived i felt relief
she became a good friend
I miss 1034.

–Emily Alvarado-Ruiz

Maybe someday we’ll
all come back together, back
on the Bascom Hill

–Joseph Yang

The floor was madness
the toilet paper incident was nasty
the fun was had.
Great experiences were experienced
Wonderful memories were made
Overall, it was a meaningful summer.

–Kunga L.

"Uncle Bud" by Makenna Black

What is life after death? Not for those who are dead, but for those who are left here to mourn. How does one continue on with life when one has been taken away? I remember waking up to the cries and wails from downstairs.Hearing the pain, and sadness in her cries. By then I figured out it was my aunts voice. I feel the urge to see what’s happening,but then again i’m just a child, what do I know? The feeling of sleepiness takes over my eyelids as it’s only 5 AM. I drift off with sandman resuming my dreams as I lay in the dark. 6:15 arrives and my alarm blares its loud screechy in my ears until I turn it off. I sit in my bed thinking about the day ahead of me.

My thoughts were then interrupted by three knocks on my door. Even though they were just knocks they sounded different. Some may call me paranoid, but I knew something was wrong. It felt like a pit planted itself in my stomach, sinking deeper into the abyss. My door creaks open as my mother peeked her head inside my room like a scared child. She was pale, almost like she had seen a ghost roaming the halls of our house. Her cheeks were stained with old tears, hair undone, while still in her robe, and nightgown. I just wanted her to speak, to say something, anything, but the words seemed to have been stuck in her throat.  All she can do is stare, deep down into my eyes before reciting the next few words. “Uncle Bud is dead, he’s been shot and murdered,” the words rolled off her tongue as if she rehearsed them in her head. Bud was an important part of our family. My two aunts, Uncle and Dad were inseparable, always having a good laugh with each other. Bud was one of the youngest so he of course was a jokester, always making someone laugh, and have a good time. As a mother she did the only she really could, which was hug me. I just stood there, stuck in my own mind, as the words reply each time feeling more real. I was in shock, my feet felt glued to the floor, and tears streamed down my face. Soon enough I started to look like my mom, both having stained cheeks.

The following weeks after that didn’t get better either. My father was officially the only man of the family, and lost his only brother. He secluded himself in his own mind,trying not to show his emotions,but we all knew he was hurting. Despite this he stayed strong for the family, for me even. My aunts stayed strong too, crying once in a while, but would put a mask on to cover the hurt as well. Distracting themselves with the kids and their jobs, not facing the fact that they lost one of their brothers. My grandparents took the news the worst between all of us, though they have been separated for a while they loved their kids equally. Crying in each other’s arms they felt alone, but what were they to do?

“You never plan to bury your child, but for them to bury you,” my grandma said restlessly through the tears, hiccuping, while trying to catch her breath. One of the hardest things we had to do was plan his funeral, and we had to do it as a family. Within the next two weeks they gathered speaking costs, colors, etc while I was stuck watching the children create chaos as if our family wasn’t already struggling. Throughout those weeks I kept seeing Bud in my dreams, liquor bottles, blunts, you name it I saw him.

Finally Saturday arrives the day of the funeral and everyone is covered in black like the night sky. It was gloomy and grey, but no show of rain, even then the sky chose not to cry. A cold breeze brushes against the trees outside giving me shivers and chills down my spine as I look. We all reluctantly get dressed and sit in silence, not knowing what to say, but just waiting until the moment is right. The limo pulls up and we all start to board inside, still so quiet you could hear a needle drop. Then a beautiful sight we saw, all of Bud’s friends and colleagues are wearing clothes with his face, and drinking good ole Hennessy in the parking lot, waiting for us to appear. I walk into the chapel still with shivers down my spine as I see him laying there, lifeless. I freeze looking at him from afar.

“I don’t bite ya know,” is probably something Bud would say if his mouth wasn’t wired shut. I felt a warm pair of hands touch mine.

“Wanna see him?” my aunt said with a small smile on her face. Her and bud were the youngest so they were extremely close,and I could tell she felt alone. All I could do was nod my head and grip her hand as hard as I could. With every step we take closer to him I feel that pit not sink but grow into a sprout reaching in every space of my stomach that it could. Next thing I knew I was there staring at him, his lifeless, cold body. He didn’t look like my uncle Bud,but I knew it was still him, or his vessel at least. I grip her hand harder and I feel the tears streaming down my face like a river, but my aunts tears was more like a flood. She started crying,the same cries I heard that morning, as she’s crouching down on the floor begging God “Why would you take him? Bud, oh bud” echoed through the room. Everyone’s eyes landed on us, but that’s all they could do,stare,because we all knew no one could bring back Bud. Just like my mother all I could do was stand there, still, but hold on to her even if it didn’t stop the crying. The service continues and everyone tired from all the crying until the tears dry up,and our lips as dry as the Sahara Desert.

We said our goodbyes ,gave our last hugs,our last kiss, our last “I love you” on that Monday after the funeral. It was hard to see him be put 6 feet deep all alone. When he was buried it felt like the weight of the soil was on my chest as I try to hold my tears, but I knew it wouldn’t work. The tears started falling as I held my baby cousin she coed in my ear “It’s okay Makenna.” Who knew a three year old could give such good advice? My grandma hugged her son one more time crying as she said her final goodbye. I knew that if she could, she would bury herself with him just to feel his presence again. My grandfather put his hand on the coffin, looking down at his son smiling with tear falling down his face. I could tell my grandpa knew Bud was in God’s care now.

Even now, three months after the funeral, my family is still struggling with Bud’s death, but with all the commotion, and hassle that was caused we all learned something from him, and his mistakes. For me now I know that I have to grow as a person and try to be my best self. Not only I but, my family learned how to appreciate life while their still around. For me personally I learned how to live, forgive, but never forget. I tried to erase Bud out my life, and he came back as a corpse. I now know how to appreciate one’s presence before it’s too late. Now I share a laugh or two before the memories fade away into that dark abyss.

“I am happy for myself, no matter how I am.”

–Bryant Espinoza

“Only you can decide what makes you happy.  And only you can choose how to live your life.”

–Nanami Oshimura

“I wish there was a backspace for life, but there are only space bars making life go forward.”

–Joanna Weir

"10 Things I Have Learned" by Cheyenne CS

  1. Sometimes people just don’t understand. You may face issues and complications in life and the more you explain what is happening the less people understand. In those times you have to realize that maybe you are the only one who understands and that’s okay.
  2. Nobody’s perfect. Although people have an exact idea of a perfect person, usually meaning the person has beauty and brains, but everyone has a flaw or something that makes them different. Not one single person is perfect no matter how much people make them out to be.
  3. Don’t ever walk away from a person or situation angry. No matter how mad someone has made you do not walk away angry. Anger usually leads in one of two ways.  You will regret what happened or you’ll hold onto it forever.
  4. Family is everything. No matter the situation, family is always there, they are your #1 support system, they are your protectors, and helped play a part in raising you. Family is everything.
  5. It is okay to stand up for something even when other people aren’t standing with you. In certain cases, you may strongly believe in an idea or an opinion that some people may not agree with. It’s okay, never let anyone belittle you for believing what you believe.
  6. Learn when it’s time to express your opinion vs. when it’s okay to keep it to yourself. I think I still need to work on this but this is extremely important. Many people don’t really care for me because I’m blunt and I say what I’m thinking.  When people say certain things, I react immediately, and I need to realize when I need to not say something sometimes.
  7. Stop worrying. I am a person who believes everything you do has a negative effect, but there is absolutely no need. Worrying causes more stress and more problems than the thing you are worrying about will.  Worrying is a hard thing to stop but remember worrying will cause nothing but stress and madness.
  8. You’ll regret the chances you didn’t take or experiences you missed. I am a loner and a shy person. I miss out on a lot of experiences because I am afraid of the consequences, which is a terrible thing.  Sometimes you have to block other people out.
  9. Relationships are always going to change. You may grow older, or farther apart, but you have to get used to that change.
  10. Be grateful and thankful for everything.


“The past can’t be changed, but the present can be resolved.”

–Angeles Flores-Ruiz

“Don’t quit because it’s hard.  Overcome the struggles and be bold.”

–Susmita Rai

“Don’t let the ones who hold you back deter you from who you’re going to be.”

–Angelia Yang

Black Girl Magic by Amyiah Lobley

Black Girl Magic Amyiah Lobley 2019



Julian Jaimes

I was born from my African American mother and Hispanic father.  Through flesh and blood, I hold two very culturally different yet wonderful heritages.  However, my flesh and blood mean nothing within the eyes of our society.  I’m too tannish brown to be African American and I can’t speak Spanish so I can’t be Hispanic.  To the world, I’m Indian, I’m Arabic.  Even though my family shares their rich cultures with me, my communities push me out.  They build borders and walls to build up what they call communities and inspire pride in themselves.  Yet when someone doesn’t completely check their checkbox, they exclude them.  I’m Afro-Hispanic yet invisible to my own people.

“Words build hope, actions build confidence, leaders make change.”

–Elijah Prather

“Our shadow follows us everywhere, but once the light shines, it leaves us.  Nothing left there, only we stand to illuminate greatness.”

–Chameng Vang

“At the end of the day, you have to be your biggest motivator.”

–London Bates

"Keep Fighting" by Meg Kilander

Keep Fighting Meg Kilander 2019

“Light to Dark
From Myself – 4/03/18 – 11:24pm”

It was a place where it was safe,
A place of value and hope.
Light was the part of myself that loved to make the world happy,
The place that took other people’s darkness away,
A light that was so bright that it could take away the darkness from inside.
The light could also make me feel invincible and not afraid to soar.

But as all light shines bright
There will always be a shadow of darkness.
That shadow may not be visible nor loud,
But it creeps it’s way around with a plan of attack that took me out.
As invisible as it was,
It took me by surprise,
Spun me around and held on tight,
Like a leash on a dog that pulled me around.

Everyday if felt as I was drowning in fear,
Too afraid to communicate for help or afraid that my thoughts would escape.
That darkness turned my life around.
It violated my thoughts and actions,
My darkness is anxiety.

Many don’t see,
Many don’t notice,
Only view me as a fool or weak,
But this darkness can be controlled by me taking the leash and taking control.
That darkness may be there but I’m the one strong enough to have control.
The darkness may win some fights but I won the battles,
The war may not be over but I’m the one with full control,
not the other way around where darkness takes over.
As this story may end for now,
My anxiety will be hard to control,
But take note that I will always win the battles of my darkness.

“The Cycle”
Lydia Seay

Ever been on the edge of crying
on the verge of breaking, so
close to dying,
You put on this brave face day
in and day out
but slowly get tired of pretending
that everything is okay.

Your happiness fading,
heart breaking,
and the light in you decaying
to a dim grey
the world around you oblivious to
your willingness to live slipping away.

Your safe spot becomes under the covers weeping
an accomplishment is going a day without thinking of dying
You rejoice when you finally smile,
because you hadn’t seen a glimmer of
hope in a while.

Soon you come to realize that in the thunderstorms
there is sunshine

and the light begins to form
from the grey

The light returns slowly but surely,
you find a new normal and
although not very formally,
you think hopefully you’re almost,
kind of close
to something similar to being okay.

So warm, so humid
these heels are killing me
Don’t take them off, don’t take them off
A breeze, finally, hair gets stuck on my lipstick

Don’t cry, don’t cry
Tears rolled down my cheeks
An embrace, a goodbye
Promise that we will see each other again

–Claudia Mena

a season,
a seasoning,
a mix,
of friendship
and bliss.

a program,
a family
with heart
and hope
for our future
and the things we can start.

Started from the bottom
a little lonely, kinda sad,
I couldn’t make friends
and it felt kinda bad.

Then I found my people,
PEOPLE people if you will.

They made me feel at home
and my summer was fulfilled.

–Danielle Crim

Kickstart summer was overall great,
We threw dance parties, although it was very late.
It was my time to grow and to put on a show
With the new friends I made, I have finally
found myself.
The fear of people went away,
as I learned that I will never perfectly fit in,
but I’m proud of that,
because dancing will always bring people together.

–Angelia Yang


"Waiting" by Charli Thompson

you left
but for a perfectly understandable reason,
for someone else
who you were so sure would fulfill your needs of

but i will wait for you.

until you see that the light of your life was only a small
withering away in the wind
flame after flame
until she disappears

i will wait for you.

until the sun meets earth

i will wait for you.

until you finish counting every star in every galaxy
and realize i had finished far before you
all because i had started and stopped once i met my

and i will wait for you.

as if i knew that dusk never turned to dawn

i will wait for you.

until she stops playing poker with your heart
and gambling until you’re emptier than my phone’s
battery percentage at three a.m.
after waiting for a call
or a text back

but i’ll still wait for you

until dogs realize they’re dogs
and until you realize i have always been here.  until you realize i
was never leaving
but you were backing up.

i will wait for you.

until every love letter i’ve written to you is translated to
every language to ever exist,
but of course that will never happen because i don’t
even have enough ink
in any of my pens,
not enough lead in any of my pencils,
not enough time in my life on earth
to even finish my first chapter.

but i will wait for you.

until i cannot wait anymore.
until the new burnings evaporate and turn into new beings
i will stop waiting.
when your love for everything and the light i once saw inside your eyes
and darkens,

i will stop waiting.

when pigs fly

i will stop waiting.

i will never stop waiting.

i will always wait for you.

Dear future PEOPLE students:
Please be kind to your RMs.
Because they will either
love you
or find any possible way to
avoid you.
Make friends.

–Alea Sweeney

An internship at the Capitol
Everyone was nervious but
also excited.
Everything and everyone was
so big and professional.
Four weeks later there
was no intimidation.
Only smiles.

–Joanna Weir

Experience, excitement, get-together
Enjoyment of everyone
Diversity of family
Who fears nothing
Who needs nothing
Who shows joy
Who would like to see
everyone be successful.

–Shong Yang

"S U I C I D A L . . ." by Tyger Yang

Wind is howling throughout all of Madison. The sky is pitch gray. The rain and the lightning crackles and moan as if everyone up in heaven is crying flood of tears. When trying to look ahead all I can see is blurry, ghostly shapes, and million of tears crawling down my face.


“Time to go to school! We’re going to be late!” Screech my mother who always wanting to be 20 minutes early just in case. Classic asians parents.. I’m exhausted and nervous to go back to school. Especially since we are going to be called first graders now, I feel that we have to take a whole new responsibility and role in our life. Although most importantly will I have any friends.

My mother just dropped me off to school and sent her goodbyes and kisses. I had plenty of time before the first day of school actually started. I walked around, thinking of fairy tales, and happy thoughts. Although there was one thing that was missing inside of me, as I look around and see everybody having such a big grin on their face, and arms around the shoulders of their pals. The feeling of.. What? Exactly.


Oh no, the sound of the whistle from the teachers already?! I shook my head in disbelief and sadness as the first day, I am alone.  I walk into class, got into my seat and just sat there quietly and patiently. I thought everything was going to be the same as the previous years. If I keep quiet no one is going to talk to me, just the way I like it.


Today, is going to be the worst day of my life.. That day is playing kickball in gym. The reason why I hate kickball is because of all the attention that you would receive, either if you kick far and everyone praise you, or if you kick the ball short and/or get out, everyone gives you the death stares (at least in my own perspective).

I was the last one up to kick, the one that could be the game changer for my team, I can feel my sweat tracing my necklace to all the way down to my stomach, and hundreds of eyes staring at, not just the ball, but on me.

“Hey Andy, (my name was Andy at that time) let’s go play soccer.

I looked up in confusion, but too exhausted from my nap, I fell right back asleep. Next thing I knew I was woken up by a big, strong, hard-working hand.

“Come now, you got a game to play.” 

“Uhh..? But dad.. I just woke up…” As I roll over to my stomach clumsily.

Without no replied back, and seeing my father walking away, I finally gave in. I open the door and ran right up behind him, what I didn’t know was the amount of people around us as when I got right up to the giant, enormous soccer field.


I looked over and saw my teammate, an athletic, and outgoing kid. He has a light brown skin color and have really curly hair. I gave him a thumbs up and raise my hand to show that I am ready. Then, everything slowed, it was as if time itself was moving towards my own will. I can see clearly of what everybody is doing, their facial expression, their movements, everything. As the pitcher roll the ball towards me, I set myself up, my eyes locked on the ball as if it was my prey, not just doing this for me, but for my whole team, that was my purpose of doing well.

“Alright kids! We’re going to do some PK or another term, penalty kicks. Who wants try first?”

"Fellow Americans" by Britney Barrera Gonzalez

Fellow Americans Britney Barrera Gonzalez 2019

“I know it’s hard to show love in a world of hatred, but you never know who your kindness will affect.”

–Anyiah Lobley

“Coming together is the beginning, staying together is progress, working together is success.”

–Jalen Corey

“Even the biggest failures can be positive for you.”

–Kai Cattaneo


"To Live in the Bricolage" by Paula Lopez

To Live in the Bricolage Paula Lopez 2019

"Belonging" by Sara Hillestad

There was a creature that lived in the wilderness safe from harm. One day, the creature came upon a strange being that didn’t look a thing like any thing that you would expect to see in the wilderness. It seemed to the creature and by how the being shook that it was terrified and then it fell over. This alarmed the creature greatly and not knowing what to do. He panicked, and threw water on the being, assuming it was a strange fish out of water.

The water splashed, reviving the girl that passed out who was simultaneously gasping and jumped up right.Water dripping on her face, she looks around at her surroundings and saw a bright light behind a tree.

At the same moment in time, the creature ran to the nearest tree to hide because he knew that everyone doesn’t want anything to do with him by his appearance. Especially when he transforms into his other self that everyone in the forest says is unnatural and disgusting. They call it Strange. Even with his horrible experiences that made him terrified of the reaction he would get, he wanted to be sure that the unfamiliar being was alright.

To his surprise, he found the being was able to talk and he was able to understand what it was saying. Unlike before, it was just noise but, then he wasn’t paying much attention. Since, no one comes to these parts of the wilderness all that often. It sounded to be fear of loneliness and reminded him of himself. When he was all alone and nobody came to confront or tell him that he wasn’t alone or an outcast. Overcome by his emotions, he slumped down to the ground and started to cry, until he drifted to sleep.

It was getting dark, and the creature knew that it was dangerous to be out alone at night. So, he got up, leaning on the tree and then quickly became aware that there was something close that was giving off a calming heat. Then something was gently around his waist. He looked down to see similar features but are on a smaller size body with eyes that stared at him.

The first thing that was said was, “Hello. Can I help you?” asked the creature curiously.

It seemed that there was a slight hesitation in reply from the small being but it would soon respond when the creature started to pull away, after a moment of awkward silence.

“My name is May Gardner and I lost my way. I am afraid to be alone. I was so relieved to see someone else. Can you help me find a way home, please?” asked May, who was trembling and holding on a bit more tightly as she spoke.

The creature was again surprised by this, May Gardner, who is asking for his help. He was so taken aback that it reminded him of a time where he was in the same position as May Gardner is now. He was trying to convince his mother to stay with him. It was more like begging her continuously to stay at least until he knew how to take care of himself properly. When the teasing got really bad he turned to his mother for confront. But, in the end she would also leave him because.., One day after gathering up food for supper that night, his mother decided to leave but this time for good. So, her son can embrace adulthood and realizing that this is for the best, to move forward in life. She gathered the things that she needed and before leaving she wrote a note that she left on the table. The note will bring pain for her son but also to encourage him forward. Arriving home, he called to his mother but no reply. He looked for her but found nothing except for a note on the table that reads:

Would you like to read the rest of Sara Hillestad’s “Belonging”?  Click here for the full text!

PEOPLE Summer University can either be the best time of your life or a dreadful sleep-deprived couple of weeks.  Spend your time right and make the best of it because it taught me so much.

–Bryant Espinoza

My experience as a PEOPLE student was very painful.  Having to wake up early in the morning, eat that same breakfast, having to walk on the hills, and late night meetings have taught me to appreciate life and expect change in my life and always be ready for change.

–Susmita Rai

PEOPLE….my great experience
where I gained a lot of friendships
but I gained respect and flaws.

TBCD is where all the fun began
Classes full of entertainment
Teachers really caring.

–Jose O.

Serenitie Popoutsis-Bennett

I kept the teddy bear,
The single heart balloon without a string,
I kept every single letter of every single text
Because if I didn’t,
I don’t think I’d believe my memories.
I kept your voice from every single phone call.
I kept the picture in my mind
of you angrily singing Ashanti.
I kept every single smile
and every single
“what you know bout this?”.
I keep them all inside of a box
in my heart labeled “the first”.
Because you were the first
Of many things for me.
You were the first
to make my heart beat out of my chest
The first to be there when I’d cry,
When I’d throw a fit over nothing.
You were the first to reassure me when
I was sure you didn’t want me.
You were the first to tell me you love me,
And I’m sure you won’t be the last.
But you were my first, and I’ll hold on to that.
When the tears roll down my cheeks while singing that one Chris Brown song, or when our song comes on and I think of you and it hurts,
I’ll remember all of the firsts.

“Brown Girl”
Mya Smith

Dark Skin Light Skin all the same
Long Hair Short Hair none is plain
Tall Short Thick Thin, we are Queens
Our coily hair is like a crown
The non-flashy kind you can wear around town
You can look, but you can’t touch
That would start a problem now hush
Our large noses and big lips are attributes
you cannot dismiss
Today, tomorrow, all is the same,
Always forever we will reign
When I was five I felt the same
Ten years later that never changed

The best experience of high school would have to be seeing my friends everyday at site.  We created a little family within the PEOPLE Program.  I’m so  glad to have them still to this day.

–Phetsana S.

Long summer mornings
Full days of education
Lasting memories


Seasons change but PEOPLE scholars don’t
Summer comes but school is still in session
Spending time in the dorms was a
once in a lifetime experience.


"Drowning" by Emma Brenaman

Laughter.  Joy.  Beach balls.  Water.  Swim suits.  I didn’t say it, but you probably thought of a pool of some sort.  For most people, the pool is a relaxing and happy place.

I am drowning.  I am drowning.  I am drowning at the bottom of a pool and there is no way out.  I can struggle all I want but there is nothing, nothing that I can do to save myself.

I sink to the bottom of the pool, eleven feet deep and darkness fills the void.  Static and ringing cracks in my veins.  The pungent smell of chlorine burns my nose.  I try not to breathe it in.  Holding my breath, I open my eyes.  I’m boxed in, I can’t stop these walls from caving in.

My heart’s a hieroglyph, it talks in tongues.  10,000 voices fill my lungs.  So take a deep breath and disappear.  No one will notice you’re gone.  You can’t swim anymore.

This is not enough.  I won’t wait for them to pull me up.

I won’t wait to see the sun.

I’ve got to run.  I’ve got to get away.  Everything’s broken and better left unspoken.  Out of this box that I had called home for so long.  Now I realize that this box is toxic and I can’t stay.

Water rushes off my skin as people begin to stare.  I sit up and look around.  I hope no one has noticed the hole that I’ve fell down.  Sometimes it takes just one person to help you get back out of the poisonous water that you shouldn’t have fell down in the first place.

“A Nameless Place”

When the moon comes up,
and the stars kiss
the sun goodbye
it’s my signal to run away.
To a place that has
no name, only happiness and peace.

In this place, drugs such as
stress, illness, and depression
are forbidden.

In this place, judgment is
extinct, and love and
confidence flourish.

In this place,
I can see the deceased
all flesh and blood
rather than bones and dirty,
with welcoming arms
and smiles on their faces.

In this place,
in never rains, only the sun
rules the day.
In this place, it’s never too hot
nor too cool.

In this place,
I’ve never gone hungry
nor have I gone

In this place, in this place,
which has no

Stell Richards

Untitled by Stell Richards

"Live, Don't Survive" by Alexander Alvarez

I am going to die. Everyone in this room, everyone in this building, everyone in the world is going to die. Why would I say this? This isn’t some huge breakthrough, everyone already knows this. I’m bringing this up because death is what gives me life and I want to share that with you. Everyone in this world is surviving. Now to truly live is a much rarer thing. From our birth, to our inevitable death, we must find a way to live rather than to simply survive.

A rollercoaster represents my past because it shows my fear. I used to be terrified of roller coasters, as many people are. I downright refused to get on them for most of my life and no one could convince me to take that risk. Then, an old friend of mine managed to trick me. He told me to get on a small roller coaster with him and eventually I did. Once we started the climb I realized it wasn’t nearly as small as he had led me to believe. Then something great happened. We crested the hill and I laughed through the whole ride. That fear of danger, that fear of a malfunction, of death, held me back. I was barred from this incredible experience by a simple fear of something so far off.

A pair of dual swords represent my present because of a dream. It was short but life changing. I thought it was real and it would have seemed that way to anyone. Nothing bizarre was happening. I was simply standing in line at mcdonalds when I was stabbed with a pair of black and blue swords. In this moment, I did not fear or panic because I realized that there was no point. My clock had maybe a minute if I was lucky. I wasn’t scared, but rather sad. I reflected on my life in that moment and saw nothing but waiting and missed chances. I fall to my knees, the cold ground giving no cushion. If I could live again, I would live, not just survive. I fall forward onto the ground. When I blink, I’m shocked to find myself not on a cold and fatal floor but rather in the safety of my bed. I promised myself that morning that I would live.

A single deep breath represents my future along with everyone else’s. Please take in a breath and hold. Now let go of it. A single breath fuels life, and a single breath will be how it ends. On that day, when you breath in that final breath, it will give you one chance to remember. One chance to smile. Once chance to cry. One chance to realize whether you lived or survived.

Fear holds us back. Death holds us back, but it doesn’t have to. I hope that most of the people in this room have a moment in their life. A single moment, where they decide to live. Where they decide that they won’t survive and simply wait for death to come. You are going to die. Breathe in. Now breathe out and realize that this breath could have been your last. Imagine it was, then what? When death calls your name, will you cry and beg for more time to finally live, or will you smile upon the things you have done, the places you’ve gone, the people you’ve met, the life you lived. Thank you.

"FreedomForAll_2019" by Anonymous


PEOPLE Poem by Shamyan Xiong

All my life I took my orders
Pretending I had no borders
I concealed and didn’t feel
Sometimes I thought, “Is this even real?”
I did everything right
I never got into a fight
But I love pictures
That’s how I imagine my futures
I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t stop
I’ve already made my way to the top
What’s stopping me to visualize
That’s when I realized
I don’t have to contain this in my mind
All I have to is find–
Find a way to create these images myself
Make, create, imagine
with the images in my heart.
I want to pick up a pencil
I want to watch the words flow
I want to break free
from this reality
To where I go in my dreams
Where there is expression
and confession
where I can dance
and I have a chance
to explain the pain
of not being able to
to feel this happiness
of finally breaking through

I can escape from the numbers
I’d be louder than thunder
while making no noise at all
we live in a world of gray
as the adrenaline shoots through me
red hot fire shoots out me
This passion makes me beautiful
we are all beautiful
Let me break free
Look at the world you live in
a world full of opportunity and possibility
My world is a gray wasteland
While yours is a shining star
You all have a chance to find
the person in the mirror
But I’m stuck waiting here
I want to break free
So go have trials and errors
Make mistakes with no barriers
Take advantage of
Every opportunity you see
Open all of those closed doors
Maybe one day you’ll make history
While I continue to only share
my story.

Dedicated to Sophia and Max, my groupmates that helped refine this poem and performed it with me.