Maya – Age 18, Grade 12


Recently, I was given some advice from someone who didn’t really know me well; the advice consisted of three simple words – “Let it go.” When I heard these words I knew that he could see all my internal struggles.It’s weird that those simple words could impact me so much, but I felt like it was okay for me to release my feelings and just “Let it go.” Last year when I applied for Be The Tree, I wasn’t as comfortable talking about my personal struggles or things going on in my life, but I am different now. I am still going through the storm, otherwise known as life, but I am growing, developing and learning how to cope with it.

The greatest obstacle that I am learning to overcome is my chronic depression and anxiety. As long as I can remember I have been a person to take on other people’s problems. This meant taking on their stress, their worries, and anything else that may come with their problems. Once something is on my mind, it is hard for me to just “Let it go.” This last year has been a rough year, from working towards graduation to the countless things going on in my home life to everything in between.

Some people keep their pain and emotions to themselves; they internalize everything until they explode. I am one of those people. I keep my suffering to myself and I am usually a very private person, but I got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t cope with the things going on in my life. I knew that when I began to hate everything, including myself, I needed help. I remember a time when I was in the car with my mom and I just began to cry – not just a few tears, but like the really ugly cry. She pulled over and asked me what was wrong; I told her I just couldn’t do it anymore and that I didn’t want to be me anymore. I told her that I wanted to disappear. As defeated as I felt in this moment, I can’t imagine how my mom felt hearing that I just wanted to disappear. I believe that was when she realized that I wasn’t just stressed or upset, but that it was something more. At this point I had to make a decision: keep living like this until I destroy myself or work hard to get better. I decided that was going to be stronger than my depression, stronger than my anxiety, and that I was going to overcome this struggles. I spoke with my counselor and the doctor and despite hesitation, I began taking medicine and going to counseling regularly. I knew that the medicine and counseling alone wouldn’t “fix me” and that I needed to make a change. In order to do so I had to get outside of my bubble. My anxiety and depression may never go away, but I am learning how to better deal with these struggles and accept myself for who I am.

My goals after high school are to go to college and help take care of my mom, but my ultimate goal is to be happy. I have always dreamed of college and now that the time is almost here, I am scared. I am scared to start something new and I am scared for how my mom will react without me there. College is one of my dreams, but I know it will be bittersweet for her to see me leave because I am her youngest, baby girl. Even though, my mom and I fuss and argue, taking care of her is very important to me. Even when times were hard my mom still made sure that my siblings and I had everything we needed. I don’t tell a lot of people this, but my mom worked two jobs while dealing with her own mental health issues and still managed to make all three of us feel loved. Yes, it has been hard an her and hard an us, but then we remember what she has done for us we realize her sacrifices. Seeing my mom’s strength proves to me that I can go on and pursue my dreams of a better and brighter future.Overcoming my struggles, going to college and being able to take care of my mom will help further my personal happiness.

What is giving? To me, giving is someone sacrificing their time, money, or energy to someone else, without expecting anything in return. My mom always told me that you don’t give to receive you give out of the goodness of your heart. As I have grown up, I have gained a better understanding of this concept. Now that I’m eighteen I can more clearly see the struggles that people face, and I want to help as much as I can . Sometimes my mom even feels like I go overboard, but what can I say, she created a giving monster! That’s why when it come to Christmas I don’t really want anything. I have everything I need, but I would like to be able to buy my gifts for my family. My mom, a single parent, works hard to take care of me and my siblings. She always puts us first and has sacrificed a lot, whether it’s taking us to and from school or waking us up early. My mom never complains and I often think about whether or not I take her giving personality for granted.

Even though I have been through a lot, that pain does not darken my heart from wanting to give to people. Someone once said “The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow.” That quote is completely true. We as people cannot live our lives dwelling on the negative circumstances, we have to focus on the positive that has yet to come.

Get to know me:

Personal: I have no babies, five sibling, two from my mom and three from my dad. The oldest is my brother John who is a grown man, the second oldest is my sister Cherlynn, who is married with two young kids of her own. The next is Destinee,who is married with a child, My sister Kitarra is a college student, then there’s me the second youngest, and lastly is my little mini me; my sister Carolina who is 11. At the rough of all that madness are my three parent. My mom who is a single mom, and my dad and stepmom.

Favorite Food : I like to eat at places like Cannes, Chick-fil-A, and Subway.

When I grow up : I want to either be an Obgyn, Therapist, or open my very own cafe/bakery, i love making someone else feel special or important.

Hobbies: For fun I like to listening to music, going to the movies with my best friend. Drawing, and baking are also one of my big stress relieving hobbies.

Favorite color: Blue is life!

Phone: Iphone 6

Kacee – Age 17, Grade 11

Life for me has been a constant roller coaster raising me as far as the heavens, then smacking me down to hell in a matter of seconds. I had grown up as a joyful and social child, but it wasn’t until middle school that i had turned into a detached and awkward young adult. I had felt as if my depression and anxiety had caged me with bars made up of my greatest fears. As i entered high school, this cage seemed to suck out everything in sight, until my world had been deserted of everyone and everything. It was finally in my sophomore year at Winfree, that something clicked for me and my dark and empty universe sparked with color again. “Who would i be in the future?” This question that was as simple as it is complicated had forced me to look deep within myself and picture who i was and who i wanted to be. I wanted to go to make friends, go to collage, get a degree, and be an veterinarian. Throughout my darkest days it was my family, which consist of my mom, baby sister, and baby brother, that had kept me moving, but mostly my mother, who would practically drag me kicking and screaming, to school and would lecture me on the importance of having a better life than the others in my family, “No kids at an early age and getting an education is everything in life”. Since then, i have learned the calming joys of little things such as, reading or listening to music on my LG Phoenix 2, walking to a new place, or just having a Sunday family dinner at Olive Garden, even when money’s a bit low. Since money was always tight, holidays, such as Christmas, were never as grand as those in the movies; no mountains of gifts or decorations that danced along every room in the house, just a tree that looked as though we had stopped decorating half way down. Every Christmas eve had consisted of long lines, puffy jackets and faltering hopes of smile-winning gifts. It was because of this that the Morales family has always settled on holidays like Christmas and my dreams of piles of riveting books and enough makeup and hair products to make a drag queen scream. Although i dream of all these wonderful things i know i would give them away eventually to the my siblings who wish to turn into terrifying monsters and enchanting princesses or to my mother to help pass the quiet moments of the day. I would give it all to them in exchange for the hugs, the quiet whispers “good night” and the motivation they gave that help me want to keep living, because giving is not just a trade of gifts, but feeling of compassion as well.

Anthony – Age 17, Grade 12

“Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality” this is something that is always in the back of my mind because it is very true and inspirational. People would always tell me that i can’t do it and that i wasn’t meant to get through high school. They would say that they expect me to drop out. The worst part is that my own father was one of them. He used to always tell me “ it’s easy! I did it! Why can’t you?” but little did he know that, working three jobs and going to school full time,i was struggling not only academically but emotionally. People say that words don’t hurt but the truth is that they actually do especially the ones that are said but the person that you look up to. It got to the point that i had to do something with my life. I had to make the change. I had to be positive, motivated and responsible. I told a coworker that i trusted that i was trying to be a better person. Her words really made me think deeply about everything. She said “Anthony you don’t have to be a better person, you are a better person you just don’t know it. You don’t have to be something you are not just for your dad” i found myself in tears in the workplace. From that on i stopped listening to music and instead to motivational speakers such as Les Brown. I’m 17 and not living with my parents, make my own money working at one job, pay my phone bill, and still go to school and plan to graduate this year because “Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality”

After high school i will attend Collin College to get my Real Estate licence. Even though my father made me feel worthless he still told me things that help me in the long run. He told me that Real Estate is a good thing to get onto and after looking into it it really is and i am grateful for those words he gave me. When i was a little boy i saw how my dad went from a single father with four kids and living in a two bedroom apartment in east Dallas. To a happy mid class,now father of five, with a two story house with six bedrooms and three vehicles all in good condition. And this was all possible to the simple fact that he entered Real Estate. I want to be able to do the same or better.

Giving has a much bigger meaning than just physically handing someone something. Giving is selflessness, respect, and caring. Items that are needed are basic shoes and pants. Something that would make my Christmas more special would to be with my my brother and sisters. At the moment i live with a guy that i work with and his family in a trailer home. My ride to school is from my neighbor and my ride to work is from my manager. No i do not have any children. Things that i do for fun is go to the movies and the mall and my favorite is listening to my music. Places i like to eat at are places like Steak n Shake, Whataburger, and Chick-fil-a. Yes i do have a phone. I have a LG K10.

Kaila – Age 16, Grade 10

My name is Kaila and i am 16 and trying to do good in school and trying to pass classes, make your parents proud, not worrying about other people and only focusing on myself has always been a big challenge for me obstacles that I’ve had and I am still going through. But the one that I’ve struggled with is only worrying about myself not what my friends are doing or what’s going on next week what party am I going go to all that stuff that doesn’t matter right now. Because i’m trying to get an education and get through high school and graduate. So that I can get into a good college. So I would have to say that the biggest obstacle would have to be only focusing on myself and no one else because i’m the only one that matters in my mind right now. My future and whether I want to be successful or not is all up to me. and being bullies is also another one I was always the kid that got picked on and I guess you Could say that I was the Easy target for someone to come pick on my or make me feel bad. My plans after high school are to go to a 2 year community college i have to go there first before I go to an actual college because i’m dyslexic and that’s on my plan that they have for me but after that I would go to Baylor University or University Of Texas. And I would go for as long as it takes to get my scholarship in cheer leading, and my bachelors degree in coaching. So that when i get out of college I will start on owning my own cheer leading gym for special needs kids! Giving to me means that you don’t always have to physically give someone something. Showing an act of kindness if giving someone something because you don’t know if that person was having a bad day, and then you say or show them something to change that. That’s giving them someone an act of kindness. Or giving someone hope sometimes all a person needs is words of encouragement to get them through the day week or even life because what someone says to you can stick with you. This Christmas i’m actually giving it up to the needy kids the ones that need it the most. But things that I would want would be like some new cloths and toys for my baby brother and to get something nice for my mom and dad! also, some dog toys for my 2 dogs because we give them toys every year so that they get a Christmas too! But this year we’re spending Christmas with my family so I would like to get a little something nothing major but to where its like its the thought that counts to give to my family. I live with my mom dad and my 7 month old baby brother. In the morning I have my mom take me or my dad to school and sometimes if they can’t then i have my godmother take me. I do not have children but sometimes I consider my baby brother as my own and even my mom says that i’m like his second mom. I like to hang out with my friends go see a movie like a new one that has come out or go get something to eat. Or watch my baby brother play with him or take him somewhere just little things like that. I like to go to Macaroni Grill, Chick-fil-A, On the Border, Sonic, Studio Movie Grill or Moviehouse and eatery. And yes I do I have an iPhone 6.

Carola – Age 16, Grade 11

An obstacle iam currently dealing with is anxiety problems depression and suicidal thoughts and all of this combine together is making a huge obstacle for me to finish/focus on finishing high school. And something I did to try to overcome this is telling my mom and my counselor. And now I’m in the process to getting therapy help and I also move to the student opportunity center because of my anxiety I got whit so many students. My plans after high school are going to the army because all my life I felt like my life has no purpose so I fell like serving this country and protecting others is what I’m here for. Giving to me is putting others before ourselves. Something that would make this Christmas special is just receiving clothes/shoes. I live with my mom,dad,and two brothers. My mom/dad drives me to school. No I don’t have any children. When I have free time I either watch tv/listen to music or read a book. Some places I like to eat is Chick-Fil-A, Applebee’s, In and Out and that’s mostly it. Yes I do have a phone I have an IPhone.

Ja’Lyn – Age 18, Grade 12

Facing A Challenge Called  LIFE

     If it’s challenging me, testing me, and pushing me… Is helping me become more of the young lady I am meant to be. Life is here to encourage me to face the tasks that are thrown at me so I can prepare myself for the person I’m developing into. I have had obstacles hurled at me every step of the way and they have knocked me down everytime, but I always find the strength to get back up to overcome these obstacles.

    It all began April 2014, freshmen year of high school where I found the right path of becoming a better person. It all started by me telling myself, “I’m fine. It’s all in my head.” But it all got the best of me and I became restless and I would be up in the late hours of the night trying to figure out how I’m going to fix this and find my way back to the person I once was. I was hurt, scared, and had no idea what to think or feel at the time. I had no one there for me and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I had so much pain bottled up inside of me that I felt my body suffocating and desperately gasping for air. I thought slicing through my skin would release all the pain and open up for air, when in reality it only hurt myself worse. I had started cutting so often that it just became normal for me and I felt no pain, I couldn’t feel anything, I was numb. I finally understood that this was not how I want to live my life. I took the next step in recovery by sending a picture of the wounds that covered my arms to my friend who then helped me seek the help I needed at a mental hospital.

There are things like my depression that I wish had never happened, but yet I had to accept the challenges that I have been placed before me.The things I don’t want to know but have to learn and people we live without but can’t let go. I thought going to a mental hospital was going to be hopeless and that no one will be able to cure my depression. Once I talked to the counselors  and told them about the obstacles that I have endured, they helped me and I didn’t have anymore suicidal thoughts I knew right there and then I wanted to help people overcome depression. I travelled around the United States to share my story giving people an example that I am a living factor of overcoming suicidal depression.

Not many people can say they have overcome the obstacles that I have faced at such a young age. These challenges have only made me stronger and have helped me develop new skills to help others just like me. I want to be able to help those who have been in the same dark place as I have, because no one should ever feel helpless or alone. With my story, I can continue to share, help others to get back on their feet and face their challenges head on and know that you don’t have to face them alone. Becoming a psychiatrist has always been a dream of mine because with all the challenges I’ve faced, my empathy has developed and helped my compassion for others to grow stronger. This is why I believe I would be great fit for your campus so I could reach out to the people that need help and are afraid to reach out for help. The lord has taught me that if you are positive you will always find the light at the end of the tunnel.

            Your life isn’t over it’s just the beginning, your life is important, so don’t take your beauty from this world. Suicide is generally a selfless act done for selfless reasons. It’s done because they think the world would be better off without them. The best way to prevent it is by showing them you care and need them. Don’t  end your life tonight, tomorrow could be the day where things get better. When you feel like giving up just remember why you held on for so long. Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting worse, it eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better. Place your hand over your heart, can you feel it? This is called purpose. You’re alive for a reason so don’t ever give up.

          Giving is a wonderful gift that everyone wants and some people are blessed with and some,unfortunately, are not. Not everyone in world receives help from people who had the means to give and it is upsetting to have to through it, it is why I always give people the most when I can. Some people will never know the difference of giving a true blessing and not receiving a true blessing. Giving is a beautiful thing that God himself provides to his creations. Giving is a blessed gift that everyone needs.

Question 6-10:

I believe that what makes Christmas special is giving to others and not yourself.  I love to shop at Target, Old Navy, TJMaxx, Charlotte Russe, Forever 21, and Nike. I love to go out to eat like Buffalo Wild Wings, PF Chang’s, Canes, Whataburger, Chick Fil A, Chilis and so many more place. I absolutely love to get mani’s and pedi’s because it gets my mind off things and relax. I love to go to the movies. I have a Iphone 6 that I absolutely love because I listen to all my music everyday and every second from it! I get to school and work  by my car named “Sapphire”.  

Jasmyn – Age 17, Grade 11

The greatest obstacle that I’m still overcoming in high school is being a single parent to my two year old baby boy, Izaak. Sometimes I just want to break down, but what matters the most is not giving up. Once I get into my classes there is no playing at all, I work until the bell rings trying to graduate is a big deal for me. Having a child while going to school can be frustrating because I can’t get any work done at home. Not only that but, barely getting to see my child because having to go to school then work right after. It makes me feel terrible because the only time I get to see Izaak is when he is ready to go to bed or when I get a day off which rarely happens because I need to provide for him. Having a child at a young age made me change for a good reason and will change my future for a little boy who stole my heart. All I can do is leave it to the man upstairs and know that my child will have a great life because the hard working woman I am becoming.
My plans after high school is to get enrolled into Collin college and get started as soon as I can. Thanks to the teachers at the S.O.C. if it wasn’t for them I don’t know what I would do because they are helping me out so much to become a graduate. Also a thanks to my grandmother because she helps me out with my child she watches him while I’m at school, work, and soon will watch him while I attend college. She makes my life easy and I love her for helping me out so much.
Helping someone out that needs help or that is struggling is giving. Not many people in this world have much and I’m thankful for everything I have. This Christmas would make me feel good about myself if I could get Izaak more clothes and learning toys, but what will really matters is having all the family together, being happy, and being loved by the people who care about you.
The things I like to do for fun is hangout with my baby and take him places. Places we enjoy going to are Toys R Us, Double dip, Target, and Gap. I love spending time with my child he means the world to me.
I’m really thankful for everything I have in life and hope everything turns out the way I plan. The first thing to do is graduate and thanks to the S.O.C. I’ll be done in no time. Overcoming my obstacle will be hard, but at the end everything will be for the better for me and my child.

Rai-Yanah – Age 16, Grade 11

The greatest obstacle I have achieved to become a graduate was always stay positive and keep certain things to myself and encourage people that think they can’t do it to do it. I have also been trying to take away all the distractions and focus on my future and the goals I am trying to achieve in life so i won’t have to worry about coming back to school and get an education. Why not try to get and education why’ll it’s free. My plans after high school are very high I want to be a professional dancer, a basketball player, a chef, a singer or even a boxer I know this sound like a lot of work witch I know it is but I can do it if I put my mind into it. My main focus when I graduate is to have a nice paying job so i can get my 11 brothers and sisters that’s scattered around the world to be with me i haven’t seen them in many years my mom chose the streets over us so i want to reunite with my younger sibling’s so we can grow up and be a family and get my mother out the streets. What giving mean to me? what giving means to me that you hold our hands out and help and give someone that haven’t had it and to show how much people mean to us and show them that they are more important to use than they think they are. So why not show that love and encouragement to them and give them all the hope in the world they need sharing is caring. For Christmas I really don’t need anything as long as me and my family are happy and the food is delicious I am proud to be at home with my family celebrating the life of god in great and positive vibes. I have been staying with my older cousin since I was a year and six months she has taken in me and my youngest brother kevin in so we wouldn’t be scattered around as well and I appreciate her more than she think I do because if I wasn’t for her I wouldn’t even know my little brother and he wouldn’t know who his big sister was so im proud that she was being the bigger person and taking them big steps for us. I get to school in the morning by my grandmother she wakes me up every morning at six twenty to get ready for school right along with my other 3 siblings Tyrice, Ty-tiana, and kevin. Oh yeah and guess what its twenty sixteen im sixteen with no children I don’t want to have any kids right now i will think of that when I complete my goals. On my free time I like to have a little me time where I can just have time to myself and treat myself and every time that I spend I find more interesting things about myself but I also like to play basketball, cook, and boxing I always find stress relieving ways in them hobbies as well. My favorite places to eat are Wingstop and Chik fil a they have good food even though it’s not good for us I always crave their food but most of the time I like to cook at home for my family I like them to try recipes I came up with and I just like seeing people scarping their plates asking for more because the food was delicious it make me feel happy. I do not have a phone by the way because it causes to many distractions for me so decision was try my best to stay away from them.

My name is Rai-Yanah and I hope you guys learned some fascinating things about me and my life Thank you!

Gracie – Age 18, Grade 12

What is the greatest obstacle you have overcome on the road to High School Graduation? What steps have you taken to overcome the obstacle?
This is my 6th High School. It will not be my last, I actually am going to transfer again soon.
What are your plans for after high-school and why?
I want to go to a community college and also maybe into the Texas Woman’s University or the University of Texas in Dallas
I want to go into real-estate. I want to make it big so I no longer have to worry about where I’m going to stay or how I’m going to get to places, I have a lot in mind and have all the time in the world to achieve it.
What does giving mean to you?
Giving is something that… Only so many people really know how to do, to give, you must expect nothing in return. When you give, you do it out of the kindness of your heart. Giving is something you do all of the time, maybe you don’t have all the money in the world, but you see a homeless person. Giving that homeless person money, expecting nothing in return.. That to me is the real meaning of giving. Giving someone homeless a place to stay until they get on their feet and not charge them rent. So many different situations in which you give; and receive nothing.
What item(s) are you most in need of, or would make your Christmas more special?
To see my mom one last time.
Who do you live with?
No one.
How do you get to school and/or work?
The bus, or I walk.
Do you have children?
What do you like to do for fun?
I like to go fishing, go to concerts, running, play tennis(although I suck) I like to volunteer at elementary school (not for community service hours)
Where are some places you like to eat?
Chili’s, Dominoes, Burger King, The Mint, Asian Mint, Norma’s Cafe, Starbucks, Matchbox, Boba, Sonic, Wing Stop, Boston Pizza, Subway, KFC, Boston Market, Churches Chicken
Do you have a cell phone?
If yes, what kind?
Metro PCS

Eslie – Age 16, Grade 10

I consider my family as a happy and united family, since I was a little girl my parents have always taught me to be a grateful and humble child. I have only one little brother that is 10 years old, my Mom and Dad are Missionaries (Pastors) at a Church in Mexico. Since I was young I’ve always had many obstacles in my life, everyday challenges and situations in that I’ve had to experience and learn to be a better person. I’ve learned to mature a bit faster than all my other friends or people I socialize with. When I was about the age of 12 years old my Dad felt in his heart and mind that God had a calling for him down in Mexico, he knew the risks that he would have to take once he took his whole family to another country. At the time my brother was about 6 years old, he didn’t know much, he was young and inexperienced, I was just beginning to make friends, to live my life here in Texas, I was very disappointed at the time and did not understand why we had to move, my mother had to leave her job after working there for more than 8 years. My father sold his company and had to leave behind everything he worked so hard for. Moving to another country, starting from scratch, from having everything to nothing was really one of the hardest decisions our family has ever made. School was very difficult for me, everything was in a different language I had to start from zero, I had no friends, no experience what so ever. I lived in Mexico for about 3 years, and all that time I had a negative perspective on everything, until one day I realized that we were there not to have fun nor do what ever we wanted, we were there to help, to give, to share, to love, and to give hope to all those other who had nothing. On my first day of school in Mexico, I knew for a fact that I wanted to graduate here in Texas, my parents didn’t approve, I was too young and they didn’t like the idea of sending their only daughter away for a few years. Almost everyday I would beg them to let me go to school here again and their response was always “No”, till one day my aunt offered me to come live with her. It was very difficult for me to leave my family, be on my own, and be independent, they are the only people who have always supported me since I was young, yes, we’ve had many situations and problems as a family and no, we aren’t perfect but we’ve learned to always love on each other no matter what. When I graduate High School I plan on going to college and study to be a Nurse or an Interior Decorator. I want to go to college and finish school so I can prove to my parents that I didn’t waste my time and that I’ve learned to succeed in life just the way they’ve always wanted me to do, and also so I can have a good job, a good future, a good house, a good car and so one day I’ll be able to help out my parents in anyway I can. What does giving mean to me? Some people nowadays are very selfish and don’t like giving or sharing with others, but I’m not that kind of person.. when I give I feel lots of joy within me, It makes me very happy to see another person smile, appreciate and cherish what they received. What would make me happy this Christmas is to be able to spend it with my family all together. I’m currently living with my aunt and her family. My aunt always takes me and my cousin’s to school in the morning. I have no children, I’ve been able to focus on school and not distract myself.
When I have free time I love to hangout with my friends, go out and have fun, I also like doing designs, drawing, playing soccer and singing.
My favorite restaurant is Olive Garden, I love Italian food, I also like Chick-fil-A.
I do have a cellphone and it’s an iphone 5.