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The Girl That Lived Her Life with Two Personalities

Angie Pleitez is a student at Santaluces Community High School in Palm Beach County, Florida, and a member of the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program. Below are excerpts of an article she wrote as part of the program. 

Hello. My name is Angie Pleitez and I would like to share my story, the story that made me realize to always be grateful for everything that happens to you, whether it’s good or bad. Ever since I was little, I was depicted as the person in my family that could be different from the rest. My parents always reassured me that I was going to be the one in the family to make a difference and rise to the top. They always told me that I had the opportunity that no one else in my family had, which was to get a full education and be someone important in the world. I am the daughter of two immigrant parents who risked everything to give a better future for their child. That’s a huge amount of pressure to put on someone, but I didn’t think much of it when I was younger. I just thought of myself as just another child that played outside and hung out with her friends. What I didn’t know when I was younger was all the actions happening behind the scenes.

To start, when I was little, I had to stay with a babysitter most of the time because my mother worked from the morning to the night and my father would work from the morning to past midnight. Sometimes they would barely get sleep because when they came home, they still had to take care of me. From the time and effort they put in their laborious jobs, they were able to afford my school supplies, my backpack, after-school care, all necessary components for me to have the best school experience. They always praised me for getting good grades, which gave me boosts in my confidence and self-esteem. I was on the honor roll and earned recognition for my intelligence. I was always very proud of my intelligence and perseverance at such an early age. It continued this way all the way up to 5th grade. It was getting to that point where my life was going to take a sharp turn, which was my teen years.

I was scared that I was taking a huge step in my life. I’ve never liked change ever since I moved away from where I grew up when I was 7. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I was going to be in a different environment and going to be experiencing something I’ve never experienced before. My parents tried to reassure me that everything was going to be okay; that it’s just another phase of my life that everyone goes through as well, but I already had the idea instilled in me that things would go downhill from here. My middle school years destroyed not only my academic achievements but my self-worth. I was at my lowest point, and I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone. I was especially hesitant to tell my parents because I didn’t want them to know their “star child” wasn’t shining as bright as before. As time passed by, I could feel that I was slowly starting to lose myself. I felt unhappy and unmotivated all the time, and I didn’t care for most things anymore. I felt numb and I felt like I wasn’t living a life anymore – at least, not the life I wanted to lead. I was willing to do anything to take the pain away which would have led to life-threatening consequences. I’m glad that I stuck around because I later on realized that the pain doesn’t last forever and that things get better, maybe not right away but they eventually do. This is when I found the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program.

The program opened my eyes to see that I still had an opportunity to turn myself around. It felt like this program could be my chance of getting out of this dark place I was heading into. I found it as I was entering high school, and I can honestly say that it turned my life around for the better. I felt myself getting my academic achievements back and the joy of feeling proud of myself back. I felt like I had a purpose again, a purpose to keep going and continue to always do better than the day before. I started doing better in school and got recognized for all the great things I was doing. I felt my parents grow happier and their pride for me grew. I talk to them about my future and college and they can’t help but be so overwhelmed with happiness. Yes, there are many obstacles that try to knock me down to the position I was in before, but I grew out of that point in my life and I don’t ever want to go back. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, no matter the circumstances my family and I go through.

The Take Stock/Johnson Scholars Program, my family, and the friends who actually want the best for me have helped me realize that life is worth so much. I can create a great future for myself if I want to. I can go to a great college if I want to. I have a chance that not many people have, and that means so much to me.

Angie Pleitez is a Junior at Santaluces Community High School

On becoming a leader by becoming a soldier

Jhonatan Montejo Benito is a senior at Jupiter Community High School and a participant in the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program. He wrote this essay outlining his future plans as part of the program.

One afternoon, at the age of six, I was watching the news with my grandfather, and I saw how US Naval Carriers were mobilizing. I could only imagine their actual size and what they were capable of doing. With those images in my mind, I began to feel intimidated and to wonder if I could ever be a part of something that amazing. Some years later, the father of my closest cousins was ambushed on a bridge by drug traffickers, because he and other infantrymen were escorting equipment to another state in Guatemala. No one survived the attack. Both of these memories pushed me to begin working towards having a future in the infantry, because I honor those who are able to put their lives at risk, and because for me soldiers are the strongest people I have ever met. College for me is the place where I will build a strong foundation to be a great leader. The people closest to me are my strongest foundation, and they and my memories keep my motivation alive.

To begin with, I believe that the most effective way for me to reach my goal of working in the US Army Infantry is to train with the ROTC program to ultimately become a commissioned infantry officer. As a child I moved a significant number of times, and as a result, I don’t feel particularly attached to any one place, and thus I am committed to find the best education at the best place possible even if I have to begin at the bottom. Ideally, I would like to begin my college studies at either UF or West Point Academy, but my alternate plan would be to begin my college studies at a local state college where I will earn my associate’s degree and then move to a more competitive college, like UF to finish my bachelor’s degree. For me, going to college means that I am being prepared to work with the finest military in the world and that I am preparing myself to become a leader to which my soldiers will look up to. My goal to accomplish this is by continuing to improve myself in my favorite subjects, math and philosophy, and strengthen my body through training and making healthy choices. My parents, on the other hand, believe that going to college to then work in the military is a waste of time, and that the goal of college is a place for me to grow and become economically independent and successful. While I respect their opinion, I am determined to see my name on my uniform in service of the US Army. Overall, college will be the place where I will strengthen my foundations to become part of something bigger than myself and a person that others could look up to.

Moreover, as I grew up and traveled to different places, I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from a number of influential people who have become very important to me, but even though I don’t see many of them anymore, I will make sure to conduct myself to bring credit to them. The first people to say thank you to are my family, beginning with my grandfather. He gave me important knowledge and skills that I have used and continue to use. He taught me how to tie my shoes and how to ride a bike, but most importantly, most afternoons he would sit with me and read to me either the news or the Bible. In addition, my parents were the pillars of my development. My parents are the people who are always there for me, but the most crucial part they had in my life was giving me a brighter future in the US, which opened for me a wide range of opportunities that I would never have had in a country like Guatemala.

Last but not least, there were teachers, faculty members, counselors and other people that I could not mention individually here because there is a limit of words, and the number of things they did for me are countless. But people that I would like to mention are various English teachers that I have had since sixth grade, my personal counselor, Mrs. Woeber, and my middle school second language support system. Mrs. Woeber was the person who introduced me to the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars program, and for her and them I am eternally grateful. But it doesn’t matter who it was, they are important to me because they built me a staircase in which I was able to improve and grow.

To conclude, the journey that I made from the small town of El Paraiso in Guatemala to the eastern shores of the United States helped me construct a future that will not only enrich my life but hopefully the lives of others that I meet along the way during my experiences in the military and elsewhere. The most significant part of this journey wasn’t mostly about me, but the people that created who I am today. They are people that work hard and do extraordinary things for others. They give more than their one hundred percent at their job, and therefore I will pay them back when it will be time for me to put my hands at work by being the best person that I could be for me, others, and my younger sister.

Jhonatan Montejo Benito is a senior at Jupiter Community High School and a participant in the Take Stock in Children/Johnson Scholars Program.