"My mother owned a fabric store and she would work very hard
and she would close the store in the afternoon to make us food,
and then she would return from the store at 7 p.m. And when she
would come she would wash the floor, she would do things in the house,
and then I remember it would be like around 8:30 or nine when
she would finish everything and she would sit on a chair on the balcony
and smoke a cigarette. And when you would look at her doing it, you would feel
such an upward a feeling of joy. Like she said, “Wow, life is so amazing.”



My name is Jennifer. I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My birthday is on February 23. I am 16 years old. I moved to New Britain around 8th grade. It was extremely rough growing up in Philly. It was a blessing every day just to be alive. It was also a blessing for some people to make it to the age of 18. Some teenagers end up being 6 foot under at the age of 16. The youngest can be up to 4-6 years old.

One of my favorite lines in a song from a Philly rap artist is, “I was raised by the stop sign, no religion I was getting saved by the glock nine, by the minute I was getting paid like a hotline.” What this line tells you is the streets raised him and the only way to survive is to shoot. I know from experience growing up in a rough city that you are never exposed to anything else but what's in the “hood.” Even kids know how the drug dealing system works because they watch their family members do it. You see young girls lose themselves and having babies from left to right. I don't blame them though. You also see young kids out in the streets because they don't have a support system. So basically they raise themselves and the streets raise them. The only future for them is being 6 foot under or in jail.

It’s a struggle every day. It’s normal to hear gunshots every night in my neighborhood. You can even walk outside and see bullet shells and blood stains on the concrete. You walk around and see bullet holes through doors, windows, and walls. I witnessed mothers having to bury their own sons. I witnessed young kids dead on the streets because of drugs and being in gangs.

But now I'm here in New Britain for the better, even though I do miss my birth city sometimes and my family there. I just want to graduate and be the first in my family to go to college. And to make enough money so my family is comfortable and doesn't have to worry about struggling anymore. I also want to show my family in Philly that there's more out there than the “hood.”

In addition, I want to give back and help the city that raised me. I understand the youth out there having to live without electricity, and feeling embarrassed to have guest over their house because the house gives off a nasty aroma in the air and has roaches crawling on the walls. I understand having no water, waiting for the bucket to fill up as little droplets of water drip down from the faucet one at a time. I know how it feels to be embarrassed about not having fresh sneakers or decent clothes for school.

My little brother and I have better opportunities here in New Britain, and a safer environment. My main goal is to be a good role model for my little brother. My second goal is to graduate and make my mom proud. And to one day give back to my city and to the youth in need. I am proud to say I'm from the city of Philadelphia because it made me the person I am today.