Parents in the Military

Photo credit: theeap.com

Photo credit: theeap.com

More and more children are missing out on the get togethers with loved ones due to the increasing amount of individuals leaving to the military.

Angie Vasquez, 5, sits alone during the lunch hour due to her definition of feeling “left out.”

She says, “I feel like so many other girls have so much. They have their toys, but most of all they have their dads and moms with them. I have my pictures of them, but I don’t think they can feel me wrap my arms around them when I go to bed.”

According to a survey done by Blue Star Families, 67% of parents leaving oversees and leaving their children behind sought to search for mental health rehabilitation due to anxiety from being away from their children.

Vasquez says, “I like that my mom and dad are taking care of America, now America doesn’t have to worry about bombs or guns, but sometimes I want them [parents] to come home.”

Like her, there is a 68% increase of indepence in the child, but is it adaptability or a sense that they too have to become young adults earlier in life?

Tomasa Flores, Angie’s caretaker for the next year or so, says, “I have nothing bad to say about the military. My son Jose was in the Mexican army, but I do say that it is different for someone as young as Angie. She is a baby. I reminder her daily that I love her. If I don’t, who will?”

At this moment, Angie Vasquez interrupts and says, “My mom and dad love me! They call each night before I go to bed and wish the bugs don’t come in and bite. I love you too, Toma!”

Flores hugs her close and repeats the words to young Vasquez and says, “I do not think I could of gone to great lengths to try to save the US and my child’s future all by herself.”

Angie says, ” When my mom and dad come home I’ll be this much old,” while sticking her right hand flat and one finger up on the left hand.

Dosomething.org claims “more than 900,000 children experienced the deployment of one or both parents multiple times.”

Cards, letters and gift packages once dominated the mail waves soon after 9/11, but increased mail restrictions make it all the harder to do so. For a family member overseas, communication helps bring them closer. Talking to them everyday or as consistently as possible helps in coping with their deployment.

Vasquez is proof that staying optimistic is the only way she will stay confident. She said, “Even if I can’t send my mom or dad a real hug. I sent a photo of me, when both my top teeth were out. I asked Santa to give me my teeth for Christmas and I’ll be waiting.”

She smiles and it becomes evident that her upper teeth are coming in by a fraction of an inch.

If your loved one is oversees, send them a care package to bring a smile to their life the same way they make you smile when you have a chance to speak with them.

Dealing with Death

maryjanes-heart-funeral-flowersCoping with the loss of a loved one can be tough. To some, death often comes at a moment when they are unprepared for the person’s absence or an emotional crisis. It takes weeks, months, and sometimes years to realize that their best friend, mother, classmate or sister is truly gone.  Death is inevitable, but know this: you are not alone.

Coping with suicide

Salazar, 17, lost her close friend, Nigel, to bullying. Nigel was ridiculed for being a male cheerleader. On the morning of Nigel’s suicide, America Salazar said, “Yesterday was a bad day our school. We were on lockdown for about 3 hours after school because they thought he was a threat [to the entire school,] but he wasn’t.”

Salazar will spend her last semester in middle school trying to make plans for a friend who did not deserve to die.

“How many suicides is it going to take for the bullying to stop?! It’s really sad that the only way Nigel felt his pain will go away was to end his life,” she expressed.

Salazar and a team of interested students grouped together to think of ways to help cope with his suicide. For example, America plans to petition other students to remember Nigel by posting ideas on Facebook.  On Facebook she wrote, “Write a semi-colon on your wrist. I have one on today and I will have one on for the next days to come,” yet the remembrance does not stop there. In another post, she provided other ideas to students affected by Nigel’s passing. She said, “I want to get a whole bunch of red balloons, purple or blue. Whatever Nigel liked and tie a note telling Nigel whatever you wanted to say to him.” Salazar also expressed her feelings by writing and sharing Nigel’s story through social media.

“I hope the people who made fun of him realize how stupid and idiotic they were for making fun of him for loving his passion. He loved to cheerlead, what a big deal! He was sweet and he was doing what made him happy! He was enjoying life and people can’t respect that?” she states.

Learning to deal is the first step towards getting better. Salazar says, “I was talking to the psychiatrist. My eyes hurt from crying so much.”

“I thank everyone that helped today to try and make me feel better, even if I am not for a while,” she adds.

Most importantly Salazar expressed that crying is okay. She says, “Tonight I cried my eyes out. It was good to see his family at the night vigil. I like to thank everyone, friends who help me while I don’t feel okay.”

Teen suicide is prevalent in teens that are victims of bullying. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death.” Wounds are not always physical, if you know of someone who is being bullied talk to a teacher, counselor, or parent.  You might be saving a life!

Coping with the death of a family member

To some, the loss of a family member may be more difficult to handle. Although death affects everyone differently, Sarah Amaya, 15, says she lost her mother a year ago and getting over it is hardest now. Amaya says, “The day I found out she died I felt like something was missing. Later that same day my father was waiting to pick me up from school, which was weird because I’d always walk home. When we got home he says, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this…your mom died.’
I felt my heart fall to my stomach then to my feet. I was numb. I was in denial for a moment. She passed away in her sleep this morning like at 2a.m. My world was over. I felt this emptiness. I couldn’t accept it! My mother, my world, my best friend, my everything, gone? Couldn’t be! I just sat there as the reality of it all caved in on me, my sister had gone outside, but I just sat there, motionless, tears I couldn’t even feel, streaming down my face. Then I looked at my dad and studied his face. I saw grief.”

She explains the inner torment further. “I got phone calls asking me if I was okay and for once I was hones: ‘No, I’m not okay.’ Then it clicked, I didn’t want to speak to anyone, so many negative thoughts ran through my head at once so I went to my bathroom and sat on the floor. I was out of tears; I wanted to be where my mom was at. Life without my mom was meaningless to me… I would give anything to have my mother back, literally anything. I don’t think I can ever ‘get over it.’ She gave me life. Every day I am stuck with the emptiness that she is gone. Nobody and nothing could fulfill her place.”

These days, she deals with the pain by visiting her grave whenever she can. She says, “I talk to her and tell her what is new with me as though she were still present.”

Amaya adds, “To others dealing with death I would tell them that it is okay to cry. Surround yourself with loved ones. You are not alone. [I take comfort in telling them] that their loved ones are watching over. Be strong.”

Amaya says that her source of inspiration to live came from her mother. She said, “I thought back to a moment of when I lived with her. She and I had a conversation, she told me, ‘Life is bad, and I get it. Death happens naturally, you go when you go. You won’t end up in heaven if you’re the cause of your death. Stick it out; Life gets better I promise.’”

Everyone copes with grief differently, but expressing your feelings to a friend or family member will help the grieving process. You are not alone in this moment and have friends and family that will help you through this tough time.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Young Latinas are driven to be successful in social and professional situations. As strong chicas, little will get in the way of growing girls with determination and support on their side – so she can reach out and knock down life’s obstacles. There are some niñas out there who will find the reaching out part to be overwhelming. Seventeen year old, Destanee Saucedo describes how not being outgoing can cause her to “freak out” and think to herself “why can’t I talk?” when everyone else finds it easy being outgoing. Like Destanee, these girls are wallflowers; they are shy, and, whether you are an introvert or know someone who is, you know wallflowers have a lot to offer. It’s important to remember that when a young woman is shy it only means that her personality type is different from what’s considered the “ideal” social personality. According to a “Gentle Power: The Positive Psychology of Introversion,” the introvert, when driven by passion for what she is speaking up for, can “produce invaluable contributions, communities, and cultures.”  Introverts spend a lot of time absorbing the world around them, and as observers they save their words until they feel enough passion for what she is thinking to step outside of her comfort zone and be loud. When a shy girl speaks up, you better believe it’s because she has spent enough time in her head to decide that what she’s saying is important.

So how does a wallflower grow in a world that favors the outgoing? Here are few tips:

1. Think Small When Social. Being in large groups is often overwhelming for an introvert and going out of your way to plan hangouts in smaller groups might make it easier to feel comfortable. This means having real conversations instead of “small talk” and developing the intimate and real relationships shy girls tend to prefer. Planning a trip to the bookstore, a trip to a cafe, or a game night at home is a great way to spend time with a few friends without completely leaving your comfort zone.

Tip: Having that one friend who’s outgoing and makes you do things out of your comfort zone isn’t a bad idea. You never know what you could like until you try it with a little nudge from a friend. If your outgoing friend is forcing you to do something you’re not comfortable with at all, tell her to stop!

2. Make Time for “Nothing”.  Speaking up and being in large groups and busy settings can definitely tire a wallflower. Take little steps to getting out of your shell and recharge your batteries by finding time for yourself. Yes, chicas, this means that “doing nothing” is necessary. There is no shame in taking time to stay home every once in a while to daydream, work on hobbies, do chores, run errands or anything that gives you the alone time you need to balance social interactions.

3. Breathe When Your Brain Feels Busy. Introversion makes the brain busy and it’s important to be aware of this. Constant interior thinking can make it difficult to focus and makes your brain feel like it’s about to burst. Take time to pull yourself out of these situations and breathe. Feeling tired? Try taking a short breath in and take your time exhaling. Need to relax? Do the opposite and take a deep, slow breath in and breathe out quickly. This small act of mediation will do wonders within those moments you feel like your mind is working on overdrive.

4. Take a Moment to Step Out. In a busy setting it’s normal to want your “space,” so take a breather from the social gathering if your anxiety is at an all time high. Excusing yourself to go to the restroom can provide those minutes of recovery without interruption that just might get you through the day. You don’t have to make the bathroom your escape, use any area where you feel good enough to settle your nerves.

5. Be a Wallflower. Let’s face it, sometimes you have to go to that big event and talk to lots of people even though you might not want to. When you are in those situations, be yourself. If leaning against a wall to observe what’s going on around you or listening to the conversation more than adding to it is what you want to do, do it. More often than not, there will be another wallflower like yourself who feels just as nervous in the situation. Make sure you don’t lose your confidence simply because you’re quiet; you have lots to offer just by being yourself. Don’t cheat yourself out of social situations just because you think you won’t enjoy them. So, be you and trust yourself as a contributing chica in the world.

 

Dealing with Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer has replaced heart disease as the leading cause of death among U.S. Hispanics. But no one can predict that they will have cancer – especially when it happens to their parents. It never is good to see a loved one hurt, but there are many things you can do to help you cope with them.

Hispanic girk looking sad

Latinas and Cancer

Recent studies have shown cancer to be a bit more prominent among Latina women. A 2007 study by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, compared the effects of breast cancer between Hispanic and non- Hispanic women with equal health care (Kaiser Permanente Colorado health plan). The study noted that “the results of this study confirm those of many previous studies that breast cancer presents differently in Hispanic women.”

The American Association for Cancer Research Conference in Carefree, Arizona had conducted early research in 2005 that shows 2/3′s of breast cancer in Hispanic women is discovered accidentally. Only 28 percent of Hispanic women have the means to check themselves though a mammography or clinical exams.

Iesha Romo, nursing student at the University of Texas at Brownsville, shared how her classes have showed her that Hispanic men and women are more likely to develop illnesses like diabetes and cancer. She said that through her clinical experiences as a student, she has been a witness to families of loved ones that are “hurt by the sight of being in a hospital.” Romo believes that “there is really no way to prepare yourself for when you have a sick parent. When it happens, only you will know how to best deal with it.”

Dealing with Cancer

The number one worry for parents is their children. When a parent is diagnosed with cancer it may bring stress for their children. You can help lessen these feelings of stress, anger or worry by letting your parents know how you are feeling. Hiding your feelings will not make everything okay. Don’t be afraid to ask your parent questions about their condition. Let them know you care and that you’ll be there for them.

Don’t blame yourself!

Never blame yourself for what they’re going through. It’s important for you to know that nothing at all is your fault. Ask questions and be updated with what’s going on. Make sure you understand how they feel also. Sometimes things look worse than they really are.

Become Informed

One of the biggest questions you might have is the extent of your parents’ illness. Familiarize yourself with all this information by asking to speak with their doctors or someone who can professionally inform you about their diagnosis and treatment. Don’t be afraid to go up to the doctor and ask what it means that your parent has ‘cancer.’ Ask them how it developed, and how it has affected your parent. What are they going to have to do differently? What can you do to help them? Doctors might also refer you to pamphlets, websites, and support groups as well.

It’s OK to Worry

It is evident that sometimes thoughts of worry might take over because your parent is sick. It is OK to worry. Try to talk to someone about these feelings. Confide in your friend, teacher, or counselor. No one knows how you are feeling – only you. And sadly, people who have never had to watch a loved one be diagnosed with cancer will not know how you feel. It is important to talk about what your feelings – whether it is anger, hurt, or confusion, because these emotions have the power to threaten your well being. Soon enough, these thoughts can take over your outlook on life, causing you to slowly detach yourself from your friends, family, and things you treasure in life. It is important to understand what you are feeling and that you are not to blame.

Keep Up with Your Daily Routine

Stay connected with your friends and keep up with school. Go back to your daily routine and don’t worry about having ‘too much fun or smiling or laughing while your parent has cancer. Sometimes it’ll make them feel better to see you enjoying life. Abby Mora, third year student at the Texas State University, believes that if a Latina faces the reality of a sick parent, “You have to realize that you have the power to help your parent, supporting them financially and emotionally.”

Take time to discover what you need and don’t let others tell you how you should be feeling. Really taking time to figure out what lifts your spirits during these tough times can make coping with the illness of a loved one a lot easier. Keep your head up, and remember that you are not alone!

Take a Stand Against Mean Girls

One day at school you find out that a mean and ugly rumor is being spread around about you. You know it’s not true, but no one believes you.You don’t know how to deal with it and you feel that everyone has turned on you even your closest friends. Unfortunately, for many girls this is a reality. Life as a teenager is hard enough, but being bullied is unacceptable and hurts both physically and mentally. If your being bullied, how do you deal?

Bullying, especially with teenagers, has been around forever, but in the past few years it has become a very serious and scary issue. Did you know that bullying is no longer just being pushed around in the playground, but being verbally attacked whether through gossip, rumors, or on the internet? It’s not just physically draining, but it hurts mentally too.

Particularly with tween and teenage girls, bullying has grown to be a more verbal and mental thing rather than physical, but why is that? Vanessa Rodriguez, age 17, says, “I think girls feel that if they can turn everyone else against their “victim” then it’ll hurt more than an actual physical confrontation. Most bullies are jealous of the other girls’ popularity and happiness so they try to get to the people around her to mess up her life.”

Not only has bullying gone beyond rumors being spread in person, but now the social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are used to bully others. This type of bullying is know as “cyberbullying.” So what exactly cyberbullying? Dalena Lopez, age 13 says, “Cyberbullying is when somebody is harassed or bullied either on the computer through the internet or through text.” But why take it to the internet?

Ytzel McDaniel, age 18, says, “I think we girls in general are too smart for our own good. I just don’t think it is our nature to fight, but we do like to plot. Talking bad about each other has always been happening, social networks just make it easier and worse.” It is much easier to bully someone over the internet than it is in person, because it can happen at any time and is available for many people to see.

So if your being bullied how do you deal?

Vanessa says, “It’s hard, but ignore it. Those girls are acting they way they are, because they’re trying to be someone that they’re not. They think being mean will impress others when in reality, everyone has the same opinion of them- annoyed. Stay close to your friends they’ll help you get through the bullying and you guys will be able to laugh at it later on. If things get out of hand, TELL someone older. Don’t let those girls run your life.” While ignoring it sometimes works, the bullying can often be too much to handle. Don’t be afraid to tell a counselor, teacher, parent, or an older sibling. They WILL help you and you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up.

“Don’t let it bother you. Just because someone says something about you doesn’t mean its true. I would talk to someone about it who I can trust, like my mom,” says Dalena. Talking to someone who you trust will help you deal with being bullied.

“Don’t let them see it getting to you,” says Ytzel. “All a bully wants is to see you break so even though it is scary stand up to them. You don’t have to be mean, just show them that they can’t control you. The thing I have learned is there is always going to be  those girls who want to be the ‘biggest and baddest’, but once you say something they normally back down.” As hard as it may be standing up to the bully is the best thing to do. You should never be mean, but show them that they can’t control you with their hurtful words. Surround yourself with positive people, who love you for who you are. Never change yourself, as those who love you for who you are are your true friends.

One day you go to school and you find everyone being really nice to you. Everyone is getting along and no one seems to be picking on others. No mean rumors are being spread and no one is alone or sad. There are no cliques and everyone is seen as equals. This doesn’t have to be a dream, this can be a reality.

4 Warning Signs of a Toxic Friend

We believe that friends have our backs and that friendships will remain strong. In some instances, not everyone that we befriend is right for us. These type of friends are often referred to as toxic friends. Toxic friends tend to have their own agenda and cause emotional pain. Luckily, toxic friends are easy to spot. These are four warning signs to find out if your friendship or friend is toxic and how to fix it:

1. Distance

Think about how you and your friend usually act together and how frequently you guys talk.  If you notice that your friend is paying less attention to you or even paying more attention to others, this might be a sign of trouble. Distance always means that something is wrong, but the reasoning behind it may not be so simple. Distance can mean they need space, you have offended them, or  they  have not found a way to tell you that you have hurt them. Friendship is not one-sided and the best thing you can do is confront your friend about it and talk things through to clear the air. Confronting your friend about this problem will not make you seem needy.  If you talk to your friend about this and they have a bad attitude about it or put you down for it, then this friendship may be toxic. A good friend always listens.

2. Acting Differently

There are many variations of this. Think about how your friend normally acts when she is with you. Changing can sometimes be a good thing. If they have a “mean-streak” and start acting “nicer,” then this is an acceptable change. A toxic friend is someone who starts to change by acting out, having an unpleasant attitude, or simply acting differently to impress others. Acting differently can mean that they are not the same person you originally befriended.  As a result of this, they can be seen as a perfect stranger to you and could potentially be a bad influence. If they are acting like a different person around you or other people, ask them why they’re acting differently.  Determining whether or not they are a toxic friend is based on the reaction to this question. If they avoid the question or continue acting like someone else, then you should watch out.

3. Telling secrets

A big part of a toxic friend is whether or not they spill your secrets. Keep track of who you tell your secrets to, since this will surely come in handy. If you notice that other people are aware of your secrets, then make sure to confront your friends. You have to confront them in order to see who has been leaking your secrets. A good friend will never let your secrets be heard, because they have your trust and are responsible for maintaining that trust by keeping your secrets.

4. Boyfriend Troubles

A huge warning sign of a toxic friend is if she changes her personality for a boyfriend. Your friend has a boyfriend, but is she acting differently now that she is with him? Take notice of any behavioral changes. Is she any different than before? Is she distant? Talk to your friend about this. If she overreacts and believes that you are jealous,  calmly talk with her. If she still thinks you are being jealous, it might be an indicator that the friendship is on the rocks.  A boyfriend and a friend accepts you for who you are, which means a boy, or anyone else,  should never change someone or ruin a good friendship.

No Name Calling

Bullying stops here. February  marks the month for the awareness of anti-bullying. As advertising and stories surface to stand against bullying, Latinitas Magazine, too, will take a stand.

In the halls of any school in America, you will find the issue of bullying. However academically challenging the school may be, bullying is an issue and it must be dealt with.

Two weeks ago, Anderson Cooper conducted a special report on his study, “Bullying: It Stops Here.” In his research, bullying has been exposed in the limelight. Bullying is no longer the issue to be thrown under the table or considered a rite of passage. With new technological advances, bullying goes further than just school grounds making it impossible for the victim to “get over”. Bullying can lead to acts of depression and cause obsessive thoughts and behavior of self-esteem issues, eat disorders, and even resulting in suicide. Robert Faris, a sociologist at UC Davis, coins the term “social combat” as reason to why so many kids are bullied. The race to climb the social ladder is the consequence of bullying. In his study he found that 56% of kids are aggressors, victims or both.

Most shockingly, 81% of these bullying incidents, which are in fact witnessed by bystanders, are never reported. And 74% of kids do not want to tell their parents for fear that their parents will not take it seriously. 

Of course, it is no surprise that Lifetime is one of the voices standing against bullying. In the new Lifetime Original movie, Girl Fight, bullying is brought to the front in a true story when a girl is brutally beaten up by a group of girls, so they can get their 15minutes of fame by posting a video of the beating online. Their mistake was filming the video in the first place as it gave the police enough evidence to prosecute them.

This story, unfortunately, is not new news. You can YouTube the words “girl fight” right now, and find videos posted online of girls fighting or being beaten up. To kids, it is entertainment, just as bullying is entertainment for the aggressors.

Why is this issue so important to Latinitas Magazine? Since Latinitas targets young girls who are going through this issue, we want to let them know that you are not alone. Latinas girls are more likely to suffer from depression and commit suicide. In fact, in the fastest growing minority, 1 in 6 Latina girls will attempt suicide. That’s why Latinitas is a magazine focused on inspiring and motivating young girls to learn more, achieve more, and aspire more. The more confidence we instill in a young girl, the more likely she will take a stand against issues in her life, whether it be bullying, SAT tests, or getting into college for the first-time; Latinitas is there supporting these young girls every day.

For those young Latinitas, we encourage you to take a stand. Believe in your future. If you see someone being bullied, stand up against them with your friends. The aggressors will back down in a group of people. Take a stand online by signing the “Bullying: It Stops Here” Campaign on Facebook. Take another stand online and report any misconduct or bullying you see on social networking sites. You can even report videos on YouTube.

Our society thrives on negativity. We have become leaches to the bad, the corrupt, and the just plain wrong. Why don’t we turn this contagious behavior and turn it into something positive? Positivity can thrive just the same way. Remember, we make up a society, so that means we are in control.

School Stress

Tests can be a stressful time for students. Time management, getting enough sleep, joining study groups and eating healthy are a few things students should pay close attention to before tests. Here are a few more tips to help you ace the test.

It is always best to ask for help if there are subjects that you are unclear about. You can ask your teacher to help you a few minutes after class or during lunch. In most schools, there are tutors to help review over the test materials. Take advantage of the assistance offered. Tutors are helpful for answering questions on reviews and helping in certain subjects.

Also, try to avoid studying at the last minute. Procrastination is often the enemy when it comes to studying for a big exam. Studying early is another way of relieving the stress, study often because the repetition process helps it to stick to your memory. When you are studying, find a good study area where you are comfortable and can concentrate.

Test anxiety can be an issue for many students. Symptoms include the fear of failing, tension, shortness of breath and perspiration. If you feel you are struggling with stress related to tests or other issues talk to your teacher or counselor. They can give you tips to stay calm to help you master the stress and the test.

When attending class it is essential students go prepared with material, such as books, paper pen or pencil. To avoid stress, think positively, control your breathing and try not to doubt yourself during or before the exam. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to ace the test.

January 2010

Facing Reality

Corina Perez is a senior at a Central Texas high school. Currently, she is the baby of the family and is very motivated to pursue her goals, but is also nervous about leaving her friends. Her favorite character is Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. She works in a jewelry store part-time.

Are you ready to leave for college? I am kind of scared. Leaving my parents is going to be hard.

What is your dream college? Did you apply to that college? My dream college is anywhere outside of Texas. Right now I haven’t really applied to any other college besides community colleges.

Do you know what you will be majoring in? Why that major? I wanted to be a nurse but I am not in the mood to be dealing with blood so as of now, I am undecided.

Is there anything holding you back from attending a university? Since I haven’t passed my TAKS test yet, that is one thing holding me back from applying to other universities.

Are you the first in your generation to be attending college? My sister was the first in my family to go to a college. She went for about a year or two and then she stopped going for personal reasons.

Will you be working while you attend college as a means to pay for tuition? I would be working part time and I am not so sure if I would be a full time student.

Do you have any questions regarding the application process? I haven’t really applied so as of now, I don’t have questions.

Corina’s favorite class is history because ever since she was little, she always liked history a lot. She is the youngest in her family with three older sisters and one older brother.


Erica Martinez is also a senior at a Central Texas high school. She and Corina have been friends for a while. She’s coming in a little later than her peers on her choices about college, but her plans are getting more defined as she gets closer to graduation. She likes to go out to clubs and usually has some interesting highlights in her hair.

What is your number one fear about heading off to college? I am kind of scared heading off to college but my number one fear is that the classes may be very hard.

How comfortable do you feel leaving your parents? Or if you’re commuting, how do you feel living with them when you attend college? I just want to go to school. It’s really none of them.

What is your dream college? Did you apply to that college? I want to go to Texas A&M. I am still finishing my application.

Do you know what you will be majoring in? Why that major? I would like to be a veterinary because I like to cure any sick dogs.

Are you the first in your generation to be attending college? I am the first.

Will you be working while you attend college as a means to pay for tuition? I think I am going to be working. I am going to try to get loans but if I can’t, I will pay half and my parents will pay half.

Do you have any questions regarding your transition from high school to college? I am excited about leaving even though I do like high school.

Erica is applying to Austin Community College and is planning on living on campus. Something she likes to do on her spare time is attend Latinitas meetings and the Austin Riverwatch. She has one older brother and two younger siblings.

Compiled by Farah Ali

Holiday Blues Got You Too?

For those of us who can’t make it home this holiday season, it might just feel a little lonely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many reasons why we sometimes feel like we’ve got a bad case of the holiday blues, but many others why being alone during the holidays can actually be turned into a good thing. With a little creativity and a whole lot of holiday spirit you can turn that droopy frown upside down. Just take a look at some tips we’ve got for you to help you get started on making this year not only a good but the best Christmas and New Year’s Day ever!

Why am I the only one that seems to be alone during the holidays?
The truth is you’re not alone. While commercials, movies, and even holiday songs oftentimes make us think that everyone is around their family and friends during the holiday season, this is not the case for many people. We all know those commercials where there always seems to be a family of some 20 people gathered wearing red sweaters and bright smiles while seated around the dinner table or exchanging gifts.

But let’s get real folks! Traveling can be expensive, so it may not be possible to visit family as much as one would like. This is often the case for students whose families live outside of the U.S. Work and school can also keep families apart because it’s sometimes not possible to get out of work long enough to make it home to see your family especially if they live far away. And of course there are those people who are stuck at airports during the holidays because of the bad weather. So when you’re feeling a little blue, just know there are thousands of people out there feeling the same way.

I usually spend the holidays with my family, but I can’t this year.
Just because you won’t be able to make it home for the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the family celebration. Even if you can’t be where your family’s at, there are several ways to drop in on the festivities. If you have a cell phone, a good service plan can keep you connected to your friends or family especially during the holidays. For example, if you know when your family will be getting together, you could give them a call and talk to each of them even if it’s briefly. This can help you feel like you’re actually there. If they’re outside of the U.S., you might try a calling card. If you shop around, you can get really good deals (i.e. I spotted a card that charged only 3 cents per minute). A third old-school, but great and low-cost option you’ve got is to write a letter. Thirty-nine cents, after all, can go a long way when you can’t. Sharing your thoughts is a great way to stay in touch and jotting down your feelings can help you pass the time whenever you start feeling a little lonely. Plus you can write as little or as much as you want. Not to mention mailed letters are great personalized gifts that are perfect for the holidays. Give it a shot and you’ll see how surprised and happy your family and friends are to hear from you.

I don’t really know of anyone I could spend the holidays with.
Although your own family may not be nearby, asking a couple of close friends if they have any plans for Christmas or New Year’s Day may do the trick. You never know—they may very well have room for one more at the dinner table. Or, if you prefer, see if you can invite a few friends over for your own special rendition of a Christmas celebration.

New to a city and really don’t know anyone? Volunteering at a homeless shelter, retirement home or orphanage are only three ways to make great use of your free time as well as give you the opportunity to meet a great team of caring people who enjoy helping the less fortunate. Volunteering can also help people appreciate what they do have rather than focus on those things they miss.

If you’re interested in teens living outside your city, you might want to check with your school to see if they’ve participated in letter swaps with students from other schools; some teachers participate in pen pal programs where you can learn about other teens while exchanging letters during the holiday break. Websites are also available specifically for finding pen pals, but as always, make sure to keep your parents or a grown-up you trust posted on who you’re communicating with online. A couple of sites specifically for teen pen pals is www.kidsmc.com/penpal/ and a girlies only site can be found on www.agirlsworld.com.

But being here is not the same as being with my family.
And it shouldn’t be the same! Sure there will be differences—maybe this year there’s no Christmas tree or maybe there won’t be your abuelita’s delicious tamales. We get so used to celebrating in the same way from one year to the next that changes to these traditions can sometimes make the holidays seem less than perfect. Because family sometimes has to move for a job or school, it’s not always possible to be together for the holidays. One way to deal with this is to create a new tradition with those that are around you. Maybe there’s no Christmas tree, but maybe this year you decide to start a new tradition by going to your city’s Christmas Day parade or maybe by making some hand-made cards for your family and friends. There is an endless amount of activities or new traditions to add to your holiday experience—just give it a shot and you’ll see how fun it is to plan them with your loved ones.

I don’t like being alone.
Okay, come on now—is it really true that you never like to be alone? Just think back to those times you were wishing you could lie in your bed just a little longer before getting up for school. What you call being lonely may actually be the free time you had been wishing for but hadn’t had in months—a chance to get a fabulous haircut, to sleep in just a few more minutes, to catch the latest blockbuster movie, to finish reading that book you had cracked open some months ago, or simply to have more free time with friends. While being on our own for the holidays may seem like we’re missing out, having some much-needed alone time doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

This is a perfect time to pamper yourself and do everything you’ve been hoping to do—maybe even knock out a couple of those year-old resolutions from 2006 you haven’t had time to tackle. The new year, after all, is just around the corner and you’ll have a brand new set of resolutions in no time, so why not get the old ones out of the way and get 2007 to a rockin’ start.

By Claudia Rojo

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