Louie in Transition
January 7, 2016
I didn’t start out well, throwing a paperweight at my principal in second grade. Next year half the kids on the playground chased me for stealing a little girl’s necklace. I didn’t mind. I liked to fight. So did many kids in my neighborhood. A guy stabbed me when I was fourteen. I also fought in gangs.
At home my dad wanted me to be like him but I needed things my own way. Every day I smoked pot. Any time someone looked at me wrong, I punched him. When I was sixteen my dad threatened to ground me after school, and I grabbed a manual lawn edger and swung at his head. He ran to get his rifle and pointed it at me and five police cars came and the officers burst in and aimed shotguns at my dad and ordered: drop it. He served three days in jail. I got three months in juvenile hall and met a lot of tough guys who scared me.
I hated being locked up and lonely but still kept coming back for fighting. I never stole, but I must have set the record for most time in juvenile hall, seven or eight months. I saw people come and go. I’ll always remember the judge and district attorney looking at me like I was a criminal when I was charged with felony assault. I was lucky to get time served and probation. Right before I left, the judge said: I don’t want to see you again.
I had no experience and no job and no plans until I joined the Job Corps Center and learned to get up at a certain time every morning and make my bed and attend basic reading and math classes and take other courses for a trade. In about two months living here, I turned things around and learned to work all day and respect myself and others. I haven’t had any trouble. The only fight was when some drunk guys wanted to test me and jumped me when I was new. After a while I became a dormitory leader and made sure people made their beds and did their work.
If people like me didn’t have the Job Corps, they wouldn’t have anything to do. You can’t beat it. We have plenty of good food and we’re taught how to live. You have someone to talk over your problems with. I’ll miss this place when I leave. The director told me I’ve changed a hundred eighty degrees. Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I see some scars from all those fights, but the scars are fading.
I’m becoming more relaxed. People still sometimes tell me not to stand so close and talk so fast. I understand. I’m not angry anymore. I’ll soon graduate from the cement finishing program and get a job in the trade, the same my dad worked in more than thirty years. I like the work and enjoy creating something that’ll be around a long time.