The Real Victims of Gang Violence

Common App Personal Statement: Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Unsure of how to cope with my own emotions and simultaneously continue to ask her questions, I handed Aliyah a box of tissues. She glanced up at me between sniffles and thanked me, expressing what may have been a disproportionate amount of gratitude for my very small act of kindness. It had been several months since Aliyah had spoken about her son’s death, though she talked of him as if he had never left.

My sophomore year, I spent time at the YMCA in Southeast San Diego interviewing mothers affected by gang violence as part of a film for a school project to raise awareness of the issue locally. Even though we were only high school students, we aimed to make a movie with the mothers that would help the neighborhood youth see how gangs devastate families in hopes of preventing them from going down that road themselves.

It took us three weeks to produce the video, a combination of interviews and footage of children with their families before gang violence irreversibly altered their lives. In addition to being uploaded to the Southeast San Diego YMCA’s website, the video was aired during many of their youth programs. According to extensive feedback the YMCA received from individual families and the local police department, the...

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