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“How’s your brother?”

“He’s dead.”

Silence filled the line.“Wow...that’s awful. It’s no wonder you’re afraid,” I replied. There wasn’t much I could do. This teen was struggling with drug abuse and feared leaving a gang whose members murdered his brother. But candidly speaking, I wasn’t there to solve his problem—all I could do was listen.

In the summer of 2016, I began volunteering at Teen Line, a crisis hotline in which teens could reach out to other teens about their own problems. I underwent an intensive thirteen-week training program that covered issues ranging from relationship struggles to suicidal thoughts, as well as how to listen and empathize with those struggling. Soon, I was on the line, answering calls from across the globe. Every week, I devoted five hours to Teen Line, entering the hotline room with a clear mindset: one that allowed me to forget my worries and just listen to each caller’s story. After every shift, I left the room knowing that a teen somewhere felt just a little bit better that night, and that knowledge always made me feel better as well.

I’ve been answering phone calls as a Teen Line listener for a year, and after hearing some of the tragic stories of other teens—a girl who was placed into foster...

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