My mom, dad and cousin have been incarcerated. Now, my little brother is locked-up and facing 15 to 30 years in prison. He is only nineteen years old. In so many ways, I believe it's my mom's fault because if she was there like she should have been, I believe that he would not be there today. It was hard to have a mother and then...not have a mother. I never really knew my father so how can I love him. For a long time I really hated my life. When I was younger I tried to talk to my cousins and some of my family about how I felt. They thought I was crazy and kept sending me to live with other family members. After a while, I guess they said "forget it" and they gave up hope for me. Then on of my relatives sexually assaulted me. I was so full of anger and pain. I joined NMVI when I was in the 9th grade at M. B. Smiley High School, Houston, TX. I knew I had to change or I was going to die. At first, I kept questioning...."why me"? But NMVI taught me that it was not my fault. Now I know and believe that it was not my fault. Today, I love me and I am still here, through all of the trauma, I am here. I made it through. I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor. Prison is not an option in my life.
Be'len Izquierdo, Past Class President, Veteran Member, 6 years