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How poetry helped a Compton student survive trauma

In high school, Kimberly Cervantes, was assaulted on a public bus. In middle school, she witnessed the deaths of two students. Her mother and younger brother were once robbed at gunpoint at a convenience store.

That steady exposure to violence has led Cervantes, 19, to some dark places — at times, a crippling anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Now, in an unprecedented move, Cervantes and four other students are suing the Compton Unified School District, arguing that the trauma they have faced makes it difficult to learn and demanding that the district offer them additional support, in much the same way schools must accommodate students with autism, dyslexia and other disabilities.

Cervantes said that poetry helped her deal with trauma from these events and the derision she faced at school for being bisexual.

“One of the things that helped me with my depression was writing,” she said. “The way that negative things affected me, I brought into poetry and writing and it made me feel better about my situation.”

Watch Cervantes read her poem above or read it below. Find more of Cervantes’ story on tonight’s broadcast.

Guts

I consider myself a poet. A very good one, too.
And so I’d like to take this opportunity to share something with all of you.
All my friends have left me, because of one girl.
Who I felt was my everything, who I felt was my world.
When I was suicidal, I felt like it was the end.
And I would have been okay, if I only had a friend.
Friends can be deceiving.
I mean, I thought I had two or three.
But I found out that once I turned around, they would all make fun of me.
Because of how I looked, and how I wore my hair.
They made fun of where I lived, and the clothes that I would wear.
I felt so lonely, I wanted to quit.
I was so desperate, I was looking for friends on the internet.
My heart was cracking and my insecurities burst.
I was praying that life would get better, but it only got worse.
Listen everyone, what I’m really trying to say,
is that I hated getting up in the morning and going to school every day.
I sat in a room quiet, while everyone else was speaking.
I felt it was amazing, because no one knew what I was thinking.
But I was thinking, how life is hard, and how much harder it will get.
I was thinking, when will I find myself some real friends yet?
Because the moment I look down, that friend is gone.
And all I really longed for was, was a shoulder to lay on.
I struggled every day to convince myself to stay.
And I wanted to go, but there were so many things in my way.
My life was in constant danger, and I really needed saving,
Because death and escape was something both my heart was craving.
But please don’t fret, ’cause I’m no longer sad.
I figured being lonely isn’t all that bad.
And, no judgements made against me, and I guess I feel free.
And I can finally be who I want to be.
Trust that I am better, and I am doing my best.
I just have this one and only request.
Say hi to someone. Compliment them, too.
Because you have no idea what they could be going through.
I only wish that someone had done the same for me.
Wipe my tears and simply hold me.
But do that. Make someone smile, make someone glad.
Be the best friend that they have ever had.
Do it without hesitation, no if’s, and’s or but’s.
I know you all can do it, I know you all have guts.

Video produced by Justin Scuiletti. Watch the NewsHour tonight for more on Kimberly’s story.

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