Finding Community and Family: My Live in Peace Journey

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This is part two of a two-part series on the Live in Peace program. The first part is an overview of Live in Peace’s different community programs and services.

Para la versión en español de este artículo, haga clic aquí.

M-A can feel like such a big place sometimes, so it is important to find the little communities that you feel comfortable in. For me, one of those communities has been Live in Peace. 

When I was a sophomore in 2020, I was struggling a lot with school and grades, and my best friends were, too. Live in Peace provided us with a place we could do Zoom school. They also gave us food and provided transportation. I started to get to know everybody, and I felt such a warm embrace. Quarantine made me really shy, so it was hard for me to talk to other people, but Live in Peace helped because everyone is always so welcoming, and they want to hear from you and know who you are.

Lunch with friends after a college tour with Live in Peace.

I met a lot of new people in the community, and started improving my grades and doing much better in school. Live in Peace provided me with a life coach, who helped me get organized and see what I needed to get done for school. We talked about my mental health as well. It was really nice to have that outlet to express my emotions. I started to feel more like myself again. On Wednesday evenings, we would have Family Nights where everyone in the community comes together to have dinner and talk about who we want to become and how we can get there. We would also discuss college and its importance, different trades, relationships, East Palo Alto history, gentrification, and how to navigate through life. At first, I was sort of intimidated at Family Nights, but as I started to open up and talk more, I connected with other people and also started understanding myself better. 

At school, I used to be very scared to ask any of my teachers questions or for help on assignments because I felt like they weren’t going to provide any help. I was struggling a lot in some of my classes, and I remember one day at Live in Peace, my life coach sat down with me one-on-one. She was being very real with me and said, “I know it’s hard to ask for help but sometimes you need to. You’re having trouble right now and you need help from your teachers.” So from then on, I’ve been asking more questions and communicating more with teachers because of the advice and support I found through Live in Peace. 

Me before a jujitsu class in the Rogue Empire gym.

For the past two years, I’ve gone to Live in Peace every day after school. I get all my school work done either there or at the 49ers Academy, and I do extracurriculars through Live in Peace like jujitsu, boxing, taekwondo, working in the bike shop, and taking photos in the studio. I’m also on the Live in Peace leadership committee, where we help plan and volunteer at events by budgeting, gathering materials, networking, and creating flyers. I help plan the Harvest Festival, a Fall celebration at the Four Seasons Circle, and family nights. It can feel overwhelming at times, but I just like to take one little step at a time. 

​​There are so many opportunities out there, and every little interaction can lead to new experiences and new friends. I became friends with a football player at Family Night, and then I got to take photos on the football field at one of his games, which made me realize that I love photography. I’ve also been to two East Palo Alto City Council meetings through Live in Peace and met our mayor Lisa Gauthier. I learned more about my city and the status of it, about what needs improvement, what I can do to help, and what I need to be aware of. I have more knowledge of the many things that are happening around me. I think it’s really important to ground yourself, talk to other people around you, and just learn as much as you can about your community.

The best thing about Live In Peace is the connections and bonds you make with your life coaches and peers that turn into life-long relationships. I feel like my voice is heard there, and when I’m struggling, I know that there is someone who will be able to help me, whether it’s academically or mentally. I call some of the Live in Peace staff my uncles now because of how close we’ve gotten. We see each other as family because they have helped me so much by providing me with resources and support, and listening to me when I am having a hard time. They’ve helped me to grow into a better person and have better goals for myself. I could not imagine my life without them, and I am more than grateful for what they have done for me. I am grateful to Heather Starnes Logwood, Uncle Eugene Jackson, Uncle Ken Williams, and the whole staff.

If you are interested in joining one of Live in Peace’s programs, email info@liveinpeace.org or stop by 2524 Pulgas Ave, East Palo Alto. Visit their website to make a donation or volunteer to help support young people in the SWAG, GAP, and College Initiative programs.

Note: this article was written by senior Ash Dominguez Prudente (right), translated into Spanish by senior Estefania Piedrahita Gonzalez (left), and illustrated by senior Caroline Pecore (middle). Dominguez Prudente, Piedrahita Gonzalez, and Pecore are classmates in a Creative Writing course.

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