During these last few years here at Spencer Van Etten,

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During these last few years here at Spencer Van Etten, we have learn various characteristics that we all follow but never really understood until twelfth grade English class. Two characteristics that I have improved on are Honesty/Integrity and willing to serve others. Two that I need to improve on is responsible behavior and social skills. I believe that I have improved on Honesty/Integrity this year because of many reasons. First, since my teen years, I used to lie about my grades and things I did to get in trouble. Second, I started to feel obligated to follow the rules and to be a straightforward student because I figure; am I going to do this later in life such as college or work? I have really improved on willing to serve others because of many reasons. First, I used to be shy and second, I did things to feel like I was part of the group.

To better explain my characteristics, I will talk about my life until I started school at Spencer Van Etten.

Where do I start? It all started on July 13, 1984 when my mother gave birth to me in Hayward California. I grew up in the Bay Area and started music and dance classes at the age of two. My grandparents and parents wanted me to be a child prodigy. They bought a piano, violins and other musical instruments for me to learn. In other words, they literally wanted me to be like a Fred Astare or Gene Kelly. I went to tap and jazz lessons until I was four.

At the age of four, my uncle inspired me to play baseball. When he was in college, he was a starting shortstop for the Cal Poly State. After College, he was the number 3-draft pick to the Oakland Athletics. He taught me to play and work Cruz 2 hard at whatever I do. In the off-season, he blew out his knee but recovered and played at various semi-pro teams.

When I started parochial school, I was placed in advanced classes and attended a program named Gate, which was a program for gifted children. The gate program put children that learn quicker in a school to learn about computers and advanced studies. I played on the school baseball team and soccer team from kindergarten until second grade. I still played music and sports because my parents did not want me in the streets to become some "hoodlum" or "drug-pusher".

In the summer of 93', my father was laid-off and wanted our family to move back to his home state of New York. We packed our things and moved to New York that winter. We arrived in Spencer and I attended school at the Elementary school.

My life, up to moving to New York, has been a much "-nurtured" one, in a sense that I did not really have time to play with other kids except at baseball or soccer. I never really went outside to play, ride a bike, or just hang out with the other kids in the neighborhood. I was shy and had trouble speaking in front of people. That is until I arrived at Spencer.

Starting school in Spencer changed my life in a way that there were no gangs, there was less crime, it was a small community, and there was a great deal of parental support. My grades improved because I actually had a one-on-one experience with teachers as to where I was taught to listen once and learn it.

Cruz 3 I had time to play with new friends after-school and my parents did not have to worry where I was, whom I was hanging around with, or even what time of the day it was.

When I started school in the high school, some things started to change. I started hanging around with different people, I gained some new friends but also lost some friends, I started playing more sports, and I was more involved with extra-curricular activities such as band and chorus. I enjoyed being part of the sports teams and I enjoyed being part of the rest of the class.

Honesty/Integrity has been the best characteristic that I have improved on throughout this year. I have show this trough Mr. Lewis's class because there is no "yes, I did it", it is a "yeah, and I'm from Missouri". In other words, either you have your things done or you don't no bullshit. However, before this year, I never did this. At the start of ninth grade, I used to lie and cheat about many things such as homework being done, cheating on test, reading a book, going places with friends, and even about my grades. For instance, in eleventh grade, in Mr. Padgett's class, we had to read Sister Carrie and Huckleberry Finn. I never read those books. I do not even think I even opened them. For the tests, I just cheated off another person's paper and for the papers, I used to go to a website online and copy the papers to use for myself. I got decent grades but I still felt guilty for cheating while mostly everyone else wrote their own paper by themselves. I used to use homework or class work from the day before and show it to the teachers Cruz 4 to get credit for the day. I used to use papers that have already been done and use them to get credit for writing a rough draft.

I also acted this way towards my parents for a time. One time I was having a hard time in math and I was getting a letter home informing my parents about my grades and efforts in class. So everyday I went to the mailbox before my mom would get the mail and finally one day, it came and I took the letter. Little did I know that teachers usually call home as well as send a letter and my mother had already received the news. My mother asked if I had good grades in my classes and I, like any other kid that did not want to get in trouble, told her I did. Then she knew that I just lied right to her face and she became livid. I was punished and I never have done that again.

I believe that I have improved my Honesty/Integrity a lot this year and it all happened because of my parents and Mr. Lewis. On the first day of class, Mr. Lewis asks us all a question. He asked," Are you ready"? This made me think about what I really need to do in order to be successful in school next year. This year I tried hard to get good grades, I did all my homework, and I read all of the readings. This year was the first that I have received a 94 in English throughout my high school career.

I have also improved on willing to serve others, which was very hard for me to do before I entered the high school. In elementary school, I was very shy when it came to speaking in front of my peers and teachers. It was very hard for Cruz 5 my parents to understand because when I was younger, I always wanted to be the center of attention. My sisters and I always sang, danced, played instruments, and even acted in front of our family at birthdays, holidays and just for the fun of it. But for some reason, after we left California, I just because shy and uncomfortable with being in front of people presenting or even talking out loud. For instance, in elementary school, we used to read aloud to improve our reading. Therefore, like everyone else, I eventually had to read aloud. When I started if felt as if I had spoke load enough but I ended up just whispering to myself. I was very shy and always had a red face when I had to do something in front of the class. Nevertheless, as soon as I entered the high school, I began to loosen up and I was like everyone else when it came to peer-to-peer presentations.

During my years here at SVE, I have always been part of a sport or extra-curricular activity, which helped me improve my willing to serve others characteristic. I say that because I was always willing to be at practice, I always wanted to do well for the team, and I always came in to school early to play for the stage band. I always knew that if I put a hundred and ten percent into my studies, my group, or my team, I would have done the best for them and myself.

An example of doing my best was when I played at the concert this last Tuesday night. I was part of stage band in the rhythm section in which I played the drums. This last year, the seniors were given solos for the last concert of the year. My solo was on a very famous jazz song named "Sing, Sing, Sing". It Cruz 6 involved a drum solo that required being very long and when I practice it, it was very difficult for me to play and I thought that I would never get to get it down before the concert came. Therefore, the day of the concert came and I was still having difficulty playing it because it was not written down and I basically just had to make it up. So, when we started playing I rather thought to myself, "What in the hell do I have to lose if I do not get this right? I'm just gonna play the hell out of it and it will be good enough". When my solo came up on the song, I just went crazy. I started to remember all the lesson I took when I was younger, I started thinking about what the original drummer of the song played, and I even started to think of what the people would think after my solo. I guess it was good because everyone in that auditorium was either yelling in amazement or giving me a standing ovation. I felt very proud of my group and myself, that we have done so well that night and for the last few years.

Responsible behavior has sometime and sometimes has not been my best characteristic in high school. I know that I have to improve on my behaviors because they might lead me to not finishing school or help make me become someone I do not want to be. Where do I start for this? In eighth grade, I wanted to be cool and hangout with all the cool kids in class. Their hangout was the upper library where the CLC is now located. I started hanging out with the Smiths, Mike Chaffee, Cody Maine, Ian Grippo, and Matt Parshal to name a few. When I was invited to go to Cody's house that summer, I told my parents he was having a birthday party which was really a Cruz 7 drinking party. My parents gave me money to give to Cody, in which we used to buy some alcohol and weed. Yes, marijuana. I guess we all thought it all to be cool and smoke weed because all the older kids were doing it and especially because we all wanted to fit in. That is when it all started. After that fist time smoking, I never did it again but the drinking just kept happening repeatedly. In ninth grade, I started chugging and binge drinking which some nights I though I would die. All this because I just wanted to fit in and be cool. After our JV football season in 99' and 00', we all headed to the presher's house where we all drank until we passed out. Last year, during basketball though, was the worst behavior I have had in my life. The night after our championship game, we all went over to Brad's house and get drunk. We all were pretty "tanked" but the worst thing was that we all got in the car, drunk, and rode around Spencer and Van Etten. I have done some bad things in my life and that one topped them all. Ever since it happened, I have never talked about it or even thought about it because I felt how stupid I was to do such a thing. We all could have died, just to be idiots and we just should have slept it off.

I think my behaviors this year were good and that I still need to improve because there is just so many things that can happen to a person, even if you think it will be fun or thrilling. I started to drink at a very young age, I used some illegal substances, and I have played with life and death. I need to improve my behaviors before I go to college because I was to be successful and I do not want to let my parents down.

Cruz 8 Another characteristic that I need to improve on is social skills. Social skills, like when I had trouble reading, have improved in a way but I still need to improve. Since the beginning of high school, I started loosening up and I started talking to people that I have never talk to before. Ever since high school though, I started to swear a lot. I guess it was supposed to make you cool or something but to think about, I think it just made us look and sound like a fool. I can remember one time I was talking to my friend Paul at an outside basketball court and we started making impressions about a movie called, "White men can't jump". We remember a part in the movie we one guy wants the other one to shoot the ball and vice versa. While they are throwing the ball violently to each other, they are calling each other obscene names. Paul and I started doing this but it offended other people at the park and was asked to stop at once or leave the park. We did not want the people to be mad at us so we stopped, left, and realized what the people must think about us; "What evil children and what their parents must have to deal with". I never wanted to do something like that again because I do not want people to think that I am a bad person. I just had bad taste in comedy and did not realize what other people would feel about my actions.

I need to improve on my social skills because I do not want to act this way in front of people at college. I do not want to offend anybody because I say something that harms or endangers their social life.

Throughout my high school career, I have and some ups and downs but they all leaded me to the right direction and I am going to graduate from a wonderful high school that I have enjoyed. I know other people that have done things like me but I believe that we all need to fall on our face by ourselves if we are not going to listen to our parents, teachers, or peers. I had a wonderful time here and I hope I can improve on all my characteristics that makes me the person I am today.