“When I came here I was alone.  I was sixteen and didn’t speak…

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“When I came here I was alone.  I was sixteen and didn’t speak any English.  I remember on the first day of school, some guy was making fun of my younger brother and I punched him.  A few guys saw what was happening and ran down the hall to help.  They backed me up.  And afterward, they said: ‘We want you to join our group.’  So I started hanging out with them.  There were a lot of parties and girls.  It wasn’t bad at first.  A few times they asked me to punch someone in the mouth.  But the farther I got in, the crazier shit got.  I started using rocks and bats on people.  I just followed orders and never asked questions.  Then one day they asked me to attack a guy from our gang.  He was one of us.  And they wouldn’t even tell me why.  I realized that if they’d do it to him, they’d do it to me too.  So I left.  Whenever I see kids in the street now, I try to tell them: ‘Go back home.  Listen to your family.  Cause if anything happens— if you end up in the hospital or in jail, nobody from your gang will visit you.  And if you get killed, they won’t be the ones crying.”