Let Me Keep Going

2 min

YR Media’s Xochtil Larios has been in and out of Juvenile Hall. Now she’s back, but in an entirely different way and with a sense of purpose.

When I was 13, I wrote an essay looking for my purpose. I asked, “How do I identify my passions, wishes and dreams? Maybe it’s about being remembered as somebody with a purpose and not just anybody.”

This was the year I first tried weed, when I almost got kicked out of school. I had already been arrested once.

I spent the next few years in and out of Juvenile Hall. I was still looking for my purpose. I was trying to pull myself out of this lifestyle, holding down a real job as a lifeguard and swim instructor. Then, I caught another charge.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m still traumatized by this experience. So I don’t want to say what happened exactly. But it led me to being incarcerated for more than 200 days. At the start of my time in Juvenile Hall, I was grieving. But then, I decided, Hell no, that’s the old me. They’re not going to get the best of me.

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Two other girls and I became the first young women in several years to graduate high school from inside Juvenile Hall. I completed packet after packet of study guides. It wasn’t easy. For geometry, I wasn’t allowed to have a ruler in my cell, so I used my hair for measurements.

I was an exception to the system. I never thought I’d accomplish these milestones.

I have been out now for a year. I feel extremely lucky. I’m in college. Now, I’m back in Juvenile Hall, but not as an inmate. I’m a youth commissioner. I sit in meetings with probation officers, the D.A., the public defender’s office, and judges. I insist that people working within the system treat incarcerated youth more humanely.

I tell other girls in the system: “Your life is still going. This is not a stop, not a pause.” I didn’t ever say, “Let me restart my life,” because my life was happening in Juvenile Hall.

Instead, I told myself, “Let me keep going.”

With a Perspective, I’m Xochtil Larios.

Xochtil Larios is 19 and goes to college in Oakland. Her Perspective was produced by Youth Radio's new network of journalists and artists, now called YR Media.