Boon (my name), means “lucky” in Thai. I used to despise my name. It was foreign and uncommon, mispronounced and abused with similar words like “boom” and “boob”, causing me to feel discomfort when I heard my own name. When I was in 6th grade, I came up with a new identity; “Tony”. Tony was everything I was, except that Tony was a lie. He wasn’t a nickname, rather just a way for me to hide my childish embarrassments. One day, a good friend of mine asked about my real name. I barely uttered, “Boon.” I’ll never forget what he replied to me next;

“For real?” he said. At first, my body tingled with shame. “That’s what I’m going to call you,” he continued.  From then on I understood, the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself.

Because the idle hands are the devil’s playground, I was always getting into trouble. Growing up without a father undoubtedly creates a magnet demanding attention. Without a role model, a person tends to follow others. I was always searching for a hint of approval.

I do have morals and principals, but one day I began doing things I didn’t believe in. Gaining respect for crimes that destroyed my image. My mother couldn’t deal with me. I buried great friendships. I was failing school. In and out of juvie and lost mentally. Then, it hit me! What will I do to make my life better?

To begin, I got enrolled into a WEX (work experience) project. My co-workers and I created our own tutoring and recreational activities program at the La Familia Counseling Center. Giving the youth in our community a safe, learning environment to spend their after school time. Honestly, I started off just doing my job. An employee doing what his employer asks. After spending time saving students from receiving F’s and giving out advice to kids who came to me with their life issues, I realized that I love this kind of work.

I also got involved with the Boys and Men of Color project, which hopes and aims to bring the young men of our communities together. Encouraging participants to work as one to make a difference in the lives of our youth while kick-starting towards a giant leap to improving education, health and safety is what it’s all about. Now, I’m proud to be involved with my community.

Recently, I’ve become a Neighborhood News Correspondent for I’m excited to be a part of something so different to what I’ve ever imagined myself doing. I see it as a welcome hand to stay actively involved with my community, a door to countless new experiences that shut out all my past mistakes as nothing but lessons. I’m hoping to outreach community events and inspire everyone in the neighborhood to get up, out and involved. I want to openly share my thoughts and opinions. Most importantly, I want to hear the voices of my community show the world, everyone can make a change.

Well, I guess I really am “Boon”, (lucky that is) to have an opportunity like this.