The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "At 16, I’m Learning What Family Means"
At 16, I’m Learning What Family Means
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What Family Means: Not the TV Version

Read the Story: 10 minutes

As a group, read “At 16, I’m Learning What Family Means” by Selena Garcia on p. 27. Go around the room, taking turns reading aloud. (Let group members pass if they want to.)

Discussion: 15 minutes

Ask each teen to mark things Selena imagined about good families when she was living under abusive conditions (happy and united, playing games, eating dinner together, able to get through anything, would encourage her and her brother in school, someone who would wipe her tears and say “I’m here for you.”)

Then have them mark parts of the story where Selena actually experiences a good family, with the Garcias (“We’re your family now”; Gigi helping her fix her clothes up because Selena is her sister; Jenny explaining why it’s smarter not to fight; Selena realizing she has to behave better because she’s connected to people; making up with her sister).

Ask them if they can see a difference between the fantasies based on TV and the realities (in real life, people often fight and disagree and feel lousy before they work it out).

Writing Activity: 20 minutes

Have everyone write a short true scene of a family working together in a way that’s real and difficult, as opposed to TV-perfect. Suggest that it be something that surprised them, that at first they thought was going to divide people or even blow the family up, but ended up making them closer. It can be from their own family or foster family or from another family they know. Ask volunteers to share their scenes.
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