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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How a Best Friend Helps
Shateek Palmer

I’m used to people close to me leaving. I lost my family and went into foster care at age 9. I moved around a lot until I moved in with my aunt six years ago. Before then, I didn’t have many friendships because I didn’t stay anywhere for long. I’ve also had trouble trusting people to stay in my life.

Fortunately, I do have one friend I really trust. I met Amadou on the first day of 6th grade. I asked him if he wanted to have lunch together and he said yes, and we discovered we had a few classes together. Amadou seemed welcoming. I liked how he played around with the other students, and I felt that he could become a good friend.

As time went on we became closer and closer. We both played basketball and liked girls, but it was more than that. We understood each other. I could tell him that I was having a bad day and he could relate. He would tell me that he understood and he’d express his feelings to me in a way nobody else ever had. If I needed to talk to him about something, he would take a walk with me and let me talk.

We helped each other in other ways, too. I did better in math, but he did better in English, so we helped each other with schoolwork. He would come with me even to places that aren’t fun, like going to the store to buy clothes.

First Test of Friendship

But when we were in the 7th grade we had a fight. I was showing off in front of a girl I liked and I slapped Amadou and started to laugh. To my surprise, he attacked me, and then we began to fight. We both lost our tempers and forgot that we were friends while we fought.

I got in trouble for hitting him first, and I couldn’t come to school for four days. When I came back, I tried to talk to Amadou, but he wouldn’t talk to me. I was afraid I’d lost a wonderful friend. When it looked like he needed help in class and I had the answer, I’d ask if he needed help. He’d say, “Nah, I’m OK.” For our relationship to end like that was just crazy; I was really upset.

About a week later, he came up to me and said, “Yo, I understand you were trying to show off in front of what’s-her-name. I was just in a bad mood, but I’m sorry for fighting. We cool?” he asked.

I felt really happy that a fight couldn’t break our friendship apart. Before that, when I fought with someone, I never got them back as a friend. But Amadou told me that he missed having me around, so he forgave me.

Letting Each Other In

One sunny Saturday when we were in 8th grade, we went downtown together and saw a poster about a missing kid. The poster said to contact the boy’s father with any information. When Amadou read that, disappointment came onto his face. I said, “Yo, you OK? I know how it feels not to have a father around.”

Amadou didn’t talk for about 15 minutes, but then he finally said, “It’s not about having my father around. I just wish he was looking for me. Or that I could meet him to get information.” When he said that, my tears started to fall. I wanted to meet my father, too, and to know why he wasn’t around. At that moment, Amadou and I truly let each other into each other’s lives.

For instance, I told Amadou about my grandmother passing away and going into care. Just from the look on my face, he knew it was private, and he promised me that he would not tell anybody. He understood that I didn’t want other kids to tease me, like, “hahaha your parents don’t love you.”

Now we go to different high schools, but they’re near each other, so we see each other almost every day. On the weekends, we go to Times Square and try to talk to girls, go to the movies, and just hang out. We give each other money if we need it and help each other write essays for English class and poems to girls we like.

image by YC-Art Dept

The Fight I Wasn’t There For

Our relationship had another challenge this past summer, when I was 15. He took the subway with me one afternoon to my house, which was a 20-minute ride from his home in downtown Manhattan. But right when we got to my neighborhood, I found out that I had a basketball game. I asked him to watch the game, but he said he had to go home. “Yo, walk to me the train,” Amadou asked.

“I can’t; I have a basketball game, but call me when you get home,” I said with my face pointed to the basketball court.

“Aight,” Amadou said in a mad voice. After we parted ways, the game started and I was killing it. Then at halftime, somebody ran up and said, “Amadou’s getting jumped at the other court!” I ran over and saw people breaking up the fight. Amadou’s face had lumps on it, but he said he was OK.

Later that night, Amadou called and said, “Yo, why didn’t you help me?” I told him I didn’t know he was getting jumped, but he just cursed at me. I felt guilty because I’d invited him to my neighborhood and then didn’t hang out with him and didn’t even walk him to the train. Amadou stopped talking to me. For the second time, I was afraid that I had lost a great friendship.

Forgiven Twice

About four weeks later, I saw Amadou’s number calling my phone and I was so happy. He said he was sorry, and I said I was too. I was so happy that I got my friend back.

Then I was able to help him, about a month and a half later. Amadou told me he wanted to drop out of school. (We were in 10th grade.) He said it was stressful doing all the work and he just felt like it wasn’t for him. I felt the same way—school stressed me out, too. I couldn’t keep up with the homework, and when I saw my grades go down and down, I wanted to drop out because I thought I was going to fail anyway.

But I told Amadou that you couldn’t go anywhere without school. You can’t get a job that pays well and if you want to have a family, how will you provide for them? I told him I understood that school isn’t for everybody, but that he should stay for the sake of himself and his future family.

“You don’t want to live with your mother all your life, do you?” I asked.

“Hell no,” he replied.

“So just try at school, and help will come to you,” I said.

I think this conversation helped convince him to stay in school instead of following his other friends who dropped out just to smoke weed and drink. It also helped me realize that I need to do better in school too. The conversation encouraged both of us.

No matter what happens, Amadou and I have always found a way to get through it and become stronger and closer. Before Amadou became my friend I didn’t really care about school and other things because I was so angry about all the things that had happened to me. But when we talk about what’s on our minds, we give each other feedback about how to make it better. That’s really helped me.

Now I want Amadou to succeed because I want to be there in the adventure of his success. I know he wants me to succeed too, and that gives me more reason to be positive about my future.

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