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There is a lot of criticism in the world, but we are our own worst critics. It’s easy following the negative path and going down the harmful road. But it’s even easier choosing positive choices.

My greatest value to the world is leading other peers that have been in my situation or worse and letting them know that “this is our story, this is what we’ve been through, but we can contribute so much more.” We let others put us down so much, but we can make choices to prove them wrong.

Life is what you make it. Yes, we struggle, go through the heat. But that’s just to make us a better person. The struggles we go through prepare us for the future that lies ahead.

Let go and receive. Receive and honor all of the gifts and blessings that God has brought your way. Recognize the blessings and let go of the past. Live for another day. I know that you’ve been through a lot, and I see that. But there are better ways to deal with your past than to keep on digesting it. Don’t continue to hold that grudge.

You have to give joy to receive joy. You have to remain positive. Be negative, and negative things are easy to come around. It may seem like you have more negative days than positive. Being positive can give you more power over your life.

What brings me joy? Accomplishing things that I never thought possible. Being a president of my mentor program, doing dance competitions, getting some of my poems published, being on the honor role. Being noticed. Feeling like I’m there and I’m a part of something.

A part of your health is being socially involved in your community. Being connected to other people makes you feel wanted. It makes you feel like it’s not just you in the world. You have someone else to lean on. You have someone to share your story with, to write a poem to. You have someone that has your back no matter what.

We need to realize that we ourselves are powerful beyond measure. When we connect to our community, we open ourselves to infinite possibilities.

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At the age of eight, Arreana was placed in foster care after experiencing neglect and abuse. Unfortunately, Arreana was not placed in the stable home that she so needed. She bounced from foster home to foster home and was assaulted in one. Eventually, she moved into Barat House, an all-girls home for youth in the foster care system.

Fortunately, someone at Barat House saw Arreana’s potential. “A mentor saw my leadership qualities and told me about the leadership training at AFG,” she remembers. At leadership training, Arreana learned about becoming a Peer Educator at Alternatives For Girls, a Detroit-based nonprofit serving homeless and at-risk girls and young women. As a Peer Educator, she would be able to reach out to other youth who had had similar experiences. Arreana decided to take the next step and applied to become a Peer Educator. She was quickly accepted.

Being a Peer Educator has allowed Arreana’s inner light to shine through. “It’s opened me up to a lot of new things,” she says with a smile. “It’s taught me to open up more, and to be an all-around positive person.” The experience has also benefitted her academically. “Before being a Peer Educator, I was always ‘academic,’ but my grades didn’t show it,” she remembers. She was always a 1.0 or 2.0 grade-point-average student, but this year she is up to a 3.3 GPA!

Not only has being a Peer Educator benefitted Arreana personally, it has also allowed her to help others. “My favorite part is talking to girls who’ve been in my situation and giving them health advice. Telling them that there is a better way,” she explains.

Arreana is now a senior in high school and is in the process of applying to colleges. She has now been made Team Leader of her Peer Educator team. At her school, she is involved in the mentoring program, is president of leadership training, and on yearbook committee. She is also a part of the Michigan Blue Babies Organization, a program that gives youth in the foster care system the opportunity to give back to their communities. She plans to study criminal justice and social work so that she can give back to others who are in similar situations to hers.

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