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'Learn from my pain,' says high school student | Schools

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'Learn from my pain,' says high school student
'Learn from my pain,' says high school student

Wesley Saeteurn, 17, is a senior at Gerber Jr./Sr. High School in the Sacramento County Office of Education and an editor of his school newspaper. He contributed this essay to The SacCounty Breeze, a collaboration of philanthropist Rowland Rebele, The Sacramento Bee, The Sacramento County Office of Education, and the California Scholastic Journalism Initiative.

For six years and counting I have lost someone very close to me to the system.

I was 11 years old when he was locked up in Lancaster in Los Angeles County. He will not be able to get out for another 12 years, minimum.

The feelings I have are hard to explain. I don't know why but when I think about it, it hurts. I get a burning sensation on my face, and I get filled with anger and regret.

I get to see him two to three times a year. It's hard to travel hundreds of miles to visit the one you love just to see him behind a window, but I don't show my real emotions. I always put on a fake smile for the hour I am given to see him.

I wish the things he did never happened. I blame myself for the things that happened, even though I didn't have the choice to stay by his side to keep him out of wrong, ridiculous choices.

Now he is not able to see his two nephews, who were born while he was in prison and a niece who is on the way. He isn't able to be there for his family. He isn't able to start his own family. I will keep this regret with me forever.

He wrote me a letter saying, "I have enough on my mind. I don't want to hear that you are in here or see you in here." He tells me to stay in school, stay off the streets, and keep a small circle because your friends won't be there for you through the hard times.

That gave me the motivation to move on. I have learned from what he did and will not follow in his footsteps.

I want to tell him something new about my success in every letter I write him, so I made that my goal. As of right now, I am succeeding.

I am the newspaper editor and a Leadership member of Gerber Jr./Sr. High. I am getting good grades, I am preparing to graduate high school soon, I am doing volunteer work and more as I continue to pursue my goal.

After graduation, I am planning to attend college until I am able to get into the Air Force. After a few years of learning and service, I would like to own a business so I can help my family and have everything ready for him when he is released.

The advice I would give to other teens is to avoid the legal system and use this experience as a learning tool and turn a negative into a positive.

It will hurt the close people around you if you are taken by the system.