At seven o’clock in the morning, Jaden’s alarm clock goes off. After pressing the snooze button twice, Jaden finally gets up and gets ready for school. “Jaden” He hears his mom yell. He wonders to himself “Maybe she’ll forget if I ignore her”. Ten seconds later in a stern voice, he hears his mom yell “Jaden Christopher Rodriguez!” He rushes downstairs and says “I was in the shower, mom”. Jaden’s mom can smell a lie a mile away. She replies, “You can just lie on an empty stomach? Impressive. I called you down here because you got more college letters”. As she motions her head in the direction of the letters, she says to him “Now you know it’s just me right? Just one income paying for your tuition. I know you have big dreams and I support them one hundred percent, but USC is one of the most expensive schools in the nation. If this is what you want, you need to pick up more hours at work.” Opening the letters one by one and barley listening to his mom, he whispered “I got in”. His mom didn’t hear him so she asked “Did you hear anything I just said?” He repeated himself in a louder tone “I got in. I got into USC”. She hugs and congratulates him. Jaden’s mom grabs his face and says “Mi amor, this is what you always wanted. Now you need to work hard for those scholarships and put in those extra hours.” His mom can see the joy that was on his face one minute ago, has disappeared. “Tell me what’s wrong, Jaden” she demands. He turns and looks at her and says “It’s just that I’ve realized that it will be close to impossible to get this money. I can only work so many hours and maintain my GPA. He stands up, but before leaving the room he says “I’m going to apply to Eastern Arizona community college after school”.
Jaden and his mother live in a neighborhood where gang violence is not uncommon. As Jaden is walking to school he notices a group of guys and maybe two girls. It was hard to tell which one, but he could tell it was a gang. As he gets closer, he notices one of the of the gang members is one of his old friends from middle school. He doesn’t know if it is a good idea or not to speak to his friend, Jorge, while he’s with his gang. Jorge spots Jaden and they make eye contact. Jorge yells “Jaden! Get your ass over here.” A little nervous, Jaden walks over. “How have you been, man? It’s been years bro”. Jaden tries to think of a semi cool answer, to fit in. He respond with “Ya know dude, just been chilling and what not bro. Just living my life.” The other guys behind Jorge start to chuckle. “Ignore them. Let’s go talk over there” Jorge says. They walk away from the group and Jorge asks “So really, how have you been?” Jaden responds by saying “I mean, not terrible. Things have been hard ever since my dad died. What have you been up to? How’s your mom?” Jorge shrugs and says “I’ve just been chilling. I’m mostly with my” He motions towards the gang then says “them. Ion’ really go to school no more. Moms is good. I mean… I do what I got to do to take care of her.” After asking Jaden a bunch of questions about his family and their old friends, Jorge asks “Shouldn’t you be about to go to college?” Jaden gets noticeably tense and says “Yeah I am. I have no clue if I’m going.” Jorge looks confused and says “Wait dude, what are you talking about? You were always the smartest in every class.” Jaden starts to feel a lump form in his throat and as tries to stop the tears he says “We just can’t afford it.” Jorge looks away as if he’s trying to think of something to say. After a few moments he says “In two days, meet me at the corner of Elm and Washington Street after you get out of school.” He pauses for a second and says “Around three.” Jaden did not understand why Jorge would want to meet up with him, but he did not think much about it and just went about his day.
The next day, when Jaden woke up to get ready for school, he checked his phone. He saw that he received an email from the financial aid office at USC. He does not know what to expect. When he opens the email, he is surprised to see that he was awarded a full ride to USC. He drops his phone and just stares at it. After a couple of seconds, he screams “Mom!” and runs downstairs to go give her the good news. His mom starts crying and thanking God when she hears the news. When Jaden is on his way to school, he looks for Jorge to share the great news. He didn’t see him with the group that he was with the day before. He didn’t care too much because he was so excited about what the email meant about his future.
It was now the day that Jaden and Jorge were supposed to meet up after school. Jaden arrived at the street before Jorge did. While Jaden was waiting, he was thinking of clever ways to tell him the news. He didn’t just want to jump into that. He finally sees Jorge running towards him. Every couple of seconds, Jorge would look back to check if someone was following him. Jaden saw that Jorge was carrying a backpack. When Jorge made it to Jaden he shoved him the backpack and said “I did this because I know you will make a difference in the world when you graduate college”. As Jorge is saying this, Jaden looks into the backpack and sees a large stash of money. Then Jorge kept running down the street. Before Jaden could even process what just happened, he looked up and saw three police cars pull up alongside of him. Jaden drops the bag and puts his arms in the sky.