The Sum of Our Parts, The Power of Our Togetherness

High school begins with a hallway full of familiar faces, but unfamiliar stories. There isn’t a guide that tells us how to deal with our problems, because everyone goes through different situations. I was never shy to speak about my story, but I did hide the way I felt inside.

It’s such a scary thing you know… having that fear that if you open up to the wrong person, they’ll go and tell the whole world what you dared never to let out. For a very long time, I felt that I couldn’t express these emotions, not even to my closet friends, because there was always a part I felt they could never understand. The emptiness, and hurt that I thought only I carried.

However, I was wrong.

When I first heard of Under A Tree, I didn’t think much of it. To be quite honest I was not as interested in joining as my friends were. But there I was, 11:50pm at night submitting the application that was due in 10 minutes. Little did I know my life was about to change.

There isn’t a perfect way for me to describe how impactful this organization—or as we like to call it— family has been. At first, I was very hesitant to speak up in the meetings. I was still getting myself situated with my mentors and fellows. Being that I love discussing controversial topics, I was very hooked on the conversations we held in the meetings. It wasn’t until our very first mandatory meeting that my eyes finally lit up.

In this meeting, Danny wanted all the fellows to discuss what burdens we carried and to write them down on notecards. For the burdens that we were ready to let go, there was a fire set up for us to toss them in. You had the choice of saying your burden out loud… and this is where it began.

One by one, each fellow went up and tossed their burden into the fire. Tears rolling down their faces. Before I knew it, I was in tears myself. That very night, I learned the importance of the common saying “Never judge a book by its cover.” I saw a side of each fellow that I’d never thought I’d see. That was when I realized that no matter how often I feel alone, I am never truly alone.

We help build each other in this family, we push for the best in each other, and we want to see each other succeed far beyond our struggles. This society can easily destroy you with its expectations of how smart someone should be or what is considered to be “pretty.” In this fellowship, you are not judged, you are simply viewed as being human because why have it any other way? Everything happens for a reason, I was placed in this family for a reason.

Individually we will each become the better version of ourselves, because as a whole, we are greater than anyone can imagine.

Angelique (Angie) Valdez is a senior at Somerset Academy in South Florida. She is described as a very hard-working and dedicated student. She cares deeply for her friends and family and always puts them first. Angie loves to be involved in her community and help in any way she can. She hopes to become a plastic surgeon one day and make her life on this earth count.