One 2-by-2-inch note sat in the "I-Want-To-Learn-About…" jar when I cleaned my Capital High School classroom last month. "Ms. W," it said, "Why do you stress me out? (with so much work)."

I'm not sure which Mother Tongue Project English III/IV student wrote this, but it could've been anyone. All of them surely felt this way during fourth quarter, when they worked on outlines plus four drafts of an essay. The assignment is simply a research paper in which one research strain is personal experience; but, really, the assignment is to go through the formidable process of brainstorming, researching, deep personal reflection, drafting, editing, editing, editing and refining a piece of writing.

It's not easy. For anyone. At any time. And Mother Tongue Project students are juggling parenting as well as high school.

Sometimes it feels like I push my students to the brink of dropping my class, if not school entirely, and then pull them back just in time. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it to push them this hard. But, of course, the question is not whether "it" is worth it, but whether they are, these young parents with whom I am lucky to work.

The answer is always yes. I ask a lot of them because, yes, they are worth it. Yes, they can accomplish great things. Teen parents get dismissed all the time—demeaned and pitied and told to give up or take an easy out. This helps no one. These students are worthy of our respect, our belief in their intelligence and abilities, our efforts and our high expectations.

My English students take on an arduous and meaningful task—and see it through to a finished product. The value of this cannot be underestimated, perhaps especially for young parents striving toward goals of high school graduation, college, careers and fulfilling their children's dreams as well as their own. In realms of parenting and studying, the satisfaction of completing something big is a rare pleasure, even though working at big things is a constant.

My writer-mama students deliver their essays in an annual, end-of-semester event, standing at the microphone before friends and classmates, family members, teachers, mentors, members of the Santa Fe community and, critically, their children.

Each young woman introduces her essay and begins to read, poised and articulate—even, as one student did this spring, with her daughter in her arms. She hears her own voice speak her words, her story, her ideas. When she looks up, she sees people listening to these words of hers, paying close attention and applauding.

Whatever happens next in the story of this young writer/mother/student, this is a life moment that she owns completely. It is hers to remind her that she is smart, thoughtful and persistent—that she can finish something big, that her voice is important and that people want to hear what she has to say.

It reminds those listening of these truths, too, and I hope publishing these essays here does the same for readers. (Lauren Whitehurst)

  • When Parents Fight, by Elizabeth Medina Ramirez
  • A Chain of Choices, by Lluliana Campos Veleta
  • Support that Works for Teen Parents, by Ruby Rocha Hernandez
  • Depression Affecting Teenage Girls, Single Mothers & Me, by Stephanie Solis Mendoza

When Parents Fight | by Elizabeth Medina Ramirez 

"Little eyes are watching and little ears are listening." – Sheri Glucoft Wong

The hardest part of my childhood was dealing with my parents' fighting. Screaming, bad language and broken windows and dishes frightened my siblings and me. Sometimes we woke up from those dreaming nights just to see what was happening with my parents. We would cry and yell to them to stop fighting, and we would hug each other. These moments were terrifying. They felt like how developmental psychologist Diana Divecha describes her childhood, how her "parent's fights could suck the oxygen out of a room."

My parents' fighting led to divorce, which was scary. At the same time, my siblings and I thought divorce might be better than them fighting over nothing but jealousy and disagreements. As Daniel J. DeNoon writes in "Kids Harmed When Parents Fight," divorce isn't necessarily the worst thing. He quotes Dr. Rebecca Jones of the Georgia School of Professional Psychology: "If children are experiencing a lot of fighting, especially if the children are drawn into those fights, that may be more harmful to their development than a divorce." For us, our parents' divorce made living arrangements and schedules more difficult, but our lives became calmer when we didn't have to listen to them screaming.

We still get stuck in the middle. Sometimes my mom thinks I love my dad more than her, or sometimes my dad thinks I love my mom more than him. It's not about who I love most because I love them both with all my heart. What it's about is that I don't want my siblings to have to keep going through my parents' drama. Also, now that I'm a mom, I don't want to fight with my partner in front of my baby, especially since I've learned how parents' conflicts can affect children's development.

Hostile conflict negatively affects infants and young children. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) reports, "From birth to age 3, stress can have an especially adverse effect on brain development." I've heard similar things in my parenting class and from home visitors: Babies feel distress when their parents feel distress.

This is important to know as a parent handling disagreements with a co-parent. According to University of Oregon research summarized in Science Daily, "infants from high conflict homes showed greater reactivity to very angry tone of voice in brain areas linked to stress and emotion regulation." Researchers "found that infants respond to angry tone of voice, even when they're asleep." In my family, I noticed that my baby sister was often the first one to wake up when my parents fought.

As babies grow up they start to copy the way their parents act. According to NAEYC, "What toddlers experience in their day-to-day lives forms their expectations for what constitutes appropriate behavior toward others." This means to me that parents need to be aware of whom they're fighting in front of and how they're fighting.

One job of parents is to model how to handle different feelings, according to Bethel Moges and Kristi Weber. In "Parental Influence on the Emotional Development of Children," they write, "A key aspect of emotional development in children is learning how to regulate emotions." In my family, I observed my little sister and brothers acting like my parents. One would be my dad, my sister would pretend to be my mom, and they would say what my parents said to each other. I thought it wasn't right that our parents' conflicts affected them so much. My siblings were not learning to regulate emotions in a healthy way.

School can be hard for kids who don´t know how to regulate their emotions. According to Shelby Bambino, contributing writer to New York University's Department of Applied Psychology OPUS (Online Publication of Undergraduate Studies), "Early school-aged children often exhibit social delays as a result of exposure to negative marital conflict." Looking back on my brother's experience in second grade, I wonder if this is something he was dealing with.

He didn't pay attention or behave well at school. He was one of those kids who pretended not to listen when you talked to him, who never did his homework or read or did anything but play video games. My brother is special to me, so I would talk to him and try to help him with homework or playing something besides violent video games. Unfortunately, he flunked second grade. This still makes me so sad, especially now that I wonder whether his reaction to our parents' fights was part of the problem.

Divecha writes that children of parents who have hostile interactions "can become distraught, worried, anxious and hopeless"; angry and aggressive; and get sick and have trouble sleeping. She says this kind of stress "can interfere with [kids'] ability to pay attention and create learning and academic problems at school." My stress about my parents made me scared to go to school. I couldn't concentrate on any subject because I couldn't forget my mom throwing stuff at my dad and breaking windows, my dad yelling back and using bad words, and my siblings crying and screaming at them to stop.

I tried different ways of dealing with the fights as the oldest sister, including comforting my siblings, running away and fighting with my brothers. The good thing I did was to hug my siblings and tell them everything would be all right and not to be scared because God is always with us. We would cry together and go to a quiet room to pray. Sometimes, my brother and I ran away to our secret place. We went there when our hearts felt broken and we didn't feel comfortable at home.

Other times, my siblings made me mad and I just hit them back. I was keeping the chain going by showing them that violence was okay. I realized at some point that hitting my brothers and sisters was part of seeing my mom hit my dad and throw stuff. I said to myself, "I'm doing wrong." Little by little, I stopped hurting them.

It's hard to know how to handle your parents' conflicts. Being around fighting all the time adds up. "As with younger children, adolescents who are exposed to negative marital conflict display detriments to their social, emotional, and cognitive development," writes Bambino. Her research review of "the developmental effects of negative marital conflict" talks about consequences for adolescents. They can include poor conflict-resolution skills, high aggression, increased anxiety and depression, more stress, emotional isolation and decreased academic achievement. When teenagers become adults, these effects and models of hostile conflict can hurt future relationships. Sometimes when my boyfriend and I fight, I find myself thinking that we're acting just like my parents.

It doesn't have to be this way, though. Fights are different than disagreements, and parents should avoid exposing kids to violence. The Georgia School of Professional Psychology's Jones says, "it is really important that children be shielded from the really difficult fights that parents sometimes need to have." Parents can also choose more positive conflict resolution strategies. As DeNoon writes, "Parental conflict wasn't a problem if the parents resolved their differences."

Now that I'm a mom, my goal is not to fight in front of my baby, or, at least, to try not to. Instead, I want to talk with my partner when we disagree. I prefer for us to have confidence in each other's parenting and for our son to watch us solve our problems. "Children learn that conflict is normal and healthy if resolved through communication," DeNoon writes. My partner and I can be better models for our baby if we use positive communication strategies.

Counselors can suggest these kinds of strategies and couples can notice what works for them. Divecha's article shares family therapist Sheri Glucoft Wong's Tips for Resolving Conflict": "Lead with empathy; give your partner the benefit of the doubt; remember that you're on the same team; constructive criticism only works when your partner can do something about what happened; and anything that needs to be said can be said with kindness." I have noticed that having disagreements inside the house doesn't help me communicate as kindly as I can when I am outside the house. So, if I'm fighting with my partner, it's a good idea for me to go take a walk.

When I reflect on what I have learned from doing this research and thinking about my childhood, I think it's made me feel more secure. I am more aware of strategies that help me be that person who communicates with kindness, that person who is a good role model for her family.

Elizabeth Medina Ramirez is a rising senior at Capital High School and will graduate in 2019. She plans to enroll in Santa Fe Community College to begin studying either nursing or education.

A Chain Of Choices | by Lluliana Campos Veleta   

Dropout! That's what I was known as: The girl who wasn't supposed to get anywhere, the girl who wouldn't ever have a good future. Since eighth grade, I thought school was boring, not important, just a waste of time and irrelevant to my future. Instead of focusing in class, I made plans to ditch. That's all my friends and I would talk about: skipping school and parties. My life was centered around ditching. At the beginning of my freshman year I dropped out. All I wanted to do was work and earn money.

A year later, I found out I was pregnant. Yup! I was a pregnant dropout. My whole life changed completely when I realized it was time to make a choice: the choice to have my baby and parent or to have an abortion.

I think the way people talk about choice in the United States is too narrow. As Esteli Juarez writes in in her essay "Choices" for the anthology Revolutionary Mothering, "Choice to me is not just about abortion, it's about all the choices." Choosing to become a mom made me realize that I can make decisions about all aspects of my life. It changed my perspective about school, my definition of healthy behavior and my realization that I could make better choices about communication. It has also meant choosing to be a responsible parent who is not only thinking about herself anymore.

Lluliana Campos Veleta and her son, Adrian
Lluliana Campos Veleta and her son, Adrian

This broader interpretation of the idea of choice is a concept known as "reproductive justice." Loretta J. Ross introduces Revolutionary Mothering by defining reproductive justice as "(1) The human right to not have a child. (2) The human right to have a child. (3) The human right to parent in a safe and healthy environment"(xvi). Reproductive justice is not just whether or not to have a baby. It is the choice to be an active parent and make choices about health, education, nutrition and the environment for my child. In making these choices, I have realized that I am an active agent of my own life and that I can make my own life choices about what comes next for me.

What I desire most is to give my child a good future and provide for both of us. In order to be able to do this, I need to further my education. The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) issued a report called "Let Her Learn" about "stopping school pushout for pregnant and parenting teens" that looked at more than 1,000 teen moms. Through multiple interviews, the NWLC found that "becoming a parent can be powerful motivator that encourages young women to focus on their and their children's futures."

This has been true for me. For example, once I became a mother I started to realize that school is important for my future so I that can become a good role model for my baby. I have even started to enjoy school now that my way of thinking and my perspective about school has changed. I have realized that I can change a lot just by changing my perspective and believing that I can accomplish what I want to do. This is the idea of self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is one's belief in her ability to succeed in specific situations or to accomplish a task. It plays a major role is how one approaches goals and challenges. To me, self-efficacy means my ability to direct how I react to a hard situation.

In her dissertation, "Teen Mother Perceptions of Support Program Influences on Self-efficacy, Parenting-efficacy, and School Success," educator Liliane Jamal interviewed several young mothers. When these young moms felt like they had a purpose in their lives it helped them develop more positive feelings of self-efficacy. Becoming a mother made me feel like I have a purpose for my life and it influences how I make my decisions. According to Jamal, "Efficacy beliefs determine the choices people make at important decisional points," and "Factors that influence choice behavior can profoundly affect the courses lives take." Having a strong sense of self-efficacy is important because it can mean you are more effective in directing your own life and more confident in making healthy choices.

Having healthy behaviors and making decisions about the ways I communicate was really important once I became a mother. In a similar way, one young mother that Jamal interviewed said that she changed her thoughts about "just how to care about yourself and care about what you're doing and how the chain reaction of things […] how would that affect my later life." The way I think and behave has changed because I really realized that I am modeling for my son how to react in hard situations, and I want to be more positive about interactions in my life.

I have chosen to be less aggressive with other people and more focused on what I really care about and what I really want to say. As Jamal reports, many young moms' "behaviors shifted away from being selfish, not listening to adults, and not being concerned for the well being of others, to becoming more aware of possible consequences of their actions." This kind of behavior is what I want to model for my son. Choosing to parent in this way has urged me to turn my life around from where it was headed.

The NWLC study found, "Girls who are pregnant and parenting in Let Her Learn Focus Groups also often felt that they had little control over their lives and had to constantly do things for other people." When I read this for the first time, my reaction was, "Nope this is not me. I am the opposite." In my case, I feel like I have more control over my life and I am less concerned about what other people think or want from me. I am proving to myself that I am able to make productive decisions about my life. The things I do, I do them for my child and for myself. My child motivates me to pursue my goals, which has helped me become more determined to accomplish them.

Becoming a mother gave me purpose, determination and a new sense of responsibility towards the present and my future. For me, making a choice about one thing in my life started a positive chain reaction. It made me realize that the only one who can make choices about my life is me. I am learning that my actions from my past do not have to define the mother I am going to be. Knowing this will keep influencing my life as a mother, a student and a young woman because I am more confident about where I am directing my life and in the choices I am making.

Lulliana Campos Veleta will graduate from Capital High School in 2019. She is looking forward to continuing her education at Santa Fe Community College and exploring different fields of study. Her favorite book is The Scarlet Letter.

Support That Works For Teen Parent Success | by Ruby Rocha Hernandez

Ruby Rocha Hernandez and her daughter, Avery
Ruby Rocha Hernandez and her daughter, Avery

Becoming a teen parent makes it harder to graduate from high school. We know this because only about 50 percent of teen moms in the United States earn a high school diploma. I know this on a personal level because I am really struggling to graduate next year from Capital High School (CHS). We also know that the right kinds of programs and support for teen moms can help increase these students' graduation rates, thanks to research by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) and others.

The NWLC's "Let Her Learn" report about "stopping school pushout for girls who are pregnant or parenting" indicates several meaningful supports, including making sure that schools follow Title IX requirements, understanding the importance of teacher-student relationships and providing on-site childcare. Once you become a teen parent, the decisions you make about school have a big impact on your ability to graduate—and how schools support teen parents affects how those parents make choices about school.

The federal civil-rights law Title IX "protects people from discrimination based on their sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance." What this means for parenting students is that we are entitled to the same educational rights and opportunities as anyone else. Support for parenting students makes us feel welcome at school and better able to pursue our goals. In reality, however, student parents do not get the same support that students with no kids get. At the same time, we do double the job.

The more I think about it, the more I think that student parents should have greater support than non-parenting students because a school is not only contributing to the student it is teaching, but to generations of a family because it's reaching both the parent and the child. The NWLC report suggests that "schools should be proactive in helping pregnant and parenting students succeed in school." To me, this means schools should spend more time with student-parents in order to more deeply understand their challenges. Teen parents are motivated to keep going to school because of whatever support they get there and because they know that graduating will help them give their kids a better future. But it's not easy.

I am lucky to have support at CHS, but "too often pregnant and parenting students face significant barriers or outright discrimination in school," says Galen Sherwin, an attorney at the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Sherwin is addressing a case in which a pregnant teen from Gallup, NM, was publicly humiliated by her principal and kicked out of school (ACLU). This is a severe example of shaming and school pushout, but less obvious shaming happens a lot. Discrimination negatively affects parents' self-esteem and their likelihood of attending school.

When I started high school, I didn't think relationships with my teachers were very important. Since I became a parent, however, my relationships with teachers have helped keep me on track academically and get the help I need. Unfortunately, many teachers don't have enough time to interact with students one-on-one, which is a really big issue. If education is just based on numbers, one hour of teaching a day and grading for big classes, then vulnerable students get lost. It is easier to develop better relationships with teachers when we are in smaller classes. These good relationships help us feel supported, care more about coming to class, and work out the flexibility we need to juggle parenting and school.

Flexibility is important because it gives us time to keep up with all of our responsibilities. According to "Educational resiliency in teen mothers" by Linnea Lynne Watson and Linda R. Vogel for Cogent Education, educators "have a responsibility to provide services such as safe school environments, supportive and encouraging teachers, and flexibility with their attendance, curriculum and alternative pathways to graduation for these young women." Parenting students have different schedules than non-parenting students: Our babies get sick, need to go to appointments and have daycare or school schedules that are different from ours. It's better for everyone when we feel safe coming to teachers about how to prioritize our challenges.

One flexible benefit for me is E2020, which is a web-based credit-recovery process called Edgenuity. Right now I am in the process of recovering half a credit for science. During summer school, I will recover other credits I am missing before my senior year starts.

Lack of childcare is a big reason that teen parents struggle with school. Last year, school was especially hard because I did not have childcare for my daughter. I didn't often come because of this, and it made everything difficult. My attendance affected my grades and I failed a class. Educator, writer and researcher Grace Chen looks at this issue in her article "Should Public School Provide Childcare for Teenage Parents?" She reports that childcare can do a lot to help student-parents reach their goal of graduation. In fact, the NWLC recommends that states commit to "funding childcare programs at or near secondary schools and structuring eligibility criteria for childcare subsidies so that they are easily accessible for student parents."

Now, my daughter attends Presbyterian Medical Services' Little Paws Early Head Start Center at CHS. This means I can drop her off where I attend school every day. To qualify for free daycare at Little Paws, students have to attend to school full time, our children have to attend at least 75 percent of the time, and we do in-kind work, which includes helping to clean up, organizing materials and volunteering for other tasks that keep the daycare in order. On-site, free childcare definitely helps with teen moms' attendance, which helps us keep up our grades.

Beyond aids like childcare, increased flexibility and teacher relationships, the NWLC recommends that young-parent support include "academic assistance as well as supportive services," such as "counselors and social workers, job training programs, and parenting education," as well as "mentoring and connections to outside resources that will help girls who are pregnant or parenting succeed in school."

I have gotten this kind of help in my GRADS class, which gives me information about how to become a better parent. GRADS stands for Graduation Reality And Dual-role Skills, and there are 28 New Mexico GRADS programs that served 510 students across the state in 2016-2017, including in Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS).

For the past two years, this program has helped me better understand my daughter's development and learn how to be there for her. GRADS is a big advantage for teen parents trying to learn more about how to take care of their children, not only because we learn more about being parents, but also because we get a great support system. Different experts visit the class, and we get ideas and support from other young parents.

My teacher and case managers are really important, too. They are always there to help out by being supportive and trying to understand our situations as parents and students. They are role models because they are the three most amazing women I have met. All three of them have pushed me to do better and work harder in school and not give up. GRADS has taught me that everything is possible and that I shouldn't give up because of any barriers in my way.

Another thing that has really helped me is having a mentor from Mother Tongue Project. According to Youth.gov, "Mentoring can help youth as they go through challenging life transitions, including dealing with stressful changes at home or transitioning to adulthood." My mentor was also a teen parent at Capital High School, and she is now a registered nurse at Christus St. Vincent Hospital and also studying to earn her bachelor's of science in nursing. When we met throughout the school year, she helped me with anything that I needed to finish, such as homework, classwork or figuring out personal issues.

The support I think will help me the most in my transition from high school to college and work is the GRADS program because it has helped me find daycare and manage the different kinds of work I do as a student and parent. I can also start seeking new resources for my next stage of life by staying in contact with teachers and mentors who have been supportive. I think these skills are some of what the NWLC means when they recommend that high schools "help student parents move on to postsecondary education or obtain employment after high school" because they help motivate us to graduate and give us tools we can use after graduation.

As a young mom, I think SFPS offers important supports for students like me. More can be done, however, to help parenting students get jobs after graduation so we can be more stable as we approach our futures. Also, I think we need more people and more young parents to advocate for parenting students so that more of us stay in school, graduate and realize we can still do what we want to do with our futures.

Ruby Rocha Hernandez is a rising senior at Capital High School and will graduate in 2019. She is an AVID student who plans to enroll in Santa Fe Community College to begin studying for a medical career.

Depression Affecting Teenage Girls, Single Mothers & Me | by Stephanie Solis Mendoza

Stephanie Solis Mendoza decorated her graduation cap with “Mommy did it!”
Stephanie Solis Mendoza decorated her graduation cap with “Mommy did it!”

This is what it feels like: It feels like hitting the ground so hard that I lose my breath and the only thing I can do is curl up. My uncle asked me, "How can a intelligent girl like you be suffering from depression?" It turns out that depression has nothing to do with intelligence. Depression is related to biochemistry, self esteem and environmental factors. Depression seriously affects millions of American women, but its nature and severity depend upon life stages and circumstances. For example, teenage girls and single mothers are considered at especially high risk of experiencing depression.

The percentage of teenage girls in the United States experiencing anxiety and depression has increased in the past decade, and girls are far more common to experience depression than boys. Writing for U.S. News and World Report[, David Levine addresses results from the 2009-2014 National Survey of Drug Use and Health revealing that "36.1 percent of girls reported depression, compared to 13.6 of boys who had their first onset of depression." That's more than a third of US teen girls.

So far, there is no conclusive evidence explaining why depression is more common in girls ages 12-18, but researchers have some ideas. Jacqueline Howard's article for CNN Health and Wellness, "This Might be Why Depression is Rising Among Teen Girls," summarizes some of these. "Adolescent girls may face more interpersonal stress—such as the stress of fighting with a family member or friend," she writes. There's also the fact that young teens are experiencing hormonal changes on top of intense social shifts. In addition to puberty and peer relationships, Howard and others point to cyberbullying, sexting and low self-esteem as being more common and more damaging among girls as young as 11. Rumination, or focusing intensely on the negative aspects of a conflict or source of sadness instead of on solutions, is also apparently more common among teen girls. In my experience and in observing my friends' experiences, these factors are real, affect daily life and create stress that can lead to depression.

Single mothers also have many stressors that affect their daily lives and can make them more likely to suffer from depression. According to counselor and writer Lisa La Rose, "Single mothers often bear the full responsibility for raising their kids, including financial support," and "may also neglect their own health because of their responsibilities." She addresses a "tremendous list of tasks for a single mother to balance" in a mental-healthcare web article titled "Single moms may be at higher risk for mental illnesses." Being the only parent can be overwhelming, and it's not surprising that single moms have little time to take care of themselves since parenting and household responsibilities have to be done and monthly payments need to be met.

On top of this reality, single moms get used to doing everything by themselves and like to believe that everything is okay and that they will be fine. "As single moms we have a tendency to downplay how overwhelmed we really are, and turn away support when it's offered," La Rose says. Single moms don't want to seem weak or feel useless. Unfortunately, this can mean that often they don't seek support and treatment when they need it.

Risk factors for depression among teen girls and single mothers can come together in the life of teen mothers. Here the factors are compounded. "Let Her Learn," a National Women's Law Center report on teen parents called "shows that a vast majority of girls who are pregnant or parenting experience symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder." This has been my experience. I am an eighteen-year-old single mother, full-time student and part-time employee. I am a mother who receives many inappropriate judgements from people I don't know; but negative comments from my family scar me more. The judgment and negative feedback many teen parents receive can start a downward spiral.

At the end of my junior year, I was dropped from Capital High School's Medical Pathway because my attendance and my grades had gone down. The day I found out, I felt I hit the floor. I stopped making school a priority. I stopped trying. I felt bad about myself. I felt I was a failure, that I had let my self down, and I was very angry. My heart was full of resentment.

My mother and teachers advised me to consider counseling therapy, but my response was, "I don't need it." I thought, "I've been dealing with everything myself so far. No one has ever been there for me when I've gone through breakdowns or when I feel tired and overwhelmed. No one is there when I'm having a very bad day and I feel I'm not enough as a mother, or when I get negative comments about my parenting skills when people really don't know how hard I try." I figured I'd made it this far without help, so I was fine.

I wasn't alone in this feeling. As Leah Campbell writes in "As a Single Parent, I Didn't Have the Luxury of Dealing With Depression," she didn't have time or space to "fall apart." "I didn't have the option of breaking," she writes. In my experience, feeling like I'm going to break makes me feel weaker, but pushing it away doesn't keep me from experiencing depression.

As days passed by, I felt more useless, exhausted, and grumpy. I began to push my family and friends away. I stopped going to school. I stopped trying. Finally, I realized I needed to do something about my depression: I needed help. I needed help because I was tired of oversleeping, sobbing almost every night, hurting myself, and pushing everyone away. I couldn't do it anymore.

In late November of last year, I had my first appointment with my therapist. She asked me questions, we talked a little and then I left. "Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy" with a licensed therapist, is a type of treatment used for mild depression. "[F]or moderate to severe depression, psychotherapy is often used along with antidepressant medications," according to Dr. Ranna Parekh for the American Psychiatric Association.

Talk therapy has been helpful for me. I kept going to my appointments every week and I stopped having breakdowns almost every day. I started to have some small conversations with one of my friends. My therapist's support and advice has helped me get back on my feet. Although I'm still battling depression, I feel less hopeless and more successful trying to balance school, work, and motherhood. I am getting ready for a fresh start: Capital High School graduation is May 25, and I will proudly cross that stage in my cap and gown to receive my diploma.

One thing that I have learned from struggling with depresion is that, even though I may go through tough times, nothing is impossible. Like me, one can hit the floor so hard and cry in silence, but it is for sure that once you get up, you can move forward, even if it means you have to crawl to get on your feet.

Stephanie Solis Mendoza graduated from Capital High School on May 25. She plans to enroll in Santa Fe Community College in the fall to learn more about her many interests, which range from medical studies to business to baking.

Resources

Depression can be difficult to identify if the person you think may be suffering does not open up to you, but you can look out for signs. If you notice a friend or loved one has experienced changes in moods or has lost interest in day-to-day activities, you can help him or her out by suggesting an appointment with a doctor so they can be helped properly.

Here are some local resources for people suffering from depression:

Presbyterian Medical Services Behavioral Health:  http://www.pmsnm.org/services/behavorial-health; 1-800-477-7633

The Sky Center:  http://nmsip.org/; 505-473-6191

Santa Fe County Health Services Division:  https://www.santafecountynm.gov/community_services/hhsd; 505-992-9849

La Familia Medical Center Behavioral Health:  http://www.lafamiliasf.org/services/behavioral/; Alto Street: 505-982-4425; Southside: 505-438-3195