With the donation that PPSC receives from Speedway Children’s Charities we are able to provide mental health services to the youth of southern Sonoma county. Because of the economy we continue see an increase in requests for counseling services for the families residing at the family shelter and those out in the community. Our programs reaches out to children who are at risk of being abused or have been abused. This is an article written by one of our youth who participated in our counseling program, who had shown signs of potential abuse. He had publicly acted out; this call for attention got him in trouble. As part of his program he was required to make a public apology, which he did with the following article which was published in his school newspaper.

November 2009

Well, I want to start by introducing myself. My name is Federico. I go to high school in Petaluma. Some things I like to do are hanging out with friends and playing sports. But I’m going to talk about the thing that I like to do the most and that’s Art “Graffiti”.

I started doing graffiti like 2 years ago. Graffiti caught my eye because of all the nice and bright colors and the way people change up the letters to make it look nice.

But I’m really writing this because I want to tell you my experience with graffiti. I got into lots of trouble because I took my graffiti off paper and started doing it on walls. I now recognize that is wasn’t the right thing to do. I thought just because I saw people doing it in videos and they didn’t get caught, that I would get away with it like they did.

But I was wrong. Yes, I got caught like 2 months after I did it. It was the worst. I got caught on a Friday. The thing was that the next day was Saturday and I was going to take a 3-week vacation to Mexico. Yeah, I got called into the office. They asked me if I was doing the graffiti in school and I confessed that I was the one. It was too late, so I took responsibility for my own actions. I wasn’t going to lie when the principal already knew that I was responsible for the graffiti. I told him the times that I though I had done graffiti in school; it was about 16 or 17 times. The principal told me it was about what he counted. The principal looked at me in the eyes and said to me, “thanks for telling the truth.” Then the police officer came in and talked to me about what was going through my mind when tagging up the bathrooms. I said that I was just being stupid and nothing really was going through my mind – I just wasn’t thinking. Then the officer told me to stand up and I did. Then he told me that I was being arrested fro vandalism.

I was very disappointed because I never knew that I was ever going to be arrested at my age of 15. A lot of things were going through my mind when he put the handcuffs on my hands. “What are my parents going to say when they find out?” But the thing that was going through my mind was the most is that I messed up my life just because I wanted to write some stupid letters on a wall.

So he took me to Juvenile Hall. I was there for about 7 hours. It was very boring and I remember the time going very, very slowly. The only part that wasn’t boring was when they took my fingerprints. It was cool they get so many fingerprints from all over your hands. Oh, and all the time that I was there the people who worked there were very nice and respectful to me.

But then my parents came after 7 hours. I knew they weren’t going to be happy or proud for what I had done. They were really, really mad and the whole time when we were walking to the car they were screaming at me. They were saying, “Why did you do that?” and “What was going thought your mind?” I didn’t know what to say. All the time I was saying to myself that I messed up. It was a really bad and sad day for me and my parents. So we drove home and by the time we got there, they weren’t so mad any more. They took my phone away. But there were happy that this happened to me at this early age because this could be a lesson for me. If I were 18, I would have gone to jail.

So 3 weeks passed and I had already gotten back from Mexico and then I started a process with my counselor at Petaluma People Services Center. This is part of my sentence for my punishment. You have a meeting and you make a plan in how you are going to give back to the people you affected. It was either this or court. I chose this because I felt I had more control of what I was going to do. If I had gone to court, I would have had to do things that the judge wanted me to do. So I went to the meeting at PPSC and I did my plan with Pamela Clements my Therapist. She is the person that was going to help me do the plan and help me complete it with success. I had to do a lot of things. Like write letters to apologize to my parents and the principal. I had to complete my plan by December 30.

But look at me now! I did the things that I had to do extra early and I might finish the whole plan thing earlier than everyone thought. I’m really proud of myself for competing this plan with days to spare. But I could have never done this without all the love and support from my mom, dad, family and Pamela.

I hope my story has open your eyes and you won’t make the same mistakes I did. So always think twice and ask yourself if what you are doing is right.



Elece Hempel
Associate Executive Director
Petaluma People Services Center
1500 Petaluma Blvd. South, Suite A
Petaluma, CA 94952

Petaluma People Services Center, in our 36th year of service, is dedicated to improving the social and economic health of our community by providing programs that strengthen the dignity and self-sufficiency of the individual.