Young man opens road of possibilities

Daniel Perez, a young man who has overcome depression and suicidal thoughts, wanted to break the silence, and therefore established his own non-profit organization, A Road of Possibilities, or AROP.

Perez said that his life spiraled out of control during the summer of his junior year in high school, when he was introduced to drugs. This led to alcohol abuse, which eventually led to an addiction to cocaine…all of which made his depression worse.

A few years ago, Midland encountered a short period of time in which approximately eight teens chose to take their lives. This was something which hit home for Perez.

“The last time I tried committing suicide was when I was going 100-110 mph on a straight road,” he said. “I came to a stop and that’s when I put one bullet in the chamber and spun it, holding to the gun to my head while still drinking from the bottle. I made up my mind on what I wanted to do. I was about to pull the trigger, when I got a message from my friend saying ‘I hope we are able to see each other this weekend, cause every time we try, we’re either too busy or something happens,” Perez said.

He knew then God was always watching over him and that everything happens for a reason. “I told myself that I needed to be a better role model to my brothers, and be a better person for myself,” he said. “When I decided I didn’t want to end my life, I got out of my car, held the gun away from me, and shot it and that’s when it went off. So if I hadn’t gotten that message at the exact same time that I was about to pull the trigger, I wouldn’t be here telling my story as an advocate.”

Perez said that his last suicide attempt led to the founding of his organization, A Road of Possibilities. The name derived from the thoughts he had as his car headed down a straight road at high speeds.

He said that all he saw during that moment was an endless road. Having overcome that, his perspective changed on that endless road.
He now looks at that road and sees what lays ahead…possibilities…endless possibilities.

“It was all the suicides that started happening in Midland that caught the attention of the media and really just touched home for me because I was there; I almost did it,” he said.“So, one night I was on the phone with one of my friends, and I just thought it would be a cool idea to start an organization just to help. It first started off as an anti-bulling page, and then as the months went on, it basically became an outlet for anyone that needed help.

Perez is hopeful and excited as his organization moves forward. “As of today I am working on some really big things,” he said. “I have a few speaking arrangements and I am working with people in different towns that have organizations such as mine, as well as musical artists that are wanting to help such an amazing cause. I am also working on events for this summer and the upcoming school year.”

Perez encourages anyone facing difficulties in life that seem overwhelming to speak up.

“If it’s not to your parents, tell a friend,” he said.“If not to a friend, reach out to someone. I promise there are people that are willing to listen. There’s so many resources out there that people should look into and know that they aren’t alone. Don’t keep anything in. Talk about it. Write about it. Just vent and try and seek help. Get a good support system around you. Take all the negativity in your life and just keep a positive outlook and never give up hope. Things get better.”

To get updates and be a part of what AROP is doing, Perez encourages people to stay in contact via Facebook’s and Instagram’s, A Road of Possibilities page.ARoadofPossibilities

Ministry Restores lives: Escaping the red light

At a very young age, Serey, was offered a job at a Manila department store. Filled with excitement and overwhelming joy, Serey was ready for her first day on the job. However, she soon came to realize that she wouldn’t be working in a department store, but instead a brothel, where she would be sold and forced to please the highest bidder.

Serey was a beautiful young Asian women who spoke English very well, which made her a popular target. Whereas many are abandoned by their family, Serey was blessed to have a family who deeply cared for her. Her father and brother, having heard nothing from her for a long while, located Serey and attempted to get her out of the brothel. However, their attempt failed, as they were blocked off and banned from entering the brothel house.

In 2008, Serey was rescued, set free, and brought to the Love146 home, after a police raid of the brothel. During her first few months in the home, all Serey ever did was cry. However, as time progressed, she regained her strength and began to open up and share her story, as well as participate in the activities that the Love146 home was offering.

“Eventually her real self emerged. It’s a beautiful self. It’s a self that is concerned for other people,” GundelinaVelazco PhD., director of Love146 Aftercare, said.

After rehabilitation had come to an end within the Love146 home, Serey was reunited with her family. In 2010, Serey got married. On Serey’s wedding day, she embraced her mother, hugged her, and began to sob. She was finally happy.

“When I would take customers, all I would think of was eating,” she said. “Even if I was ashamed of what I was doing, I would do it in order to live.”

Serey’s is just one of 1 million children who are exploited in the sex slave industry every year. While she is a survivor, many are not fortunate enough to make it out alive. Serey’s story has gripped the hearts of many people worldwide. One person who was touched by Serey’s story is a young woman named Lindsey Miller.

Miller participated in a two-year discipleship program known as Masters Commission; she holds a bachelor’s degree in Biblical counseling; and she is currently going back to school for a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. Miller works full time as a bookkeeper, and when she’s not working, she’s promoting Love146 through support letters, social media, and distribution of annual reports from previous years.

Miller first heard Serey’s story through Love146. “Love146 is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization geared toward the abolition of child sex slavery and exploitation around the world,” Miller said. She gained interest in such a movement when she attended the National Youth Convention of the Assemblies of God in Phoenix, Arizona.

She said a seed was planted in her heart for human trafficking at National Youth Convention in Phoenix. She said she was recently reminded of that seed and started to research programs that suited specifically what she felt like God wanted her to do. Miller said Love146 is that program.
Miller explained that she was looking for an organization that trained rescuers, offered counseling and education, and provided loving caregivers. Also the organization had to be passion-motivated rather than business-minded, and had or offer a mentorship program. She expressed that she has found every one of these in Love146.

Miller said she chose to make Love146 as she grew tired of living a life of no purpose.

“I realized that I was getting too complacent with my life. I wasn’t living for anything that mattered,” she said. “I wasn’t necessarily turning my back on God, but I was definitely distancing myself. I wasn’t going to church anymore. Work, eat, sleep. That was my daily schedule. I finally just asked God to give me something to tithe and donate to. A few days later, I found Love146 and found out I could create my own fundraiser.

I knew then that for the next year, Love146 was going to be my ministry,” Miller said.

“My personal goals are to simply make an impact in the United States for the cause of Christ. For Love146, I feel like $20,000 is a goal that God spoke loud and clear to me. That $20,000 can supply 2,000 kids with recreational activities, 800 kids with vocational training, and/or 400 kids with a high school education.”

Miller is very clear in her intentions – she simply wants to make a difference.

She encourages young people to stand up for something, to do their part, and to make a difference. Donations can be made online at, http://www.donate.love146.org/supportthechildren, or by mailing a check/money order (payable to Love146 – U.S.) to Love146 – U.S., P.O. Box 51683, Midland, TX 79710.

Film earns an “A”

How far would you go to defend your beliefs? This is the very question university student Josh Wheaten, played by Shane Harper, is forced to ask himself during his first class, philosophy I.

Philosophy professor Jeffery Raddison, played by Kevin Sorbo, challenges his students to declare, “God is dead.” Students who do so receive an A on that portion of the class; the students who fail at doing so must address the class and prove the existence of God.

Christians have been begging Hollywood to produce Christian-themed films. While there was a lot of controversy surrounding the weekend’s top grossing film, Noah, Hollywood was dead-on with the groundbreaking film, God’s Not Dead.

The movie’s cast played a significant role in the success of the film, which was the opening weekend’s number five film in the nation.
Soul Surfer’s Kevin Sorbo, Duck Dynasty’s Willie and Korie Robertson, and Good Luck Charlie’s Shane Harper made the movie what it was. Casting such characters was a very smart move made by director Harold Cronk. Including the Christian band Newsboys wasn’t a bad idea either, especially since their hit song God’s Not Dead turned into the anthem of the movie.

The makers of God’s Not Dead did an outstanding job of creating many different emotions throughout the movie. At certain parts you wanted to cry, other parts you were angry, and towards the end you just wanted to clap with excitement.

God’s Not Dead is a must see, Christian or not. The PG-rated film is relevant for any and every student pursuing an education, especially college students working their way through science courses. I haven’t seen a movie as powerful and eye-opening as God’s Not Dead.

Cyberbullying leads to depression

Taylor Hildridge is a young woman who received the gift of her dreams for her 17th birthday, her very own laptop.

What she thought would be the best gift in the world, turned out to be the worst gift of her life. With a new laptop came her social life on the web.

When her social life was attacked, Hildridge became filled with depression, which eventually led to her attempt at suicide.

Taylor Hildridge is a fictional character, played by Emily Osment in the ABC Family original film, Cyberbully, who took to the Internet to build her social life.

While her intentions were pure and she simply wanted to join the crowd, she ended up standing alone as she was left to face a cyberbully. After days of harassment and public embarrassment that stemmed from the rumors that were being spread about her online, the pressure became overwhelming and Hildridge decided she could no longer live with her situation.

She attempted to commit suicide by consuming an entire bottle of pills; however, her friend was able to come to her rescue before she made that irrational decision.

While this story may merely be a dramatic ABC Family presentation, these kinds of things happen every day, and most people have no idea it’s going on.

According to DoSomething.org, “Cyber bullying” is defined as a young person tormenting, threatening, harassing, or embarrassing another young person using the Internet or other technologies, like cell phones.

Victoria Garcia, a former victim that overcome cyber bullying, said she encountered bullying first in person and then online.

“Beginning high school was a struggle for me, as it would be for anyone. It all started with a boy, who brought many complications to my life. This guy had many friends that didn’t agree with his decision to talk to me. I had many of those girls bully me throughout my ninth grade year. They did anything and everything to tear me down,” Garcia said. “It first began with them telling me ugly things in the hallways. When that didn’t work, they began being aggressive and doing things like shoving me in the hallways. I remember being called “ugly” and “worthless” and even told to ‘go kill yourself.’ I remember just thinking how could people be so cruel and heartless?”

Sophia Quintela, a bullying survivor said, “Bullying plays a major role in my life. It has led me to the person I am today and who I hope to be in the future. Let’s go back to elementary days. ‘Fatty,’ ‘fatball,’ and ‘squishy’ were some of my nicknames. I was a chubby kid, what can I say, I loved food. Reason being, it was comfort for me at the time. Boys would walk around and make fun of me because I wore different style of clothes than every other girl. They would ask me out and then write me a little note saying ‘I was joking by the way. You’re too ugly or too fat to date.’ Some of those words are implanted in my head. I didn’t know what I was doing or what was going on. Why people treated me as if I were some kind of creature from another world. I was a kid. I was me. To them it wasn’t cool to be the real you,” Quintela said.

“I started to keep a journal, writing all of my feelings down because I felt as if no one knew what I was going through or I felt as if they couldn’t help me… as if I was the ‘Lost Cause.’ I put it in my backpack one day, and the bell rang for lunch and as I was walking into the cafeteria everyone started laughing at me, reading things in my journal, and making fun of me. I saw this boy who kept reading it out loud. As I tried to grab it he threw it to another boy. As it hit the table, it dropped to the floor and so did I. I knew I shouldn’t let them see me cry so I ran off into the bathroom and started bawling. Everyone knew me as the girl who lost it and retreated into the bathroom,” Quintela said. “Same thing would happen to me over and over again. It was always a joke to them.”

Garcia and Quintela are not alone.

According to DoSomething.org, “Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.” That is a very alarming number.
What’s more alarming is that bullying has hit the internet.

DoSomething.org says, “Nearly 43 percent of kids have been bullied online.
To 1 in 4 it has had it happened more than once.”

“It died down after I entered high school. However, it then rose into cyber bullying,” Quintela said.

She explained that people would take to social media sites such as Ask.fm, which is a website which enables someone to ask questions and make comments to people anonymously, to bully her.

“Once I met my boyfriend, Miguel, I wanted to get involved in a relationship with Christ. So, I did. Bullies on ask.fm would say my relationship was fake or that it was a phase and wasn’t going to last. People just didn’t like to see me happy and when I wasn’t, they still brought me down. I tried to find friends, but when I did they would turn around and talk bad about me. Most of those people at my high school had their own secrets. They put on a mask everyday just to be perfect. I didn’t. I never had a mask. That’s probably why I had so much bulling brought upon me. I stood my ground. I fought for myself, my education and my life.”

Garcia and Quinela both expressed how potentially harmful bullying can be.

DoSomething.org adds, “Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide.”

Garcia said, “You cannot hide from the bullying that goes on today or try to ignore it because this has led to many suicides. I coped with the harassment by telling myself the things they said about me weren’t true. I guess you can say I have pretty “thick skin.” I stuck through it all, I never let what they thought of me define me, but just because I stayed strong through it all doesn’t mean that everyone can, others are different and cope with things differently.

“Eventually, I decided I was done being treated as if I were worthless or some piece of gum on the concrete that everyone stepped on. Trying to survive throughout the day without crying or having thoughts of suicide wasn’t easy. I tried to kill myself twice, before I decided I was done having suicidal thoughts and depression.”

Bullying, both face to face and on the Internet, is very dangerous, illegal, and harmful.

“Some advice that I would give anyone who is being bullied is don’t let this define you. You know who you are better than anyone else, so why let someone else define you? Stay strong, because this doesn’t last forever; things change and in the end, the bully won’t matter at all. TELL SOMEONE. I know you don’t want to, but it will honestly help,” Garcia said.

Quintela added, “Talk to someone you trust. Tell them what’s going on. Be fearless and stand your ground. Don’t let them run you over or call you names. You are worth way more than any gold or silver you could imagine. Hold your head up high and succeed.”

“Life is more rewarding after you’ve completed school. Life goes on and we have a blessing to learn from it and move on. Be better, be bolder and be stronger,” she said.

Son of God no Passion of the Christ

Can you guess the top grossing Rated R film of all time? If you guessed The Passion of the Christ, you are correct. The film is a beautiful but graphic portrayal of the life and death of Jesus Christ.

The graphic scenes in the movie definitely highlighted the title of the film. The film, directed by Mel Gibson, captivated the hearts of its viewers in 2004.

Now, 10 years later, a new film attempting to top The Passion of the Christ has hit the theaters.

With more than 100 million viewers, The Bible series became the number one TV series of 2013, topping some of America’s favorites such as Duck Dynasty. Due to the hype and popularity created by the series, the directors and producers were compelled to deliver a movie.

The Son of God movie, starring Diogo Morgado as Jesus, begins with clips from The Bible, depicting biblical stories leading up to the birth of Jesus. The movie progresses very quickly from his birth to adulthood.

Most expected to see Jesus as a youngster preaching in the temple, as that is one of the major stories of the Bible.

Unfortunately, the movie omitted such a scene. However, the scenes that were shown were rather intriguing.

Watching Peter walk on water and seeing Pontius Pilot slay a man were two scenes that make the movie worth watching.

The death scene of Jesus was a success. It was not as breathtaking as The Passion’s version, but it definitely presented the message of his death very well.

The Son of God movie hit theaters late February. Whereas Passion of the Christ was centered on the death of Jesus, Son of God was centered on his life and his works. Son of God definitely fell short of the bar that was set by the 2004 film. Son of God gets an A for effort.

The beginning of the movie progressed very quickly, but towards the middle of the movie, it became very slow and drawn out. It felt like it was stretched to fill 138 minutes of movie time.

One aspect of Son of God that made it interested, was that viewers got to see the human side of Jesus that captured his followers.

While the movie may have been long enough to create some snores, it also did a good job of creating real emotion and tears from some of its viewers.

Some of the scenery presented in the film seemed was very poor. However, the movie did do a fantastic job creating certain scenes that look legitimate. Even the characters looked their part. In that area, I applaud writer and director of Son of God, Christopher Spencer for his work.

The movie did an excellent job of selecting actors that could very well play their character.

Overall, Son of God was adequate. The PG-13 rated film seemed to have a family friendly feel to it, which is very much unlike The Passion. The movie also failed in accuracy and did a poor job of moving its audience in comparison to The Passion.

Many viewers are likely to be disappointed. The exciting, upbeat trailers compelled viewers to watch the film.

However, the movie as a whole failed to deliver that same kind of excitement and passion.

ECHS students succeed at MC

While sitting in classes, Midland College students have noticed that they seem to be surrounded by students who look like high school students. Where did these students come from? How are they able to take college courses while in high school? The answer lies within a partnership between Early College High School at MC, a Midland Independent School District school, and MC.

ECHS opened in the fall of 2009 as a partnership between MISD and MC. The high school is located on the MC campus. “Students complete a rigorous academic program that includes both Pre-AP high school and college courses. At the same time, students are provided a framework of support with tutoring and mentoring that builds success,” said Karen Murdoch, ECHS principal.

In the spring semester of their eighth grade year, hundreds of Midland students begin the process of applying for the ECHS program. First, the student and their parents submit the application. Next the student and their parents are interviewed by the admissions panel who make the final selections. The process is finalized by the student and the parents signing a contract that details the commitments of being an ECHS student.

“Eighth grade students apply and are selected based on the Texas Education Agency’s criteria, which include economically disadvantaged students, minority students, English language learners and first generation students to attend college,” said Murdoch.

ECHS currently has 316 students. Approximately 1.3% of the student body is considered English Language Learners. 52.2% of the ECHS student body is considered economically disadvantaged. MC Dean of Enrollment Michael Chavez said, “ECHS breaks barriers.”

Economically disadvantaged students are able to attend because, “It is free to the students and parents. MISD and MC pay for the program, including all college tuition and textbooks,” said Murdoch.

How has ECHS affected Midland College? “ECHS has increased both enrollment rates by their attendance as well as graduation rates. Every year, we expect approximately 600 graduates, about 30 of which are ECHS students,” said Chavez. “ECHS is a good thing because it allows students to get an associate’s degree at the same time that they work to get a high school diploma. It’s also very cost effective. Ultimately, ECHS exposes students to higher education. The more exposure students have to higher education, the more influence they have on others to attend college.”

“I’ve heard professors say that ECHS students are more likely to answer questions, do their homework, and participate in class,” said Chavez.
ECHS appears to be an effective program, as approximately 30 students from ECHS’ Class of 2013 graduated from Midland College, while 86 graduated from ECHS.

In May, MC expects to have the same, if not higher, graduation rate from ECHS students as their graduating class of 2014 approaches graduation.

“ECHS not only benefits Midland College, but the community of Midland as a whole. Students are being challenged to behave, think, and work at a much higher level as they pursue an education,” stated Chavez.

Lindsey Pinkerton, ECHS’ senior seminar teacher said: “The students we have at ECHS are some of the most determined and dedicated young people I have ever come in contact with. I think it is awesome that they are getting their associates at such a young age. It will really help them get a head start in life.”

Chavez said the partnership has benefited the community as a whole. “Anytime we can partner with MISD, we benefit the community by encouraging success.”Karen Murdoch