The Teen Issue

Students from Rainshadow contribute hopes, love and angst

Photographer Orion Hopkins is a student at Rainshadow Community Charter School.

Photographer Orion Hopkins is a student at Rainshadow Community Charter School.

More information about Rainshadow Community Charter School can be found at

The Reno News & Review devotes an issue each year to those people whose ages all end with the same suffix. Titularly and predictably, we call it The Teen Issue. We do it differently each year, but this year, while we were in the planning stages, Rainshadow Community Charter High School announced its doors would close—due to funding issues—unless it could raise some money. It was an emotional time for everyone at the school, and most of these pieces were created during the darkest period before the Redfield Foundation and an anonymous source came to the school's rescue.

Not surprisingly, the students took this opportunity to express their personal struggles, concerns in life and their personalities through their art and written work.

The donations are enough to keep the school open for at least another year, giving them time to come up with more funding. This school is not like the typical high school you see in movies. It's open four days a week to cut down transportation costs for students, and the school has special perks, like allowing students to sell the baked goods they made in the professional-quality kitchen at the school. Rainshadow is tailored to give students real world experience and get them out into the community.

Jeremiah Eck, 17 years old

“I picture myself in the next four years finishing my bachelor’s degree in forensic child psychology and working in a mental health firm that specializes in the mental health of children. I want to make a difference in the lives of kids.”


All of my life, I always felt that I was out of place in my own family. Being raised in a conservative, fundamentalist, non-denominational and later Southern Baptist home, I had a firm foundation on what was right and what was wrong. My father and I always had difficulty living under the same roof, and I could never define why. It was almost as if we were residing in two different realities, perpetually in conflict about the most insignificant things. My mother never felt it necessary to intervene, even though I would attempt to gather her thoughts on the situation, hoping to put my fingertips on some clarification.

On the 10th of April 2012, I told my parents that I was gay. They seemed to process the news with more support and acceptance than I expected. I was showered with hugs and told that not a single thing had changed—I was still their little Jeremiah, their little blonde-haired, green-eyed, intelligent boy. I would always be accepted, supported, loved and cared for. Though they did not agree with my lifestyle, they would help me with anything I might encounter on my journey to adulthood. I remember sitting on their bed in tears, shocked at being openly gay to my intensely Christian parents. It was astounding, and, for a moment, I felt appreciated and loved.     I noticed that my mother, who never spoke much to begin with, became unusually withdrawn and eerily quiet, as though she knew something was not right. She had the typical concerns about how my life was going to play out. Would being gay be more challenging? Would I be bullied in school? Would I be assaulted? Two days later, I think it literally hit my father, and he took a nose dive into the realm of severe hatred for homosexuals.     As I think back, I realize that this homosexual news shook his Christian beliefs, causing harmful outbursts. In a strained effort to “make me go straight,” my father began reading specific verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality. As hurtful as this was, I listened because I felt it was appropriate to understand his perspective. Over time, my father became more hostile. He began saying things to me like: “You’re going to hell … God doesn’t love you … You’re not my son …You’re such a disappointment … No one will love you … I never asked for a gay kid … There’s nowhere in the Bible where it says you have to love your kids unconditionally … I can’t stand to be around you anymore … What did I do wrong …” and many, many, many more.     We had just moved to a city outside Portland in February because my father had found a job in Oregon. I left all my friends in Reno. Moving to a new place I hadn’t visited, leaving all my friends and family, my school, my job and all that I had known my whole life was hard. I needed someone to talk to. This is when I became quite close with my grandmother.     My grandmother made it clear if I needed to leave, I would have a place to live in Reno with her. There were times we would talk on the phone for hours; she would listen attentively without judgment, and I felt like a person again, someone with worth and a future.

This environment of fighting, arguing, pain, lies, false hope and overall hostility became my life. I had a piano teacher in Oregon named Rhonda, and she was my sounding board. She was my everything. She offered small words of advice, support and even shelter if I needed it. But my dad and I had our final fight on August 4, and I needed to leave. I contacted my grandmother, and she told me she would figure it out and to hang tight. My parents, out of spite, I suppose, decided to cancel my piano lessons on Tuesday, August 7. My piano teacher called me and asked what was going on. I explained to her the situation, and she said that she would like to meet with me to say final goodbyes.

My grandparents were coming Friday at about noon to pick me and my things up. They arrived at 12:32 p.m., and I cannot even begin to describe how it felt to be safe. I was literally taken out of an abusive, dysfunctional, depressing home and saved.

However, because of people like Rhonda, Father Tom, my grandparents and family, I am strong enough to tell this story. Words cannot describe my gratitude towards the people who have helped me, especially my grandparents. The way they have taken me in and shown me unconditional love, support, acceptance and happiness is unbelievable. I was banished from my home, but now, I am able to help others understand that I have been where they have been. I am more than willing to show the kindness I have been shown. My name is Jeremiah Eck, and the feeling of salvation, liberation, unconditional love, support and acceptance is indescribable, and I know that, now, I am on the true journey of the pursuit of happiness.

Daniel Alvarenga, 18 years old

“In four years, I see myself being a part of New York’s fashion week as one of the biggest clothing designers to hit the stage. I will be designing clothes and also doing all types of art work because it has been my passion in life ever since I can remember.”

Married to the system

When he walks down the halls, what do you see?

A kid with nice clothes, nice shoes, and nice teeth;

Tattoos, Piercings, with absolutely no insecurites,

Quick to judge

seeing him get off the bus and jaywalk across the street.

You only see what’s on the outside and not the in;

Surprised when he smiles because you’re so used to a grin,

You didn’t know foster care took his life before he was ten,

Raising himself at nine years old;

A new journey he must begin.

Still in the single digits already living a life of sin,

T.H.C. and Krylon paint in his bloodstream making it thin;

Letting out his soul with a piece of paper in hand, along with a pen,

He can go crazy with five colors, some fat caps, and six hours to spend;

Cold nights in jail realizing graffiti and vandalism isn’t worth it in the end,

Changed his life around because he was tired of living in sin;

Thinking back on the past realizing,

Being an adult is now the journey he must begin.

Alejandra Chavez, 15 years old

“I see myself in college and working toward a career in cosmetology. I also see myself creating more poetry.”

Daddy Left Me

I know you didn’t care about life,

but you should have cared about your children and wife.

I was only four when I saw you walk out the door.

You ended up leaving and never coming back,

but good thing …

because you treated us like crap.

You were a horrible husband and father

you were never there, you never even bothered.

You said we were a waste of your time,

you didn’t even wanna share a dime.

You left us starving and crying;

I still can’t believe you did all that lying.

You treated my mother wrong;

you even showed my brother how to hit off a bong.

Still can’t believe you chose drugs over your own family.

It’s hard for me to say you’re my daddy

because you treated us so badly.

You promised me you would never go away because

“This time …”

you were here to stay.

You even told me I was

“Daddy’s little girl,”

but then why did you leave me again in this cold world?

I saw you beat my mom til I saw blood all over her nose.

Sometimes I thought you overdosed.

I saw you choke my mom til her face was turning blue.

My older brother ran into the room screaming:


You let my mother go, but before you did,

you told my mother to keep this on the down low.

My brothers and I ran to her to see if she was OK;

she told us she was fine but next time,

“Please stay away.”

I know my mother didn’t want us to see her cry,

because she felt like she was gonna die.

Later that night I could hear you fighting and screaming;

I was wishing I was just dreaming.

But no.

This was all a reality watching everything with my own eyes.

Didn’t you feel ashamed,

Dad, to watch your own children cry?

You left us too much pain and damage.

Just knowing what you did to my family …

it’s too hard to manage.

I know I have nothing nice to say

but it’s your fault ’cause you’re the one that went away.

I’m proud of my mother because she went through thick and thin

And now you’re sitting in the pen.

You’re the reason why I can’t trust any guy because

I’m scared that they’ll hurt or lie.

But my mother always told me,

“Be who you are, because when you don’t notice,

you’re gonna have the man of your life in your arms.”

I’m grateful to have a mother like mine

because she is always there to check if I am fine.

So thank you, Dad, for leaving …

’cause now I can finally chill down and start breathing.

Mckenna Davis,

17 years old

“In four years, I think I will be going to college and have a job. I also think I will be continuing my art as a hobby.”

Orion Storm Hopkins,16 years old

“In four years, my plan is to be in college, halfway through my degree in music. Music is my passion as well as writing and photography, so I also hope to be big enough in the Reno area that when someone hears my band’s name they’ll at least say something along the lines of: ’I think I know who that is!’”

Karolina Gamino, 16 years old

“In four years, I’ll have hopefully accomplished my career goal of being an architect, but my true drive is for art. I found my love of art through my fourth grade art teacher, Ray Valdez, whose astounding teaching skills have helped me express myself in a way that most people can’t.”

Maxwell Stahl, 18 years old

“What I believe I will be doing in the future is teaching music to spread the joy of music. I also plan on trying to start a career of being a freelance painter or a tattoo artist.”

Stuart Sorter, 14 years old

“In four years, I want to go to UNR to be a pyrotechnician. I also see myself living in a house down by the river.”