Alejandro Melguizo, 17

Alejandro Melguizo is a senior in high school from Chelsea, Massachusetts. He is very active in his high school extracurriculars—he's part of the hockey team, poetry club, and SquashBusters, a sport-based youth development program. Melguizo attributes his high school success and college ambitions to SquashBusters, saying that the mentoring program’s support and care for him helped him immensely through the college application process. While SquashBusters brought discipline and scholarly responsibility to Melguizo’s life, his involvement in the poetry club introduced him to amazing and inspiring people, which sometimes, he says, is all someone needs.

Melguizo is devoted to learning and developing ways to fight mass incarceration and help those in the prison system. His father was imprisoned and deported when Melguizo was only three years old, and his two uncles have been in and out of prison since they were young. Melguizo has seen the strain and impact of the prison-industrial complex on his own family throughout his life, and his heart goes out to other families who experience the same thing.

Melguizo plans on attending Northeastern University in the fall.



By Alejandro Melguizo


Back when my mom would work a lot, my brother and I would sleepover places

We would stay at tita’s house

And I would see my uncles,

We would stay at my uncle's apartment

And I would see my cousins,

We would stay at my sister’s apartment

And I would see my nieces and nephews,

Then, after my mom got a good paying job

We slowly drifted away from the family,

Our whole relationship depended on proximity...

I got to thinking that without my mom no one else loves me that much

Closest thing is my brother.

Between grandma’s house, the apartments, and home

We adapted to take care of each other.


I remember, a couple of summers ago, my mom became so adamant about me getting closer to the family

Like the family she had created all within herself wasn’t enough.

With the rest of my family I never felt the urge to force a relationship

Because even as a child I sensed things

I sensed the lack of love from the women

I sensed the men living in the moment

Something that scares me even now.

I guess they could block out the thoughts of the future

So that when they went away or got taken away it wouldn’t hurt as much.

The silence throughout all this spoke in layers

Like I wouldn’t notice my uncles disappearing

Like my feelings don’t need addressing because they don’t exist.

With each passing year, the more I realized, the more my truths become internalized.


In the United States the government will get you,

The money will get you, the danger will get you,

The drugs can make you.

As soon as you settle here

That is generations down the drain

I didn’t grow up in Colombia but I’ve seen it’s not much different.


I had an Uncle in Colombia, Tio Negro,

Thinking back now, I knew more about him

than I did any other of my aunts or uncles

His past follies

Scary stories my father told me about his youth

How he started smoking weed at the age of 12

How he bit the head off of a bat

How he drank pee that some punks gave him thinking it was beer,

He had fallen so far out of reach

My aunt, Tia Nelly, took care of him.

I remember him walking from his room to the balcony never saying a word to my brother or me,

All we could do was look at him and learn from fear

He died when he was 48…


My mother made me whole but she is still broken

If she dies I'm alone

But sometimes I feel like the only thing keeping us together

are those 9 months spent stuck to her

It’s an indescribable bond that made it so when my mind would wander at night I could bring myself to tears thinking about her death.

My heart can’t quite stretch farther than that.


Everytime my father calls he asks

when's the last time I’ve seen my sisters or their kids,

When I say sorry because it has been a long time

My father tells me, “Si no le nace esta bien”

Meaning if those caring thoughts aren’t born inside of me it's not my fault

Meaning if I don’t care for the rest of my family it's not my fault

Meaning care is not self induced its just born

I’ve learned to stretch my care

Push myself to love people who didn’t understand love.


Fear had always controlled me

From stories my mom told me about people losing themselves to drugs

From seeing the aftermath in my family

I knew to stay away from drugs,

I knew to not question some things,

I knew what not to do.