Gabriela Romero, 15

Gabriela Romero is from Los Angeles, California, and enjoys activities that fill her with a sense of accomplishment, such as reading, running, and writing. When she is not running track or doing homework, Romero spends her time hiking and volunteering at 826LA, a creative writing and tutoring center. Volunteering at the tutoring center is especially gratifying for her, as it’s an opportunity to support a place and people that have supported her.

Writing allows Romero to imagine and construct new worlds and communicate her ideas effectively. She has been a finalist two years in a row for the Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate (2016 and 2017) and a guest speaker for Tell Me a Story, a 2017 fundraising event for 826LA. Romero draws inspiration from Benjamin Alire Sáenz, an American writer and poet whose writing style makes his characters come alive to Romero. She admires the accessibility and restraint of his prose, which she says gently simplifies the complex nature of humans.

Romero is a passionate proponent of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors act (DREAM), the elimination of which has put children who have lived in the United States all of their lives in a precarious situation. No matter their skill level, ability, or education attained, the elimination of the DREAM Act makes enrolling in higher education and professional occupations unreachable for the DREAMers who have grown up in the U.S. The lack of a pathway for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to obtain citizenship means that they are likely barred from applying for college and can be expelled from the country that they have grown to call home.


Cigarette Smoke

By Gabriela Romero


I see you

You left me for this.

Your head is thrown back,

your golden hair gleams,

and you’re scattering cigarette butts on the floor.

I look at the swings were we used to sit,


Obviously not anymore because I’m not cool enough for you.

I see the graffiti scattering the wall,

The bright hues that were once there are faded,

No longer there.

Instead your petty writing resides.

What happened to the place we called our second home?

What happened, of course,

Was your ignorant self.

The grass is muddy,

drowning in your foul smelling

alcoholic beverage

The air reeks of your stupid cigarette smoke.

I look from afar a winter breeze sweeping through,

and I wished it took me too.

Our place.

Not theirs.

The playground is littered with trash.

Nobody comes here anymore.

I wonder why?

You look over

We lock eyes.

I lean my head towards the mess she created.

Her perfect lips part in a “oh”

And without sparing her a second glance,

I look away and head back home.

Away from her wretched place.