Destiny Jennings used to write her father letters when he was in jail. She started when she was about 7 years old, and kept writing until she was a young teen.
“Calla te, 17 today?” Baca said. “I’m honored.”
"You're my birthday present," Jennings told Baca in a classroom at the School of Extended Educational Options, an alternative high school for Pomona students at risk of dropping out.
Loya asked Baca to first sit down for a private conversation with Jennings and Bryan Velazquez, a Pomona student who Loya is home-schooling after a car accident that’s left him unable to use his right hand. Baca’s memoir A Place to Stand was assigned reading for Loya’s classes.
"To do bad things I had to force myself," Baca said. "It doesn't come naturally." After he started reading, he stopped wanting to fight — he wanted to preserve his eyes so he could use them to read, he told the students.
Jocelyn Zamora, 17, wants to study English or political science at Georgetown University. She attends the alternative Pomona high school because she was bullied at her last school. She enjoyed Baca's book, and she sat in the first row when Baca held a poetry-writing workshop for some of the students who wanted to stay back on Thursday.
During the workshop, Baca talked about how students should address that pain in their writing.
"Confront the people that disappointed you," he said. "Just be different. Be weird … Mira, the worst thing in the world is for you to be predictable."