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Young Trailblazer Nominee

Gabriel Peterson

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Nominated By Shirley Martinez

My Black Colorado Interview

Youth on Topic – How are you dealing with COVID-19 – Life in Perspective

Gabriel Peterson – 18, Colorado Springs

I grew up in Colorado Springs with a side trip to Texas for a little while.  I went to Palmer High School with dual enrollment at Pikes Peak Community College. Because I did the dual enrollment, I was behind for high school graduation credits. I had to complete some of those a month later online. My teachers were flexible, so if we were satisfied with our grades and with a B in Math, A in Band, and A in English we did not have to complete any additional work. The school provided an in-person graduation, but I decided that if my family could not be there I would opt to graduate online, which I did in May 2020. I also received my Associate’s degree in summer 2020, which was a high achievement for me.

One of the proudest moments from my time in high school is the Apple Blossom Festival and Band competition.  This is a National Contest; bands come from all over for this competition.  When I was in 10th grade we did not place with our drumline.  So, I made it a goal and mission to work hard to be prepared for the next competition.  We worked harder with practices on weekends and after school with the band director and assistant band director.  In 2019, we received the best percussion award.  This competition is held in Canon City, Florence County area.  I also worked to get our drumline to play for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. event in downtown Colorado Springs, All Peoples Breakfast, the rally and march.

If there is one thing that people would say I was interested in it would be band or that I am music minded and was determined to find my way into some type of music education.  I am funny and try to cheer people up, especially if they are having a bad day.  One of my best qualities is that I am flexible and accommodating and can help people.

What has been your experience during the pandemic (i.e., your school year and beyond)?

Helping people is something I have wanted to do for a while.  I wanted to be a lawyer or prosecutor, to help people advocate for themselves.  This has been a dream since middle school – music and helping people.  With COVID going on I took a gut hit and needed to reevaluate what my priorities were.  I took a job and did not play music as much. I found myself working at Walmart and now at CaptionCall, working with people who are hard of hearing and the deaf community.  This helps them stay more connected to their community and families.  I dictate their calls to their family and for doctors’ appointments.  I also dictate the calls for 911 to translate.   I come from a military family; I have two brothers in the military, and my mother was in the military.  So, as a long term change I enlisted into the Marine Corps instead of going to college.

Of course, this was not plan number one.  This idea came more to the forefront with the impact of the pandemic.  I was contacted by a Marine Corps recruiter.  I did not know which I wanted to be, either National Guard or as a Reservist or go full enlistment in regular military life.  I leave for Boot Camp in July 2021.  Of course, my mom is good with it, she has been my biggest supporter.

As far as my music I let it fall off somewhat since I am getting ready to leave. I was in a small group called Black Diamond Percussion, but decided to leave that group as well.  Hard to get together with COVID.  Unfortunately, music has taken a back seat during the pandemic.  But I have been playing for fun and not as intense as before.  My hope is that I would get back into drumming someday.

I have also learned I need to have more patience.  This is not a strong suit of mine.  I am a perfectionist, and I want it done now and pretty much my way.  I have had to reel myself in and find the strength to develop and not rush into things.  I am also reaching out to people more, since I cannot see friends and family right now.  I have developed different communication skills during this crazy time.

Do you believe there is a duty of care for youth of today in their communities?

I think  youth of today are going to grow up and be in charge in the future.  Youth have a role because they will be our community leaders.

Is there advice, a tip, or habit you think young people can inculcate in daily life to be able to live and think better?

Really, in my perspective, focus on themselves first instead of others.  I know for me I would prioritize people before myself; it was physically and emotionally draining, especially during this pandemic.  We need to make sure that we are okay first. Some advice from my recruiter, Gunnery Sergeant Rodriguez, is that he noticed I was stressing out with work and going to school.  In late November, he said he was proud of me, but that I was taking on too much. He told me to step back and focus on myself more and stop worrying about things I cannot control.  Having someone tell you that you are doing the best you can help through the rough time.  Of course, your parents tell you all the time, but it really resonates when it is someone who is not in your household.

 What is one piece of advice adults need to hear to help them connect with the younger generation better?

Watch out for unrealistic expectations, and be more understanding about strict rules. Some adults grew up living in a strict environment.  I know they are hesitant to change because they have become uncomfortable with today.  Youth are not wanting to talk to our parents because we are scared to tell them what we are going through – from views on transgender identity, to binary identification, all the way to Black Lives Matter.  Adults who are more understanding and accepting have an easier time with connecting with the youth of today.  Communication is key and listening without any judgments is the number one part of that.

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