"PLEASE forgive us thugs/cowards, because we're stupid.

"We wake up in the worst situation you can imagine. There is no love or discipline where we come from. Our mommas are ignorant when it comes to education, love, respect or discipline. I'm in the streets from morning till night.

"I'm angry. I'm ashamed to say that, but it's true. I live in a dirty neighborhood (of course, I contribute to the filth on the streets). I am not loved, don't know how to give love. I am hungry and scared. I don't like myself much. My siblings are really half siblings, because we don't have the same father. My mom is no one's wife; she is a baby momma! She's more concerned with who her man at the time is sleeping with.

"I don't have a goal, no future. In fact, I'm 15, and my momma is only 30. When I leave my dirty home, I feel like punching people. I am angry because no one loves me, because I don't know love. We don't sit and have breakfast together. My parents don't care if I'm in school. They haven't taught me respect for myself or others. I feel useless, so I act useless.

"No, I won't clean my neighborhood! Why should I? Outside is actually cleaner than my living room. I am a scared, cowardly, unloved person. I hit strangers and run, out of fear and anger. No one hugs me, loves me, talks to me. All the adults I know are more concerned with the latest fashion, and cellphone. I crawl out of a roach-filled house. I don't know how to communicate any other way.

"I am asking for forgiveness, because no one taught me to be a man. I wear my pants so low that you can see I am stupid. I don't know how else to express my shame and anger. You can best believe that I don't go home feeling like a man though. I feel even more stupid.

"Forgive me."

Loretta Brown

Philadelphia

Size does matter

Research is clear that student performance improves with smaller class sizes, rigorous programs and qualified teachers. Yet, since 2011, Pennsylvania has made cuts that have increased class sizes, eliminated enrichment programs and taken tens of thousands of teachers, guidance counselors and aides out of the classroom.

Dom Giordano offers a misleading picture of school funding in his last column. Fully half the school cuts enacted in 2011 came from programs that did not have a single dollar of federal stimulus funds. For the other half, it was not unreasonable for school districts or parents to expect that temporary federal funds would be replaced with state funds as they were for prisons and health-care programs.

Meanwhile, school costs for special education, energy, construction and pensions are rising, and the education cuts still have not been restored.

A spring poll found that a large number of Pennsylvanians are worried that their schools are in crisis, and they favor investing more in education over new corporate tax breaks.

It's time to get beyond assigning blame and get back to the task of ensuring excellence in the public-school systems in Philadelphia and across the commonwealth.

Sharon Ward

Pennsylvania Budget

and Policy Center

Harrisburg

Weight and see

How many people do you know who spend most of their money on clothes, their car or significant other? How about investing in yourself? Yes, I'm talking about a $50-a-month gym membership (and actually using it) and buying healthy food to cook instead of sitting on your couch eating fast food every day. You know who you are, people. There is only one person you can't lie to in this world and that's yourself. You know you need to make a change before it's too late. And this change needs to be made now.

I've heard all the excuses. There are too many to write. How about you start by taking the steps instead of the escalator? How about if you work on the fourth floor, you take the steps instead of the elevator? How about instead of driving to the corner store, you walk? It's pretty simple, people. This is not rocket science. Stop being lazy and stop stuffing your face with everything you see. You people just like to make something so simple so difficult. There are 24 hours in a day and seven days a in a week. Pick any four to five days and an hour out of those days to go to the gym. That is a total of five hours a week, which will probably save your life.

I decided to write this to get people to understand that their health is not a joke. There is nothing better than transforming your body from something you are not proud of into something that nobody can take away from you because you put the time into the transformation. Nobody is going to work out for you, so take the initiative before it is too late. A wise man once said, "It's wear out or rust out, and I'm going to wear out. I'm not going to sit around and rust out."

So, I'm going to ask you: Are you happy the way you are? What are you going to do about it?

Chris Vicente

Philadelphia