City Academy is a Christian elementary school in the heart of the Tenderloin -- a district that routinely faces drugs and mental illness issues.
Many of the children are from immigrant families. Each kid keeps a journal. They usually write about their lives.
"It's very hard at times to listen to these stories and think that this is what kids are going through," Principal Marie-France Ladine said. "They didn't deserve it but they're going through it."
As the New Year approaches, the kids were asked to write about the challenges they faced in their young lives this year.
One wrote, "I was in foster care and away from my mom. My dad is not in my life due to alcohol."
Another, "My mom and dad were on drugs...When I was little, I was homeless. I was poor."
And another, "My father is in prison. He has now missed my 5th grade graduation, a very big part of my life...it is very hurtful."
And, "Living without my dad is like living without a heart. No emotions come through me without him."
"[A] common theme is poverty, common theme is drugs and death," Ladine said.
Some of the writings are troubling.
"I cut myself. Sometimes, I just want to die," one student wrote. "My mom says she's had enough of me. It really hurts because it makes me feel worthless and to stop that feeling I cut myself."
But others write about hope.
"Sometimes, I don't want to live anymore. The way I'm going to overcome this is by forgiving. God is with me and helping me even though I don't see it."
"We never pity their life stories," Ladine said. "We always highlight the positives in their lives and tell them what their full potential is."
Students are told to use their pain as learning tools, not as daggers.
Said one student, "I thank god that he brought every teacher here because they are not only teachers and staff, but they are my family."
If you'd like to help, the school is accepting donations of schools supplies or gifts for the children. Volunteers are also needed.
San Francisco City Academy
PO Box 16217
San Francisco, CA 94116