Story of Justen Morales’ Reflection of Adolescence

Track+of+Champions.

Isabel Brownlee

Track of Champions.

Audrey Crocco , Broadcast Journalism

Justen Morales talks about living with a first responder, reflecting on privilege, embracing gratitude, and helping those less fortunate. Morales lives in Madison, New Jersey and is a sophomore at Madison High School. 

Justen Morales is a sophomore student-athlete at Madison Public High School. He is on the track team and is a dedicated, conscientious student. Morales was originally born in Bayonne, New Jersey and moved to Madison during his kindergarten year. When asking him about his upbringing in Madison, he described it as fulfilling – being thankful for his newfound opportunities, such as various sports, volunteer services, exceptional schools, and school band. Morales went on to elaborate his passion for sports, believing he is an encyclopedia for mainstream sport knowledge. He emphasized his endearment for the New York Giants and the Mets and recounted his attendance at a Giants vs. Mets game as one of his most impactful memories. 

The game occurred on September 11, 2021 and Morales had a more potent, personal connection to the game’s tribute, considering his father was a NYPD police officer. His response detailed the emotional impact it had on him, 

“It changed my perspective on it [9/11]. You see two rival teams come together. It was definitely an emotional day […] How strong it was and how it can bring even rivals together.” He continued to describe how his father was on police duty in New York during the 2001 attacks. Morales recalled the harrowing position his father was in,

“He saw all the smoke and everything. He didn’t have to go into the building […] His friends and partners passed away during it. It must have been hard for him to go to these funerals. I’m sure he suffered from PTSD.” Morales said 9/11 changed his perspective on the world; he spoke about his gratitude for his safety and the bravery of first responders. He spoke of his appreciation for his father for being so courageous. When asking him if he was thankful to live in Madison, he emphasized the importance of gratefulness,

“Living here is great, but you have to be grateful. A lot of people would want to live here. We can be blinded by privilege.” Morales is also passionate about helping others, especially those less fortunate. He recounted his acts of graciousness such as donating money to organizations. Throughout our interview, the topic of thankfulness was paramount to our discussion,

“…I mean like just knowing how we’re so fortunate we should do more to help out those less fortunate.” I then concluded our interview by thanking Morales for his sharing intuitive reflection on his life, and defining his commendable, personal beliefs.