Cover Story
What the Future of Our School System Means for Us Now
Located across the street from Fenway Park, Boston Arts Academy is the city’s only public arts high school. Founded in 1998, the school harbors about 450 students, myself included, all brought together by a love for the arts. The building, formerly a warehouse, has gone through a lot over the decades. While it wasn’t falling apart, it was remarkably bland. Most spaces felt cramped, and there wasn’t even an auditorium—just a small black box that only fit 100 people.  
In December 2017, our school was finally okayed for some serious renovations under Mayor Marty Walsh’s BuildBPS plan. While this meant we would have to move all the way to Dorchester and share the building with the Community Academy of Science and Health for three years, the end result would give future BAA students the creatively fulfilling space they deserve. However, while we were complaining about our temporary move, other BPS students were losing not only their buildings, but their entire school communities. 
BuildBPS is a plan to renovate, merge and build new schools over the next decade. “BuildBPS is an opportunity to invest in school buildings that will deliver high-quality learning environments for our students for generations to come,” said Walsh in a press release. “In order to achieve our goals, we need to think big and work together to build a bright future for our school.” According to the BuildBPS Phase II Report, the goals of the initiative are to “expand access to quality learning environments for more students, locate new or expand buildings in neighborhoods with high student need and low current access, create more equitable program placement and learning opportunities for vulnerable students, and reduce pre-K-12 transitions by creating clear pathways.”  
BAA has been positively affected by BuildBPS, with renovations underway 20 years after the doors first opened. The project budget is $125 million—only a tiny fraction of the $1 billion going into BuildBPS overall. 
However, the McCormack Middle School, which is also part of this initiative, is getting the short end of the stick. The Dorchester school, along with Urban Science Academy and West Roxbury Academy, is being affected in the worst way—the school, as well as the community, is being destroyed in order to phase out middle schools. The current BuildBPS plan neglects these communities, and places the best interest of future students far above those of current students.  
The original plan stated that McCormack will close in 2020 and its students will become part of Excel High School, a lower-performing school. Traditionally in a school merge like this, the entire staff and students would move to Excel and become a new community. However, that is not what is happening with McCormack. 
“It's more like dismantle and then send the kids to Excel on their own," said Neema Avashia, a teacher at the McCormack who has spent months advocating for the community. "What upsets me about it is that it’s not necessary. They're going to need seventh and eighth grade teachers when they go to Excel, so why would we, as a city, enact additional harm on kids? It's already going to be hard enough for kids to change schools… there's no reason to separate the adults and the kids." 
Rob Consalvo, Chief of Staff of BPS, talked about the plan and how our voices are being heard. “We are extremely sympathetic to the aspect of closing schools and recognize how difficult that is,” he said. According to Consalvo, BPS is listening to both students and teachers, considering the ideas they are putting forth and using that feedback to devise the final plan.  
One of the biggest motivators for the BuildBPS plan is making fewer transitions for students—which involves getting rid of middle schools. According to Consalvo, in 2009, there were a total of 16 middle schools in Boston. Currently, there are only six. This dissolution of middle schools is already happening naturally, and the McCormack is part of that demographic.“We believe that it's in the best interest of the entire district to give parents that sense of continuity, to move away from middle schools and into that shorter structure," explained Consalvo. 
   Yet, while it makes perfect sense to lessen the transitions from school to school, there is no clear explanation as to why the McCormack can’t travel as a community. 
"Closing a school, taking kids out of their community—it hurts,” said Avashia. “The number of our kids who—if you watch our school committee testimony—they're like, 'The McCormack is my home.’ When you take someone's home away, that's traumatizing.” 
Even though she, and many others, are possibly losing their jobs, that’s not their main concern. They are looking out for their students—something they feel the BuildBPS plan isn’t doing.  
“That is completely outrageous and irritates me,”  said TaNeja Williams, a student at BAA and a McCormack graduate. “My question is, why can’t the McCormack be treated the same way and be given the opportunity to have a swing space, thus keeping the community intact, as the Boston Arts Academy was granted?” 
BuildBPS is for the future. It isn’t for the students of right now—it is for the wealthier class taking over urban areas where working class and minority families live, and their future kids. “It's getting more and more expensive for my kids and their families to live in the city,” Avashia said. “So when you are reading them a letter in school that says 'Oh, we're going to make your building really nice, but it's not for you'—kids experience that as being evicted, the same way you get evicted from a house.”  
Recently, interim BPS superintendent Laura Perille stated that in response to the backlash from the McCormack community, the plan may shift—leaders are considering a model in which teachers will help select a partner high school and create a new 7-12 school to move into the building on the McCormack site after renovations. However, even if this plan is ultimately accepted, Avashia believes the fight is far from over. 
"What's happening to my kids now is going to happen five more times,” Avashia says. “And there are going to be ripple effects.” 
 
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I was the type of child who believed in fairytales and finding true love, so the process of my parents’ separation was like a wound to the heart.  I was hurt, but I didn’t express this to anyone. I never cried about it. I never talked about it. I tried to convince myself that it was a good thing—finally, something interesting happens to this family. 
As I grew up without my mother in the house I became isolated from my family. I began to see the struggles of being the child of a divorced couple. Soon my bottled up feelings were beginning to settle in my mind. I have had days when I’ve cried and I didn’t know the reason why, but for the broken family I have. I can’t think about having a future marriage without thinking of my family’s history of broken relationships. This divorce is like a shadow I don’t want, it follows me and at the same time it is me.  
 As it turns out, it’s normal for teenagers to feel this way. Many kids today can relate to the struggles of having separated parents. The American Psychological Association states “About 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. The divorce rate for subsequent marriages is even higher.” With divorce hidden in about one out of two families, one would expect to see more media coverage of it or counselling in schools. If the population of today continues to overlook the consequences many children suffer from the effects of divorce, they are leading them like lambs to the slaughter.   
One of the common effects of divorce is sadness in general. Mood swings and behavior changes don’t sound too horrific, but divorce can leave children in a depressive state for as long as years. It is already tough enough for children to learn that the two people who are supposed to be their loving protectors are breaking apart, but they also have to accustom themselves to seeing less of one of their protectors.  
Tahnyi Brown is a student who attends Fenway High School. She is currently 14 years old and was 8 when her parents divorced. “I would sit with myself and think about how I would have turned out if my mom and dad were still together,” she said. “I probably would have been more enthusiastic.” Divorce can be something that haunts a child for long periods of time and ignoring this may lead to stronger depressive feelings. 
Anxiety and stress is also another outcome of divorce. Divorce is infamous for its messy and complicated nature, and it definitely isn’t easy for the kids. When parents argue, it is often the child that is left in the middle to decide which parent to live with or whose side to take in an argument. This puts a great deal of unnecessary stress on them at a young age. Kids may also feel stressed for their parents who are now trying to adapt to being a single parent.  
Yeilanise Noriega is a 14-year-old student who also attends Fenway High School. Her parents divorced when she was only 3 years old. I asked her if she felt like her parents’ divorce was a burden.  
“Yes, because it means that I’m in the middle,” Noriega said. “I can’t even see them both at the same time cause one of them lives in Puerto Rico...Every day I would just wake up knowing that I only have my mom to rely on and my mom has to deal with all this pressure, so it is definitely a burden.” 
Divorce is not simply a thing that affects the couple, but also a child’s everyday life, whether it’s moving from one parent’s house to the other or being left in the middle.  Everyone knows that divorce can be difficult, but when kids grow up without knowing about this additional stress, it puts a strain on them.  
Finally, one of the most concerning effects of divorce is the lack of healthy relationship examples or models. When children do not develop a general idea of what a healthy relationship is it plays a toll in their own relationships.  
Josefa Tavarez is currently 43 with three children. Her parents separated when she was 3 years old, and she herself divorced when she was 41. Tavarez is a walking example of the cycle of divorce.  
“It’s like a heritage of divorces in our family,” Tavarez said. “I didn’t grow up with a father. A father figure is important to daughters because the girls look for an image that is similar to their fathers.”  
Without a father figure, girls may get into toxic relationships because they were never shown how a woman should be treated. Fear also plays a role in the cycle. “Before I got married, I was afraid to be in love,” Tavarez said.  
There is a saying that goes “Do not fall in love, step on to it with steady feet.” Divorce has given many unsteady feet when it comes to relationships. Without a healthy idea of how to interact with loved ones, divorce can affect everything from friendships to dating in high school.   
However, I refuse to let this chain carry on and you can too. I know who I am, although I am still learning and growing. I cope with the burdens of divorce by writing in journals, asking questions and learning all I can about my parents' marriage and what went wrong, connecting with other students who are going through the same situation as me, and learning from the good relationship examples around me.  I know that I have control over my future and I choose to be the one who breaks free from the burden of my past—and every child who has faced the dreadful effects of divorce can do the same.  
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I walked quickly to the nurse’s office—it was that time of month again. When I got there, I told her I needed two pads to get me through the school day.  
“The first one will be free, but the second you will have to pay for,” said the nurse. 
“What do you mean I have to pay 50 cents for another pad?” I responded. 
 As outraged as I was at the school nurse, it wasn’t a surprise I had to pay extra for the second pad. For centuries now, women have had to deal with the burden of periods. One week of the month is always dedicated to that, and in that one week, they go through about one box of tampons, costing about $7 on average.  
That doesn’t seem like a lot, right? Wrong.  
The money spent for a box of tampons adds up every month. Women pay around $1,773 per year on tampons alone, according to the Huffington Post. Women shouldn't have to pay for something they have no control over, which is why pads and tampons should be free of charge everywhere. It’s a necessity which makes it more justifiable in why it should be free. 
“Tampons and pads should be treated just like toilet paper. They serve the same purpose—items to tend to our everyday, normal bodily functions,” Nancy Kramer said in the Huffington Post.  
If pads and tampons were treated like toilet paper, this problem wouldn’t have arisen at all. But, because we live in a sexist world, women and girls unfortunately have to pay for something they can’t control.  
“It’s unfair for girls to pay for a necessity,” said Angie Mejia, a BCLA student. “Most of us can’t even afford it.” That money could be used for other reasons, but it has to go towards their menstrual cycle.  
Some women argue tampons and pads are a “luxury.” Gina Davis wrote in the Odyssey Online that that the government has the right to keep a price on then because “money doesn’t grow on trees.”                                      
Periods should be normalized and seen as a regular bodily function. They are something a woman can’t control, and we should have access to pads and tampons for free anytime, anywhere. 
 
 
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Everyone knows what a hot day feels like: air conditioner on blast, eating cold ice cream, going to school feeling dehydrated. On a day like this, I learned about the effects of global warming, greenhouse gasses and other boring stuff that didn't make sense to me at the time.  
Many say that global warming is a boring, irrelevant topic. Others think we should take care of it immediately. But, it’s amazing how some people think it is totally “fake news.” No matter what your opinion is, you’ve probably heard the term thousands of times before, but have you ever asked yourself why should you care? 
Global warming occurs when harmful gases that form from fossil fuels don’t allow heat to escape the atmosphere, explains Jay Etsy, a Green Ambassador program manager at Thompson Island. “It’s so bad that it has come to a point were we cannot return to the state we were in forty years ago,” he said.  
The effects of climate change have been on the rise over the last couple of decades. In Massachusetts, we can already see changes. According to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs,“from 1921 to 2006, relative sea level has risen 2.6 millimeters annually, an increase of approximately 26 centimeters per century.” Rising sea levels can increase flooding during storms. Low elevation areas are the most affected by these floods and could be permanently flooded. Shorelines around beaches become smaller and possibly eroded. 
In Boston, the threat of flooding is important because many of our parks and green spaces are close to water. In a survey of Boston residents by the Trustees of Reservations, some 85 percent of respondents agreed that the Boston waterfront is vulnerable to climate change’s effects, with 42 percent agreeing that it is very vulnerable to flooding and erosion. Over half of respondents said they visit parks around Boston multiple times a week, and 60 percent said that visiting parks leaves positive impact in their lives and families. This shows that many residents of Boston enjoy the parks and losing them could impact their lives negatively. 
But it's not just rising sea levels we are seeing, there’s been crazy weather happening all over the world. According to the Climate Reality Project, the Philippines has had ten deadly typhoons since 1947. Over a thousand people died in seven out of ten of these typhoons. The Climate Change Project also interviewed a 14-year-old Inuk boy who told them polar bears looked very skinny and noticed that the permafrost had been melting and saw fewer caribou each year. 
Imagine living in a world without conflict about global warming. It is really hard for me to do because I have never experienced that before. Christmas starts to disobey the snowy day laws here in Boston when the atmosphere becomes warmer every time. And summer keeps giving its hot and dry best. People with power seem to forget about all these problems. It seems that we ignore facts because it hasn’t affected us yet, so we do not need to worry. The human race has made many mistakes, like exposing chemicals in the air that harm the ecosystem, and now is the time to address them. We could make a better tomorrow if we sacrifice a little time now to create a healthier world.            
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Tech
You’re Canceled: Stan Culture Brings the Best and Worst of Social Media
Twitter is a whirlwind. Likes, followers, content, mutuals, these are all confusing terms to latch onto at first, but as a frequent Twitter user, I’ll guide you through them and show you a new side to the social media platform you may not know about.  
Stan Twitter is a section where users dedicate their accounts to supporting a music group, solo artist, TV show and more. It’s how you connect with people who share the same interests as you and have a fun time creating content—or, if you’re like me—liking and retweeting everything about Adachi Yuto, a member of the Korean pop group Pentagon, which you should definitely listen to! Out of the nine members of Pentagon, Yuto doesn’t post as often, but when he does, I’ll like it, retweet, spam the comment section and all.  
Stan culture is a more modern way of supporting your faves. Sarah Poulter, 43, co-executive director of WriteBoston, reminisced about how teens supported their favorite celebrities in the (g)olden days. “When I was in high school, email addresses, phones, the internet, didn't exist. I bought posters. I had mini Michael Jackson pins, posters and a lot of items like t-shirts, folders, things were branded,” she said. Before the age of social media, industries could profit off celebrities by creating physical items for consumers. But, in the stan Twitter age, we can find artwork, memes and various content just a simple click away for the extremely low price of free!  
Stan groups have a fan name, and they section off into fandoms. Think of it like the great hall tables in Harry Potter. You exist peacefully in your chosen fandom, or you can mingle around and choose to be a multifandom, stanning more than one group/artist at once, and curating your online presence to surround them.  
If spending time on the internet keyboard smashing on your fave's new cute selfie doesn’t seem like a new concept, then what's good about stan culture? Well, have you ever fallen in love with an underground artist and found yourself not being able to talk about them because no one knew them? Stan Twitter resolves this issue by quickly creating a fandom to support underground artists, and you won’t have to feel like you’re the only one who has interest in the artist.  
Stan culture also allows you to make a place for yourself in online communities. People who are shy, or have a hard time making social interactions in real life have a platform to make mutuals. Mutuals are accounts who you follow, and they follow you back. They are like an acquaintance you’d make at school and wave at while you pass them in the crowded hallways. Also, these accounts help you escape the hectic schedule of day to day life. Having an online space to relax and look at cute pictures of your faves is a stress reliever to many. 
However, stan culture isn’t always the best place to be. Constant fan wars and hate messages make stan Twitter less enjoyable. Mare Chavez, @pandayanan says, “So far, on stan Twitter no one has sent me hate yet. But, as I gain more followers, I’m expecting people to be more judgemental and negative. Back when I was on Tumblr and had a popular aesthetic blog, I’d get hate for no reason, nothing but the fact that I had a lot of followers.” 
When I ran my Tumblr blog I stuck to myself, reblogging content I enjoyed, art that I liked, and I enjoyed being part of the Voltron fandom. Tumblr has a feature where you can send a user a message or ask someone questions, with the option of  being anonymous. I got nice messages often and it made me happy that someone out there liked the content I posted. I once got a hate message and the user didn’t bother to use the anonymous option, so it made it easier to report the account and have some of my mutuals report the user too. 
Cancel culture is the act of unstanning someone because they did something negative, either currently or in their earlier years. Cancelling happens when an artist does something way out of hand, like saying a slur that doesn’t belong to them. Once a famous person has been cancelled, it takes them a lot to gain what popularity and respect they had before. Cancelling is done by some fandoms out of spite, who want their faves to succeed, and they’re willing to go as far as dragging others down to see that happen.  
Stan Twitter is fun and all, but take time to invest in other activities. Feed the fish that you haven’t fed in a while. Take the chicken out of the freezer before your mom comes home. Clean your room and find ten dollar bills lying around. Your life isn’t tied to how many likes you get, or the amount of mutuals you have. 
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Food
Summer with The Food Project Sprouts Interest in Agriculture
Photo courtesy Madison Beehler
I board the T exhausted and wanting nothing but a hot shower and rest. It’s a normal commute, until passengers sit next to me then shuffle away in a hurry. Is it because I have dirt streaks on my nose? Or do I reek of unripe tomatoes and sweat? Well, at least I have enough space on the train to relax.  
Being a farmer is challenging, especially for someone who avoids gym class like the plague. You’d ask why someone who hates physical activity would seek a summer job as a farmer— but this past summer, I learned a heck ton about agriculture and it helped me grow (pun intended) as a thinker and hard worker. My enthusiasm towards gym class hasn't changed,  and no, I still don’t own a pair of overalls, but I’d definitely work as a farmer again. 
In early February of last year, I was scrolling through the PIC job postings but nothing sparked a sprout of interest in my heart, and I did not want to dedicate my precious summer to doing something I wasn’t keen on. At the bottom of the email chain was a posting about Seed Crew, a seven week program of The Food Project (TFP) teaching sustainable agriculture, administering fun workshops and connecting agriculture to our daily lives. I was interested and decided to apply because I feared a boring summer re-watching Netflix shows and the dreaded, “Are you still watching?” prompt, where I’d see my groggy reflection in the black screen of my phone. I filled an application in one shot and submitted it. Weeks later, after the interview, I wondered if I’d go through if I got a job offer. I was so sure I would decline. Days later, I got a call, and with apprehension, and slight nervousness for what was to come, I accepted the job. 
As a city kid, farming seems like an unnecessary skill. We don’t have much farming area—and the dead, grey, muck-filled patches aren’t much to look at either.  
Farming taught me how to work on a team. When working on a team at school, I ended up taking most of the weight on my shoulders because I didn’t want a lousy grade. On the farm, there were new teams every day, so new conversations sparked, and I ended up having a different workflow with one partner, and a different one with the next.  
Walking onto the farm, I didn’t even know how to use a Hula-Ho, a farming tool used to upend the weeds and pull fresh soil. My tired wrists from using the Hula-Ho the wrong way taught me that I’ll struggle before learning anything new.  
I also learned that farming isn’t all about sweat and physical exertion, it also takes mental strength. Waking up at 6 am to start a new day on the farm, and coming home at 6 pm, tired and sweaty was tough. I often thought, why did I decide to do this? It made me ponder over my values and what I wanted to gain from this experience.  
Learning new farming skills also came with new friendships. While working in teams, digging through dirt for annoying weeds, we learned each other's favorite movies, cultures and customs. When you see your peers with questionable fluids dripping down their face, it sort of, well—bonds you. 
When I was younger, most of the food in the fridge was bought at the grocery store or the farmer’s market. The TFP mantra was “from seed to fork,” and after hearing that I thought, where does my favorite comfort meal come from? Who is involved in putting it onto the shelves of the grocery store?  
During a lesson on underpaid workers in the food industry, I thought about how we put our food on the table. Most of the crops we eat don’t grown in Massachusetts, so we have to import them—which costs money and time. Working at TFP, it opened my eyes to what it takes for food to go from a teeny seed to the stove.  
A fellow TFP worker, Zack Myers, told me about how he learned where his food comes from. “I mostly took it for granted, where it comes from and who grows it seemed so far away. After workshops and learning about those who grow the food and those who are in need of food, I appreciate it more and feel more connected to where it comes from,” he said. 
So why be a summer farmer? Madison Beehler, an operations specialist at TFP, says that it is a fun experience for teens. “Each experience is unique to the teen and a lot of the interactions I've had were very meaningful and impacted me as a person,” she said. “It can be tough at times because the weather is hot, the work is challenging, but it's also very rewarding.” Not everyone is going to love farming, and some people will decide not to continue this work during the fall.  
Looking back, I miss the sun beating on my neck. It’s awfully cold now, and although I only spent seven weeks on the farm, it showed me how much of an impact I have on my surroundings. Next time you go to the farmers market, or the grocery store, or are sitting around the family dinner table, remember that your food didn’t Harry Potter magic itself onto the table (although I wish it did) and that there were many people that put effort and time into it. 
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A&E
The Unlikely Team Behind “The President is Missing” Penned a Solid Thriller
The first time I saw “The President is Missing,” I was at the airport buying a pair of headphones for a three hour flight. My initial thought was, “How does this book even exist?” I had read half of a James Patterson book, and I knew Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States of America and that he did,in fact, have sexual relations with that woman, but how did these two end up writing a novel together? There was something I found utterly hysterical about the existence of this book. 
“The President is Missing” takes place over three days, focusing on the president—a man named Jonathan Duncan—who is in the middle of trying to save his presidency, the U.S. and the world. He must challenge the ones trying to take him down and protect one of the people trying to cause the most amount of harm to his country. 
Patterson has been writing longer than I’ve been alive and it’s clear why people enjoy his work. It’s readable, paints tangible images in your mind and keeps you interested. The very first page grabs your attention with a metaphor comparing sharks to politicians grilling a man he deems right for his people in front of the entire world. The plot has many layers and bounces between perspectives, which moves things along nicely. Some of the best parts are when Duncan faces difficult decisions and we have to go through his process of making a choice with him and his staff. 
Even though the book is clearly a political thriller,  I didn’t know what to expect going into the novel. Was it going to be some secret way for Clinton to let out frustrations of his presidency? Was there going to be subtle commentary on the political climate of today, in a post-’bama world? Or, is the novel just a fun, dramatic tale with no real hidden bias (though, I think we all can guess that wouldn’t happen)? 
One thing that is clear is that this isn’t Bill Clinton’s personal diary. Yes, we do see the difficulties of being in charge of millions of people’s lives, but in nothing less than the most dramatic sense. It’s clear that Clinton and Patterson don’t want us to think about Clinton when we read through the eyes of Jon Duncan, but we can’t help but hear Clinton’s voice when the books goes into its not-so-subtle social and political commentary. Stuff like, “what happened to factual, down-the-middle reporting?” (which I try not to be too hurt by) and “we’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations.” If Clinton’s name wasn’t smack at the top of book jacket (and his signature engraved underneath it), it wouldn’t feel like as much of a statement. Putting aside the questionable amount that he was actually involved in the writing process (it was ghost written by David Ellis), I certainly believe that he was involved with this book more than people might give him credit for.  
Overall, “The President is Missing” was a delightful surprise. It’s not marketed towards teens, so maybe you aren’t drawn to it unless you’re a total nerd like myself. Sometimes the political terms can be a little confusing if you’re unfamiliar, but this was enjoyable. There is a decent amount of filler that can deter you from continuing, yet nothing unbearable. And while I unfortunately have not read many thrillers in the past, I can say this book certainly pushes me to want to change that.   
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