“In this life,” Walker says, “we must have responsibilities, but we should still have time to have fun.” For teens, the meaning of life is very much something they want to figure out for themselves. Rosauri Lara, 14, from South Boston, says she knows many older people who complain to her about all the things they wished they’d done when they were young. “I don’t want to end up like that,” says Lara. “I believe that you’re able to do whatever you want to do only if you decide that’s how you want to live your life. Your life is what you make it.” Keahja Pittman, 14, from Dorchester, says many teens are up to the challenge. “Every day we take chances to go out and explore the world,” says Pittman, “we are getting closer to figuring out the meaning of life.”
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  A teenage girl was walking by a group of guys at Ashmont station recently when one of them called out: “Dusty” – street slang for ugly. The teen became furious. “Why are you calling me dusty when you don’t even know me?” she yelled back. Doesn’t matter why, but boys all over town are disrespecting females for no reason. They act like it’s their right, girls say. Serena Gorash, 14, has been on the receiving end of this random rudeness, too. “One time I was walking in the hallway with my friend and this dude out of nowhere says I have fat calves,” says Gorash, who goes to Boston Community Leadership Academy. “I felt disrespected in some sort of way.” Soleen Balata, 15, from BCLA, had a similar experience. “I was talking to my friend about a hypothetical question and a boy came in the middle,” Balata says, and made fun of her body. “It made me upset. I think it’s unattractive….It’s a bad quality in a guy.” Grace Richard, 14, from BCLA, has advice for those targeted by such crudeness. “Tell them off,” she says, “because it will make you feel better.”
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“If you’re comfortable with your surroundings, then your interactions will be more positive,” says Robin, who goes to the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science. There are a lot of different emotions that come with being the new guy or girl on the block. You may have to act a certain way based on the setting and the type of people you are surrounded with. It sometimes requires you to step out of your comfort zone. Some teens can turn what may seem like a disadvantage into their favor as 16-year-old Asa Stephenson did while in the seventh grade. He says he was the only person of color in his New York school – but he made it work. “I was better at basketball than everybody,” says Stephenson, from the O’Bryant. Evens Louis-Jean, 16, from the O’Bryant, got his first job last summer, working in a communications position. He didn’t know anybody. “At first,” he says, “it’s like I’m not there.” But time passed and everything seemed normal. “After,” he says, “I act lively because I have adapted.” This article was prepared in collaboration with 826 Boston.
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  I had come to the US last year and was living with my cousin, my aunt, and my sister. I was planning on going to high school and I was excited to start classes. I tried talking to my cousin about how I could get enrolled. However, my cousin told me that because I was 18, I had to start working in my aunt’s nail salon instead of going to school. I could not contain my feelings and started crying. I had a lot of questions: “Should I give up and go back to my country?” “Should I call my mom and tell her what has happened here?” But I did not want her to worry and be sad. My aunt was being selfish. My relatives just wanted to use me because of money. Every morning, I woke up and went to the nail salon. I had to help until nighttime. Day by day, I did the same thing for several months. I felt so tired. But she was my aunt so I always did what she asked. One day, I could not stand that. I told my aunt that I wanted to go to school, not work. I remembered what my parents had told me: “Do what you want, say what you think, do it now because this is your life, not anyone else’s.” I decided to move to another place and start over. My older sister and I found our own apartment in Roxbury. She works in a nail salon. I now know that life is not simple. When I was young, my parents always protected me. Now I am in school studying. One day, I hope to own a restaurant.
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Senior Sayonaras (Series) Advice from those who have been there, done that

  Dear Students,   The past four years of my school career have been very rocky and fun at the same time. The three biggest pieces of advice I can give to you guys are: 1) Know who your true friends are; 2) Procrastinating -- not an option; 3) Have fun during your last years of high school. Knowing who your true friends are was one of the most challenging things I faced during high school. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make new friends or the friends that you are making are not real. Throughout my high school years, I learned that most of the people that I thought were my friends were not because they took advantage of me. I don’t like saying no to people so they used that against me. So, choose your friends carefully. Procrastination can mess you up on so many levels. It can not only affect you academically but also in your real life. If you know that you are a person who procrastinates a lot and then gets upset when you don’t do well in class, you shouldn’t blame anyone but yourself. You should try to change and not wait for the last minute. You should join clubs and go to school dances because you might regret not having any fun in high school. By the way, when I say to have fun, I don’t mean to go out and party every day. When you look back on your high school years, you want to say: “I miss those days. I had so much fun. And I actually did something with my life.”
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