Tet is the most important holiday in my country. It is the first day of the New Year in the lunar calendar. In Vietnam, people believe that if lucky things happen during Tet, you will have good times the whole year. So everyone prepares: They purchase new clothes and shoes. They gather special fruits like mangos, and colorful flowers. In my country, the flowers are a very important part of our traditional New Year. In Tet, we like flowers of yellow and red -- like marigolds and carnations -- because those are considered the lucky colors. I still remember when I was 12 years old. I helped my cousin sell flowers. It was fun and I could earn money to buy something for my grandparents, like milk. When I think of Tet, I also think of cleaning. It is a tradition to buy brooms to sweep the bad things from the old year out of our houses. We cleaned the floor, windows, doors, tables, chairs, and cabinets. We washed the blankets and the mosquito net. I was really tired but I liked this feeling that hard work results in enjoyment. After we cleaned up, my house would have a good smell and it was like new. Tet is the time all members in the family meet again. Everyone feels happy. This is the first year that I have had Tet in the United States, far from my friends and country. The spring songs I usually hear during Tet, they went silent. The apricot blossoms, I didn’t see them. Now, in my heart, there is only a certain sadness. I miss something: Tet.
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Aiceya Blackwell, 15, from Community Academy of Science and Health, says she knows parents who treat their kids like they are nobodies without any education. “That’s disrespectful,” she says. While everyone points to teens as being the rudest members of a family, often it’s the moms and pops who are over-the-top. “They should treat them better because they wouldn’t like other parents disrespecting their kids like that,” says Ferlando Chery, 15, from the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science. “It lowers their child’s self-esteem.” Daniel Fanfan, 15, from Boston Green Academy, understands why some parents push the limit. “I think parents are disrespectful not because they don’t love or don’t respect their kids,” says Fanfan, “but they do it to teach them life lessons.”
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Culture Club
Extreme makeover teen edition, part one: Destiny's do-overs
Eighteen-year-old Maroua Laafar says that if she was given a second chance and could change one thing, she would stop listening to what others say and just go with her instincts. “At the end of the day, you only have a few real friends,” says Laafar, who attends the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science. Many teens have regrets about the past. They know that learning from your mistakes can be hard, but you come out of it a stronger person. Ina Dodoveci, 17, from the O’Bryant, says she would be less judgmental about things if she was given a do-over. “I would try to see the world with an open mind,” she says. Enkid Koci, 17, says he has pushed people away and did not care what they thought of him. “If I went back in time,” says Koci, from the O’Bryant, “I would stop making others think that I was a bad boy.”
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Culture Club
Extreme makeover teen edition, part two: "Perfection isn't about being perfect"
Many teenagers have a gamut of thoughts that all seem to gravitate around one huge concept: “How can I achieve perfection?” Teens might want to gain total excellence by changing their physical appearance, personality traits, or overall mindset. Melanie Sheehan, a freshman from West Roxbury Academy, says she has a combination of desires. “I would like to be really smart,” she says. “Like I want to be able to absorb knowledge with more ease. I would also want to have awesome hair and be a bit thinner.” Kiharah Byssainthe, a freshman at West Roxbury Academy, says she wants to stay the way she is. “I honestly wouldn’t do anything,” she says. “I love myself the way that I am.” After all, says Crystal Bautista, a freshman at West Roxbury Academy, teens should celebrate their uniqueness rather than chase a state of flawlessness. “I think that we’re different in many different ways,” she says. “Being kind and generous are definitely good traits to have, but perfection isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being you.”
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Nancy Aleid, 17, from Roslindale, says she is independent and doesn’t need anyone -- except her family. “My parents, aunt, and uncle are really all I need because they know me best and support me regardless of my decisions,” says Aleid. “They’re the fundamental basis of my character and integrity. It’s a human thing, I guess.” A human thing, indeed. According to Campbell’s eighth textbook edition of Biology, many scientists characterize mammals as organisms that seek interaction. Homo sapiens, or humans, if you will, deserve their own category. From birth, our species relies on a parental figure until about age 18. Innumerable other interchanges occur during this epoch, arguably making us among the most dependent creatures on Earth. Independence exists in many forms and is ultimately ambiguous. According to former president Calvin Coolidge: “There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means.” To Aleid, it is simply declining help for math homework. To others, this may mean evading an unworthy relationship. Alejandra Quinones, a junior at West Roxbury Academy, says she knows what it takes for a person to earn her friendship. “A true friend,” says Quinones, “is someone you can lean on. Someone who will be there for you when you’re down to pick you back up, to dust you off, and pat you on the back – and expect absolutely nothing in return.” For Rhonandhoh Abraham, a sophomore at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, independence is defined as having the strength to admit to oneself that having a person to rely on isn’t as shameful as some people make it. He lives comfortably with his father, mother, and siblings and says he is somewhat independent but knows the limits. “It’s better to be independent, of course,” he says. “That way, no one can let you down. But then again, if you’re on the street with no protection, what else are you going to do, you know?”

This article was prepared in collaboration with 826 Boston.

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