Wilson Nguyen, a junior at Boston Arts Academy, thinks the new student assessment being tried this year is a big waste of time. “I have better things to do than the PARCC exam,” Nguyen says. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers is being used in most Boston Public Schools and can measure whether students in grades 3 through 8, 9, and 11, are being properly readied for life after high school, according to the Boston Public Schools website. State officials are still weighing whether to replace MCAS with PARCC. Early reviews from several students give the test failing grades. “I felt unprepared for the exam,” says My Nguyen, 17, from the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science. Jellissa Cardoso, 17, from Boston Community Leadership Academy, says enough is enough with all these standardized tests.
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Seventeen-year-old Foday Sesay sees it all around his Roslindale community. “Rich people come into a neighborhood and feel like it’s their job to ‘fix it up’, even though there is nothing wrong with it,” he says. “Then, when they see the beauty and charm in it that’s there because of the people that are already living there, they decide that they want it now and kick all those people out of their homes.” What Sesay is talking about is called gentrification. According to a March 2014 article on boston.com entitled “Boston leads nation in gentrification,” the city is turning over so quickly that over a fourth of all residents now live in a neighborhood that went from gritty to glossy. “At first, I didn’t really realize the gentrification in my neighborhood until three of my neighbors were forced to move out,” says Nouraddin Hussein, a junior at Boston Community Leadership Academy, who lives in Dorchester. Rents can rise through the roof when neighborhoods are overtaken by affluent residents. “My mother would love for us to move into a better, safer neighborhood, but the places we want to move are too expensive, so it’s made the search for a better home hard,” says Aliyah Jackson, a junior at BCLA, who lives in Dorchester. Low-income teens say that gentrification can adversely affect their educations since learning in a diverse environment is just as important as what they are taught from a book. Also, teens say they can lose their connections to friends, teachers, and stable schedules when they are forced out of their neighborhoods and have to enroll in far-away schools. Students say that the growing diaspora of teens exiled by gentrification can break their cherished circle of community. Says Sesay: “Gentrification is the newer, sneakier, segregation.”
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Marisa Quashie is 16 years old and feels that a halfway house can seem like a dangerous place to its neighbors. “I’d be scared for my life because they are criminals,” says Quashie, who lives in Dorchester. “Something bad might happen to me while I walk home.” There are over 250 halfway houses across the state, according to listings in yellowpages.com. They provide a space for criminals, alcoholics or drug addicts, and mentally ill patients to transition to life in general society. Some are embedded in Boston neighborhoods and are usually such peaceful places that it’s hard to know they are even there -- though there are exceptions. In November, for example, an inmate convicted of unarmed robbery escaped from a Boston halfway house, according to boston.com. He was captured a few days later in Somerville. Some teens say they fear this kind of incident but also the unknown from those halfway houses inhabited by convicts. “You don’t know who is there,” says Cristina Foster, 15, who lives in Mattapan. Her eyes get bigger as she talks. “I would not trust them because they are criminals. And you don’t know what they might do if they do escape from the halfway house.” Mohamed Ayman, 17, from East Boston, says he does not share the same concerns. “I would not be scared at all,” says Ayman. “I would not care. I’d live normally.”
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Looking back at it Thinking on my past madness It’s such a bad habit Looking back at it Lights flashin’ As I dash through traffic Looking both ways, looking back As if Something bad happens I tried to hail the cab passin’ Access denied At least I tried I’d rather walk anyways But not just any way Look back at my many ways I retrace my steps I lost a lot along the way I just embrace what’s left Looking back on the path That tried to take my breath I gathered the strength To break that clench Strength I never knew That foreign power I put the pencil to the canvas And wrote for an hour

Looking back at it

Thinking on my past madness

It’s such a bad habit

Looking back at it

Lights flashin’

As I dash through traffic

Looking both ways, looking back

As if

Something bad happens

I tried to hail the cab passin’

Access denied

At least I tried

I’d rather walk anyways

But not just any way

Look back at my many ways

I retrace my steps

I lost a lot along the way

I just embrace what’s left

Looking back on the path

That tried to take my breath

I gathered the strength

To break that clench

Strength I never knew

That foreign power

I put the pencil to the canvas

And wrote for an hour

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For Yoshi Howe, 14, highlighting yourself has a single purpose. “The whole point of trying to get attention is to gain reputation or popularity,” says Howe, from Dorchester. Teens have different reasons for trying to grab the spotlight, from hoping to make friends to just enjoying making a scene. Najma Abdirahman did a wheelie on her bike to impress her family. “I wanted to prove to my cousin and brother that I was better than what they thought I was,” says Abdirahman, 14, from Dorchester. Howe once did a back flip off a cement wall for the aftereffects of it all. “To show my friends,” says Howe, “that I was a cool person.” Thirteen-year-old Tonia Jennings, 13, from Mattapan, took a different path, bursting out in tears one time so that people would ask her, “What’s wrong?” After all, the crying had worked for a girl she knew. Says Jennings: “She made a lot of friends that day.”
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