AFH Photo // Kim Huynh
The sound of the cast’s final rehearsal before the show stops. It is replaced with laughter and then silence as Pablo Rojas, the founder and Executive Director of Boston Unscripted Musical Project, announces that the box office is open. Visitors either show their $10 prepaid ticket or present $15 at the door as they move from a small waiting room in Somerville’s Rockwell Theater into a thrust stage surrounded on three sides by the audience. The space is dimly lit by purple light and filled with music playing from hidden speakers in the walls. The relaxed and playful ambience that viewers can expect from the show is clear even before the performance starts.
Audiences are searching for a place to unwind on a Friday night. They are brought to B.U.M.P. by its unconventionality and uniqueness in the theater world. Friends mutter among themselves as the rest of the audience files in. 
Many people don’t know what to expect. Some have never seen improv at all.
 The cast runs onto the stage greeted by strobe lights. Their energy is immediately palpable as they jump right in, explaining briefly what improv is and what their project is. Improv is a type of theater where the entire show is unscripted and made up on the spot,  and B.U.M.P. is an entire improvised musical. With the formalities out of the way, the cast asks for suggestions for a title of their musical. Two suggestions are consolidated into “Pregnant Robot Invasion.”
 “Welcome to the opening—”
“—and closing—”
“—night of ‘Pregnant Robot Invasion’!” 
The theater goes dark. The show begins.  
B.U.M.P is one of the first groups of its kind in Boston. The musical improv scene in Boston has been shifting recently, driven both by the arrival of Mike Descoteaux -- one of the most influential musical improvisers of modern day -- and by the increasing success of B.U.M.P. and its members. Musical improv has become more competitive and, as a result, more sophisticated.
Cohesiveness is critical in improv. Misch Whitaker, the director and a founding member of B.U.M.P., says that for warmups, she’ll have the cast sit around and talk. People need to connect in real life as well as on stage to be successful improvisers.
This cohesiveness comes through in the show. All B.U.M.P shows begin with a large group number to establish the tone and to unite the audience and actors, but after that, the cast lets the show develop on its own.
 Misch says, “Because we want to create a narrative, I ask that the cast looks for a protagonist in the first few scenes. Then I ask that everyone figures out how to best push or pull the protagonist. And that’s really the only structure we have...But the goal is for there to be some sort of wish or want for the main character and for everyone else in the show to have some sort of part in either propelling the character towards their goal or keeping them from it.” 
More so than in other theatre, the audience is paramount in improv. As the cast members develop the primary story lines and combine the scenes into a cohesive narrative, they feed as much off of the audience’s energy as that of their fellow improvisers. 
“There’s always a different and fun energy,” says cast member Ruth Green. “You have to stay open-minded and let the laughter be your barometer.”
Misch, too, believes in the importance of laughter. “It opens your lungs. It has been shown to burn calories and boost your immune system. But, most importantly, psychologically and socially, laughter is where people connect.” 
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AFH Photo // Tristin Heap
Boston boasts a bustling cultural life. From the numerous museums on Bostonian streets to the multiple opportunities for developing artists, there is a part of the Boston cultural scene for everyone. At the center of the city is one of the primary drivers of the arts and culture scene — Emerson College. Some of the most creative thinkers in Massachusetts are based at Emerson and they are giving back to high school students through the program EmersonWRITES. 
Every Saturday morning for 15 weeks, students from Greater Boston come to Emerson for three hours worth of writing, editing, college preparation and pizza — all at no cost.
EmersonWRITES is taught by Emerson graduate students with degrees in creative writing. “We’re extending ourselves out to the community,” says Christopher Grant, who founded the program seven years ago. “We’re teaching something we do well. We offer what we have—a couple of teachers, a couple of boxes of pizza, and we see where we can take it from there.”
The program offers four genres to choose from: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and mixed genre. In the classes, students discuss published works in their genre, explore different sub-genres and styles of writing, and write and workshop their own pieces. Some classes take a more abstract approach to writing. Students of the poetry class, for example, were given a piece of blue tissue paper and golden wire and challenged to create a visual representation of a word.
The teachers in the program want to challenge perceptions of their genre and its boundaries, help students improve their writing and learn from their students as much as they teach them. 
“The whole idea of reading, writing, and stretching your creativity is what makes our curriculum... I like thinking about what fiction is and what it could be… and expanding all of our minds to the possibilities,” says Cathryn Title, one of the fiction teachers this year.
Many previous students have returned to the program. “The community brought me back,” says Karen Cheng, who is taking nonfiction this year.
"The great thing about writing,” says Alena Ramos, also a nonfiction student, “is that nobody can tell you that your story is bad. Because it’s your story.”
EmersonWRITES culminates in an anthology, Spine, comprised of students’ work. Students have the chance to work on the publishing process in a subdivision of EmersonWRITES called EmersonPUBLISHES. Grant emphasizes the need to leave something behind that you can be proud of. “We believe that your expression really has the power to change the world, to change society. That’s why having the opportunity to practice expression is so important,” he says.
Ultimately, the goal of the program is to teach students how to change the world through their writing. “Every sentence is a new opportunity,” says Anthony Martinez, a fiction teacher.
EmersonWRITES is helping students change the world, one sentence at a time.
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BCLA Student // Florkenthia Jolibois
I learned how to swim in one of the oldest rivers in the world, the French Broad. I floated down it too, basking in the sweet sunshine. I saw the rock that Native Americans once attested to their coming of age by free-climbing it. I even crossed state lines via canoe from North Carolina into Tennessee. These are bits and pieces of three days out of my 22-day Outward Bound trip.
This adventure was made possible by Summer Search - a non-profit organization that helps students strengthen the skills needed to succeed in life and education. They provide weekly mentoring and support for the college application process, while also preparing students for summer trips.
Pedro Suncar, a Program Associate for Summer Search explained that, “On trips, students learn new skills and gain confidence by living outside of their comfort zone and pushing their physical and emotional boundaries. These experiences mimic the challenge of navigating a college campus and/or other new environments.” 
Summer Search is a brilliant program that helps disadvantaged students gain perspective and gain personal growth. It was with this idea that I ventured out into the Blue Ridge Mountains with an incredible crew. 
Last summer, I did things I never thought I was capable of. Most were a first, and a little scary, but incredibly fun. I was pushed physically and mentally by my Outward Bound instructors and crew.  We backpacked for 12 out of the 22 days, hiking for hours and singing along to hit songs. Without our constant signing of “Just the Way You Are,”  “Stacy’s Mom,” “Fireworks,” and “Big Green Tractor,” the hikes would have been close to impossible. 
We also made up fictional horror stories and gazed at marvelous creations of nature. No phones were allowed -- no Instagramming, Facebooking or Snapchatting -- but we did manage to snap some digital photos as evidence of our once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Without even noticing, our arduous hikes would end. Then, we would settle into beautifully constructed campsites to share and reflect on our day.
Emely Mateo, a Summer Search student also on my summer trip, reflected on her positive experience by saying, “I learned how to flinch forward.”  One of the biggest lessons students learn from the Outward Bound trip is the idea of “flinching forward.” Our instructors challenged us to slowly move out of our comfort zones and into the horizons of panic zones. They encouraged us to do new things on our own and discover our capabilities in order to build our confidence, and help us discover ourselves. By facing physical and mental challenges, students become extensively prepared for life and the challenges they will face on their journeys. 
My Outward Bound instructor, Kristen Kean, elaborated by saying, “I think the program can have different impacts on different students, but the hope is that they can go home with a better idea of their capabilities and be more prepared to take on challenges they may have shied away from before their course.”
Outward Bound was a transformative experience for me and for many others. These trips are life changing. They help students hone the skills needed to propel them through life and school. I hope other students can have have the same opportunity I did. 
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AFH Photo // John Glascock
It’s easy for us to pick our favorite sports team, our favorite color, but when it comes to picking sides on the #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter debate, things can get tricky. 
The #BlackLivesMatter online social justice movement began due to the social injustices, specifically police brutality, endured by the Black community. This movement, intended to create peace among police officers and members of the Black community, has caused some controversy. As a counter argument, #AllLivesMatter emerged. 
The BLM movement gained momentum after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in the summer of 2013 and was later acquitted of second-degree murder.  While the origin of BLM  is somewhat debated, with many people claiming credit, the widely acknowledged three major initiators were community organizers Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. As people discussed the tension between police officers and the Black community on social media, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was born. 
There has been much debate over the naming of the BLM movement. While some believe the name is too exclusive and offensive, others feel that the exclusivity of the name is important and focuses on their concerns. 
“The name is as inclusive as it get. Those who intend to impede the organization are racist and intend to prevent the long-awaited ascendency of Black men and women alike,” says Va’Shawn Hutcherson, 17, from Boston Community Leadership Academy. 
Asi-Yahola Somburu, writer and member of the Student National Medical Association - a minority medical student organization - describes BLM as “a battle for authentic representation. Perception will always be a part of the fight for justice and equality.” Somburu also said, “BLM is simply asking for the same rights and equality afforded to everyone else.”
16-year-old Sary Godinez, from the John D. O’Bryant High School, says that “Black Lives Matter is inclusive because [Black people] are already not included in many places in society and this recognizes that they are people too, they have feelings too, and they are just like you and me.”
Quyen Nguyen, 16, also from the O'Bryant High School, is a supporter of BLM as a movement but also understands others when they say the name is too exclusive. He believes that people who say “All Lives Matter”, are not disagreeing with the goals of BLM, rather the language they are using to get their point across. 
 “Not everyone's points of view are the same because no one is in the others' shoes,” said Nguyen.  He believes that most people who disagree with BLM do so because they feel that BLM is purposely excluding themselves in order to gain social justice. “All races should be mentioned, which I think makes the most sense,” said Nguyen.  He also believes that those who don’t support the movement don’t have to endure the struggles these people face routinely. “And thus, they don’t understand the real struggles those people face,” he commented.
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AFH // Yvonne Chen
Amid the changing face of America, non-affluent areas of concentrated ethnic populations are caught in a net of gentrification; driven out of their homes while the affluent settle in with no issue. 

Many neighborhoods in Boston are dramatically impacted by gentrification: a process in which an area - typically one where lower income minorities reside - becomes overpopulated by incoming wealthy, privileged people. The wealthier class settles into the new neighborhood because it is more affordable, has good housing stock, and is conveniently located. But, their presence and spending power bring expensive stores, increased rent and higher mortgages. For longtime residents of these neighborhoods, the once welcoming place they called home becomes too expensive to live in, and they are often forced to move out.

The neighborhood of Chinatown is an area currently being affected. Chinatown is a great example of immigrants taking a piece of their heritage into a new nation. Yet, when the town they established for themselves is gentrified, it presents some striking questions. 

The history of Chinatown is compelling, enriched by the hardship and heart of the immigrants that established it. Chu Huang, a former Youth Program Associate at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC), shares her knowledge regarding the rich history of the town. 

“In the 1860s, Boston’s Chinatown had already been established,” says Huang. “The town had a history of a combat zone and red light districts for which people feared the area; a place only the Chinese resided as they had no choice.”   This included X-rated film stores, prostitution, and alleyways scattered with pitched tents serving as  temporary homes of impoverished immigrants. 

In the modern spotlight, Chinatown has refined its image. In contrast to the streets lined with family-owned businesses, Chinatown has been introduced to new chains owned by large corporations; stripping the town of its unique cultural heritage instilled by those who established it. 

Kathy Lee, a junior at the John D. O’Bryant High School and active member in the Chinatown community, said, “I’ve been to a workshop organized by BCNC and they talked about Chinatown's rent being extremely expensive these days and people are trying to find housing within the area but fail.” 

Not only is this an inconvenience, but it would also increase sectionalism and isolates the already underprivileged minorities within the city. This would profoundly impact current immigrants settling into the area in hopes of entering a comfortable ethnic enclave. 

“When we lose places like Chinatown, I feel that the tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion of people diminishes,” says Huang. “This makes it tougher for immigrants to reach that ‘American dream.’”

For neighborhoods like Chinatown, and many others across the city affected by gentrification, it is in our best interest to protect these places by maintaining their authentic flare and assuring affordable housing to its’ residents. It may appear that gentrification is beneficial because of the clean, modern look it may bring along with new businesses. But, it is in our best interest to protect these places as they are towns created by the people, for the people and should remain that way. 
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