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. 
For more information, visit www.summersearch.org or www.outwardbound.org
Read more…
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.
Read more…
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. 
Read more…
AFH // Toni Jonas-Silver
Do you believe that five million Syrian refugees fled their homeland because of the war? The amount of refugees has swelled over the world. Massachusetts should do something to curtail the refugee crisis. Massachusetts should accept more refugees. 
Some people maintain that Massachusetts should not accept more refugees. For example, on October 20, 2015 the Heritage Foundation - a research and educational institute on public policy - published an article which argued, “ISIS will most certainly try to ‘slip’ in some of their personnel with the refugees.” This perspective is simply wrong because not all refugees are associated with ISIS. You can’t judge a person based on a small group of people. We should treat refugees as individuals and not make false judgments about an entire group.
President Barack Obama stated in his speech to the United Nations earlier this year, “We’ve seen in America, hardworking, patriotic refugees serve in our military, and start new business and help revitalize communities. I believe refugees can make us stronger.” 

Refugees who come to America are hard workers and contribute to making the U.S. military stronger. They also help revitalize communities. Refugees can do lots of good things for us. They can change the world and make us stronger.
We know that refugees struggle very hard. For example, on September 20, 2015, Hillary Clinton stated, “There should be a focus on admitting the most vulnerable, like persecuted religious minorities, or those who had been brutalized.” 
Refugees are vulnerable because they lost their families, their homes, and almost everything. They need someone to help them out of the darkness. Why doesn’t Massachusetts give a hand to help them? 
This is a huge issue in the world. It would be both heartless and discriminatory if Massachusetts did not accept more refugees. Some say it is not our responsibility to take care of refugees. But imagine that you are refugee and you need help. Who will help you? Refugees need us to support them to have a better life. It is crucial to eliminate the refugee crisis.
Read more…
Renee Omolade, Program Coordinator at the Lewis Family Foundation, emceed the event.
Over a dozen students from across the city gathered at The Great Hall in Dorchester on Tuesday, October 25th to attended the mock debate, “They Don’t Want You to Vote,” hosted by Bigger Than My Block (BTMB).  

BTMB is a non-profit organization that tackles the issue of the low number of college graduates in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, by providing accessible resources which encourage teens to be on a path towards a college degree. Their educative event was aimed to inform both new voters and students who are still too young to vote, about the questions on the Massachusetts ballot and the importance of voting in both presidential and local elections.   

“When we think about why we want people to go to college, it's really about empowerment and giving them the best opportunity to live a sufficient life. So when we think about voting, it's also the same idea,” said Renee Omolade, Program Coordinator at the Lewis Family Foundation, who emceed the event. 

During the mock debate, question two on the November 8th ballot – which would authorize the state to add up to 12 new charter schools, at the cost of existing public schools - sparked an uproar. This question directly affects young people and their educational resources. 

Those voting “yes” on question two are in favor of opening new charter schools to give students more options, even if it means taking money out the of budget from public schools. Those voting “no”, believe in investing in the public schools that are currently open in order to make public education better for everyone. 

It's on questions like this that the youth voice must be heard, loud and clear. 

Amidst the pandemonium concerning the distribution of resources for charter or public schools, a heartfelt and passionate debate, similar to the fiery townhouse debates between the presidential candidates, transpired. 

No one knows more about the importance of voting in local elections than Monica Cannon, a Roxbury native who ran for State Representative earlier this year and lost by a mere 100 votes. 

“Your state representative votes on your budget for the city,” said Cannon, who served as a guest commentator at the event. “The odds of you meeting Hillary Clinton are slim to none.” Cannon makes a critical point. Although presidential elections get all the glory, voting in local elections is equally crucial. 

As the night progressed, the overall message to young voters remained the same: even if you feel your voice doesn’t matter or can’t be heard, young people still have a huge influence. It is important to vote in both presidential and local elections, despite the factors that may discourage you to do so. Its also critical that we do all of our research on ballot questions before casting a yes or no answer. 

 It’s a privilege to vote, therefore on November 8th, those who are 18 should take advantage of it. Without the option to vote, we are stripped of one of the significant rights we have as Americans. 

Read more…