To 14-year-old Jeisabela:
Bruh. Stop playing right now! You were the slacker in middle school and I know you’re telling yourself that you’re not going to do it again… but you are. You’re going to start off strong but once you get comfortable, you’re going to fail. You’re going to skip class, talk back to your teachers and hang out with your friends instead of getting your work done. I know you think you’ll be able to handle your friends and your work (and you can), but you won’t, and you know it. 
Let me explain a few things you should do to make it through the school year. You should do your work, stay out of trouble, and manage your time because, if not, you’ll be stuck with the slacker grades. 
First off, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASEEEEE, do your work! 
LITERALLY. Do. It. 
Don’t go out after school. Don’t do sleepovers. Sit in a quiet space alone and not with friends. You don’t have to completely isolate yourself, just know your limits. Sit next to someone you know won’t distract you in class, or friends that won’t distract you. You may think just because it’s your freshman year you can chill and do whatever, but you’re just making it harder on yourself in the long run. Start off strong and finish strong. You don’t want a low GPA or to have yours be lower than your friends. They may be able to get their work done and hang, but you can’t. Having a low GPA will make sophomore year harder for you. 
Second, stay out of trouble. Skipping class is all fun and games until you’re caught and you’ve landed yourself in detention. Your friends will hang out after school and you’ll be alone in detention with other people who didn’t make great choices and are probably not doing well at school because of their behavior and mindset. Why would you do that to yourself so early in the game? Talking back to teachers will get you nowhere. They’ll stop respecting you and they won’t be recommending you for anything because they can’t trust or see potential in you. Show you’re a bright student through your actions. Don’t hang out with people who don’t act smart and do things like talk back to teachers, because that's how you’ll pick up on it and develop a really bad habit and character. There’s a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. READ ITTTT!
Third, manage your time and don't procrastinate! Don’t get into the habit of making unimportant things a priority. Don’t think things like “I will just do my homework after I go to the mall.” NO! Instead, think “maybe I should get my work done before I go to the mall.” Thinking like that is more mature and is a better plan that is more in touch with your goals. Always be proactive and don’t blame your friends for your failings. It’s no one’s fault but your own. You could’ve said no to the mall and went another time because the mall will always be around, but that work has a deadline. Besides, if they are your friends they will understand. If they don’t, then you don’t need them because the types of friends you need are the ones who want you to be successful. Friends that don’t are only gonna hold you back.
I know that I am only one year older than you are now, but trust me, if you follow these three pieces of advice, you’ll get through your freshman year with good grades and straight priorities. Good luck!

Sincerely, 
Jeisabela Teixiera
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AFH Photo // Christie Andre
Dear 9th grade Madashley,
Remember when you stepped into Urban Science Academy with your hopes and promises? The promises you’ve made to yourself that you will bring your GPA up, or that you’ll challenge yourself to be more optimistic? The promises you’ve made to not be reactive, but instead to be proactive and stay after school to make yourself better? The promise you’ve made to challenge yourself, to participate in activities instead of taking short cuts? The ultimate promise that you'll try your best to get to Yale University, because you'll do anything to become an anesthesiologist?
But what happened? Well, you got lazy, that’s what.
Instead of seeking more, you settled for whatever life threw in your face. One thing I want you to know is that it is okay to feel confused, but it is not okay to not ask for help. Another thing you will notice is that everything changes in high school, and sooner or later, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. For me, when everything seemed to move too fast, I was afraid. I was scared and lost, and what’s worse, I felt alone as if there was no one to help me. Now, the advice I would give myself is that it is alright to lose some friends, what matters is for you to be successful at finding your own path.
Freshmen year was terrible, although you managed to pull yourself out of it. You slacked off because you got comfortable. You wanted to challenge yourself, but were worried that people would think that you were trying too hard. Instead of making your own decisions you preoccupied yourself with the opinions of others. By the first term, you knew you could have handled some AP classes, but you settled for advanced algebra instead! You knew you could replace your A’s and B’s with A pluses. Deep down, you knew what you were capable and you had the confidence, but you didn’t take action. Despite what it may feel like right now, high school is an opportunity to get to know your inner self.
In hindsight, I was petrified when it came to challenges, but in time I had to learn to overcome those fears. Young freshman! Learn from my experience and face your fears now. Overcome your obstacles because there is always a way out. Begin with the end in mind; always set goals; visualize your future and the steps you have to take to get there. Make things happen!
Freshman year is always stressful. Not only do you have to worry about yourself academically, but you have to make sure that your emotions are in check. The funny thing about being a freshman is that you don’t always get it right; this is why you have your peers and teachers to guide you. I learned the hard way, I wanted to do everything by myself, but sometimes you have to learn to collaborate and see others’ points of view. Sometimes being independent is not enough, you need to learn to synergize, to cooperate with diverse groups and different opinions. Two heads are always better than one. If people looked at me they would have said that I knew what I was doing when in reality I had little to no idea of what I  was doing. Do not be scared to ask for help because you think that if you ask for help then you are not equally as smart as the other students who seem to catch up fast.  All brains are different and have unique structures, you just have to find your own way of learning.
When you leave junior high you bring your previous identity with you, but at the same time, you leave your past behind, maybe even some of your friends. When I started high school, my friends and I started as a united group, but then everyone ended up going their own way. Everyday I found my social circle shrinking. I had to accept it. I did not want to lose them or leave them behind but for my own sake, I had to. Sometimes the things you want in life happen, but they don’t always happen the way you wanted them to.
Time is precious and every time I look back to see what I have accomplished, it always leaves me a little disappointed. You don’t have unlimited time. Challenge yourself. Don’t waste your freshmen year because later you’re going to regret it. Ask for help when needed, including helping out others. Work hard all the time, not only when report cards are coming out. Remember to pick your friends wisely. I always thought being independent was being able to do everything by yourself without help, and that if you got help it was not the definition of being independent. That’s where I was wrong. This year is not going to be easy. Keep your head up. There are a lot of distractions and sometimes you will feel like crying and that’s okay. Don’t get too comfortable. There are some things that you cannot control in life but accept it. That’s what I did and I am going to be fine. So take my advice and you will be, too.

Sincerely,
Madashley Cajuste

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AFH Photo // Aijanah Sanford
When I first moved to Boston, I was surprised by a lot of things that looked very different from Italy in my eyes. I imagined the U.S. to be like a movie, with people behaving like they do in movies. I thought everything they did was exciting. The streets were so big, the smoke went out from manholes like I saw in the movies, there were very tall buildings and I thought the city had magic in the air. Actually, the atmosphere here in the U.S. is different from Italy but now I am accustomed to this country and this city. 
One thing that is totally different is the school system: the place, the organization, the teachers, the classes, the hours, the approach of teachers with students and, conversely, of students with teachers.
In Italy, school starts at 8:00 a.m. and finishes at 2:00 p.m. There isn’t a lunch period so students don’t eat at school, they can only eat snacks from vending machines. I think that the lunch period here is the best because you can eat something after three hours of work, talk with your friends and relax for 30 minutes. 
 In Italy, there are two intervals of 10 minutes where students can go out of class to go in the courtyard, but the substantial difference is that the students stay in the same class for all seven hours of school. Every hour the bell rings but the students stay sitting and wait for another teacher. This organization is very, very boring. Sometimes when I would return home I would be very frustrated because I had to cook my lunch and study a lot, so I didn’t have much time to relax and then I would always be tired. 
I think that schools are better here. When the bell rings you stand up and change classes. Because you have a few minutes to walk, greet friends that you meet in the hallway, and get ready for the next class, the time goes faster and it’s fun to go to school. 
Another difference from Italian school is the relationship between the teachers and the students. In Italy, the students always have to shut up and follow the lesson that the teacher explains. Here in the U.S., the students always participate during the lesson. In Italy the students have to create a mask to appear as good girls and good boys in front of the teachers’ eyes so that the teacher can give them a good grade. Here, this kind of thing doesn’t happen because all teachers care about their students and they want better for us. For example, some teachers here care about student life outside of school, like family and sports.
Another thing that is different in Italian schools, and is better here in the U.S., is the possibility to play sports like soccer, volleyball, basketball, or softball after school and with a school team. In Italy it’s different, the school does not organize these activities, so the guys that want to play sports have to go to a different place such as near their house or the specific team.    
In my opinion, American schools are better about organization, place, people and some other things. I think the atmosphere here is fantastic. People are very nice and when you have a problem they listen to you and try to help you feel better. I like seeing people, saying hi and joking with them because in Italy I had only my group of friends. There, it is not as common to say hello and be friendly with people that maybe you don’t know, but that you have seen before in your school. 
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AFH Photo // Abraham Rosa
The first day I saw snow, I was very nervous because I was really cold. My hands, ears, and nose were freezing. I am from Haiti, a country where it is never cold. Haiti is either warm or hot, except for one day, the day before Hurricane Matthew.  Everyone was wondering, “Why is it so cold?” No one had the answer.  Though it was really cold that day, there was no snow. 
I remember the day I saw snow for the first time. I could barely walk. I was afraid to fall down and hurt myself.  Naturally, I am a slow walker; snow makes me an even slower walker.  I do not want to slip and fall. As I walk, I want to take my time to enjoy nature’s beauty, the dance of the blowing snowflakes coming down from the sky to announce Christmas is coming.  It seems though that this year we are not having a White Christmas.  Mother Nature has other plans for us! 
In the meantime, I look forward to facing my fear of snow.  A fear that happily diminished with time as my friend, Frosty the Snowman, taught me how to walk in the snow.  So, let us sing together, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!” 
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AFH Photo // Max Urena
 Since the 1700’s, immigrants have been the heart of America. They have enhanced our society. Today, women and children refugee want to settle into a place where they can thrive and call home. But the United States isn’t doing its part.
 Some believe refugees to be unknown and that they should not be trusted. I believe this perspective is discriminatory. For example, Donald Trump argues, “We don't know who they are. They have no documentation and we don’t know what they’re planning.” 
Arguments like this from Trump use innocent families running away from war as a  way to say they can't be trusted, just because they are from somewhere else. Trump uses the word “immigrant” in a way to make us think he cares about the citizens of America.
 We know that a vast majority of refugees are women and children. President Obama stated, “Refugees, most of whom are women and children, are often fleeing war and terrorism. They are victims. They are families who want to be safe and work.”
Obama’s plan to bring 10,000 refugees to Massachusetts needs to be reformed and expanded. Only about 2,800 came in 2015. It is up to Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh to make sure that Massachusetts accepts the rest of the refugees. We need ensure that the U.S. gives them a healthy life.
 The refugee crisis is a crucial issue that needs to be ironed out because the more time we waste, the harder it will be to curtail the problem. I believe Massachusetts should accept more refugees as a way to reduce the fear and pain in those families hearts and bring hope into their lives. 
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