Photo by Michael Rivera
Discovering yourself and what you would like to pursue in the future could be difficult because it requires time and effort. However, by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new activities in and out of school, you may discover your passion. Once you find it, you have a better idea of who you are. Your passion may lead to personal growth or insight into your future career.  
Esther Pierre-Isaac, a senior at City on a Hill, says writing is her passion. Isaac has been writing ever since middle school, which she now does as a daily hobby. “This is my passion because I can express my thoughts on paper,” she said. Whenever Isaac writes, many ideas flow from her head through her fingers and pencil to the paper. Isaac found her passion by doing what she loves, reading every day. “Reading inspires me to write,” she said. “It gives me ideas that brings my feelings on a page to life.” Isaac uses inspiration from her own experiences to write mostly drama and adventure. 
Writing allows Isaac to tell the world who she is. This is why Isaac would love to pursue writing in the future. “I would love to be a journalist. I would love to be an author because I want to share my stories with the world someday.” 
Natalie Nguyen, a senior at  John D. O’Bryant, loves to create art. “My passion is definitely driven in the musical direction as I am an aspiring singer/songwriter and performer. I love to use art as a way to express myself,”  she said. Some of Natalie’s daily hobbies composes of drawing, singing and playing the piano. “I try to set aside at least 30 minutes to just play the piano and sing.” 
Growing up, Nguyen was always surrounded by a variety of Vietnamese music. At the age of 8, she started getting more involved in music when she received her first piano. As she grew older, Nguyen began her music journey from discovering the world of music online, one being YouTube. Due to her exposure to music at a young age, Nguyen said “I knew that I definitely wanted to pursue music.” 
When Nguyen creates art, she does it for the purpose of relating to people. “It is a way to let someone else out there, who is possibly going through a similar situation as me, know that they're not alone and that there's someone advocating for them.” Nguyen also creates art for herself because she feels at peace and safe when she does. “I feel like creating art takes away a lot of my stress because it helps me to calm myself down. Music is a space for me to just express my feelings without feeling judged.” 
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For those of us who live in New England, you know how freezing it can get in the winter. With harsh winds, black ice on the the roads and sidewalks and icy air, staying warm is a necessity. So it’s time to bring out your gloves, hats, and scarves out if you want to stay warm. Trust me. I know what you’re thinking: “How in the world am I supposed to be cute and fashionable at the same time?” Well, that’s why I’m here. Here are my 5 quick and easy tips for how you can slay in layers.  
 
Turtleneck and Dress Combo
A turtleneck and dress combo is just that! All you have to do is find a dress, long or short, and wear a turtleneck underneath. Voila! This look will keep you fashionable and warm all winter long.  
  
Trench Coat Chic
There are many ways in which you can wear a trench coat instead of a peacoat. Trench coats are warm and toasty, the thicker the better. Specifically you can pair a trench coat (the color is your choice) with jeans or leggings, and a cute pair of boots, flats, or heels.  
 
Cute Sweater and Ripped Jeans
This outfit choice may seem basic, but who doesn’t love a cozy sweater and some ripped jeans? You can wear any type of sweater that will keep you warm throughout the day with a pair of cute ripped jeans, and boots to match. A little trick that I like to use is wear leggings or tights underneath my jeans to stay extra toasty. You’re welcome.  
 
Embrace Your (Faux) Fur
Wearing faux fur is always a quick and easy go to for the winter. You can wear it to upgrade just about any outfit. So, that means you can go from casual to classy with just one coat, vest, or collar to give your outfit that extra flare. 
 
Flannel Shirt Jacket 
Now, my last fashion tip is for the fellas, because I know there are guys out there who want to look good too. A flannel shirt jacket is a lot thicker and softer than button-up shirts. No, you won’t look like the lumberjack from Little Red Riding Hood (unless that’s the look you’re going for). You can pair this item with ripped or regular jeans, and a pair of boots or sneakers.  
 
I hope you guys appreciated my quick and easy tips. I know trying to be cute and warm in the winter is hard, and you end up having to sacrifice your warmth in order to slay walking down the runway... and by runway I mean your high school hallway. But, if these tips help you like they’ve helped me, then you are never going to have a problem when it comes to slaying in layers.
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AFH Photo//Darren Hicks
When you look at me, I look like an average American: dark black hair, mono eyelids, pale skin, and a flat nose. But in Asia, society would tell me that there are features I should change. I should have a smaller face, bigger eyes, fairer skin, and a taller nose. As a first-generation Asian-American, it’s hard to ignore the nagging voice of my relatives telling me everything that’s wrong with my looks and the western beauty standards that tell me the opposite. Growing up in an Asian household, pale skin was the epitome of beauty; 75 SPF sunscreen and umbrellas were my best friend. But as I got older, I realized that my perception of beauty was different than my parents’. Years of watching mainstream American television, which showcased people from all types of ethnic backgrounds, influenced my view of what was beautiful. I saw tan skin as being sun-kissed by 100 carats of gold, mono eyelids as unique and eye-catching, and flat noses as heart-shaped and unique.  
Conflicting beauty standards doesn’t only apply to Asian-Americans; they apply to all types of people. Osagu Robin Odeh, a first-generation John D. O’Bryant senior from Nigeria, said, “I feel like it’s complicated because in my culture we like thick women, but in America, we like thin and slim women.” According to Kathy Lee, a John D. O’Bryant senior and first-generation Chinese-American, different perceptions of beauty among different cultures can be detrimental. “Growing up, I was always told that I was too dark and that I would be prettier if I was lighter, and I never found it an issue,” Lee said. “Now I prefer to be more paler because of what people, specifically what my family members, tell me.”  
According to first generation Somali-American John D. O’Bryant senior Sumeya Ali, conflicting beauty standards don’t just affect the way we look, but also the way we dress. “I used to wear clothes that I didn’t like or that just weren’t me because in my culture, we value a woman’s modesty and her clothing represented that modesty,” Ali said. “Because my culture believed that wearing long skirts and specific types of shirts were seen as beautiful, I had to wear it even if I didn’t really like it. As I’ve gotten older, my individual style has changed and grown and I’m not afraid to wear what I want to wear. However, I am still hesitant on wearing certain items because of my judgment from my family.”  
The balance between trying to please ourselves and our family is hard, so is there a way for us to find the sweet spot? According to Jean Wang, the Asian-American author of the Boston-based fashion and beauty blog ExtraPetite, being confident and comfortable in our own skin is more important than the opinions of others. “You can never please anyone else's standards, so I wouldn't stress over balancing cultural beauty standards. You should have the freedom and fun to experiment with beauty, makeup and hair—all of which are temporary and can be either undone, washed-off, or grown back!” she said. “In the end, it's all about discovering yourself and finding the look and style that you feel most comfortable and confident in.”  
 
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When immigrants arrive in a new country, they bring their most valuable possessions. You might think these possessions are in their bundle of suitcases—but most are found in in their memories. I interviewed six teenage immigrants at Boston International Newcomers Academy: 14-year-old Ibrahima, 13-year-old Ibrahim, 16-year-old Mike, 16-year-old Jefferey, 18-year-old Dabhcar, and 17-year-old Venessa. This is a glimpse into a few memories they shared with me.  
 
[These interviews have been edited for clarity and length.] 
 
Where are you from?  
Ibrahima and Ibrahim: We’re originally from Senegal.  
Mike: I’m from the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
Jefferey: I was raised in Manila, Philippines.  
Dabhcar and Venessa: We’re from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 
 
What do you remember about adjusting to your new surroundings in a new country? 
Mike: The only thing I remember by the time I get here is everything was new. Lights, too many light everywhere! In my country, you have to take bushes and put them on fire and walk with it around for a source of light. It was surprising—tall buildings. The only building back there was the one for the president.  
Venessa: I remember the day I got lost when I was coming to school. I was on the MBTA and I didn’t know the kids in that school as much. And everybody else left the bus and when I looked up, I didn’t know where I was. I thought, “oh my God, I’m lost!” My English wasn't that strong and I was struggling to talk to the bus driver. I didn't know what to do. But in the end, the bus driver helped me get off at my stop.  
 
What’s your favorite food from home? Do those foods trigger any memories? 
Dabhcar and Venessa: On January 1, which is Independence Day, we visit our whole families and eat “soup joumou.”It’s a tradition we have take part in, and we drink that all day. We also like lalo which are jute leaves, griot, or fried pork, and plantains.  
Ibrahima and Ibrahim: Thiéboudienneis a Senegalese fish and rice dish. Sometimes we eat it with family. 
Mike: Every morning I used to wake up and go hunting to bring food for home. The first time I got a big animal, I shared it with my friends and family because it was really hard to get down and to take home. It was really hard to cut it into pieces to give to each other and to the village people too. 
 
Tell me something that you will forever remember from your home country that has left an impression on your identity. 
Ibrahim: When I was in school, they got a basketball court one day, and my friends and I played basketball for the first time. They didn't know the rules, because soccer is the most popular sport in Senegal. They just picked up the ball and threw it. I remember this one person, he took the ball for a spin. He grabbed the ball and took ten steps—you’re only supposed to do two or three steps. This kid just grabbed the ball and took off.  
Mike: The one thing I miss is my family back there. Not just my immediate family but the ones I  grew up with. My childhood friends and stuff. Because, from the time I was like 7 to 11, I used to go hunt with them. Animals like deers, and those crazy animals—black panthers. 
Jefferey: I used to always ride motorcycles in Manila. So after school, I would hang out with my friends riding motorcycles. We always hang out in my house, every day! After, we would go to other places on road trips, just seeing the city.  
Venessa:  The way we celebrate Christmas in Haiti is special. On December 21, our families go to church. December 31, everyone goes to church again to pray. For the 25th and January 1, we go to see family. Even if we have gone 365 days without seeing each other, for those days we will see each other no matter what.  
Dabhcar: My favorite memories are full of summer because I enjoyed beautiful moments then. I tried to have fun with my family and sometimes with my church. In the summer, there is a tradition where we go camping for two weeks. That is my favorite memory of Haiti.  
 
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AFH Photo//Kiara Maher
If you were asked “what is the point of having prisons?” your answer would probably be “to make sure people learn from their mistakes and protect those in danger.” However, this isn’t the ultimate goals of U.S. prisons. Profits seems to be the drive for increased imprisonment, especially considering that most of those incarcerated were detained for drug affiliated crimes, not murder, theft, or rape.   
With the highest incarceration rate in the world, the United States currently holds more than 2.3 million prisoners; that is more than triple the population of the state of Alaska. The Prison Policy Initiative notes that Black and Latinx make up about 59 percent of these prisoners. Despite the fact that Black people make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population and Latinx about 16 percent, Blacks and Latinx are still America’s top prisoners. 
Ibrahim Dahir, a senior at John D. O’Bryant, said, “the idea that an entire system is set-up against large factions of the population is utterly diabolical. I truly think this is something that should be talked about.” 
The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health outlined that about 17 million whites and 4 million African-Americans used an illegal drug within the past month. Considering the population of both of these groups, black and white people use drugs at similar rates, but black people are six times more likely than white people to be incarcerated for using drugs. The disparity in jail sentencing does not correlate.  
Mandatory minimums are the lowest sentences a defendant can serve for a particular offense. These laws are shown to have an influence on the aforementioned sentencing disparities. For example, in 2010, U.S. News reported that there was a minimum mandatory sentence of five years for a first-time trafficking offender found with only 5 grams of crack cocaine, and five years minimum as well for a suspect found with a 500 grams of powder cocaine. Despite the fact that crack cocaine and powder cocaine are chemically the same, because crack is more commonly used by black people rather than whites, they are faced with a higher risk of incarceration than powder cocaine users. 
The Boston Globe reported that in November 2017, Massachusetts passed new legislation that reduces mandatory minimum sentences and treats 18-year-olds as juvenile. This new policy is one of the first things that must happen to dismantle this system of mass incarceration. But for this issue to be better addressed, other states must also follow these steps.  
Mandatory minimum laws set sentences that are disproportionate to their crimes. Not all crimes have the same severity. It is absurd to imprison someone accused of theft for two minimum years, knowing that all they did was steal food at a gas station. America focuses on penalizing offenders with longer sentences, but long sentencing will not reduce crime.  
Understanding the disparity in incarceration rates is just the beginning. We are unable to control how others perceive us based on our skin color or past mistakes, but what we can do is demand assistance from our government to prevent young people from entering the vicious cycle of incarceration. To better address this issue, reforms need to occur not only with laws but also within prisons and how they are run.  
Mass incarceration shows us more than how active racism still is in this country. Knowledge of a crime is obtained from asking questions, making comparisons, and drawing hypotheses to explain the causes of it. In reality, criminologists do not find the cause of a crime from tangible evidence alone. Criminologists, as any other group of people, have prejudgments, biases, and beliefs that may persist and affect how they approach their work. In fact, they live in a society where all behaviors are racialized.  
Criminal behaviors are often talked about in context of race. When these features become associated with people within a racial group, these misconceptions become the mirror for this group even if these circumstances are not true for all individuals. Sociologist and writer Jeanette Covington, who works at the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, affirms that racializing assumptions play a vital role in criminological theories. Criminal behaviors must not be assumed based on societal premises, as they lead to faulty and inaccurate perceptions of other people within that racial community. 
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