The following are excerpts from an English class assignment at Boston Community Leadership Academy. The students were instructed to recount a childhood memory, using descriptive and literary devices. These are their stories: 
As I looked out the window my eyes were like a camera trying to capture the beautiful landscape that was a few feet away from the truck. We passed by vast luscious green mountains that even the Discovery Channel couldn’t compete with. We drove through towns filled with love, family values and children who played baseball with a bottle cap and a stick in a dirt field. This goes to show that us Dominicans make the best of what we have, and of our current situation. We make lemonade out of the lemons life throws at us because that is what we are raised to do. It wouldn’t be like us not to. -Arvin Villar

I really wanted some cupcakes, so I went to the cash register and stole two cupcakes. Heading out, I felt badly because I had just done something I knew was wrong. Also, I knew if my mother found out she would be furious and would think negatively of me. As I was walking back home, I took a bite of the warm cupcake and it melted in my mouth. But, there was still an awkward feeling in my stomach that took away some of the joy of eating it. I was a thief. How could I live with that?  
As I went inside and gave my mom the two loaves of bread, I saw the cupcake wrapper fall to the floor and my heart began to beat faster and my mouth was dry. This was it, the moment I had been dreading.  -Casselia Dossantos

The thing is, I hated the rain, and I still do. Rain meant I couldn't stay outside with my dolls. I couldn’t make cakes out of mud. Rain meant I had to stay inside and do nothing but sit and listen to the adults talk about problems that nine year old me found boring.  
So imagine how happy I was when it stopped raining later that day. As soon as I heard people talking, I was instantly out the door and looking for my cousins. We went on to search for the best rocks. You may be wondering why we were searching for rocks, and it’s because we had to wrap them in blankets and pretend they were babies. Of course, we had dolls, but our parents kept them on the highest shelf where we couldn’t reach them. Why? Well, because they knew we would rip them apart to the point where they would be missing most of their limbs, or we would lose them. After finding a rock that was round, smooth, and the right size, we looked for the best spot where we could play without being bullied by the older kids. -Daisy Correia  

I was playing my Playstation 3 at the time. I was playing, “Call Of Duty Black Ops 2,” to be exact. I was playing with my red and black Turtle Beaches, so I could hear everything that was going on in the game. I always had my mic muted, so I could hear people talking trash, but they could never hear me with my ‘squeaker’ self. Everyone in the game lobby was talking to each other and cutting each other off. After two matches with the same people, I decided I wanted to talk too. I un-muted my mic when the next game started and said, “Hi guys.” 
 Conversations sparked up in the game chat, people trying to figure out who just said that and why this person sound so young. I heard someone shout out, “Who’s squeaker is this?” My heart drops and I mute my mic as one of the people in the game calls out everyone’s name one by one, trying to see who was the squeaky little boy. I hit the middle button on my controller and quickly made my way to the playstation mic settings and straight to the voice changer. I made my voice deeper and returned to the chat, where this guy was still listing out names. When he finally got to my name I un-muted my mic and said, “Yo?” Everyone was dying of laughter and told me that my voice changer was super noticeable and that I was the squeaker from earlier. I didn’t deny it, but only because I was pretending I didn’t care about what they were saying, as I switched my voice back to normal.  -Joshua Ward 

I fumbled my phone as I looked through my recent calls to call my mother. Ring….ring...ring…”you have reached the num-” CLICK.  
Something is definitely wrong. My guts are telling my brain and heart right now, and I can feel it all over my body. She doesn't take long to answer my calls. She especially doesn't miss them.  
¨Ma, where are you?¨ I say, trying not to sound worried. 
¨Baby, something happened to Angel. Baby, Angel was shot.¨ 
Suddenly, I hear my brother’s sobs and his voice overlaps my mother’s from the passenger’s side of the car.  
¨He's dead! Mami, he’s dead!¨ My brother screams from the top of his lungs, “He's dead.¨ I hear a loud thud over the screams and cries. 
“Ma! Mami!”  
Did I just lose my cousin, brother, and mother in one night? Later I realized what I thought to be a car accident was just my brother punching the windshield. I could hear the faint screams from outside the car. My mother screaming and my brother huffing and puffing. They had gotten out of the car hysterically. 
My mother just lost her nephew who she loves as her own, as if she carried him nine months in her own womb. My brother lost his best friend, the only person that could talk some sense into him and guide him. My family broke into a million pieces that night. The pain and sadness was unbearable, it almost felt physical. It almost felt like at any second I could die from a broken heart. 
On the way to the hospital I couldn't cry anymore. My eyes were experiencing a drought. My thoughts were blank as if I was in a deep sleep and my whole body was put on anesthesia. I felt a tingle through my body like television static. It felt like a million years had gone by and I was still in that car. We pulled up to the emergency room entrance where the lights blinded my dry eyes. It was like seeing the light at the end of a tunnel. My family stood outside in the humid air. I could tell we all had a million thoughts and emotions running through our minds. We were all so close, yet so distant in our own little worlds. In that moment I realized how it took something so tragic to happen to bring us all together. -Jeilyn Ortega

Where did the ball go? I checked under the cabinets, table and chairs. My cousin pointed towards the bed and I started to crawl towards it. I wanted to climb the bed and even though it looked like a skyscraper, I knew how to get up there. I needed to find something that was like a box, that I could push next to the bed. I couldn’t find one, but I found what my mom puts on the bed all the time, the iron. Little did I know that it was a torch compared to my soft baby hands. I took no mind and decided to push. I put my left hand first, hisss, I immediately felt the pain. My hand felt like bacon frying on a skillet. My hand couldn't move my because it was glued to the iron, so I sat there for a few seconds until my sister came and took my hand off. When she seperated my hand from the iron it was like a grilled cheese, and my hand was as pink as raw beef. Oddly, it didn't hurt at all. I'm guessing my nerves were burnt right off. The last thing I remember was smelling bleach and a whole lot of cleaning supplies.  -Manny DePina

It was a Friday afternoon: May 24, 2013. It was pretty chilly out, so I throw on my Nike sweater to wear around the house. As soon as I put it on, I hear a scream from my sister’s room. At the time, my sister was pregnant. Immediately I knew what it was: her water broke. My mom comes rushing down the hall and screams, “WHAT HAPPENED’” in Viet. She gets the keys to her car and brings my sister to the car. My mom, sister, and I all head to the closest hospital. My sister’s heartbeat was out of control. As we arrived at Boston Medical Center we enter through security and find the closest spot possible. I text my sister’s boyfriend at that time, “Yo Bro, Shelly is giving birth.” -Jason Huynh
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People who say that the hardest part about college is getting in could not be telling a bigger truth, especially when you don’t even know where to start. My name is Cristian Dubon Solis and I’m a junior in high school getting ready to apply to college.  
The college experience is full of adventure, craziness and laughter as I’ve read from countless articles on the web. However, some people—like myself— may not know how to get into college. I will soon be a first generation college student, which means I’ve never had a sibling or relative attend college before me. 
One cold winter night during my freshman year, I startlingly awoke and couldn’t get college out of my mind. There were so many questions rushing through my head that I felt dizzy. What is college? Where do I go to for help? What’s financial aid and how do I get it? I was a total mess. Now that I’m in my junior year, I have the tools to answer some of the most pressing questions about college my fellow first-gens may have. 

Dear Cristian, 
College looks so confusing. How am I supposed to know how to get there when I don’t even know where to begin? I tried reading articles online, but every website I checked started in a different place. I’m worried that if I can’t figure this out, I may have trouble later down the road. I’m lost, confused and frustrated that I can’t figure this out. It would be a big help if you can give me some direction. 
Yours truly, 
 Jessie from Jersey 
Hey Jessie, 
The confusion, frustration and bewilderment are all a part of the process for first generation college students. As to where you should start, there are many places where you can lay your groundwork. A good place to start, no matter where you are in the college process, is to write a broad personal statement. Most colleges ask that you submit a personal statement answering a particular prompt. By writing a broad personal statement, you can later modify the statement to suit the requirements of different colleges. I would start this process by drawing a web about yourself. Draw a circle, put yourself in the middle, and start brainstorming ideas about the different aspects of your life. Make sure to put specific experiences next to your branches with extra details to better describe why you are who you are today. This personal statement is all about you, so you calls the shots!  
If this isn’t something you’re interested in doing at the moment, I would start taking a deeper look at the schools you may be interested in. There’s a website and app called the Common App which gives you tons of information on various schools and the different courses and activities they offer. It is an amazing resource to look up and compare different colleges and universities. I would make sure to research one or two colleges every week so that you’re knowledgeable on all the options out there.  
If these starting points aren’t your cup of tea, I recommend going to a guidance counselor to see what recommendations they may have. Hope this helps!  
Til next time,  
Hiya Cristian, 
Fellow first generation college student in dire need of your help! So, I vaguely know the application process—filling out applications, updating my resume, applying for financial aid—but who do I go to for support? I don’t really know who to go to other than my guidance counselors. Is that it? I want know who you would go to for help when you need it.  
Your good friend,  
Becky From Boston 
Hey Becky, 
I had the exact question when I first started thinking about college! It’s true that your guidance counselors are a key part to the college process. They help you keep track of applications, financial aid applications, due dates, college visits, etc. However, this is not to say this is your only source of support. There are plenty of programs in Boston that help with college readiness including Bottom Line, Minds Matter, Summer Search and so on. 
I, for example, am a mentee at Minds Matter Boston and the help I have received is so valuable. They’ve taught me to be a go-getter, brag a little, keep up with due dates, and so much more. I know the help I receive from them is priceless, so I would highly recommend Minds Matter or a similar program. It’s all up to you.  
Other than counselors or programs, there are still some supports systems which you may not see. Ask people who have attended college as first gens, ask friends if they have relatives who attend college, or ask your teacher what it was like to go to college. All these resources are at your disposal, you just have to make use of them! 

Applying to colleges seems like a bigger climb than Mount Everest! It’s no wonder that first generation college students don’t have a clue where to start, who to go to for help, or the opportunities available. I hope I answered some of your questions to help your journey up the mountain a little more bearable. Til next time, fellow first-gens! 
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Online Exclusive
Teens in Print Answers the New York Times' Holiday Social Q's
We asked our teen reporters to take on real life, holiday-themed questions from the New York Times' Social Q's column.

From: Retro-Gifting

Last year at Christmas, I somehow managed to regift an ugly set of crystal wineglasses back to my sister-in-law, who had given them to my husband and me for our anniversary. Things have been a little chilly ever since. This year, I’d like to give her something really great to make up for it. Should I acknowledge the regifted glasses, or just pretend it never happened? And is there a way of letting her know that I actually bought a present for her this time? -Anonymous

Dear Anonymous, 
I think you should own up to your actions. While yes, there is still a possibility that your sister-in-law may not know that you regifted her gift, it is still the right thing to do. You messed up. Just face it and own up to it. Giving an even better gift may help the situation a little, but if there is no apology, your efforts were for nothing. Just say “sorry” and be genuine about it. I’m sure your sister-in-law will appreciate a “sorry” more than anything. Once more, don’t stress about it. Have a merry Christmas and squash everything with your sister-in-law. 
David Santana

Dear Anonymous,

Honestly, first: terrible move. Second, maybe ask someone close to her and see what she likes, get her that, and then send an apology note along with it. It’ll prove that you know what your mistake was and that you felt bad for it. Plus, getting something that she really likes will put her in a better mood and she’ll easily forgive you. 

-Ameerah Dada

Hi Anonymous,
That sounds like a tough situation you’re in. Here’s my advice: talk to her and get to know her interests. What things does she value most in life? Family? A pet? Her partner? Then try to find a gift that corresponds to these things, for example, a painting with quotes about family. Another way to get someone a great gift is to show that person how much they mean to you. If she is into jewelry, try finding a necklace that was specifically designed for sisters. If I were in your shoes, I would tell her the truth about last year’s gift and come clean. Not only does this clear your conscience, but it builds a new layer of growth between your relationship with your sister-in-law. Remember to show how sincere you are when acknowledging the bad gift. This will make it easier for her to forgive you. That’s all for now. Happy holidays!
Yours truly,
Tiffany Cespedes

From: If You Can’t Stop Name-Dropping, You’re Not Coming Skiing This Year

My friend from work and I managed to stay close even after we changed jobs. We mostly see each other on the weekends, but he really bugs my other friends. I want to invite him on our holiday ski trip; they don’t because he often makes up stories about celebrities. Not only will he have an Ariana Grande sighting (totally believable), but he takes it to another level: He and Ariana have an amazing conversation that he relays in painful detail. (Less believable.) I forgive him these lies because he’s kind and loyal. But my friends don’t. Should I say something to him? And what about the ski trip? -M.P.

Dear M.P.,

Trying to manage a friend group of diverse people can be a difficult thing to do! I’d recommend mentioning your other friends’ reactions to your work friend. It seems like too little a thing to cancel trip invitations over — communication tends to be the best option. Most likely, your work friend wants to impress your other friends — tell him that he is interesting enough without celebrity encounters. Make sure to tell him that it doesn’t matter to you, but that if he wants to connect with your friends, he might consider telling more relatable stories. And enjoy that ski trip!

Best of luck,
Masha Layfer

Dear M.P.,

In my opinion, M.P., you should talk to your friends and tell them that it’s just a joke and to not take it too seriously. You should also ask them how they feel about the stories and talk to your friend from work to be more realistic and probably ask him the purpose of his stories. You guys should leave everything behind and enjoy the ski trip as friends. But the decision is yours on whether you choose to manage the situation. Good luck!!               
-Miguel Estrada

From: Grammy's Candids

My husband’s grandmother enjoys taking pictures during holiday get-togethers. But she’s paparazzo-like in her zeal for an unflattering photograph. She giggles when she gets a shot of my double chin or my sister-in-law with a mouthful of pumpkin pie. Afterward, she sends albums of the offending photographs to everyone. How can I tell her to cool it with the camera? -Christy Reynolds, Dayton, Ohio

Dear Christy Reynolds,
The way that you can tell your grandmother to take it easy with the photo taking is by having a civil conversation with her. Discuss that taking embarrassing photos of people—family, mind you—without their consent isn’t cool, and that she should think about not the intent, but the impact that it will have on these individuals. If your grandmother doesn’t like the advice that I recommended, then she can just kick rocks and retire the photography gig, listen to some Christmas jams and drink some coco or eggnog and just chill and be old
-Dre Salomon

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hashi photo [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Over the past decade and a half, moviegoers have been exposed to six different Spider-Man movies featuring three different actors, six underdeveloped villains, four Uncle Ben death sequences, and two separate film studios. Suffice to say, everyone knows the Spider-Man story about as well as we know that with great power comes great responsibility—but in Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s “Into The Spider-Verse,” we see the Spider-Man mythos from an entirely new perspective.
After being bitten by a certain radioactive spider, Brooklyn native Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is thrown head first into conflict with earth shattering consequences.  Alongside an older Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), the punk rock as all heck Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), a talking pig (John Mulaney), a child piloting a spider themed Megazord (Kimiko Glenn), and what I can only describe as Spider-Nicholas Cage (shockingly, Nicholas Cage), Miles must stop The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from tearing the multiverse as we know it apart.  Piece of cake for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Men. And women. And pig. 
First off, the visuals in this movie are stunning.  Rarely am I so blown away by the sheer beauty of an animated film, but “Into the Spider-Verse” pulls straight from the comics it’s inspired by to make an animation style that is both comforting in its accurate familiarity, but surreal in its thrilling use of color. This sets it miles apart from any previous Spider-flick. 
Considering the movie is produced by the amazing team of Lord and Miller, “Spider-Verse” is without a doubt not only one of the funniest, but one of the most lovingly made movies of the year, paying tribute to every aspect of the Spider-Man mythos while also refreshing the universe we have seen time and time again. Without a doubt, “Into The Spider-Verse” is worth your time, and is hands-down the best animated movie you will see all year. With two sequels already in the works, we should all look forward to seeing what comes next from the Spider-Verse.


Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman. Voiced by Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Mahershala Ali, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, and John Mulaney. At Boston Common, Fenway, and others. 117 minutes. PG.
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War. War never changes, but the “Fallout” series does. “Fallout 76” marks a major shift for the 21-year-old series, making the jump from a single player role playing game to a online multiplayer experience.  While a definite shock for long time fans of the dark, though occasionally wacky, series, my time in the open beta has put many of my fears to rest.
“Fallout 76” takes place in the remains of a post-apocalyptic version of West Virginia. You wake up inside of Vault 76, one of many fallout shelters scattered around the United States. It’s reclamation day, the day when the citizens of the vault are meant to return to the bombed-out remains of their former homes after 20 years underground, to rebuild society.  After customizing your character, you are sent out into the Appalachian wasteland to follow in the footsteps of the Vault’s Overseer and uncover the dark secrets of Appalachia. 
Just because Fallout 76 is the first multiplayer entry in the series doesn’t mean you'll have to share your loot.  The game is perfectly playable solo. During my time in the “Break-It Early Test Application” (gotta love Bethesda’s acronyms), I primarily roamed the wilderness with nothing but my wits, a party hat, and a very pointy shovel, and I had a blast. The handful of times I did find myself in the presence of other players were always an interesting experience to say the least, most ending with finding myself on the wrong end of another player's Super-Sledge. 
If PVP is not your thing, then you’ll be glad to know that “Fallout 76” has a pacifism feature. If another player attacks you without you fighting back, a bounty will be placed on their head which is up for grabs by anyone on the server.  Hunting down the less friendly players provides a unique challenge that can result in a lot of loot if you succeed—but will cause a loss of all your scrap, and a chunk of change if you fail.
However, “Fallout 76” is definitely an online experience. You will have the most fun if you and a group of buddies take on the trials of Appalachia as a team. After wandering solo for a few hours, I picked up a radio signal telling me to head to a nearby city where three other players and I were tasked with defending a soup factory from ghouls, giant rats, and communist robots.  After a fierce battle, where my dear old shovel was destroyed lobbing off the head of the final ghoul, the whole party was awarded with food, medicine and new crafting schematics. Events like these pop up all over the map and give out some of the best loot when completed. While these events are not impossible solo, they are a lot easier and way more fun with friends watching your back, so you best make some buddies if you plan on gunning for some of the more challenging missions.   
In the admittedly short time I had with “Fallout 76,” the game managed to exceed my expectations. The gameplay was solid, the environments were interesting, and it definitely had the atmosphere of a “Fallout” game. However, going into this new title, you should not expect this to be “Fallout 5.” “Fallout 76” doesn’t follow the traditional story-based format the franchise has been known for, which will definitely be off-putting to some.  This is not a game where you play the chosen one destined to bring peace to the wastes and rebuild society. This is not a game where your choices will leave echos through the greater narrative of the series. This is, however, a game where you will be able to experience the world of “Fallout” like never before and have a blast tearing through the wastes with your friends. If you’re willing to look past this major shift in the series, you will have an amazing time in “Fallout 76.” 

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