Cultural Criticism
Redefining success starts with you
In the last few centuries, the definition of success has changed because of people and their different perspectives. Have you ever thought about what success actually means? The only one who can answer this question is you. A key step to achieving in life is to know what success means to you. Your interpretation can go far beyond the common definition of success which is usually having degrees and money.
True success can't be measured with the above-named factors, but instead with the number of people that are able to live a better and more advanced life because of what they did with their time on earth. This is my definition of success — not the trophies and accolades people collect throughout their lives.  
Media and society often lead us to conclude that living a successful life means you are exorbitantly wealthy and have a lot of tangibles. Oprah Winfrey is an American media executive, actress, talk show host and television producer with a net worth of $2.9 billion. In 2008 at Stanford University's commencement ceremony she said, “Having a lot of money does not automatically make you a successful person,” and that “What you want is money and meaning. You want your work to be meaningful. Because meaning is what brings real richness to your life.”
Defining success is important, but taking a clear-eyed look at the impact of your “success” matters even more. For example, if you wake up every day at 4 o’clock and pursue a rich and varied personal life and you are still unhappy, you haven't embraced the fact that what you choose to do will not make you happy. 
Alysa Williams works at Boston International High, and her definition of success has changed as she grew up. “When I was younger, I had the idea that success was like one instance,” she said. “When I was in high school, it was like, ‘I will be successful when I graduate’ ... but now [I’m] realizing it's kind of an ongoing journey and there are multiple success stories in your life and you have to keep finding them.” 
Hamilton Deivega is a senior at BINcA from Cape Verde whose perspective has also changed. “When I was in my country, I thought success means to have a lot of money and to have a big family,” he said. “Now I realized success is to be happy enjoying life and enjoying your family because success has [no] limit. It's around us.” 
I remember being in a competition and feeling an overwhelming sense of happiness when my teammates and I won. I remember how excited we were to pick up our trophy. We couldn’t wait to take a picture of us smiling and shouting with the trophy. After celebrating, everything became normal again. Then I realized that success is not something temporary. Success is permanent through helping others and lifting each other up. Success is not the key to happiness — happiness is the key to success.
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Cultural Criticism
Fear tactics or raising awareness? Sandy Hook promise commercial takes controversial approach
September was back-to-school season, which meant that people were shopping for school essentials like folders and notebooks. At the same time, a video by the non-profit advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise debuted and appeared to be a normal commercial advertising school supplies, but the kids demonstrate the need for pencils, notebooks and other supplies as they flee, fight, help injured classmates, and hide out in a bathroom stall to avoid a shooter. The video’s use of scare tactics to spread awareness about the danger of school shootings is part of a larger problem: American students are being taught to fear school rather than prepare for the reality of school shootings. 
The co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, Nicole Hockley, is the mother of a 6-year-old who was killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. She has another son whom she wants to teach all the preventive measures and ensure that he will be prepared if something tragic should happen again. Hockley insists that the harshness of the matter should not be sugar-coated when teaching students about school shootings. 
A teacher at MATCH Charter Public Middle School, Desiree Mitchell, said that “scare tactics aren't even needed because frankly, people are already scared...I don't know that we need more knowledge that there's school shootings, everyone already knows that.” 
“This is what our kids are experiencing and yet there are no actions we can take to prevent it,” Hockley said in an interview with CNN. Her main message is that parents need to better equip their children to take action and be ready when something happens. 
Currently, in places like Michigan, schools are being built with bulletproof windows and curved hallways. That $40 million invested in the building could send 800 students to college. Is the sheltering and preparing normalizing shootings? Is this the way that people should spread awareness? 
The Sandy Hook video is promoting fear and teaching kids that causing chaos to get attention is an option when you’re struggling with mental health issues. What we should be teaching students is that gun violence is never an option when struggling with life. 
Instead, we need to do more research to better understand mental health issues. In recent years, suicide rates have significantly increased. Netflix shows like “13 Reasons Why,” can come across as romanticizing suicide. Within a month after the show was released, suicides rates jumped reported The Guardian. Also, kids often joke about shooting up a school when they feel frustrated or think the curriculum is unjust. Among students, news of a school shooter is tossed around and not taken seriously. 
In some cases, fear can be effective at getting across the significant danger and reality of school shootings, but it should always be a last resort. Even though the founder of this video views fear as the most impactful way to get the importance through students’ minds, it teaches irrational fear. 
Although Hockley said we’re not in “this rosy time,” preventative measures can be taught in different ways that can be just as effective but with less fear. Kids are now used to hearing about their peers getting killed, but should this be the norm for them?
What does it mean for their future lives, expecting their friends to be killed for no reason, attending school thinking you could die? The way our society chooses to go about this is not just affecting the kids of today, but also what these kids than teach to their kids for generations to come. 
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School News
“It was just an accident”: Raising awareness about sexual harassment in middle school
What is sexual harassment?  Why do schools let it slide? Does school leadership care?
Sexual harassment is a sexual and inappropriate action toward another person that can be done through text or in person. The perpetrator doesn’t have the other person’s consent, which is why it’s considered sexual harassment. I am a middle schooler at MATCH Charter Public Middle School, and I am a victim of sexual harassment.
Before I get into the day I stood up for myself and finally took action, I want to rewind to the text messages and actions that led up to the incident. It all started when a new male friend got my Snapchat and sent me a direct message saying that I was cute.  I didn’t think much of it, I just took it as a compliment. The more we started to message on Snapchat, the more I noticed that he was becoming a little “too friendly,” texting me things like “I want to have sexual intercourse with you,” “you’re thick,” and “I know where you live.” This made me feel uncomfortable, so I stopped texting him and distanced myself from the situation. 
A couple of weeks later, my friends started telling me that he was always looking at my butt when I got up. It started to get annoying because I couldn’t even stand up to fix my pants without him looking. When we transitioned to other classes in the hallways he would touch me in inappropriate places and say “it was an accident.” I knew it wasn’t an accident, but I was too afraid to say something because if I did, people would say I was overreacting. But one day, I decided that I had enough.
Last spring, I finally filed my report with the school because I was just over being harassed and I could no longer be silent. On a Friday during school, I was hanging out with my friends when I noticed the boys whispering and telling this one particular kid over and over “just do it.” I didn't pay much attention to it. A couple of minutes later, the boy came up to me and asked for a hug and I said sure. He then wrapped his hands around my waist and grabbed my butt. I tried to push him away from me, but he was holding on tight. I finally gave him a good push and he got off. All his friends were laughing as if it was a joke. I felt violated because how are you supposed to be my friend, but use my body as a toy you can just play with?
The deans at MATCH notified both of our parents along with the school police. There were also other consequences I didn’t know about, but they never told me how they addressed the situation. It felt like they didn’t do anything and just wanted to let it slide like it was a small situation because they didn’t communicate with me. 
This whole incident really messed up my mindset because it felt like I couldn't be friends with a male without them thinking about doing something sexual with me. It made me lose trust in people. How could you take advantage of me and treat me like that? This moment changed my whole perspective on life and the world because I know that I am not the only student who has experienced something like this, and it can really be traumatizing to people. 
Schools need to be more aware of sexual harassment among students and address the situation because it can affect a students' education. It can make them not want to come to school because they feel very uncomfortable. They can also be scared to be left alone with a boy in a classroom. Sexual harassment in schools needs to come to end because nobody should be scared to show up to school, they should be able to come to school and get their education. Take action and don’t stay silent!
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School News
Passing the Student Opportunity Act was a victory, but the work isn’t over
Underfunding our public schools exacerbates the opportunity and achievement gap and perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline. When schools are unable to afford art, music or guidance and wraparound supports, students are more likely to become disengaged and act out, resulting in disciplinary action like suspension or expulsion. Students and schools alike suffer. This is why the passage of the Student Opportunity Act, which will provide $1.5 billion in additional funding to Massachusetts schools over the next seven years, is a historic achievement and a victory for students all across the Commonwealth.     
On behalf of the Boston Student Advisory Council and Youth on Board, we want to thank our Massachusetts political leaders for taking action and voting favorably on legislation that will help remedy the lack of funding that plagues many of our inner-city and rural school districts. Thank you for keeping your promise to your constituents. We also want to thank Governor Charlie Baker, who signed the legislation into law this past November.
However, the biggest thank you goes to the amazing youth of our state for their relentless advocacy for more school funding over the years. Without the cooperation and advocacy of thousands of young people all across the state, the PROMISE Act and eventually the Student Opportunity Act, would not have been introduced and prioritized. The student-led Boston walkouts in 2016, which saw close to 3,000 students risk disciplinary action and even arrest to protest drastic budget cuts, created an urgent incentive and brought much-needed recognition to an issue affecting many public schools, especially those serving predominantly low-income students and students of color. Without the determination and commitment of Massachusetts youth to organize and mobilize, we are sure this legislation would not have passed. 
Now that the Student Opportunity Act has become law, students need to be at the table that decides how the funds are allocated and student priorities must be considered. We must prioritize funding for social and emotional support. We must prioritize funding for menstrual products and toiletries in school restrooms. We must prioritize funding functional heating and cooling systems. And we must prioritize funding for Special Education and English Language Learners so that all students receive a rich and adequate public education. 
While we give kudos to our Massachusetts political leaders for passing this important legislation, we know that the hard work is not done. Massachusetts students challenge our public and district officials to bring it home by ensuring that the funds are allocated properly and equitably across the Commonwealth. The lives and futures of students are on the line.
The Boston Student Advisory Council is the primary vehicle for student's voice and youth engagement across the Boston Public Schools. BSAC plays a key role in advising the School Committee, working with school leaders on student climate issues and informing students of their rights 
BSAC is a social justice program that develops students' professional and activist skills by way of academic support, training and exposure to engagement opportunities which, in our modest opinion, is the heart and soul of the program because it puts young people ahead of the ball as young professionals. 
If you are interested in learning more about BSAC please visit us on Facebook @BSACbuzz and/or come join us for one of our weekly Monday youth meetings at the Bruce Bolling Building at 2300 Washington St. from 4-6 p.m.
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School News
Stress has lasting effects on teens’ minds
The school year is halfway through and many students already feel the stress of school and their parents consuming them. The pile of homework and continuous activities become a double-edged sword as students find ways to escape stress. These can be healthy release mechanisms like exercise, watching TV shows or planning ahead on assignments, or they can be unhealthy, risky coping mechanisms, such as drinking, smoking, drugs or accessing pornography. As the year goes on, “18% of students will [try] drinking alcohol with a result of 4,300 deaths of teens,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How we release stress depends on how far we want to take it.
The brain reacts to stress with the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that functions as a command center, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system, so the person has the energy to fight or flee. The fight-or-flight response is responsible for the outward physical reactions most people associate with stress, including increased heart rate, heightened senses, a deeper intake of oxygen and the rush of adrenaline. According to Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School, a hormone called cortisol is released, which helps to restore the energy lost in the response. When the stressful event is over, cortisol levels fall and the body returns to normal.
When chronic stress is experienced, the body makes more cortisol than it has a chance to release. This is when cortisol and stress can lead to trouble — high levels of cortisol can wear down the brain’s ability to function properly. According to several studies, chronic stress impairs brain function in multiple ways. It can disrupt synapse regulation, which can make people less social and avoidant of others. It can kill brain cells. It can even reduce the size of the brain. According to the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, “Chronic stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. While stress can shrink the prefrontal cortex, it can increase the size of the amygdala, which can make the brain more receptive to stress.” If Boston students inhale an unhealthy amount of stress in the school year, it may take a toll on the way students learn, resulting in a drop in grades and in the relationships they have with others.
A common way students become stressed is through procrastination. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “Procrastination is the action or habit of postponing or putting something off.” This habit not only causes stress but also results in lousy performance on assignments and very poor grades. Elizabeth Green, an adjustment counselor at BC High, suggests that students start with the easiest part of the assignment. “Just [make] sure you start,” she said. And for some kids, try to “chunk the work” — not looking at the “big project” due — but breaking it into smaller steps.
Green also suggests making work a daily habit. “So whether you have a lot of homework on one day or not very much at all...between these hours I’m doing homework.” 
An example of making homework a daily habit is by setting an alarm at 4 p.m., so when the alarm rings, you can start with homework and studying for quizzes and tests. Another example is using a planner to estimate how much time an assignment will take and planning what assignment to start first.
Another way students can relieve stress in a healthy way is through exercise, like taking a walk outside or doing 10 to 20 push-ups. Exercise and other physical activities produce endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. In addition to exercise, meditation and breathing deeply can cause your body to produce endorphins. Some apps to help with meditation include HeadSpace, Calm and SimpleHabit. For other students, taking breaks from homework can release stress. “Take breaks and do something else for a bit,” Graham Owens, a student at Boston Latin School,  recommends. “Also doing something relaxing like playing video games and hanging out with friends [can help].”
Lastly, speaking to someone, like a friend, parent or counselor, may relieve stress. “Friends help me release nervousness and uneasiness,'' says Ethan Motoslavsky, a student at Boston Latin School. Talking to someone is less scientifically proven in relieving stress, but a study conducted by Vanessa Pouthier, a researcher at the University of Melbourne, found that people who emotionally vent in the workplace are more comfortable and pleased to be at work than those who don’t. 
However, other students don’t have access to talking to a trusted parent and instead see their parents as another set of stress. It is important to understand that the parents play a major role in how much stress a student can feel as well. It is critical that parents play a role in helping their children cope with stress.
“Parents can help their children, by reminding where their priorities are,” Green said. “So, parents can prioritize what work is important to them and the values that are important to the family. Parents can also help by reminding their kids that grades aren’t everything.”  
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