School News
Black history is deeper than just the Civil Rights Movement
Makayla Robinson
Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement: The surface of American black history. This is the black history knowledge required for educators to teach elementary and middle school students according to the “Common Core” made by an elite group of people in the United States. But it is not enough. To really learn about black history in one’s own life, someone would either have to learn it in college or remain curious throughout their entire lives. Learning Africana Studies is an opportunity that anyone should take advantage of when it is available. 
The class I am taking at the Academy of Pacific Rim, called Birthright Birmingham, is an opportunity to dig deeper into black history and become more educated on my own culture. This class is also taught on an AP level so we can learn more through the rigor of the work. The class is taught in three units for the semester: the first was exploring and brainstorming a definition of blackness in America. The second is learning about black U.S. history from slavery to today. The final unit is on Afro-futurism, a philosophy of science and history that explores the future of technology and the African diaspora culture. We also teach five eighth-graders what we’ve learned. In the spring, there will be a trip to Alabama and Atlanta where we will visit many famous black history sites and visit a historically black college or university. 
Many privileged people are ignorant to the oppression of minorities because of the small number who end up successful and wealthy. Someone in my class asked the head of the humanities department, who has a degree in Africana Studies, what it could be used for. Once she said that “it could be used for literally anything,” something in me made me think this could be more important than my curiosity. Society teaches people that a white, cisgender male is the ideal person to succeed in America, but this class reprograms our brains to have us believe that Black Americans can achieve and be successful too.  
Another benefit of this class is the fundraising we do for the trip to Georgia and Alabama. Our class fundraising has taught us multiple ways of communicating professionally when asking for money. One thing that shocked me was when someone from a radio station came to our class and interviewed us. It surprised me so much. I asked him if it was for an article and when I found out it was for a radio station I felt like I almost jumped out of my seat while I briefly covered my mouth. The interview was important to me because I am usually very shy and learning to communicate and advertise professionally can help me talk to people more. The younger people are when they learn professional skills as well as Africana Studies, the better equipped they will be to become successful citizens of the world.  
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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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