For many years, I imagined what it’d be like to be in Africa, and finally I was there to see it for myself last June as part of a unique field trip, of sorts.
For most, it was a way to help others, but for me this meant something much deeper. I was in Malawi for a week to build on the most powerful weapon in the world -- education. I was there to help construct a school, a gem of opportunity for the community.
On this trip, I learned the importance of love. I mean, how can a person get so attached to people so fast? I felt so close to my host family and the village in general. I learned that people do not have to share the same blood to be family -- you just have to have an open heart to let them in.
I got to see the world beyond my borders. I learned to appreciate every moment of my life and the lives of people around me. I realized that if you have love, it will come back to you.
Eric Wong, a senior at the John D. O’Bryant School Math & Science, says he strives for high grades to appease his parents and make himself feel good.
However, sometimes the expectations his parents put on him can be a burden.
“You cannot please your parents all the time,” says Wong, who believes that setting goals for yourself can be more rewarding than trying to satisfy others.
Though parents may want the best for their children, they may be setting up their kids and themselves for disappointment by setting the bar too high.
“Often times, my parents have these high expectations for me because they were never given the opportunities that I have,” says Glenda Ramirez, a senior at the O’Bryant.
Teens say it can be exhausting because older generations often don't see the pressure they put on their kids.
"My parents want only the best for me and give me everything they did not have, " says O'Bryant senior Wendy Zheng.
Zheng says that her parents’ desires are even more evident now that she is applying to colleges, and she is nervous as her parents hold out hope for the “Harvard dream.”
On a recent day, two teens chuckle in the back corner of a classroom full of students. A young man of African descent walks by and sees what the two are so hysterical about: another Ebola joke on Instagram.
One way that some teens and others have learned to deal with their fears is through amusement. However, to other teens -- especially those with recent roots in Africa -- the Ebola gags are not funny.
“I mean, they are ignorant,” says Kadidiatou Bah, 16, from the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers, whose family is from Guinea,“but it is what it is.”
After the outbreak of Ebola, Augustine Ubah, 16, says some family members in Nigeria had stopped getting education because they shut down schools to halt the spread.
“It is a little extreme that people over-exaggerate and think all Africans have Ebola,” says Ubah, who attends Health Careers Academy and came
to the US from Nigeria in 2012. “The fact that I don’t have Ebola means the stereotypes don’t affect me.”
Teens say they understand why nervous youth may kid around about Ebola but feel that at some point, enough is enough.
Joseph Getachew, 16, from Hyde Park, whose father is from Ethiopia, says: “I think that the jokes are getting annoying.”
Since birth, girls are bombarded with subliminal messages from the media, from the community, and from family members about how they should look, how to speak, how to feel, what to wear, and who to be. While these messages might sometimes seem innocent, they have effectively brainwashed women into falling in a lattice of lies -- causing them to lose a sense of self. Teen Voices Rising participants explored the effects of societal messages and wrote about what it would mean to unlearn them.
Every day the girl wakes up scared.
Scared that her boyfriend would abuse her.
Scared her sister would get caught up in a gang.
Scared that when she went to school, she would be made fun of.
Scared that her life would end at any given point.
Every day she asks herself, “Why?”
Why is their violence in this world?
Is it because of the rap songs they listen to?
Is it the gangs?
What makes them act this way?
Every day she says to herself, “What if?”
What if she could change this world?
End the violence,
or save some of the dying people?
She knew it wouldn't hurt to try,
by speaking up about it.
Stop it when it happens.
Set an example.
Take a risk just to try,
so people see
she’s a strong minded individual
who cares about the people around her
and can change this world.