Your Guide to the Singing and Silliness of Starkid
Imagine a vast dark stage, empty except for actor Darren Criss, wearing a circular pair of glasses and staring solemnly into the audience. As it cuts to a close-up of our leading man, he begins to sing passionately...about going back to Hogwarts. The audience, Criss’ college classmates at the University of Michigan, burst into laughter at the ridiculousness of it all. This is how the 2009 sensation “A Very Potter Musical” begins.
“StarKid” is a name that usually rings a bell in the ears of passionate theater nerds. It’s a musical theater production group, best known for “A Very Potter Musical,” that has been churning out shows for the past ten years. Their musicals usually consist of over-the-line hilarity and irreverence, a remarkable cast to fall in love with and an entrancing storyline. While not as fancy as Broadway, StarKid is nothing to turn your nose up at—they know how to put on a good show every time they hit the stage. Described as the “future of musical theater” by The Chicago Tribune, “a viral sensation” by Vanity Fair, and “brilliant” by Entertainment Weekly, StarKid actually radiates more and more charm with every new project.
The best part about StarKid? They generously upload professionally-filmed performances of their shows to their YouTube channel only a few months after the show closes. Unlike Broadway fans, who have to rely on a pixelated bootleg to get a glimpse at their favorite musical being performed on the stage only to have YouTube delete it three days later, StarKid fans have all their productions right at their fingertips, making it easy to binge. So what are you waiting for? Here are a few must-see StarKid musicals in no particular order.

A Very Potter Musical
Lead actors: Darren Criss, Joey Richter, Lauren Lopez
Song you won’t be able to get out of your head: “Granger Danger”
Best Line: “I'm the boy who lived. Not died. God.”

It would be criminal not to begin with the musical started it all. StarKid was founded in 2009 by  Criss, Brian Holden, Matt Lang and Nick Lang at the University of Michigan. They were a group of theater students, yes, but they were also all massive Harry Potter nerds. So, they blended their two passions and created this Harry Potter satire musical. AVPM is a re-imagining of the Harry Potter franchise, satirical and self-aware. In the StarKid version of the popular story, Lord Voldemort, with his soul attached to Professor Quirrell, tries to get revenge on Potter by killing him in the Triwizard Tournament. Criss, now a celebrated actor, singer, and Golden Globe winner, plays The Boy Who Lived, and masters Harry’s charming and occasionally obnoxious and egotistical personality. The show contains several running gags, such as Draco Malfoy’s obsession with the competing wizarding school, PigFarts, a romance between Quirrell and Voldemort, and no one caring about Hufflepuff. This is the definitive first StarKid musical to watch; it is the most recognizable and arguably the most iconic.

The Trail to Oregon!
Lead Actors: Jeff Blim, Rachael Soglin, Joey Richter, Lauren Lopez, Jaime Lyn Beatty, Corey Dorris
Song you won’t be able to get out of your head: “Your Wagon Is On Fire”
Best Line: “I’ve literally eaten everything that I’ve come across.”

You’ve got dysentery! This spoof of 1970s computer game “The Oregon Trail” is interactive, meaning audience participation is essential. The audience is given the fun responsibility of naming each character in this cast, just like one would if they were playing the computer game. This means that no two shows are the same. This musical follows a father, his uptight wife and their two kids as they venture on from Missouri to Oregon in the 1840s on a busted wagon pulled by a mutant ox. Of course, everything that could possibly go wrong on the trail does, and chaos ensues. At the end of the show, the audience gets to vote on which of the five alternate endings come to pass. All five endings have been filmed and an online viewer can click on the ending they prefer. With the ridiculous humor, audience participation and amazing soundtrack, “Trail to Oregon” is an especially fun musical that is definitely worth a watch for a giggle.

The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals
Lead actors: Jon Matteson, Robert Manion, Lauren Lopez, Jaime Lynn Beatty
Song you won’t be able to get out of your head: “Show Stopping Number”

For all the horror fans out there, StarKid has got your back. With a perfect balance of horror and hilarity, this B-movie sci-fi parody makes for the perfect Halloween popcorn musical. This apocalypse parody starts off as a dry-humored comedy about an average grumpy guy at his day job, but it quickly turns ominous when the characters figure out that the small town of Hatchetfield is slowly transforming into a musical. I know it doesn’t sound scary—in fact, it starts out funny—but “The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals” quickly pulls the carpet from underneath you and becomes gut-wrenchingly horrifying. As ridiculous as the plot of “the world is turning into a musical, DUN DUN DUN” sounds, StarKid masterfully balances the horror and seriousness with comedy and parody. I like to refer to it “Invasion of the Body Snatchers...With Singing!”

Lead actors: Dylan Saunders, Rachael Soglin, Jeff Blim, Meredith Stepien
Song you won’t be able to get out of your head: “Follow The Golden Rule”
Best Line: “I’m not just some silly side character here only to illustrate Princess Jasmine’s reluctance to get married!”

Edgy Disney villain apologists everywhere would be drawn into the stance “Twisted” takes. “Twisted” follows the story of Aladdin in an entirely warped way you have never seen it before. In this version, Jafar is the misunderstood benevolent hero, whose story has simply been twisted. He is tortured by Aladdin, a womanizing scum of the earth, who the bratty and spoiled Jasmine is desperately in love with. The musical is a clear nod to “Wicked,” but it’s a lot more exaggerated and insane. Viewers get to explore what Jafar’s past may have been like, and witness events that the Disney movie does not include. “Twisted” is enough to make viewers angry on Jafar’s behalf. While an obvious mockery of Disney, the musical still finds a way to capture Disney magic through its songs and lovable cheesiness.  

If none of these pique your interest, StarKid has nine other filmed original musicals I have not even mentioned yet, of varying topics and genres. After burning through what I felt like was hundreds of Broadway musicals, diving into StarKid saved me from my musical drought. It gave me eleven new musicals to obsess over and eleven new soundtracks to listen to. StarKid offers a Broadway feel minus the pretension. It is aware of its silliness and never takes itself too seriously. For those who are looking for a fun afternoon and want to turn off their brains and enjoy some light-hearted humor, StarKid is the perfect place to turn. Their YouTube channel is “Team StarKid”—go there, and the rest is at your fingertips.

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An SJI Student
“There is a lot of talent here, but a small market, which often leaves people left out of music as a real financial opportunity.” These are the words of Eroc, a Boston rapper who is making a difference in the rap game. Since rap has become more widespread, there are a lot more rappers popping up everywhere in Massachusetts.
Eroc is the stage name of Ernesto Arroyo-Montano, a proud Puerto Rican and father of three. Arroyo-Montano’s parents migrated to Boston from Puerto Rico in 1981, and he currently lives in Dorchester.
The city of Boston isn’t what would pop in your head when you think of rap music. One successful rapper in the history of Boston is Mark Wahlberg, or should I say, “Marky Mark.” This leads to my point about Boston not being a really big rap scene when one of the most famous Boston rappers is Mark Wahlberg, best known for acting in various movies like the Transformers franchise.
Music producers that look for upcoming rappers usually look in places like New York and Los Angeles, and don't realize there are more voices in different cities. Part of this is because of the influence of New York City. Everything related to rap connects to New York, anything from your favorite rapper’s rapper can connect back to the Big Apple.
Josh the Word, a rapper living in Brooklyn emphasized the importance of New York when it comes to his musical career. “I moved to New York for real after college, mostly cause a lot of people I was making music with at the time were moving here too,” he said.  What I took from Josh’s response is that people that want to pursue a career in the rap industry usually move to New York as a way to get recognized by producers.
Even though New York has a big rap scene, the Boston rap scene is now becoming more recognized, and Michael Christmas is a great example of this. Michael Christmas is a Boston rapper mostly known for his album “What a Weird Day.” Christmas is one of those rappers that is most known for how relatable his songs can be to almost anyone in Boston. Christmas raps about his personal experience with Boston, his past and everyday life.
The Boston rap scene is like a hidden treasure, it takes some time to find but when you do it is worth the effort. The important messages that come out of the songs show you the potential these people have. Definitely check out Michael Christmas and Eroc’s music so you can fully understand the potential the Boston rap scene has. 

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Cover Story
2020: Choose Your Fighter
Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC BY-SA 2.0], The White House from Washington, DC [Public domain], United States Senate [Public domain]
With the 2020 presidential elections rapidly approaching, an entire new generation of voters will be given the task of choosing our next commander in chief.  This may seem like a daunting task, especially after the polarizing results of the 2016 race. In order to best prepare this new generation of voters for what is literally the fate for the free world, it is important to hit the ground running with researching and supporting our candidates of choice. With the GOP already having Donald Trump in office, it is unlikely the president will face much opposition from his own party as he seeks reelection. On the other hand, the Democratic party has already had 20+ contenders throw their hats into the ring. It is up in the air who will actually end up mattering and who will end up 2020’s “Jeb Bush.” Here’s your guide to some of the biggest names in the race.

Joe Biden: Uncle America
You know him as: Former U.S. Vice-President 
The VP to 44th is back with oval office ambitions.  Having run twice before in 1988 and 2008, Biden has the experience needed to run a campaign. As a white, centrist, male and a throwback to the Obama-era, Biden has garnered an intergenerational fan base of boomers, millennials, and even the Gen-Z kids who grew up on the Obiden bromance. This however, might also be his downfall, as some say he represents a dated version of the Democratic Party that is a definite turn-off to younger, more progressive voters. 
Platform Highlights: Rebuilding the middle class, recommitting to our global allies, protecting voting rights

Bernie Sanders: Grandpa America
You know him as: U.S. Senator, Vt.
Taking the biggest L of 2016, Sanders lost the Democratic presidential nomination in favor of Hillary Clinton. Sanders, like Biden, has intergenerational backing and significant political experience, but is perceived as out of touch by some younger Americans. Policy wise, Sanders identifies as a Democratic Socialist, a title that can sound scary to some. As a Democratic Socialist, Sanders is dedicated to addressing social inequality, advocating for programs like universal health care and free college tuition. 
Platform Highlights: Universal healthcare, expansion of social security, Green New Deal

Beto O’Rourke: The Southern Sk8r Boi
You know him as: Former U.S. Representative, Texas, 16th District
From to his objectively weird punk rock days to wooooosh-ing through Whataburger on his skateboard, Beto O’Rourke has left an impression on young voters as a politician they could get along with. His awkward charm and relatability have earned O’Rourke a sizeable fanbase. A grassroots politician, O’Rourke refuses to accept any money from corporate PACs, and has publicly denounced “pay-to-play” politics. Allegedly, he’s also a really good tipper, so make of that what you will. 
Platform Highlights: Ethical campaign finance, universal healthcare, strengthening unions

Pete Buttigieg: The Mayor
You know him as: Mayor, Southbend, Ind.
 Mayor, Veteran, last name that no two people pronounce the same way, all titles given to one Peter Buttigieg—but should president be the latest addition to his already lofty resume? Buttigieg is certainly an attractive candidate to younger voters, being barely of age to take office himself and standing firm on policies like affordable health care, and combating climate change. His veteran status and experience in local government also gives him some props, but for some, it cannot be looked over that “Mayor Pete” is just that: a mayor of a small town in Indiana.  While Buttigieg still has significantly more political experience than our current POTUS, it is still a subject of debate as to whether or not he is currently capable of Commander-in-Chief status. Despite this shortcoming, he is certainly progressive, and not just in the buzzword sense.  Buttigieg’s stance of “We cannot find greatness in the past” will be something to think about as we draw ever closer to 2020.
Platform Highlights: “Medicare for All Who Want It,” debt-free college, federal investment in infrastructure

Kamala Harris: The District Attorney
You know her as: U.S. Senator, Calif.
“Speaking truth, demanding justice”: this is how Senator Kamala Harris’s website describes her. Supporting platforms of increased minimum-wage and tax cuts for the middle class, Harris is steadfast in her beliefs. Recently, Harris called out Biden for the 1994 “crime bill” he pushed as generating mass incarceration, showing she is not afraid to critique her opponents. Similar to Buttigieg, critics have cited her inexperience as a major obstacle she will have to overcome, having yet to serve a complete term on the federal level. 
Platform Highlights: Combating climate change, free college, assault weapons ban

Elizabeth Warren: The Hometeam
You know her as: U.S. Senator, Mass.
Having served as a Massachusetts senator since 2013, Elizabeth Warren brings yet another flavor in this prospective presidential sundae. Warren has a detailed game plan outlining exactly how she’s going to enact her agenda as president. From collapsing corruption on Capitol Hill, to supporting middle class families, to enstating foreign policy “for all,” her diplomatic attitude and persistence has won many over. 
Platform Highlights: Support for Planned Parenthood, Diplomatic Foreign Policy, Anti-Corruption 

Andrew Yang: The Wild Card
You know him as: a startup CEO
Andrew Yang is a candidate with some particularly peculiar primary platforms. Yang has focused on automation and universal basic income. He has made some utterly bizarre statements such as “If I’m in the White House, oh boy are we going to have some fun in terms of the cryptocurrency community” and “All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society.”  His aggressive push for universal basic income is a source of great contention, with some arguing that it will support low income families, while others argue that it will devalue the dollar.  Regardless, Yang’s long shot campaign will be, if nothing else, fun to watch play out.
Platform Highlights: Universal basic income, Medicare for all, “human-centered capitalism” 

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Francisco Jose Carrera Campos [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Some days the electricity goes out, leaving Minerva Rios and Jesus Noriega without light or water. They often have to carry large water jugs up the hill they live on in order to drink and bathe, which is crucial for Puerto Ricans who experience high temperatures on a weekly basis. Their grandchildren across the sea in the continental United States constantly worry about their wellbeing and are bothered by the lack of U.S. support after the disaster. 
The island has not fully recovered from hurricane Maria in September 2017. More than two hundred schools were damaged, which forced Puerto Rican students to leave their old schools and friends, according to The New York Times. The Washington Post reported that close to three thousand people have died from the storm, leaving families torn. Puerto Rico’s Congress believes that it would take about $130 billion to rebuild Puerto Rico’s streets, houses, schools and other crucial utilities, according to NBC News.      
Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rossello has requested statehood for Puerto Rico. A poll conducted among residents in September 2018 showed that about 48 percent want Puerto Rico to become a state, 26 percent would rather remain a U.S. territory, and 10 percent want full independence, according to Vox.
Puerto Rico became independent from Spain in February 1898 but also became a commonwealth of the U.S. in the same year. Now, the island is one of the oldest colonies in the world as it is still considered an American territory today. Puerto Ricans are American citizens, which means they don’t need a passport to enter the United States. They pay federal taxes, but do not have a congressional representative and cannot vote in major elections that will affect their island. It is clear that Puerto Ricans do not receive the same benefits as citizens living in the U.S., but the debate over what they should do about it has been dismissed for the most part for several years. After hurricane Maria hit and the U.S. failed to give sufficient aid, frustration has risen to the surface in the hearts of Puerto Ricans around the world. 
Most Puerto Rican youth, like Sebastian Caneles, know this issue inside and out. The fifteen-year-old freshman at Fenway High is the child of two parents from Puerto Rico, and he wears his Puerto Rican flag with pride on culture days at his school. Canales believes that it would be in Puerto Rico’s best interest to become a state.
“I feel like if Puerto Rico becomes an independent country it is going to create a lot of mess, and right now there’s so much violence,” he said. “And if Puerto Rico becomes independent it’s going to be harder to get the benefits that they need and the support.” 
To students unfamiliar with the island's history, it can seem like it’d be easier if Puerto Rico became independent due to its unique culture. However, the more one learns about this delicate topic, the more they understand the true story that is being told. Three Fenway High students who aren’t Puerto Rican were shocked to learn about the injustices that the island has faced over the years. When asked if Puerto Rico should become a state or an independent country, their position changed from “I think they should be independent” to “But if they have no congressmen they can’t just become independent on their own.”           
Statehood is a popular choice for Puerto Ricans because they would gain not only two seats in the U.S. Senate, but also around $20 billion every year, which could be used for the much-needed repairs, according to The Washington Post. Not to mention the connection many Puerto Ricans have with the States as the U.S. has always acted as a support system for the Puerto Rican community. Still, there are some who believe that there are more complex aspects to consider when thinking about a history-making decision such as this. 
Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción is a non-profit organization that focuses on helping to advance the lives of low-income families with affordable housing, along with art and education programs that help shape young leaders. Pedro Cruz, director of the organization’s Youth Development Program, is a proud Puerto Rican who is enriched by the culture and traditions of his home island. He believes that this topic is one that can not be easily answered with a one-word response. 
“This is one of those questions that brings up more questions,” he said. “It’s almost like we want to be a state because of some sense of survival, but is it really in our hearts to be a state, or is it just an act of survival? If we become a state, what’s going to happen to our culture? I would love in my heart of hearts to be independent, but they crippled us to the point that we ask, ‘Are we even capable of being independent?’” He believes that if Puerto Rico was to become independent, it would need a 10-year plan to maintain the island. 
Although there hasn’t been any legislative action on Puerto Rico’s standing, there has been conversation surrounding this controversial issue. Rossello has demonstrated an interest in statehood in a tweet stating: “Yes, we are wonderful people: we have weaved American Flag, the fabric of our nation, with our sacrifice and valor fighting in every war since WWI. We are Americans, we are your citizens.” 
The future of Puerto Rico is undecided and unclear, but it’s important that Puerto Ricans understand the past.
“What Puerto Ricans are missing out on is self-awareness,” Cruz said. “We need to know our history, know everything that has really been done to us and understand the political history behind our oppression.”      

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Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota’s Commissioner of Education, was named as the new Superintendent of Boston Public Schools (BPS) on May 1, 2019. Cassellius has spent the majority of her career in Minnesota working as a commissioner, a superintendent, an assistant principal, a diversity coordinator and a social studies teacher. The decision was made after a search process that lasted more than a year and included 39 candidates, three public interviews with the finalists and about 300 written survey responses from community members.
Cassellius’s resume, available on the BPS website, demonstrates a commitment to closing achievement gaps and advancing diversity initiatives. Cassellius was praised by numerous news outlets and interest groups for her political skills. School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto, who was on the superintendent search committee, said that her extensive experience at all levels of educational administration, as well as the political skills she demonstrated working across the aisle, set her apart from the other candidates. 
“We wanted someone that demonstrated some political acumen...and could get people all across our community to unite in the service of children,” he said. “Minnesota [is] regarded as a quote-unquote purple state, so she frequently had to work across the aisle to get things done.” 
Many adults expressed hopes that Cassellius would work to mend community relations, which were broken as people lost trust in the schools. One thing that could improve relations would be increased equity. Cassellius’s resume claims that her policies resulted in Minnesota’s highest graduation rates on record and closed the achievement gap between white and non-white students by 30 percent.
Students have expressed hopes for increased communication and student influence on in the way the district is run. 
“She should hold open 'town hall' style meetings with student, administrator, teacher, and parent representatives to provide a sense of transparency in the plans for BPS,” Clair Fu, a Boston Latin School senior said. “I would hope that the superintendent will have an open connection with the students instead of simply telling us what happens.”
 Cassellius has already visited several Boston elementary schools and has told the Boston Globethat she hopes to observe more classrooms in the future. 
While some have extended their well-wishes and support, others have expressed their discontent with the process and with the pick itself. Parents have questioned why organizations like the Citywide Parent Council were excluded from the process, despite similar complaints being raised consistently about BPS policymaking. “The district repeatedly closes CPC out of processes and it is frankly baffling to me,” said a Boston Latin School parent. “During the start times fiasco, CPC was also closed out of the conversation. In retrospect it was clear that had the district actively involved parents in more conversation before making sweeping policy decisions, they may have gained more traction.”
In an opinion piece for the Globe, City Council president Andrea Campbell criticized the search process for not consulting the city council and for being “quiet” and lacking clear timelines and transparency. “Not only are students and parents left out, but even the council has little knowledge as the process unfolds behind closed doors,” she wrote.
Concerns have also been raised about Cassellius’s record. She is leaving her previous position as Minnesota prepares for a class-action lawsuit alleging that the state racially segregates its students, with students of color fairing significantly worse than their white counterparts. Despite Cassellius’s claims of improvements the state saw under her leadership, Minnesota records suggest a more stagnant picture. Dan Shulman, the prosecution’s lead counsel, has stated that Cassellius left Minnesota’s schools an “unconstitutional mess”. 
Boston has struggled with similar racial disparities. Chairman Loconto once again emphasized the need for city-wide consistency. 
“We're trying to make it more consistent, the way that—the experiences that every student has in the Boston Public Schools,” he said. “We want a more consistent distribution of resources and programs across the schools.” 
When she takes on the position, Cassellius will inherit similar conditions to those she faced in Minnesota — and she will need to work hard to amend them. “She should be proactive, instead of...reacting to changes,” says Fu, the BLS student. 
Boston’s public schools are in need of revitalization, and Boston’s parents, teachers, and students have heaps of ideas on how to implement that. Cassellius will have to be able to listen and reconcile all of those voices. 

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