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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A host of schools in BPS suffer from underfunding and it has become evident. Walking into schools, one sees broken lockers, cracked chairs, graffitied desks and little to no hallway space. Other schools may have physical defects that are not as visible, such as non-functioning intercoms or a lack of adequate teachers and nurses. Without these essential resources, BPS students don’t have the same opportunities as students in suburban school districts that are located just a few miles from Boston.
The Foundation Budget that dictates how much money is allocated to districts across the state is 25 years old, but legislators have been unable to agree on a bill to update it. There are three proposals: The governor’s bill, The House bill introduced by Rep. Paul Tucker, and the Senate’s Education PROMISE Act, introduced by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz. The latter is the only legislation proposed that would support young people and their immediate needs, and it should be passed and implemented immediately.
Youth-led organizations support the PROMISE Act in part because it’s the only proposal that includes all of the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations. The commission was tasked with recommending budget updates that would provide students with more equitable resources. It called for increased supports for low-income students, English Language Learners and special education programs, along with improvements to teacher healthcare. 
The PROMISE Act also includes a District Student Aid increment that would close the gap between current budgets and a new-and-improved foundation budget in each district, along with mandating a regulated amount of funding for all Massachusetts districts. The successful implementation of this bill would increase opportunities by providing students with better supplies and resources, new sports teams, more extracurriculars and more comprehensive and robust course options. This would ultimately result in happier and more successful students, competent and satisfied teachers, and a healthier school climate.
Underfunding has a strong negative impact on students. Many believe that this is the best education we can receive because it’s all we have been exposed to and provided with, but it is not sufficient and we can have better. Students can and should stand up and speak up for policies like the PROMISE Act that would benefit us. If students want to see improvements to school funding, they can also vote and visit local legislators at the State House. It is the house of the people and students should take advantage of that.
Students have to fight for what they deserve because it’s the only way to get what we are owed. The PROMISE Act would be a step in the right direction. 


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Dear Rising Freshmen,
  It's time to get used to that name for us: freshmen. We will no longer be little middle schoolers that worry about who is in what relationship, or what new drama spiced up over the summer. For some of us, entering high school will be a new start or a new building that we will travel to every morning. It's time for us to let go of the hand we’ve been holding onto and get ready to walk on our own. Since not all of us have older siblings in high school or older friends, we don’t really know what high school is going to be like. In order to learn more, I spoke to a couple of high school students around the area about their experiences, and with rising freshmen about what they feel and expect before entering high school.   

What do eighth graders think high school is going to be like?

“To be honest, I don't know, and I’d like to keep an open mindset because I am ready for anything in high school.”
-Jacklyn Alvarez, eighth grade, Match Public Charter Middle School 

“I think it will be too much work. They will have more expectations from us in high school than in middle school, which will make it more stressful.”
-Sarai Ramirez, eighth grade, New Mission High School 

“High school is going to be more difficult, but it’s going to be worth it when you get to college and all the AP classes were helpful.”
- Adrian Santana, eighth grade, Match Public Charter Middle School



What are you not ready for about for high school?

“Tests—like the SAT and whatever college prep we need to go through—those are the things that I am scared of and I'm trying to avoid, but can't.”
 -Jacklyn Alvarez, eighth grade, Match Public Charter Middle School 

“I'm not ready for the school work or meeting new people. Not because I don't like meeting new people, it’s because I'm not comfortable with new environments.”
-Julia Gouboth, eighth grade, Match Public Charter Middle School 

“I’d say the drama.”
- Sarai Ramirez, eighth grade, New Mission High School

 
What advice do high school students have for the incoming freshmen?

“Try to connect with your parents because they are [the] only ones that will support you. Also, say ‘Hi’ first in the hallways, even if you don’t get one back. It gives you confidence and makes people know you are easygoing and fun.” 
-Lila Jane Carr, 10th grade, Needham High School

“Try not to get overwhelmed with work. Remember, all the other freshmen are in the same boat.”
-Stephen Carr, 12th grade, Needham High School

“I’d say to lower your expectations a little bit, and if you're going to make mistakes, do it while you’re still a freshman.”
-Gabriella Diplan-Lopez, 12th grade, Roxbury Prep High School 

“Do all your work! Don't think that at the beginning of the year you can slack off because it will hurt you at the end.”
- Chandler Farias, ninth grade, Match Public Charter High School

“Try to be cordial with everyone, especially if you are going to be spending time in the same classroom with at least 25 percent of the kids for the next four years. You should be polite to everyone, [...] high school is a chance to have a fresh start, be yourself and focus on what's important—like school work.” 
-Yasmin Mohamed, 10th grade,  Snowden International High School

What do you wish you would have known before entering high school?

“That staying home on a Friday or Saturday night isn’t the worst thing that’s ever going to happen. It took me a while to realize that I can still have fun on the weekends without my friends.”
-Lila Jane Carr, 10th grade, Needham High School
  
“There is always something that you can do to get your grades up. Always explore all of your options and do your homework. Its gonna suck, but like, when you get to college everything gets better.”
-Gabriella Diplan-Lopez 12th grade, Roxbury Prep High School  

“Freshman grades are a quarter of your whole high school career. When you apply to college and are sending in your transcripts, having really good grades freshman year counts.” 
-Yasmin Mohamed, 10th grade, Snowden International High School 

Overall, we should know that things don't always go as planned and that high school is nothing like the Disney movie High School Musical says it's going to be unless you make it that way. I am lucky enough to have many acquaintances in high school who tell me what it’s like, but this isn't about me. This is for those who don’t have older people to guide them. And yes, I know this might not be applicable to all high schools, but this is just to give you an idea. High school is a place where we will all grow and figure out how to handle things. It may take a while, but we will all get there.


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As citizens, it is our duty to attend school. There are teachers showing up every day educating youth, even if the youth don’t want to be there. I think sometimes we fail to realize how lucky we are to have teachers who care. Eager to learn more about teaching in BPS, I sat down with my former history teacher, Thomas Vascensolos, who currently works at John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science.

Were you born in Boston?
Technically no, I was born in the Boston area. Cambridge to be specific.

So did you decide to move here for opportunities?
Well right now I live in Somerville and I decided to work in Boston because Boston has a lot of teaching jobs. I knew I wanted to be a teacher, so I applied for various positions in and around Boston, and I just so happened to receive an offer within Boston itself.

Was teaching always your dream job?
It actually was not always my dream job. When I was very young, I thought about potentially becoming a doctor, then I realized I wasn't really passionate about that. So I decided to go into finance and accounting, and I did that for a few years. I'm still passionate when it comes to economics and finance and just keeping up with what's going on in the news and the economy, but for a full-time job, I decided to become a teacher.

What inspires you in your work?
Some of my teachers growing up. I also read many books on teaching and education and that pushed me into the education field.

What is the achievement you're most proud of?
I'm actually the first person in my family to graduate from college, and then I went on to obtain a master’s degree. I'm very proud of that.



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