TiP Journalists Tiffany Cespedes, Jacob Downey, and Mariella Murillo
On May 9, around 175 people showed their support for student literacy by coming out to Pros&Conversation, WriteBoston's only annual fundraiser. Mariella Murillo, student journalist and sophomore at Boston Arts Academy, delivered a passionate speech about finding her voice in writing. She received a standing ovation—the only one of the evening. We think it's safe to say that her speech was an inspiration.

The following is an excerpt from Mariella’s keynote speech: 

Ever since I was young, I have loved to read, write and tell stories. My mother loves to brag about how from a young age when she would read to me, I knew exactly when to turn the page. I remember the first chapter book I read (Magic Tree House #8, Midnight on the Moon), and knowing even then that I wanted to make stories just like that one. Over the years, I have made up hundreds of characters my brother and cousins would pick when we would play games and go on adventures.
As I grew older and dress-up became less appealing, I knew I had to find another way to get these stories out. So, I would write versions of my life as it was happening in a diary, or would even take characters that exist in the real world, my own friends and family, and put them into new worlds that I had created—essentially just fanfiction of the people in my life.
However, you can’t really go up to your teacher or friends with your journal and ask “Hey, is this any good?” I was never able to figure out how to take the bits and pieces of my writing and make it into something an audience can enjoy, or even understand. So, my characters stayed as characters, never entering a story. I had scenes planned out in my head, but trouble finding how to make them fit in a bigger picture. It was like having the pieces of a bridge, but not the tools I needed to put it together. I had the ideas and I had the skill, but I wished I had fresh eyes to help push me and mold what was in my brain into something well done. That’s why, in fall 2017, I joined Teens in Print. 
I still remember my first meeting—I was greeted with the coolest conference room I had ever been in. But, to be honest, I had never been in a conference room before. I will never forget that I was instantly treated as an individual. The Teens in Print staff welcomed me despite knowing nothing about me, or what I could bring to the table; they were ready and willing to help me become the best writer I can be. With the Teens in Print staff supporting me, I finally had the help I needed to finish a piece of writing that made sense, told a story, and could be read and understood by an audience. Writing articles for Teens in Print allows me to be creative while still giving me the roots I need to for writing in school and college.
Without Teens in Print, I would have continued through high school and college believing that I had to wait before I could truly share my writing with others in a realistic way. The day when I would be able to fulfill the dreams of a little girl lost in her fantasy novels. And now that day is every day for me, as I stand before you as a published journalist, with people coming up to me and expressing how much they enjoy my writing. Being exposed to journalism is the first stepping stone of reaching the future I want as a writer. Impacting people with my writing is something I have wanted to do ever since Mary Pope Osborne impacted me with her stories of a brother, sister and their magic tree house.  

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In the wake of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, lead in tap water has become a major concern across the nation. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority rated Boston’s tap water as “excellent” in 2017. Yet, in the same year, water test results at some public schools rivaled the amount of lead and copper found in Flint, Michigan at the peak of the water crisis, according to the Boston Globe.
Boston has seen a marked improvement in water quality in public schools. This is a good thing, but 94 of the 125 Boston Public Schools still report their water fountains to be offline, according to the BPS website. While factors like old buildings and water fountains that don’t work influence the results, this still demonstrates that water quality is a big problem.
The city spent $411,000 on bottled water and cups for public schools during the 2013-14 school year, the Globe reported in 2015. The city tried to fix water fountains the following year as part of a $300,000 project, yet most of them are still offline.
To enforce water safety policies in schools, BPS regularly tests the water. During 2019, the school system will test 859 drinking water units, 473 of which are fountains, said Katherine Walsh, BPS’ Sustainability and Environmental Resources Manager. Walsh is one of the people working to ensure the safety of students’ drinking water. While 93 units, or 12 percent, failed initially, by June 2018, only four samples had lead levels above the safe level, Walsh said. “In other words, 99.4 percent of the online drinking water units did not have lead safety issues.” 
Despite BPS’ efforts, students at Match Middle School remain unimpressed. A poll of 46 of my eighth-grade friends found that 39 percent of them drink the tap water at the school.
Leonard Rivers, one of the respondents, thinks that it’s unfair that the water fountains aren’t online at all schools. “It’s weird to know how much money and how much schools care about the drinking water but then after all this money has been spent, it’s still a bad result,” Rivers said, referring to the 76 percent of fountains that are offline.
Clearly, the drinking water situation in schools is a major problem. With BPS spending the amount of time and money that they have to fix this issue, it begs the question as to whether all these efforts are enough.

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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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