AFH // Yvonne Chen
Amid the changing face of America, non-affluent areas of concentrated ethnic populations are caught in a net of gentrification; driven out of their homes while the affluent settle in with no issue. 

Many neighborhoods in Boston are dramatically impacted by gentrification: a process in which an area - typically one where lower income minorities reside - becomes overpopulated by incoming wealthy, privileged people. The wealthier class settles into the new neighborhood because it is more affordable, has good housing stock, and is conveniently located. But, their presence and spending power bring expensive stores, increased rent and higher mortgages. For longtime residents of these neighborhoods, the once welcoming place they called home becomes too expensive to live in, and they are often forced to move out.

The neighborhood of Chinatown is an area currently being affected. Chinatown is a great example of immigrants taking a piece of their heritage into a new nation. Yet, when the town they established for themselves is gentrified, it presents some striking questions. 

The history of Chinatown is compelling, enriched by the hardship and heart of the immigrants that established it. Chu Huang, a former Youth Program Associate at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC), shares her knowledge regarding the rich history of the town. 

“In the 1860s, Boston’s Chinatown had already been established,” says Huang. “The town had a history of a combat zone and red light districts for which people feared the area; a place only the Chinese resided as they had no choice.”   This included X-rated film stores, prostitution, and alleyways scattered with pitched tents serving as  temporary homes of impoverished immigrants. 

In the modern spotlight, Chinatown has refined its image. In contrast to the streets lined with family-owned businesses, Chinatown has been introduced to new chains owned by large corporations; stripping the town of its unique cultural heritage instilled by those who established it. 

Kathy Lee, a junior at the John D. O’Bryant High School and active member in the Chinatown community, said, “I’ve been to a workshop organized by BCNC and they talked about Chinatown's rent being extremely expensive these days and people are trying to find housing within the area but fail.” 

Not only is this an inconvenience, but it would also increase sectionalism and isolates the already underprivileged minorities within the city. This would profoundly impact current immigrants settling into the area in hopes of entering a comfortable ethnic enclave. 

“When we lose places like Chinatown, I feel that the tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion of people diminishes,” says Huang. “This makes it tougher for immigrants to reach that ‘American dream.’”

For neighborhoods like Chinatown, and many others across the city affected by gentrification, it is in our best interest to protect these places by maintaining their authentic flare and assuring affordable housing to its’ residents. It may appear that gentrification is beneficial because of the clean, modern look it may bring along with new businesses. But, it is in our best interest to protect these places as they are towns created by the people, for the people and should remain that way. 
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AFH // Toni Jonas-Silver
Do you believe that five million Syrian refugees fled their homeland because of the war? The amount of refugees has swelled over the world. Massachusetts should do something to curtail the refugee crisis. Massachusetts should accept more refugees. 
Some people maintain that Massachusetts should not accept more refugees. For example, on October 20, 2015 the Heritage Foundation - a research and educational institute on public policy - published an article which argued, “ISIS will most certainly try to ‘slip’ in some of their personnel with the refugees.” This perspective is simply wrong because not all refugees are associated with ISIS. You can’t judge a person based on a small group of people. We should treat refugees as individuals and not make false judgments about an entire group.
President Barack Obama stated in his speech to the United Nations earlier this year, “We’ve seen in America, hardworking, patriotic refugees serve in our military, and start new business and help revitalize communities. I believe refugees can make us stronger.” 

Refugees who come to America are hard workers and contribute to making the U.S. military stronger. They also help revitalize communities. Refugees can do lots of good things for us. They can change the world and make us stronger.
We know that refugees struggle very hard. For example, on September 20, 2015, Hillary Clinton stated, “There should be a focus on admitting the most vulnerable, like persecuted religious minorities, or those who had been brutalized.” 
Refugees are vulnerable because they lost their families, their homes, and almost everything. They need someone to help them out of the darkness. Why doesn’t Massachusetts give a hand to help them? 
This is a huge issue in the world. It would be both heartless and discriminatory if Massachusetts did not accept more refugees. Some say it is not our responsibility to take care of refugees. But imagine that you are refugee and you need help. Who will help you? Refugees need us to support them to have a better life. It is crucial to eliminate the refugee crisis.
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Renee Omolade, Program Coordinator at the Lewis Family Foundation, emceed the event.
Over a dozen students from across the city gathered at The Great Hall in Dorchester on Tuesday, October 25th to attended the mock debate, “They Don’t Want You to Vote,” hosted by Bigger Than My Block (BTMB).  

BTMB is a non-profit organization that tackles the issue of the low number of college graduates in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, by providing accessible resources which encourage teens to be on a path towards a college degree. Their educative event was aimed to inform both new voters and students who are still too young to vote, about the questions on the Massachusetts ballot and the importance of voting in both presidential and local elections.   

“When we think about why we want people to go to college, it's really about empowerment and giving them the best opportunity to live a sufficient life. So when we think about voting, it's also the same idea,” said Renee Omolade, Program Coordinator at the Lewis Family Foundation, who emceed the event. 

During the mock debate, question two on the November 8th ballot – which would authorize the state to add up to 12 new charter schools, at the cost of existing public schools - sparked an uproar. This question directly affects young people and their educational resources. 

Those voting “yes” on question two are in favor of opening new charter schools to give students more options, even if it means taking money out the of budget from public schools. Those voting “no”, believe in investing in the public schools that are currently open in order to make public education better for everyone. 

It's on questions like this that the youth voice must be heard, loud and clear. 

Amidst the pandemonium concerning the distribution of resources for charter or public schools, a heartfelt and passionate debate, similar to the fiery townhouse debates between the presidential candidates, transpired. 

No one knows more about the importance of voting in local elections than Monica Cannon, a Roxbury native who ran for State Representative earlier this year and lost by a mere 100 votes. 

“Your state representative votes on your budget for the city,” said Cannon, who served as a guest commentator at the event. “The odds of you meeting Hillary Clinton are slim to none.” Cannon makes a critical point. Although presidential elections get all the glory, voting in local elections is equally crucial. 

As the night progressed, the overall message to young voters remained the same: even if you feel your voice doesn’t matter or can’t be heard, young people still have a huge influence. It is important to vote in both presidential and local elections, despite the factors that may discourage you to do so. Its also critical that we do all of our research on ballot questions before casting a yes or no answer. 

 It’s a privilege to vote, therefore on November 8th, those who are 18 should take advantage of it. Without the option to vote, we are stripped of one of the significant rights we have as Americans. 

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Jose Feliz, 15, from Roslindale, is surprised that some of the products that he uses daily are tested on animals first to see if they are safe for humans. “It is kind of sad how million-dollar companies could hurt animals to test new products,” says Feliz. According to The Humane Society of the United States, products ranging from shampoo and cologne to lipstick and nail polish are commonly tested on animals. “It’s estimated that thousands of mice, guinea pigs, rats, and rabbits suffer and die in these tests every year in the US alone,” says the Humane Society, describing consequences such as convulsions, blindness, and paralysis. As an alternative, the Humane Society says companies can use ingredients that are already known to be safe. Some scientists, however, argue that eliminating animal testing would halt innovation, meaning improved ways to fight things like dry skin and dandruff would not be developed. Tulia Farias, 15, from Excel High School, says that so many practical goods are tested on animals that it’s hard to avoid them. “We are kind of forced to use them, regardless,” Farias says. Charyn Gonzalez, 14, from Roxbury, says she will look into a company’s testing history before she uses its merchandise. “Where do people find the heart to do that to animals?” she asks.
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Edmilson Barbosa, 17, from West Roxbury Academy, knows why teens still smoke. “They find it fun, they think it’s cool, and they are motivated to do it especially if their friends do it, as well,” says Barbosa. He also says that some teens are unaware of possible harms from smoking tobacco. “They probably don’t have someone to educate them or the school they attend doesn’t inform them,” he says. Today, spotting a teenager with a cigarette is still common -- despite years of anti-smoking campaigns that have included graphic images of deformed lung cancer victims. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 88 percent of adult daily smokers say they started with cigarettes before they were 18. While the CDC says cigarette use by teens has declined in the last decade, the agency reports that every day in the US about 4,000 young people under 18 take their first puffs. Teens say they are constantly targeted by tobacco companies with products that seem hip. Junior Correia, 15, from Dorchester, says that teens are influenced by what they see in the media, and he portrays the tobacco companies as villains. “They are the ones who make advertisements,” says Correia. “They have the power to control who sees the ads and how they are going to expose the products.” But Jose Mata, 17, from Brighton High School, says that teens are not forced to smoke -- they do it because they want to. “Teens smoke because they want to fit in and to impress other people,” says Mata. Mata says that families can help kids quit cigarettes but that often the motivation has to come from within. “If you want to do something for your own self-benefit,” says Mata, “you should take it upon yourself to do it.”
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