AFH Art//Luis Urena
Graffiti is an urban artwork—however, in Boston, it's considered vandalism upon public spaces.  According to an article in the Boston Globe, “Under Massachusetts law, anyone convicted of ‘maliciously or wantonly’ defacing property can spend up to three years in prison and face the loss of his or her driver’s license for a year, as well as a fine of either $1,500 or three times the value of the defaced property, whichever is greater.” The offender is also required to pay for cleaning the property.
However, I think people who say things like “Graffiti is not art; it's vandalism. It's just a bunch of scribbled words nobody can read anyway,” don't truly understand what's behind it. Graffiti is typically a large-scale rendition of whatever the artist’s style or statement is. They’re often created using acrylic or oil paint, by brush or spray cans. Many are created after-hours, to avoid law enforcement. Much graffiti and street art depicts the state of society at the time they were created.
I draw small graffiti in my sketchbook. I like to draw the word “bubbles.” Personally, I graffiti for self-expression. When I draw graffiti, I feel amazing, I get an adrenaline rush. Others do graffiti for notoriety. Others do it to be destructive. However, many do it for art. It's all about the message behind the art. I feel like graffiti is the most underrated form of art. It shows an enormous talent the artist has, their imagination, and their perspective on the world. 
Furthermore, I think graffiti would be a much more productive use of space than many of the legal signs and posters in public spaces. For example, I see advertisements on a daily basis on the street or in the T station, and they all say similar things, like “ buy these Air Jordans so you can dunk like Michael Jordan.” This country is oversaturated by meaningless advertisements and it's ridiculous. It’s time to replace these advertisements with street art like traditional subway graffiti, stencil graffiti, and posting/stickering. Graffiti tries to send a message and change the way people think. Graffiti is more truthful than advertisements. Advertisements are meant to brainwash people, to make them buy their products—but graffiti changes your mind and your outlook on society.

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AFH Photo//Esther Bobo
Did you know that veterans make up 12 percent of the homeless population? Or that homeless veterans end up living on the streets for 8 or 9 times the length of their deployments? We aren’t told anything about our soldiers besides things like “they’ll be back” or “support our troops,” but I feel that we need to know more about who our peacekeepers are and be much more thankful for them. Veterans are often overlooked when they should be praised for their courage and bravery. 

I talked to Juan Valdez, a 33-year-old Iraq War veteran, about his life during and after deployment.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

Can you describe your experience and to what extent you were involved in the military? 
I was an active duty Marine infantryman for ten years. I deployed four times. First I was on a ship where we traveled all over the world and trained with various foreign militaries, including the Israeli Defense Forces. My second deployment was to Karmah, Iraq, where I was wounded by an enemy sniper on Halloween in 2006. Third, I lied to stay in the Marines, and went back to Iraq for ten months. Lastly, I deployed to Sangin, Afghanistan in 2011.

Tell me a little about your experiences as a veteran returning home. How did you adjust from being surrounded by combat to coming back to your home and family? 
My second time coming home after getting shot was interesting, needless to say. I was in the hospital in Iraq for three days before they transferred me to Germany, and then finally to Bethesda, Maryland. That, I have to say, was probably the most challenging homecoming for me. Besides the pain I was in, I was hurting emotionally. I struggled with feelings of guilt because I left my friends behind, and feelings of inadequacy. Here I am, a hard-charging Marine, laying in a hospital bed, unable to walk and relying on others to give me a sponge bath. 
My homecoming from Afghanistan was easier than the others. I was dating my now-wife, and she has her degree in psychology which helped me immensely. I was also focused on my Marines and helping them deal with their emotions coming back from their first deployment.

Since returning home, what services has the government provided for you? 
I'm currently using Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment, which is an employment program through the VA which covers educational costs. I'm now applying to law school, and I'm getting ready to put up a fight with the VA regarding having them cover the costs of law school. I'm 100 percent disabled, which means I'm seen at the VA hospital for all of my needs. However, because I'm medically retired, I also maintain health insurance through Tri-Care. Through both, I'm getting treatment for PTSD, acupuncture, physical therapy and anything I need.

What have been some of your biggest challenges/adjustments since returning home? 
The toughest challenge upon returning home from deployment is adjusting to the fact that I don't have to be on alert all of the time. When we are deployed, our minds are on high alert looking for IEDs (improvised explosive devices), watching where we step, and looking for anything suspicious. It can be pretty exhausting. Conversely, after "getting out," or ending my active service, the most difficult part of transitioning is finding a new mission and new sense of identity. For ten years I lived the lifestyle of a Marine and saying goodbye to that can be emotionally draining and difficult. Fortunately, I'm a very determined person, and I was able to identify this issue before getting out. I "re-missioned" myself to focus on helping other veterans transition and get the support they need in my community.

In what ways do you wish the government gave vets more support?

I wish the VA would hire the necessary number of employees needed to provide service to all veterans. I also hope they would consider the consequences before sending us to war. Don't get me wrong, going to war and fighting was my bread and butter, but I just wish they would be more ready to provide services to all veterans. 

What advice would you give to teens thinking about joining the military?

Make sure this is what you want to do. Your attitude dictates your experience in the military. It also impacts others experience in the military as well. Figure out why you're joining; is it the benefits? You're going in for the wrong reasons. If it's to get the feeling that you're doing something for someone else, then definitely join.

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AFH Photo//Gilford Murphy
Rankings of video games are useful because people need help deciding which games to buy, especially when they get a gaming system for the first time. If I could vote to decide the top new released games of the year, these are the games I would name the top games of 2017.
Grand Theft Auto V
The ability to buy cars and customize them in this game is amazing. Also, they add new cars almost every month, and make them look and sound more realistic. And don’t forget about online mode, which allows you to play alongside other people around the world. This version is better than other versions of Grand Theft Auto because the old Grand Theft Autos never looked real; the graphics were pixelated. Online mode has also been much improved this time around.
Play it on: Playstation 3 and 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. 

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 HD Remix
This game is great because it’s like playing all of the other Kingdom Hearts game ever released all at the same time. In this game, you get to see most of the Disney and Final Fantasy characters help a boy named Sora the Keyblade Bearer defeat the evil Heartless and Nobodies and the remarkable organization XIII. This version is better than other versions of Kingdom Hearts because the Kingdom Hearts franchise is rather old, so to see it in our new technology and graphics makes the game really come to life when you look at it. This game is unique because it seems like the characters are for young kids, but honestly anyone can play this game. 
Play it on: Playstation 4

In Fortnite, players search for for chests or weapons on the floor to survive.  I think this game is great because it’s all based on skills. You must be good with each weapon, from pistols to rocket launchers. This game is unique because of its format. You start on an island, wait for 100 players to join the server, and then you are teleported to a bus flying over the battlefield. You then glide down to one of over 10 cities where you fight in hopes of being the last squad, duo, or player standing. 
Play it on: PlayStation 4, PC, Macintosh operating systems, Xbox One. 

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IBA Photo
Americans are being led into a war that we don’t want to be a part of. Donald Trump is adding fuel to the fire of problems currently going on between this country and others around the world. If he doesn’t learn to put out his feuds with water, we’re going to end up burning as a result of his careless actions.
Donald Trump officially became president on January 20, 2017. He’s already proving to be an irresponsible and unfit leader for the United States, using Twitter to make important statements and causing a variety of problems for the country. For example, he heightened nuclear tensions in Asia by responding to Kim Jong-un’s nuclear bomb message with a Tweet stating that the button to detonate American nuclear weapons is “much bigger and more powerful.” He is also complicating relations with Russia by making accusations, like that Putin is helping North Korea avoid international sanctions. 
Back in March 2000, “The Simpsons” predicted that Donald Trump would become president. Does this mean that our fate was predestined? I won’t let my future be made out for me, and neither should you! According to John D. O’Bryant junior Giselle Rojas, today’s youth  “should be more active with today’s politics because our generation is one filled with the future leaders. We can’t let ourselves be clueless to the current events; it’s our world too.” 
 We are the generation that needs to become more involved; we hold the power to make a change in this world. Sitting back and creating memes won’t help us! Use your voice and spark new conversations, whether in-person or on social media. You could even find political groups for teens in Boston, like the Mayor’s Youth Council and Youth Lead the Change. There are many more nationwide. Do anything as long as you’re using your resources to fight. We are a force to be reckoned with, but no one will know that if you remain hidden in the shadows!

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AFH Photo//My Vu
Do you know what it’s like to feel like a vegetable? To have no motivation to do things you once loved? Do you know what it feels like to not want to get up from bed, to eat, or even to talk? Depression and anxiety manifest differently among people, but the unifying factor is that they are all mentally damaging.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reported that in 2016, approximately 3.1 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode. This accounts for about 12.8 percent of the U.S. population between the ages of 12 to 17. The prevalence of any anxiety disorder among adolescents ages 13 to 18 is estimated to be 31.9 percent.  Among them, 8.3 percent had severe impairment from anxiety. 
According to the University of Washington School of Social Work, some of the major symptoms of depression include persistent sadness or “empty” mood, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, loss of interest in hobbies that you once enjoyed, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, and lastly, thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts. Anxiety can result in some of these depressive symptoms as well, including restlessness or feeling on-edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating or having your mind go blank, muscle tension, difficulties controlling worries, and sleeping problems. 
Senior at Boston Community Leadership Academy Va'Shawn Hutcherson, who struggles with both anxiety and depression, said that “anxiety often clouds my judgment” and depression has kept him from “being happy... I try to shrug it off by hiding the pain with my exterior but deep inside I still suffer. I often feel like I have no person in the world who cares about me."
You may know someone who always seems sorrowful and lonely, and you might think they are suffering from depression. But maybe the girl who is always carrying around a smile is actually the one hurting. The truth is, people who suffer from depression vary. And not everyone projects the external symptoms in the same way. Whether they appear happy or depressed, they may both be facing the same monster.
Teens are particularly vulnerable to depression as it is associated with increases in stress, changes in one’s body’s chemistry, and major transitions in one’s life. This is pretty much the definition of being a teenager. 
The cost of anxiety and depression for teenagers is high. In addition to psychological suffering, it can be hard for them to focus on school work. “Depression and anxiety can affect one’s daily life by causing decreased motivation and energy to complete schoolwork, difficulty concentrating on assignments or lectures, feelings of guilt about not meeting expectations, and feelings of hopeless for the future,” said Michelle Privé, a clinical social worker at Boston Medical Center. That makes them more likely to receive poor grades, which is why it’s very important for school administrators, teachers and parents to be aware of students who are suffering from anxiety and depression.
It also becomes increasingly difficult for depressed and anxious teens to maintain relationships and keep open lines of communication. Privé stated that “Depression and anxiety can affect one’s daily lives socially by causing isolation from family and friends, feelings of worthless, and loss of interest in usual social activities.” 
But despite your differences and struggles, people from your community want you to know that you are not alone. While both of these mental disorders can make you feel lonely and hopeless, know that they are both treatable with medications, therapy and natural coping strategies. 
There are treatments available to help reduce the symptoms of these disorders and improve your mood. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help, as well as taking initiative with “exercising, making healthy food choices, getting enough sunlight, practicing relaxation skills, using mindfulness skills, or finding ways to express feelings through writing, drawing, or talking,” said Privé. To find out more information about how these coping strategies work, or which prescription medication are most appropriate for you, consult with your doctor or counselor. 
For those who know someone with depression or anxiety, it’s not easy to know the most fitting thing to say or do to help your friend. But simply listening to them can help them understand that you care. “Once you’re listening to a friend, you’re already supporting them in an important way,” Privé said. Sometimes the smallest actions can mean the most to someone who is feeling lost, out of place or lonely.

To my best friend Va’Shawn, and all those who suffer from anxiety and/or depression: 
Know that this is not caused by anything you did wrong, and it’s not your fault that you are faced with this. There is a community out here that cares for your mental wellbeing, and they want to encourage you with the following...
“Sometimes when you’re feeling a tad sad, anxious, depressed, or hopeless, know that this is all a part of your growth and development. And to that, I would suggest that you reach out for support in a safe manner, but reaching out for support doesn’t mean that you’re weak; rather, it makes you stronger. Most importantly, know that you are the destiny of your well being.” -Carrie Bell Peace, RN at John D. O’Bryant
“To all who suffer from anxiety or depression, I want you to know that you are not alone and you should reach out to friends, family, counselors, doctors for help! I know it’s not easy, but I believe in you! You are still human, this is still your life, take control!” -Dahlia Elamin, John D. O’Bryant student
“Do not be afraid to call for help! I want you to be alive because you matter.” -Kiara Batista, John D. O’Bryant student
“Your mind is an entire planet. Let not what happens inside of other planets (minds), impact what goes on in yours.” -Va’Shawn Hutcherson, Boston Community Leadership Academy student

If you are feeling down and experiencing any changes to mood or behavior, and need someone to talk to, call or text the the Samaritans Boston hotline at 877-870-4673, available 24/7. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 anytime.
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