AFH Photo//Rayshana Jenkins
The college process is stressful to say the least. On top of getting in your actual application there’s getting recommendation letters, taking the SATs (sometimes for the third time in a row…), checking your eligibility for financial aid with the FAFSA, applying for scholarships, and maintaining your grades because YES, your grades are just as important senior year as they were your junior year.
 With so many deadlines to meet, this process can seem overwhelming. Here’s your step-by-step guide to navigating this challenging experience.

Junior Year: Get Connected
The very first thing you should do to start your college application process is introduce yourself  to your college and career advisor at the end of your junior year. This is a very important connection to make because your college advisor will be the main person who will help you with the college process, whether it’s making your list of colleges to apply to, filling out your application for FAFSA, or writing your college essay. 

Summer: Reflect and Write
Over the summer, I finished my college essay which was a huge accomplishment because you have to edit, then re-edit, then edit again, then re-edit AGAIN! I shared my essay with four people. One of those four was my father, and if anyone knows my father, they know how critical and detailed he is. It was the most excruciating process I’ve ever been through in my life. 
I can’t stress enough how important it is to start your essay before senior year. If you start at the beginning of your senior year, it’s just another task added onto your list of a million and one things to do. 

First Semester Senior Year: Go Time
Once your senior year begins, your first task is to ask the two teachers that you have the best relationships with and who know you personally as well as academically to write letters of recommendation.
Next is actually applying to the schools of your dreams. I personally applied to 13, but the number all depends on you. You can decide to only apply to the schools you would actually be interested in attending, or you can throw in some back-ups just in case you don’t make it into your top choices. Regardless of how many schools you apply to, make sure to log them all on College Board, a magical website where you can add the list of schools you are applying to to keep you on track with all the deadlines. 
In addition to sending in each school’s application, you also have to send your SAT scores. It is always a good idea to send your SAT scores, especially if your grades aren’t the best. If you feel as though your grades don’t accurately represent your work ethic you should be sure to send your test scores to show that your grades don’t define the type of student that you are.
Lastly, scholarships, scholarships, scholarships. Yes, FAFSA is a great help, but the more money the better. Scholarships are a great way for you to obtain even more funds to help pay for your education. 

Second Semester Senior Year: Cross Your Fingers
After applying, you will be in the state of limbo in which you will be awaiting your acceptance and rejection letters. Unless you applied to the early deadline on November 1, you will be waiting until the spring for your letters to come in the mail. During this time you need to focus on your school work, because contrary to popular belief, your grades senior year are important. Colleges still look at your grades, and if you try to slack, you may get your acceptance taken away from you. 
In the end choosing a college will determine where you will spend the first four years of your adulthood. Make the best out of wherever you go and work as hard as you can. No one can choose your path for you, so make sure that you choose the school that you love. 

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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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