As city kids, it is easy for us to go about our day-to-day lives without seeing anything but large, smoky buildings. Therefore, we don’t necessarily recognize the efforts of wildlife preservers in the city. While their work often goes unnoticed, these people strive to keep the community in good shape. With Earth Day just around the corner, here is a reminder to have gratitude towards the people who work with the environment.
One non-profit organization dedicated to the environment in Boston is the Charles River Conservancy. Their mission, according to their website, is to progress the “renewal, and enhancement of the urban parklands along the Charles River, for the enjoyment of all.” Thousands of volunteers come together each year to maintain the Charles River parklands.
Curious about what taking part in the Conservancy would entail, I reached out to Sasha Vallieres. Vallieres currently works at the Charles River Conservancy as the Volunteer Program Manager and has over ten years of experience in the non-profit sector.

How would you describe your occupation?
I am the volunteer program manager, so I'm taking groups out into the Charles River parklands to do various horticulture tasks in gardens around the parklands.

What is an important aspect of your job that you think a lot of people don’t know about?
One part of my job that people don’t see is that I work a lot with invasive plant species. Invasive plants are plants that are in this area that are not native. Invasive plants are particularly detrimental because they have this ability to really outgrow other types of vegetation, so they basically take over and create monoculture. Biodiversity is essential to a healthy ecosystem, so you need lots of different types of plants that can support all different types of lifeforms instead of just one type of plant.

What is the biggest challenge of your job?
I work outside, even in winter. There's work to be done all year round in horticulture!

Conservationists lend a huge helping hand in preserving the greener areas of the city. Many people do not realize the importance of the individuals who resurrect our green spaces. The Charles River Conservancy does admirable work with regards to preserving the Charles River, such as strengthening wildlife, creating picnic areas and playgrounds, broadening the open space, and organizing events to encourage people to go outside. They host community swims in the Charles River, and they are also advocating for a cycling underpass at the Anderson Memorial Bridge.
A great way to help this organization is to volunteer—it is very easy to sign up for a volunteer date. The Charles River Conservancy website has an easily accessible sign up schedule on their website, with projects that typically take place on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Don’t have time? Feel free to donate monthly; all it takes is a click. This Earth Day, do something that counts!

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When President Kennedy first proposed affirmative action in 1961, it was revolutionary, and, like any revolution, it sparked conflict that resonates to this day. This fall, Harvard faced a lawsuit from a group representing Asian-American students, accusing them of using race-based applications that discriminate against Asian Americans. The topic, if anything, has only gotten more contentious and frankly, it’s time to reevaluate the efficacy of affirmative action.
Affirmative action, “an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women” (Merriam Webster) was started to alleviate the effects of the racist policies of segregation and the lasting effects of slavery. It was meant to give traditionally disadvantaged minorities the same opportunities as those who didn’t have to contend with the same struggles to get to the same place. Affirmative action has been criticized for being racist, for disadvantaging certain minorities, and for being unnecessary in a “post-racial” world. But whatever your opinion on affirmative action’s fairness, perhaps it’s time to examine whether it’s even accomplishing what it set out to.
“Affirmative action is a way of rectifying the wrongs of discrimination and segregation,” said Boston Latin School sophomore Ruth Shiferaw. “White privilege still exists...Especially seen in the rise of hate crimes in the past few years, implicit and explicit biases against minority groups clearly remain to this day. Therefore, affirmative action should continue to be implemented in hopes of balancing the playing field between those who have constantly had an advantage, and those who have been pushed down.”
Many who believe in affirmative action’s goals nevertheless want reform. “I believe in the message of affirmative action,” said recent Boston Latin School graduate Ting Li. “The massive disparities between urban and suburban schools, redlining of districts, and other discriminatory indicative of a systemic failure in our education system, which is rooted in racism that has yet to fade. Affirmative action is…[only] a band-aid on a grave wound.”
Diversity isn’t just a number, but affirmative action allows colleges to tout percentages as signs of inclusiveness. If different groups of people aren’t equally set up to succeed, the impact of diversity is only nominal. Getting into a college is only the first step. Colleges are not consistent with supporting minority students throughout their academic career. 
More individualized application processes and active efforts to assess and create cross-cultural interactions and support on campus need to be universal equity measures. The National Institute for Transformation and Equity created a five-part metric for equity measure efficacy, which asks about opportunities for students to connect with their cultures, contribute to their community, communicate across backgrounds to solve real-world problems, among others. In addition to implementing practices reflective of these measures, colleges should also start earlier and invest in low-income communities. Extracurricular college-preparatory programs are hugely beneficial to students. Such programs could be a great way for college students to put their work to real-life action as well. Students in teaching programs could set up after-school programs; students in engineering programs could help build playgrounds. While getting rid of race-conscious decisions might not be an option in a race-conscious world, affirmative action needs to be only one in a series of steps. Equity is a big fight, and we’ve got to be committed to fighting it. 
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Alcohol is one of many things people use to “escape’’ their problems or reality. Some people drink too much and begin to act differently than how they normally do.
According to Google, consuming too much alcohol shuts parts of the brain down, causes insomnia, hallucinations, seizures, vomiting and impaired vision. Sometimes, drinking alcohol causes the consumer to be aggressive and say things they don’t mean. In order to be considered under the influence in Massachusetts, the maximum blood alcohol level is .08%.
However, it doesn’t always get to the point where the consumer acts aggressive or violent. There are many different variations of drinking alcohol. For example, some people drink casually while others may binge drink so that they can get drunk quicker. 
According Talbott Recovery, an addiction recovery clinic, their website states that more than 15 million people struggle with an alcohol disorder in the United States, but less than 8 percent of those people receive treatment. For an individual family, alcohol can cause a separation between parents which can take a toll on the children. It’s heartbreaking for a child to see their parents unhappy with each other. According to the American Addiction Centers, as many as 26.8 million American children have been exposed to alcoholism or alcoholic behaviors in their family.
Alcoholism can also negatively affect a teenager’s self esteem, their bond with their parents and their performance in school. Self esteem affects the way teens think, act and feel on a daily basis. If they have things going on at home, it can cause their self esteem to be lowered. If one of their parents is going through an alcohol addiction or recovering from one, it can be difficult for that teenager and parent to once again form a bond.
Teens already face a lot of challenges in school: low grades, drama, trouble with boys or girls. For many, our homes are a sanctuary, so having to go home and mentally prepare yourself for another challenge can be a huge distraction. It can be extremely difficult to focus when you have to constantly think about how the people raising you are consistently consuming alcohol right before your eyes. 
In my opinion, no one in any family—especially families with children— should drink because it can cause a disconnection between parents and children. Teenagers have to carry the image of their parent drinking around with them all day. And maybe they’ll even start drinking alcohol so they can “escape’’  their problems as well.
Drinking alcohol is not going to help anyone solve their problems or escape from them. That’s why you just have to face them with assertiveness, instead of trying to run away. Running away from them isn’t going to improve anything, and the problem is just going to continue to negatively affect you and be something that you constantly think about. 
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Current Events
Barred from the Workplace: Criminal Records Complicate the Job Search
photo courtesy of More Than Words
Many Americans who carry the burden of a criminal record often struggle. In addition to facing judgement from society, they are often also unable to get hired for a job. Having a criminal record that employers can see isn’t fair to those who have changed due to their prison experience and are determined not to commit crimes and live a better, more productive life.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 1 in 5 American adults has a criminal record, and a Los Angeles survey found that 60 percent of employers would “probably not” or “definitely not” be willing to hire someone with a criminal record.
These statistics have affected many teens in America, including Terron Cherry, a student at Match Middle School. Cherry’s father had trouble finding a job when he was released from prison two years ago. 
“They’d decline him sometimes because of his criminal record,” Cherry said. “When you’re a criminal, and you get out, you deserve a second chance.”
Xavon Bentley, another student from Match Middle School, has a father who has been out of prison for 10 years after committing a felony. 
“He works night shifts at Stop & Shop now,” Bentley said. “He gets paid pretty well, but I would like to think that he can do better.” 
To try to help people with criminal records get jobs, Massachusetts went as far as to make a “ban the box” law in 2010, which removed the box asking whether the job applicant had a criminal record or not. Although this seemed like a beneficial law, the employment rate for those with criminal records dropped 2.6 percent within the two years after it was enacted, according to the Boston Globe, proving the law to be ineffective.
More recently, the Massachusetts state government decided to alter the CORI, or Criminal Offender Record Information, laws a little bit. CORI is the system in Massachusetts which provides employers and others with the criminal records of job applicants. Previously, misdemeanors were sealed in five years and felonies in 10 years. This means that after that period, employers will no longer have access to the criminal records of their applicants. In other words, this past crime will no longer affect people’s future employment opportunities. Last October, however, it was decided that misdemeanors are now sealed in three years and felonies in seven years. This is a huge improvement, but more actions toward criminal discrimination are needed.
One local organization trying to help is More Than Words. More Than Words is a non-profit organization that strives to help teenagers and young adults get back on track with their lives. The organization runs a bookstore that sells used books. They hire “system-involved” youth with difficult pasts, pay them, and give them guidance to succeed in life. “System-involved” is the term More Than Words likes to use to describe the youth who have been involved with the court system. More Than Words directly works with Massachusetts courts to help clean teens’ records and set them on track to success. 
Ryan McCarthy, the Associate Director for Career Services at More Than Words, thinks that criminal records need to be treated differently. “Right now the system is black and white, and I think that if someone had a charge as a juvenile, that should be looked at differently,” he said. 
The system is very unforgiving when it comes to criminal records. Different jobs require different candidates but at the end of the day, we’re all human, we all make mistakes, and we deserve to get more opportunities if we’re willing to change.

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In December 2018, my dad, my sister and I were driving on the highway to go back home. I saw one of those electronic highway signs that read something like: “PLASTIC BAG BAN TAKES PLACE THIS WEEK. PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN BAG OR YOU WILL BE CHARGED.” Confused, I asked my dad what was it about, and he only told me, “Oh, they aren’t selling plastic bags in all stores anymore.” 
A few days after, I asked my dad to take me Secret Santa shopping, as the holidays were getting close. When we came to the register, the cashier asked, “Would you like a paper bag with that?” When my dad agreed, the cashier said, “Okay, 10 cents please.” I wondered where all the plastic bags went and why my dad had to pay for a bag. When I got back home, I went to do some research on my tablet about what happened to the plastic bags in Boston.
On Dec. 14, 2018, the plastic bag ban took place in Boston. A majority of stores in Boston have replaced their plastic bags with paper bags, and you have to pay at least 10 cents to use one, or, you can bring a reusable bag. The purpose of this was to reduce plastic waste in the environment, as plastic takes years to decompose. But how will this ban affect Boston? 
“Business hasn’t really been affected by the ban,” states 19-year-old Grace Mikounya, who works at the convenience store 7-Eleven. Mikounya finds that the paper bags as an eco-friendly alternative, but weak, as she once witnessed a customer’s groceries break from a paper bag. She finds fabric bags more usable.
Sarah, another convenience store worker, states that she finds the plastic bag ban unhelpful, as she finds it annoying to ask customers for 10 cents. Sarah has also witnessed some reactions from customers who were surprised and confused about paying 10 cents. She advises customers to bring their own bags or just say no the the bag. 
This ban isn’t exclusive to Boston. Other states and cities in the U.S., such as Washington D.C, San Francisco and Seattle, have implemented similar laws. San Francisco was the first city in the U.S. to completely ban plastic bags back in 2007, and since 2010, this policy has led to a 72 percent reduction in plastic bag litter in the city. 
There have been some arguments against the ban, however. According to an article from Plastic Today, plastic manufacturers think banning plastic bags would have a negative economic impact and have them lose their jobs. Some people have also expressed online that being charged for a reusable bag takes a toll on one’s budget, or that the environmental damage of plastic is over exaggerated.
However, the toll plastic has taken on the environment is undeniable. The nonprofit Worldwatch Institute reports that 267 species of marine wildlife are known to have suffered or died because they ate or became entangled in plastic debris. A European Commission study on the impact of plastic on wildlife in the North Sea found that over 90 percent of the birds examined had plastic in their stomachs. Plastic debris can require more than a century to decompose, gradually breaking down into smaller pieces over time—that’s why the Pacific Ocean is now home to a 3-million-ton floating heap of plastic debris estimated to be twice the size of France.
Just imagine yourself as a plastic bag. After being created by manufacturers, you are delivered to a store. A cashier takes you and puts things inside of you and gives you away to someone else. That someone takes you with the things inside of you and puts you aside. You are then used a trash bag, having people put trash inside of you. After being full of trash, you are taken out when garbage men take you once again into a truck. After, you are dumped into a wasteland by garbage men. You stay there, invading the homes of wildlife for about…a century, breaking away very slowly.
The ban can stop this from happening. The removal of practice bags in stores could help animals and leave our environment cleaner, so it can be sustainable for people in the future. Since there won’t be any free bags in stores, always take your own bag when shopping if you do not want to be charged. I recommend bringing fabric bags, as they can hold more groceries than a paper or plastic bags. And if you have any leftover plastic bags at home, don’t trash them, DIY with them, or use them to decorate your home.

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