Cover Story
Teens need to consider the impact of insensitive memes
The year 2020 kicked off with news about a potential World War III and the spread of the coronavirus. Despite the severity of these situations, everyone had a meme to share and laugh to have about everything going on in the world. 
For example, the meme of Michael Jordan laughing in the first image and then crying in the second, with a caption that reads, “Me laughing at all the World War 3 memes Vs. me when I get that draft letter.” Then, there are all the coronavirus memes. I’m not going to lie, some of them are funny. However, it’s not okay to create racist memes, such as one that reads, “It’s a simple, we uh, eat the batman,” with a picture of the Joker wearing an Asian conical rice hat. You can clearly see the racism here. 
All around the world memes have been posted, shared, talked about and laughed at. Why is it that in today’s society, we make funny memes of situations that are serious or dangerous? While I feel that memes are acceptable in general, when we use them to poke fun at serious topics it stops being funny. 
Mohammed Elamin, a 14-year-old freshman at Fenway High, said “I don’t care. I mean if the joke is really funny, I’ll laugh. However, you can’t tell an autism joke in front of someone who has it.” Like many teenagers, Elamin doesn’t quite understand how jokes can affect someone. Teenagers don’t really understand the whole message behind the memes — they mostly look at them and just laugh. 
Some of the World War III memes went as far as bringing up the topic of women’s rights. For example, a popular meme joked about how women have no rights, so they also can’t be drafted into the war. However, not everyone was laughing. Twitter user
Ryan Knight (@ProudResister) wrote, “War is not a [expletive] joke. It is a destructive and selfish act. 4,424 U.S. soldiers and an estimated 600K Iraqi civilians died in the Iraq war over WMDs that did not exist. So please stop with these #WWIII memes and instead call your Congress members and tell them #NoWarWithIran.” 
A potential crisis that would actually mean something awful for our country’s future is not something to joke about. It shows incivility. You are being the definition of a jerk. Soldiers at war risk their lives every day. They are waking up and going to sleep with the fear of it being their last day. For teens to create memes and laugh at the idea of war is just plain cruel. 
More recently, the coronavirus memes are amplifying stereotypes against Asians. Some people are refusing to eat Chinese food or be around Asian people at all. On the one hand, it’s understandable to be cautious. But, at the same time, you have to realize that while the virus started in China, that doesn’t mean that every Asian person has it. It made me very upset to hear that people are being rude to Chinese people. I can’t even lie, I also began to avoid Asian people when I first saw the memes, but I stopped doing it because I realized that it made the person feel hurt.    
Teens have been insensitive to other topics that aren’t as timely as well, such as making fun of autistic people. It is highly disrespectful to make fun of a group that is already discriminated against. One meme  shows a smiling Spongebob with no eyebrows and a caption that reads, “When the school shooter knocks on the door and the autistic kid opens the door.” This “joke” is that people with autism would be the first to die in a school shooting. Not only does it make fun of people with a developmental disorder, but it also makes light of mass shootings. This is highly ignorant and heartless. 
Teens need to stop being so apathetic and actually try to understand the real message they send out when sharing and posting hurtful memes on topics. We can’t always fix the world and people, but being able to notice things that aren’t right is the way to help out. So when you see something fishy with a meme that teens are posting, call them out on it. Don’t like it or share it. Make them regret they ever posted it. 
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School News
Kate Fussner’s creativity has gotten Fenway High reading
Kate Fussner
When I was in ninth grade I had one teacher I could really speak to. She was someone I could relate to when it came to being LGBTQ+. She opened a safe space for me to voice my concerns and what I'd gone through, including my anxiety and my mental health problems. I still visit her in her office at Fenway High School’s library to this day. That teacher is Kate Fussner. 
Fussner was born and raised in South Jersey, eventually moving to Pennsylvania when her father remarried. After high school, she attended the internationally recognized Vassar College. Knowing that her career goal was to become an English teacher and a writer, college flew by. In 2010, Fussner came to teach in Boston and has taught in Boston Public Schools for 10 years, including four at Fenway, where she teaches English Language Arts to freshmen. 
Something that stuck with me from her class was her grading system. Her students either get a 90 or 100% for good work, or a 50% and below. There is no in-between. This pushed me to put in my best work. Fussner gives a workload that encourages meeting deadlines but also scares students into making sure they are doing good work. If it weren't for her and The Panther Press, the freshman online newspaper that she started in 2017, I wouldn't be writing this article.
Both Fussner and Fenway’s librarian, Bonnie McBride, stress a love for reading with their students. They are very in your face when it comes to books. Fussner analyzes each one of her students' reading styles and knows what books to recommend to each student. 
“A lot of students come in, if anything, [saying] ‘I really like reading’ or ‘Oh, I'm not really a reader,’” Fussner said. “Sure, because you were forced to read books that you had no choice over no interest. And now that we've given you choice, and we've given you time, like, you can start to see yourself as a reader.” 
Fussner also discussed an incident that occurred when she was fifteen, when she chose to go to summer school to advance her learning, and how it shapes her teaching now. “I think as a high school student, I really didn't feel heard about [a] specific situation. And it really threw me.” She continued, “I also think that as an adult, I understand so much more now than I did then.” That specific situation was a sexual harassment incident that she wrote about in a 2017 article for WBUR’s Cognoscenti column, “Why #Me Too Isn’t Enough.”
“I never leave a class unattended, or make a student work in a group with others who have wronged him or her,” she wrote. “But more than that, I am trying to do what was not done for me: teach all of my students that violent language is unacceptable, that blind loyalty in friendships has its limits and that even “not taking a side” can be, in fact, standing against a victim.”
In the end, Fussner’s hard work and determination to make Fenway and her classroom a place of comfort where students can dive into the pages of a book has paid off. She has the respect of myself and so many talented students both inside and outside of the school.
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School News
Schools need air conditioning to keep kids learning through the end of the year
Picture this: It’s June. It’s about 85 degrees inside your math class and 10 degrees warmer outside. The windows are open, but all that is coming in is hot air. You are taking a test, but you’re focused on the sweat accumulating on your seat rather than if A or B is the correct answer. You have 20 minutes left to finish the test, and you are only on question six. You want to get up and get a cup of water, but now you only have 10 minutes left and you are still on question six. You can't focus at all and the heat is making you tired, so you put your head down on the desk, which seems to be cooler than the room. You accidentally fall asleep! You wake up and hear “five minutes left,” and you realize…you still have 14 questions left. 
This scenario can be played out by hundreds of students in Boston. As the warmer months begin to approach, faster than usual, teachers and students must prepare themselves to adapt to the heat and recognize the risk of heat stress. But even with adaptation, the struggle to focus in class, and the distraction that is created because of the heat makes matters even more uncomfortable than they have to be. 
Youth across Boston, have been researching the impacts generated due to heat stress. Some of the impacts include risks of heat strokes, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash. Studies suggest that heat exposure can reduce the rate of learning and skill formation and greatly harm classroom productivity for teachers and students.
When we see schools like, New Mission, Boston Community Leadership Academy, or Boston Green Academy that get super hot, especially when the heat rises to the higher levels, there is a huge strain of frustration and agitation that is caused. For many Boston public schools, air conditioning is only in classrooms where teachers are willing to buy an AC with their own money. Something must be done to prevent the inherent problem at hand. 
The Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC), and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCosh), have chosen to collaborate on this issue. The first step being, collecting surveys and recognizing the voices of students all around BPS. If you are interested in learning more, join us at a BSAC meeting. We meet Mondays 4-6 pm at the BPS Bolling Building, 2300 Washington Street, Roxbury. You can also email us at bsac@bostonpublicschools.org
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School News
Dear rising seniors: An open-letter to the Class of 2021
Dear Rising Seniors,
We are all hurtling towards one thing: student loan debt. That is the sad reality of our world. However, a college education is a common path towards a better future and upward mobility. While you stress over not knowing what to do to get ready for college, let me help by telling you what I’ve learned, so you can get the most out of your college application experience. 
Q: When does the college process start?
A: Honestly, you should start during the summer before your senior year. My school actually gave us summer work for the college process including a Common App essay draft, a list of activities we did in high school and an autobiography to help the counselors get to know us. I don’t want to sound like your guidance counselor, but you should start drafting your Common App essay over the summer.
The Common App is the college application service used by most schools across the country. There are a bunch of essay prompts that you can choose from, and they’ll come up with a quick Google search. When you write your essay, avoid writing about something that anyone could see by looking at your transcript. For example, don’t write about how your grades dipped sophomore year and how you bounced back. That is something an admissions counselor can see by looking at your record. Even if you really feel the need to explain yourself, this should not beat out an essay about something important to you such as an ideological concept, personal philosophy or an anecdote that describes who you are or a life-changing experience. 
Q: I heard that grades don’t matter your senior year. Is this true?
A: No! Colleges require that you send them your first semester grades. This means that grades matter up until you finish midterm exams. Even if you apply to schools early, your counselor will report your first quarter grades. This doesn’t mean you can slack off afterward, though. The threat of your acceptance being rescinded always looms over your head which means you should stay focused on your grades. Your second-semester grades aren’t as important; however, if your grades drop significantly, you run the risk of the school you worked so hard to get into deciding to reject you at the last minute. 
Q: How can I juggle college applications with school work?
A: It’s very hard but not impossible. The advice I would give is just to take things one at a time. When you sit down to do work, focus on one thing. Don’t try to scatter your brain among all your school subjects and college. Drown out school when doing college essays. Drown out college essays when doing homework for school. 
Q: How can I be prepared for the SAT?
A: The SAT, originally named the Scholastic Aptitude Test, is ever-changing. Fortunately, more and more colleges are realizing that the SAT is not a clear indicator of intelligence or college readiness. Nevertheless, colleges are businesses, and they will prefer to see higher SAT grades so that their SAT average for accepted students goes up. High averages increase the amount of funding they get from the government and private groups.
If you want help mastering the SAT, the famous Khan Academy hosts a free SAT prep service. Make an account on khanacademy.org/sat and start practicing ASAP. The latest you should take the SAT is in October of your senior year. I also recommend using Google to find full SAT tests from previous years, which come with the answer sheet. Taking the test multiple times will help you get a feel for what will be covered and also give you an idea of what your potential score is. 
Q: What are the most up-to-date requirements?
A: Something we high school students are often told is how different the process of applying to college is now. Nobody can relate across generations to the college process experience, which doesn’t allow for consistent development of SAT mastery. Currently, students take an SAT with a max score of 1600 as per the requirements of almost every college/university. Students are also expected to write an essay of 250-650 words.
Other options include the ACT (American College Testing), another standardized test that incorporates science. Additionally, most colleges require supplemental essays to their own questions. If students apply to a “test-optional” school that doesn’t require the SAT or ACT, they are almost always required to write an essay as a substitute.
Based on their GPA and SAT/ACT scores, students can find acceptance projections through Naviance, the website utilized by many schools to organize applications. Students are writing these essays up until deadlines, likely a result of electronically induced procrastination – the double nature of technological progress. So many students are working last minute, in fact, that the Common App website can slow down, delaying submissions or even shut down completely. 
I hope this burst any bubbles you might have had toward what senior year would be like. You might find yourself asking why all of this matters. Well in our world today, the job market is getting consistently more and more competitive. So competitive in fact, that fields of study at universities are beginning to fill up. For example, computer science and engineering are two of the hardest majors to apply to at any school, because so many people want to get into those job markets. Your later life will be determined by your job and your job, or any other work you might do is heavily dependent on what you choose to do in your post-high school life, namely, your experience in college. As it stands now, most businesses are looking to hire college graduates for their 9-5 posts. This makes it extremely difficult for people without a degree to make it in the average job market. Of course, there are other paths that don’t involve college, and I’m in no position to tell you where to take your own life, but even in well-paid professions that don’t require a college degree, raises are available for degree holders. 
I want to urge you to be calm as you navigate through this very important stage of your life. Take it very seriously, but don’t change who you are over something that will last only four years. While the effects of high school and college will shape your life, they should not be the driving factor. The driving factor should be you and your own choices. 
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School News
Digital books increase access to the power of reading
Photo by Teens in Print
Words are such an interesting thing. We use them to communicate what’s on our minds, and essentially, they’re how others see and remember us. Reading, however, wasn’t so easy for me. Some types of texts were boring to read. Some books had words I’d never even heard of before and they had so many pages that I would never be able to get through them. As a kid, I tried to pick up reading because I wasn’t good at English and it was a way for me to build up my skills. Reading was super difficult. I used to wonder why some of my friends liked to read when I always thought it was so boring. 
Recently, I’ve tried to pick up more books to read for pleasure and I like the experience a lot more now. It’s almost something I picked up accidentally. My friend and I talked about the app Libby one morning before class started and I began to think, “Well, one of my goals for 2020 was to get into reading.” With Libby, you can link the app with your library card and there’s a bunch of e-books you can read. I knew that I was stressed at school and I had a bunch of free time on public transportation, so I could try picking up a book and get into the habit of reading. 
According to the American Psychological Association, “less than 20 percent of U.S. teens report reading a book, magazine, or newspaper daily for pleasure.” It’s not a huge shock, seeing that as teens, we’re usually always on the move from school, extracurriculars, work, whatever it may be, so it’s rare to have tons of free time. What I found when I started picking up reading again is that it actually reduces my stress and has acted as a way for me to stay sharp. I’ll use it as a break when I’m doing homework, it keeps me occupied when I’m taking the bus home, and honestly, it just gives me something to keep up with. Words are timeless, and it’s important to read because in a time with so much political chaos and mass media, we must remember how to think, analyze and act for ourselves. 
In Alisha Rajpal’s TED Talk, “Read More. Think More,” she discusses how reading has been impactful on her life as a youth in today’s world. She says to the crowd, “Consider you’re reading a book and there’s a line that goes ‘an attractive man walks down the street’ ... for each of us that attractive man could look different.” When we read, we have our own interpretation of the world as compared to seeing it on screen where society’s norm of an attractive man would be pressed upon us and accepted. When we read, we use our own imagination, our own beliefs and, honestly, our own brain. 
The app Libby is amazing. I found that my main problem with reading was that it was so hard for me to constantly pull a book out and put it away if I wanted to read for only a short amount of time. I’m on my phone all the time, and Libby has made it convenient and easy for me to search for a variety of books to read instead of doing things like scrolling through Instagram for hours. On Libby, I just finished reading “David and Goliath” by Malcom Gladwell and now I’m ending February with “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt. 
So here’s my message to you: pick up a book! Explore what interests you, go through adventures and misfortunes with fictional characters and don’t fall into the societal norm of not reading. Reading lets us build our own character in this world. 
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