I've always considered myself a soft person. I’m pretty sensitive; I can barely take a joke. Of course I've had my braver moments, like when I got on that scary ride that had the biggest drop I’ve ever seen, or even the one that flipped upside down a million times. I was my bravest throughout 2019, though. That was the year I really had to pull through and be tough. I feel like I wasn't strong at all, but this experience is what made me into the stronger person that I am today. 
When I switched schools I cried so much. I had to leave all my friends; I knew our bonds would break and I wasn’t ready for that. I had to start waking up earlier. Every morning I woke up, I would always think to myself “I hate my life,” and I meant it. I felt anger toward my mom for making me switch, and pain because I felt so lonely. I was quiet that year at school. It’s like I had friends but I never really came out of that shell. I never felt a part of the circle. 
I’ll never forget that summer. My parents argued like crazy. I hated my life even more. For every little thing, they got into it. It was torture to my mind and I could feel myself falling apart. They argued more than got along. It would be a good day and then we get home and they just break into another fight. It was tiring. It happened so much that I could count the days between another argument. It was so loud. There was nowhere in the house I could go without hearing it. It hurt so bad because I just wanted them to shut up. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t talk it out. Why did it have to get to such a bad point between them? Their relationship was so broken and all it did was break me. 
Then came my mom's leg injury. That same summer I was sleeping over my cousin’s house when my sister told me about my mom.
“When did this happen?” I asked.
“Yesterday.” Why does no one tell me anything? My mom was in the hospital and no one told me. Apparently they “didn’t want me to worry.” When I went home, there she was laying in bed with her leg elevated with a cast, and a scab on her chin. I was so confused and I felt like nobody was telling me the full story. But of course, I remembered “yesterday.” That day everybody was at the lake and my mom showed up angry with my dad. They got into it and I was just so embarrassed. I didn’t want my cousins and everybody else to see how my parents were at home. I submerged myself underwater and I screamed and sobbed. People would only see the bubbles in the water and not hear the screams; they would see the water dripping from my face and not the tears falling from my eyes. They left together and I stayed with my sisters. That’s probably when her leg injury happened. Because of her injury, she could barely walk. She couldn’t get anywhere without her crutches-meaning no summer for me. Where was I supposed to go if I had nobody to take me? Especially with my dad working, it was only me and my mom at home. My mom stayed in her room most of the day; she only got up if necessary, so I stayed in mine. I watched basically all of Netflix and Youtube and ran out of music to listen to. But I still found something to watch. I stayed up late and slept in even later - and I still woke up tired. I was sad all the time and I was bored out of my mind. This is when what started to be depression, built. 
I never told anybody about how I felt. I kept all my emotions bottled up inside me. It was to the point where I wouldn’t eat almost all day, just because I didn’t feel like it, and I wouldn’t even feel hungry. I felt trapped inside my house. I hated it there. I hated being in a place that I was always in. It’s like I never left. 
When school started up again, things got worse. That’s when I experienced the worst of the arguments. My mom accused my dad of cheating before. A few times. I would always get annoyed because I thought she was just acting crazy and jealous of little stuff; I know my father and I know how much he loves my mom. I knew it inside of me that he’d never do that. But there was this one day that my mom was yelling at my dad to see his phone, asking “Who’s Carmen?” Carmen. An unforgettable name. Carmen was also married with kids, and was a close friend of my dad. She messaged him through instagram and I guess they became friends. I didn’t believe my mom’s accusations as usual until my sister and I saw the phone. 
"I miss you. 
You don’t miss me?"
This is what my dad sent to Carmen. 
Carmen is the woman my dad cheated with. 
My mom messaged Carmen through my dad’s phone. 
"Call me. I need to talk to you," she wrote. 
"Why? Is everything ok?"
They went back and forth and Carmen kept asking why “my dad” needed to talk to her so badly. 
"Word?" Carmen asked. 
This could have meant two different things. My dad said “word” a lot so my mom can either respond by saying “word,” or they had a secret word together. This is probably one of the moments that hurt the most. My mom did option one and responded by saying “Word.” Wrong. 
"What’s the word?" She asked.
My dad was in the basement packing his stuff. My mom goes down, asking what the word is. I was upstairs with my sister crying. We both cried. 
“There is no word!” He promised my mom. It was so loud. I couldn’t take it anymore. I went downstairs myself. I didn’t want to do this but I had to. He won't lie to me. I know my dad wouldn’t lie to me. It was the only way. 
“What’s the word? She said there was a word so what's the word? ” My voice was shaky. The tears poured through my eyes as I talked. I was barely able to talk through all the pain. I hated it. I hated having to turn on him. It hurt so badly. It hurt my soul. My dad is my best friend, and having to go against my own best friend will never be easy. He looked so hurt in his eyes. He noticed the damage he’d already caused, not just to my mother but to me too. 
“There is no word.” Another lie. He lied to me. He lied straight to my face. For some stupid woman he destroyed the family with. My dad threw things across the basement. Sharp things. I yelled at him to stop. I was scared. I like to think that I wasn’t scared of my dad-he’s not dangerous. I told myself that I was scared of what’s happening. But at that moment, I don’t know if I can tell you that I was scared of the situation. I don’t even know what I was scared of anymore. I was just afraid. 
Another day, my dad asked to borrow my phone to call my mom since she was ignoring his calls. After a few minutes, he gave it back. 
A few days later I went to go check Carmen’s Instagram; I felt like saying something but I didn’t know what to say. I was just so frustrated. I hated Carmen - but when I found it, my phone told me I had to unblock her to message her. Unblock her? I never even blocked her. This makes no sense. I unblocked her and went to message her but there were already messages there. 
"It’s Mutombo. 
She knows how and I’m sorry." 
So that was the word? Mutombo? Why would my dad use my phone and my instagram to apologize to this woman? She doesn’t need to be apologized to! I never told my dad I knew about the messages. It just angered me so much that he used his daughter’s phone for somebody who didn’t deserve it. 
My mom talked to a few guys after my dad. I hated all of them. I hated that she was “moving on” because I still felt as if she never really moved on. Of course my dad “moved on” too, and by that I mean getting he got a girlfriend and my mom had a boyfriend, but they know that if they could go back they would do things differently. I didn’t like my mom's boyfriend or my dad's girlfriend for a really long time. I had no interest in meeting them or saying anything nice to their faces. My mom was always on the phone with her stupid boyfriend. I always made sure to say something rude.
It was hard for me when I met her boyfriend. Next thing I knew he was moving in. I didn’t want that at all-- he was a man I didn’t know. He wasn’t my dad.
Meeting my dad’s girlfriend was easier for me since I was already used to having to be nice to people. At that point, I already accepted that my parents weren’t getting back together and I didn’t want them to. They were no good together. It was hard and took me a long time to come to that conclusion. The amount of tears I shed, and the way my happiness went all the way down from such a high point is crazy. But life isn’t easy. Everybody knows this. It sucks, but you just need to push through it. I still try every day. If you’re reading this and had to deal with something genuinely hard, you’re just like me. You’re just as strong. Everybody is brave in their different ways. This was mine.
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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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