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 The threat of your acceptance being rescinded always looms over your head which means you should stay focused on your grades.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 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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School News
Finding studying difficult? Use these tips!
Teens in Print
Do you enjoy the spring? It’s a time in the year when new life begins, where people can freely go outside and enjoy the beautiful, blooming flowers. But for students? Nope! We don’t have a chance to do all that. Instead, we are stuck with exams such as the MCAS, SAT and finals. The best way for us to do well on these tests is to review our notes while slouching our backs at a desk, also known as studying.
Standards-based assessments, such as the MCAS and the SAT, require lots of studying. Taking these tests can be challenging for many students, especially with the fear that if they don’t know the material, they could potentially hurt their grade or struggle to succeed academically. Moreover, when students stress out too much about their studies, they could perform badly as a result or put their mental health at risk. In this article, we will be sharing tips students can use while preparing themselves for exams. This way, we can all do our best without getting too stressed. 
Tip 1: Don’t Only Study At A Desk, Study Actively! 
Hunching your back at your desk is tiring, I know. The best posture to have is sitting up straight, however, having that posture makes it difficult to reach your desk. According to Psychology Today, constant sitting puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression, obesity and other medical concerns. To avoid this, be active while studying instead of only sitting!
Put your body in an active position while studying: CBS News reports that, “Standing while learning and completing assignments improves executive functioning, or the skills you use to break down tasks like writing an essay or solving multi-step math problems.” This proves that keeping your body in an active state helps us study better, because studying requires a high demand for your brain’s functions. Moving will keep your brain working, making your studies effective.
Exercise! Have a stretch!: CBS News also found that regular exercise has been shown to boost verbal memory, thinking and learning. It improves alertness, attention and motivation, while helping to build new brain cells.
Make it fun!: Instead of using piles of class notes to review, add a little twist to it. You could turn your studies into a sort of game, like a “Family Feud”-based vocabulary game, or a board game or whatever else you can think of! As a bonus, invite classmates to play your game, so you’ll not only be having fun, but studying as well!
Tip 2: Be Organized!
If you’re often disorganized, you’ve probably had the experience of being in a rush, cramming things last minute or pushing yourself to the limit while multitasking. According to Productivity 501, a website dedicated to offering productivity tips, good organizational skills lead to productivity and efficiency. Appearing organized is one thing, but actually being organized when the work gets tough will make all the difference. Here are some organization skills that should be used for studying:
Having a clean environment: Working in an environment that is neat and tidy will reduce the amount of time you spend hunting files down, and increase your ability to get things done. 
Get rid of and avoid all distractions: Technology, your friends and even the environment where you study can all be distractions. Yes, studying while listening to music can help, but let’s be real, we end up doing other things on our technology instead of studying. To avoid these distractions, isolate yourself. Leave your mobile phone, tablet, PC and everything else that could distract you out of the room. Find a quiet room that lacks any environmental noise that irritates you. Make sure that room doesn’t have anything that will detract from your studying. If it is a mess, you might end up cleaning it all up. If there are many visual distractions, you might find yourself staring off into space at something in the room. When you truly find the right space for you, there won’t be anything to waste time on and you will progress much faster in your work.
Planning out your daily schedule: Schedules are especially important for students with extracurricular activities like sports, after school clubs or jobs. Oftentimes, these students are limited in their time to study. According to the University of Michigan at Flint, the expected study time for high school students on average is around one to two hours per night. One to two hours isn’t that much, so you’ll have enough personal time to add to your schedule. Try to make sure your study time is when you feel most comfortable, or in the mood.
Tip 3: Eat Brainy Foods!
To those that like to eat, you’re in luck. It’s good to eat healthy while studying to give your brain a boost (but don’t leave a mess on your paper!) According to, these foods listed below are brainy foods you might like:
Fish: Salmon, sardines and mackerel have lots of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help your brain’s memory functions.

Eggs: Here you can find important proteins and vitamins like B6, B12 and choline, which help regulate mood and improve mental function.
Green Tea: Tea is a good alternative to coffee or sodas full of caffeine, which students normally drink to keep themselves awake while studying. This beverage provides antioxidants that help sharpen your concentration.
Fruit: Sugar is sweet and addicting, I know. But fruit is sweet and addicting and beneficial, too! It’s a healthier alternative to a candy bar and provides nutritious vitamins for your studying brain.
Tip 4: Support Your Quality Of Life! 
You want to know what the most important part of studying is? You. You are the one that’s going to take this exam. Therefore you are the one that’s going to study all of these topics. And for this, you’re going to need to put yourself in the best condition! Take a look at these tips to help you out:
Get comfortable: According to Ameritech, a healthcare college, “Numerous studies have found that the place—or ‘context’—in which you study affects how you’ll remember that information.” The better-suited place you study in, the better you’ll remember information, while the least-suited place can lead to the opposite. Make sure your study environment is the most suited for you! Make sure it has things like comfortable lighting, or nice stationery or whatever you like. Another way to get comfortable is to take breaks every so often. If you take frequent breaks every interval of study, then you will stay refreshed and won’t become mentally exhausted. 
Combine your studies with your creativity/hobbies: You’ve heard the phrase “unleash your creativity” right? Well, if you want studying to feel easier, try to connect it with a hobby. Since you’re already used to your hobbies, combining them with your studies can help make learning both comprehensive and entertaining. For instance, if you like to sing, then why not compose a song based on your study notes? If you like to write, why not write a story based on your notes? If you like to act, why not make a story based on your notes, and act it out? There are many possibilities, so try it out!
Study in a good mood: As I implied, no one likes to study. But even so, don’t force yourself to study while you’re in a bad mood! Make sure you’re not overwhelmed with anything at the moment, and you are feeling completely energized and organized. Maybe even prepare a reward for yourself so you can be more motivated to study! Psychology Today found that a positive attitude has a specific influence on learning. A good mood affects your ability to learn, especially subjects that require some amount of flexibility and creativity.
So, next time you are hitting the books, try to remember some of these helpful tips. You might be surprised by how much you improve and succeed!
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School News
Consider community service outside of the animal shelter There are other organizations with more flexible volunteer schedules that need your help
Community service can be daunting. Similar to the college process, community service is often put off until we get closer to graduation. Counselors see students as invisible until senior year, and then pounce on them to demand college applications and graduation requirements.
You may be asking, what is community service? Community service requirements vary from school to school. My school, Snowden International, requires students to perform 100 to 150 hours in order to graduate. Community service is when an individual offers a service to the neighborhood or certain nonprofit organizations, like local animal shelters or homeless shelters. Community service is not paid — any form of monetary compensation means it's not community service. But how do we find a location where we can serve? 
High school youth often have a hard time finding community service opportunities. Competition with college students, age restrictions and parental requirements all make community service harder to find than it should be. Animal shelters are the usual go-to for high school students. Shelters like ARL Boston and MSPCA-Angell take volunteers seasonally. Unfortunately, these positions tend to have a screening process and a tedious application process that can make it difficult for students. The competition with veterinary-students-in-the-making makes it nearly impossible to snag a spot. However, there are plenty of places to volunteer around Boston! 
First, did you know that you can get community service hours from your job? Oftentimes, unpaid work or community-oriented jobs will count as service hours. These opportunities don’t come along all the time, so it’s always a good idea to ask your employer. Massachusetts General Hospital, for example, offers community service hours for teens in Boston on an application basis. The application opens in the fall of each academic year.
Also, local shelters will always take in volunteers! Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in South End, accepts volunteers year-round. You can find flexible hours and self-schedule as an individual volunteer, and often you get free snacks too! Serving as an individual volunteer builds confidence — you can’t rely on your friends to pull the weight for you. On their website, there is a short application. After it is reviewed, you’ll be given an account to schedule yourself as a volunteer. Most volunteer options are doable as a teen, and there is always a supervisor available to assist with questions and teach you new tasks.
At Rosie’s Place, there are two main options for youth volunteers in the kitchen: preparing and serving food or assisting in the food pantry. Youth can also help sign in visitors. In the kitchen, I alternated between washing dishes in the back and serving and cleaning up in the front. 
Surprisingly, community service is broad enough to find an opportunity in the area you’re interested in. Community service gives a sense of responsibility to the volunteer. Having people dependent on your work makes you appreciate the features in our communities that we usually overlook. Animal shelters are super-competitive to even get an interview, so if you’re in a time crunch, applying to a local shelter is your best bet. Local shelters offer less-rigid hours, and more individuals are able to register as volunteers. 
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City News
Advice on handling minimum wage jobs
If you attend a public school in Boston, it is likely that either you or someone you know works at some form of internship or minimum-wage job. For many students and adults, these jobs are a convenient way to make money, but working in a position viewed as disposable by a large franchise can have a number of downsides. This can be especially problematic for workers who rely on the income these jobs provide and don’t have the option of leaving if it becomes a toxic work situation. 
Many examples of this abusive behavior can be found in a downtown movie theater in Boston. At this venue, these examples of circumvention were pretty wide-reaching, from a strong racial bias in the distribution of certain wages to superiors attempting to bully employees into accepting lower-paying positions. 
In this instance, the company had developed a new work schedule for bartenders that involved them spending less time at the bar, and more time working at the cash registers. The bartenders are paid a lower hourly rate for time spent at the cash register, so they would make less money overall with this new schedule. Since no bartender would accept what was essentially a demotion, the general manager had private meetings with each of them to repeatedly ask them to accept a new contract. This led to an awkward situation in which the person I interviewed had to politely decline the requests to meet repeatedly since he had no one else to advocate for him.   
In situations like these, it’s difficult for employees to advocate for themselves as their employers often see their positions as disposable. With jobs becoming increasingly more difficult to acquire, many workers would rather grin and bear such blatant violations of their rights than risk the possibility of being fired and losing a vital flow of income. Additionally, businesses often fail to tell workers their rights. In fact, some businesses may go out of their way to stop workers from knowing them, so a minimum-wage worker may not even know when they are supposed to advocate for themselves. Because of this, businesses can get away with far more than they should be able to. 
To get a better sense of the shortcomings in minimum-wage jobs, I interviewed two workers in a large movie theater franchise. The main problems they mentioned were that their superiors (one in particular) had no checks placed upon them, and were able to exploit loopholes in the treatment of their employees. What we as a society need to do is provide legal safety nets in order to encourage them to report any shifty business in their hierarchies and explain to workers the steps they should take to advocate for themselves. 
When asked what other workers in their position should do, the two theater employees I interviewed almost immediately said “Unionize. Get lawyers, and know your rights.” Here they referenced an organization that could provide legal representation for workers for a small fee. However, this is easier said than done, because if your employer believes that you and your coworkers are planning to form a union, they will sometimes try to fire you on the spot. That’s illegal, and if it happens you can sue, but lawsuits are costly and not a realistic option for a majority of minimum-wage workers.
Some of the most important rights a worker has are the laws surrounding whistleblowers. If you, as an employee, alert the authorities to any kind of code violation in your workplace, you cannot be fired for doing so. 
Just as important are the laws surrounding discrimination, which are well known but often not enforced. The main reason for this lack of enforcement lies in the fact that employees often go years without discussing things like income with their coworkers. It was in this way that the coworkers of the people I interviewed detected racial bias in wage distribution. After discussions, the employees found that the general manager was paying white managers more. To detect unequal wages due to race, interaction among coworkers should be encouraged. While some businesses may not condone this, it is important for all workers to be aware that such discussions are in no way illegal, and they cannot be legally punished by an employer.    
As important as it is for employees to have legal support outside of the company they work for, it is just as important for workers to have a method of going above the heads of their superiors to resolve issues within their companies. Providing the contact information of upper-level management in a company is a good example of this kind of system. When the people I interviewed were asked if there was any way provided for them to go over the head of their general manager, they both said there wasn’t. One even said, “they probably don’t want us snitching on them.”
Minimum-wage workers and interns in Massachusetts deserve to be advocated for. As a state and as a country, this is something that we as Americans need to work towards. The first step towards this would be the creation of unions for all workers, which would provide legal support for anyone facing off against massive corporations. 
Also, laws should be implemented to ensure that employees have a way of reporting their superiors to upper management. And most importantly, we as people should respect the minimum-wage workers who we interact with daily during their jobs. 
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