Community service is an activity most Americans do every day. It might not be as complex and large-scale as organizing a food drive or starting a non-profit sometimes it’s as simple as picking up a soda can on the street and placing it inside a trash can. It makes a difference. It’s within our human nature to help others; it comes naturally and the rewards are a lot more fulfilling. Forcing students to do it takes away from their moral values. It teaches them that you should serve your community because you will later be rewarded either by a grade or a college admission, rather than for the purpose of helping others and improving a community. Denying students who worked hard throughout their high school years a diploma because they failed to complete a certain number of community service hours is outrageous.
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College should be free for everyone. It would make the economy stronger because more people would be able to get more education. They could innovate things that would help create new products and jobs. Every single person has something to offer. They should have the opportunity to discover what they’re good at. Right now, the high cost of college prevents many from doing that. Maybe you could come up with the next vaccine -- but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make the nation more fair and free.
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In the current rush of students heading to college, it’s a good time to ask: why? I’ve seen successful people in life who did not go. It is because they took advantage of opportunities that life offered them and thought about how their jobs would help them in the future. For instance, in the Dominican Republic there was a neighbor who did not go to college. Instead, he started working in a bank until he had enough money to build his own. Then, he became owner of numerous small banks throughout the city. Forcing students to go to college knowing they don’t want to is not going to take them anywhere. I believe teens should be aware that it is not mandatory for everyone to attend college to succeed.
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It’s hard staying up late to finish hours of homework and then getting up early to hop trains and buses to get to school. What motivates you? For 19-year-old Ziqiu Zhang, from Brighton High School, it’s pure fear. “If I don’t go to college,” says Zhang, “my life is ruined.” Ariane Silva, 17, says her mother gets her up every day. “To be successful in life, I need to go to school,” says Silva, from Brighton High. “My mother taught me this.” Jalen Campbell, 18, from Brighton High, gets a certain joy from going to school. “I just like learning,” Campbell says, “and I like spending time with my friends.”
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One day at West Roxbury Academy, a book screamed out at me in large, bold print: “The New Jim Crow,” by Michelle Alexander. It stopped me from rushing down the stairs during class transition. The paperback sat in the student teacher’s palm as if it were on display. The subtitle read: “Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” The cover photo was of an African-American behind bars. I thought to myself, “What in the world does this mean?” I remembered the term “Jim Crow” thanks to freshman year in history class. The Jim Crow era involved the official separation of blacks and whites in the late 1800s to mid 1900s in the US. The book seemed interesting. So I bought it. The first few pages exposed the main idea that African-Americans are imprisoned in massive numbers in this country. In fact, this means that an extraordinary percentage of black men in the US are banned from voting today -- depending on the state. I thought the civil rights movement changed things for us. But Alexander argues that the historic racial caste system never ended. If anything, she says, Uncle Sam merely redesigned it by keeping blacks down through the criminal justice system. Many of the blacks in jail, Alexander says, are by-products of the War on Drugs. According to the NAACP’s criminal justice fact sheet, five times as many whites use drugs as do African-Americans, yet African-Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites. Once these African-Americans join the felon class, Alexander says, many can’t get the money for an education. They can’t find good jobs. They end up stuck on food stamps and relegated to a subordinated existence. “If current trends continue,” says the NAACP, “one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime.” One in three. That’s messed up. I’ve talked to friends about this. They’re aware of the continuing injustice but feel they can’t do anything about it. Every time we try to improve conditions, they say, something seems to get in the way.
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