Cover Story
Affirmative Action: The Accepted and Rejected
Rose Koumbassa
AFH Photo // Kiara Maher
You finally got your college acceptance letter together with a brochure of the school showcasing their diverse student body. You automatically feel a connection and can imagine yourself on campus. For those students who were rejected, the decision may have stemmed from affirmative action. As colleges and universities across the United States struggle with issues of diversity, affirmative action was introduced.  
Through an executive order from President John F. Kennedy, affirmative action began as an assurance that federal contractors hire people regardless of race, creed, color or national origin. Over the years, the concept of affirmative action was expanded to include equal employment and educational opportunities.  
Some people would describe affirmative action as an act that helps erase the invisible social barrier caused by years of misfortune and inequality faced by minorities in the United States. For decades, society has disputed whether or not affirmative action actually works in favor of minorities, or increases racial injustice.  
Statistically, minorities in the U.S are prone to crimes in their communities, low standardized test scores and being most likely incarcerated. A long history of systemic segregation, discrimination and inequality pushed minorities into ghettos and underfunded schools, contributing to today’s reality. 
This pattern can have a huge effect on minority children, making it harder for them to get jobs and be accepted into colleges, due to years of oppression. Therefore, affirmative action works to make sure they aren't discriminated against and are given the same opportunity as others.  
17-year-old Alicia Brown, a senior at Boston Arts Academy, didn't know much about affirmative action until her English teacher made her watch a video about it. 
“Imagine being in critical condition and you need surgery. Who would you rather have the operation performed by?” asked Brown. “Someone who got accepted into Harvard Medical School because of their merits and academic strengths? Or, someone who got accepted because of their race?’’ 
Gladys Soto, a junior at Day and Evening Academy, is on the other side of the spectrum. “I think affirmative action is very important and necessary. When we look back at the history and the struggles that minorities in our country have faced, the last thing the government can do to help make up for it is provide us some overcompensation,’’ said Soto.      
Christopher Wright is the Dean of Admission and Enrollment Management at MassArt. He said that questions about affirmative action are “tough”, and it all depends on how it’s used. “Using affirmative action to check off a box to say you're a diverse institution might not be the best use of the law,” he said.  
When conducting outreach to potential students, Wright and his team make sure their outreach is diverse by visiting urban schools and local nonprofits so that at the end of the day, they have enough qualified candidates to create a melting pot.  
Wright believes that being fair and equal to all is most important. “Our job is to get people from all different types of backgrounds to consider our institution, and from there, only set those students up for success by admitting the ones that are qualified.”  
Michael Kauffmann, an English teacher at Cristo Rey Boston believes that when it comes to college admissions and hiring for jobs, it is both fair and beneficial to consider a variety of factors, including - but not limited to -  race. 
“I believe the ultimate goal is to have a truly representative society, where the teachers, policeman, lawyers, CEOs, and politicians look like the people whom they serve,” said Kauffman. “If we ever have that world, maybe we won’t need affirmative action, but just one glance at Congress will show anyone that we’re not there yet.”   
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AFH Photo // Adam Nguyen
High school seniors across America have two things on their minds: SAT scores and grade point averages. Both numbers are used by colleges to show a student’s academic development. Though important, SAT scores should not make or break your college acceptance. 
According to the Princeton Review - a college admission services company offering test preparation services, tutoring, admissions resources, online courses and books - the SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to help them make admission decisions. It is a way for colleges and universities to compare all students who apply.  
This can be a concern for students who have done well all four years of high school, maintained a high GPA, but don’t perform well on the SAT. In most states, taking the SATs is a requirement for high school graduation. Admission requirements from colleges and universities vary, but most do require SAT scores.  
The Princeton Review website reports that the SAT was redesigned in March 2016 to make it more closely align with high school coursework. The test is scored on a 400-1600 point scale, with an average student score of 1038.   
When it comes to the value of SATs in college admissions, “it really depends on the institution. Some schools place more value on an exam, while others may place more value on academic performance,” says Christopher Wright, Dean of Admission and Enrollment Management at MassArt.  
SATs should not be viewed as a direct connection to future success. It is the hard work and the academic achievements one makes that should be the main consideration.  
The thought of preparing for a four to five hour test with no syllabus to study from is nerve-wrecking. Not to mention the underlying pressure a student is in when taking the actual test. 
The question is: are SATs really worth determining your college acceptance and future? A student’s competency and eligibility to apply to college shouldn’t rely on their SAT score, but rather their skill and achievements in four years of high school. There is a misconception about how well SATs evaluate a student's general knowledge. 
“I see a future where there will be more schools shifting towards test-optional admissions, but there will always be colleges that use this tool in their evaluation of students,” stated Wright.  
High school juniors are currently preparing for their upcoming SATs in May and June. Nelly Oriabure, a junior at New Mission High School, says, “I find the math parts super difficult and even though there is no failing or passing, I still feel like I have the chance to fail. I feel like it would be best not only for the students, but colleges as well, to judge students based on their progress, rather than a four hour exam.” 
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AFH Photo // Tristin Heap
For many millennials, it is impossible to imagine a day without turning on a phone or computer, accessing Twitter or Google News, and watching as floods of highlights appear on their screens. While many teens today consider themselves to be technologically advanced—skilled navigators in the sea of Internet content—this is often not the case.  
The digital media environment intensifies the presence of false information and enables poor critical judgement. A recent Stanford University study reveals harsh findings involving the ability of teens to determine fact from fiction. The implications of online “unreality” are numerous, and we should be demanding that the top tech users today focus more energy on how to become educated information consumers. 
The incomprehensibly large and varied domain of online information should be a progression in the pursuit of knowledge, truth and an all-around beneficial tool for youth. But, it is not that simple. The November 2016 Stanford study shows what researchers found when students from around the country were presented with online news and asked to critically evaluate it. The results are not only disturbing, but offer a clear glimpse into the unrealities the Internet perpetuates.  
The researchers “designed, piloted, and validated fifteen assessments, five each at middle school, high school, and college levels.” In one assessment, high school students were presented with a post from photo sharing website Imgur that included “a picture of daisies along with the claim that the flowers had ‘nuclear birth defects’ from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.”  
Results found that these students focused on the photograph and “relied on it to evaluate the trustworthiness of the post.” They did not note important details including the source of the photo. “Less than twenty percent of students … questioned the source of the post or the source of the photo.”  
College students were presented with a tweet from MoveOn.org, the liberal advocacy organization, that claimed the NRA is out of touch with gun owners and their own members. The tweet also indicated “Public Policy Polling conducted the poll.”  
Results showed that only a few students noted that the poll was conducted by a professional polling firm and that this adds to its credibility. Also, “less than a third of students” thought that the clear political partisanship of the publisher -- an open supporter of gun control measures -- may have influenced the tweet. Overall, the students showed a shocking inability to assess information. The results suggest a growing need for incorporating civic online reasoning courses into school curricula. 
Future generations of media consumers will know the internet as their only source of information. Without an understanding of the dynamics of the Internet or the acquirement of debunking methods, future generations will become more tolerant of misinformation and more hostile to facts than ever before. New efforts must be geared toward fostering an awareness of the importance of distinguishing fact from fiction, in order to see millennials and all Internet users become educated, tech-savvy truth-seekers. 
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Wassup in School
Guidance Counselors: The Unofficial Therapists
Aisha Mohamed
AFH Photo // Gilford Murphy
When we think of guidance counselors, we often think of people who work solely to make sure we are doing well in school, give us guidance, and serve as the helpful, kind people they are. But do we ever think beyond the surface, or about their real role in our school systems? 
Guidance counselors have a more prominent position than meets the eyes. Consider them the glue that keeps the school together. Students don’t realize that guidance counselors are also there to lend a listening ear and help students with troubling issues that may affect their academic performance.  
According to the Boston Public School website, guidance counselors help students to understand their aptitudes, capabilities, and limitations in making personal decisions, educational plans and occupational choices. “It’s a multidimensional, multifaceted job” says Valduvino Goncalves, guidance counselor at New Mission High School. “I am the main go-to for various issues, not only for the students, but for the staff as well.” 
Guidance counselors do more than put your schedule together and help you find useful things to do during the summer. “I see my role as a guidance counselor as someone who connects students to educational opportunities,” Goncalves says.  
Guidance counselors are unofficial therapists that help students with diverse issues. Although they are not classroom teachers, guidance counselors are still educators. Little do we know, but they are a key element in every school. It is not only challenging, but fascinating. Imagine having to take care of not just the students, but the school as whole. This may sound like a lot of pressure, but it also gives us the idea of how important they are to school systems. 
Goncalves describes his job as stressful, but also very rewarding -- especially around graduation time when students start receiving their college acceptances. “I see the fruits of my labor,” says Goncalves, “and more importantly, the fruits of my students’ labor.” 
What is a relationship between a guidance counselor and student supposed to be like? According to Goncalves, it’s all about trust. A student’s ability to trust their guidance counselor, and vice a versa, can really benefit students’ growth throughout their years in high school. 
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AFH Photo // Haidan Hodgson
The Boston Student Advisory Council is working on various campaigns to improve the lives of Boston public school students. One of the campaigns tackles the school-to-prison pipeline. BSAC is working hard to transform the BPS discipline tactics and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.  
BSAC is advocating for more counselors in each high school, not cops. Since there are currently more cops than counselors, some students feel like they are in prison and not in school getting their education.  
The school that I attend, Boston Day and Evening Academy, has one cop but several counselors. So, if a student is having a bad day, they can ask to go to student support and talk with their counselor about their personal life, rather than holding it in and acting up which could lead them into handcuffs. 
Ironically, school cops do not make students feel safe, especially when a student is being searched, or if the school has metal detectors at the entrance.  
In the fall of 2016, BSAC conducted the Listening Project. We went to different train stations and asked students, “Do you feel safe in school with cops there?”, “Do you have any counselors?” and “What's the craziest thing you got suspended for?”   
We received some crazy answers, especially about suspensions. One student said they were suspended for throwing a pencil out the window! 
I care about this issue because I know students feel uncomfortable as soon as they walk into school and have to go through metal detectors or get searched. I know a lot of students who feel like they are in prison because the school system treats them as if they are prisoners, when they are just kids who want an education. 

BSAC Buzz is a regular column by The Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) which advocates for and protects the voices of students int eh Boston Public School system, empowers the student body to express their opinions regarding educational policy changes, and ensures that students are included in decision and policy making which impacts their live and educational experiences. If you're interested in joining BSAC please contact Maria I. Ortiz at mortiz@bostonpublicschools.org.
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