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, 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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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
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AFH Photo
What does the climate mean to you as a teen? Are you aware that the climate is changing?   
Climate change is not a positive change, but a type of change that could cause Boston to be under water in 50 years. In the article “Climate change could be even worse for Boston than previously thought”, authored by David Abel and published by The Boston Globe, Abel states, “In the worst-case scenario, sea levels could rise more than 10 feet by the end of the century — nearly twice what was previously predicted — plunging about 30 percent of Boston under water. Temperatures in 2070 could exceed 90 degrees for 90 days a year…”  
That is unsafe. The planet needs to be better taken care of so we humans can have a chance to enjoy it while we grow old. In order for us to know what to do to help save the earth, we need to be educated with the facts of climate change. Although schools are not required to educate you about climate change, you will walk these streets better educated after reading this article.  
Climate change did not emerged as a political issue until the 1990s. Since then, pollution has only gotten worse. Pollution has had a significant impact on the ozone layer. According to National Geographic,“ the ozone layer is one layer of the stratosphere, the second layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.” Most importantly “the ozone layer is getting thinner. Chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a reason we have a thinning ozone layer. A chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) is a molecule that contains the elements carbon, chlorine, and fluorine. CFCs are everywhere, mostly in refrigerants and plastic products.”  
We as human beings can help control climate change in our world. But, we can only make an impact if we care. If we care about the negative changes that’s going on in our world and the air we breath, we can turn the negative changes that are  happening to humans, animals, and the globe into positive changes. This is important because the amount of carbon that’s put in the air affects everyone and everything in this world.  
For example, in many low income communities, the asthma level is so high, in part, because the amount of waste and level of pollution that’s released. There are more waste locations in low income communities than any other community, such as suburban communities. But remember we are the future. We can make a drastic change in this world but it takes is faith, time, love, and patience.   

BSAC Buzz is the regular column by The Boston Student Advisory Council. BSAC 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 

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AFH Photo // Jessica Pan
When people contract a sexually transmitted disease, society tends to look at them differently. I do not believe this is fair. Let’s talk about the stigma that leads people to treat someone with an STD differently. There are many ways people with STDs get mistreated, including being talked about by their peers or excluded from groups. 
First, I want to tell you what inspired me to write about this topic in the first place. A couple of months ago, I came across an article regarding Beauty and the Beast, the 1991 animated movie. You may be thinking, “What in the world does this have to do with anything?”   
The article, “The original Beauty and the Beast cartoon was a metaphor for AIDS,” talked about Howard Ashman, a lyricist for the movie who found out he had AIDS. The article argues that the Beast signifies a “curse” -- similar to Ashman finding out he had AIDS -- and so he locks himself away in shame. Belle signifies a cure, a chance that maybe, just maybe, the “curse” will be lifted.  
I hope I didn’t completely ruin your childhood, but this perspective is vital because it shows how being misjudged and mistreated can really hurt someone. In this case, the Beast closes himself off from society because he feels ashamed of who he has become. The people in his town are no better. They make it seem like he’s not someone worthy of their understanding, and so they set out to make his life miserable.  
Despite being a cartoon, this is a remarkably accurate portrayal of what happens to people when they disclose their STD status to those around them. Being treated poorly can make many people afraid to seek help. To get more insight, I interviewed Suzanne Spressert, a Health Education Instructional Coach for Boston Public Schools.  
Q. Why do people get misjudged for having an STD? 
  1. Spressert: I think this happens because of the way society talks about STDs. People say you "catch" one and use terms like "dirty" when that is not the case at all, and not how we should be talking about it. Since most STDs have no symptoms, it is difficult to know who has one unless they disclose that information. More than 50 percent of all sexually active people will contract Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) at some point during their lives – most won’t know it. One in two Americans will have contracted a sexually transmitted infection by the time they reach the age of 25. Given these statistics, I believe there's a lot of misunderstanding about how common STDs are and how they are passed on from an infected partner. I also see this talked about in classrooms as typically being assigned to females, when males can be the ones passing on the infection. That needs to be acknowledged as shared responsibility and not one sided.  
Q. What is the most common STD among young adults? 
  1. Spressert: Chlamydia is still the number one most common STD impacting Boston Public School students. I would call your attention to this fact: In 2014, there were 3,628 chlamydia cases in Boston and 60% of these cases were in 15-24 year olds. With more awareness and more testing, we can help to drive down those numbers in Boston, ultimately making a healthier, safer community for all.  
Q. What can be done to help people feel comfortable when speaking to others about their personal experiences?  
  1. Spressert: This sometimes takes role play or practicing what to say with a trusted adult. I recommend that each student has at least one to two trusted adults in his or her community that they can confide in. These adults can also help students get connected to testing and care.  
Q. What are the medical options for people who have contracted an STD? 
  1. Spressert: Treatment can include antibiotics given either orally or by injection or antiviral drugs, depending on which STD they are being treated for. Post-exposure prophylaxis (or PEP) is a way to prevent HIV infection after a possible recent exposure. PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and is a way for people who don't have HIV, but who are at very high risk of getting it, to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill contains two medicines that are also used to treat HIV. 
Q. Are any STDs curable? If so, which ones and why?   
  1. Spressert: My first response to this question is please, please, please advocate for comprehensive sexual health education in your and every BPS school. This is a simple question that gets covered in depth in both the middle school and high school sexual health education curriculum. There are two types of STDs - bacterial and viral. Bacterial STDs can be cured with antibiotics. Viral ones can be managed but not cured. From a behavior change perspective, students should know the risks associated with unprotected sexual activity (vaginal, oral and anal) and be able to access testing if they have engaged in any unprotected sexual act and believe they might have an STI/STD. Students should feel empowered to be able to get tested and also communicate their status with a partner. Accessing community resources and having solid interpersonal skills are key to becoming an adult!  
I think that people who have a negative view on people with an STD are just uninformed and there are many ways you can educate yourself. Most schools offer health classes that teach students about these topics. It can also be as easy as using trusted online sources like or the Planned Parenthood website. Whatever you decide, I hope it helps keep you educated on STDs. This is not something to be ashamed of because it can happen to anyone and there are many ways and options to seek help and to prevent it from happening again, or even at all.  
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