Culture Club
The Voice: Public Speaking Can Help Create Change
Dwayne Corey Ross / AFH Artwork
Mageney Omar, a sophomore at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, thinks that public speaking is important because it’s something that everyone needs to master at one time or another.
“No matter what profession you want to pursue, there is going to be some form of talking,” she says.
Whether it’s to inform students during class presentations, or create buzz at political gatherings, or spur-on teammates at sporting events, public speaking is an important asset for teens because it can help rally support and create change. People’s voices are very powerful.
Still, standing in front of others can be nerve-wracking.
“One way is to practice public speaking with one person as an audience member, and continue adding people so that you’ll become more con dent when it’s time for you to actually present,” says Legacy Thornton, a sophomore at the O’Bryant.
Once you become comfortable, says Thornton, the activity can feel riveting.
“I like public speaking because I’m in the spotlight, and my voice is being heard,” she says. “What I have to say actually matters.”
Nardos Gosaye, a sophomore at the O’Bryant, says there’s no good reason to feel shy about it.
“Once I realize that I’m human and that everyone makes mistakes,” she says, “I forget my fear and go with the flow.”
This article was prepared in collaboration with 826 Boston.
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Anthony Garcia / AFH Artwork
Michael Harkess, 16, from the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, considers himself to be part of the proletariat.
“Although it is extremely difficult in today’s society,” he says, “social mobility is achievable for the lower class.”
He believes that as long as he works hard in school and graduates from college, he might be in a better position in the future. However, there is a huge obstacle facing him. That is, the exorbitant cost of college.
The solution: Government has to tax wealthier people more, he says, so that young people like him have a better chance to leap the social ladder.
Moving up from a socioeconomic class is a lofty goal but a harsh reality can be found on the ground.
Jonathan Duque, 16, from the O’Bryant, believes that many jobs don’t pay well enough for the working class to have a significant financial improvement.
The challenge to maintain a family, a job, and a good education at the same time, he says, may deprive him of accessing a higher social rank.
McCain Boonma, a sophomore from the O’Bryant, says that institutional racism and its effect on one’s environment can still be a barrier to social mobility, even for the middle class.
“Some people grow up with certain values,” says Boonma, “that hinder or boost their chances.”
This article was prepared in collaboration with 826 Boston.
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AFH photo by Janna Mach
If you could change one thing in your life....?
Sixteen-year-old Kimberlyn Jones, who attends the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, says that she would like to modify her friends.
Jones says that she wants them to be setting the same goals for themselves as she does.
“I need more friends in my life that say ‘You can do it,’ ” she says.
For Sharon Nguyen, 16, from Boston Latin Academy, it would be an end to discrimination.
Nguyen says she’s faced it for being Asian.
Nguyen says that if people would stop judging each other, then everyone would have more pride.
“When someone talks bad about someone,” Nguyen says, “it makes them not want to share who they are. Too many people are hiding their true identity and potential.”
Fourteen-year-old Robert Isles, from New Mission High School, says he wants to alter his height.
He is five-feet-and-two-inches, he says, and is treated 
differently than taller teens.
“Being short,” he says, “you have to work harder to show people that you can do it.”
This article was prepared in collaboration with 826 Boston.
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Aijanah Sanford / AFH Photo
A competitive drive can blind people to logical reasoning.
Growing up playing soccer, comments to opposing players criticizing their play were as normal to me as tying up the laces of my cleats.
They were meant to get into an opponent’s head. As a varsity athlete now, teasing a rival has become part of the high school experience.
But when individual trash-talking becomes group taunting, things have gone too far.
As they did during a March basketball face-off between Newton North High School -- home to many Jewish students -- and Catholic Memorial School, which is all boys.
That’s when fans on each side sent anti-gay and anti-Semitic slurs back and forth -- for everyone in the stands to hear. Apologies were later offered, teaching moments discussed, and disciplinary action taken.
Players and supporters alike need to know that, even in the heat of the moment, sportsmanship is a big part of the game.
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AFH Artwork
“When we identify one thing as unlike the others, we are dividing the world; we use our language to exclude, to distinguish -- to discriminate.”
-- Legal scholar Martha Minow
Indeed, we use what society and the media put out to determine who we like and don’t like. We put people in boxes. We get so carried away with what is dividing us that we create conflict and jealousy and hate.
Many still believe, for example, that there are certain things only boys can do and certain things only girls can do. If one gender does something not considered “normal,” then they are despised.
People in the LGBTQ community struggle with this despite gaining the freedom to marry one another.
No one is born hating each other. From birth, we are brainwashed by all these rules we are expected to follow, racial and sexual stereotypes we must conform to, class divisions we must uphold -- generation after generation.
I think that accepting someone’s differences is great. After all, that’s how we learn, grow, and better ourselves.
But it’ll take a long time for things to change.
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