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One Year Later, Franklin Park Zoo’s “Nature’s Neighborhoods” Prove Their Value
AFH Photo // Gilford Murphy
In September 2016, the Franklin Park Zoo opened its renovated children’s zoo titled “Nature’s Neighborhoods.” A year later, the exhibit is still widely advertised and flooded with visitors. And it is easy to see why. 
As a modern exhibit, the enclosures appear more natural than other parts of the zoo, which feature unnatural chain link fences and a somewhat mundane appearance. In the new exhibit, enclosures are built to fit the needs of the animals in terms of space and surroundings. The animals are simulated to believe that they are in the wild because of how their enclosures are constructed. This is an observation made by casual zoogoer Alison Hackett, who thinks the zoo’s other exhibits could be better designed for both the animals and the visitors
Those who look down on zoos and see them as prisons may be surprised to see the improvement in the exhibit design. The animals, which include red pandas, prairie dogs, muntjacs, and a variety of birds, seem more at home here. This is due to the more natural-looking environments that allow the animals to be more active.
There are also some activities for young children, such as a miniature playground and a maze. Kids can also learn about conservation of animals in terms they can understand. 
Visitor Corey Bushong thinks encouraging kids to take better care of the world is a great idea, and that the children’s zoo puts more effort in explaining it than other exhibits. There is no small part in conservation, and it starts here.
Brooke Wardrop, Director of Marketing and Communications at Zoo New England, stated that “the children's zoo was designed specifically for all of the species that reside in this place.” The designers took great pains to make sure every animal would be comfortable. Wardrop is satisfied with how the exhibit turned out, showing the employee’s true passion for what they do.
On the whole, you will not want to miss “Nature’s Neighborhoods.” It has natural-looking and inventive enclosures and great activities for kids. It is certainly a welcome addition to the zoo’s collection.
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When I was a young child in school, it was tough. Every time I was in class, I wasn’t able to pay attention. I would easily get distracted and doze off. I had a moderate stutter. It was difficult to express my feelings, which lead up to me misbehaving. I would start throwing things, have emotional outbursts and curse. I didn’t have emotional guidance until I went to middle school. 
Sixth grade was a very traumatic year for me. My class wasn’t the best learning environment for me. I was getting bullied really badly by students who would tease me about my stutter, physical appearance, or my learning disability. I remember the first day of school, I was in a group of students. As soon as I spoke, I was stuttering, and they laughed at me and called me names. The class pace was too fast for me, from one assignment to another. If I didn’t do the classwork on time, that was it. My grade would go down. I tried my very best. I wanted to take my time completing assignments. The teachers weren’t able to give me enough guidance and assistance. I would often get frustrated.  There were times that I went out of class and cried. The bullying was out of control. The constant name-calling and plotting against me was painful. My grades were poor. 
The only special education teacher in the general education classes was Ms. Mook. She saw that I was struggling. With the academic and emotional help, it made school a little bit easier. She got me into her tutoring program after school and made a strategy chart for me. I still had difficulty managing to be in the class. My breaking point was when my emotions got the best of me due to bullying. I remember I was eating lunch in the cafeteria. A group of kids were cursing at me and discussing a fight that I was in. At that moment, I had enough. It was frustrating and draining to keep getting picked on. I yelled, cursed, threw things, and ran out the cafeteria crying hysterically. All I wanted was genuine people in my life to support me and love me. I was tired of people making fun of me. I told Ms. Mook, “It’s either I go to another class or another school.” Later on Ms. Mook took me to another class. We walked in together. It was a bigger class space with a smaller group of students. I saw a red-headed teacher I had seen in the hallway before. There were two other teachers sitting at a table. Then I noticed most of the students had severe and visible learning disabilities. Some of them were in wheelchairs or had behavior issues. I did a project with the class. I thought I was visiting. Little did I know that this was my new class. I felt comfortable in  Ms. Kersey’s class. Her class was safe, compassionate, and supportive.  As time went on, it was mandatory for me to be in her classroom. It was overwhelming for me at times. The students needed a lot more attention than I did and I had more experience and knowledge than they did. As a result, I was ashamed to be in that environment. Kids from the other class called me a “sped,” “retarded,” or “slow.” I didn’t let what people said about me get to me that much. I knew what I wanted out of my standard education. I wanted a supportive environment. Ms. Kersey and I built a strong professional relationship.  
When 7th grade came, I eventually got over that shame and felt comfortable. I still had times when I felt like I was left behind or not challenged enough. It was difficult balancing my education. I needed assignments that were appropriate for me. Ms. Kersey’s assignments were too easy. I got very frustrated. I remember the time when she gave me the easiest homework. I was upset. I told her in an  inappropriate way that I needed challenging work. I had a outburst. She talked to me about the appropriate way to address my needs and that I should be careful with how I say it. I agreed. I didn’t want the others to feel bad that their academic paces weren’t like mine. I got the point that Ms. Kersey was making. Just because something may be easy for you, that doesn’t mean it’s easy for others. I identified my strengths and weaknesses because we all have both. It doesn’t make me any different. My class setting accommodations worked out well. I needed a smaller group setting with high function assignments. I went to Ms Mook’s and Ms. Kersey’s class to create an educational setting that benefited my needs.
The first day of 8th grade came, and I was excited.  I moved up to advancing classes but was still in a smaller group most of the time.  I was sad because I wanted to stay with Ms. Kersey’s class, but I knew it was time to move on. I was in Mr. Patlan’s class and two other bigger class settings. At first, I didn’t feel comfortable in his class. I missed all of the emotional support I had from the other class. Then I told myself, “Seana, this is what you’ve been wanting for a long time. These new classes are getting you ready for high school. You can do it.”  There was one friend in particular that I helped a lot in class. She was in Mr. Patlan’s class. She had a physical disability and was very emotional.  I saw myself in her.  Instead of ignoring her and paying less attention to her, I helped her with her emotions by giving her guidance on how to deal with stressful situations. I showed what I was doing so she could learn from the strength that I had. I was mature and handled things like a young adult. I didn’t make small problems into big problems. I also identified what a good friend was vs. who weren’t my friends.  Then I knew what people’s true intentions were.  When 8th grade was over I was proud of myself. That is called GROWTH! I went from a frustrated girl that needed lots of support to a mature, ambitious young lady. It is okay to have a learning disability. You are not alone. Anything is possible. You can grow.  It takes time and effort. You have to put in dedication to anything you want to do in life. My specific learning disability doesn’t define me as a person.

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Seana shares her story of navigating middle school with a learning disability. Produced by Seana Fuller at WriteBoston's Teens In Print Summer Journalism Institute 2017. 
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Cover Story
Affirmative Action: The Accepted and Rejected
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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