AFH Photo // Jhonn Polanco
Before I even walked into McDonalds, I saw a herd of people ordering food. The mouthwatering smell of burgers and fries greeted me with a punch to the nose. I really wanted to eat healthy, so I ordered a Caesar salad. Little did I know that the McDonald's Caesar salad has more calories than their hamburgers. 
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that about 1 in 5 children aged 6 to 19 are obese.  More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity. Almost 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese. About 8 percent of women are considered to have extreme obesity. 
Kids these days are spending more time inside watching TV than going outside and playing at the park. Spending less time outside and more time indoors will increase the incidence  of obesity. Excess pounds do more than increase your weight. They also increase the risk of major health problems such as strokes, diabetes, cancer, and depression. You have to exercise or you have a higher chance of becoming obese.  
Lenward Gatison, health teacher from Codman Academy, said that obesity occurs when extra calories accumulate in the body, and that teens are more at-risk for obesity than ever. “Teens have junk food easily accessible to them and the culture of teens is getting more and more sedentary,” said Gatison. “Junk food, fast food, TV streaming services, video games are some major contributors to teen obesity. Until teens are living more active lifestyles, teen obesity will continue to be an issue.”
Elliott Garcia, 16, from Dorchester, said that obesity can affect local teens’ abilities to make friends and fit in. “For example, if you are an average teen, you would choose the group that is fit and that has a good life over the obese group that has a bad life,” he said.
For teens, obesity isn’t just a health problem; it’s also a social one. We should more active lifestyles and better access to healthy food. We can’t live off of McDonald's alone. 
Read more…
AFH Photo // Christiana Black
As I get home from school, I heave my heavy body onto the couch. I look up and ask my artificial intelligence (AI) companion to help me review for a test I have coming up. The slightly digitized voice responds, “Of course.” 
The future is something that people always seem to have on their minds, as seen in the excessive amount of time travel movies. Some say AI, or the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, is a dream of the future—but in fact, AI is already here, ready to make your life easier. 
Gene Swank is cofounder and chief operating officer of educational technology company Screen Time Solutions. ScreenTime Learning is a way to help parents help their children study math by earning time on their mobile device, tablet, or phone. The screen is locked on a quiz that a child must pass in order to gain 30 minutes to an hour of full access on their device. After that time ends, the timer kicks off and the device locks back up.  The child then has to answer more questions. 
“The AI is actually in the back end, in the cloud,” Swank explained. “We have an acronym for it, CLAIR: cloud learning artificial intelligent resource.”
CLAIR uses the information it gathers from students to create a probability chart of grade level and questions adapted to fit the child. “We analyze everything, from how long it takes the child to answer the question to the incorrect answers they choose,” Swank said. “Believe it or not, the incorrect answers are even more important than the ones they got correct.”
“AI is making computers essentially think in the way that humans do,” Swank said. “So there are a lot of takes, a lot of algorithms and things like that we use that require the understanding of some big data. That big data is almost too much information for a human to process—that’s why we use AI."
Read more…
AFH Photo // Mary Nguyen
People have traveled the vast nothingness of the Sahara, climbed the icy slopes of Everest and borne witness to the northern lights, all from the comfort of home. How is this possible? This was accomplished through the miracle of modern engineering. Introducing, virtual reality.
Virtual reality (VR)an experience that simulates immersive physical presence in a real or imagined environmentis becoming increasingly relevant in today’s world. More and more companies are popping up, all hoping to claim a spot at the top. Currently, the biggest dominators in the field are Facebook/Oculus, Google, Microsoft and Magic Leap.
From flying a plane to fighting mutant zombies, VR allows people to experience events that are unlikely or impossible. The process of creating “reality” is achieved through the use of headsets, omni-directional treadmills and special gloves. These are used to stimulate our senses to create the illusion of reality.
Isaiah Monroig, a 15-year-old at Boston Latin School, shares his positive experience with VR. He played a game in which you had to fight virus-infected robots. “There were motion controllers to orientate yourself around and it was really intriguing,” he said. “It was cool to be in the game.”
Unlike what many may think, VR is not just for gamers. VR can also help us experience things that are too dangerous, expensive or impractical to do in reality.
“Our software puts people into situations that are potentially dangerous,” says Jim Kogler, Vice President of COTS products at VT MAK. “People behave differently when they know they’re acting something out, and the goal is to make people believe that they are facing danger and see how they react.”
As the price of VR increasingly lowers, more educational purposes are sure to follow. Already, some schools around the world have tested out VR in the classroom.
VR also provides an escape from reality (pun intended). It provides an opportunity for users to relax in situations that cause them anxiety. VR treatment helps combat depression and anxiety by increasing self-acceptance, self-compassion and self-confidence. VR can treat post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoia, drug addiction and a variety of phobias.
However, there are some negative aspects of VR, like VR sickness. Similar to motion sickness, VR sickness is caused by the mismatch between the eyes and brain. Symptoms include discomfort, headaches, nausea, drowsiness and disorientation. Some people experience this after just a few minutes, while others may never go through the symptoms.
Rosemary Bain, a 15-year-old from Somerville, finds these symptoms can prevent everyone from enjoying VR. “I think that as VR progresses, that might be addressed so more people can experience it,” she said. “But for now, it sucks that people can’t play VR because they might get sick.”
Discouraging social interactions is also a potentially harmful issue related to VR. As these types of virtual experiences continue to grow, people may be tempted to distance themselves from their own unsatisfying lives and instead replace them with better, virtual worlds. 
Kogler states, “No matter the consequences, [VR] is worth it. It lets people experience things that they haven’t done before and it prepares them for all possible events.” He adds, “The trend is that VR is getting cheaper. More and more people are getting access to it. The chance that teens are exposed to the technology has definitely increased by a lot.”
Virtual reality will continue to grow and evolve, and no one can ever be sure of the future, but one thing is clear. VR has changed the world by giving more opportunities for architecture, medicine, entertainment, sports and the arts. We can expect to see many more innovative uses for the technology and perhaps a change in the fundamental way in which we communicate and workall thanks to the possibilities of virtual reality.
Read more…
AFH Photo // Wilson Fortes
The Fourth of July is an awesome holiday, with food, bright firecrackers lighting up the night sky, and nice hot daysbut are all the popping sounds really from firecrackers? Around this time of year, the death rate goes up because the sounds of guns are masked by the sounds of the wonderful fireworks. 
According to Boston police statistics cited in the Boston Herald, 123 people were injured by gunshots as of the Fourth of July in 2017. During that same period last year, 95 people were shot, a 29.5 percent surge. 
The rise in violence from last year to this year is startling for teens. “As a fellow teen who lives in one of those neighborhoods, it makes me feel on edge for myself and for my peers,” said Kelis Greenidge, 15, a student at Cristo Rey Boston. “I always have to be alert and cautious no matter what I am doing, because nowadays, something so little can be made big and create problems that can harm me and the ones I love.” Ariana Haywood, 15, attending Community Charter School in Cambridge, said both her cousin and aunt were killed while in a corner store.“I should feel safe to go to the store,” she said.
Teens have been asked what should be done to keep the communities safe. Greenidge suggested that we as teens should take action. “I feel the city of Boston is trying do as much as they can to protect the youth and the elders living here,” she said. “Now, I just feel like it’s up to us, the upcoming youth, to stick together and take a stand against violence and put our foot down and say that we don’t want this anymore. We don’t want calls at 3 in the morning saying one of out relatives have been murdered or shot.” 
Teens are also unsure if the police can help lower the crime rate at all. “I feel as though that would be good if they did,” Greenidge said. “But it’s also an iffy type of situation because of the killings of unarmed black teens by cops that we’ve seen in the past and in the present. It could be a good idea, but it also may just make people feel a lot more nervous in their own neighborhoods.”
Zoe Grover, executive director of Newton’s Stop Handgun Violence, thinks we need to take action to reduce gun violence for the sake of everyone in Boston. “There is just too much shooting going on and I want to do something about it rather than just sitting around sad, waiting for the next funeral,” she said. According to Grover, education is key. “We try to engage with young people and gun owners on social media, spreading our message of how to stay safe when there are guns around,” she said. “We pass out trigger locks and encourage gun owners to lock their guns.” 
Through these steps, maybe by the next Fourth of July we can take strides to reduce gun violence in our city. 
Read more…
AFH Photo // Aijanah Sanford
Americans who encounter the enduring realities of a Trump presidency may experience symptoms of Trump-trauma. According to Peter Ward, a paleontologist and professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, “the average level of stress in America is rapidly increasing.”
Michelle Lee, a medical student studying at Harvard Medical School, said that “national policies can absolutely have ramifications that could potentially cause trauma.” She added, “The more traumatic events you have, the more deleterious the effects may be.” 
Lee feels the wrath of Trump “as a woman, as a daughter of immigrants, and as a future healthcare provider.” 
Ironically, at a time when the state of our mental health is threatened, the current administration is severing our public health resources. 
Trump has proposed slashing the National Institute of Health (NIH)’s budget by $6 billion. As an organization that works to develop new treatments that will be used to prevent disease, “it would be devastating,” Lee said. 
As of today, Trump’s budget has not yet been approved by Congress. However, his presidency is already having a distinct impact on the public’s psyche. 
Fatima Eddahbi, 15, a Moroccan-born Muslimah, feels the trauma-like effects of Trump. “Considering I’m a Muslim women of color, it’s really hard to feel accepted in a country that seems so against you,” she said. “It makes me feel that I’m not a part of a community that I once was a part of.” 
In Eddahbi’s view, Trump-trauma could certainly be a real phenomenon. “In the families that he’s really affecting and really hurting, I feel like someone could experience PTSD, especially those who have gone through deportation in their families,”  she said.
Aviana Sullivan, a 15-year-old from East Boston, affirms that stress levels have risen during this administration. With grandparents that were born in Brazil, she fears they will lose their citizenship. Sullivan claims Trump, “stresses everyone out” and that she “empathizes” with the minorities targeted by Trump. “We’re screwed,” Sullivan said. 
Unfortunately, Trump-trauma is only just getting started, as the President has yet to complete his first year in office.
Read more…