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."
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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.
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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. 
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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.
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AFH Photo // Delia Fleming
He’s prescribed a pill a day for his knee pain. He sneaks a second one after dinner, because he sleeps more easily after taking the prescribed muscle relaxer. He takes one in the morning, one before his train ride home because sitting aches, and one before bed. Every day. Although his doctor prescribed only one pill with breakfast, it relieves his pain to take more, so he assumes his doctor won’t mind.
Roughly 21 to 29 percent of people prescribed chronic pain relievers abuse them, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Sadly, the hypothetical scenario above is very much a reality today. You may have heard of it: the opioid epidemic. NIDA defines the opioid epidemic as the “misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.” 
In 2016, this epidemic was responsible for nearly 2,000 deaths in Massachusetts alone—over five times as deadly as it was in 2000, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Of these 2,000 victims, over 150 were younger than 25 years old.
Dr. Nicholas Chadi, Pediatric Addictions Fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital, works with adolescents who struggle with substance abuse, and agrees that the opioid epidemic is a rising issue among our youth. “We’re seeing these opioids become a lot more available on the streets,” he said.“We’re seeing severe cases and overdoses a lot more than we used to.” 
Teenagers access opioids in a multitude of ways, from their own prescribed medications to stealing family member’s pills to buying off the streets. The recreational use of opioids such as fentanyl and morphine is becoming common among teenagers because of the feelings and side effects they produce. Seventeen-year-old Josie D. from Dallas, Texas, has been prescribed many heavy opioids for chronic pain. While she did not become addicted, she realizes how dangerous they are. Josie compares the experience of taking biweekly morphine treatments to being high.“I didn’t like the feeling,” she said. “But I can understand why someone would like it because you’re not thinking about your life or your problems.”
For teenagers, that in itself is plenty reason to try opioids. They are easier to use than other drugs in terms of convenience and secrecy, and don’t leave behind any smell or mess. It’s much easier to slip a pill than it is to go out and obtain other drugs. 
“I’ve had situations where people have approached me at school, knowing my pain condition and assuming that I am on painkillers, and they’ll ask me if they can have some,” Josie said. “The opioid epidemic is definitely a pressing issue among our youth today. When something has reached such a level that you can’t walk down your school hallways without other kids mentioning it, you know it’s important to teenagers.”
Dr. Sarah Bagley, Medical Director of Boston Medical Center’s Catalyst Program, also agrees this pressing issue requires more attention from youth. She spends her days seeing patients and helping them with their addictions as well as researching ways to engage young adults after non-fatal overdoses. She has worked with patients as young as nine years old and believes that opioids are not only dangerous, but a gateway to other drugs. 
“Teenagers who are exposed to opioids and start using them regularly are really at more serious risk for developing addiction,” Dr. Bagley said. “Addiction is loss of control; it’s compulsion.” She works to prevent this by diagnosing patients with a moderate, mild, or severe opioid use disorder. To treat this, she and her team use alternative therapy approaches and even switch patients from opioids to other medications such as buprenorphine or methadone. “We are using medications to treat a disease instead of to get high,” she said. “These medications allow you to stay in school, get a job, and reduce the chance that you’ll get HIV.”
Dr. Navil Sethna, Medical Director of Boston Children’s Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Center, also works to wean his chronic pain patients off of opioids. His approach involves a slow wean off the opioids to allow the patient’s body to adjust and help with withdrawals. He prefers to try to prevent the problem before it occurs rather than fix it afterwards. To do this, he believes our society must focus on education. 
“We can educate the health care prescribers and providers in terms of dosing and appropriate prescription.” he said. “We need to inform parents and patients on the pill’s purpose, duration and side effects.”
Dr. Chadi agrees. “Education is the first step,” he said. “It starts with educating the prescribers, and then it has to go into the schools. Schools need to know when students start using; students need to know the risks of using.”
Josie also feels that society as a whole should combat the opioid epidemic. “As a society, we should work on denormalizing trends that are addictive,” she said. “We need to start shutting down the gateways.”
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