Ever wondered why there are so many green spaces in Boston, but you never visit them? It might be because you do not know the benefits they may provide. I am sure you are asking yourself, “how do small, insignificant parks help the city and its people?” Green spaces are important—especially for people living in areas where there is a lack of green space—because they benefit our wellbeing. 
Urban green spaces are pieces of land that are undeveloped and have no buildings or other structures. They can be parks, community gardens or public seating areas—places that help people feel more relaxed. They prevent teens from being aggressive, they relieve stress, they help the economy and, most importantly, they reduce crime. 
According to an organization named Pacific Standard, “Researchers from the University of Southern California report urban adolescents who grow up in neighborhoods with more greenery are less likely to engage in aggressive behavior.” This shows that teenagers seem to be less aggressive when they are surrounded by green spaces because they feel calm and that prevents them from getting into fights with their peers. 
Toni Jackson, a coordinator of extended learning time at BINcA, wishes, “kids felt more comfortable sitting outside by themselves with their thoughts. I just sit outside in a park and think. Kids don’t do that so much anymore.”  
When teens go to parks, it become easy for them to interact with nature and meet others teens. “An urban green space setting is also a great way for teenagers driven by 21st century technological advancements to build relationships that last a lifetime and meet new people,” said Mohamed Somane, a student at BINcA. 
 As specified by a study on online legal information service FindLaw, “Well-maintained green spaces may provide a place for people to interact and hang out. As a result, this may lead to more people and families just milling around. The presence of more people may make it harder for criminals to commit crimes without being spotted and apprehended.” This shows that green spaces help fight against crimes because with a bunch of people in parks, it is less likely for criminals to commit a crime in public. 
Surprisingly, green spaces also help boost the local economy. According to an article published in architecture magazine “Arch2o,” “Urban green spaces can be one of the factors that attract significant foreign investments that assists in rapid economic growth.” Even though they are public and free, when cities make sure that their parks are safe and clean, they attract business people and tourists to come more often.
I have felt connected to parks from a very young age. When I lived in France, I would get out of my house at dawn to play soccer and basketball, and spend time in parks until sunset. Therefore, I encourage all teenagers to dedicate at least 15 minutes of their day surrounded by green spaces.



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How does perfect not exist yet I can imagine it? As people, we definitely have different truths to perfect, but by connecting them we can apply all our truths to pursue a full utopia, or even just a personal one.
A utopian world is seen as something fictional and unachievable because no matter what the circumstances, not everyone will be satisfied with the same outcome. When speaking about a perfect world, I am not only talking about the Earth being perfect. I am talking about a satisfaction within oneself, both physically and mentally. Often times, the word ‘utopian’ is used as an insult, because people think it is unrealistic and naive. But according to Philosophy Now magazine, we can achieve a utopia by having interdependent societies with a maximum of 200 people, which just might be the beginning. 
The way humans have chosen to use religion has held us back. If we did not have religion, people would not be condemned to it, and fear the religious factor in their lives. If not for the way people shaped religion, the inquisitions would have never taken place, and the death of Joseph Smith and various martyrs would not have been favored in history. However, Nancy Ammerman, professor of Sociology of Religion at Boston University does not necessarily agree. “In a utopian world people would not be religious because they’re afraid,” she states. But, she also believes they would be religious for other reasons. “I think we would invent something like it anyways. I think people would invent something to be that moral yardstick even if they didn’t call it God,” said Ammerman. With the perspective of Ammerman, I still feel as if religion has not redeemed itself from all it has caused. Even though religion is used to signify hope, it is also used to view others inferiorly because of the advantage people think they have by devoting their lives to god.   
 To reach a personal utopia, people should allow themselves to openly choose their own paths for all aspects of life. So far, people have taken what is meant to be good and shaped it into something not in everyone's best interest. 
In a utopia, when it comes to crimes—they cannot be eliminated—but there will be more rational and reasonable responses. This will take away the privilege problem, and law enforcement officials will treat the people who have committed crimes humanely. German Lopez said in his article, “American policing is broken. Here’s how to fix it,” when talking about an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department, “the Justice Department found Baltimore police consistently violated at least three amendments in the US Constitution — the First, Fourth, and 14th — and engaged repeatedly and persistently in a pattern of racial bias.” This is exactly the opposite of what we will do. We will assure that officers get a sufficient amount of training, including implicit bias training, and that they are put under rigorous observation enabling them to be aware of their prejudice. 
Material egalitarianism would not be the ideal in a utopia, because we still have to prevent ourselves from falling down a wrong path, and work hard for ourselves. An egalitarian system could also encourage people to take advantage of the system. There shall be rich people and poor people, but they shall all have an equal amount of taxes taken away from them, no loopholes. The poor will get equal support, but it will not exceed standard help. The idea is that everyone works for what they have and will be satisfied with what they have. We need to focus not on being equal but being fair. And this is where the dystopia comes into our world, because of the envy and greed which arises towards those who have more. Instead, we should all rely on equal rights that come from within differences. 
We always wonder why we desire an ideal world and why we can imagine it, when it does not exist. It takes so much to acknowledge our ignorance, but that is where it begins. We must realize that we essentially need interdependent societies, surround ourselves with people we can connect with and still have a social factor within our lives to eventually expand. We tend to be unintentionally ignorant, and that leads us to not realize our true ways of contributing to discrimination and other bad habits. Having a personal utopia is the alternative to the “what if we really can not make a worldwide utopia?” argument.
The difficult part of pursuing a perfect world is that one’s own definition of perfect is different from everyone else’s. This results in having to live in your own utopia as a rebound idea of the ideal world. What you want to believe is perfect and what you decide to make your truth is how to kickoff. If people do not want to commit to having a perfect world within themselves, then they must realize the importance of feeling humble and confident.
 An ideal world does not have to exist within the world as a whole, but even a personal utopia is valid. We need to come to realization that the world we are in could be considered dystopian, due to all the avarice. There are mini communities around the world that would be considered very cooperable. Assistant Professor Jessica Gordon of VCU explained in her article “History of Brook Farm,” that a small town in West Roxbury was a small example of a utopian society, because it revolved around the idea of interdependent societies that could expand. However, I believe the world needs to spring better relationships in their communities and then connect to one another eventually as countries. Although this may take years to achieve, it is achievable if we all take a step back from insecurities, envy, greed and all of the rest.
John Horgan, a Canadian politician who wrote: “ What’s your Utopia?” asked that very same question to a Freshman humanities class. “Utopia isn’t a completely perfect world, but a world with the perfect amount of imperfection,” said Ryan, a Freshman in Horgan’s class. This simply means there is no competition, with everyone well-aware that they all contain some kind of flaw, and can cope with it. 
Speaking about perfection may seem naive, but in reality we fear it. We fear the things we have to change within ourselves, because of our lack of acknowledging all the bad things we are at fault for. 


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At Juniper on the UMass Amherst college campus, Betsy Wheeler (Managing Director) and Jennifer Jacobson (Juniper Director) walk around South College. They are going to be hosting teens from all over the world to come work on their writing. They are bursting with excitement; they have been planning this week for over a year now, and it is finally here. Finishing up their final check on everything, with beaming smiles and happy, light voices, they welcome the energetic teens who enter. 
What is Juniper? 
Juniper is a writing institute designed specifically for teens in high school. This program is made to help inspire and develop teens’ writing. Teens go for one week during the summer to develop their writing community and read and edit each others’ work. This program is for anyone who loves writing. You must be a rising sophomore, junior or senior in order to attend. While I was there, I met a rising senior from Los Angeles, California, a rising junior from Connecticut, and a rising sophomore from Reno, Nevada.
Why should you go to Juniper?
Juniper is 100 percent worth going to if you want a career in any type of writing. At Juniper, you will be challenged to try different styles and techniques of writing. For example, I consider myself a novelist, but when I went to Juniper, they challenged me to write poems, and I fell in love with being a poet. In my workshop, my mentor had us make word banks of words we do not normally use and try to incorporate some of those words into our writing. This will force you to step out of your comfort zone and see if you like any other writing styles.
 “Flying out from Reno, Nevada was definitely worth it,” said Lexi Deeter, a Juniper alum. “The friends I made and the skills I learned are long-lasting. Since writing communities don’t really exist where I live, having those second and third pairs of eyes allowed me to turn a hobby into a passion.”
What workshops are available?
The workshops change every year because the mentors who direct them are also changing, but they always revolve around fiction, poetry or visionary art writings. For example, mine was a freewriting workshop, where everyone brought in a piece of their writing and shared it, then gave each piece editorial advice. 
Will I get free time to work on my writing? 
Yes, they will alway give you free time to write. However, if you do not feel inspired, writing time will be your free time to get to know your “pod” (the group you are assigned). My pod had movie time with snacks, and we bonded over our love of romantic comedies. 
Is submitting an application hard?
No, the application process is easy! To apply, fill out their online application on their website (https://www.umass.edu/juniperinstitute/#/). When it becomes available, send a writing sample, and select what type of workshop you want. 
How much does the program cost?
The program costs around $1,800, which includes housing and food. When you apply, they will present you with the cost and choices in housing/food. If you are accepted and decide you want to go, you have to put down $200 immediately towards tuition costs. 
They do offer a full scholarship. I was lucky enough to get to full scholarship and everything was covered completely. (Pay attention to their website https://www.umass.edu/juniperyoungwriters/scholarship-sponsors to apply for the schoolarship). The full scholarship covers the cost of the housing, tuition, food and transportation. 
Where is Juniper?
Juniper is hosted by the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the UMass Amherst campus. UMass Amherst is in Western Massachusetts, about two hours from Boston. 
Overall, you should give Juniper a chance and apply to go to this once-in-a-lifetime immersion program— it will be worth the cost! Make sure to use all of the opportunities they give you, such as performing at an open mic or going to an optional mentor workshop. 
“Juniper was a fantastic experience,” said Laura Chin, a Juniper alum, “and I would recommend it to anyone who's looking to learn a lot about writing and also become part of a very talented, slightly strange, extremely wonderful and lovable community of young writers.” 


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 Social activism is usually prompted by empathy for others, particularly those who are marginalized in our society. However, many dismiss forms of activism designed to protect minorities because they feel that the activists are too extreme, and overreacting to the situations. These “extreme activists” are usually called social justice warriors, and they have a reputation of being radical, participating in protests and causing uproar. This gives them a lot of negative stigma and hate, which leads people to use the term “social justice warrior” as an insult towards these activists.
  If we call people brave enough to go against the system “social justice warriors”—with a negative connotation—is that really a valid critique of them, or is the insult just a tactic to devalue the practice of empathy? 
According to the Heritage Lecture, the term social justice is described as, “equality of the burdens, the advantages and the opportunities of citizenship.” Social justice warrior is a term that has been regularly used negatively, but why should that be the case if it means fighting for equality? 
Kathy Lebrón, Director of Communication and Storytelling of the social justice program Resist believes, “people use terms like ‘special snowflake’ in a derogatory manner to make the person they're labeling feel badly for voicing an opinion that makes them feel uncomfortable.” 
Yasmin Mohamed, a sophomore at Snowden International, agrees. She said, “people use those terms as a drag to those who actively support minority groups, and use ‘special snowflake’ as a dig at how they think people who don’t follow society norms desperately want to be different.” While calling someone a ‘special snowflake’ isn’t a life or death situation, it is often used to make a mockery of people.
When quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem, it sparked controversy, because many felt it was disrespectful that he did not stand and place his hand over his heart for the flag. But in fact, Kaepernick was kneeling as a silent protest against police brutality. Since then, the NFL created a policy stating that “All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” and could risk being fined if they refused. His purpose was to promote equality, yet he got a lot of backlash for this and was accused of being too “sensitive.” 
People’s denunciation of social activism not only discredits the movement, but discourages others who may be on the fence about certain issues. When Catie Dodd, a passionate social rights enthusiast, was asked about the negative stigma surrounding social justice, she said “I know that I used to be embarrassed to speak out about injustice or to support those who did because so many people mock it. For a long time I was one of those people, because trying to fix things for the better was seen as over the top and extreme. I’m sure many other people have similar experiences, so if these belittling terms weren’t used, much more progress would likely be made.”


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Remember playing in the park during the summer with your friends, boys and girls all coming together to play tag and hide-and-seek? As teenagers, we are now playing more competitive sports like basketball, football and soccer. Maybe you are realizing there is a bigger gender gap in these sports and that you rarely play with the opposite sex. Maybe you have wondered if you are just better than them at competitive sports, or maybe that the sport is too rough. As gender equality has become a popular idea in modern society, we should also apply this to sports. I believe that in order for men and women to feel equal, we need to hold women to the same athletic standards as men in sports. 
It wasn’t until the year 1900 that women were allowed to play in the Olympics, according to Olympic.org. Ever since then, women have only played recreational sports, rather than competitive sports. According to the Sport Journal, “women were not active in intercollegiate sports until basketball was introduced at Smith College in 1892.” 
Men and women should have felt comfortable playing together since the time sports began. Men and women should be able to play the same sport, and not be held at different standards when they play. 
Drew Hendrickson, Director of Tennis Fitness and Summer Programs at Tenacity, added, “We still live in a world where boys are encouraged to play sports more than girls, boys are pushed harder.”  
Hendrickson even states that it’s harder to find female legends. Boys were raised to look up to Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan and such, but girls are only now finally getting athletes like Serena Williams and Jackie Joyner-Kersee to look up to. 
But it’s never too late. According to Dan Lebowitz, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Sports in Society, equality is closer than people think. He noticed that men and women actually train equally. But, even though men and women train the same and workout the same, depending on the sport, such as the hypermasculine sports of hockey and football, men are watched more than women. 
Cheryl Cooky, a Perdue professor, stated in an interview in the Atlantic, “Men’s sports are going to seem more exciting, they have higher production values, higher quality coverage and higher-quality commentary.” 
There is more money spent on men in sports as of now, and this makes women’s sports less entertaining. Rather than spending money separately, a combined league will make the game interesting and visually appealing for both men and women. 
A benefit of having men and women play the same sport is that they can help challenge and humble each other. 
Seventeen year old Stencia Bastien plays for the Cristo Rey Boston track team and she said, “guys are a lot faster than me so it makes me want to go faster.”
 That’s the competition aspect. The humbling aspect is told by Keisa Ferreira, who is part of SquashBuster, and said, “women feel stronger and they have more confidence in playing against anybody, and men won’t feel overpowering. Once women reach their [males] level they won’t feel as cocky.” 
The men will be humbled and the women will be more competitive, and this will even out the games and make them much more entertaining to watch. 
I believe with a gender neutral league, sports will be much more entertaining, challenging, humbling and interesting for both men and women, and it will bring us closer to a gender neutral society.




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