Dear freshman,   The transition from middle school to high school isn’t always easy. You have to deal with academics, home situations, and relationships -- and somehow balance all this and get through high school with passing grades. Here’s some advice: Put your academics before everything else. In high school there will be drama but don’t let it get to you. Your grades are more important than everything going on around you. You don’t want to let your grades slip away because soon it will be too late and your GPA won’t look so great. This will catch up to you when you apply to colleges in the future. Don’t give into what others are doing. It sounds cliché but it’s true. If the people around you are careless about their academics, you are bound to end up like them. Try your best to be your own person. Finally, don’t procrastinate. In middle school you probably got away with waiting until the last minute because you were able to catch up with your work later. But if you do this in high school the quality of your work will be very poor. Also, teachers will notice; they’re not as easy on you as they were in middle school. You’re on your way to adulthood, anyhow. Just complete your assignments before the last minute so you’ll be free of stress.   Sincerely,   A Concerned Junior
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Good grades and a sign of interest in a school aren’t enough to get into college. Colleges and universities seek well-rounded students who can balance academics with other activities. “[Softball] looked like fun and it would help me get into college,” says Rebecca Santiago, 17, from Excel High School. “I think activities are a big deal to colleges.” For example, locally, The College Board ranks extracurricular activities second on Merrimack College’s list of important non-academic factors in gaining entry. At Bentley University, extracurriculars are number three, The College Board says. Grades and SAT scores are often looked at together. A 4.0 GPA, for example, could make up for poor SAT scores and vice versa. A third part is added to the mix when extracurriculars are involved. Whether it’s sports, community service, a job, or other programs, colleges look at them all. Boston Latin Academy student Christopher Perez, 17, says he takes full advantage of basketball because it’s a great stress reliever and keeps him active. Plus, Perez says, “It looks good on a college application.” Along with basketball, Perez says he has other extracurriculars like National Honor Society, Student Ambassador, and community service. Students often go on to continue these activities in college. For instance, those involved in student government throughout high school commonly go on to be a part of the student government at their new schools, too. Colleges seek students who cannot only flourish academically but also contribute to their school communities in other ways. Valeria Duarte, 16, from Boston Green Academy, has been involved with volleyball since she was little and says she has plans to play in college.
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Losangela Batista says that her dream college has to be in a rural area. “I love nature and I don’t want it to be in the city,” says Batista. The 17-year-old from the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science also wants the college to have a biology major since Batista wants to study pre-med. Not to mention this: “My dream college has to have culture clubs, student organizations….and help students find internships in order to make money and learn about different professions.” With more and more students facing the difficult transition of going from high school to college, dream-school desires are getting longer and more specific. Sara Dossantos says her ideal school has to be small and located far outside of Massachusetts. “My dream college needs to be next to a beach located in Miami or Hawaii,” says the the 17-year-old from Madison Park High School. “SAT scores shouldn’t be required, and you could live on campus or your house.” Dossantos adds: “If you want, you can take classes on the Internet.” Seventeen-year-old Sedny Alves of Madison Park would like her school-of-choice to be mediumsized and in a less urban area, where everyone knows everyone. It has to fit her personality. “My dream college,” says Alves,“has to offer activities on the weekends, such as dance or gathering together with your mates, do karaoke or something everyone can enjoy.”
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They tell us what to do, help us, teach us, and deep down somewhere under those annoyed, stern looks is a kind, loving heart. Teachers! They take their time to plan out a curriculum for the entire year for students to be prepared for the next level in their lives. Still, some students think that teachers don’t do enough or don’t have the best classroom styles. Alisha Baez, 16, of West Roxbury Academy, feels as though some teachers don’t look like they want to be at school. “Kids are rude, too, but they are the adult and they signed up to deal with teens, so I don’t really appreciate the attitude that comes with their teaching,” Baez says. Teenagers’ vision often becomes blurred, only seeing the workload a teacher assigns rather than also noticing the extra time a teacher puts into class, field trips, homework help, and casual individual conversations. Many don’t accept that teachers want to feel appreciated. “I feel like teachers treat us based on our attitude, but then again, we also treat our teachers based on their attitude,” says Tamari Washington, 17, of New Mission High School. High school teachers have a lot to deal with, filling multidimensional roles of teacher, friend, disciplinarian, mentor, and shoulder to cry on. Jeff Georges, 17, of Brighton High School, knows about all the responsibilities that teachers take on. “Teachers do what they can for us,” Georges says. “I appreciate them because it is not really their fault how students feel about them. They’re just doing their job. If they really wanted to, teachers could just go home after school, but most stay after to help kids.”
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Despite hours spent in the hot desert sun making cement bricks, digging through the hard-cracked ground, and manipulating steel bars to reinforce a school’s foundation and infrastructure, students from Boston Community Leadership Academy, Community Academy of Science and Health, and Excel High School were still smiling. This year, a group of more than 20 students from select Boston schools traveled to Senegal for some eight days in June to help construct a school as part of the buildOn program. “The work was intense. But it all paid off when we saw the villagers’ smiling faces,” said Fabiola Michel, 17, who attends CASH. The nonprofit organization buildOn allows teens and adults to help spread education throughout the world by erecting schools. So far, buildOn says it has helped put up over 520 schools in developing countries. “This is the best experience I’ve ever had,” said Ngoc Vu, a 17-year-old student from Excel. “The feeling you get when you are helping people is the best feeling in the world.” To prepare for the job, volunteers had to go through various workshops throughout the school year, including volunteering at a homeless shelter and cleaning parkland. “The workshops were very fun, and they helped us get involved with the community,” said Manica Thelusca, 17, who attends CASH. After hours on the work site in Senegal, students were allowed to explore the village. During this time, they could get henna tattoos, play games with the local children, wash clothes, and take showers. “The bond that we built with the villagers was unbreakable,” said Michel. “This was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will cherish forever.” Jamal Young was a participant in the buildOn program.
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