AFH ARTWORK // AIJANAH SANFORD
Oil spills may seem like a faraway issue but teens know how the issue can hit home. 

When oil contaminates the seas, and the marine life, it can also foul their food. 

“I feel like they need to change the way they distribute the oil on the ships or find a way so that they don’t spill it into the ocean,” says Cynthia Rodriguez, 18, from Margarita Muñiz Academy. 

About 20,000 oil spills are reported to the federal government each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

“I believe that they should….find other ways to store the oil,” says Basia Brown, 17, from Margarita Muñiz. 

Seventeen-year-old Jose Pinales, from  Margarita Muñiz, says that wild animals living  near the polluted water are also harmed by  the spurted oil, so companies need to come  up with better ways to transport and contain their product. 
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Culture Club
Hey,Buddy.... (In Other Words, I’ve Forgotten Your Name)
AFH photo by Vanessa Vo
As someone who can’t remember names all that well, my life has been pretty nice.
I can’t, however, say the same for my friends.
It must have been hard having a friend like me who couldn’t recall your name throughout three years of middle school -- only to nally summon it in the second year of high school.
I guess I just don’t like to characterize people by their names. I tend to remember them by small details, such as their faces and how they dress.
However, many aren’t that lucky.
Since these people call out to me saying, “Hello, Rosa,” they must know me.
But how do I respond?
Often, I just invoke substitutes, such as
“Hey, girl,” or “Hey, homie,” or “Hey, cutie,” or “Hey, sunshine.”
Alternatively, I might go with simple greetings, like “Buenas,” or “Long time no see,” or even, “How’s life treating you?”
Finally, there’s the tried and true catch-
all “Helloooooo,” stretched out forever so it sounds familiar but also distracts friends from noticing that I can’t for the life of me extract their names from my brain.
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Growing up, my mother dressed my fraternal twin and me in similar attire to emphasize that we were twins.
But I’ve come to realize that we don’t have to wear the same clothes to be labeled as twins. Society already perceives us as one person.
Twins have to encounter constant misconceptions about our lives.
People still refer to my brother and me as “the twins,” as if we are one entity.
An algebra teacher once asked how my brother and I had received such di erent grades on an exam.
After I signed up for volleyball, people wondered what my brother was doing for sports.
Although twins share a strong bond, the questions never stop: “Are you going to get sick because he’s sick?” and “Do you feel what he feels?”
Not everyone realizes the absurd stereotypes placed on twins, but I hope they come to see us as separate rather than one.
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My redemption from weed is something deep for me to share. I used to smoke it but I stopped not long ago.
Although it was hard to quit, I had help from someone special: my girlfriend. She was there every time I wanted to start smoking again to tell me that my life would be better if I didn’t do weed.
I was 14 when I first experienced smoking marijuana. I felt like I was on the moon and that I could just stop time and forget about everything.
The first week I spent without smoking was a struggle not to go back. I got headaches and felt like I was going to faint in the middle of my classes or on the street. I was most of the time in a bad mood and just wanted to be left alone.
But my girlfriend put up with all the attitude and told me that she only wanted the best for me.
The reason I stopped smoking weed was because I realized that I wasn’t doing any good to the people around me -- especially to my girlfriend. I never paid attention to her because I needed to be high most of the time. That wasn’t what I really wanted; I just wanted to be a good person. Marijuana wasn’t letting me do that and I felt like I had to change.
My biggest regret in smoking weed was the time I lost while I was high because I was always sleeping and eating. People used to tell me I looked so happy because I was always laughing and smiling. But I was actually not because I used to smoke just to escape my feelings, including wanting a father figure -- someone to call dad -- and knowing that the only person who could’ve made that happen was never there.
But now that I’ve stopped, I’m better than before because at least I can manage to spend time on things that are beneficial to me. I want teens to know that weed may not seem bad at the beginning but it can really mess up your life.
The author’s name is being withheld for privacy reasons.
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AFH Photo by Romsthernise Bobo
When I was nine, I moved away from my mom in New Mexico to live with my aunt in New York City.
At the time, I was dealing with the changes and fears that a young girl going through puberty 1,971 miles away from her mom can undergo: I began developing breasts, I got my first period, I had night terrors during which I relived a traumatic episode I’d experienced as a child.
I was vehemently grinding my teeth at night, much to the chagrin of my dentist. That’s when it became evident that I needed guidance. But I was utterly lost as to where to and it.
Coming from a family of artists, I was brought to museums from the moment
I could walk. Yet despite art being a constant through my life, I had never truly understood it.
Regarding Warhol, for example, what was all the commotion over a Campbell’s Soup can?
Then, during the year that followed the move to New York, I spent a week-long trip with my mom visiting Florida. While there, she felt it was important to take me to the Dali Museum.
I approached the museum no differently than any other I had encountered before. Yet what I gained that day left me with much more.
Salvador Dali’s intricate paintings were strange, whimsical, and slightly o -kilter, and I was able to find myself in all of it.
Surrealism, Dali’s style, was an avant- garde movement that was influenced
by the work of Sigmund Freud, whose writings on the importance of dreams and imagination, for example, persuaded the art world to pursue the subliminal pieces of us -- fear and other emotions -- that society had cast away.
Looking at the works of art, I felt my burdens slowly being lifted. The desires I was taught to regard as shameful were replicated on canvas and being praised from people everywhere.
The parts of me that I had suppressed were now understood. The anger I felt no longer isolated me.
For many, the power of art is constrained by the notion that it is no more than an aesthetic pleasure.
It’s not that art gives us a set of instructions to behave by. Instead, it can slow us down, allowing a space for reflection and for confronting our thoughts head-on.
Now, whenever I feel conflicted and in need of resolution, I can find what I need within that precious place.
This article was prepared in collaboration with 826 Boston.
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