AFH Photo // Kachina Vallely
Joanne Leu, 16, a sophomore at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, enjoyed reading for pleasure a lot when she was younger. Her parents used to take her to the library often. 

“But now I stopped,” she says. “I’m too busy with school reading.” 

When teachers assign heavy readings, they can help educate students and create a community within a classroom, 

But the strategy can also backfire, as  teens find little time to experience the unpressured joy of getting lost in the  pages of their own choosing. 

When it’s standard texts, teens say, the passages can get tedious. 

“I do not like the books assigned for school.” says Ava Quinlan, 15, from the O’Bryant. “They don’t interest or engage students.” 

Nardos Gosaye, 16, a junior at the O’Bryant, enjoys reading fantasy graphic novels and fiction. 

The non-stop, non-fiction? 

Not so much. 

“It’s a waste of my time.” she says. “Instead of reading a graphic novel, I’m stuck reading a boring book about politics and real people stuff.”
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AFH Photo // Delia Fleming
As most students head home after the end of a long school day, student-athletes head to their respective arenas to start their day of practice.

For James Kamara, 16, playing basketball and being a full-time student are two roles he tries to juggle. Having to be at practice every day for hours after class already wears him out, he says, only
to come home and face a pile of more classwork.

“It’s hard,” says Kamara, who attends Boston Latin Academy. “All I want to do is relax.”

Such is the strenuous life of the student-athlete, which is not all fun-and-games.

Sixteen-year-old Chibuzo Udokporo, who plays football at BLA, believes he’s come up with a plan to stabilize sleep, sports, and schoolwork.

“I balance them by making a schedule so I can have all parts of my day planned out,” he says. “This allows me to be more organized and less stressed.” Eain Coakley, 18, is a former BLA football player now at Morehouse College who says he learned an important lesson in high school about how to achieve this harmony.

“I always appreciated the game of  football, but I also understood that there  was an aspect of school that I need  to take into consideration,” says  Coakley, from Roslindale. “In  order for me to be successful  in life, I needed to be both  good at football but also  a great student-athlete.”
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AFH Photo // Cuong Huynh
High school can be one of the most challenging times for teens. And it’s not like they give you a survival guide in your agenda book.

So, teens are pretty much on their own.

Sixteen-year-old Randy Mejia, from Mattapan, says it’s important to find a group that will have your back.

“Friends that will not switch up,” says Mejia.

Kimahri Testamark, 14, from Brighton, says teens should stay focused and not be distracted by nonsense.

“You have to take notes in class and not involve yourself in drama,” says Testamark.

For Marvin Simon, 14, it’s prime to be involved and not procrastinate.

“Get all the credit you need to pass every class,” says Simon, who goes to school in East  Boston. “If you’re confused, ask your teachers for help.”
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AFH Photo // Kiara Maher
Cindy Nguyen, a junior at Boston Latin Academy, is anxious to be in the midst of class friends again -- but not to feeling the get-out-of-bed doldrums.

“It seems like sometimes the summer vacation makes the beginning of the school year worse because you are still in the mindset of vacation and you’re still lazy to do anything,” she says.

The beginning of a new school year is similar to the arrival of a new calendar year -- a mix of dread and delight.

“I look forward to starting a new year,” says Rachel Gies, a junior at Boston Latin School. “The workload is always very small. You usually just fill out forms and go over the syllabi from all your teachers.”

Arianna Robbins, 15, from Jamaica Plain, explains the settling-in of the school year from both vantage points.

“I mainly look forward to learning  something new,” says Robbins, “however [not]  the large homework load.”
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AFH Photo // Bill Le
Eighteen-year-old Daniqua Douglas, from Dorchester Academy, knows that one sure sign school is in full swing across the country is the rampant dress-code discrimination in the hallways.

“It’s unjust,” says Douglas. “If a girl can walk around a school full of half-naked boys, then boys should definitely be able to control themselves if girls show a little bit, too.”

Teens say males can walk around with baggy, saggy jeans.

Yet, in some schools, girls aren’t allowed to wear leggings because it reveals too much shape. Some can’t come to school in spaghetti-strapped tank tops. Or shorts that don’t go down to their extended fingertips.

Mirenely Mejia, 16, from Roxbury, says she understands where some of the school officials are coming from.

“Sometimes the more we show,” says Mejia “the more the boys are tempted.”

But, teens say, sometimes the restrictions can be taken too far and the rationale too flimsy -- that boys will be distracted.

For instance, at one Kentucky high school, according to news accounts, a female student was reprimanded for wearing an outfit that exposed her -- gasp! -- collarbone.

But, some say, male self-control -- not female style -- should be the issue.

“We shouldn’t be dressing a certain way,”  says Viena Arias, 17, from Boston Community  Leadership Academy, “so that boys can know  how to act.”
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