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Youth Radio’s mission is to promote young people’s intellectual, creative and professional growth through training and access to media and to produce quality original material for local and national outlets. They also bring youth perspectives to the airwaves, shedding light on the concerns and interests of our young people.
Students at Grady High School and at VOX Teen Communications in Atlanta have collaborated with Youth Radio for several years. Their commentaries, and work from other students across Atlanta, have aired on WABE 90.1 FM and numerous stories have been heard around the nation on NPR shows. Recent works and archives from students heard on WABE can still be found on the Youth Radio website and at the Youth Radio WABE archive.
More on teaching youth radio.
- December 31, 2011Alexander Mead
Alexander Mead shares why he supports the Americans with Disabilities Act, while some regard it as big government interference.
Most students get nervous before taking a big test. But my jitters are for a different reason than you might think: I have Cerebral Palsy.
It’s hard for me to use my hands to do tasks that require fine motor skills — like tying a shoelace. So I was afraid of taking the SAT, worried I would have to handwrite my essay or fill in the answer bubbles.
Luckily, since I was born after the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, the College Board allowed me to type my essay and to simply mark my answers in the test booklet. I took the same test as everyone else — I just took it in a different way. Without those accommodations, I’m sure my score on the SAT would have been too low to get into college. I frequently hear in political debates: get government out of our lives. But while some people might criticize the ADA as “big government” interference, I am very grateful that the act passed because it helps me to lead a normal life.
- December 24, 2011Courtney Farmer
Courtney Farmer calls her school’s cafeteria a “food desert”, lacking in healthy and fresh options.
When I walk through my school’s cafeteria doors and reach the food counter, I’m usually disappointed: To me, the salad is a little too wilted, the tuna fish looks a bit too brown and the apples feel mushy. I simply lose my appetite.
Normally, people use the term “food desert” when they’re talking about a neighborhood without access to fresh fruits or vegetables. But I call my school a food desert.
Unfortunately, congress recently blocked a proposal that would have required more fruits & vegetables in school lunches. To legislators, tomato paste on pizza still counts as a vegetable, which is ridiculous, and not just because tomatoes are fruits! Sure, I know it would probably cost more money to serve healthier foods, but there is also a cost to eating processed foods.
Rather than go hungry, I bring my own lunch to school. I try to pack things that are nutritious, like a bag of grapes and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. It’s hard to believe simple food options like these can’t be done on a big scale, especially now with studies showing the increase in students depending on free or reduced lunch meals.
- December 17, 2011Barbara Dougherty
Barbara Dougherty has some regrets about not finishing college, but she also see herself poised well in the current job market.
In a few months, most of my friends will be graduating from college - without me. I dropped out last Fall, half way through my junior year. But I still hope to finish my degree someday.
I’ve heard the statistics that people with college diplomas will earn more money than those who don’t have degrees. I also know the unemployment rate isn’t good for people who don’t finish college.
On top of that, the thought of so many people my age soon entering the job market, competing with me, is intimidating.
But my mother has helped calm my feelings of inadequacy. She always reminds me that I have been successful at getting jobs: from busing tables to managing a frozen yogurt shop. And now, I have a totally awesome position at a successful startup business - making all natural bath and body products by hand! I sell them at weekend festivals and markets. It’s an intensely fun outlet for my creativity and I’m getting some really great retail experience.
Though I’m disappointed that I didn’t finish college, I’m proud for effectively selling myself to employers in this tight market. When my friends begin looking for jobs next summer, I’ll be able to give them advice on resumes, impressing potential employers, and being a responsible employee.
- December 10, 2011Mahmood Thompson
Mahmood Thompson describes himself as a die-hard fan of the Atlanta Braves and how he thinks they could do better.
Whether it’s freezing rain or a muggy 90 degree heat, I’m sitting in the stands cheering for the Atlanta Braves. I’m what you call a die-hard fan. Most of the games I go to are with my dad; he’s been going to the games since before I was even born. The two of us are worried about the team and I really want them to do better next season. I’ve been a Braves fan for the last 3 years. I started following the team when they tried but failed to make the post season… that was disappointing. I go to at least 20 games a year and watch all the others on television. But when I’m at Turner Field and seeing the game first-hand, I stay to the end - whether we’re up 10-1 or we are down 10-1.
I truly care about them and feel like I’m part of the team. Even though I’m just a teenager, I can get carried away and imagine I’m the manager myself. I have been thinking a lot about things the team needs: There are times when youthfulness has its advantages: And with the Braves pitchers, our rookies are so good that we can let go of some of our tiring and untalented guys. I know some older folks will disagree, but I don’t think youth screw up so much.
I look forward to cheering through a lot of games next year, so I hope we make it to the playoffs. But don’t worry, I still plan on sitting in my seat again next year during the regular season - even if I’m not the manager.
- December 3, 2011Stanley Stewart
Stanley Stewart participated in Occupy Atlanta protests but now thinks there is a better approach to achieve its goals.
Watching the Occupy movement in Atlanta, I thought to myself: “Finally. My generation’s social and political apathy is over - people are taking a stand!” But weeks have turned into months, and I can’t help but think that nothing is really getting accomplished. I was a participant in Occupy Atlanta’s protests when they began. Each rally was full of loud bullhorns bursting through the air and there were hand-written signs of defiance for all to see. My favorite sign read “Money Talks, 99% Walks.” My heart swelled with pride, as I’ve been waiting for a movement like this to spur Americans into action - especially youth like me.
But now, I’ve changed my mind about the best approach to make change. Camping out in a park for months on end and countless marches aren’t exactly ending economic inequality. Instead of taking to the streets, people should be taking to the election booths. We should occupy our legislators’ mailboxes and telephone lines, not the parks. I turn 18 next year and I can’t wait to vote. I think my ballot will make more of a difference than marching down Peachtree Street. Rather than filling up space at a city jail, it seems my fellow protestors and I should put our energy towards electing officials to occupy seats in congress and city hall who will make the changes we want.
- November 26, 2011Naomi Stamps
Naomi Stamps remembers what her father tells her to think when comparing her body to others.
Some of my confidence has come from my parents who have always told me how beautiful I am. I’m so blessed that they have instilled so many positive and godly things inside of me so that I can brush off any bad things others may say about me.
I try to tell my friends to do what I do… they don’t. Instead, they compare themselves to Ciara, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce and other celebrities. They make impossible beauty goals for themselves and then feel bad. When I hear young girls talk about body issues, I always hear my father’s voice saying, “Don’t let someone’s negativity affect you. Let your positive mindset affect them.”
I have mentors who not only teach me skills like playing the piano and creative writing, but also give me positive feedback. Many are women I can look up to and who have real beauty — not the magazine kind.
I’m proud of the way I look. Let the celebrities be who they are, because I am perfectly fine just being me.
- November 19, 2011Deborah Harris
Deborah Harris tells why she was worried about her new baby sister being born.
For ten years, my family has consisted of my mom, a younger sister and me. We’ve moved around a lot. From California, to Arizona, to Georgia and Florida. We’ve lived in at least seven different places in the past two years and I love it. I like the fact that I’ve gotten used to adapting quickly in different situations. So much change has made me really close to my mom and my sister.
This year, my mom delivered my youngest sister at our house. She didn’t even have a nurse or a midwife with her. Only the baby’s daddy was there with her. My mom said she planned on having more kids. I wonder how our family dynamic will change now. I love the thought of a bigger family — cheaper by the dozen, right? But I also wonder if my close-knit family will come apart.
As my mom’s first baby, she always provided me with security and love through hard times and constant change. And now, as the oldest child, I can help my mom do the same for my youngest sister. As people say, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When life give you a baby, well, you love her.
- November 12, 2011Aaron Choi
Aaron Choi shares one of his first experiences in America and the embarrassment he felt.
I immigrated to the United States from South Korea when I was twelve years old. My first fast food experience was a few days after I arrived. I strolled into a local Burger King to try out their famous burgers. After a short glance at the menu, I ordered what looked to be the most American meal the store had to offer: the number six combo. A rich steakhouse burger with fries and a large coke.
Before approaching the cashier, I hastily practiced in my mind what I was going to say. And in spite of my primitive English, I managed to place my order. But, the teen cashier behind the counter mumbled a question so quickly to me, I could not understand the question, let alone answer it. Here or to go? I picked up the word “here”. I spat out its counterpart, “there”. It was a reality check. My transition to life here in the US would not be as smooth as I was hoping.
Over the following years, there were bound to be many more moments of embarrassment and trouble. But with a bit of boldness and a sense of levity, I’m accepting this transition — and enjoying my number six combo.
- November 5, 2011Lydia Briggs
Lydia Briggs has developed a plan to help cope with starting at a new school each year.
On the first day of fifth grade I was really mad. Everyone knew each other. They were talking about their summer vacations and how great it was to be back together. I was a new student, having just moved into town from Alabama. I was angry at my parents for screwing up my life, for never having a stable home. I thought I would never fit in or have any friends.
Now, years later, I feel like I finally know the game. Once again, I’m at a new school. This time, in ninth grade. It’s become routine: the new faces that seem new somehow aren’t. I’ve never seen them before, but I somehow know what they are all about. I think I am a semi-expert now on starting the school year in a strange place, since I am constantly changing schools.
I have rules now to stop from being a loner. First, I try not to make too much eye contact. It sounds snobby, but it’s really just being cool. I also try not to fit in too much. And finally, I make sure to wear clothes that other people are wearing but still have my own style.
I’m not mad at my parents anymore, since I’ve figured out how to handle new schools with my survival techniques.
- May 7, 2011Kathleen Quillian
For young people who were in elementary school on 9-11, they’ve grown up hearing about Osama Bin Laden and came of age during the War on Terror. Was he their generation’s boogie man? Youth Radio’s Kathleen Quillian says no.
I was in third grade during the terrorists attacks of September 11th. Since then, I’ve always been aware of Osama Bin Laden but never frightened by him.
I don’t see Bin Laden as a boogie man — I think of him more as a character, parodied by shows such as South Park and Family Guy.
Bin Laden was not somebody my friends and I feared.
Growing up, news conversations have always revolved around certain key words — war on terror, weapons of mass destruction, Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. My generation has grown up with terror of one kind or another — terror of another attack or of losing a loved one in war.
Yet the reason why we went to war in Afghanistan is still a bit unclear to me. I still have questions that are not easy to answer. Why are we sending more troops in? Why can’t we send our troops home? Especially now that we have finally found and killed this so-called monster?
I feel like I know what’s happening overseas, but I have become numb to it all. It’s been going on since I was in third grade, so I know that one man’s death isn’t going to end it.
- April 30, 2011Taylor Jones
Taylor Jones felt guilty when she disobeyed her mother and learns a painful lesson for her actions.
My high school years have been academically challenging. So during my winter break, I was eager to enjoy a well-deserved hiatus from all the hard work. Who knew that my time off would be so educational?
I asked my mother if I could go hang out with some friends at the movie theatre. Despite her gut feeling that she should not let me go out that night, she decided because of my good grades and attitude first semester, I should have a good time.
My mom didn’t know I was picking up another friend, so I was feeling a little guilty. After the movie, with a midnight curfew steadily approaching, I quickly dropped off my friend so I could get home in time. Otherwise, I would be grounded for the rest of winter break. Racing the clock, I felt as if I had broken a million rules and was about to be punished for every single one of them in a slow and painful manner.
Moments later, I missed the exit to get off near my house. I swerved, crashed, and briefly blacked out! In that split second when I went off the road and before I banged my head on the steering wheel, all I could think about my mother — and how she always looks out for my best interest. When I awoke in my seat, thankfully unhurt, I swore from that day on that I would never disobey my mother, better yet my parents, ever again.
- April 23, 2011Barbara Dougherty
Barbara Dougherty reflects on her decision to drop out of college and her hopes of finding a new life plan.
I dropped out of college last year. I had completed two and a half years and my grades were alright, but my finances were complicated. In fact, money was a huge reason for my withdrawal from the expensive private Quaker school in the middle of “nowhere”, North Carolina. But I’d be lying if I said money was the only reason.
So now, I am going through what I like to call my “quarter-life crisis.” I’m living with my parents again and working at a job for less than I make babysitting. I am wondering with my hindsight 20/20 vision: why the heck I left behind my college experience. After all I had learned and all the time and energy I spent there. All the friends, all the homework, all the potential memories that could have been the rest of my college days are gone.
I hate that I’m already out of practice writing and speaking academically. I hate that I didn’t cherish every single moment of college while I was there. And I really, really hate that I didn’t finish what I started. The whole experience makes me feel flaky and undisciplined.
Whatever uncomfortable feelings I was going through, I realize I can’t change them by simply changing my surroundings. Now I’m taking things day by day, as I figure out a different plan for my life. A plan that may even include going back to school with a new outlook.
- April 16, 2011Hunter Moore
Hunter Moore ponders if the First Amendment should be updated after her experiences with the Westboro Baptist Church and their favorable Supreme Court ruling.
Coming from a school with a communications program, I appreciate the importance of Freedom of Speech, but I was shocked when I heard the Supreme Court ruled that the Westboro Baptist Church has the right to picket the funerals of soldiers. I wonder if maybe the First Amendment isn’t due for a few updates.
I think the members of Westboro Baptist Church have a twisted view of the world. They are famous for their protests against gay rights and disrupting military funerals. Last year, they came to my school to protest our diverse population and accomplished Junior ROTC program. They were holding signs with horrible comments and even yelling cruel insults.
Shortly before they arrived, I got together with some equally angered friends to plan a counter-protest. I keep hoping that one day these so-called church members will realize that everyone should be able to love what they want.
I understand the necessity of the First Amendment. Without it, I would not be guaranteed the right to speak my own feelings. However, speech can be as harmful as any physical attack, and it is my opinion that something must be done to stop people or groups such as Westboro Baptist Church from spreading hateful messages that prevent our country from attaining the equality it stands for.
- April 2, 2011Alex Realff
Alex Realff’s drumming will finally be heard by others after his first real performance and through the easy technology of YouTube.
On my 12th birthday, I got a set of drums as a present. Of course, I was terrible at playing them, but I kept banging away. Playing drums is a sort of escape, as I can use them as an outlet for dealing with stress. My parents put pads on the drums to dampen the noise coming out of the basement. We lived in a townhouse at the time and my family was afraid I would bother the neighbors.
A year later, we moved into a new home. I took it as a complement that I no longer had to have pads softening the sound from my drums. The whole house would fill with the sound of my beats, and you could even feel the vibrations on the second floor. With a new music teacher, and a lot of practice, my playing kept getting better. By 9th grade, I started a band with my friend Cameron who plays the guitar.
Now, Cameron and I are in a band with four other friends and we are about to play our first show at a small venue. We won’t get paid, but the owner of the place knows a lot of people and can help us with more gigs and notoriety
And after the concert, technology has made it easy for me to share with others what I do. I can just upload a YouTube video… more than just my neighbors will be able to hear me.
- March 19, 2011Inès Desruelles
Inès Desruelles is a foreign exchange student from France who explains why some of her friends back home are worried about what she may look like when she returns.
I don’t really remember when I came up with the idea to leave my home in France for a year. As I learned the English language and about American culture, I thought it would be great to become an exchange student.
I had seen so much about the US on television and the movies and heard that Americans eat a lot of fast food. I wondered if it was really going to be that way.
Fortunately, all the Americans I had seen always seem to be very kind. I’ve been here for about 6 months and I know I’ve changed a lot. I am very independent now. I am now learning things that I can’t get from the media or in a textbook back home. Being here, I see that teenagers have a lot of school spirit and support their sport’s teams. In France, my school doesn’t have any clubs or even a mascot.
My friends have their own funny perceptions of America that I’ll need to help them with: They actually wonder if I am eating a lot of fast food and if I’ll come back to France very fat. Sure, I miss my friends and family in France, but I’ll see them soon. They all seem a little jealous and want to hear about me going to a prom, something we don’t have in France.
- March 12, 2011Mason Gepp
Mason Gepp hopes his parents will get better at using technology, so he suggests they practice.
Two years ago my life was forever altered after I purchased the sleek, innovative, multi-functional iPhone. Besides using it as a phone, I constantly use it to stay connected to the world using the Internet, Facebook and email.
I am a fairly tech savvy person — seems you have to be nowadays. But my parents, and most people I know older than 50, seem to be technologically challenged. When an adult asks me if I know how to sync my iphone, download music or use a GPS, they sound like rhetorical questions — of course I do. To me, not knowing how to use these things sounds foreign because I grew up with them.
My parents used to ask me how to turn on the DVD player or how to use the TV remote control. Now, they want me to put music on their iPods or help them navigate their own iPhones. I can’t really say it’s entirely their fault that they are dependent on me, it’s all new to them. But it frustrates me sometimes. I wish they would make a stronger effort to learn the skills themselves. And let’s just say they’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I’m not saying my parents — or people in their generation — can’t figure out these devices, because I know plenty of parents who understand electronic gadgets better than I do. They just need to practice more than people my age. So, I’m willing to make a deal: I’ll help my parents copy a music CD, if they promise to take the time to learn how to do it themselves from now on.
- March 5, 2011Corallis Gregory
Corallis Gregory learned firsthand the cliché that no matter how much money you have, no one can buy happiness.
A long time ago, my mother was friends with a man who had just about everything: a big house, five cars, a boat, you name it. Except, as the cliché goes, he didn’t have what money can’t buy: happiness.
When he was around, I tried to ignore him. He was always very nasty. One time he just sat down in a chair in the grocery store and watched my mom buy his food.
It was out of the kindness of my mother’s heart that she was friends with him. She felt sorry for him, like the way someone feels for a stray dog. And he really was lost in life — he wasn’t married and he said no one in his family ever spoke with him. My mother says his money was controlling him and he worshipped his bank account.
I had no sympathy for the man. He always acted as if being rich gave him an excuse to be a jerk. Eventually, even my mother gave up trying to help him.
That experience stuck with me over the years. My ambitions have nothing to do with money. When I grow up, I want to be an engineer in the military. And I know I will be rich in friends.
- February 26, 2011Gabe Johnson
Gabe Johnson says he rarely hears good music anymore and tells what happened when his friend had never heard of the Beatles.
Much like the words groovy, far out, and tubular, it seems to me the true meaning of the word “music” is becoming extinct. When I walk down the school hallway to my math class each day, I always cringe as I pass by the music rooms. I love music, but not the unoriginal kind. The people playing the music are not necessarily bad, it’s just that what they are playing doesn’t sound like music to me.
I hear the school band usually playing the same songs that I can hear on the radio…but, it’s actually quite rare for me to use my radio. I prefer to listen to artists whose voices aren’t processed through a computer or autotune. Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix didn’t have pretty voices, but they were inspiring in their passion and lyrics. People like John Lennon were proud that they weren’t trying to sound like others. So, when I asked a friend the other day about a Beatles song and he didn’t even know the band, my mouth dropped.
Of course I’m not comparing myself to some of the greats of music, but as a young musician, I don’t see how my musical peers can perfect their craft without knowing who Muddy Waters is.
I certainly don’t dress like a hippie, but sometimes I wish I was alive in the sixties. It would be ironic to be strolling down the hall of my school and hear “The Times They Are A Changin’”, but it sure would make me happy.
- February 19, 2011Hai Nguyen
Hai Nguyen tells why his father looked crazy at the grocery store and also thanks his dad for the struggles he has made since leaving Vietnam.
My father and I make routine trips to the grocery store with similar outcomes. We always stand out. On our last visit, my dad didn’t seem to mind that we had two more items than allowed in the express checkout lane.
After the slow process of watching him swipe each item across the self-service scanner — waiting for each beep — the amount of our bill shows up on the screen: 21 dollars and 43 cents. Of course, rather than using a credit card, my father pulls cash from his wallet to feed into the machine. Then, he starts counting the exact number of pennies he needs, as the people in line behind us start to squirm. When he realizes he is seven cents short, he starts to yell at the machine. I knew we shouldn’t have bought so much tuna fish.
But as my father stood there, making a scene in the grocery store, I reminded myself that only five years ago he was growing his own food as a farmer in Vietnam. He left that behind for me, so that I could grow up in America. And his struggles in the grocery store are just another part of his adjustment to our new life.
Sure, it may have looked like my father was senile at that moment, but to me, all I saw was a very loving and amazing father.
- February 12, 2011Arlesha Wright
Arlesha Wright sees the metaphor of her braces as a metal wall, holding her back.
As I read the play “Fences” by August Wilson in my literature class, I realized I was running my tongue along my braces. No, it wasn’t a nervous habit. It was me personalizing the story. It represents something that is set up to either contain what’s within the characters, or to keep the outside world at a distance. My teacher would probably appreciate me making the connection.
I know I’ll be grateful later, but for now, I can’t speak clearly and I have to avoid some of my favorite foods, like celery and apples. I drool a lot on my pillow because of my braces and it takes a lot of work for me to say “Mississippi”.
I’ve had my braces for more than two years. Every month, I go to the orthodontist and ask my doctor, “Sooo, doc, when am I going to get these things off?” I am exhausted.
I keep getting new additions to my teeth: expanders, rubber-bands, brackets, spacers… I feel like some freaky science experiment. Until all these things are gone I feel like I am being held back, trapped behind a mouth full of metal. When this wall is finally torn down, I can’t wait to see what’s on the other side.
- February 5, 2011Mason Gepp
Mason Gepp wants to hear back from the colleges he has applied to but discovers he isn’t very good at playing the “waiting game”.
I am normally a big fan of games, so when I mailed off my college applications, I looked forward to the waiting game. You know, the time between dropping my forms off in the blue postal box and the time when a reply letter comes back from the college. I was really excited, since all I had to do was sit back and wait until the responses were sent to me.
Unfortunately, it turns out, I don’t have the patience needed for this game. Not in the slightest. I have heard back from three out of the six schools where I applied, so I am only halfway there. I am feeling plenty of stress and anxiety lately. I’m a good student, so it feels like unnecessary torture. Each college sets their own arbitrary dates for when they feel like notifying applicants. On days when these letters are scheduled to arrive, I find myself rushing home from school to open the mailbox, to find anything but my letter. As a result, the U.S. Postal Service and I have a less than cordial relationship.
My last year of high school will be over soon, so I’m supposed to be suffering from senioritis — where my classmates and I just goof off. But because of this ongoing waiting game, I have not been infected by this yet. That’s probably a good thing since I’m keeping my grades up.
When I do go to college next year, I think the only game I’ll feel like playing is baseball— the ball moves a lot faster.
- January 29, 2011Gabrielle Siegel
Gabrielle Siegel tells us where she will be the next time a vampire movie is released: standing in line to see it.
Last year, I showed up at a small local theater an hour early on the release day of the movie “Twilight” and still had to wait in a line. I looked around at the crowds and realized that my peers and I had fallen in love with the blood, lust, immortality, and mystery that make up the world of vampires.
After I finally gave in and read author Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga series, I couldn’t help but join the mania myself. And when I say mania, I mean all ages and types of people flocking to movie premiers and midnight book openings. But don’t worry. I’m not one of those crazy people who are dressing up in capes and fangs. My friends and I think capture typical teenage angst so they are easy to relate to. They are addicting!
Every generation has its fad, and considering all of the possible trends that could overtake the lives of teenagers, the vampire rage is rather tame. Most people would agree when I say an obsession with vampires and immortality is better than a passion for cocaine, marijuana, or violence.
Even though the craze is an odd one, it’s fun and less dangerous. When the next vampire movie comes out, I’m sure I will be standing in line again.
- January 22, 2011Taylor Walker
Taylor Walker is heading off to college soon but knows she will still recall something special her mother says when things get tough.
My mom and I have always had arguments. Like other teenagers, our feuds are often about cell phone bills, boys or texting. But lately, the tension between us has gotten worse. I have come to realize that our bickering is ultimately a form of endearment - because I will soon be leaving for college.
In a few months, my bags will be packed and I will be headed for Boston University. But in a strange way, I won’t be surprised if I end up missing my mother telling me to turn off my bedroom light and television, take out the trash and, sometimes, to brush my teeth.
The woman who won’t admit that I am taller than her, who constantly squeezes my dimples to force me to smile, my mom, will always be part of my life, no matter where I go. As I board the plane and reminous about all the arguments that helped me to grow and develop as a person and venture into a territory hundreds of miles away, in my head I’ll hear the echo of my mom saying, “You’ll Live.”
- January 8, 2011Eliza Renner
Eliza Renner worried about changes to her Christmas traditions but found out what makes her customs special.
I’ve always been sentimental about the traditions I’ve enjoyed each Christmas. So when my dad recently remarried, I worried about the changes. Rather than celebrating with my mom in the mountains, as I’ve done the past fifteen Christmases of my life, we would be with my step-mom on the beach. I just couldn’t imagine trading Moon Lake for the Atlantic Ocean, snow for sand, and cool mountain air for coastal sunshine.
Though I was hesitant about the new circumstances, I tried to keep a positive attitude and welcome the change. My comfortably familiar Christmas was traded in for new activities: sewing sock monkeys by the firelight, running down the street to see Santa arrive in the town on a fire truck, playing funny German card games for hours and rounds of Frisbee golf on Christmas day.
By embracing the experience, I ended up having an amazing time, without mixed feelings about reinventing traditions for me and my new family.
I feel like traditions have really connected me to my family, but I don’t want them to prevent me from having new experiences. They have more to do with a state of mind rather than a specific action or place. As I think about my experience this Christmas, I realize that changing traditions hasn’t changed the connection to my family - and I am looking forward to the holidays for years to come.
- December 18, 2010Jordan Johnson-Bailey
Jordan Johnson-Bailey says he’s learned from his brother that he can always stand tall and stand up to racism.
I’ve always been small for my age. Most of my classmates are bigger than me. However, my brother has taught me not to let my size stop me from standing up for what is right.
When I played football in middle school, I always gave it my best - and I often got creamed. Some of those other players looked like NFL members. But, it was my brother who encouraged me to keep getting up, to face the opponent. The cool thing about my brother was that he didn’t even have to tell me what he was thinking, I just knew.
I remember one day when we were riding the bus downtown. Two white guys with Nazi symbols on their necks told an older black man to move out of his seat. The older man said he wouldn’t get up for them. We were arriving at the bus stop near my home, and my brother told me he was going to stay on the bus to go to the store. I got off and headed home. I knew my brother wasn’t really telling the truth. Later that evening, I got a phone call from my brother. He was at the hospital. I quickly headed to see him, and I was not surprised to see who was next to him. Both my brother and the elderly man from the bus were there at the hospital, cuts and bruises were on their faces. But in the room next to them were the two racists. They had more injuries and were handcuffed to their beds. My brother had stood up to those racists.
- December 11, 2010Max Bartlett
Max Bartlett reflects on why he felt optimistic after viewing the damage from the BP oil spill.
I’ve never been a big environmentalist, but a trip to the gulf coast this summer got me thinking about manmade disasters, and ironically made me hopeful. My family was driving across Louisiana under that hot July sun. I rolled down the window and felt the heat blast my face.
Unlike most families this summer who canceled their trips to the Gulf, we planned ours to see the extent of this tremendous natural disaster. I was prepared to see a black slick when we arrived at the beach. However, we were greeted by the old seagulls in the air, seemingly welcoming us, unabated by the crisis in the gulf. As I leaned back in the seat of the car, I wondered if the media had blown the story of the oil disaster out of proportion. As soon as I got out of the car, that notion went out of my head faster than the oil pumping out of that pipe at the bottom of the sea. The stench of sludge flooded my nostrils and had me bent over coughing.
Yet, as I walked towards the water and saw the scores of BP workers sifting through the sand, I started to think of the seagulls. As bad as the situation was, they were still there. And so was I. I knew that one day, the oil would be cleaned up and life would go on. That’s reassuring.
- December 4, 2010Alexandra McColl
Alexandra McColl isn’t a fan of bicyclists who she says hog the road and make her late to school.
Recently, I was running 5 minutes later than usual on my drive to school, but if I didn’t hit any red lights I was sure I would be able to make it to class before the tardy bell. Traffic was moving swiftly, and lights were remaining green- things were looking good. Suddenly, a bicyclist swerved in front of me, and my chances of being on time were ruined as I was forced to drive 5 miles per hour behind a road hogging, slow riding, uncourteous, biker.
I know some people might not like my opinion on this.
Sure, biking is a great way to save money, help the environment, and get good exercise, but it shouldn’t be at my expense!
Try as they might, bikers simply cannot achieve the same speed as a car, which is why there is often a bike lane located conveniently on the right side of the road. But this doesn’t please all of them. They’d much rather take up the whole street, and seemingly hope I miss my first class. In my mind, they are damaging my education, and my temper.
Careless bikers like these give them all a bad name.
Bicyclists should remember that courtesy goes both ways, and when it comes to Sharing the Road it’s a two way street.
- November 27, 2010Deranda Butler
Deranda Butler says after ten years of getting her hair permed, she’s going all natural.
I remember yelling so loudly, it probably scared some neighbors. My scalp began to feel as if it was being attacked by millions of fire ants. I was six years old… and I was getting my first perm.
When my mother finished rinsing and washing the chemicals from my hair, I ran my fingers through my long, black hair and was amazed. It felt just like the silky hair on my toy Barbies. My rough, carpet-like texture had disappeared — like magic. Every little coil was now relaxed to lay down with the other strands.
The tradition of getting perms continued for more than ten years. It just became routine every few months, like getting your car’s oil changed.
But no one warned me I was literally perming away some of my identity. Of course the hair I was born with would never be that straight. I wasn’t fooling anyone. I recently looked at my curly hair and fell in love with it. So, I am vowing to never do it again. I want to have 100% natural hair. I feel like the closer I become to being all natural, the closer I become to be being the true me.
- November 20, 2010Olivia Volkert
Olivia Volkert is doing the required community service from her school but feels a little guilty getting credit for it.
My school’s food drive this year included an added incentive. For every two cans of food I bring in, I can get credit for one hour of community service.
Like every student in my school district, I need 75 hours of community service to graduate from high school. However, after turning in cans in exchange for hours, I felt a little guilty. I mean, all I did was grab a few cans of beans and unwanted vegetables from my parents’ kitchen cabinet. Sure I wanted to help others, but part of my motive was to fulfill the requirement. It seems unfair to count that as a good deed.
Community service hours at my school are often given for things I think are undeserving. Some teachers will give a few hours credit if a student helps them grade papers.
I always thought service involved thinking of others, rather than one’s self. Yet, I was partially thinking of myself when I donated those cans.
I’ve decided if I feel good helping someone, it “counts” as real service. But I believe that the purest kind of community service is done anonymously and with no personal benefits. So, when I finish my 75-hour requirement, I’ll look for other charities I can work with. And I don’t need the college credits, and certainly not the tax write-offs.
- November 13, 2010Mason Gepp
Mason Gepp shares his concerns with the prospect of Atlanta Public Schools losing its accreditation.
Twelve years of hard work: which includes probably thousands of hours spent on homework and projects and what seems like a million quizzes and tests. This could all go to waste if Atlanta Public Schools loses its accreditation in December. I’ve been a student in Atlanta public schools my whole life and never paid too much attention to the bureaucracy. I only noticed the things that really didn’t matter — like the dates for spring break or planned renovations for my school.
After a cheating scandal shook my school system, it seems its leaders have been unable to reconcile differences about distribution of power. This bickering could end up affecting tens of thousands of innocent students just like me. Our diplomas could be worthless pending a final review from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Without their accreditation, colleges would likely not consider my application. And I can forget about getting any scholarship money - even the Georgia Hope Scholarship.
I honestly haven’t paid attention to the people who run my school system until I heard about their power struggle. But now, my friends and I are constantly talking about the school board. These grownups are supposed to support the students under their command and are doing just the opposite. This board could end up costing the class of 2011, and definitely the classes underneath, a diploma of any meaning.
I’ve done my best. But those who are supposedly in charge of the Atlanta schools may be the ones responsible for undermining my accomplishments.
- November 6, 2010Kathleen Quillian
Kathleen Quillian’s grandmother is 72 years old and facing a new stage in her life with her first tattoo.
I’ve been warned never to get a tattoo because I’ll regret it when I’m older. That makes sense, as the image of me sitting in a nursing home with a Mickey Mouse tattoo on my lower back seems silly.
But, my grandmother, who is 72 years old, probably has some different advice. About five years ago, my grandfather got caught up with the wrong people and was sent to jail, and he is still there. My grandmother now has to support herself for the first time in her life. But she’s made life changes with ease and grace. I’m so impressed.
My grandmother says her spirit feels free and she now thinks of herself as a joyful hummingbird - which is why a three-inch beautiful and vibrant hummingbird now rests on her shoulder. Yep, she just got her first tattoo! She is the only grandmother I know who could pull it off and it fits her perfectly.
Just like a hummingbird, she has been gathering sweet wisdom her whole life. When my brother put silly putty in my hair, she knew just how to get it out. And every time I’ve been injured in soccer games, which is a lot, she’s been there with balloons and flowers.
I think the symbolism of her getting a tattoo and starting a new chapter in her life is a lesson I can learn from. I know my grandmother will be there for me when I get my first hummingbird tattoo.
- October 30, 2010Havilah Driver
Havilah Driver wants people to understand why describing herself as an African-American should be fascinating.
People often ask me, “Are you from Jamaica or Haiti?” And I usually answer back, “No, I was born in America.”
After I reply, people seem to find me less interesting when I tell them that I was born here. This baffles me. I know people don’t mean to harm me, but their questions do hurt. It’s as if being African-American is not appealing.
Ironically, I can’t help but wonder if African-Americans are reinforcing this idea. Some people feel uncomfortable identifying themselves as African-American, but instead, identify themselves as part of their parents’ or their grandparents’ country. Sometimes, when I’m talking to some people who are of my race, yet of a different ethnicity, they tend to stress: “I’m from the Caribbean, I’m not black.” I understand the pride people feel towards their cultural roots, however, I don’t like the idea that being African-American somehow seems inferior. African Americans are diverse, and should recognize our history, but we should also embrace where we live now.
I know America isn’t perfect, but no country is. I am proud to say I am an African-American, and I think I am fascinating.
- October 16, 2010Aaron Choi
Aaron Choi visited Haiti after its massive earthquake and shares his experience in learning from a young boy.
Last month, I had the privilege to visit Haiti, the small Caribbean country regarded as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
After the catastrophic earthquake struck this January, Haitians have struggled to continue their everyday lives. Among the chaos is a small orphanage that nurtures about 200 orphans. I went with my church group to spend a day at the orphanage. We passed out coloring sheets and colored pencils to the children for them to color. Hoping to help them, I sat in between two kids. Their names were Naisson and Rafael.
I noticed that while Naisson was completely engaged in his coloring, Rafael was motionless. Suspecting some sort of mental illness, I let him be. Soon, Naisson was boasting about his completed drawing. But ten minutes later, he handed me his second completed drawing and pointed to Rafael. Then he gestured for me to give the drawing to Rafael as a gift.
It was a demonstration of grace I don’t see in grown-ups, and I was embarrassed at myself for such a rash understanding of him and for assuming the worst. He was, after all, a compassionate young man who probably has more maturity and wisdom than me.
- October 9, 2010Mohini Chakravorty
Mohini Chakravorty explains why she’ll probably ask you about the weather if you are ever on an elevator with her.
I always keep my guard up when I’m in downtown Atlanta. It’s not the safest city so I make sure to avoid eye contact with strangers.
I have to walk a few crazy streets on my way to work. So once I step into the elevator, I usually breathe a sigh of relief that I’ve made it safely without any awkward confrontations.
However, on one recent trip, things were different. When I got to the elevator, a large man quickly walked in after me. I side-stepped away from him, as he moved inside the elevator.
I’ve heard so many horrible stories that my mind could not help but conjure up all of the worst case scenarios. I pressed the button for the seventh floor, as he pressed the six. I whipped out my phone and pretended to text someone in an attempt to comfort myself - but it wasn’t working.
Suddenly, he turned towards me and said “It’s pretty hot outside, huh?” I was thrown off. The simplicity of the question left me babbling like an idiot. He politely nodded, got off on his floor, wishing me a good day.
I then realized that having small talk with a stranger is a foreign concept for me. I’m always expecting the worst, which means I often miss out on having friendly conversations with people.
The pleasant surprise of a stranger’s politeness made my day. It’s a small thing, but next time I’m in an elevator with somebody, I’ll make sure to ask them about the weather.
- October 2, 2010Samantha Dietz
Samantha Dietz recalls the loss of her neighborhood Blockbuster store and why she fears technology may be taking some joy out of life.
Ever since my eighth birthday, I’ve had sleepover birthday parties. After our stomachs are stuffed with chocolate cake, my friends and I have always gone to Blockbuster to rent some DVD’s. Then, we stay up watching movies. But my most recent birthday was different. All the Blockbuster stores near my house have closed. So, instead of piling in my parents’ cars and scrambling around the video store, we just picked out, or should I say, “clicked out”, a movie from our cable television system.
It was quick and simple, but it just isn’t the same as going to Blockbuster. I miss browsing the tons of movies, especially, how when you would wait in the checkout line, mounds of candy, popcorn and ice cream would be at eye level dragging you in to the load of yumminess.
Going there used to feel like a special excursion: A time to get out of the house and into a land full of opportunity.
I hope technology won’t be used as an excuse to stop doing all of the little things that make life interesting. I still want to feel a part of the community. I appreciate those moments. But it’s a shame when it takes some of the little joys out of life.
- April 17, 2010Verity Lister
Verity Lister is a great student but has fears about getting accepted to a college since she isn’t a genius.
I’m about to finish the tenth grade and I’m already worried about college. Though I have a 4.0 grade average, I’m afraid it won’t be high enough. My sophomore class is known for having some of the smartest students at school, so the competition is fierce. I’ve been watching the elite group of scholars in my grade. They participate in the debate team, mock trial - the works. But that’s just not for me. I don’t think I am the Harvard or Princeton type: I am more of an artsy kind of student. I am passionate about my fashion design and my painting. I have a creative and imaginative side, so no one has ever said to me, “Wow, you’ll make a great doctor or lawyer”.
Sure, I’m happy for my classmates who are already getting scholarship offers to prestigious universities… but I’m also a little anxious. They have set the bar so high, and I’m getting acrophobia. In comparison to my classmates’ test scores, grade point averages and extracurricular activities, I’m afraid that college admission’s offices will just look over me.
Some students are pretty hardcore about doing well, and I wonder if the economy is making them feel more competitive about the limited numbers of college scholarships and even slots at schools facing budget cuts.
Though I’m not wanting to lower our standards, I just hope the bar is moved a little to the side when I apply to school — and that more schools recognize that not everyone is a genius at math or science.
- April 10, 2010Daniel Gilstrap
Daniel Gilstrap started drawing cartoons when he was five years old, and later had the chance to visit Cartoon Network Studios.
When I was about 5 years old, I started drawing. I used to draw characters from my favorite cartoons like Digimon, Gundam, Dexter’s Laboratory, and even Dragon Ball Z. These were difficult to draw, so I used to ask my uncle to draw them for me. I really wanted to be able to draw like him.
Then, in second grade, my friend Lucy’s dad invited our class for a fieldtrip to see his office - at Cartoon Network Studios! We all went, got on the elevator and up to the floor where they worked on the cartoons. The hallway was full of drawings and posters of their most successful shows. We then got to go underground to a passageway set up like a cave in a science fiction movie. I was so happy in that building. Our day ended by getting to watch cartoons that had not even aired on television yet. It was very hard for me to leave when our field trip was over. So, when I got home, I immediately started drawing. I have gotten a lot better at it now and I can even draw those characters I used to need help with. While I don’t know if I want to make a career out of drawing, I’ll just keep drawing cartoons of my experiences, so I can have them forever.
- April 3, 2010Fatima Ojeda Rojas
Fatima Ojeda Rojas hears people tell her to return to Mexico but doesn’t let it bother her.
“Go back to Mexico.” That’s what people say to me even though I have lived in the United States for more than ten years. Sometimes, my brothers and sister come home from school depressed when other students say rude things to them. But I don’t take it as an insult when someone tells me to go back to Mexico. In fact, it’s my dream to do exactly that.
My parents came to the U.S. to provide me and my siblings with a better education and a better life and I’ve grown to love it here. I have awesome friends and great teachers. I feel like I can accomplish anything.
I love Mexico too. But truthfully, I don’t remember much anymore. The few things that I do remember are the things that I really miss. Like be surrounded by my caring grandma, funny aunts, playful cousins and the beautiful land. My grandma has a pretty garden in front of the house, with lilies, roses and all sorts of sweetly scented herbs so their whole house always smells nice. After finishing college, I plan to return to Mexico and then travel the world.
- March 27, 2010Mason Gepp
Mason Gepp doesn’t think coaches are supposed to be good friends with the players. You won’t hear him whining about any harsh treatment he gets from his coach.
I play baseball, basketball, water polo, tennis, and football, so I think I’m qualified to speak about sports. Many of my coaches, especially in high school, curse and yell… and make me and my teammates run laps and do extra push ups if we are out of line. I once had to run extra sprints just for talking during practice. Some call this approach unnecessary. I think it makes a coach great.
High profile cases of coaches accused of abusing their players has the sports world talking. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach was recently fired after allegedly ordering a player to be locked up in the dark during practice. Now, everyone is debating what is too much when it comes to coaches’ techniques.
I think tough coaching should be allowed and actually encouraged. But society has gone soft. We expect coaches today to be our best friends instead of strong coaches. That’s a problem. If any one of my coaches has to take harsh measures to get respect and obedience from my team, I will support him.
In my experience, the most disciplined team wins. When my coaches make me stay an extra hour for practice or push me to exhaustion, I don’t whine about it. Unless you are in the little leagues, last I heard sports are supposed to be tough.
- March 20, 2010Erin Bailie
Erin Bailie saw the video images from Haiti in a personal way and realizes how grateful she is for many things.
My friend’s father is a cameraman for a cable news channel. He was sent to Haiti almost immediately after the earthquake hit there. My friend was worried for her father’s safety, knowing how bad things were for everyone there.
Within days, the footage he shot was on a special news program. I decided to watch it partly to support my friend. They say “seeing is believing” — and I wholeheartedly agree. The images were powerful, and the fact I knew the person behind the camera made it even more real for me.
It changed me. When I first heard about the earthquake, I wasn’t too concerned. I donated some babysitting money to the Red Cross and I skimmed the headlines in the paper. But for the most part, I didn’t think about it. I know terrible natural disasters happen, like Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian tsunami and global warming. I figured the hype would soon pass.
But those video images my friend’s father captured have really stuck with me. Suddenly, I get it. And I’m grateful for so many things: the home I live in, the shower I use every morning, the public transportation I take to school, and yes, even my school itself.
I doubt I’ll ever go to Haiti or many of the places where my friend’s dad goes on assignment. But through him and his work, I feel connected to the world.
- March 13, 2010Angelica Bryant
Angelica Bryant wants to become a fashion model. But if things don’t work out, she’ll be happy being a role model instead.
I had heard it all: “You are so pretty. Have you ever thought about modeling?” Or, “You have the height, shape, and everything.” Finally, a woman I met in middle school actually offered me some advice - so I took the chance. She got me started on what I hope will be my modeling career.
The glamour of wearing fashionable clothes is amazing. On the runway, I can become a whole new person and feel like a star. Everyone looks at me because I’m introducing the newest trend of clothing that they’re just dying to have.
One time I modeled for a clothing company. They put me in all sorts of extravagant dresses. One in particular made me feel like I was on a stage in an old country/ western movie. That was cool.
There are a lot of attractive girls who also want to become models, but don’t plan on getting a college degree. Though, after I had done only a few modeling gigs, I think I became wiser: I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. I know that I should have a back-up plan. If modeling doesn’t work out, I’ll get a degree in education. Instead of being a fashion model, I could be a role model.
- March 6, 2010Dionne Humphrey
Dionne Humphrey explains how she sees her school’s band and orchestra to be similar to the Republican and Democratic parties and which group she relates to.
I’m in the band and the orchestra at my school and I’ve noticed some interesting parallels between these groups and our political parties.
Like the Republicans and Democrats, there’s definitely some tension between the marching band and the orchestra.
The marching band is really conservative - like the Republican Party. All band members dress exactly alike. We don’t show our personality when it comes to our uniforms. And there is a strict rule about respecting the drum majors, the same way Republicans tend to usually stick together behind their leaders.
But, the orchestra at my school reminds me of the Democratic Party. We’re more into individuality than conformity. You should have seen the Halloween costumes we all wore on stage last year. I wore a cat costume and tied a mouse toy to the end of my viola. That would never happen in band! There’s a sense of humor in the orchestra that I see in the Democratic party too. I’m not saying there is no such thing as a funny Republican, but Republicans are often too busy staying on point to be funny.
I’ve tried to figure out what leads a student to gravitate to either the band or the orchestra. We all have common goals — to play good music or pass good laws — but our approaches and cultures are different.
I guess I must be in the middle; you know, an Independent.
- February 27, 2010Frederick Harris
Frederick Harris says his Valentine’s Day wasn’t so bad even though he just sat on his couch most of the day.
I spent Valentine’s Day this year by myself. I mostly sat on the couch and tried not to dwell on my past. You see, two years ago, I was the victim of a terrible breakup. Sure, I knew that relationships have risks, but I wasn’t expecting the pain to be so bad. Things turned sour when I started realizing my girlfriend wasn’t returning my phone calls. She told me everything was OK, but it wasn’t. Just two weeks before my birthday, she admitted that she was cheating on me.
My heart crushed into a thousand pieces. I thought that I would never be able to trust and love another person, and I just wanted to be single forever. I really missed her and her warm sense of humor. Then, two days after her confession, she finally sent me a text message, but it said that I “deserve better.” I knew if I was to hold a grudge, my future relationships would suffer. So, although it was hard, I decided to forgive her and move on with my life. I’m a better person now. Although Valentine’s Day isn’t any fun, it’s no longer a reminder of my pain.
- February 20, 2010Deranda Butler
Deranda Butler says she wants fellow African-Americans to stop judging her and her friend by the shade of her black skin.
Far too many times have I heard people tell my friend Sara she’s “pretty for a dark skinned girl.” Or how about the many times during black history month when I get the heart cutting remarks about how light skinned people had nothing to worry about during segregation and that I would have been a well-protected house slave, simply because I am a light skinned. How crazy is that — being judged so strongly by people of my own race!
We love to address ourselves as a “black community,” yet we are quite divided within it. After all the boycotts, bloodshed, tears, sit-ins and marches for equality, here we are, judging each other based on what shade of black we are.
No matter how dark or light we are, all African Americans check the same boxes on standardized tests and job applications that say, “African American” or “Black non -Hispanic”. There is no box that acknowledges light skinned and dark skinned people so why do we do it? Dr. King was right when he said people should not be judged by color but by the content of their character. And until black people learn to put our own physical differences aside, people like Sara and myself will always be prejudged based on the shades of our complexion.
- February 13, 2010Myia Lane-Vickers
Myia Lane-Vickers finds it hard to understand why someone would commit suicide.
Many of my friends have tough lives. Heck, most of them live in single family homes and face struggles every day - but I don’t think they would ever consider ending their lives. Yet, suicide is ranked as the third leading cause of death for American teenagers.
Recently, while listening to the radio in the car on my way to school, I heard on the news that a young lady committed suicide. She was just 17 years old like me. But apparently she was unlike me in one way because I think committing suicide is pathetic. From my perspective, the girl had no vision for the future. I myself am looking forward to many things, like attending college next year — hopefully in California.
The newscaster said the girl who died was a church going girl. As someone who goes to church, I don’t know how that can be. I believe her decision to end her life shows no belief in a higher source, so it’s hard for me to have sympathy for her.
Even on days that I am sick, fail a test or get yelled at by mother, I know it’s just a part of life. I can’t imagine suicide as a solution for anyone’s problems. If it rains when I am at the beach in Florida, my vacation isn’t ruined.
- February 6, 2010Kate Lewis
Kate Lewis has a new look on life and explains why she doesn’t want to feel like a visitor to our world.
No one says it better than the poet, Mary Oliver with her powerful prose, stating, “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” I didn’t like the quote at first. I thought it was arrogant. But I was only focusing on the big picture.
Last year, I attended the Outdoor Academy, a semester school in Western North Carolina. It was high school without the standard high school dynamic. We abandoned our labels and we saw ourselves and each other for who were. It was a small community of teachers and students where we built a strong bond. My math teacher would assign us homework, and not take it up, and he would trust that we did it - because we did do it.
Since coming home, I have developed a more positive view towards life: I started my own vegetable garden and I have plans to graduate early and travel across the country. Now the words of poet Mary Oliver make sense to me. It’s not arrogant to refuse to be just a visitor in the world. I realize I don’t need celebrity status to have a positive impact. Just by living my life well, doing what I think is right and being true to my beliefs can change the people around me, and that can have a wide ripple effect.
- January 30, 2010Mason Gepp
Mason Gepp doesn’t condone graffiti, but he tells us where he enjoys reading his classmates’ uninhibited musings.
Each time I walk into the bathroom at my high school I am greeting my newly scribbled remarks from my peers. The underground practice of writing graffiti is obviously a popular pastime. Many of the postings are vulgar. Some appear to be gang related and others simply detail what someone intends to do after school that day. The prose is typically written with a Sharpie pen and is rarely more than a few lines long. Many of the authors apparently need to work on their penmanship because it is hard to read their handwriting. Our poor custodian works hard to paint a coat of white paint over each of the musings but he has a daunting challenge. Even after a fresh paint job, I often see new remarks written on top of the damp walls. It makes me wonder how much tax payers have spent on all the gallons of paint that are needed to combat this cycle of graffiti.
Though I don’t condone my classmates damaging school property, I will admit that I find the messages entertaining. Trips to the bathroom are quite humorous. I can live vicariously through the postings of some punk and laugh at his latest “accomplishments”. Nowhere else in my school do students seem so uninhibited and free with their thoughts than on our bathroom walls.
- January 23, 2010Kathleen Quillian
Kathleen Quillian is grateful for some notable journalists she says are similar to her: they have trouble speaking clearly.
I remember in elementary school, we would go around the class taking turns reading aloud from out textbooks. I wished I could speak as clearly and as fast as some of the other students. But each time it was my turn to read, a cold sweat took over my entire body. My jaw would lock and I would get a sharp pain in my teeth. As I forced the words out of my mouth, I would stumble over the sentences. I hated reading in front of others — and I still do.
Even now as I am reading this commentary, I worry about losing my place, so I use my pointer finger to guide me. But I no longer slur my words together. Over the years, I have learned to take my time and enunciate. Concentrating on my speech has made me more observant of journalists who don’t have the so-called “perfect delivery”. I was recently watching Sunday Morning on CBS and heard a reporter, Mo Rocca, do a story about designer glasses. Wow! He has a really strong lisp. But his story was so witty and interesting, it was easy to forgive. And then there is Barbara Walters, of course. Her speech is certainly easy to criticize, but everyone overlooks it since she is one of the best journalists of our time.
We teach young school students that we should all try to sound the same when we talk… but that would be boring. I listen to all the lisps, stutters and accents on the radio and I am thankful — that I have a chance in this business!
- January 16, 2010Kelcie Willis
Kelcie Willis proudly admits she is part of the reason celebrity magazines in doctors’ offices are read more often than the others.
At just about every doctor’s waiting room I have visited, People magazine and US Weekly’s are worn and ragged, while the Newsweek and Time magazines are as crisp as they were the day they came in the mail. Obviously, we are fascinated with celebrities. We love reading about stars’ love lives and meltdowns. I am definitely captivated by celebrities. At home, I check out people-dot-com and Variety. At school, I talk with friends about celebrity gossip or the movies we want to see. I hate to admit that those conversations are often more interesting than the political debates that we have in class.
Sure, there are people that claim they don’t care about famous people. Well, in one way or another, we all do to some extent. Whether it’s because of a movie we watched, a song we liked, or a TV show we are obsessed with, we all care in some way about celebrities — and I am no exception. I have taken my personal fascination with the talents of the rich and famous by pursuing a career in entertainment journalism. One day, I’d love to have a successful entertainment blog and work as an editor for People magazine. Like many Americans, I have more interest in the latest celebrity scandal than a new government policy. Is that something that most people would admit? No. But judging from the doctors’ office magazines getting the most use, they have the same vice.
- January 9, 2010Teyonna Ridgeway
Teyonna Ridgeway doesn’t need an iPod to make her happy. She says she is just thankful to have been born.
I am a mistake. That’s what I used to think and it really did hurt. My mother told me that she wasn’t supposed to have me. Her words came during one of the worst times of my life when I felt I had no purpose or reason to live. I always complained about things that were out of my control because I secretly hated my life and wished that God had dealt me another hand.
After having my older sisters, doctors told my mom she shouldn’t have any more children and that it was best if she got her tubes tied. However, six years later, she found out she was pregnant again, with me.
What if I hadn’t been born? I ponder the thought of my family without me, without the peace maker. My extraordinary grades and positive outlook on life makes my mom proud of the young woman I am.
Life is precious and people often take it for granted. It’s ok not to have an iPod Touch or the latest shoes but taking each breath is so much more important. After discovering that I wasn’t supposed to be born, I began to be thankful for everything that I have and will achieve. I now realize that instead of a mistake, I am a miracle.
- December 26, 2009Amber Smith
Amber Smith has a handicap, but would rather explain her abilities.
I am an upper-extremity amputee. That means I was born without my forearm and hand. My left arm stops just below my elbow, so I usually wear my sleeves no longer than three-quarters length.
When filling out applications for jobs, college and even scholarships, there is often a category that asks me about my physical state. It always bothers me. I don’t like the idea of a simple box being used to define me as disabled or handicapped. I think people need to realize that there are so many levels of ability that fall under the category of handicapped. I understand that applications should give a little bit of background about me, but I do not think that it is fair that I am confined to using a term that could paint an inaccurate picture of me and doesn’t explain the extent of my capabilities. I’ve played softball, been a cheerleader, served successfully as my student body’s vice president, created wonderful paintings and yes, I can even tie my shoes. I don’t need two hands to do all those things. My friends and family don’t even notice my missing arm and they often forget that anything sets me apart. It’s just too bad that on paper, there is no way to convey that to strangers.
- December 19, 2009Lily Moseley
Lily Moseley tells us why she thinks it’s important never to leave someone when you are angry with them.
It’s not easy getting along with your parents. One day, I slammed the car door and stormed away from my mom, deliberately not returning the “I love you” she called out to me. But then suddenly, I remembered, even that in the midst of my anger, I should have made everything right with her instead of leaving in a state of annoyance.
I learned how important final words can really be when my mom got colon cancer. Seeing my mom in the hospital made me feel really bad about all the things that I had ever said to her that were mean. I was really careful with my words when she was sick but swore I would be just as careful when she got better.
Fortunately, my mom did recover and the experience made me realize something important: now I try to leave people with a kind word or at least with a smile because I know how unpredictable life can be.
- December 12, 2009Mathew Thomas-Quick
Mathew Thomas-Quick doesn’t want to have a negative stereotype as a black athlete or as a nerd.
I’m a good athlete, but it doesn’t exactly make me a dumb jock. I take honors classes at school and have a 3.7 GPA. But there are times that my friends at school will joke around with me and call me a nerd because my grades always look better than theirs. Some seem to have a problem with a young, black male being well-rounded. I’m considered one of the best players on my football team and I’m also a good track athlete.
As a person, I feel that I possess qualities not defined not by my extracurricular activities and my educational status. But the fact that the first thing people think about me is that I am another black male who has his mind and life goals set around making to the NFL or being on the corner is just wrong. I turn my back on those people and refuse to be another statistic.
I have fun without making trouble. I’m very social at school but have a clean discipline record. I wear Polo, American Eagle, etcetera, but you’ll never know what color boxers I am wearing. I am not a perfect student, but I give my best effort in the classroom and I have never seen anything below a C on my report card.
Don’t stereotype me because I have already shown that I can break the chain and be an all-around athlete and person. I’m just me.
- December 5, 2009Caylan Griffin
Caylan Griffin says having a man in your life is like sprinkles on your ice cream: sprinkles are nice, but the ice cream can be just fine without them.
I am not a victim. I have good grades and am involved with many extracurricular activities, including the performances in my school’s theater. Though I have a single mom, it doesn’t mean I can’t rise to my full potential. Sure, it has been hard at times, but my mom filled in the gap by serving as both a mother and a father. My dad left my mother when I was only one year old, so I never really had a father. Without a man to help raise me, I think I turned out just fine. It’s like sprinkles on your ice cream, it tastes better with them, but the ice cream is still good without it. I have yet to find something that a man can do that a woman can’t. My mother always says nothing is given to you. If you want it, you either have to earn it or take it. With her, I feel I have just as much support as a student with both parents. I refuse to allow my father’s absence to be an excuse.
- November 28, 2009Kahlecia Brooks
Kahlecia Brooks is not a fan of strange, older men approaching her and wants guys to show respect.
I’m on my cell phone, having an important conversation while standing near my house, when some random guy walks up and says, “What’s up shawty. You looking good in those tight jeans.” I was like, “huh?” Don’t get me wrong, the guy was fine as ever, but he was four times my age! Then, a few days later, I was just sitting outside my house, minding my own business, when one of my guy friends walked up with a couple of his guy friends. I didn’t expect anything but a regular old conversation. Instead, each one of the guys I didn’t know started saying thins like, “What’s your number” and “I’ll cook for you.” I didn’t even like that type of attention. Usually, I hang around males anyway, but solely because I feel like drama awaits when you are hanging with females. But when strange guys approach me, I think that is really creepy. It’s also annoying when guys that look like they could be my grandfather try to talk to me. I wish that all of these fellows could recognize that I don’t like it and respect me — and then maybe I would actually like to talk to them. Otherwise, it’s just freaky, crazy and nerve racking to experience this mischief.
- November 22, 2009Melissa DePeaza
Melissa DePeaza finds it hard to believe someone complained to her church about her parents’ marriage because they are of different races.
When my parents go out, I don’t notice anyone looking at them funny for being an interracial couple. In my eyes, my parents are relatively normal. My dad has told me however where there have been instances where people have stared, reacted negatively and even gone to the pastor of our church and complained that their relationship is not of God.
My mother, who is half white and half east Indian, grew up in post-apartheid South Africa. She says that her side of the family still had that discriminatory mentality when she and my black father were engaged. But because they are happily married, I’ve always believed that love transcends skin color. That’s why I’ve dated guys of other races and just assumed that no one cared. But I know that’s not always true even for my generation. Some of my black guy friends think, “I can date a white girl but I can’t marry her.” That’s nonsense to me because isn’t dating the act of looking for someone to marry? What importance does skin color have?
What really matters is who they are on the inside. I think sometimes people are afraid of what their parents or peers might say if they date someone outside of their race. But my parents are a great example of why that doesn’t matter. In our house, “race doesn’t matter” is not just a slogan, it’s a reality.
- November 7, 2009Raya Tobler
Raya Tobler says certain words can’t be replaced — which is why she thinks it’s alright to curse sometimes.
Talking to a friend on the phone as I stepped on the train, I chatted meaninglessly with her and took a seat. As she spouted the latest gossip, I reacted as most teens would, with a gasp and some choice words. I watched as every adult face on the train shot surprised looks in my direction. I knew as soon as I dropped the bomb, they would think differently of me… the “F” bomb that is. I readily admit to using some dirty words in a casual conversation. Many adults view foul language as the decline of the next generation and that society is doomed to failure. But my choice of words doesn’t mean I am not smart. I have a B average in school and I’m a writer and the editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper. What important person in history didn’t have an R-rated moment or two? Everyone has their days of careless language. It doesn’t make them incapable of achieving greatness. I think there are some times where the best word to use in a situation may be a so-called improper one and it actually demonstrates a good understanding of vocabulary.
- October 31, 2009Angela Li
Angela Li considers clothing to be art, so she certainly doesn’t agree with the phrase “dress to impress”.
My clothes are everywhere: flung on the bed, tossed on the dresser, crumpled haphazardly on the floor. My tons of clothes can take up three closets of space, becoming as prevelant a feature of my room as my bed. But they aren’t some superficial means of conforming to a crowd or displaying my material wealth. In fact, most items in my collection are salvaged from thrift stores, consignments shops and bargain bins. My clothes are my own personal way of creating art. I woefully cannot sculpt, paint or sing, but what I can do is find a creative way of expressing creativity through the ensembles I wear. I think we should move away from the dress to impress mindset of generations past. What we should do is dress to express, and that means finding a look that lets you say what you want about yourself. Even if I can’t draw, I still want my clothes to show I that have an artistic vision. And though most wouldn’t call me an artist, I think I am.
- October 24, 2009Stanley Stewart
Stanley Stewart recalls his disdain for people who use Facebook, then describes why he has joined the crowd.
I was shocked and horrified as I sat there, staring at what I had just done. I became the kind of teenager that I most despised: a social networker. I had just created my first Facebook page.
I always hated kids who used internet social networking sites, and now I was one of them. My name, school and photo were now posted on the internet for all to see. Would I now spend mindless hours staring into the dull glowing computer screen? Had I just become another internet obsessed teenager? Well the short answer is no.
After a few weeks of connecting to long lost friends, laughing at their latest adventures, and looking at old photos, my attitude changed. I’m careful not to reveal too much online, but I’ve learned that teenagers who use social networking sites are actually pretty cool. It may not be the most personal way of communicating, but at least this gives me a way to talk to my many friends — and I’m glad I’ve turned into one of those people that I feared. It’s not a matter of who uses these sites, it’s how you use them to your advantage.
- October 17, 2009Cassandra Maddox
Cassandra Maddox thinks of herself as being young, but she explains why her voice should be heard.
Supposedly “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. But how about a compromise? I’d like to give an old dog, namely my step-dad, a new perspective from a younger dog’s eyes.
My family has just started a weekly circle time where each of us can speak out on issues in the house: My mom often asks us to help her with the after dinner dishes. My siblings talk about easier ways to settle arguments between us, involving computer time, the remote and who takes out the garbage. And I sometimes complain about who left their dirty clothes all over my floor. Sometimes it’s successful, meaning that we understand where each person is coming from, and agree to do something about it. There are many adults who don’t seem to want to listen to teens. They think it’s a waste of time to hear us out, like my step-dad. They get up and walk away. They use the excuse that they are older, but as Oscar Wilde once said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
I just wish people would work together no matter their age, because we all have something to bring to the table, even young dogs like me.
- October 3, 2009Ayanna Heaven
Ayanna Heaven describes her encounter with a homeless man and why he got goose bumps.
I have always had a soft spot for the homeless. So when a homeless man recently approached me asking for food, I felt a little bad when I answered “sorry, no.” I continued listening to my iPod, watching him from the corner of my eye. And when he came walking back in my direction, I decided to ask him about his story and how he ended up on the streets.
He explained that a hip replacement took him off course financially. I was inspired by his optimism, especially when he told me that even though his stomach was hungry, his spirit was full with faith and he knew that would get through this difficult time in his life.
I felt privileged to talk to him and learn about him, and I’m pretty sure he enjoyed talking to me too In fact he told me he had goose bumps from just talking to me, which made me think he probably doesn’t have many opportunities to speak to people on a regular basis.
The next day, I returned to the same spot and surprised the man with two public transportation tickets and some food, along with an address of a homeless shelter I knew could help him out. I know many people assume that the homeless are lazy drug addicts, but if more people could take the time to really interact with homeless people, they may find something different.
- May 30, 2009Deranda Butler
Deranda Butler recalls what it was like competing against the tall and thin girls in a modeling competition - and winning.
I stood on the sparkling stage, with a sign that read 102 around my neck, waiting for my results in the modeling competition when I began reminiscing: I remembered those days when I used to do crazy, crazy things to look like the girls next to me: I would only eat one meal a day, take weight loss pills and I struggled with bulimia. But on the day of the competition, I proudly posed on stage — short, and not exactly thin as a rail. And next to me were the tall girls, with long hair and slim frames.
We all know the distorted images of Barbie dolls and how the slender model photos in magazines influence little girls. I too questioned what “beautiful” was when I didn’t look like the women on television.
Ultimately, I decided not to let the media or society intimidate me. After all, beauty comes in many forms. And I knew the judges agreed, when I heard the announcer say: “The winner is contestant 102!” I had won.
I’m glad to see America’s ideal image evolving. I look up to women like plus-sized model Queen Latifah who helps motivate girls to be proud of what they look like — because beauty is also on the inside. Sometimes, I wish boys could understand this too.
- May 23, 2009Dionne Humphrey
Dionne Humphrey wants rap musicians to put their talents into writing messages that are more positive… like respecting your mother.
I enjoy all kinds of music — except country. Like many of my friends, I actually listen to lyrics and even try to sing them. Unfortunately, most of the rap music we hear today has the same few themes: selling drugs, buying drugs, money, love, making love, or of course, going to the club.
There are very few songs out there that actually convey any positive messages, like going to church or being respectful to your mother… and I rarely hear those songs on the radio. I’m concerned my generation is being influenced by all the negative things we listen to in our music. I get pumped up when I hear lyrics with angry messages… which is ok, because I don’t act upon those feelings. Though, some of my peers may be more inclined. I’ve read studies that say music with negative lyrics can really influence what we do and say. So I asked my friends if they are affected by the tunes they listen to: no one really admitted anything but all agreed that they do believe lyrics can and do influence people.
I wonder, what would happen if the same talented rap musicians who write about selling dope wrote about staying in school? It would probably be corny and the artists would lose their street cred. But, if they pulled it off, maybe a cool rap song about getting a job could actually persuade the same kids who wanted to buy drugs.
- May 16, 2009Kathleen Quillian
Kathleen Quillian thought planting an organic garden would save her family money and was good for the environment. Now, she has second thoughts.
My mom and I were so excited: we finally got motivated and started our very own organic garden. Our backyard was perfect for it — with plenty of sun and nice fertile soil. This was going to be a great way to save money on our organic produce… so we thought.
To start, we bought a 15-dollar shovel, 6 bags of organic dirt at 5 bucks apiece, seeds, and a 10 dollar incubator to start them off in our window sill. You probably see where this is going… I started wondering if we would really be saving money.
It seems growing your own garden has become a fad in the US due to the downturn in the economy and grocery prices have shot up. So, we think growing our own food will help out.
But now I question whether this food garden craze saves money or even helps the environment. When I think about all the trips to the store my mom and I made to get our supplies, I feel guilty about my carbon footprint. And, when I add up the total from all the purchases — I feel skeptical we’ll get our money’s worth from those tomato plants.
Of course I’m looking forward to eating healthy organic food that I helped grow. I also think a garden is a great family project. However, I think I would rather go down the street to my neighborhood grocery store and pick up a bag of their potatoes, rather than putting so much time, money and sweat to grow my own.
- May 9, 2009Erin Bailie
Erin Bailie gives examples of how her school could make some environmental improvements.
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I shake my head in disgust every day in my school’s cafeteria. Sure, I think the food is gross, but what really makes me angry is the way the food is served: on polystyrene trays. The used trays pile high in the trash cans by the end of my lunch — and won’t decompose when they reach the landfill. Even worse, chemicals from the trays can seep into our food and may cause cancer. Anything would be better than these foam trays.
Our schools need to reduce their environmental impact. Schools are incredibly wasteful and it seems that for every step we take forward at home, we take two steps back once we arrive at school.
My school is probably like most others — not very green
Here’s another example. My school wastes a lot of paper. While notes, quizzes and worksheets are essential to learning, they often are thrown away at the end of the school year. Fortunately, my school has a recycling program in place… but we could do more.
I bring a sweater to school year round, because most of my classes are so cold. We do have windows — we should use them.
Schools can teach us by example. We need to do everything we can, everywhere we go, to use our resources wisely.
- May 2, 2009Kaylin Morton
Kaylin Morton has always wanted her prom to be like the tale of Cinderella, where she is the belle of the ball.
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When it comes to prom, I’m like a little girl with dreams of being one of those special princesses on Disney. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve looked forward to two events the most: my prom and my wedding. These are so significant to me because they are my nights to be in the spotlight. For these special occasions, I care about fun and excitement — so ultimately the cost isn’t a main factor.
I know getting a one-of-a-kind dress for prom is more expensive, but, this has always been my dream. The tale of Cinderella isn’t quite my story, but, I’ve always wanted to be the belle of the ball.
Ok, I realize I may sound snobby to some, but I’m not like this every day. Prom is a magical night that girls think about for years. We see movies where glamorous young ladies enjoy the evening with their elegant friends. For one night, what’s wrong with that? Nothing.
For prom, I didn’t want to look average. I searched the internet for the latest fashions and tried to imagine myself in each outfit — without looking at the price.
I wanted my fairytale to be written where at the stroke of midnight I was the one in everyone’s last memory.
- April 18, 2009Kallina Harrison
Kallina Harrison says her teacher should know more about African-American slave history but blames herself as well.
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I recently watched a movie during school about the Holocaust called “The Boy with The Striped Pajamas.” It showed the life of a Jewish child in a concentration camp. A girl in my class asked our teacher why the Jews didn’t fight back against the Germans. My teacher compared the experience to African-Americans being unable to resist slavery. Furious, I blurted out, “Yes, we did!” But when my teacher, who is white, asked me to elaborate, I paused. Finally, I recalled the rebellion led by Nat Turner… but I couldn’t think of any more — and no one else could either.
Surely, there were other slave revolts. I felt ashamed for not knowing - and angry my teacher and classmates were just as uninformed. With just a few minutes of computer research, I read of other heroes. And I’m sure there are many others whose names we’ll never know.
There is pain in my heart when I think about how little I have learned about my ancestors. I also think I may not be learning enough about others’ ancestors as well. While watching a movie or participating in class surely helps, I can’t just rely on that. I know it is up to me to learn history — so next time I won’t feel so ignorant.
- April 12, 2009Kathleen Quillian
Kathleen Quillian says while some students are taking the drug Adderall for their ADD, she explains how others may using it to cheat on exams.
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At my school, I hear a lot of the usual talk among my friends: who has the highest grade in class, what’s everyone’s SAT score, and who got into an Ivy League college. Teens can get competitive when it comes to academics. Some of my friends in middle school were prescribed Adderral to help them with attention deficit disorder- ADD. Some of them say it helped their grades go way up, because they were able to study better. So I became curious about the drug.
If you look it up on Wikipedia, Adderall is described as a brand-name pharmaceutical psychostimulant. Thats a mouth-full, but basically it’s like steroids for your brain, keeping it stimulated for hours.
When I first heard about Adderall, I was like “I need to get my hands on some”; I was a desperate 7th grader who would do anything improve my grades. But then I saw my friends on the drug, acting anxious and angry. That’s when my desire for the Adderral subsided.
I still know teens who take Adderral. I also hear stories about my brother’s friends whose parents allow them to use their Adderall selectively - like for the SAT or other really big tests.
I think taking it without a prescription is cheating, like an athlete who medicates to grow oversized muscles.
I would rather struggle in school than take a drug that alters who I am as a person.
- April 4, 2009Jane Beal
Jane Beal loves sweat tea, but explains why she won’t be going to college in the South.
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As I snaked through the more than two hundred booths at my first college fair, I found myself consciously avoiding every school in the South. My arms filled with brochures from colleges and universities in stattes from California to New York - but not once did I glance at any school located below the Mason-Dixon line.
I was born in Georgia, so don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to say I don’t appreciate Southern charm or that I haven’t had my fair share of sweet tea, but I believe that after 17 years in the land of Krispy-Kreme doughnuts and conservative politics I’m more than ready to leave the nest.
My restless tendencies aren’t unusual. The desire to explore has been engrained in the psyche of our country since its founding. It’s only natural that some people my age feel this urge to leave the place we’ve come to know so well in an attempt to better understand ourselves. Teenagers everywhere feel the need to flee what’s familiar and predictable and search for something new. Some parents might confuse this as teenage rebellion, but I think it’s better characterized as “growing up.”
Maybe my decision to go so far from home for college will make me appreciate my home in the south, or maybe it will make me never want to come back. But one thing is for sure, I won’t really know what’s out there until I step out of my comfort zone and do some exploring of my own.
- March 28, 2009Angelica Bryant
Angelica Bryant’s grandmother’s house burned to the ground. Though, this fire has a happy ending.
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My grandmother’s house that she lived in for more than twenty years burned down not too long ago. It held lots of good memories from my childhood… not to mention old photographs and other little mementos. It sounds kind of sad, and it was sad for my family in many ways. But in the bigger picture — it cleared a way for a new life for my grandmother.
Let me explain:
Some of my family members who stayed at my grandmother’s house, along with some of their friends, were not the best of people. They used to come over at all times of the night, just to hang out and do drugs. My grandmother would kick them out, but they always would return, almost as if they were addicted to the house as much as the drugs.
After the fire, like the city of Atlanta after the civil war, a new life arose from the ashes. If Atlanta never burned down, it may have never become the wonderful city that it is today. And if my grandmother’s house had never caught fire, she wouldn’t have been able to start her new and better life, by herself.
- March 21, 2009Dionne Humphrey
Dionne Humphrey recalls how a first impression becomes a lasting impression — and why she keeps her toenails freshly painted.
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On the first day of fourth grade, I had an unfortunate incident in gym class. Someone stole my shoes out OF the locker room. But since I painted my toenails the night before, I didn’t think my feet looked half bad. So, I walked into my Language Arts class barefoot. My teacher looked me up and down with a questioning gaze and didn’t say a word as I sat down and prepared myself for class. But when the bell rang she motioned me to her desk as everyone was leaving. I explained what happened and she loaned me a pair of flip flops she kept under her desk when her heels started to feel uncomfortable.
That very first impression she got of me will probably stick with her and me for the rest of our lives. I heard about a study that explains if someone says something negative to you, you’ll probably remember that longer than something positive. Think about it, if you got a hair cut and everyone kept giving you compliments until at the end of the day someone said, “That haircut is ridiculous.” I bet you that you’re going to remember that mean comment the next time you sit down for a haircut.
So I try to make all my first impressions positively unforgettable…and keep my toenails painted just in case.
- March 14, 2009Sam Weinstock
Sam Weinstock compares people at his school to others on the other side of the world and finds we are quite similar.
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As I walk through the halls of my high school, I see a magnificent variety of people. I am aware of different colors, different incomes, different religions, and even different languages. But most of my peers share very similar ideologies. Sometimes I wonder how we developed these opinions. Perhaps it was our parents, who have helped shape our thoughts since birth. And as we got older, we absorbed ideas from peers, teachers and neighbors who continue to mold our paradigm of the world.
If I were to walk through the halls of yet another high school, a school thousands of miles away, I wouldn’t expect to find that their values match mine. They grew up in a completely different region, and therefore had different leaders, lived in different houses, wore different clothes: all of which could have played a role in forming their principles.
But the thing is, all of us people, in spite of where we live, are really just that… people. We all get stressed out. We all get embarrassed every once in awhile. And yes, we all have different ideas about how to achieve our goals. But just about all of us want the best for our families, neighborhoods, cities, nations, and the world. Whether you live in America or Europe, Africa or Asia, I always try to remember that my so-called opposites probably want the same things in life as I do.
- March 7, 2009Kalina Harrison
Kalina Harrison says she will never do drugs, but she wonders if they are truly as bad for you as she has been taught.
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In elementary school I was taught that drugs were bad and would ruin your life forever. My teachers lectured about how much better our lives would be if we never went near drugs.
They told horror stories about drug addicts, or as we called them, junkies. They warned that our minds would blank out every time we used drugs. This led me to think that people who do drugs will forget everything they’ve ever known—their name, their birthday, and any knowledge that once existed in their brain.
But I’m starting to question this concept. Here’s why: There is a person I know, and respect, who has been on and off drugs for about fifteen years. From my perspective, she knows almost everything. She’s a whiz in calculus and chemistry - a pure genius.
I am a little confused about how some people can still be smart after doing so many drugs… maybe my teachers were just trying to scare me. But I think it’s amazing that after taking a toxic substance, a person can still do college calculus.
I don’t plan to ever experiment with drugs or alcohol, but for the people in my life who might, I hope my teacher’s weren’t right.
- February 21, 2009Ben Gittelson
Ben Gittelson compares the sour note he hit while playing his violin to our economy: it was hard work and tears that got him back to making music.
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I cried. I still feel a little ashamed when I remember it- big, fat, salty, tears sliding down my face during the middle of my violin lesson only three years ago. Why? Because of one little e-flat that wasn’t quite in tune. For the better part of an hour, my teacher made me play it over and over and over again until it was just right. But in spite of all the crying and whimpering, I eventually walked out of that lesson with a dry face and a perfect e-flat.
Sure, a musical note might not be quite as important as a recession, but perhaps America could take a bit of advice from my violin teacher. I wonder if it’s time for America to stop taking the easy way out and do a little bit of crying.
It’s going to take more than a quick fix — more than bailouts and economic stimulus packages — to solve this problem. What we really need some is painful self-reflection, time, and effort, and maybe even a few tears. Maybe we need to let some businesses fail, and let the stock market fall, before things can truly get better.
I can only imagine how different America’s economy would look today if we had taken the time to fix that out-of-tune e-flat years ago…before it developed into a mess.
- February 14, 2009Emma Alexander
Emma Alexander says her best birthday party gift was when she and her friends celebrated by donating blood.
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Every two seconds someone in America needs a particular gift…one that my friends and I can share. So, for my seventeenth birthday, I wanted my friends to give something more special than presents: blood.
I walked into the Red Cross with a homemade paper party hat on my head and a cluster of nervous, laughing teenagers at my back. Despite the novelty and excitement, I was terrified, nauseated, and not at all happy.
As I sat anxiously in the lobby on the morning of my first blood donation, I agonized over my crippling fear of needles and wondered why I hadn’t just had a normal birthday party.
But as it turns out, giving blood really isn’t that bad…in fact, it was kind of fun. Perhaps it was the experience of facing an irrational fear, or perhaps it was the knowledge that what we were doing helps others, but something about the experience had all of us hooked.
Aside from being a life-saving charitable act, giving blood has proven to be an addictive and enriching social activity. I never thought that I would look forward to any experience involving a needle, but every trip I make to the Red Cross is a rewarding one. As it turns out, giving the gift of life to others was the best birthday present I’ve ever received.
- February 7, 2009Iris Schaer
Iris Schaer has heard a lot of derogatory words, but the “R” word, retarded, is the one that really bugs her.
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I hear a lot of offensive words. I hear people saying the f-word and the n-word, but those don’t really bother me too much. There is another word that does: retarded. When my brother was younger, he went to occupational therapy for speech and motor skills. While sitting in the waiting room for him to finish, I saw girls with pigtails and bows in their hair who were condemned to wheel chairs for the rest of their lives. I saw little nine year old boys whose faces lit up while looking at books but they couldn’t read them because of their low reading level. When I hear someone use the word retarded while joking around, my mind travels back to these happy kids who are just trying to live a good normal life.
I think that when someone says the “R-word” in the teasing manner, they are making a statement about themselves — they are saying that they don’t care about hurting the feelings of people who are mentally challenged. Teenagers are usually the ones who misuse the word. Some may do it because they don’t know how offensive it is, but others do it to gain popularity adding what they think is a cool insult to their vocabulary.
When someone uses the word retarded in such an inappropriate way, well, it is just plain… dumb.
- January 31, 2009Kate Lewis
Kate Lewis is not like most teens. Although she is almost old enough for her driver’s license, she explains why she doesn’t plan on getting it.
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I don’t plan on getting a driver’s license. Sure, most teens can’t wait, but not me. My easiest explanation is the safety issue: Driving or riding in a car with anyone is dangerous, no matter who you are with. I don’t understand how people can be so terrified of a harmless spider, but not afraid of riding in cars. I like to ask my friends how many people they know who have been killed by a spider and then ask them how many people they know who have been killed by a car. Almost everyone knows someone who died in a car crash.
But I actually have a bigger reason for not wanting to drive: Besides eating meat, I think cars are the worst thing we can do for our planet. I am cautious when I say this since I am already picked on enough for my hippie ways. I also hate to look like I’m caught up in the whole phony “green” movement… but I really do care about the earth and the other living creatures on it.
We are living in a world with limited fossil fuels. We have the technology to create “energy efficient everything”, so I hope we start making better cars soon. Assuming that I don’t die in a car accident, I am looking forward to seeing a world of vegans with water powered cars… and then maybe I’ll get my license.
- January 24, 2009Chernail Arnold
Chernail Arnold describes gentrification. It is viewed as urban renewal by many, but some former residents have a different perspective.
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Imagine what a hassle it would be for a single- mother working one job to move from her current residence without financial stability. Unfortunately situations like this and others are common when gentrification comes into the picture.
The renewal of run- down urban areas by middle class people, often resulting in the displacement of lower- income occupants is called gentrification and it affects many lives. And while the promises of renewal come into play, ashes of past lives flutter away in the wind.
Gentrification unconsciously expels people out of there neighborhoods by building million dollar condos in urban areas in which the resident who once lived there can no longer afford. Although some argue the gentrification benefits neighborhoods by providing renovations buildings and attracting individuals with higher incomes, I believe that gentrification is a real issue. Instead of thinking about the people the new condos bring in we should never forget about the people that the new condos shy away.
- January 17, 2009Yasmeen Malik
Yasmeen Malik appreciates luxury and says she is a good kid. However, she also says she is a good example of why teens shouldn’t get nice cars.
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Nearly every week at my private high school, another sophomore pulls into school, freshly licensed, behind the wheel of a car that many middle aged, hard working adults will never know the privilege of driving. In a week those same cars appear in the parking lot, adorned with blemishes and scuffs that highlight the inexperience of their owners.
Many parents just want to make sure their children have the best of everything, including cars. However, with statistics showing that 16 year olds have higher crash rates than any other age, it seems irresponsible for parents to purchase these lavishes vehicles if the reality is the car will be totaled or be involved in a crash at some point.
After several months of driving my parent’s Lexus, I was carelessly pulling into a parking spot and scraped the bumper against another car. I was in shock. I am proof that even a responsible “good” teenage driver can mess up.
My parents realized then, that a cheaper, more modest car would suit my needs. Parents of teenagers who are about to drive, or just started, should be thoughtful when buying their teen’s car. Just buy a reasonably priced car and put the saved money away for college tuition!
- January 10, 2009Kamalia Blunt
Kamalia Blunt recalls her years of being bullied and the day she decided she wasn’t going to be a victim anymore.
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I have been bullied since 3rd grade. The teases, shoves, the threats both written down and said to my face…I’ve been through it all. I used to be so timid and afraid in class that I didn’t even do my work. I just sat in my desk, stared at the clock and waited for the bell to ring to let me know it was time to go home. It was a never-ending cycle of fear, and my only outlet was to write down everything I wanted to say.
Usually, I ran home, wrote in my journal all of my mixed emotions and tore up the pages. But one time instead of tearing it up, I balled up the sheets, threw it in the sink and set it on fire. I had enough and everything changed.
As I watched the flames, I knew that with the paper I was burning up all of my emotions, pains and fears. I decided that I will no longer be affected in any shape, form, or fashion by bullies and instead, worry about myself.
I’ll no longer give a bully the satisfaction by being concerned with what they say and do. Playing the “I-don’t-care” card may not knock them off their game completely, but eventually, they’re going to get bored.
By showing no reaction to what they do and say, I’m not entertaining to them anymore and therefore am not the object of their pitiful amusement.
- January 3, 2009Tracy Jackson
Tracy Jackson feels teens like himself would succeed if they had more intern or job opportunities.
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Finding my first job was hard. There are a number of opportunities that can benefit teens, but they are offered for college students. Several adults are always complaining about “my generation”. I would like to know what those adults are doing to helps us get these opportunities.
If there were more internships and jobs, it could help teens better choose their career in addition to making them more interested, encouraged to do better, and motivated to learn. I would like to major in; law, medical, and or technology as one of my career choices, but I could not find any programs that could accomplish my goals in participating in these fields. It is important to help teens with fulfilling their dreams.
We want more opportunities because most of them are provided to college students who are legally adults. This is unfair. I think that adults can help teens achieve by giving their support and participating in sponsoring programs, and offering jobs because together we can do great things.
- January 2, 2009Tyees Roberts
Tyees Roberts now hesitates before giving food to the homeless after someone wasn’t thankful.
One day I pulled a hot stickybun out of my purse that I had been dying to eat all day myself and offered it to a young homeless boy instead. Rather than thank me, he turned around and said he didn’t want it. My food was rejected by a homeless guy! From my perspective, I was simply trying to help out a peer who I saw was in need. In return for my offer, he decided to be rude and greedy, instead of being grateful.
He should have been thankful that I decided not to ignore him and tried to help out. That experience left me thinking that young people who are homeless feel their peers owe them something special. Though, if I was homeless, I would surely take help from another young person. I wish the homeless teen that I tried to help took into consideration that no one has to help him. Now I will think twice before offering my stickybun or other food to people on the street. It may sound harsh, but if they aren’t going to eat my food, I could be enjoying those offerings, including delicious sticky buns — myself.
- December 27, 2008Modupe Alabi
Modupe Alabi worries about the influence television shows have her peers, but she admits to watching the dumb shows as well.
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Rather than calling me and my peers “Generation X or Y”, we are sometimes called the dumbest generation. But has anyone taken into account what we are being fed, mentally? TV shows like Flavor of Love, I Love New York, and I Love Money, all celebrity dating shows which contestants compete in utterly ridiculous competitions to win the affection of some has-been musician or B list celebrity.
Watching all these events take place, it seems that today’s youth can’t get enough of watching “everyday people” eating reproductive organs of pigs, running through obstacle courses and lassoing free ranged animals, all to end up with a “broken heart” as reality show stars claim.
However, I am guilty of watching these shows, too. Yes, Sunday nights around ten p.m. I turn my TV to VH1 or sometimes MTV to watch the antics of yet another artist whose career ended before I was born. On Monday mornings, instead of engaging ourselves in some sort of intellectual conversation, many of us teens talk about ridiculous things. These TV shows have taken something as important as finding love and turned it into a gimmick and yet another product to feed and corrupt the minds of today’s youth. It’s no wonder why it’s called the “idiot box”.
- December 20, 2008Raquel Walker
Raquel Walker knows the tragedies of gun violence, so she finds Georgia’s gun laws to be upsetting.
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Before I was born, my father was murdered by a person with a gun. After my father died, my mother never wanted to replace him. Fifteen years later, my mother was the victim of an accidental gun shooting. Both these incidents left me and my mother forever scarred.
Having two loved ones become victims of gun violence leaves me with nothing but bad feelings about guns.
This year Georgia passed a law that said people can bring guns into public places and places that serve alcohol.
How could I agree with this law since the two people who created me had their whole life changed by guns? I guess the people who wrote this new law think more guns lead to more peace but it’s actually the other way around.
When I learned about this new law I felt like my heart had sunk to the bottom of my stomach. Guns left me without a father in my life and my mother permanently in pain.
I wish people with guns would think more about the potential for harm…and think about how they’d feel if a gun killed or wounded one of their loved ones.
- December 13, 2008Akiria Dennis
Akiria Dennis says she knows it is wrong to send a text message as a condolence, but she has done it anyway. OMG.
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Teens today don’t really talk on their cellphones. They text each other, using a common language and short codes…you know, “lol” for laugh out loud, “brb” for be right back. I myself can send up to 500 text messages in a month. Some teens may argue that they can live without their cell phones. But they would be lying.
Sometimes texting will get you in trouble because when it’s not free, it puts a huge damper in the cell phone bill. And if you share your cell phone contract with your family, it hurts them as well. Texting also impacts our social skills. People send Happy Birthday text messages instead of buying birthday cards. I am a victim of this crime. I sometimes even send condolences through text messages. I know it’s not right.
My friend’s mother hates tattoos, but as he was getting his third tattoo, my friend texted his mom to inform her. With these kinds of examples, it’s hard to say whether new communication like texting has helped society or not. We’re communicating in ways our parents never taught us…and ways our parents can only barely understand.
Maybe that will change one day.
- December 6, 2008Michelle Karim
Michelle Karim has several relatives serving in the military and wants everyone to support the troops and bring them home.
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I was checking my email the other day and I had a message from my cousin Ted, in Iraq. He sent me a picture of soldiers in a dug out. It was so cool. You could see the dust blowing up and the soldiers laying behind this big thing returning fire. I immediately replied but of course I didn’t expect anything back for a couple of weeks or months.
My cousin is one out of my six relatives who is currently in the military. I have a sister and five cousins who are fighting for this country. I really like support groups that try to help the soldiers by sending them money or food, and other things that they may need. I think that if more people were supportive of the soldiers, they would feel safer. People tell me all the time: “Oh they might not be fighting.” But I say they’re still over there in a foreign country, and I have no way to contact them unless they call me or send me an email.
I know that a lot of people have relatives in the war that they wish could be home with them. There’s always and empty space in my heart on my birthday when I don’t get those special calls from my relatives because they can’t.
The politics are important, but I just want my family home. I don’t think it makes me or anyone else less of a patriot to want their family home.
- November 29, 2008Dover Tuft
Dover Tuft has seen his friends killed and says he has a solution to keeping kids out of trouble: let them have jobs.
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My best friend who was like a big brother to me was shot and killed by an AK-47. Growing up as a black man in a rough neighborhood in New York City I was forced to live the gang life. Five of my closest friends died — mostly shootings.
In Atlanta, I see the same problem of ongoing violence in my neighborhood. As someone who has seen it up close, I’ve got an unusual solution to gang culture. I think the Department of Labor should change the age limit for teens to work. Teens with a job at a young age would not be attracted to drug dealing and distracted by gang activities. Having a job is an easier and safer way to make money.
My parent always pushed me to get a job so I would not end up in a gang, dealing drugs, destined to be dead somewhere.
Passing a law like this would actually help teens. With jobs, teens can show responsibility, gain trust, get ready for the real world, and get off the street corners. So many teens have no way to be independent and stay out of trouble. Having a job as early as possible will improve that.
- November 22, 2008Briyanna Releford
Briyanna Releford does fine on exams, but thinks she should be judged by other things.
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I could care less about test scores. Although I usually get good grades, I don’t let a bad grade make me feel differently about myself. Same thing with good grades. My scores — high or low — don’t measure me.
Friends of mine get scores that are on both sides of the grade spectrum too, but many of them don’t have the same attitude I do. When they get a low test score, they hang their heads in failure. When they get a high test score, they gloat and act like they are better than their classmates. Their mindset is totally influenced by the grades they make.
I’ll never forget a TV episode where a boy who was a slacker applied to an Ivy League college. He got accepted into the college not because of his scores but his personality…which I agree with. On the show, the character’s cousin applied to the same college and was declined because he thought scores were everything.
I wish real life was more like that TV episode. Instead of scores being a main measure of a person maybe it should be personality. Having a great personality can take you way farther in life than a bunch of numbers. They don’t put your test scores on your gravestone. People are remembered for their personality and the great things they have done. Which is why grades will never measure me.
- November 15, 2008Miriam Archibong
Miriam Archibong tells how Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, is inspiring her to set higher goals in life.
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Like every other little girl, I grew up dreaming about my future. But never in my wildest fantasies had I envisioned myself as being President of the United States.
I somehow understood that there were certain things that were not within my reach because of being black.
That all changed this year.
And for me, it’s as much about the rise of Michelle Obama as her husband. I was in Denver when she delivered her inspiring speech to the Democratic convention delegates, dispelling every negative myth about black women.
After the convention, I carried Michelle Obama’s energy and spirit back with me to Atlanta…to share with two at risk high school girls I’m mentoring. They watched Michelle Obama’s speech on TV, and said they felt proud of her and were not going to let challenges stop them. I could tell that both young women were beginning to set higher goals for themselves. Inspired by these conversations, I decided to re-visit my goals too.
Michelle Obama is a real life embodiment of the change African American, and indeed all young women, need to see.
- November 8, 2008Sam Colt
Sam Colt wasn’t too pleased with the presidential election results and hopes for the future of a stronger third political party.
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We’ve just elected a new president. And as usual, the election was mostly an ideological duel between the Democrat and Republican parties. I have strong opinions about both parties, but I did not support either of them. I think America’s political duality is over limiting and narcissistic. That’s part of why I support the Libertarian party. I’m a libertarian because it represents my views: stressing civil liberties and minimal government intrusion.
Of course, the Libertarian presidential nominee didn’t win the election. But that doesn’t make me feel obligated to label myself with a party that doesn’t represent me. I’m going to continue support for my party and voice my opinion as much as I can, because other voices should be heard.
Americans should be faithful in their ideologies rather than aligning themselves between the two popular parties. Having only two political parties is paramount to asking America’s citizens to choose whether they like Coke or Pepsi. But what if they like Perrier? I’ll stick with water.
- November 1, 2008Ana Cunningham
Ana Cunningham explains her feelings about being adopted and wants to clarify the meaning of family.
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I’m adopted. But when I tell people that I am, especially people my own age…I get the weirdest questions. “Does it make you sad you never knew your real family?”, “Do you cry at night thinking that your mother didn’t want you”
It always seemed to me they wanted to hear some tragic story about my life before I met them. There isn’t one.
Just the other day I was watching a fictional TV show, and this girl was talking about her mom having issues of feeling neglected because her mom was adopted. This made me think whoever wrote the show didn’t quite get what adoption was. But it also made me realize that people watching the show might think that being adopted naturally means you feel neglected, which is not true.
That’s not to say that some kids don’t have a tragic story behind their now happy lives. But if I had a heartbreaking story to tell I wouldn’t tell it so freely anyway. I feel funny sometimes thinking about how there are some people who were never taught that families with adopted children are just the same as families with biological children. And that’s a really hard concept for some people to grasp.
- April 12, 2008Grant Coyle
Grant Coyle doesn’t want anyone taking his picture. No, he’s not ugly. Rather, he knows what everyone does with their photos.
- April 5, 2008Rachel Cruz
Rachel Cruz realizes that her pants sag a lot lower than they used to. Sometimes, her underwear may even be exposed. She’s not losing too much weight — she is expressing herself.
- March 29, 2008Kelly Douglas
Kelly Douglas likes it when people compliment her on her clothes because she knows how to buy them really cheap. She also explains how she is helping the environment.
- March 22, 2008Barbara Dougherty
Barbara Dougherty felt like she was living in the Stone Age. Hard to believe, but this teenager actually didn’t own a cell phone!
- March 8, 2008Janna Kaplan
Janna Kaplan is so competitive with her grades, she seems to be missing out on some major current events. Her aunt is not pleased.
- March 1, 2008Sam Weinstock
Sam Weinstock saw Barry Bonds hit his record homerun and how fans in Atlanta perceived it. Similarly, emotions about residents in the Middle East can be skewed by perceptions.
- February 23, 2008Sarah Bufkin
Sarah Bufkin has joined up with thousands of others in her new found way to fight breast cancer, as her mother battles the disease.
- February 16, 2008Emma Alexander
Emma Alexander explains what she sees as the benefits of allowing students to skip class and even drop out of school.
- February 9, 2008Pace Maynard
Pace Maynard disagrees with the notion that teens drive poorly because their brains are not fully developed. He has another theory.
- February 2, 2008Paul Katzman
Paul Katzman says he has found the solution to get teenagers involved with politics and to speak out against war.
- January 26, 2008Jessie Andrews
Jessie Andrews knows how important her score is on the SAT exam, but she describes why it feels as if she may be cheating on it.
- January 19, 2008Ben Gittelson
Ben Gittelson describes an unfortunate parallel between his 5th grade student council election and the electing of our US President.
- January 12, 2008Seth Langer
Seth sees the good in the world. While he knows there are troubles around him, he says there is no benefit in complaining.
- January 5, 2008Khadija Hussein
Khadija is called “grandma” by her peers because she has a different upbringing. Her background doesn’t let her act like a crazy teen.
- December 29, 2007Jasmine Gallman
Jasmine has found solutions to depression without pills and shares her success.
- December 22, 2007Nia Williams
Nia defends who she is, despite being called an “Oreo”. She says she doesn’t see the need to fit into a stereotype.
- December 15, 2007Catherine Cai
Catherine lists some of the words many use in their speech that are derogatory and hopes people will realize how ignorant they sound using them.
- December 8, 2007Isha Mitra
Isha explains why she is a horrible babysitter and warns parents not to hire her to watch their kids. Though, she does have a new job…
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