AUTHOR: Bronx Leadership Academy II Journalists  |  AGE 14-18

After school, students from Bronx Leadership Academy II take on the roles of journalists, editors, and photographers to create a school newspaper, the BLAII Times. They tackle issues including school violence, bullying against LGBTQ communities, the presidential election, and more.


Gaming: Good or Garbage? by Jose F.

Millions of people play Fortnite and Call of Duty 4 today. At BLAII, games like these take up
most of gamer students’ time. They might procrastinate their schoolwork or responsibilities. But
they also play with their friends and grow community. Gaming is popular, but is it a good or bad
Gaming has evolved over time. According to the American Physical Society, the first video
game was invented in October 1958 by a physicist named William Higinbotham. It was a tennis
game that visitors could only play in Higinbotham’s lab. The gaming community is bigger than it
was in 1958. Gamers today play, socialize, and come together online to make friends.
People have different views on video games. Some think they are bad. According to Psychologist
Christopher John Ferguson, “Video game violence has become a highly politicized issue for
scientists and the general public. There is continuing concern that playing violent video games
may increase the risk of aggression in players.” BLAII’s Mr. Robinson agrees. He says that
“today’s video games are teaching you guys how to be mass murderers. They teach you how to
kill eighteen people and get a streak using a wide variety of weapons.”
Many of the common video games today are shooting games, so it might be true that you’re
learning how to kill people. But, it might not be about how violent the game is; it’s also about the
player’s point of view. BLAII Junior Nikaulis Taveras explains, “if you believe that you’re in a
video game in real life then that’s something different, you know? So it depends on the
perspective and the person too.” The reason people become more violent when playing a violent
game might not be that video games make them violent, but that their personalities are violent.
For example, if you are an aggressive person and you play violent games, you’re more likely to
be more violent and aggressive. If you’re a nice chill person it might not affect you much.
Some gamers spend five to ten hours playing video games on a daily basis. Also, sometimes
players forget to eat or take baths because of how much time they spend on video games. “I just
bought a PS4 four weeks ago and I’ve been on PS4 for like every single day until twelve at night
playing because its entertainment,” says Nikaulis. Staying up all night playing video games
affects players health in a really bad way; not taking a bath and not taking care of yourself can
damage you health, leading you to the hospital. Nikaulis hasn’t had that struggle, but it is
affecting her schoolwork. She says, “You know what is bad to me? Since I started playing PS4, I
don’t want to do my homework because I’m too lazy. That’s one of the bad parts of video
games: that I don’t want to do my homework I just want to keep on playing and playing the
whole day.”

Games might have some cons if you abuse them too much, but they also help people connect.
According to, a study found “online gamers aren't antisocial basement dwellers. After
observing the behaviors of thousands of gamers, with a focus on ‘massively multiplayer online
role-playing games’ such as World of Warcraft, researchers conclude that loners are the outliers,
not the norm.”
What makes gaming a good thing for society is that people have more common things to talk
about. Not just talk: people come together and make more friends. There are many kids who are
antisocial and have a really hard time communicating. But if these kids start to play games like
Fortnite, they will soon be more social, have an easier time connecting with others, and make
new friends that can change their lives.
Gaming has other impacts. In the military force they use video games to teach people how to
pilot planes and jets which means video games can also be educational. For example, Immune
Attack is a educational game that teaches you about the immune system. This makes it more fun
and entertaining for students to learn about science.
BLAII junior Biory Diaz says, “I’ve been playing video games my entire life, and I think it’s had
a positive effect on me, but I can see why people think its a bad effect with the violence linked to
video games. To me personally video games aren’t badly affecting me like that. Video games
distract me from the world outside.”
Games were meant for people to have fun and have a great time. Many people nowadays love to
make videos or livestream video games commonly in platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and
so on. If you think gaming is a good thing and have a computer, download Steam. You can try a
lot of games on there.

Do Something For Your Community by MD Fahad H

Our school requires 40 hours of community service before you graduate and that’s why I started
doing service with buildOn. buildOn is a non-profit organization that works with high school
students to serve the community. I’ve been working with buildOn since freshman year.
Every service trip is different. For example, we might clean up a public park, give out food or
goods to homeless people in Manhattan, or repaint the fence around park so that it looks better
and people feel better while there. When we went to Crotona Park in the Bronx to pick up trash,
buildOn groups from many different schools were there. We got to meet new people, hang out,
and clean the park at the same time. By the end of the day, we had new friends. And we had free
pizza for lunch.
One time we went to a center for disabled kids on 149th St. We played sports and had fun with
them. At the end of the service we gathered in a circle and shared out about the stuff we did. It
was a good feeling since the kids don’t get to go out, or see people from outside the center. They
have a different life from us. It was cool to see that even though their lives are so different, they
are the same as us.
buildOn trips even go to different countries: Nicaragua, Senegal, Haiti, Nepal, and others. Errol
Ramos, a BLAII student, went on a Nicaragua trip. He said he did it “because people in other
countries don’t have schools like us, and their school [might be] very far away. I went to build a
school that was very close to them so they could get to school early, and get home early.” He
stayed with a host family and was close to them. He also said, “Building the school was amazing
because I got to do stuff I’d never done in my life. Like I used a pickax! Also I learned how to
mix concrete, which was so interesting because I never knew you had to use concrete to keep the
building together.”
Every time I do something for my community I feel like I want to do more. I want to help more
people, including helping people that are outside of the country. I like the smile I see on their
faces and feel like I made their days. And the fact that I get free shirt, hoodie, sweater, hat, and
backpack doesn’t hurt either. Errol agrees. He says he does buildOn “for the sake of people who
are out there that don’t have resources like us.”
Once you get into buildOn, you feel connected to other people in it. Everyone is so friendly and
they treat you with positivity, like a family.

Greedy Trump's Border Wall Shutdown Shutdown by Isaiah N.

Donald Trump is a cruel person because he does everything for the rich not the poor. In April of
last year, Trump said that there was a “zero tolerance policy” coming into effect. This means
when immigrants come across the border, border control separates children from their parents.
Those children go through trauma and some of those children died in their custody, may they rest
in peace.
Donald Trump wants a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico so immigrants can’t come into
the U.S. illegally. He shut down the government at midnight on December 22, 2018, because he
wants 5 billion dollars for the wall. If he doesn’t get the 5 billion dollars for the wall he will keep
the government closed. No money is going to the people who need it most, and government
employees who work can’t get their money. It is unfair what he is doing to the American people
by having the shutdown. Many people are suffering without a paycheck to feed their families and
to pay their expenses.
What can Trump do with 5 billion is instead of the wall? He could send 2 billion to Africa, 1
billion to Puerto Rico, 1 billion to Hurricane Harvey victims, and 1 billion to victims of storms in
the Carolinas. But he won’t do that because he is greedy.
But on the bright side the Democrats took control of the house 1|3|19. The reason that this is the
bright side is because they can lift up the government and they will have Trump in deep trouble.

Do You Know Alexandria Ocasio Cortez? by Angelica S

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is one of those important people you’ve probably never heard of
before. But you should. She was recently elected to represent Bronx, New York in the US House
of Representatives. She grew up in the Bronx, not far from here in Parkchester. She’s young,
outspoken, and a social media star. She’s made biggest waves, however, because she is a proud
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a socialist is “any of various economic and
political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the
means of production and distribution of goods.” Does this make sense to you? No? Well a better
way to understand it is a socialist is someone who thinks people should be in charge of how
products are being made, what is being made, and where they are sold and for how much. This is
a key to understanding Alexandria as a person because of what she wants for New York, and
how she wants to represent the people of New York. Alexandria can give the public a different
perspective on politics. Especially because she is the youngest woman to become a
Another aspect that is important to understand about Alexandria is her background. She was born
and raised in New York. Her family is Puerto Rican. She understands what it’s like to live here
and experience life here.
Unlike you, Alexandria may have been born here but she definitely didn’t go to school here. Her
high school was in Yorktown. That is the really interesting part. Her school life was much
different from her life at home. People have wanted to criticize her for this but this is what makes
her unique because there will be a new perspective to offer in the House of Representatives.
After high school she had the opportunity to go to Boston University which was really big for
her. Her main focuses were economics and international relations. During her time at college she
got experience in Senator Ted Kennedy’s office. There she focused on immigration issues. When
she graduated from college she was very interested in the community and how to make if better
so her career for the next few years was a community organizer. But her unpaid career took a
detour after a tragic occurrence in her family. Alexandria’s father died of cancer and she had to
take a bartending job to help her family out.
It took courage to run for office after being a bartender. She really knew what she wanted: to
make a good contribution to people’s lives by addressing issues that are very important.

One issue very dear to Alexandria is fully funding public schools and universities. She is the
youngest person elected to the US government and knows what life is like in the Bronx. Older
representatives from less urban places might not have that same viewpoint. Alexandria thinks she
will be able to voice what we want for our educations so that it can improve our quality of life.
She says we will have more school programs and trips, as well as other opportunities.
Another issue is the idea of universal guaranteed jobs. This will help people get the jobs a person
may want or need. So this means more opportunities, more money, and a better quality of life.
Alexandria believes that a universal guaranteed job program would “end unemployment and
exert upward pressure on wages.” That means bigger paychecks. Creating more jobs will have a
good economic impact in the world we live in, so support for Alexandria directly impacts the
professional opportunities we, as teenagers, will have. Especially how now the wages have gone
up to $15 dollars an hour.
Alexandria differs from the president. Donald Trump is focused on immigration reform.
Alexandria is also interested in the issue but in a different way. Alexandria wants to make sure
that people living in the U.S. without documentation can stay with their families without fear of
being separated or arrested. That is why having Alexandria in office will help immigrants; she
will help to keep families together. ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — has been
acting in many cases like they don’t care about families and whether or not they stay together.
Having her in office may help make Congress accountable for their actions.
Alexandria is someone we should care about. She is a person who stands for what we really want
in America and all the ways that will help specifically New York because this is where we live
and where she is from. That is someone who will make our quality of life better. Many people
may be against her, but she is capable and professional, and promises to make the changes that
will make a great impact on each of our lives.

Ask Ashley by Ashley Rodriguez*

I act differently around different groups of friends. Is that OK?
Yes! This is called code switching. It is reasonable and good, and the only way of life!
You need to act certain ways around certain people. You can't treat the superintendent
of the school the way you would treat your friends, especially if they are white and you
aren't. You should treat them with a different kind of respect. They're not your friend,
peer, or associate.
On the other hand, in my opinion the most important thing teenagers need to know
today is how to be THEMSELVES in foreign places or foreign situations. When you're
around a group of people that is a certain way, you want to conform to that kind of
personality. That's not ALWAYS the best thing to do. I've found that when I'm in a group
of girls that's kinda gossipy, I gossip, too, and that brings me problems. Or if I'm hanging
out with guys who are rowdy, I tend to get rowdy, too. But it's best to keep true to
yourself. And if you don't know who you are, you have to find yourself. Find things that
make you happy. Do things you enjoy all the time. That way you'll figure out the best
way to be yourself.
I feel insecure about myself. What should I do?
Stop comparing yourself to others. At the end of the day, they're insecure about
themselves, too. Don't focus on your negative aspects. Focus on your positive aspects.
Think about something you like about yourself.
Me, when I'm insecure I get scared to show myself. Like, many people are insecure
about their eyebrows—forget your eyebrows! Just relax. Think about how funny you are,
or how smart you are! This will help you feel comfortable about yourself and your body,
the way you are.
And don't let anyone come to you and say anything bad. If you have confidence, it
shows. And when you have confidence, it shows other people that no matter what they
do to you, they can't bother you.
One little thing you can do is surround yourself inspirational quotes! You can find those
things anywhere—online, Instagram, Facebook. Quotes like "Keep yourself away from
bad energy." You want to be with people who motivate you to do better.

* Ashley Rodriguez is a pseudonym created by the writers of this column.

Anime: The Story behind the Story by Felicity M

Anime is a distinct type of animation that originated in Japan and is popular around the world.
You may watch anime but do you understand it?
Often times in anime it’s difficult to know who’s the hero or who’s the villain. For example, in
Death Note, you don’t usually know who’s side are you on — whether it’s the cute hero or the
sexy-hot villain. Even though the villain is a bad person, he very likeable. It’s not only in Death
Note, but in many other anime shows like Code Geass, Durarara, and in Full Metal Alchemist:
It’s not always clear if characters are male or female. For example, anime sometimes ignores or
blends some gender stereotypes. Females can be the villain, or the hero, or overall aggressive.
There are no boundaries when artists create anime. There are many elements that anime artists
In every anime, the words are translated into english. For example, Code Geass has perfect
english dubbing.
Anime is different from other cartoons because there are different plot twists. In One Piece, the
main character’s brother, Ace, died. When anime characters die, they are usually gone forever,
unlike other animation where they may come back in the next episode.

The struggle of eleventh grade by Angelica S.

Being a junior is a big struggle, and it can test you as a high school student. The experiences we
go through and the effort we put in truly matter. They help shape the individuals we are and who
we want to become.
Current BLAII senior Gerardo Hernandez explains “Junior the most rigorous part of
your high school career mainly because you are put under pressure, like taking these rigorous
standardized tests which determine where you end up for college...But for senior year, that’s
where you focus on the college process and the Common Application. So far, from what I’m’s simple to get through. You just have to be dedicated.”
Obviously your GPA and your SAT scores don’t actually determine whether or not you are
intelligent. However, they do give colleges a good idea of what you know, so juniors shouldn’t
slack off. We should be on top of our work and actually trying. Between sleep, school,
homework, socializing, sports, jobs, and the expectations that our teachers have of us means
more pushing and doing more work. We have to fulfill our responsibilities and complete our
work which, as Gerardo said, determines whether or not we get into a good college.
Some juniors think that it’s up to you how you think of junior year and whether or not you make
it hard and have more responsibilities. Still, most people agree that tests are the most challenging
part. BLAII junior Jadeed Branch explains that junior year is harder because there are more tests
and more challenges and “it’s the most important year of high school.” Ms. Espinal, a social
worker who counsels many juniors at BLAII, notes that what juniors struggle with is mostly
stress and anxiety. “We gotta channel those anxieties in other ways, such as studying a little
more and not stressing too much on the day of an exam,” she says.
Junior year is as challenging as you make it. It depends on how much work you are willing to put
in to get a good grade. Which is also one of the best aspects about your junior year: You can
grow mentally and become a student that regularly does work because your grades literally
depend on it. Junior year is when you realize all that you can do.

Shows We Recommend by Brianna C, Jaci C, and Jay R.

For sure we’re all different, but there’s always a point where we collide and become very similar.
We all have different choices of entertainment and Netflix is most def the most common one.
Here are three shows we recommend right now:
Riverdale: It’s related to the real world which includes teen drama, drugs, gang activities,
murder, backstabbing, and much more. Just watch the first season and I’ll be
Recommended for: Moms who think they’re still young, teenagers, gang members.
Supernatural: Ghouls, werewolves, and a whole lot of scary stuff. Don’t worry, it’s not too
scary. Oh, and there's two hot guys.
Recommended for: Teenage girls who have no relationship skills and have a pillow already with
their crush on it. Also for the boys who have some time off from Fortnite.
Grey’s Anatomy: It's related to real life situations. It has to do with doctors’ lives, which some
people don’t understand. It includes struggles, death, relationship, family issues, and much more.
Trust'll be obsessed with this show by the first season.
Recommended for: Teenagers and adults. WARNING: gory stuff. When you know a surgery is
about to happen, don’t eat nothin.

Homecoming Dance by Felicity M

Homecoming is a formal dance for high school students. It is a campus-wide party that
BLAII, Career in Sports, and SBC charter school, the high schools on Mott Haven
Campus, get to enjoy. Denika F. and Matthew V. from Career in Sports organized the
event. The purpose of homecoming is to express yourself without wearing uniform like
we do in BLAII. Denika said, “Oh, it’s just casual. Just dress comfortable and
appropriate for the dance and everything should be fine.” Matthew added, “I feel that
people are going to wear normal clothes for the most part. If they wear a dress or a suit,
it’s up to them.” This is so that homecoming will be inclusive; students do not have to
own expensive clothing to come to the dance.
There are going to be a lot of different activities. For example, Denika said, “One
activity that I’ve been trying to get on board was homecoming king and queen. We’re
going to have a ballot.” There will be dancing and food, and students will get to know
each other and make friends.
Since there are three schools that are going to this dance, we as BLAII are meeting the
students in each school. Matthew also explained that the point of homecoming is “to be
more acquainted with other schools being that there is a new school.” Homecoming is a
way to interact with other students on our campus; especially for SBC. We can get to
know each other better. It will be great for students at BLAII, SBC, and Career in Sports
to talk and have fun.
Unfortunately the original homecoming was postponed because there was a snowstorm
on that same week. BLAII sophomore Scarlette G. said “It ruined the mood for when
they rescheduled.” Well, ruined or not, homecoming was rescheduled to Friday,
November 30, 2018.

Electing Electives by The Editorial Board

High school should be about achieving your dreams and preparing you for the challenges and
freedoms of college, but students at BLAII do not get to choose any of their classes—not even
their electives. Because of this, many students lack motivation in their classes, and they don’t
know how to take their freedom when they get it. Should high school students get to choose the
classes they take?

Why is there a core curriculum?
Our Principal, Ms. LoBianco, explains, “Our goal from when you step foot into this school is to
ensure that we are building a foundation for college. Because in college and life beyond there’s
so much competition, and we want you to be the best prepared, so we’re pushing you to go
beyond what is minimally required.” In college, while you get to create your schedule, there are
still classes you have to take to graduate. Sooner or later math, English, science, and history will
pop up. They are the basics you need to survive; they help your problem solving skills, and your
brain functioning.
The core curriculum in high school lets you know what classes you need to graduate and get into
college. You don’t have to stress about choosing classes, and your teachers are experts in the
subjects. According to Principal LoBianco, “we—as a school—want to ensure that we are
providing you opportunities to be in classes so that even after you leave here it can give you
further choice. Because maybe it will stimulate an interest. Maybe it will make you recognize
that you can really pursue this and do this. So sometimes we do try to steer you on certain
pathways; the intention is really not to take away your choice, it’s to provide you with
opportunity.” So even if you don’t think a particular class is something you need, it might end up
connecting to your career and life in unexpected ways.

What are the cons of being told which classes to take?
Even if the school offers courses in subjects we are interested in, we may not have the
opportunity to take them. We might end up in unnecessary classes we don’t want to be in during
our senior year, which causes unnecessary stress. If someone doesn’t care about a class they’re
not going to put a lot of effort into it and they’re going to get bad grades. Students in classes
they’re interested in do better work.

BLAII dean, Mr. Scott agrees that the curriculum at BLAII is too much about tests, and that
students would benefit from a broader set of elective courses, such as a course that teaches
students about how to build good credit. However, he also thinks that education is a students’
responsibility. “Has anybody here ever heard of Frederick Douglass?” Mr. Scott asked.
“[Frederick Douglass] didn’t go to school like you kids. He didn’t have that opportunity, but
he—like a lot of people—educated himself...The bigger point that I would like to impress upon
you students is that: don’t wait for the administration or anybody else to educate you about

What are the pros of choosing your own classes?
When the classes are more enjoyable, students will actually want to be in class. They will have
energy to do work in that class and determination to learn, and as a result their grades will be
better. Students can learn more and understand a class more because these electives might tell
you more than you learn in the basics. Elective classes can also help you pick your major in
college. For example if you want to take the entrepreneurship class to help you to decide what
you want to do in your future, but you can’t take the class, you won’t find out.

How can BLAII create more opportunities for student choice?
This year BLAII got a bunch of new electives. We have classes like journalism, dance, and
entrepreneurship but we still don’t get to choose whether we’re in them. Principal LoBianco
hopes that as BLAII offers more electives classes, students will also have more opportunity for
choice. The new internship class is proof of that: students who are on track for graduation and
are selected for this course have the opportunity to pursue their own own interests.
We think that ideally, the department of education would change the whole system, so that in
high school you would already be on track for your career with specialized courses. But that’s a
lot to change.
For now, we’re hoping for smaller change: giving BLAII students—at the very least seniors who
have met their requirements—the chance to choose their elective classes. At the end of junior
year, the school could inform us what elective classes will be available next year, and allow us to
rank our top three choices in a survey, ensuring that we get one of our picks. If you have all your
Regents and all your credits, you have earned have the right to choose.

Ask Ashley by Ashley Rodriguez*

Do you believe that you need a boyfriend in high school?
Well in all honesty I believe that having a boyfriend in high school is not necessary but it's an
option. It’s not necessary because sometimes a boy or girl can either get in the way of your
education which can pull you behind. For example, when you have a partner you have to put
them above everything else, such as homework, and classwork and you also have to put their
needs above yours. Also, just the stress of high school is already too much, and honestly
adding a boy to the mix will just make things confusing. Also you have to keep in mind that
people from the ages 13-17 are still developing and growing mentally. If you chose to have a
boyfriend at this age you have to learn to forgive and work together. Communication is key.
But this also helps to explain why it’s an option. For example, having a boyfriend in high
school can help you build off on each other and use one another to grow. Guaranteed, many
girls believe that they need to have boyfriend to be cool, or they crave love and affection. But
having a boyfriend doesn’t make you cool. High school is not all about relationships. It’s about
learning and graduating. Worry about boys after you graduate.