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.

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Students vs. Teachers: Expectations for the High School Classroom by Angelica S.

When you type student expectations into Google, all you will find is how a teacher wants a student to behave in class, and what that teacher expects when the student is in class. Not many people actually talk about what students expect when they go to school. But student expectations really do matter when it comes to learning and how students act in class. Students expectations, when they aren’t being met or when they are unrealistic, are one of the reasons that students don’t enjoy school.

I interviewed two girls who are sophomores at BLA2. Their names are Nikaulis and Alirat. The first question I asked them was, “what are your expectations about your high school education?” Nikaulis said she wanted school to be fun, and that if it were fun, students would be more engaged and interested. Alirat also said school should be more fun, and that when you get much older that college is going to be more fun too. When asked what was important to them about their high school educations, Nikaulis said, “For me it’s getting good grades, especially because I don’t want to go to college here [in New York].” Alirat said that she wants to go to college “to keep up the history, because my mom went to college.”

The next question that I asked was, “What do your teachers expect of you?” Nikaulis responded, “Just pretty much focus on class. I feel like teachers try to make a fun class but I feel like they try too hard.” She also said that sometimes class is really boring and that people have their heads down. Alirat said that just sitting in class she gets bored very easily.

Nikaulis said that that sometimes she meets teacher expectations, but she gets “too carried away,” and that all she wants to do is talk about her summer, or gossip. However, if the teacher tells her to do her work she is going to do it. Many students want good grades, and they want to go to college, but they also want to talk more during class rather than pay attention to the teacher.

Alirat feels that if teachers see you as a bad student, they think they just see your future. Nikaulis said that there are a lot of students that don’t go to school. But they are very smart. She also said that “the students sometimes come off the wrong way.”

Still, students seem to feel that BLA2 does satisfy some of the expectations they had coming to high school. Alirat said that the teachers help, and that at BLA2 they give students more opportunity and tutoring. Nikaulis agreed that there are many opportunities. For example, BLA2 gives practice RAs to help the students with the regents.

The next question was, “How do your expectations change the way your attitude is toward school and your education?” Alirat said that she has an attitude problem and that she is really different in school and at home. So it really depends on who she is with and if she cares about you she will treat you much differently than someone she doesn’t care about.

Why do teachers have such high expectations about students? Nikaulis thinks it’s because “they know our fullest potential.” And because we are together for a year, so they know our limitations. Our teachers help us to keep moving forward, and remind us that we are able to get anything out of life. Both Nikaulis and Alirat say that teacher expectations make the students work harder. However, Alirat added that “some teachers are so hard to deal with.”

Students’ expectations are very important because expectations can determine how well students do in school. Even though students want class to be fun, they can’t change how teachers teach. It’s important to understand this because the students want class to be fun, but they can’t do anything about it. Students are also to blame for the problem of unmet expectations, because they want class to be fun but they just want to talk when it gets boring. Teachers have high expectations of the students, it’s just that the students don’t do their very best to try and work with the teachers. The students may be very thankful for the opportunity to have a good education but they don’t take every advantage of school because it’s boring or they just don’t enjoy it. Even though students may get distracted in class, the teachers certainly don’t help when they make assumptions that a student who isn’t working hard has a particular future. Teachers need to correct this because the students can’t have one judgement determine how they do in school.

Are You Doing Enough Homework? by Fati I.

Other high schools give a lot more homework to their students. Does this give them an advantage over BLA2 students?

Senior at BLA2, Fanta, doesn’t think so. “Homework doesn't determine how smart you are.” Homework helps students review what they’ve already learned in class, she said.

Erick, a senior, agreed. “It’s just homework,” he said. “It’s just to help those that are challenged in class.”

Giving homework to students generally improves students’ understanding of what they did in school. It shows parents that students did something productive in school, it prevents waste of leisure time, instead of students spending their time on social media and playing video games. Homework also teaches you how to spend your time productively, and promotes independent practice.

Most students at BLA2 think they get enough homework; when interviewed in the hall after school, several students reported doing between thirty minutes to an hour an half daily. Global History teacher Mr. Marshall gives one homework assignment per week that should take twenty to thirty minutes max. “My co-teacher and I believe that when we give out homework we want it to be something beneficial, that the students will be able to learn from,” Mr. Marshall said. Homework is given to help students review what they learned in class, and Mr. Marshall tries to give assignments that will be easier since he won’t be there to help answer questions. “We want to make sure its something we’ve covered already and that you guys feel comfortable doing at home because otherwise you’re not really getting anything out of it.”

Students interviewed on their homework habits reported that they don’t care about doing homework in classes they don’t perform well in. Sophomore Juliana said she does about fifteen minutes of homework a day due to procrastination. “I’m backed up with a lot of homework right now.” Juliana explained that she struggles in Geometry, and she often doesn’t do the homework, and that is affecting her academically. “I don’t really understand the material so that’s on my part, but I’m just going to try to keep up,” Juliana said. Juliana thinks students who do more homework may have an advantage, because, she explained, “once you do your homework a lot and you keep at that pace you’re not going to stop because it’s going to be a daily routine for you.” Mr. Resner, 10th grade ELA teacher, agreed, which is why the average thirty minutes a week of homework he assigns is always due on the same day. “It’s a pattern,” he said. “It’s consistent.”

But is it the amount of homework a student does that helps students, or the topic of the homework, and whether the students are actually doing it? Students at BLA2 get more advantage from the homework assignments they get because they review what they learn in class rather than getting homework that covers topics that haven’t been discussed in class yet, making sure that what they learn is correct and clear. Maybe we, the students at BLA2, as long as we keep up with our homework, have the advantage.

All About Ahed Tahini by Arpa M.

Born on March 30, 2001, Ahed Tamimi is a Palestinian activist from the village of Nabi Salih. She is best known for appearing in films and images confronting Israeli soldiers.

What are the issues that she is supporting or raising awareness about?
Ahed tries to raise awareness about what her country is going through. Because Palestine is occupied by Israeli military, Palestinians are beaten, tortured, and detained, especially people who roam the area. Ahed also wants the world to know what it is like to live in a country that is ruled by military. That with this type of military, you can’t really get much help from anyone or anything.

What is Ahed trying to teach us?
Ahed teaches us a message of resistance. She wants to be free and to help Palestine be Palestine. Many children are put in jail just because of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers. Children are put in jail for doing nothing, and children throwing stones is a crime to most people. Ahed teaches us to stand up for what is right even if it can cause you trouble along the way. If it's for the benefit for your community, it wouldn't hurt to try.

How is Ahed similar to Malala?
Ahed and Malala are similar because they both stand up against injustices. While Malala fought for education rights for girls in Pakistan, Ahed fought for land theft in Palestine.

Why isn’t there justice for Ahed but there was justice for Malala?
When Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old girl from Pakistan, was shot by the Taliban, there was justice, or at least recognition. But for Ahed, there is no justice served. People don’t stand up for Ahed but they stand up for Malala? There is no campaign for Ahed or for her family anywhere on the news. Ahed Tamimi goes to prison for slapping a soldier but for Malala, there is an outcry because she got shot in the head by the Taliban? She is not accepted because of state violence.

Is Ahed treated Fairly?
No, Ahed is not treated fairly because she is put in detention for just hurting a soldier. She did what was right. The Tamimi family live in fear every day, not really knowing what will happen to them tomorrow. Ahed lives in a country with not enough water and food, no healthcare and a security military violence always.

Why is Ahed important?
Ahed Tamimi is important because she stood up to Israel. She stood up for what was right. She did what she had to do. She stood up because she wanted others to know what it is like for children who are under Israeli occupation. She has the courage to stand up against the militia. She protested to free Palestine. It wouldn’t hurt if you stood up for what is wrong or right.

How can the society support her?
We can support Ahed by standing up for her and for her rights. Have a protest for Tamimi. #FREETAMIMI #STANDUPFORAHED or #FREEPALESTINE. Raise a fundraiser in your neighborhood, school or community.

The First Time I Saw Snow by Fati I., Md Fahad H., and Mathilde O.

BLAII students come from all over the world and some of us never really knew what it was like to be cold before moving to New York. The first time we saw snow was maybe in a movie, and when we saw it for real, it was a little crazy.

Fati I.
BLA2 Junior

The first time I saw snow I was so hyped.

Fati moved to New York last year from Kumasi, Ghana, where the average winter temperature is 79 degrees. It is mild in the summer too, so air conditioners — which can be freezing in America — are rare.

When she reached New York, she felt cold in the summer, and then too hot.

When the snow came down and I touched it, it just melted away. I went up in the building and I called my 5-year-old niece. She had never seen snow before either. I dressed her up and we played in the snow. I took videos. Me, I was cold, I’m a grown up. She didn’t care. She was hyper and all that. She was playing and all that.

When snow started coming down, Fati told her dad she was so excited.

He thought I was foolish, saying, ‘Don’t you know how cold it will be?’ My dad had been here for a long time, 20 years, and he knew all about snow. He was telling us, ‘Oh it’s going to be so, so cold. You don’t know how cold it is. You are excited to see snow? You just wait and see. You’re going to be freezing.’

Even a year later he still worries. I get my scarf and jacket, but still he wants me to wear three shirts inside.

Md Fahad H.
BLA2 Sophomore

Fahad had a similar experience the first time he saw snow. Fahad grew up in Khulna, Bangladesh, where it is almost always hot and steamy. It rains most of the time. There are only two or three months of winter and even then the temperature rarely goes below 70 degrees.

Snow was a total mystery to him.

I thought it was going to be heavy but it wasn’t! I thought everything you wore would be wet, but it wasn’t. It brushed off. I thought it was going to make your clothes wet. I went outside by myself. It was snowing and the wind was like crazy. I took and umbrella and walked around the outside of my apartment building. It was so deep. But it didn’t go into my shoe. I didn’t know what to wear. Then I took my younger brother out in the snow. He was throwing snowballs and kicking the snow. I was writing stuff in the snow with my finger.

Fahad recalled his first moments in New York, his first real experience with being cold outside.

When I got here at the airport in October, 2015, there was a woman smoking a cigarette in short pants. I was freezing and shivering but there she was not cold at all. When I go outside in the winter and don’t wear a mask, my chin is like paralyzed. I can’t feel it. That never happened to me before. People back in Bangladesh ask how it feels. They ask how is it different from regular ice, like ice you get in a glass.

Sometimes he uses Facetime so they can see it.

It still feels weird putting on heavy clothes.

Mathilde O.
BLA2 Senior

Mathilde came to New York in 2013 from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the temperature has never been below 50 degrees in recorded history.

Snow seemed amazing, and then suddenly overwhelming as she tripped face first into it.

I tripped. My mom was trying to take a picture. I fell right over. There was picture of it but she lost her phone so the picture is gone. But it wasn’t too bad.

Now Mathilde is over the snow. The worst part, she said, is it piles up and gets dirty and gross in the city. Maybe elsewhere it stays nice and clean.

Poetry: Trapped in the Inside & African Home by Nabila A.

TRAPPED IN THE INSIDE

Doors open around 7:30
And it's a whole new day to feel locked up.
You walk towards the door and and receive the same orders as yesterday.
“Take off your hoodie.”
“Where’s your school’s shirt?”
Headphones, cell phones must be put away.
They look you up and down
Then nod their head
“You’re good to go.”

You walk in and don’t even seem surprised.
People just like you wandering around the hallways.
Same shoes,
Same clothes,
Everything supposed to be in either black or white.
And you ask yourself why?

Then you answer your own question—
We’re all here for the same reasons,
To be educated.
But being locked up and trapped in here is not learning.
We are told where to go,
What to do,
And even given the option of what to eat.
Our opinions don’t really matter in here.
The authorities have to approve our suggestions of how we want this place to be like
Which is not fair.

We complain about being here all the time,
But where would we be if we’re not here
We want to be successful.
So we have to make the right choices.
And our choices is what’s keeping us in here for almost forever.




AFRICAN HOME

If you’re an African you would know
How African parents do their parenting.
As an African child,
You’re constantly told NO! For many of your requests.

Can I go to the movies with my friends?
NO!
My friend has a party on Saturd…
NO!
I really like this dress
NO, it's too short / tight

I guess this is their best way of protecting us.
They believe you should do house chores
Get perfect grades
Maintain a 4.0 GPA
Do all your homeworks and still get eight hours of sleep.

The one thing I don't get and understand about African parents
Is how they don’t understand how we teenagers feel.
They act like they were never teenagers as well
And they don’t understand the fact that our generation is way different from theirs.
But at the end, I respect their decisions and I think this is what is keeping me out of trouble and making me the better person I’m becoming.

Fiction: Dead in the Flesh by Sharlene O.

I walked out of my bedroom and was greeted with the static sounds of the TV ceasing, allowing the news reporter to be heard. However, I didn’t hear a word he said. I realized I couldn’t recall anything that happened in the last 24 hours.
“News report just in. We have received more information on the mysterious murder of Em…”
Suddenly the TV cut and the only sounds heard were the labored breathing of a dark haired women. She sat on the couch staring absentmindedly at the TV that just gave her bitter news. I walked past her to enter the kitchen but found about a dozen men snooping around. Some were wearing white gloves and white biohazard coats while the others wore blue.
A man walked in the room right past me as I stood at the door frame.
“Ms.Brown,” he called. I noticed he was dressed in navy blue with a badge on his right breast.
“I’m sorry for your loss, but we need you to come to the station with your husband to fill out some paperwork.” His face was grim as if he didn’t want to do this. I didn’t blame him; the woman looked extremely exhausted and pained, and now was told she had to fill out paperwork for it when all she wanted to do was grieve in peace.
I was wondering what had happened that could cause the police to come to our home and why the atmosphere was dark. Another man entered the living room, face riddled with wrinkles that could only be there from stress and time. His face held a grim shadow like the other two in the room, causing him to sigh.
“Come on June.” He nudged her but she remained still, staring at the blank screen of the TV.
“Honey, come on, let's go fill out those papers.” He gently grabbed her hand and led her to the door, followed by the man in the navy blue uniform.
I asked them if I could come along but they just walk past me. I thought nothing of it; they were probably too upset with whatever happened to hear me. So when they left I turned on the TV to see what could possibly cause my parents to be this upset, but the news was over and the 330rd episode of The View was on instead.
“Well that’s great,” I thought angrily. I wanted to know if my mom was okay but I didn’t want to bother her or dad.
“I’ll just do some investigating myself.” I grabbed my jacket and exited my house, walking down the usually quiet streets of Chamber Town where everyone waved at another. Nothing ever happened in Chamber Town, but today everyone on the block surrounded the area by my house only being held off by the police tape.
“That’s odd,” I thought outloud. My family is usually quiet. Although we socialize, my parents almost always keep to themselves. As I walked further down into town I saw the local butcher, Jason Hyde. He was my mother’s closest friend. He was talking to another lady, Martha Wayne, my mom’s other best friend. I couldn’t quite hear what they were saying but I knew it was about what got my parents all upset.
“I didn’t think she’d actually do it,” exclaimed Hyde as his eyebrows pulled up and his eyes widened at the new information. Hyde stood at six foot one, and was a well built man, considering his occupation. His light brown hair reached his shoulder blades and he had a beard to go along with it courtesy of his German background. Wayne, who stood at five foot four, rolled her eyes and flipped her shoulder length hair behind her ears.
“ Of course she did; it’s June,” she whispered harshly, clearly annoyed at Jason's antics.
I could not hear much of what they were saying considering my position across the street from them so I decided to head towards them to ask. I couldn’t help but feel like something was entirely wrong. Pushing that thought aside, I approached them while waving.
“Oh hi there,” Wayne said, her smile curled up, reaching her eyes.
“Hello little lady,” Hyde greeted with his usual gentleman-like manners. I was about to ask my question until I realized those greetings weren’t for me but another teenage girl standing behind me, Rose Walker, a sweet ginger that I went to school with.
“Hello Ms. Wayne. Mr. Hyde,” she nodded her hello. “May I hang up these flyers on your shop?” Rose asked as the corners of her lips twisted upward, and her eyes sparkled almost pleadingly.
“Go ahead dear, however me and Ms. Wayne must be on our way now. Have a good day.” He ushered Ms. Wayne to begin walking as they both smiled at the girl and departed. Rose then hung up two flyers on the window of the butcher shop, the next on the door of it. What happened next made my heart skip a beat. The flyer had a picture of a teenage girl with long black curls, her eyes sparking and smile stretched from cheek to cheek. This was no doubt a picture of me, Emily Brown. The flyer read:

Come to Emily Brown’s Wake
Date: August 24, 2016
Time: 3pm
Place: The Browns’ house in Chamber Town

***
I felt my eyes water as I suddenly forgot how to breathe. In due time my breathing came in short huffs. I leaned against the walls of the butcher shop.
“What the hell is going on. I can’t be dead I’m right here.” Panic began to spread throughout my body as I found my way back home wanting answers. Every step caused more dread to trickle down inside me. Finally I reached my street and bypassed the growing crowd and police officers. I raced up to my room, and the door almost flew off the hinges with the amount of force I used to open it. Almost immediately I regretted my decision as I saw a body draped with a white sheet in the center of my room. Slowing, I made my way to the center and kneeled beside the corpse. My hand found its way to the tip of the sheet and rolled it up to the corpse’s shoulders.
“No, no no no no no no it can’t.”
On the ground was me with my throat slashed. I ran out the room, my breathing labored. I could not get my breathing under control as I tried to process what had happened.
“I’m dead. But who would—why would anyone do this to me?”
The front door creaked open, allowing my grief struck parents to enter. I ran down the stairs and stopped at the door frame to watch them. I missed them so much, but now I knew I couldn’t do anything about it but watch. My father guided my mother inside as he sat her down at the kitchen table and turned around to get her some water. Mother slid on her favorite black gloves. I noticed she had them on whenever something happened, mainly when someone went missing or died. When asked about them years ago she told me they scared the demons away so nothing would happen to us. She had put them on a little too late this time.
I turned back into the living room, allowing them space. My dad was always a gentle soul always caring for us, putting us before himself no matter what. I loved him and I hoped he would be alright after this incident.
Suddenly I heard my father scream, followed by shattered glass. I ran back into the kitchen and saw his fallen body, eyes staring blank ahead, gasping as he grabbed his neck trying to stop the blood flow.
“NO! DAD!” I cried, falling beside him helpless. I couldn’t do anything but watch. Who would do this? Why?
I then remembered there was another person in the room with us.
“Mom? But why?” I knew she couldn’t hear or see me but I couldn’t help but say it aloud. I noticed she started to walk towards us so I ran back to the door frame.
She knelt down beside dad and her lips twitched upward.
“Stupid fools, never even knew what hit them.” She laughed as she stood up, and began to walk out until she stopped right in front of me and smiled. My heart dropped even lower than before, and I felt my hands dripping with sweat.
“Can she see me?” I thought. My psychopathic mother was looking right at me, and I had no idea what to do. She then walked right past me to the front door where Mr. Hyde and Ms. Wayne awaited her.
“Do you have our sacrifices, darling?” Mr. Hyde asked innocently, putting his hands on her hips impatiently.
“Of course she does, Hyde,” Wayne said irritated as she pushed past him. “I never doubted you for a second, June Brown.” She smiled at her old friend.
“Good.” June said as she guided them inside the house.

Why Does BLAII Have a Uniform Policy? By Fati I., Fahad H., and Angelica S.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as recently as 2007-8, only 16.5% of public schools had a uniform policy for their students. 54% enforce a strict dress code. This means that BLA2 is in a small minority of schools which insist that their students wear a uniform.

Students who don’t like uniforms complain to parents and teachers that it makes them feel childish and they can’t express themselves, but some students agree with the policy for a few reasons. Group identity is one of the most important reasons. One of the deans, Mr. Scott, explained that the school uniform “helps us identify and see our children.” There are many groups, such as the Yankees or the military, who wear uniforms to work as a team to achieve a common goal.

Group identity helps students stay polite and virtuous outside the school, preventing other people from viewing them in a bad way. For example, when students are wearing their uniforms after school people from the community identify them as BLA2 students. This will give students a feeling of responsibility that will prevent them from littering or shoplifting. As BLA2 freshman Briany said, when students are wearing their uniforms, they “wouldn’t get messed up with different schools.” She explained that students from BLA2 won’t get into fights because it’s easy to identify them with the school uniform.

Other students at BLA2 disagree. Some students take off their uniform or wear something else on top of it when they’re outside before or after school so you can’t really see their uniform. Furthermore, being in uniform doesn’t always tell you which school you’re from because a lot of schools have the same type of uniform. For example, a lot of schools encourage students to wear black pants or khakis, and white shirts. Even though you can buy a shirt from the school that has a logo, you don’t have to, and many students buy their clothes from outside. What’s the point in wearing a uniform if we all look the same as students from other schools? You can only have group identity from a uniform if you have a specific uniform, and we don’t have that at BLA2.

Professionalism is also one of the reason why schools have uniforms. The principal at BLA2 as well as the staff are working hard by insisting students wear uniforms to develop students’ professional attitudes. In an interview, Mr. Scott explained that students in uniforms “look better as opposed to [wearing] jeans…and hoodies.” Looking nice will help students during life after school, and as Mr. Scott said, ”prepare you for dressing professionally one day as an adult.” If you wear a uniform to school, you often dress well out of school as well.

On the other hand, choosing your own clothes might also help you professionally. A uniform might make you look professional, but it doesn’t help show what kind of person you are. When you’re going to a job interview, you should wear clothes that look comfortable and nice. When you pick nice clothing for yourself, and you don’t need other people to decide what you wear; you’re getting better at dressing yourself and expressing yourself at the same time. Professionalism doesn’t have to do with what you wear, but how you present yourself, and choosing your own clothes shows who you are.

However, uniforms might make school bearable for students who aren’t as fortunate to have the things that other students have. Without uniforms, students would most likely involve themselves in competitions on who has the most expensive clothes and this might lead to bullying. Mr Scott agrees: “there are some children who might not have Air Jordan money, or they might not have expensive clothes money so as a result [of the school uniform] they are not bullied or teased. We eliminate that with everybody pretty much wearing the same thing.” Students who are being bullied would otherwise not want to come to school. Teaching and learning is easier when students don’t distract themselves with who has the best clothing.

But uniforms are not the solution to bullying. “Even if you look at a uniform school there is still going to be bullying,” said Daniel, a sophomore. His friend Ethan agreed. “It doesn’t matter what clothes you wear people would still find something to bully you for,” Ethan said. For example, even though everybody wears black shoes, it doesn’t stop people from bullying each other about wearing unpopular brands of shoes instead of Kyries, or Jordans, or Nikes. A more effective way to stop bullying is to celebrate our differences. If we encouraged people to look different and accepted that, bullying would disappear.

Parents agree with the uniform policy because it actually helps save money and time. For example, parents only have to buy a few uniforms, and that helps a lot by saving money rather than having to buy different types of shoes, shirts, etc. Some students enjoy wearing a uniform to school because it saves time in the morning. You don’t waste time standing for hours in front of the closet worrying about what kind of dress to wear to school.

Other students argue that uniforms don’t save that much time because you still have choices about the kind of pants or shoes you have to wear for the weather. Plus, uniforms actually make more laundry because the white shirts get dirty, and it takes time to iron them every day.

All in all, you can have a million debates and you won’t figure out whether it’s better for a school to have a uniform or not. Uniform is uniform. At least uniforms make you look forward to graduating when you don’t have to wear one again!

Advice Column by Kayla D.

How can I stay strong in any situation, and always push myself to be the best that I can be? Also how can I gain confidence? -Anonymous


In life you will have to overcome obstacles, make difficult decisions, and face challenging situations. While these situations are often difficult to handle, the choices that you make will make the path harder or easier. To stay strong in any situation, you need to first believe that you are strong. If you can believe in your strength, then your mindset is already setting you up for success.

To be strong and confident, you also need to surround yourself with positive things and people. You need to have the right people around you. And remember people who bring or drag you down are NOT your friends. A supportive friend motivates you and gives you reassurance that you can handle anything.

Another way to stay strong in situations is a technique that I use myself: I focus on my goals. When I’m in a tough situation, I think about my future and what I want to have happen. For instance, if I have a hard assignment and am feeling discouraged, I think about how I want to pass this test so that I can get good grades and go to college in a couple of years. Yes, it may be hard right now, but this technique helps me remember that all bad things come to an end. You need to push through. Think about success, college, and future plans that will motivate you to keep going.

Finally, think about how everything is temporary. Anything you are going through will end. With good friends and a positive attitude, you can fight through any situation. Stay positive, stay motivated, and nothing can stop you.

Believe in the Gay Black Me! By Keith J.

Imagine you’re eating a meal with your happy, black family, having a laugh or two about what you did when you were a child. All of a sudden you blurt out, “I’m gay,” in front of everyone at the table. What do you think would happen next? Will they continue their conversations about the past, or will they stop and start a new conversation, one about what you’ve just said out your mouth? Some readers might answer, “They’d continue their conversations,” but in reality the family is going to express its “concerns” about your announcement that you are gay.

I’ve had people ask me, “Why did you turn gay?” Well our friendly neighborhood gay fairy came to my room one night and sprinkled rainbow glitter on my forehead and then POOF, thus came a Gay Keith!

Just kidding.

Even though that seems fun and interesting, that is not how being gay — or as contemporary people would say, LGBTQIAP+, which means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, and plus — happens. (So many words, right?) Well there is more to it than just gay or straight. It’s more than just man or woman, and more than you! Being gay, coming out, and the realities of homophobia are on most people’s radars. But somehow the complexities of being gay and African American–or just plain black–are overlooked.

Being gay and being black have something in common: oppression. People will judge you about everything, but being both gay and black elicits high levels of discrimination. It’s like having two targets on your back!

I myself have been:
• Shamed by my own family members on Facebook for posting a cover photo that said, “I’m gay so what.”
• Called derogatory names by my own family members
• Called slurs by students from my school

I am not alone. A high percentage of LGBTQ+ students have been bullied based on other people’s perceptions of them.

The 2013 National School Climate Survey reported that “74.1% of LGBT students were verbally bullied (e.g.,called names, threatened) in the past year because of their sexual orientation.

What if we add some color to the question? According to the National Center for Statistics, “24.7% of African-American” had reported being bullied based on their race. But what if some of those African-American students were apart of the LGBTQ+ community? If those statistics are right, then it doubles the discomfort of the African American students who are already being judged for their race.

How would you feel if you were black and LGBTQ+? Do you think it would be a life you could cope with? Would you be able to fully accept who you are? To be completely honest, it is hard to tell who will live a great life being black and LGBTQ+ because everyone is different. Some might cope with it, might be accepted by their friends and families and live their lives the way they want to. Others might not cope with it so well. They might lose touch with their loved ones and feel bad about themselves. They might become depressed and end their lives because, according to them, a life of exclusion is not worth living.

As African-American LGBTQ+ youth we have to come to a point where we can say, “I should not care for what my family expects from me,” even if it’s being a “real” man or having children in the future. We should be allowed to “Pump It” and be as flamboyant as we want because people literally fought and died for us to have this much freedom, to have our own culture. People like the black gay men who started the voguing trend, Marsha P. Johnson and other black gay icons who showed us that as Black and LGBTQ+, we can do anything! All you need to do is believe it.

Metal Detectors Create Frustration for Outer Borough High School Students by Leslie T, Sharlene O., Nabila A., and Mathilde W.

After a fight outside the Mott Haven Campus in early February, metal detectors were temporarily installed at the campus’ main and rear entrances. Authorities have not identified all those involved in the afternoon fight, but a student from our school was attacked and injured, and different sources say a taser or gun was used.

From the time the devices were installed until their removal in March, students, faculty, school staff , and visitors were all required to pass through the detectors before going on to BLAII, New Explorers, or Careers in Sports. Almost everyone expressed frustration at the inconvenience, invasiveness, and stigma attached to the metal detectors–and, by extension, the campus. Ultimately, this recent experience has convinced us at the BLAII Times that metal detectors do more harm than good to students, teachers, and deans.

In New York City, 91,114 students go through metal detectors every morning. Of those, 48 percent are black students and 38 percent are hispanic students. At the same time, only 14 percent of white students in New York City go through metal detectors. This is an example of racial profiling – where students of color are seen as criminals.

Compared to other boroughs, the Bronx has the highest percentage of students that go through metal detectors. Sixty-two percent of Bronx high school students go through metal detectors, while forty-two percent of Brooklyn high school students go through metal detectors. In Manhattan, 26 percent of high school students go through metal detectors. In Queens, just 20 percent of high school students go through metal detectors, and at the time of this publication there were no metal detectors in use at Staten Island high schools.

According to the Brookings Institute, a non-profit public organization, low income areas oft en have higher crime rates than middle income areas. The Bronx has the highest concentration of low-income residents in New York. School officials believe that the presence of the metal detectors has decreased the number of students getting hurt at school.

We asked deans around BLAII if they wanted the metal detectors here.

“No,” Dean Richards said, “because the staff has to go through them as well.”
Many people especially disagree with the detectors’ location. Dean Richards said, “It should be in front of every school [entrance]; it would make our jobs easier.” Community members must walk around the whole campus just to go through the checkpoint, which takes time out of the school day. Students who usually come to school at around 8:20 are now showing up to first period late or not at all. Hannah Hernandez, a junior in BLAII, said ¨I feel like
we are untrusted. This school has no trust in us.¨ When asked if she wanted the metal detectors here, she said, ¨I feel that the metal detector isn’t going to make it safe, because the situation was outside of the school.” She explained: ¨Since Freshman year I have felt safe, but now I question my safety because of the metal detectors. If the school wasn’t safe then metal detectors should have included before.¨ We asked Hannah her thoughts on the location of the metal detector, and she stated, ¨The location isn’t fair because [BLAII students] have walk across the campus and we have
to climb [many sets of] stairs.¨

Another student, who wanted to be identified only by her first name, Jessica,
told us, ¨To be honest, I feel like a prisoner, and it’s so much work putting my stuff away.¨ When asked if she wanted the detector here, she stated, ¨ No I do not, it’s not [because of] something we did and we shouldn’t be punished for it. I won’t say that I feel safe with the metal detector because there are situations that could be bad that don’t require weapons.¨ When asked her thoughts on the location, she stated, ¨I don’t care about the location, I just want it to be taken away.¨

While teachers did not have to go through the scanners because of their DOE background checks, many still held opinions on the subject. Mr. Mastin stated
that he did not believe metal detectors were necessary because he thinks we have a safe community. When asked if he felt safer with or without scanner he said in both circumstances we are safe. However, he believes that “the location is an inconvenience especially for teachers who teach fi rst period classes.”

When the BLAII Times asked Ms. Getzel if she felt safer with the metal detectors, she responded: “To be honest I don’t think it has any impact.” She then continued, saying, “I used to work at Clinton where students go through scanners every day. It was a relief to know BLAII students are trusted. I [can] appreciate random scanning, but it’s concerning that it has increased recently. I think it’s okay if it’s necessary, but it changes the original culture of BLAII.”

Meet Mr. Sowa by Sharlene O.

Advanced Placement United States History is a difficult class for high school juniors. It’s for honors students recommended by their sophomore-year teachers. If you don’t maintain a minimum grade average you can be kicked out.
It is also a college credited class, meaning it’s as hard as an actual college class and has a college-like teacher. That teacher, Mr. Sowa, says the best way to succeed is to focus more on actually learning, rather than on what grade you might get.

“The best thing a student could do in any class is to actually learn rather than just completing assignments and trying to get a grade,” Mr. Sowa said. “The students I see who are most successful are the ones who try to learn first and apply their learning to whatever the assignment is. It’s not about filling out worksheets or writing stuff it’s about trying to learn. That’s my advice.”

His casual, conversational style may not seem like hard work, but he said it comes with risks. It requires that students adjust their expectations.
“The hardest part of my job is feeling like a failure a lot of the time. All teachers want to be amazing at their jobs. Anyone who wants to be a teacher wants to have a great impact on their students. But it’s really hard to see the progress people make and sometimes you feel you’re not getting anyone anywhere,” he said.

The easiest part, he said, is hanging out with students. “I enjoy hanging out with kids, especially high school kids, who are closer to not being kids.”

Mr. Sowa has different styles for his two challenging classes. For Government classes, he spends more time explaining the worksheets he gives out and puts more notes on the board. In comparison, in the AP class he usually gives out documents and tells his students to make sense of it themselves. There is a lot more reading in the AP class, and it’s more complex.

“For the AP class, there is less broken down material. The expectation is that you are able to figure out more for yourself,” he said. “I’ve been teaching for a while now so I have a lot of experience. Learning from the people I work with and learning from students in terms of what works and what doesn’t.”

Mr. Sowa has learned from other teachers at BLA II too. He said Ms. Lobianco and Ms. Lukelith helped him grow as a teacher. And there are others, too.
“Ms. Callihan was a good mentor of mine when I first came here. Mr. Flynn, Ms. Jacobson, there’s so many people.”

In college, Mr. Sowa came to love history because of his own history teacher. Soon he was passionate about it. The more he learned about the subject, the more he wanted to become a history teacher.

“I know a lot about history now and when you know a lot about something, it makes your passion for it grow,” he said.

Opinion: School Uniforms Are a Good Thing by Leslie T.

Many students in our community complain about wearing uniforms to school. I often overhear students saying that their uniforms are ugly or uncomfortable. People also feel that the uniform negatively impacts the way they present themselves to others because the outfit does not represent who they are.

I believe we need to understand that how we dress reflects who we are. First impressions matter. We judge others based on how they dress–especially when meeting them for the first time. People who wear sneakers and sag their jeans might make an observer believe they are thugs who like to hang out on the street. On the other hand, if they wear dress shoes, khaki pants and a nice shirt, they are automatically seen as educated.

Finally, our uniforms mean that BLAII has fewer bullying problems. Bullying occurs in high school mostly based on someone’s appearance. In our school, everyone looks the same because we wear the same shoes and uniform shirts. This means that bullies have almost nothing to use when they need a reason to pick on someone.

African Immigration Discrimination by Leslie T.

In elementary school, I was called “an African booty-scratcher” for answering a question incorrectly in class. I felt offended by what my classmate said, but I didn’t take it too seriously since I was very young. Some Americans born in the United States view immigrants as people they have never seen before and their cultures as being way different from American culture. Even at school, students of African descent are often discriminated against because of their clothes, religion, language, and physical appearance. A student from Africa who goes to school in the Bronx told me, “Two girls and one boy were laughing at me because I wore a scarf to school and they asked, ‘Is this part of your culture or are you doing this for fun?’”

It’s not appropriate to disrespect someone's culture—that’s like my saying celebrating Halloween is stupid. Not everyone in the world is the same. There are many different religions, cultures, and races in the world. Although many Americans view immigrants as outsiders, 13.3 percent of the United States population are immigrants (over one million people). As of 2015, 4.4 percent of those million people are African immigrants. America’s history is built upon immigrants and the ideas these people contributed to make America as great as it is today.

However, in 2015, our Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted, “My grandparents didn’t come to America all the way from Germany to see it get taken over by immigrants. Not on my watch.” There are many stereotypes about African immigrants here in the United States. African students experience a lot of discrimination, sometimes just because kids can be cruel and say inappropriate things. Since I was young, I've witnessed kids who are not from here being harassed about where they come from. Kids talked about how their parents couldn’t afford to buy them shoes, so they walked around barefoot. Although social media portrays Africa as a place where people live in huts, walk around with no clothes or shoes, hunt for food, etc., these stereotypes are not true.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist who writes books about her life experiences in Nigeria and America. During her 2009 TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Adichie talks about her roommate questioning Adichie about her culture and how she lives. Adichie explains, “She assumed that I did not know how to use a stove.” She also states, “ She asked if she could listen to what she called my ‘tribal music,’ and was consequently very disappointed when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey.” Explaining to Americans that anything you have here in the United States is present in Africa as well is very frustrating. Successful celebrities are known all over the world, so why wouldn’t people in Africa know about these people as well? Adichie thought about why he roommate would think of Africa like this and she finally realized why. She came to understand why her roommate said this. She states, “If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner. I would see Africans in the same way that I, as a child, had seen Fide's family.” Africa on social media has been made into a joke, but children are dying of hunger due to legacies of imperialism and the actions of corrupt governments. Poverty and overcrowding strike Africa as well. Yet, there’s poverty all over the world—I want to know why Africa comes up when people talk about this issue.

On behalf of all immigrants, I’m not saying Americans should do what immigrants are doing, but respect them and allow them to be who they are without feeling uncomfortable. After all, in 2015, President Obama explained, “We don’t simply welcome new immigrants, we don’t simply welcome new arrivals—we are born of immigrants. That is who we are. Immigration is our origin.” The person who discovered America was an immigrant—why hate on immigrants if they were the ones who made America? If you experience discrimination, make sure you correct whatever the person or group of people is saying to you and prove them wrong.

Conflict Between Students by Emmanuella Sally C.

Students in my class told me that last year there were a lot of fights at Bronx Leadership Academy II (BLAII), especially during lunch and gym. This year, the number of fights has gone down, but I didn’t know why. I asked our dean, Ms. Grayman, what made the number of fights decrease from last year to this year. She told me that there used to be longer periods for lunch and gym, and there tended to be more fights then. But now that lunch and gym have shorter periods, and there are more teachers around, students know that they’ll be given detention or suspension for getting into fights. So, it affects the students, and they reduce the fighting. According to one source from 2011, “twenty percent of high school students were bullied at school and thirty-three percent reported being involved in a physical fight last year. In nearly one month, six percent of high school students stayed home because they felt unsafe on their way to school.”

I wanted to know more, so I interviewed Ms. White, a Substance Abuse Prevention Intervention Specialist, after she came to speak to my class about conflict resolution. We spoke two times, in her office and in my French classroom after class.

Emmanuella: May I know the purpose of your job at BLAII?

Ms. White: My purpose here at BLAII is to do prevention lessons for students in the ninth and tenth grades, to prepare them for their experience in high school.

E: What is a conflict resolution?

Ms. W: A conflict resolution is when there’s an argument between two people that cannot be resolved by itself. However, with a mediator or a person to intervene between the two, we are looking for solutions to a problem...and it should be a win-win situation where everyone is comfortable with the resolution to their problem.

E: OK, how does conflict resolution work?

Ms. W: Conflict resolution works in one way in particular: having all parties involved present for a meeting. Each side presents their concerns, [and they look] for a compromise to the problem where each person is in agreement about a resolution.

E: How can students let things go, and not lead to conflict?

Ms. W: For me, in doing classroom presentations, I...show various aspects of what conflicts are [so] students begin to look at them, and recognize them...“Oh, that looks like a conflict. And, what’s a solution?” Rather than thinking, “I have to be always right.”

E: What specifically can they do?

Ms. W: The students can actually learn the skill, and put it to practice... They can actually see something occurring within the school environment, and make suggestions on how the problems can be solved.

E: What are some skills for students to learn?

Ms. W: a) Recognize that problems do exist; b) that problems can be solved; c) if they are not prepared to solve the problems, they could look to a trusted adult for resolution to their problems; and/or d) perhaps recognize that they can solve problems, and apply the skills that they have learned.

E: How do you decide when to stick up for yourself, and when to let it go?

Ms. W: If it’s a violent situation involving fights, you’re not looking for the best way to fight, you’re looking for the best way to not engage in fighting.

Why is it important for students to think about the consequences before they fight? According to the Child Trends Data Bank, “Youth attending schools where fighting is common may be unable to maintain the focus necessary for academic success.” Most students I know want to do well in school so they can go to college. I’m glad to be here, and I’m glad the fights have decreased, so, hopefully, we can all go to college and be successful in life.