Teen Motherhood: A Life is Created, Does One Have to Be Ruined?

By Matilda Kreider

I’m sitting in a classroom in my high school with a girl I’ve known since middle school, preparing for an interview. We are the same age and we grew up in the same town, but our lives exist on different planes. I’m still just someone’s daughter, but she is someone’s mother.

With that knowledge in mind, I expect things between us to feel strange, but they don’t. Charlene is as kind and easy to talk to as I remembered, and with no baby in the room, it is easy to forget how different our lives are. Halfway through the interview, though, Charlene’s mother walks in with baby Valeria, and suddenly the room expands to fit two new generations.

Charlene with her mother, Charlene, and baby Valeria; Photo Credit: Brianna Linehan
Charlene with her mother, Charlene, and baby Valeria;
Photo Credit: Brianna Linehan

Teen motherhood is treated like a curse more than a blessing, but to be someone’s parent is still a remarkable joy, as evidenced by Charlene’s mom, who is glowing while watching Charlene, and by Charlene, who is happily holding Valeria on her lap. The presence of her baby has transformed Charlene into a Wonder Woman type, constantly giving Valeria attention while still giving thoughtful answers to my questions.

Why do we reduce these special kinds of teenagers to anything less than they are? Balancing school, jobs, and children and still trying to sneak in something fun that resembles the average teenager’s life is incredibly difficult and should be admired, not put down. But there’s a reason we discourage teens from following this path.

Becoming a mother during the teen years is undoubtedly difficult. Though older mothers are not guaranteed to be more prepared for motherhood, they are more likely to have completed their education and reached financial independence. The burdens of child care and financial support often fall upon the families of young parents while the teens themselves are trying to stay in school or earn an income.

Charlene’s mom, also named Charlene, doesn’t seem like she holds a grudge for the extra burden, but Charlene tells me that she was terrified to tell her mom about her pregnancy. Her mom had had her at the later age of 27, and she had done a lot of things to try to prevent a teen pregnancy from happening. “I thought she’d, like, kick me out of the house or something, but she didn’t,” Charlene remembers. “She would just cry every time she would look at me.”

When she first learned of her pregnancy, Charlene seriously considered other options; she didn’t have a good relationship with the baby’s father, and it didn’t seem right to bring a child into the world into a bad situation. After deciding against an abortion, she considered adoption but then realized, “I didn’t want her to think [that I didn’t want her] because I always told myself if I gave her up for adoption that I didn’t give her up because I didn’t want her, I gave her up because I couldn’t care for her. I was in high school, it was hard, no one was there to help me.”

Of course, she is now happy with the decision she made, and it isn’t quite as hard as she expected, perhaps due to the addition of a new, more committed boyfriend. “My mom is there, you know, my boyfriend’s there for me and everything. And, you know, it’s easy now.”

Raising Valeria on a day-to-day basis may be easier than Charlene expected, but everything that comes along with being a mother could stand in the way of what she wants for herself. Charlene knows that she is going to have to make sacrifices to achieve her goals, and she only hopes that Valeria will come to understand her decisions. Compared to the average teenager whose career goals involve making a lot of money, her motivations really are noble. She knows even more than the average teenager that education is less a rite of passage and more a ticket to a better life.

“I know some teen moms, they just drop out of high school, and that’s the worst thing you could ever do,” she explains, her tone final. “Because if you go to school and get an education, you can give her everything you could want, everything she wants. If you don’t have an education, you can’t get a career, you can’t give her what she wants or what she needs. It’s gonna be hard.”

Either way, it’s going to be hard. For young mothers like Charlene who hope to get an education, the odds are not stacked in their favor. Only 40 percent of teen mothers complete high school, and only 2 percent earn a college degree before the age of 30. Yet the teenage idealism is still there in Rodriguez, who looks at her future the same way that any teenager does. She thinks realistically about what may have to change, but she doesn’t foresee failure in any scenario.

“In all honesty,” Charlene declares, “I think I will be able to finish college because if they have daycare, I can always put her in that. And I have some other people that can help out.” That kind of simple, practical approach may be indicative of her naivete, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work, especially with a mother as dedicated to education as Charlene is.

Charlene with baby Valeria; Photo Credit: Brianna Linehan

If many teenage mothers approach education with that mentality, why are so few of them successful in obtaining high-level degrees? It could be that the right support is not there for them; in a country without paid maternity leave or affordable childcare, it is certainly not easy to work, study, and parent all at once. If one out of the three has to go, it’s not going to be the job or the child. There will never be more than 2 percent of teen moms graduating college if nothing changes on a societal level; schools and workplaces should be encouraging young parents to achieve, not making it harder for them to do so.

For her part, Charlene thinks our high school is doing a good job helping her get to graduation. She’s enrolled in a program called Horizons that allows students to attend school for only half the day and follow a different curriculum, and she credits the program with keeping her in school. Still, our high school limits all students to 13 absences for each class period per 90 day semester, and though Charlene has no chip on her shoulder about this, it would be reasonable to be frustrated. 13 absences is fair for a teen who just wants to stay home and sleep, but it seems stingy for a young parent who might need to stay home with a sick child or to give her mom a day off from babysitting duty.

Sadly, a lack of education is harmful to more than just the teen mother herself. Nearly two-thirds of families started by teen mothers will be poor, and the children may not escape this cycle of poverty; two-thirds of children born to teen mothers will graduate high school, compared to 81% of children born to older parents.

As a mother, Charlene expects more for her child. When asked about her hopes for Valeria, Charlene looks down at her and seems to think out loud, saying, “I hope that she does not go the same way I did.. That she goes to school, does well in school, goes to college. I hope she does what she desires. Whatever she wants she should be free to do. I hope everything goes well for her when she’s growing up.” To hope that no obstacles fall in your child’s way is only natural for a parent, but teen mothers have more to be concerned about than any other demographic.

This dire outlook could make one wonder if girls like Charlene have “ruined their lives,” as the oft-repeated warning goes. A baby is a blessing, but a baby born to a teen mom is a crisis- what a strange way to be brought into the world. With big dreams of getting her degrees and buying herself a house, Charlene doesn’t seem to think her life has been ruined, but she is very open and honest in saying, “I don’t think you should be a teen  mom because it’s pretty hard for me, and if it’s hard for me, then I guess it would be hard for any other teenager.” She doesn’t regret having her baby, but she wishes the timing had been different.

Though the statistics are not a comfort, Charlene seems confident that she’s on the right path. One day, she hopes Valeria will be grateful and “understand the fact that she has a good mom with her and her mom did everything she could because I’m trying to do everything I can.”

Though that sentiment is the most mature thing I’ve ever heard come from a teenager, I’m reminded that Charlene is really a kid when she compares her journey to something straight out of driving school. “If you get in that right lane, don’t go left, because everything will just go downhill,” she advises. “But if you go downhill, just know if you have the right support, you can get back up there again. Because that’s what happened to me.”

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published as part of my Capstone project, a magazine called “Introducing…” and has been adapted for The Buzz. It is a particularly prevalent piece in a school with a student body that typically contains 4-5 student parents at a time.

11 People to Think About on MLK, Jr. Day

From the Editor

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., and only a few weeks away from Black History Month, our first post of the year is about modern black men and women whose names you should know. Some stood side by side with MLK, Jr., while others are fighting for equality today. Some dedicated their lives to civil rights, some made memorable stands in the name of justice, and some are shattering barriers just by achieving in their fields.

Photo Credit: fashiongonerogue.com
Photo Credit: fashiongonerogue

Amandla Stenberg

You probably know her as Rue in The Hunger Games, but this 17-year-old actress and activist is much more than that. She made headlines last year for calling out Kylie Jenner for wearing cornrows– a hairstyle that originated in black culture- and she has used social media to educate others about cultural appropriation. She is TeenVogue’s February 2016 cover girl and has a large social media following.

In her video “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” Amandla explains that “appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves.” She asks the question “What America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”

Photo Credit: PBS
Photo Credit: PBS

Ruby Bridges                         

In 1960, Bridges was a sweet, smart 6-year-old who had proven her aptitude to enter an all-white school; when she did so, becoming the first African-American to enter an all-white school in the South, she faced terrible backlash. Since then, she has dedicated her life to fighting racism.

 

Marilyn Mosby

Photo Credit: Twitter
Photo Credit: Twitter

On May 1st, 2015, Mosby, Baltimore’s city attorney, charged six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody in April 2015. Coming from a family of police officers, and after many police brutality cases where police officers escaped without a charge, it took a lot of guts for Mosby to do her job. She saw nothing special in what she did, saying, “I’m not conflicted about charging these police officers. I believe in applying justice fairly and equally, and that is what our system is built upon.”       

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Ava DuVernay

DuVernay is a director and screenwriter who has shattered a lot of glass ceilings in her career. She was the first black woman to win Best Director as Sundance, which she did with her second feature film Middle of Nowhere in 2012, and she was the first black woman director to have her film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. That was for Selma, a film about one of MLK, Jr.’s legendary marches, at last year’s Oscars.

 

 

 

Margaret Walker

Photo Credit: Margaret Walker
Photo Credit: Margaret Walker

Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1915, Walker overcame her circumstances to attend Northwestern University, attain a PhD, teach literature at the college level for 30 years, be a part of the African-American literary movement in Chicago, and write award-winning poems and novels about slavery. In her most famous poem “For My People,” she writes

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn 
    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the 
    people who and the places where and the days when, in 
    memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we 
    were black and poor and small and different and nobody 
    cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood
She ends by calling for a “new race of men” that is not divided by hatred and will not repeat the terrible things this one has done.
Photo Credit: blackthen.com
Photo Credit: blackthen.com

Coretta Scott King

Everyone knows her husband, but not everyone knows Coretta. After MLK, Jr.’s assassination, she did not fall to the wayside- she stood up to take his place. She was a prominent leader of the civil rights, women’s, and LGBT movements up until her death in 2006. She pushed for the establishment of today’s holiday as a way to commemorate the work her husband did.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: colorlines.com
Photo Credit: colorlines.com

John Lewis

Lewis was one of the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement alongside MLK, Jr. (DuVernay’s film Selma involves Lewis as a character), and he risked his life by participating in sit-ins and the 1961 Freedom Rides. Since he joined Congress in 1987, he has continued to fight for racial equality. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Looking back on his experience, he said, “It was not enough to come and listen to a great sermon or message every Sunday morning and be confined to those four walls and those four corners. You had to get out and do something.”

 

Photo Credit: The Badger Herald
Photo Credit: The Badger Herald

Rosa Clemente 

Clemente is a journalist, 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate, and community organizer who focuses on making the voices of young people of color heard. She created the National Hip-Hop Convention in 2003, bringing together 3000 activists of the “hip-hop generation,” and she worked with the Black Lives Matter movement in 2015.

 

Nina Simone

Photo Credit: Netflix
Photo Credit: Netflix

Nina Simone was an incredibly talented jazz, blues, and folk artist who was “the voice of the civil rights movement” of the ’60s. She went to Juilliard on scholarship for classical piano but had to leave for monetary reasons. That didn’t matter, though, as she rose to fame anyway, and her songs became anthems for civil rights. She was an inspiration for artists from Aretha Franklin to Joni Mitchell. A Netflix documentary about her life called What Happened, Miss Simone? is nominated for Best Documentary at this year’s Oscars.

 

obama
Photo Credit: Slate

Barack Obama                          

After Obama was elected President in 2008, John Lewis, who is also on this list, said, “When we were organizing voter-registration drives, going on the Freedom Rides, sitting in, coming here to Washington for the first time, getting arrested, going to jail, being beaten, I never thought—I never dreamed—of the possibility that an African American would one day be elected president of the United States.”

Whether or not you agree with his decisions or like him as President, it’s important to remember that he went somewhere black men and women would never have dreamed about a few generations ago: the White House. He did not eradicate racism with that move, but he took an important step. When his term ends in November, that is something that will stay in the history books.

 

Members of the Black Lives Matter Movement

Photo Credit: Nation of Change
Photo Credit: Nation of Change

It is controversial, of course, but change always is. No one likes change- except those who are oppressed. This movement began on Twitter after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in shooting death of Trayvon Martin. BLM, which has no set structure or central leadership, now campaigns internationally against violence against black people, focusing mostly on police brutality and inequality in the U.S. Justice System. Activists have now begun to put pressure on 2016 Presidential candidates to state their positions on these issues.

 

 

Editor’s Note: The Buzz hopes that, in 2016 is a year in which the nation advances in terms of racial equality and justice rather than taking steps back. We hope that you think about men and women like these when you need hope or inspiration in the coming year.

Movie Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

By Meghan Cusack

Photo Credit: wikimedia.org

Thirty-eight years ago, the world was introduced to a galaxy far, far away. There, we met a farmer on Tatooine named Luke Skywalker. Skywalker and his friends Han and Leia, went on to be three of the most iconic characters in cinematic history.

After the notorious prequels and cartoon television spin-offs, the original trio is back for another set of adventures. However, they are not the main characters anymore; in The Force Awakens, we meet a new group of characters who will soon become the new heroes of Star Wars for a new generation of fans.

I have personally seen the movie twice now and can say that I found it enjoyable. After seeing the original three films back in elementary school, I became a fan and was ecstatic for the release of the new movies.

Without going into too much detail of the film (so I do not spoil it for those who have yet to see it), there are a few things that I would like to say about this film. The direction that JJ Abrams took with the new plot was somewhat bold but it paid off. The most likable new character was the female lead, Rey, played by Daisy Ridley. She was one of the better developed characters due to her complex backstory and overall personality. Rey definitely seems to be set to be the main protagonist of the new set of Star Wars movies.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) in The Force Awakens      Photo Credit: makingstarwars.net

The other new character that dominated the screen was Finn, portrayed by John Boyega. He did not give off the same type of heroic vibe as Rey did, but his character definitely seems like one to watch- he has the potential to be another iconic and memorable character of the saga.

Out of the returning Star Wars cast members, a group that included Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford was the most enjoyable to watch. Ford still felt like Han Solo and brought the same humor and charm that he brought to the previous films. To be able to see him and Chewbacca to pilot the Millennium Falcon again was truly a nostalgic moment for fans.

On its opening day of December 18th, the film grossed $119.1 million, marking the first time a film has earned more than $100 million in a single day. After five days, it had earned $529 million worldwide- the biggest worldwide opening of any film. It has a 94% approval rating on film critic website Rotten Tomatoes.

To those who have yet to see the new film, I would highly recommend that you go see it. For those who have yet to see the originals, I would recommend watching them prior to seeing the new film.

15 Must-Watch Classic Holiday Movies

By Matilda Kreider

Everyone knows Elf, Home Alone, and The Polar Express. Here are fifteen beloved older movies you may not know as well.

15. Mister. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)

Photo Credit: wtax.com

This animated TV version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” features the character Mr. Magoo as a Ebenezer Scrooge-type who doesn’t believe in Christmas.

14. The Little Drummer Boy (1968)

Photo Credit: christmas-specials.wikia.com

Using the stop-motion style made famous by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, this 25-minute TV short tells the story of an orphan drummer boy who has lost his love for humanity until he encounters three wisemen while on the way to Bethlehem.

13. Frosty the Snowman (1969)

Photo Credit: moviewriternyu.wordpress.com

Everyone knows the story- neighborhood kids find a magical top hat that brings their snowman to life- but not everyone has seen the original 25-minute TV short. It has multiple sequels, including Frosty Returns.

12. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

Photo Credit: imdb.com

In this stop-motion TV special, Santa decides to go on vacation and leave Christmas up to his elves to see if they can prove that people still believe in Santa Claus.

11. Holiday Inn (1942)

Photo Credit: shinyshiny.tv

Featuring legends like Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, this movie is about the romantic escapades of performers at a hotel. It was the precursor to the more well-known Crosby film White Christmas.

10. A Christmas Story (1983)

Photo Credit: christmas-specials.wikia.com

Though not as old as the others on this list, A Christmas Story belongs on this list. Ralphie’s triumphs and trials in the days leading up to Christmas have become beloved to many film lovers.

9. White Christmas (1954)

Photo Credit: hollandparktheater.com

Bing Crosby returns in this follow-up to Holiday Inn, this time playing a member of a two-man singing group. His group, along with a female singing duo, plans a Christmas show to save a failing inn in Rural Vermont.

8. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Photo Credit: fanpop.com

This romance-holiday film starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan follows the story of an independent big-city journalist who poses as a homemaker for her newspaper recipe column. As a publicity stunt, she’s forced to invite a WWII veteran to “her” Connecticut home, where it won’t be long before everyone learns the truth about her.

7. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Photo Credit: playbuzz.com

We all know the Rudolph song, but did you know it was this stop-motion TV special that created the story of Rudolph as we know it? This version goes back to Rudolph’s roots and gives background on the bullying he encountered before coming to the aid of Santa Claus that foggy night.

6. Scrooge (1970)

Photo Credit: alifeatthemovies.com

Scrooge is one of the most famous representations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Miserable Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to encourage him to change his miserly ways.

5. Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970)

Photo Credit: weeatfilms.com

My most favorite stop-motion TV special tells the story of Kris Kringle, from birth to becoming Santa Claus. Narrated by Fred Astaire and featuring Mickey Rooney as the voice of Kris Kringle, this film is the source of the songs “One Foot in Front of the Other” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Photo Credit: flickr.com

What’s more in the holiday spirit than Charlie Brown’s desperate attempts to send the message “Christmastime is here, happiness and cheer”? From the nativity pageant to Charlie’s sparse little tree, this 30-minute TV short is an iconic must-see.

3. A Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Photo Credit: schmoesknow.com

Some may know the 1994 version featuring Mara Wilson (who would later play Matilda in Matilda), but this is the original. A man claiming to be the real Kris Kringle begins work as the Macy’s Santa Claus and begins to draw attention from psychologists and Santa-lovers alike. Natalie Wood (Maria in West Side Story) adorably plays a Santa-skeptical, wise-beyond-her-years little girl.

2. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

Photo Credit: screeninsults.com

We all know the debate over the 2000 live-action version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express, but neither compares to the original 25-minute TV special. It’s my go-to Christmas Eve midnight movie- the story of the Grinch stealing Christmas cheer from Whoville on Christmas Eve and learning the error of his ways is just right for the occasion.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Photo Credit: youtube.com

Not only is this my favorite Christmas movie, it is my all-time favorite movie. It follows George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart), a great guy who loses his way as parts of his life turn out differently than he had hoped. On Christmas Eve, he tries to commit suicide but is saved by an angel who shows him what the world would have been like if he had never been born. It escapes cheesiness by being very real and beautiful- if you watch only one movie off the list this winter break, make it this one!

Here at the Buzz we hope you have a great winter break- we’ll see you back at BHS on January 4th.

More Than Just English Extra Credit: Why You Should See “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

By Cara Delucia

Fall Play

As you may or may not know, a small section of the BHS Performing Arts department will be putting on William Shakespeare’s classic comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this week. This is not to be confused with the department’s spring musical, a separate production that is put on around the end of March, which I encourage you all to see as well.

As someone who has been a part of the fall play cast all four years of my high school career, I know very well that this small budget production has become synonymous with one thing: English extra credit.  Though they are unique and entertaining, the stories Mrs. Ogren has chosen over the years don’t always capture the attention they deserve. Often times the stories are fairly hard to follow and this translates to kids as “unbearable”, which I can understand! As I sat for two and a half hours to watch Guilford High School’s fall play production of Arcadia, a show focusing on the life and discoveries of a young female math prodigy, I often found myself getting lost in the mathematical portion of the plot and I certainly wasn’t getting any help toward my math grade for sitting through it.

I believe the fact that most English teachers offer extra credit for those that attend production is fantastic- I even get to take advantage of it myself for being a cast member. However, I encourage all of those who decide to pay the five dollars for a full vocab quiz credit to look for more in the piece our cast will put on for you.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is one of the most performed plays in the world and is known as Shakespeare’s most famous comedy. The show revolves around a series of plots existing in both a normal human world and a mythical fairy land. Fairies and humans find themselves at odds with each other throughout the story, resulting in some unfortunate yet hilarious situations.

By setting the show artistically in Caribbean style, director Mrs. Ogren brings a well known story into a unique and new perspective. She was aided in the process by assistant director Mr. Matthiessen, who helped bring the story to life.

Having participated in the play for four years, I know that we always put on interesting shows, but I was ecstatic when I learned that this year’s play was going to be one of my very favorites. I can’t expect my peers to appreciate it in the way I do, but it breaks my heart that they often don’t give it a chance. If you plan on coming to the show, try to get into it! Do some research ahead of time and get to know the plot so that the Shakespearean language doesn’t throw you off. Please, come for the extra credit, but if you manage to walk away from the production with something more, think about how it must feel for the cast to be able to give that to you.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be playing in the BHS auditorium Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30pm; tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults; and don’t forget to ask your English teacher about extra credit.

Editor’s Note: Come see staff writer Cara Delucia perform as Titania, queen of the fairies.

Op-Ed: “Snowcoming” 2015: Moving Beyond Sexism in Sadie Hawkins

By Claira Janover

Photo Credit: Kathryn Cooke
Homecoming 2014, Photo Credit: Kathryn Cooke

Let’s talk Homecoming. This year’s third annual Sadie Hawkins’s “Girls Ask Guys” themed homecoming, or “Snowcoming” is set for December 11.

This Sadie Hawkins’s themed dance has gained popularity thanks to Student Council, which began the tradition with the first Sadie’s homecoming in 2013. It’s also popular because it’s been a way for girls to turn upside down the gender-specific tradition of boys asking girls.

Or is it?

As I was writing up a list of possible puns to use to ask a guy to homecoming, questions struck me: What is the history behind this dance? Isn’t a “girls ask guys” themed homecoming dance just reinforcing the gender stereotype that guys are the inherent gender expected to ask their dates to dances?

Looking into the historical significance of Sadie Hawkins themed dances, I realized that there is a subtly-rooted sexism behind the existence of this particular type of dance… a sentiment that we as a society may have moved beyond but that is nonetheless still very present when exploring this history.

What I mean by this is, when Sadie Hawkins was first portrayed in Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip in 1937, it was a political satire mocking a woman’s role in asserting herself. Sadie’s father, who was afraid of his daughter dying alone, decreed a Sadie Hawkins Day in which unmarried gals could pursue the town’s bachelors, but only on that day.

Fast-forward to modern day Sadie’s themed dances, where we see a change in the social responsibilities of gender roles on the premise that this is the one dance of the year where women can take control of what they want. This notion seems quite backwards to me considering that it suggests that there needs to be a special theme for it to be socially acceptable for girls to ask guys to a dance. It bolsters the notion that, under normal social circumstances, it is guys who should ask girls. A similar counterpart would be if there were a “Scott Hawkins” day in which girls asked guys to “make them sandwiches,” or “stay in the kitchen.” It embodies the same sexist undertone: the girl and the boy switch their proscribed gender roles as determined by society.

According to the girls that I asked at Branford High School, there’s no longer a question of whether or not it’s socially acceptable for a girl to ask a guy, regardless of the circumstance. It was widely agreed that girls should feel empowered where and whenever to ask a boy out.  However the very implication that “empowered” is used to describe this action further demonstrates that, even half a century after the Sadie Hawkins’s cartoon came out, it is still somewhat of a political declaration for a girl to ask a guy out or to a dance unless made the “norm” by a Sadie’s themed dance.

On the other hand, BHS’s homecoming is a dance unlike any other, in which students from all grades are allowed to attend with whomever they choose. Additionally, it’s a dance that really encourages girls to make a move they’d otherwise be hesitant to do. In fact, for many girls at BHS the Sadie’s theme is less about the delineation of gender roles, and more about celebrating the girls at BHS.

“I think having a girls-ask-guys dance is a fun way to give girls a chance to be creative while also taking some pressure off the guys,” said Lily Kirby, co-president of Student Council. “It definitely creates an atmosphere where girls can take charge of their experience and be a little brave in ways they might not have otherwise. In general it’s all for fun and everyone should definitely think of some cute ways to ask other people, it’s a great way to raise school spirit and bond.”

Which is true, and should be noted that, regardless of the motives behind the themed dance, the ultimate result is tons of girls turning a tradition upside-down and redefining a traditionally-gendered gesture, even if it’s largely because of the theme.

Don’t mistake my criticism for this theme as a disapproval of Snowcoming at BHS. Being on Student Council, which coordinates Snowcoming, I very much support and look forward to this year’s dance. It has always been a huge boost in the school’s overall morale, a great dance that includes everyone regardless of grade, and a highly anticipated time for Instagram and social media to blow up with creative and funny homecoming proposals.

Nonetheless, it’s important to understand the historically-rooted sentiments behind such a theme as Sadie Hawkins’s in hopes that in the future this type of dance is no longer necessary to compel girls to feel like they can ask boys. After all, a person’s gender should not have any bearing on whether or not they can initiate dates.

Tickets are $7, and if you bring in non-perishable food items, $5.

For more information about Homecoming 2015, feel free to ask anyone on Student Council or come to a meeting for yourself. Student Council meets Monday’s afterschool in the F-Wing Lecture hall.  

 

Dropping SBA Test in Favor of SAT is the Right Answer

The PSAT is an efficient way for students to prepare for standardized testing.

By Matilda Kreider

For those juniors who had been dreading taking the state’s new Smarter Balance Assessment (SBA), Governor Dannel Malloy brought some good news recently: the state dropped SBA and plans instead to use the SAT as an evaluative test.

Perhaps most exciting is that the SAT will be free for all Connecticut juniors. This change will benefit Connecticut students by reducing the amount of time spent on testing each year and by leveling the playing field when it comes to college preparation.

The SAT is undergoing a redesign itself and a new version of it will be rolled out in January.

Standardized testing is a big burden on students who are already stressed and over-worked. Most juniors in high school who are looking at colleges or thinking about future plans want to learn things that are relevant to their success and focus on AP tests and the SAT; they do not want to take tests that have no effect on their transcript and serve only to help the state evaluate them.

Junior Andy Salerno is “very grateful” to have the SBA replaced with a “more accessible SAT”. When asked about the change, he said “I think it’s a great opportunity for us. I believe that standardized tests [like the SBA] don’t necessarily benefit us and aren’t needed in school.”

Last year’s SBA results showed that very, very few students scored well on the test, most likely because the majority of students chose not to take the testing seriously. Less than 20 percent of 11th graders met or exceeded minimum standards in math. In English language arts, 35 percent met or exceeded minimum standards. This week students began getting letters mailed home with their individual SBA results.

Some students, including senior Lily Kirby, found the test format frustrating. She voiced that she “found the format of the SBA to be difficult and confusing to work with,” pointing out specifically, “the passages seemed excessively long for the types of questions being asked.”

Other seniors who took the test found that the questions were unlike anything they saw on a daily basis and that some sections required specific knowledge rather than testing problem-solving or logic skills. Luckily for this year’s juniors, they will not have to deal with a test that is so far from what they have learned.

The state worked with the College Board, which produces the SAT, to create a test that reflects what Connecticut students are learning in the classroom rather than the universal SAT most students in the U.S. take.

Being able to take the SAT for free and during school may give many students opportunities they wouldn’t have had in the past. In the past, 85% of Connecticut students have paid the $50 or more it takes to take the test, but some students were limited in how many times they could take it because of the high price. This new policy is especially important in low-income school systems where students may be at a disadvantage compared to peers in higher-income communities.

Though better-funded schools and expensive SAT preparation classes and tutors still keep the playing field from being level, this is a step in the right direction.

 

Opinion: BHS Should Treat E-Cigs as Tobacco

By Shilpa Rajbahak

The trend of smoking cigarettes is back with a new look. It’s not that regular old cigarette that releases smoke or needs to be lit up anymore. With growing electronics in this era of technology, even cigarettes have caught up. Like most other electronics, the use of e-cigarettes or “e-cig” has grown in the United State.

“The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association estimates about 4 million Americans now use battery powered cigarettes,” ABC News reported. And the number of U.S. middle and high school student e-smokers has doubled between 2011 and 2012.

The cigarettes companies advertise their products effectively, attracting the younger generation with varieties of flavors and colors. “Currently, there are more than 250 brands of “e-cigarettes” available in such flavors as watermelon, pink bubble gum and Java, and in more colors than the iPhone 5C,” according to ABC News.

As a result, BHS has recently applied the tobacco policy to e-cigarettes, effectively making them illegal in school. BHS made the right decision by making this school policy stricter.

Several health issues have been related with the use of e-cigarettes. Health problems can easily impact the education and academic performances of the students in an adverse way. This new policy will aid to decrease health issues of students that can stand as an obstacle in future.

Many cigarette smoking students seem disappointed by this new policy. They argue that e-cigarettes helps them quit smoking. These students view e-cigarette as a better health alternative than using tobacco. But, sadly their belief aren’t factual. Not many researches have been conducted and from the few that has been conducted, don’t prove the safety of the e-cigarettes. Therefore the belief of e-cigarette helping to quit smoking still remains as a theory.

These students blinded by the advertisements and peer pressure, have no idea of the dangerous chemicals used in the product. The Huffington Post reported that “A 2009 FDA analysis of e-cigarettes from two leading brands found that the samples contained carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals, including diethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze.”

Other brands have not gone through a scientific analysis yet. Researchers all around the world have conducted varieties of experiments with e-cigarettes. After similar testing, USA Today pointed out that “the University of Athens in Greece found e-cigarettes caused breathing problems or ‘significant airway resistance’ after 10 minutes of use in eight non-smokers and 11 smokers with normal lung function. They found no immediate lung effect in the 13 smokers tested who have either asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” Since it takes longer period of time for e-cigarette to affect the smokers than non-smokers, it provides more time and opportunity to stop e-cigarettes’ popularity.

Along with chemicals involved in smoking e-cigarettes, the public is unaware of the manufacturing conditions of them. Researchers followed the path of manufacturing of e-cigarette and found that they were manufactured in China under no control conditions. So, how can this product be trusted to do any benefit to humans, especially high school students?

According to Richard Hurt, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center, the story of e-cigarette is not yet complete. Too many factors are unknown to make this invention acceptable for public use. FDA still fights for these e-cigarettes to be banned until proven safe or categorize it as a regular cigarette and apply the same laws.

Even if e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they should still fall under the tobacco policy in BHS. This policy will keep all the students and teachers of the building safe and away from addictive drugs such as nicotine found in all cigarettes. Hopefully, it will also encourage the students to stay away from such injurious and hazardous trends.

What do you think?

Editor's note: BHS student Shilpa Rajbahak wrote this editorial in response to the school's change in policy aimed at electronic cigarettes. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of The Branford Buzz.

From the Editor: Your Vote Counts, Only if you Make it Count

ivoted1By: Sam Bailey-Loomis, Editor

A few weeks ago, some friends and I decided we wanted to stop by a certain political party headquarters to get some lawn signs to support our favored candidate. Whilst we were there, we asked some party official if they would like some help from us on election day.

The official gladly accepted our help, and assigned us all to different tasks. I was assigned to be an unofficial name checker for my political party. While I was marking off names and observing the voters coming in, my blood pressure rose. It was apparent to me that I saw only one youth voter come to cast a ballot.

Since I am not quite of age to register to vote, I was eager to place my vote for Selectman, Town Clerk, and more, so I could attribute to the voice of the youth, but, being unable to do so, it was highly aggravating to see that the youth that I was a part of took no active role in this election.

Once my shift was over at the middle school, I made an appearance to the different voting districts to observe if youth were in other parts of the town casting votes… none, absolutely none, from what I observed.

Now, for those of you who know Mr. Gruendel (he teaches Current Issues, APUSHistory, and Worldviews, etc.), he always jokingly threatens his students with the fact that if he one day finds out that we didn’t take advantage of our constitutional right to vote, he would find us and fail us- after we’ve graduated. As absurd and hilarious as that sounds, he makes a very good point. Why weren’t there any voters from the youth at the polls this past Tuesday?

According to Cirlce, it is interesting to know that 45% of young people age 18-29 voted in 2012, down from 51% in 2008. Additionally,

  • 46 million young people ages 18-29 years old are eligible to vote, while 39 million seniors are eligible to vote
  • Young people (18-29) make up 21% of the voting eligible population in the U.S.

Project Vote tells us that

  • Approximately 21 million citizens under the age of 30 did not vote in 2008.
  • If younger citizens had voted at the same rate as those aged 30 and over, 7 million more people would have cast ballots in the election.

The votes from the youth whom did not vote could have drastically changed the course of our nation. What students and young adults, who are indifferent to voting, do not realize is that the most crucial parts of their early lives including student loans, taxes, and health care are all things that could potentially be based on one vote.

In Branford,out of the 30,000 some odd number of residents living in Branford, only 7,246 cast official votes, according to the town’s official polling count. Take into account that out of the 30,000, only about 20,000 or so are adults, and less than that are registered voters. Still, we need to know that the minimum number of registered voters is around 10 or 15,000. So, the big question, where we the other few thousand of voters yesterday?

The one vote you cast is equally as important as the millions cast in each election. And, if you do vote, you will have the right to complain, considering you gave your input through the election. If you don’t vote, some believe you cannot justifiably complain about what is happening in the country at the time, considering at one point, that voter was totally indifferent.

It is all of our civic duties to take an active role in voting for our local officials, president, senators, and more. Your vote DOES count, but only if you make it count.

I have high hopes of seeing more young faces at the polls next time around- you know where you’ll find me.

Congratulations to Jamie Cosgrove on becoming Branford’s new Selectman.

 

Is Pro-Life Club Cause for Concern?

The newly formed Branford High Right to Life Club has stirred a little controversy. The newly formed Knitting Club has not.

By Marisa Kaplita

Editor-In-Chief

Two different clubs have emerged at BHS in the past month; one I have heard almost nothing about and one that I can’t stop hearing about.

The knitting club has already had several meetings and they have plans to knit things to sell to raise money for students who can’t afford to take SATs.  Personally I think that these are a great group of kids trying their best to be model citizens.

However, by this school’s standards that isn’t even worth talking about.  Especially now, with a group of “religious, rock-throwing, terrorist pro-life” activists banding together to defragment the entire fabric lines of the school’s reform system, how would we even get a chance to talk about the knitting club?

Recently, a Pro-Life Club – Branford Students For Life – was organized at BHS, prompting a parent to complain to the Board of Education.

For video of the meeting, click here.

Furthermore, our own school’s obsession on the negative drama is overwhelmingly upsetting.  It is amazing how creative people can be when they don’t have actual facts to work off of.

So I have investigated the matter, and guess what? The mystery is solved!  But unfortunately for all you thrill seekers there are no rocks involved and no one is going to throw a religious pamphlet down your throat.

Sam Bailey-Loomis, founder of the Pro-Life Club, spoke with The Buzz her plans for the club.  At meetings she is planning to coordinate fundraisers, show different films, have open debates between club members, and have informed speakers come and talk to the students.

Her interest in starting this group stems back to her first year of high school and she brought her message public this  fall when she wrote several anti-abortion messages on the school sidewalk as part of National Pro-Life Chalk Day.

For those students who believe this is a religious group, according to Bailey-Loomis, she says “the group is completely secluded from any religious perspective.” She stated that she would be fine talking with any student separately if they wanted to discuss something on a religious basis, however, “my group is backed by science and morals and we will only discuss the facts and the truth.”

“There’s time for a change in this school.”  Bailey-Loomis concluded. “If the school is so diverse they should be encompassing of everything.”

According the club’s mission statement, members of the club “work to protect life from conception to natural death, particularly those lives threatened by abortion, infanticide, embryonic stem cell research and euthanasia.  In furtherance of these goals, members seek to promote respect from life at Branford High School and on a local, state and national level, to educate on life issues, to help those in need so that life is a promising choice and to work with others who share common goals.”

Ten students attended the first meeting on Friday, February 22nd, and three become committed members of the club.  “Students from all different views were at the meeting – some were even pro-choice… I was glad to see that although we had differing perspectives, these students kept an open mind!”

When asked if anyone came to “check-up” on their meeting, Bailey Loomis said, “No. No one from administration, no one from Board of Ed, and no parents.  Just curious open minded students.”

She has plans to have future meetings for any student with any viewpoint to come and learn.  She also says she is open to anyone who wants to talk to her about the club; just go up to her, and start asking questions.

In the meantime maybe our town needs to stop being so quick to make decisions based on stereotypes and start asking around for the facts.   We can’t all be reporters, but we all know how to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to question everything, because that’s when you start to get to the facts.

What do you think about the club? Leave your comments below or on Facebook.

(editor’s note: Bailey-Loomis  is also a reporter for The Buzz .)