Why do students cheat?

Without a doubt, all students have witnessed someone cheat before, or have cheated themselves. From quick homework assignments to massive finals, everyone has done it before.

Academic Integrity, an organization that conducts studies on students and education, surveyed 70,000 American students.

According to this survey, 95% of these students admitted to cheating in some shape or form throughout their academic career.

Whether we try to deny it or not, it is clear that cheating is big problem that is running rampant through the halls of every single school.

Modern technology has only worsened the issue. It has become very easy to get answers to tests and quizzes online, and some students even go as far as to take pictures of assignments and send them around.

Teachers are obviously aware of this issue, and always take steps to try and solve this issue.

Programs like Safe Assign, giving out different versions of tests and quizzes, and collecting phones at the beginning of class are a few examples of measures teachers take to prevent cheating.

“To prevent cheating in my classroom, I have students submit papers into Safe Assign, and I give failing scores if I catch someone cheating,” English 10 Honors teacher Justina Butera said. “Sometimes, I will allow students to retake or redo the assignment, but that just depends on the situation.”

But sometimes, these preventative measures do not work. So what can be done to solve this issue?

The first step is to attempt to understand what causes students to cheat.

Sometimes, students do not cheat because they are immoral people who do not care about the rules. They do it because they think it’s their only option.

Most days, it feels like the modern day education system is set up in order to overwhelm students with an abundance of tasks.

From homework, to studying for tests who always seem to fall on the same day, it is hard to do things correctly and in an orderly fashion.

Adding on extracurriculars like sports and clubs, and making time to spend with friends and family makes the day feel even more restricting.

Students who feel like they have so much to do in a short period of time are more inclined to cheat. The root of this issue is that a lot of students lack time management skills and are procrastinators.

Though this problem is hard to solve, it is entirely possible.

“When I know that I have a lot of assignments to do, I use whatever free time I have to complete my work,” junior Abby Kitila said. “Even if it is just five minutes, that is enough time to solve one math problem or figure out a thesis for an essay.”

Other helpful solutions include making schedules and alarms, and prioritizing important assignments over those that do not matter as much.

Another reason why students cheat is because they simply have poor study skills.

Many students spend a lot of time looking at notes and solving practice problems, but do so in an inefficient manner that does them no good.

Study skills can be developed rather quickly.

Using tools such as Quizlet and studying with friends can be helpful in ensuring that one will comprehend the material well enough to do well on an assignment.

Additionally, there are many people who feel like they need to cheat in order to impress other people, specifically their parents.

A lot of times, parents can unintentionally set extremely high standards that their kids feel like they have to meet in order to please them.

Other people do the most when it comes to cheating not because they want to make their parents happy, but because they want to beat out their friends and peers.

People like this are racked by nerves and feel like they don’t have the potential to reach this high targets on their own, so they turn to cheating.

Students who are struggling with these issues should understand that their grades do not define them. It may be easier to make everyone happy by earning a false grade, but showing off a grade that they earned on their own will feel even better.

While all of these reasons for cheating are understandable, it still does not make passing off someone else’s work as your own okay and acceptable.

Regardless of what troubles someone is going through, they should work hard on their own to earn fair grades.

If a student is struggling, there are many people, such as teachers and peers, who are willing to support you in being the best student you can be – the right and fair way.

Struggling to study?

One of the top reasons that people cheat is not because they are bad people with no morals. Sometimes, people do not have the study skills or knowledge to help them succeed on their own.

Whether one has focus issues or does not understand a concept in class, some people just have a lot of trouble sitting down and preparing for a test.

Thankfully, at there are many resources to help people who need additional support.

1 The Atoms Writing Center

The AWC is a club that is supported by the Advanced Composition class.

The club offers peer tutors who are available to help students edit and revise writing assignments for all classes.

The peer tutors also run workshops on different topics, such as preparation for SOLs and grammar.

Additionally, the website has blogs that give quick tips on similar topics, like the use of punctuation.

Tutors are available to help fellow students during W4, red day lunches, and after school on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Workshops are held every couple weeks.

2 Honor Societies

National Social Studies Honor Society is an honors society that is comprised of the top science students at the school.

The club offers help on all work related to science classes.

Math Honors Societies is another honors society that is always offering to help students with homework and other assignments for math class.

If you are seeking help, you should feel free to talk to your teacher or approach a student that is in one of these clubs to aid you.

3 Give Tutoring

Another great tutoring opportunity that is offered in the community is GIVE tutoring.

Held at multiple different libraries and community centers across the Northern Virginia region, GIVE allows students in the area to seek aid from high school volunteers.

Students of all ages and grades can visit the GIVE website to find convenient locations and times to visit and get help on assignments for all subjects.

Don’t make a mistake

The day that I got caught cheating in my English class was one of the worst days of my life.

It was supposed to be another easy summative assignment.

However, it was not the first time that I had cheated in that class, and I definitely was not planning on it being my last.

Most students who take IB Literature know that we do not write a lot of essays. The first formal writing assignment was in the third quarter and to me, it was unexpected.

Prior to that assignment, most of our grade was heavily weighted on class presentations.

I was not very good at the writing aspect of assignments, but I was a good presenter, so that balanced my grades out.

So when it came time do finally do an essay, I was in a tough position.

I never read the book, and I did not have time to before this essay was due. I had multiple other tests and games during that week, and I kept putting the essay off.

The first thing that I did was ask my friends if they could help, but no one could.

We all picked different passages from the book, so no one could relate to or understand the point that I was trying to make with the passage that I had chosen.

My next step was a decision I will forever regret. I decided that the best thing for me to do was to plagiarize my essay.

I came home the day before it was due and spent hours looking for an essay written about the book that was similar enough to my passage.

After about three hours, I found one that was perfect. I copied and pasted it into a Word document and submitted it in the SafeAssign program on Blackboard.

Safe Assign gives submitters and teachers a percentage of what they believe was plagiarized.

When I saw that the percentage for ‘my’ essay was about 97%, I panicked and quickly hit unsubmit.

I quickly began to edit the essay, change words here and there to decrease the percentage and make the writing seem like my own.

But none of this mattered. Although the plagiarism percentage of my re-submission was far lower, about a 35%, my teacher could see the original submission, so it was glaringly obvious to her that I had cheated.

When I came to school the next day, my teacher confronted me. I had no defense. It was clear that I messed up, and my attempt at hiding it made it much worse.

As she talked to me, I was pretty silent. She was mad, but more in a disappointed way, which made me feel even worse about what I had done.

She said that she had no choice but to give me a referral. I was surprised, but I had no reason to be and deserved this. This was not the first time that she had talked to me about cheating.

I had to talk to an administrator about what had happened. They called my mom and dad, and since this was not my first infraction, I had detention for a week, and I was not allowed to submit my own version of the essay. In the end, I got a zero for my work.

This punishment was big for me. This referral is always going to be on my record, so that means that colleges will see that I have cheated before.

The zero that I got for the assignment did even more damage to what was already a struggling grade.

Additionally, I feel like the label as a ‘cheater’ still follows me, and teachers do not trust me or my own work.

It is not a good feeling, and this experience definitely scared me straight.

Hopefully, listening to what happened to me will have the same effect on you. I hope others do not ever cheat, and that those who do will stop soon.

Today’s youth turning into teenior citizens

In the U.S., the problem of obesity, specifically child-obesity, is only accelerating. The reason why?

Americans lead a life that is way too sedentary. All people do all day is go to work or school and come home and sit all day, and eat meals that are too big in between.

Though developing rapidly, this issue is relatively new.
A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health concluded that children of past generations exercised far more than children do nowadays.

The NIH collected this data by making people from ages 6-84 wear bracelets that tracked how many hours they spent on physical activity and being sedentary.

It also tracked vitals such as blood pressure and heart rate.

Not surprisingly, the study also demonstrated that as age increased, inactivity did as well.

However, there was an unusual outlier in the trend of this data.

The study also showed that middle and high schoolers exercise less than people aged 60 and older.

According to the World Health Organization, children and teenagers are supposed to exercise for a minimum of one hour daily.

The results of the study showed that with ages 6-11, 25% of boys and 50% of girls did not meet this requirement.

With teens, the statistics were even higher, with 50% of boys and 75% of girls aged 12-19 failing to meet the recommendation.

For doctors and parents, these results are extremely worrisome.

Exercise is necessary to build strong bones and muscles.

Daily movement also promotes protection against diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Even more worrisome is the rising level obesity, which are directly related to the decreasing amount of children who exercise.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that the number of children who are obese has tripled since the 1970’s, and is likely to quadruple in another 11 years.

So what is causing children to remain inactive and put on weight?

Most adults claim that the rise of the use of technology as the problem.

While it may seem like they are just trying to pin everything on phones and computers, they do have a point.

Most children who do not do the proper amount of exercise usually spend their time on things like social media and video games.

“When I was a kid, we used to go outside to hang out and play games together,” health and PE teacher ___ Dodd said. “Nowadays, kids can just go on FaceTime and Snapchat to talk to each other, so why even bother to play games outside anymore?”

While adults say that it is technology that distracts students from exercising, students say that it is actually because of a long and strenuous school day.

The average student’s course load is much more heavy now than it was for the last couple generations.

Between honors and IB classes, honors societies, clubs, sports, and spending time with friends, most students have no time to get the necessary eight hours of sleep, let alone time to run a few laps.  

“I am an IB Diploma Candidate, so I take a lot of classes that require more time and effort than previous years,” junior Andres Pacheco-Rivera said. “When I get home, I barely have time to exercise, which is upsetting because I like to be active. I only have time to go to the gym three times a week, which is not as much I would like.”

This theory can also be supported by the evidence from the NIH study.

The evidence collected from the bracelet showed that the most sedentary time of day for students was from 6 am to 7 pm. This encompasses the time spent at school, on homework, and on all extracurricular activities.

It also showed that students who were more apathetic towards school spent more time on exercise.

Regardless of the true source of the problem, one thing is clear: students are not exercising nearly as much as they should.

Many things can be done to sort this issue out.

While not much can be done at school, teachers can try to incorporate activities that make students get out of their seat, even if only for a few minutes.

At home, parents can try to have the whole family exercise together by planning activities such as a walk around the neighborhood.

However, the most change can only be done by students.

All students need to try to incorporate physical activity into their days. Though many might not think so, working out is just as important as eating breakfast in the morning and studying for tests.

Making small lifestyle changes, like walking to school or taking the stairs more often, can add up to the hour of exercise necessary to live a healthy life.

Top five physical benefits of exercising

The sun is shining on a nice breezy day. The sky is blue and clear and there is nothing to do. You plan to think out your day and exercising comes across your mind, but it was for just a second. Exercising has many benefits physically.

Being active is proven to show an increase in clinical health, weight loss, and stress relief. Here are the top ten physical benefits of working out.

1 You lose weight
One of the main benefits of working out is weight loss. This is due to the fact that some people might go to the gym to spend energy. But also, some people may tend to change their ways of eating and go on a diet.

When dieting, reducing your calorie intake will lower your metabolic rate. It is also shown that combining aerobic exercise with training can maximize your fat loss. This is because the movement paired with working out in the gym gives you the utmost amount of fat loss that is possible.

“I like to run after every workout so I can loosen my muscles after a long day of working out,” sophomore Hugo Amaya said. “It makes me have a good time to cool off and is pretty fun in my opinion.”

2 Your lungs get stronger
When you run, your brain sends signals to your lungs to help you breathe faster and deeper, delivering extra oxygen to your muscles. This will relieve your muscles because your lungs are going to be doing all of the work.”

After all of the running, I used to get so tired, but I think I adapted to it,” Amaya said. “After learning about this, it is definite that my lungs have gotten way stronger.”

Exercising regularly will make your lungs stronger over a period of time, making sure you can adapt to the new change of working out. This benefit also ties into getting stronger.

3 Builds muscle
Another benefit of working out is building and maintaining strong bones and muscles. Physical activity such as weightlifting combined with using protein shakes will make it easier.

It is easier due to the fact that when you exercise, it releases hormones that increases your ability to absorb amino acids into your muscles. This is the main reason they grow.

“When I workout, I tend to get sore,” junior Drake Amaya said. “I think my muscles are getting bigger when that happens, but who knows.” As people tend to get older, they lose muscle mass and the muscle’s function, which could lead to injuries. Doing regular exercise is proven to reduce muscle loss and maintaining strength as you age.

4 Clears your skin
When exercising, it can stimulate the blood flow to the skin cells and can help delay the appearance of skin aging.

When skin ages, it is because of the oxidative stress inside your body. This oxidative stress happens when your body’s antioxidant defenses can’t repair the damage that radicals cause to the skin cells. This could lead to damage and deterioration to the skin.

5 Improves your sleep
After a long day of working out or doing a type of exercise, you fall on your bed and fall right to bed. This is because that exercise or working out can help night owls fall to sleep faster and even stay asleep longer to repair the body and maintain energy levels.

When asleep, your brain repairs itself causing your body to go into a deep stage of sleep, but when exercising is thrown into that equation, it enhances it twice fold.

Top five mental benefits of exercising

It’s no doubt that people focus more on the physical aspect of exercise. It basic common sense since exercise is a physical activity.

But that does not mean that the mental aspect of exercise should be ignored.

People who go to the gym daily and play sports do it for one main reason – it makes them feel and think better. Research has shown that exercising daily has multiple positive effects.

1 Depression
Studies have shown that exercising can treat mild to moderate depression to the same extent as medicine.

The good part? It does not have any of the negative side effects that come along with taking medicine.

It also has been shown to reduce the possibility of worsening depression. When exercising, the brain changes in many ways.

It begins to release endorphins, which are chemicals that make people feel better and promote feelings of calmness and joy.

Exercise also serves as a daily distraction for the awful feelings that a depressed person may go through

2 Anxiety
Another issue that exercising can help with is anxiety. Daily physical activity can relieve tension and stress.

The release of endorphins that helps alleviate symptoms of depression can also aid with symptoms of anxiety.

Also, having control over every step of your exercise routine, such as technique, reps, and location, can make people with anxiety feel like they have more control over other parts of their lives.

3 Stress
Having a lot of stress can lead to both physical and mental issues. Thankfully, exercising helps with both.

Stress can lead to physical symptoms such as tightened muscles. Moving your body helps solve these issues, and as the body starts to feel better, the mind does to.

It also serves as a distraction from the stressors in one’s daily life. Exercising can also help with other issues that stem from stress, such as headaches and insomnia, which only stand to worsen one’s stress, and thus their mental health.

People with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) have trouble with concentration and focus.

Putting a lot of time and effort into one activity, such as exercising, can help the mind learn to focus and help with the symptoms of ADHD.

In fact, many doctors tell patients with ADHD to exercise, along with taking medication.

Exercising also makes the brain release chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which help improve a person’s attention span, working practically the same as medicines such as Ritalin, which help with ADHD symptoms.

5 PTSD and Trauma
Many doctors have also considered exercise to be a good strategy to help with the symptoms related to suffering a trauma.

By focusing one’s energy and mind onto exercise, a traumatized person can become “unstuck” from the state of mind that their trauma put them in. Doctors say that this is key to moving on and healing.

6 Self-esteem
Everybody knows that exercising is great for confidence, but they do not know all the reasons.

Of course having a fitter body will make someone feel good about themselves.

However, the chemicals that the brain releases also have a hand in the self-confidence boost that comes with physical activity.

How free is speech in schools?

Just last month, a group of student journalists from Virginia and their advisers visited the Virginia Capitol Building to fight for their right to say whatever they want in their respective newspapers.

With the help of V.A. delegate Chris Hurst, they brought attention to HB2382.

“We were trying to ensure that student journalists have the freedom to determine the content that they are publishing,” English teacher and student newspaper adviser at TJHSST Erinn Harris said.

In Virginia, censorship from school principals and administration has sometimes been a problem.

This issue has been brought up in the courts multiple times, but in the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988), the Supreme Court decided that school principals can reserve the right to censor their students’ newspaper.

Since then, multiple schools in the state, both public schools and universities, have censored stories from students.

Many have even adopted a policy making principals the editors of newspapers.

In March 2015, the principal of Fauquier High School prohibited the publication of a story on dabbing, another way to smoke marijuana.

While this may seem like a non issue, it is frustrating to see school administration try to stifle students’ opinions.

In fact, it can be considered unconstitutional. The fact that it’s a school setting should not hinder people’s rights.

“These types of issues are why we went down there,” Harris said. “We wanted to ensure that all student journalists in Virginia have their first amendment rights and it is not just based on what county or school district your parents sent you to school.”

The bill did not make its way out of committee, and did not advance any further.

At AHS, this issue has never been a problem.

“For us, I do not think this has never been a problem. We do not really get censored, and the administration does not really care about what we say,” senior and newspaper editor Yabi Bereket said.

Still, sometimes teachers do get offended by what is put in the newspaper.

“I have seen teachers come up to students that have written a story about something related to them because they are mad, and sometimes even try to get stories removed,” Bereket said.

But none of this has ever really come to fruition.

Still, this begs the question: what other rights do students have and are they protected at AHS?

The outline of a student’s rights in a public school setting all began in Des Moines, IA in 1965.

Five students, whose parents had a background in civil rights activism, decided to wear black bands on their arms to make a statement about the injustices of the Vietnam War.

Once the school administrators heard about the mini-protest, they decided to make a regulation stating that any middle and high students seen with the arm band would be suspended.

Three of those students — John Tinker, his sister Mary Beth, and their friend Christopher Eckhardt — were suspended upon their arrival on campus.

Despite this small roadblock, these teens were able to make a change when it came to the application of the First Amendment in schools.

Four years later, the Supreme Court determined that students have the rights to freely express themselves in public schools, as long as it does not cause any disruptions.

But as students become more aware of social issues and become more open about sharing their beliefs, it is time to ask: is this right upheld justly at our school?

Before one even begins to answer the question, it is important to know one thing: in what manners does the court mean when it says that students can freely “express themselves?”

According to the ACLU, students should not be prohibited in what they wear, what they say, what they write, and how they choose to behave, as long as they are not disruptive.

Looking at that list, one factor stands out: the fact that we can express themselves through clothing.

The FCPS Student Rights and Responsibility has a long list of clothing and accessories that cannot be worn during the school day, such as hats, tank tops, skirts of certain lengths, spiked belts, and clothing with drug paraphernalia and gang promotion.

While some of these restrictions may seem unfair, the courts have recognized that school administrators need to maintain an environment that is safe for all students.

Administrators are charged with minimizing disruption in the school day as much as possible.

That’s why they try to limit sexually provocative and criminally related clothing.

When that is considered, it makes perfect sense that clothing that features a marijuana leaf or a gang sign would be
prohibited, but it may not be as easy to understand when it comes to clothing.

When it comes to what we say and write at school, there are not many restrictions.

“I feel like generally, most teachers allow us to express ourselves through words in any way we want to,” junior Abby Kitila said.

However, many students have gotten in trouble for using curse words.

The forbiddance of curse words in arguments or bullying is just, as a fight would distract other students in the room.

But nowadays, people – teens and adults – use terms that would be deemed ‘inappropriate’ by some in regular conversation.

It is just the way people talk nowadays, and it is not meant to harm anyone.

Still, many people get called out by teachers, and sometimes even receive referrals, for tossing around these words.

While minor, this can also be viewed by some as a violation of student’s rights.

The last right given to students is the ability to express ourselves through our actions.

For the most part, AHS is a model to look up to when it comes to this.

To examine this point, one just needs to recall the on-campus march against President Donald Trump’s election in Nov. of 2016.

Or more recently, the March for Our Lives Protest that was held on campus in March of last year,

Hundreds of students walked out in the middle of class, posters in hand, to walk around the stadium in support of gun reform.

None of the teachers restricted the students from leaving. Some even encouraged involvement.

The administration did not punish any students who participated, but went outside with students to make sure it was safe.

For this, the administration should be commended.

This type of behavior is exactly what the ruling of Tinker v. Des Moines (1969) encouraged: student expression without school restriction.

All in all, while there are a few unfair limitations placed on our expression at AHS, it is safe to say that our rights are respected most of the time, and at a further extent than at other schools.

Take caution with your words

One quick scroll through my timeline on Twitter and I see at least three people cursing each other out and spreading verbal harassment in a back and forth manner.

People even go as far as to spread libelous things about one another. Hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, have liked and retweeted.

In doing so, they are spreading this hatred to their followers, and their followers followers, and so on.

This type of behavior isn’t unique to just my Twitter timeline. It’s seen by everyone constantly on all social media – Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat.

It isn’t exclusive to teens who are bullying either. These sorts of exchanges are common in all age groups and

Celebrities, and even politicians, can be seen having an argument that’s nearly crossing the line between healthy and toxic.

Slurs, bigotry, sensitive topics – nothing is off limits in these harmful conversations.

Most of these apps and websites have rules and regulations regarding hate speech and other things that can be
deemed abusive.

In the past they haven’t been very useful, but lately, they’re beginning to take a stand.

Last December, Tumblr put a ban on all adult content. Any photos, text posts, and accounts that had any sort of sexual content were removed immediately.

Over the past few months, Twitter has begun to suspend all accounts that use any sort of derogatory term. Still, hatred filled accounts that don’t use slurs have been allowed to remain.

Lately, Instagram has started an initiative to monitor users who visit pages or click on hashtags with highly sensitive content.

Why is this? Because not everything needs to be seen and heard by everyone.

The things that people put on social media and the media created in Hollywood, such as movies, films, and music, are readily available.

This means that anyone can see it, including young children and impressionable people.

It’s fairly easy for a five year old to go on Spotify or YouTube and listen to any number of songs with inappropriate words. Or they can even find pornography if they search for long enough.

This isn’t right or okay. Older students can deal with this information, but it shouldn’t be this easy for younger ones to come across it, too.

Viewing that sort of thing can desensitize children, and make them think things like drugs and violence are normal and acceptable. We should be working to protect children and preserve their ignorance to that sort of thing for as long as possible.

Additionally, it is not only kids that don’t want to hear and see inappropriate things. There’s lots of older people who have valid reasons as well.

Personally, I don’t care, but if someone has religious, moral, or cultural reasons for not wanting to hear about tasteless thing, then that right should be protected and respected.

Another problem with the notion of free speech is that people use it to excuse awful language.

Time and time again, people who have been accused of using racially or sexually insensitive language have attempted to use the first amendment to defend themselves.

Even school bullies try to use it as justification.

This is morally wrong. The writers of the Constitution did not give the American people these freedoms so that they can use them to spread hate about others.

These protections exist for people who have meaningful things to say, not for harmful vindication.

Time and time again, we’ve made multiple exceptions to people’s first amendment rights.

Spreading hateful messages should be made an exception to because why should we force people to have to deal with repugnant language?

Censorship may not be the best thing in the world, but it’s a fair solution in a world where people are beginning to care less and less about how what they say and write affects other people.

Limiting speech stifles students

You turn on the radio. Your favorite song by J. Cole is playing, but the audio cuts out at all the curse words.

You go to school and read a book with adult themes for your English class. Everyone dances around the odd situation, and the use of certain terms are prohibited by your teacher, even though they’re used in the book.

You come home from school and wait for a new episode of your favorite television show, New Girl, but remember that it only comes on after 9 P.M.

Why? Because the little kids are asleep and won’t end up watching it accidentally.

These are all examples of censorship, which is sadly seen everywhere nowadays. We have started letting other people determine what we should be able to hear and see.

How did we end up in a society filled with such disdain for the truth? Censorship is an inescapable part of all our

Since the beginning of civilization, people have been plagued by a never-ending battle, fought over what is deemed right and what is deemed wrong.

However, there is no reason in continually attempting to skew the truth by hiding the cold, hard facts with the intention of “shielding” or “protecting” the public.

It makes me wonder: what is the value in meddling with everyone’s rights and allowing them to believe that they live in a perfect world? A fantasy? There is none.

In today’s society, censorship is used in more ways than one could imagine.

The movies and television shows that we watch, and even the musical tunes that we listen to, appear to be filtered in one way or another. Most recently, censorship in music is possibly the most relevant form of censorship.

Popular songs, such as XXXTentacion’s “Sad!” and Drake’s “Nice For What,” whose lyrics are filled with curse words and messages regarding suicide, are becoming targets in yet another round of music censorship.

It is disturbing to watch as censorship slowly takes away the rights that we have been granted for hundreds of years.

When the United States was first established, the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution for a reason: to guarantee us freedoms and rights, such as free speech and free press.

With censorship, these freedoms are stifled and breached.

We need to express our ideas or beliefs however we feel appropriate. Why should outside sources influence our thoughts and actions?

We should be allowed to say whatever we want and let whoever we want to
hear it, hear it.

Our country was built around the idea of everyone having a free, unchanged, uncensored voice. Therefore, censorship is impeding our progress as a society.

In addition, many argue that censoring music from messages of sex, drugs, and violence protects the innocent and youthful ears of children and teenagers.

Parents worry that their children would be exposed to derogatory language and images, such as porn and violence, that they think would ultimately be harmful towards their behavior.

However, do people really think that hearing swears words in a movie, television show or song would indeed harm children and teenagers?

Kids these days will ultimately find ways to watch pornographic content on the internet or even explicit versions of music.

The online world today is too vast and extensive to hinder children from being exposed to such content.

They always find a way to learn about the real world, which is inevitable.

Living in a prim, neat and polished lifestyle filled with rainbows and unicorns do not reflect the real world.

Our own president can be seen throwing around inappropriate terms. Sex scenes are unavoidable on television and movies.

The real world can be ugly and gruesome, but people have to learn to live with it and move on.

Kids and teenagers need to be exposed to these messages now to be better prepared for the time where they fully enter the real world.

It’s understandable that many people do not like the thought of children using profanity or of children
watching inappropriate videos.

However, the reality is that the world is not perfect.

The sooner that children realize the reality that perfection is not available to us in this world, the sooner we can begin living lives because of the imperfections.

I say this for all of my fellow teenagers: we can protect ourselves just fine, thank you.

Summer jobs teach students new skills

Need some money for college or new clothes. Why not get a job this summer?
Last summer, senior Hemen Besufekad worked at Papa John’s in Alexandria.
“I worked on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays,” Besufekad said. “On average, I worked for about five hours, and I was only paid $7 an hour.”
Despite the little pay she got, Besufekad was okay with her job.
“I didn’t work too much, and I wasn’t trying to make the money for anything serious, so I didn’t mind,” Besufekad said.
The application process for her job was quick and easy.
“I saw a sign that they were hiring, and I didn’t have a lot to do over the summer. I just went in one day and picked up an application.”
The application was like any other basic one. It asked for general information, references, and availability.
“If you’ve never had a job before, you shouldn’t freak out about references. They know this is your first job and don’t expect much. I just put down the extracurriculars that I participate in at school to show my work ethic,” Besufekad said.
After she submitted her application, Besufekad received a call from the manager asking to come in for an interview.
“The interview was as simple as the application. They asked basic questions: why do you want to work here? Why should we hire you?” Besufekad said.
After the interview, the turn around from prospective to employee was quick. The manager called within a few days and offered Besufekad the job.
While working, Besufekad dabbled in a bit of everything.
“None of the employees really have any specific titles, except for the managers. During my time there, I made pizzas, cleaned up the store, and worked the register,” Besufekad said.
When speaking of her summer there, Besufekad seemed indifferent.
“It was okay being there. Not perfect, but not terrible. It wasn’t a super fun job. I would have liked a higher wage, but the work wasn’t too hard and the people were decent,” she said.
One thing that made the job more enjoyable for Besufekad was the friends she made while she was there.
“My coworkers were very nice, and most of them were other high schoolers or in the same age range,” Besufekad said. “They were easy to talk to, so we all used to pass the time by talking about our lives and plans.”
Although she didn’t make much money, Besufekad did put her wages to good use.
“There isn’t anything that I really need, so I gave all my money to my mom to pay for bills,” Besufekad said.
Additionally, Besufekad was grateful for new work experience.
“Now I know small skills to use in future jobs,” Besufekad said.
For other prospective employees, Besufekad has one piece of advice.
“Don’t waste all of your money on dumb stuff like food or movies. Use it to help your family or save for a car. Use it for important things.”

Journeys provide new experiences

If you need a break from Annandale, maybe a vacation should be on your list of plans for the upcoming summer.
Family, fishing, and fun. These were the elements of senior Phillip Barlow’s trip to Clearwater, Florida this past summer.
“I went there with my older brother, and we stayed with my uncle for nine days,” Barlow said.
Barlow and his brother took a plane, and were met by their uncle at the
“My uncle is also our godfather, and it is always a lot of fun to spend time with him,” Barlow said.
While the main point of the trip was to spend time with his uncle, Barlow ended up doing much more.
“We went deep sea fishing and watched old James Bond movies,” Barlow said. “We also helped my uncle work on a car, his old 1973 Malibu.”
Planning a trip can be very stressful, especially if the traveler is unorganized or a procrastinator.
For Barlow, it was a quick and easy process, as he often takes trips to his uncle’s house.
“Not much planning or thought went into it. All that we had to do was buy plane tickets for us to be able to go there,” Barlow said.
Although his trip was easy to plan out, Barlow had some advice for others who might not be so lucky.
“Before you buy a ticket or plan a road trip, you should figure out where you are going to stay,” Barlow said.
Next, Barlow suggested that one should plan out activities to do on the trip.
“Your trip is not going to be fun if you don’t plan it ahead of time,” Barlow said.
Barlow, who has family members all over the country, takes many trips
during the year.
“I also visit other family in other
places, such as Illinois, Michigan, and
southern Virginia. I like to be anywhere outdoors,” Barlow said.
Despite how short his vacation in Florida was, Barlow had nothing but nice things to say about it.
“I really enjoyed my trip, and I would go back there again.”
A vacation can be the perfect way to unwind and relax from a stressful school year. You don’t have to go out of the country; all you need to do is find somewhere new to have new experiences.

Students enriched through internships

If there’s a certain subject that you’re interested in, and you need to add things to your college application, then an internship or volunteering opportunity might be the thing for you.
Junior Emily Shawish has been volunteering at the National Aquarium in Baltimore since June.
“I had been looking for internships and camps to do to make me more well-rounded, and I’ve been a member of the aquarium for a couple years. When I saw the internship, I immediately wanted to apply,” Shawish said.
The application process for the job was tedious. First, Shawish had to mail in an essay explaining why she wanted to volunteer at the aquarium.
“I have always been interested in marine biology, so the essay wasn’t too hard,” Shawish said.
Next, Shawish had to come in for an interview.
Questions ranged from basic information to in-depth ones having to do with marine science, climate change, and animals in general.
The last step of the application process was to give a presentation on a topic.
“The point of the presentation was so that the administrators could see how well I could communicate with an audience,” Shawish said.
While the internship was for an aquarium, applicants could give a presentation on anything. Shawish, who is a member of the school’s orchestra, decided to do hers on music.
“I brought in my violin, played two short pieces, and talked to them about the impact that music has on our day to day lives.”
Shawish was accepted in the early winter, but she still had a lot of work to do.
She had to go to trainings during winter and spring.
“I didn’t start the actual volunteering until June of last year, but the trainings took place months before then,” Shawish said.
The trainings served as a time for Shawish and other volunteers to understand their responsibilities.
It was also a chance for the administrators to see what the volunteers were capable of.
Shawish worked as a volunteer exhibit guide. Her role was to be on the floor, and be there to talk to visitor and answer any questions that they may have.
“The exhibits guides are there to help enrich the guests’ experience and to make sure that they leave with a better understanding of marine science,” Shawish said.
This includes having conversations with visitors in order to engage them and getting them to understand the problems that the environment is going through.
“We’re supposed to make them think,” Shawish said.
When she first started in the summer, Shawish volunteered for two days a week. Her shifts were about four hours long.
“By the end of the summer, I had already worked for 116 hours,” Shawish said.
Now that the school year has started, Shawish’s hours have been cut back. She now works every other Sunday for four hours.
“The shorter hours are beneficial because it makes it easier to balance with school and other activities, like sports,” Shawish said. “But at the same time, it makes me kind of sad because I love being there so much.”
Ever since she started working at the aquarium, Shawish has further developed her love for marine science.
“The aquarium is easily my favorite place in the world. Everyone there is so passionate about marine science and protecting marine life. Seeing people like that every day makes me want to make a difference in the world,” Shawish said.
One other pro that Shawish mentioned was being able to see animals all the time.
“I loved the fact that I could go to any exhibit I wanted. One time, I was even allowed to go in and play with the dolphins.”
This summer, Shawish plans on continuing her work at the National Aquarium. She has also applied to Governor’s School, and is also looking at other summer programs related to marine science.
“My advice for other people looking at internships and other programs would be to apply to everything that you can. Through an internship, you can make connections with people who can help you later in life. It also looks great on college applications,” Shawish said.