The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

The Review

The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

The Review

The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

The Review

Opinions Package: A review from the Middle School 2024

Middle School students share their thoughts on a wide range of issues.
Creative Commons (PaperCity Magazine)
Exoplanets (Azam Ali)

One day you may be able to live on a planet made of diamonds. You could walk outside and experience shimmering lights reflecting off the ground. This experience would only be possible if we continue exploring exoplanets.

Every year, we explore beyond our solar system and discover exoplanets, which  NASA defines as “a planet outside of our solar system that usually orbits another star in our galaxy.” Exploring exoplanets is vital for us to thrive in our universe, so we must continue to find more.

Space has always mesmerized me. I even started my own space company called Hope In Rockets. I want it to be the first space company to put humans on exoplanets. I dream of exploring space and discovering a world of other beings.

Exploring exoplanets is important to thrive in our universe. If we find a habitable exoplanet, we can conduct experiments on it and live there if Earth becomes uninhabitable. We can also obtain many resources from exoplanets, which contain valuable materials. NASA has even found a planet 40 light years away that is made almost entirely of diamonds. 

Exploring exoplanets can open the door for finding other life in our universe. We could change the future as we know it. If extraterrestrial beings can survive on their planet, they must be sophisticated. Perhaps they could help us solve problems and engineer new technology. 

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” President John F. Kennedy said during his famous 1962 speech at Rice University. 

After Kennedy’s speech, the space community started working to land a man on the moon, which NASA achieved in July 1969. Thus, if someone stands up and declares that we need to put more effort into finding exoplanets, we will do it.

Scientists don't just search for exoplanets for scientific purposes; they do so because it makes them happy. “I search for exoplanets for the journey of exploration,” said Sara Seager, astrophysicist, planetary scientist and exoplanet researcher at MIT. “It’s incredibly exciting to come across a planet that is different or new and exciting—even in some small way—from planets known before.”  

One light year is 5,879,000,000,000 miles, which takes the average rocket 41,555 years to travel. The closest exoplanet is Proxima Centauri b, which is about 4.2 light years away. As of April, NASA has confirmed the existence of over 5,600 exoplanets. 

We can find exoplanets by sending probes out into space and taking pictures of exoplanets. The most efficient and common way of finding exoplanets is transit, which occurs when a planet passes between a star and its viewer. Transits in our solar system can be seen when Venus or Mercury travel between Earth and the sun. NASA has also found more than 10,000 possible unconfirmed exoplanets. When we have more ways to find exoplanets in the future, we could find tens of thousands of them. 

Who knows? Maybe one day you might be able to choose what planet to live on.

Diversity in Hollywood (Laxmi Badlani)

When I imagine Hollywood, I don't think of people like me. I imagine the stereotypical American in a fancy outfit and white gloves, waving at flashing lights and cameras with perfect white smiles as they receive stacks of awards. I imagine movie stars talking to interviewers on the red carpet about all of the time and effort they’ve put into their careers to be where they are today as their trophy gleams in the spotlight. 

I’m not saying that they don’t deserve this praise since they must’ve won these awards for a reason. I'm simply speaking up for the female actors and people of color in the audience. I'm speaking up for the time and effort they’ve given without praise. 

A recent survey conducted by Statista states that the most popular Disney princesses are Cinderella, Snow White and Belle. Princesses of color like Jasmine, Mulan and Tiana aren’t even in the Top Five. The live action version of "Aladdin" was much more successful in terms of box office sales and award nominations than live-action "Cinderella," yet "Aladdin" won fewer awards and received little recognition from the public.

Representation in terms of race and gender has barely grown in Hollywood, even decreasing at some points. According to Time, the percentage of female characters with speaking roles increased from 29.9% in 2007 to 34.6% last year. Many have highlighted this inequality. Hollywood is aware of this, yet it has done little to address this issue. 

Hollywood has produced huge blockbusters such as “Avengers: Endgame” and “Jurassic Park.” From romance to mystery, its films were all combinations of hard work on and off screen. Unfortunately, some movies and actors got more recognition than others.At the 2015 and 2016 Oscars, only white male actors were nominated for awards. Soon, the hashtag #Oscarssowhite was all over the internet, which became so popular that it was noticed by Hollywood producers themselves, leading to a spike in people of color appearing in lead roles.

Disney+ now has content warnings on some old films like "Aladdin" due to the harmful and inaccurate stereotypes portrayed in the movie. While these actions might not be a lot or seem like much, there is still progress that is being made today.

You don’t need a script to tell the truth. Express how you feel about this inequality to others, and the message will soon get around. Show support to people who might feel insecure about their own race and gender because these are things nobody should ever be insecure about. If Hollywood can’t raise awareness, you can. Everyone should feel seen in the film industry.

We need to give more support to Ukraine (Andrew Bigman)

In March 1989, my family fled Soviet oppression in search of a better life in the United States. So now, I can't sit by and turn a blind eye while Ukraine fights for its sovereignty and freedom against the iron fist of the Russian Federation. It's time for the United States to step up and provide the full support that Ukraine so desperately needs in its struggle for freedom.

The day that Vladimir Putin launched his invasion, President Biden authorized the first aid package to be sent to Ukraine. Since then, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States has sent about $44 billion in aid to Ukraine. That may seem like a lot, but a 2024 PDF published by the White House stated that the federal budget was about $12.5 trillion, so what we’ve donated is just a drop in the bucket. The United States has only been giving about 0.35% of their annual budget to Ukraine. This amount is not enough. 

Many people might wonder: Why does it affect us? Why should we be helping out a country all the way across the world? There are many reasons, the most vital of which is a domino effect. China has been preparing to invade Taiwan, an escalation could happen in the Middle East and countless other global problems could arise. A Russian victory in Ukraine would encourage other aggressive nations to start their own “special military operations.” 

If Ukraine falls under the control of Vladimir Putin, so much time, money and lives will go to waste. Putin will have exactly what he needs to continue the dream of one of his predecessors, one of the most infamous, cruel dictators of all time: Joseph Stalin. In the late 1950s, the Soviet Union had a dream to expand, to conquer more land and to spread their communist beliefs. Now, Vladimir Putin is trying to bring back this dream. He wants his country to challenge the West, in terms of military, allies and economy. He wants to spread his totalitarian beliefs through the whole world. We need to preserve what we, and our country, have spent countless years fighting for—freedom.

However, Putin’s regime hasn’t been very loyal to him, as we saw in the Wagner Putsch, when the Wagner Mercenary group sponsored by Russia rebelled against the government. Putin was in a difficult situation in which a rebel force advanced halfway to Moscow. Luckily for Putin, Yevgheny Prigozhin ended his march just 125 miles outside Moscow but not without wreaking havoc among the Russian leadership.

Where is our support going today? Why does Ukraine need this money? Well, to fend for themselves. Ukraine’s military is outdated and cannot put up a fight against the Russians, but Western armies can. Most of the money we donate actually goes to American factories, which produce weapons that go directly to Ukraine and help them defend their country. This means that no harm is happening to our economy while we actively support our allies and help stop Putin’s expansionary dream. For example, in the initial attack on Kyiv, the Ukrainians relied on American weapons and their own soldiers successfully defended their capital. The Ukrainians defeated the Russians in their capital city with advanced weapons and willpower. If we stop our donations, the weapons will run out and Ukraine will become Russian territory.

No one wants to see another world war. No one wants to see history repeat itself. No one wants the United States involved in a full-scale war. No one wants to see millions, if not billions of deaths again. So write a letter to your representative expressing your thoughts on Ukraine, or donate to one of the numerous organizations that send your money directly to the aid of the Ukrainian people. We cannot let Ukraine fall into the hands of Vladimir Putin.

Softball needs more recognition than baseball (Caroline Cozart)

I surveyed 10 of my classmates and asked if they knew what the Women’s Professional Fastpitch is. Only one person knew.

Then I asked the same people if they knew what Major League Baseball is. Everyone knew.

I expected these results because kids mainly watch whatever their parents like to watch. Right now, my mom is watching a college softball game. And college softball is always on in my house. I love it. There are amazing, crazy plays and the players are so skilled and talented—it’s so exciting! Some people watch a lot of baseball, football and many other sports but that’s not what I’m worried about—it's the sheer number of people who watch softball. It’s low, but it really shouldn’t be.

At least five times I have been in an argument about which is harder: softball or baseball? I always say that softball is harder because the pitching mound is so close and players have a really short reaction time. And the person arguing for baseball usually says softballs are huge and that they are so much easier to hit.

According to Bartleby research in the article “Why is Softball Harder than Baseball,” they conclude that “Softball is harder than baseball because of the size of the bats and balls, the reaction time and the difference in pitching.”   

Most people think hitting a softball is easy. In reality, it’s a lot more challenging than baseball because the ball is bigger in softball, but the barrel of the bat is a lot skinnier. Therefore, hitting the ball solidly is a lot harder. And in baseball, the ball is smaller, but the barrel is a lot bigger, so it is harder to hit a grounder or easy pop-up. I think most people know more about baseball than softball, so they are making this whole argument without even knowing the physics behind the other sport.

According to ESPN, Monica Abbott is the first women’s pro fastpitch player to get a million-dollar contract. While that contract says something about her abilities, the average MLB contract is $4.9 million. And the reason for that difference is simple: more people watch pro baseball. In many sports that are similar that both genders play, the men always are more popular or get more views.

I love softball. I've been playing since I was seven. This last year I started working harder on softball than I have ever before. I am dedicated, and so are many other kids, so wouldn’t it be helpful if we had someone to look up to? For baseball kids, that could be anyone in the majors. But I didn't even know softball had a pro league before I started researching this article. 

I didn’t know what the WPF was because it’s not on ESPN, so not many people know it exists. MLB, on the other hand, is on every single channel during the playoffs. At least that’s what it feels like. I thought there was just college softball before I started this article. Pro softball needs more recognition because young players need role models. And who is better than a pro?

I challenge everyone reading this article to watch any softball game: college, pro or even your sister’s softball game. And if you watch carefully, I promise you will see what I see in the amazing sport of softball.

ADHD: The misunderstood disorder (Alice Danziger)

A few months ago, my now 10-year-old brother was diagnosed with ADHD. Then, a few weeks ago, he won a writing award at his school. I was proud of him for winning this award while managing his disorder. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder have many symptoms, which include daydreaming, losing possessions, fidgeting or squirming, talking excessively, making careless mistakes, impulsivity, or having trouble taking turns. ADHD is a prevalent learning difference, but it is still widely misunderstood.

A 2023 article by the CDC notes that 9.8% of children have ADHD. When put into perspective, that is a lot. A misconception is that people with ADHD cannot get good grades or that they need to “try harder” when they are not succeeding in something they are doing.

One 2021 study by Vara Saripalli disproves the myth that people with ADHD cannot excel in school. Saripalli found that ADHD affects self-control and memory—not intelligence. My brother gets all A’s on his tests and quizzes. He is also in the accelerated classes for math and reading. My dad, who also has ADHD, is great at math and runs his own business. This stereotype of ADHD students being poor performers in academic endeavors is untrue and unfair to those who have ADHD.

The same article by Saripalli mentioned that telling people with ADHD to try harder is unkind and does not help those with ADHD to perform better. This article compared people with ADHD to people with poor vision. Telling people who cannot see well to “see better” won’t help anything, and neither will telling people who have ADHD to try harder. Glasses can help people with poor vision whereas medication helps people with ADHD. 

People with ADHD are smart, successful individuals, and stereotypes about them should come to an end. Students with ADHD are trying their best, which is good to remember. Next time you meet someone with ADHD, accept it and don’t stereotype them. See the positive in it. My brother proudly won an award for his essay while also having ADHD. My family and I always try to support my brother in whatever he is doing.

Scars or Success: Should you play football? (Joe Dawson)

Only 18% of kids are allowed to play football. Many parents say, “If you need pads, you can’t play.” Or, “I don’t want Damar Hamlin to happen to you.” News flash: Did you know that there are more youth concussions in cheerleading than football? 

These limits are completely unfair. Parents use near-impossible exaggerations of the worst possible injuries that have happened in the game. It is like if your mom said, “I don’t want you to get a car because you could get in a wreck.” Sure, there are some risks to football, but the rewards of learning life lessons like teamwork, leadership and more are as valuable as gold in today’s society. 

The average person probably considers football a dangerous sport. Players have pads and helmets, go head to head with each other and hit the ground frequently. However, football is also the most watched sport in the US. Most children will imitate things they find interesting. For example, if Bob watches a lot of football, Bob will go outside and play football alone. Sooner or later, Bob will want to play actual football, and mom or dad will sign him up for “Bobville Youth football.” What if Bob wasn’t allowed to sign up for youth football? He might abandon his passion entirely, which would make him feel left out, or he could develop a desire for it that was higher than it was before, which, after long enough, could eventually lead to depression or school troubles.

According to a University of Maryland study by Kevin Blackistone and Sapna Bansil, for many of the underprivileged in society, football offers an opportunity to attend college via a scholarship. This gives them an opportunity to get an education. People who might struggle to get by could become wealthy and then give back to the community that raised them. Football builds lifelong bonds between people. Football changes lives. 

Additionally, according to a study by Harvard Health, football helps combat many health problems like obesity, vitamin D deficiency, and arthritis, among others. Football teaches indispensable life skills including leadership, hardship, friendship and a bunch of other things that end in “-ship.” Without football, I would not be the same person. I would have difficulty controlling my emotions. I would be highlighting what I did wrong instead of what I did well. I would blame myself for others' mistakes even if they weren’t my fault. Football has made me who I am; why are we preventing it?

Playing football helps me learn valuable skills, make friends and get outside. Football has the potential to, and has, changed lives. If it works, don’t fix it. 

If you have been paying attention and you aren’t the most stubborn 53-year-old in the world, you hopefully have had a change in tune, even just slightly, in your feelings about football. If you are in that 18% of people who can play football, great! If you are in that 82% that believe that football’s risks outweigh its values, maybe try looking from a different angle (I heard 63° is life-changing). If you aren’t allowed to play football, use this article to base an argument against your parents. (e.g. “Mom, I was reading this amazing article by Joe Dawson, who is really funny and cool”…) I hope you enjoyed my breathtaking sense of humor and wit. Thank you for reading this, be nice and go score a touchdown.

Parents should let their kids play football (Jackson Dugan)

Eighteen percent of parents let their kids play youth football every year. Parents will not let their kids play football without doing the research necessary to fully understand the sport. As a result, parents usually don't let their kids play football. However, parents should let their kids play because it helps their mental health and social connections, improves their physique and it can help them with schoolwork and cognitive ability. 

Personally, football has strengthened old friendships and built new ones. I have many memories playing football with my buddies in my back yard or during break at school, but never in a real league or team. That all changed this year when I applied to St. John’s and wanted to make new friends. Football immediately came to my mind. I knew many of my fellow students and friends were playing, so I joined the team and gave it my best shot. The hard work of running sprints and memorizing plays created a connection between us. Eventually, I was invited to carpools and sleepovers with my teammates. These new friendships and the overall improvement of my mental health would not have happened without football. 

Additionally, football improves your physique and hand-eye coordination. According to the NFL’s website for youth football, the sport can improve cardiovascular health through drills.

When people think about dangerous youth sports, football comes to most people's minds, but they could not be more wrong. According to Harvard Health, more injuries happen in youth cheerleading than in youth football. In fact, many professional football players, including the Manning brothers, encourage youth football. The brothers have fueled the growth of many organizations that allow and teach kids the basics of how to play the correct way, which prevents unnecessary injuries. 

Many youth football leagues, including my own, emphasize tackling the correct way. Some ways leagues can enforce this is through teaching tackling with wrap up drills and tackling dummies.  

Finally, football can help with your schoolwork. An article in 2014 by the U.S Health News states that football improves your cognitive function. Cognitive function helps you with your long term memory, logic and reasoning, and even your attention span and processing speed. Football allows student athletes to thrive in class and on the field. One common misconception about football is that it increases aggressive behavior and depression. Actually, football does the opposite and can serve as a physical outlet for the daily rigors of school. According to U.S Health News, the values learned from football, including character, discipline, hard work and integrity, can all be transferred over to academic performance.  

The benefits of football far outweigh the negative aspects. The improvements to social and mental health, physical ability and academics impact your child's life for the best.

Orcas: A life behind glass (Allie Dundon)

I once had a research project that  required me to learn more about an animal. While searching for information on orcas, I came across a website that stated, “Since the early 1970s, over 30 incidents involving captive orcas resulted in human injury or death.” This shocked me. I did some more research and found several websites claiming the same thing. I wanted to know what happened to orcas in captivity, and more importantly, why?

Orcas in captivity go through a cycle of performing tricks, eating treats and drifting into sleep almost every day of their lives, a cycle that seems boring for such an intelligent animal. Orcas will live in an aquarium from the time they are taken from their family at a young age to the end of their life, which can be almost 40 years in captivity. No orca should have to feel the stress that captive orcas endure, and all orcas belong in oceans, not cages.

Captive orcas spend their days “swimming” in small tanks that barely fit their long bodies, which span from 23 to 32 feet long. They can only swim a few strokes before hitting a wall. In captivity, it is also hard to maintain family groups, known as pods, like the ones seen in the wild because orcas are frequently traded between aquariums. This situation causes them to become lonely due to the fact that orcas in the wild not only depend on each other for hunting but they also depend on each other for boosting emotional health.

Keeping orcas in captivity is bad for their mental health but it is also bad for their physical health. Because orca tanks are so small and shallow, it causes orcas to stay at the surface of the water. This condition is not normal for orcas, causing skin problems and dorsal fin collapse, which occurs when a dorsal fin tilts instead of standing straight up. According to a 2022 Thoughtco article, “The fin tissue gets less support than it would if the orca were in the wild, and it starts to fall over.” It is unacceptable to hurt these orcas just so we can enjoy ourselves at the aquarium.

According to The Whale Sanctuary Project, a captive orca named Tilikum living at SeaWorld in Orlando killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 by dragging her into the water and drowning her. In the wild, orcas almost never attack humans, but attacks happen when humans force orcas into captivity. Too many are fatal. These attacks are no accident; orcas want to fight back. Whether captive orcas face struggles from health problems, social tension or everyday stress, they certainly do not want to be kept in cages. 

We need the institution of an animal rights law against keeping orcas in captivity because captivity physically and mentally harms them for entertainment and profit. If you ever go to an aquarium and see a sign claiming that the animals are a special part of the staff's “family,” remember no orca would ever consider an aquarium their family. If they had it their way, they would be swimming free in the ocean. 

The future of animation (Noa Fink)

The older I get, the less I watch animated movies.

This is partly because I’m growing up, and most animated movies are for little children, but it’s more than that— it’s because everything showing now consists of repackaged plots and characters. 

Animated movies nowadays are just filler for two hours of my time. Because of this, I believe big animation studios are running out of ideas, and we should focus on supporting smaller animation studios. 

Take Disney’s 2023 animated feature film "Wish:" A box office disappointment and creation shunned by the internet. I even decided to watch it myself, just to see if the internet had overreacted. There are people out there who love Wish, sure, but the majority felt disappointed. Grossing only about $82.4 million worldwide during the first four months it was out, "Wish" is close to the bottom for Disney, only beating box office flops like 2022’s "Strange World." The plot, songs and even the animation itself disappointed the public. 

Viewers and Disney fans have also complained about the characters, because it seems that Disney has reused the same personality for their female characters. They are all quirky, clumsy, energetic and relatable. Also, even though it’s not a trait, romance has been noticeably absent in recent Disney movies. Villains are also becoming less appealing, with the introduction of “twist villains,” a person that viewers are supposed to think is good at the start, but turns out to be evil. Twist villains were featured in "Frozen," "Zootopia," and even "Wish." This trope is becoming less entertaining, and Disney should take a break from only showing one kind of evil in their movies.

Lately, there have been no animated movies that deviate from this predetermined equation. Not only that, there are so many sequels that anger Disney enthusiasts more and more. "Inside Out 2," "Kung Fu Panda 4" (actually DreamWorks, but same idea), and "Toy Story 5" have been approved. If that doesn’t show the lack of new, good ideas in the animation industry, I don’t know what does. 

But all hope is not lost for the animation industry. On platforms like YouTube, a new genre called Indie Animation is taking the world by storm. Since these smaller companies have no preexisting tropes, they have no brand that their content needs to fit, unlike bigger companies that cancel shows and movies if they don’t fit the desired algorithm. For example, a fan favorite Disney show "The Owl House" was canceled because, according to creator Dana Terrace in Vanity Fair, the show didn’t fit Disney’s brand. 

Take, for example, the pilot episode of "The Amazing Digital Circus," a show made by Glitch Productions, and one of the most watched indie animation debuts ever. While it has only made $35.4 million in five months, that’s a lot considering it’s on YouTube, where, according to a article by Amir Bohlooli, one view equals about 12 cents. An average movie ticket costs around $20. 

These new YouTube shows make bigger companies realize that not every animated project has to be for kids, unlike more mainstream movies and TV shows, which are made generally for kids, not teens or adults. These indie animated shows are for people who are tired of the same plots, same animation style and same characters made by bigger studios. Indie animation deviates from the standard ways. Smaller companies are the future of animation and should be supported. 

Find small animation companies on social media and support them in any way possible. Find animation that you truly love. Find stories that you truly love. This means smashing that like button, subscribing or just taking the time to watch the art made by the people who want to show you something totally new and different. The people who support these small companies are the viewers themselves, so try to help free the future of animation from the corporate world.

Fake news on social media (Charlee Frank)

Mark Twain once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on.” 

False news can travel so much faster than the truth. Half the time it’s because the fake news is so much juicer and sometimes, exactly what people want to hear. Sometimes I’ll see people saying information that is completely untrue because they learned it on social media or an unreliable platform. We learn history in school to help understand past cultures, but we also learn about things like the Holocaust to ensure that they never happen again. Fake news on social media interferes with this idea and gives people hate-filled ideas that cause these events to happen again.

Fake news on social media has negatively affected how we act to each other and everybody (especially teenagers) needs to be more aware of what we read on social media. I'm not saying all who spread fake news are in the wrong — in fact, a good amount of the time it is somebody retelling something they learned that was incorrect. Sometimes it is somebody just telling a funny story for views. A lot of the time is a story that has been tweaked again and again until it is completely different from the original. Although it isn’t always fun or for views — sometimes it is to hurt people of a certain religion or culture and cause hate.

After October 7th (when the war between Hamas and Israel broke out), Astha Rajvanshi from Time wrote, “At least 14 false claims related to the war garnered 22 million views.” No opinion is 100% wrong or right, but those 22 million people’s opinion is based on a story that was not true. I would be willing to bet that about half of those people never fact-checked those articles. So now, I would imagine that about 20% of those people who never fact-checked those stories reposted and spread them on social media. That alone is around 2.5 million untrue posts on social media. There isn't any research on that estimate, so don't quote me on it. A lot of the time, people look at fake news because they want it to be true. It supports their belief, and that is enough for them, even if it isn’t true.

In 2016, a report from the Stanford Graduate School of Education found that teens often fail to distinguish advertisements from news stories. Teens and young adults might be good with technology, but they are most at risk to fall for the fake stories since they use social media more. Teens think that they are advanced enough to tell what is real and what isn’t, making them one of the easiest targets when it comes to things they want to hear. For example: There was once a story about a guy who won the lottery and dropped $200,000 of manure on his ex-boss’s lawn. The story blew up on the internet since everyone thought it was hilarious. There was only one problem—it wasn’t true. Teens spread it because it was funny without bothering to see if it was real. 

Misinformation on social media, or in general, has negatively affected the environment in which we live in and how we act towards each other. I am not saying that people should stop social media, or that social media is the reason for all the world's problems. Social media isn’t the whole problem, it is how people use social media. The only real way to stop the spread of fake news on social media is to not rely on social media for news. There are many other ways to learn about world events. Don’t let yourself be swayed by what you see while scrolling through social media; instead fact check it, and if it’s wrong, then you will feel satisfied that the information your opinions are based on is true.

The Wake of NIL (Gray Johnson)

In today's world, college athletes are signing blockbuster deals and sponsorships from Gatorade to Aston Martin. These deals make earning money a commonality among college stars, but should they even be earning money? For me, the answer is yes.

Name, image, likeness—or NIL—is a way for NCAA athletes to earn money from commercial endorsements, social media posts, writing books, hosting camps, giving lessons or performing activities beyond their schools.

According to Mason Garbo of the Redwood Bark high school newspaper, “60% of college athletes are left in debt after they end their college careers, and 86% of student-athletes live below the federal poverty line.” Former University of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young was featured in Dr Pepper commercials that premiered nationwide. Only 20 years ago, Young wouldn’t have been paid, yet according to Jocelyn Alano of Fan Arch Co, due to the NCAA vs. Alston Supreme Court ruling, Young earned nearly a million dollars. With the recent ruling, both sides now benefit because Dr Pepper advertises their products better. Young, now a popular name in America, not only gets paid for his NIL, but also earns $3.5 million from deals with Cash App, Subway and BMW in a year.

College athletes should be compensated for their hard work put into getting themselves in the position they are in, and NIL money should be their reward. According to, college athletes put in countless hours of hard work. College athletes are bringing in millions of dollars for their school through their hard work and dedication to their sport. However, the athletes were not allowed to be rewarded money for themselves, but now they can now earn fair compensation. If college athletes put the work and those countless hours in, then they should be paid for being stars at their sport, since they are loved by millions of people around the nation.

NIL can benefit both the athletes and the school they are enrolled at, with ticket sales and jersey sales and better athletic facilities. With all that college athletes are doing for us—entertaining us and making memorable moments—think about what they had to do to get in their position, so that they could be paid.

The Bane of Schools: Group work (Joseph Kuruvila)

I completed a six-month group project at the end of fifth grade known to all as “Exhibition.”

It was the bane of elementary school mainly because it was an infamous group project, and the goal of the project was also extremely hard. We had to choose a topic that plagued the world and had to create a PowerPoint presentation about it, undertake volunteer work to help fix the problem, interview with spokespeople from companies such as Chevron, and display a diorama about our topic. My partner supplied most of the resources used in the project, while I contacted companies that we wanted to interview. 

However, I doubt that I would have been able to finish the project without my partner. Despite what most people think, research demonstrates that group work is actually extremely beneficial to students of any age and crucial in the adult world.

Group work in the classroom is important for the development of students into young adults. Estimates from Washington University in St. Louis indicate that 80% of all employees work in a group setting. This statistic highlights the value employers put into hiring people with good communication, reasoning and leadership skills. As a result, people who have experience with group work have a higher chance of getting the job than people who don’t.

In addition, group work enhances communication and other professional development skills, creating more opportunities for critical thinking and promoting education. This kind of work creates better learning experiences and more retention of material. According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, 97% of students participating in the study experienced that group work made learning easier and felt they had played an important role in their project. 

During a Book Club in English, I only had to do one role in every discussion about the book because my group and I divided the work equally. We used worksheets provided by Mr. Kirkwood, and no one had too much work to do. We also did not have a lot of homework and no one was worried or anxious about whether they would finish on time. 

Furthermore, in the History Shark Tank project, my partner and I helped each other with our research notes and on weaker points of the pitch by suggesting ideas that we could execute to get a better overall grade. 

Student group work also leads to increased productivity, better decision making skills, creativity and time management. In a meta-analysis by the Washington University in St. Louis, over 168 studies determined that students learning via group work had greater knowledge acquisition, retention of material and higher-order problem solving and reasoning abilities than those learning alone. 

For example, in Exhibition, my partner and I finished our Lego diorama in three hours, when it would’ve taken me more than five hours to complete alone. We also solved other problems such as finding a different company to email, since NASA did not reply.

Group work is not a bad thing at all, and it is instrumental to success. So don’t moan and groan when you get a group project. It’s good for everyone, including you.

Anxiousness or Anxiety; what is the difference? (Isabel Laporte)

I'm part of the 9.4% of children in the United States who are medically diagnosed with anxiety. This means I have frequent panic attacks. I do not remember much of what happens during these episodes, but I do know almost everyone gets them. Yet not all panic attacks are caused by anxiety. Parents often come to the school counselor claiming that their child has anxiety after they experience stress because many people think anxiety and anxiousness are the same thing. They are not; in fact, they're very different.

The term anxiety is used frequently at school, especially by kids, who often say things like "this test caused me so much anxiety,” or "I have so much anxiety,” but these instances demonstrate inaccurate uses of the word. One must be medically diagnosed with anxiety, so the alternatives "anxious" or "anxiousness" are a better fit for those aiming to describe the feeling of stress. Everyone gets anxious. It's a normal human reaction. If I asked someone whether or not a reaction and a diagnosis are the same thing, they would answer "no." Yet, if I asked whether or not having anxiety and being anxious are the same thing, they would probably answer "yes." 

One can develop anxiety at any point in their life, and it can last for long periods of time. Often, people overlook the consequences of anxiety, which may include missing social activities, being more likely to indulge in illegal substances and having trouble in school. One of the most serious repercussions I experience with anxiety is facing difficulty in school. Once I was studying for a test and when my parents called me down for dinner, I did not move and could not talk for over an hour. This situation terrified my mother, who did not know what was happening. Anxiety is like a finger trap. The more I struggle, the more I feel trapped. This is what anxiety feels like: an inescapable hole of despair. 

There are many differences between the terms "anxiousness" and "anxiety." There are many different types of anxiety including social, separational, phobia-related and secondary. Anxiety also leaves a greater impact on the mind. An article titled "Anxiety and Children" states that anxiety “can harm children's mental and emotional well-being.” In addition, anxiety leads to a stronger chance of developing depression. Anxiety is an ongoing disorder that has serious effects, unlike anxiousness, in which one can recover after the stressful event ends. 

Anxiety is realand some people like me who deal with severe anxiety even take medication for it. I am not saying you should stop using the word anxiety, but I want to make it clear that it may not always be the best word to describe what you feel. So next time when you get stressed, stop to think: should I say anxiety or anxiousness?

School cafeterias should be more allergy friendly (Elliot Luks)

At the start of the school year, I approached the lunch line and asked the cafeteria staff if the egg rolls contained any almonds or sesame, both of which I am allergic to. They told me to wait until everyone was served, and after 15 minutes, they still didn’t know, so I couldn’t have the egg rolls. 

So I ate the same pizza I had eaten for the last two days, and I missed most of my lunch time waiting. If that egg roll had been labeled, I would have known earlier to choose something else and had more time to talk with my friends. 

Some kids aren’t even as lucky as I am—some are allergic to dairy or wheat and can’t even have the pizza.

School cafeterias need to be more allergy friendly. They should require clear allergy labeling for all foods and a meal free from the top nine allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy and sesame. This would make kids with allergies feel safer and more included. It would also be more efficient.

Some schools have an online application that states what allergens the foods may contain, yet it is not always updated, and most kids aren’t allowed to have a phone in school that they can use to check. According to a 2023 survey from Allergen Awareness, 8% of kids have food allergies.

From personal experience, I know that food allergies are serious. I have had three allergic reactions that ended with long, scary trips to the Emergency Room. Food Allergies in Childcare Centers from 2024 also notes that 25% of children have their first allergic reaction in a school environment, which is why it is essential for schools to have strong allergy policies.

Better food allergy policies would make kids feel safer and more included. According to Allergies and Anxiety from 2017, 57% of kids with food allergies have anxiety about experiencing an allergic reaction, which  causes many kids to bring lunch from home, leading to possible feelings of exclusion because they cannot buy school lunch. 

With allergy labeling and a top nine allergen-free meal, kids could feel safer and more included eating the food in the cafeteria, like their friends do.

When kids are not able to eat lunch, it can make them stressed and anxious, which is detrimental to learning. Lunch time is also hectic for lunch staff and human error can always occur. 

If food in the cafeteria was labeled and there was an allergy-safe option, kids with allergies could get their food quicker and lunch staff could focus on serving.

Better allergy policies should be a priority for school cafeterias. They would make kids with allergies feel safer and included while also being more efficient. You can help by contacting our cafeteria manager and telling them about allergy-safe policies like allergen labeling and a top nine allergen-free meal.

Choosing to read may be a crucial decision in a person’s life (Stanley Martin)

One day I noticed that whenever I practiced reading out loud for an assignment, I was unable to find the best words to describe what I was talking about. I had no book to read at the time and realized that reading increases a person’s ability to write. After this realization, I increased my reading, making my grades improve and increasing my abilities. Reading is important for many reasons, from academic purposes to mental well-being. It can also help us understand minorities, making our society better in many ways.

While many people focus on the academic aspect of reading benefits, the empathy and understanding of others is just as important, if not more. Most people don’t even consider how books could help a person be kinder.

Our world is not always the kindest to certain cultures and groups, and reading could be a way to lessen this feeling of hostility. A 2014 study in Italy and the UK has claimed that elementary and high school students who read a book have had greater understanding of what immigrants were going through.

These people are going through a lot. A new place full of new people is hard to adjust to. It can do a lot for immigrants if we understand what they are going through, making them feel more welcome in our society.

Not only has reading been shown to make many people kinder, it has also been proven to increase people's grades, like it did for me. A study led by Christy Whitten at Sam Houston State University proves that honor students in the US who “pleasure-read” have shown grades average 93.64 while honor students who don’t read average of 87.53.  

This increase is because reading increases focus when a person reads a book for an extended period of time, which is a skill that many people need during crucial tests and assessments. These will increase many people’s overall grades and because of this it will help them later in life when they need to stay focused for a project they need to do for a job.

Not only can reading boost grades, it can also help with a person’s mental health. Reading will make many activities fun throughout the day. This increase in mental health can keep depressing thoughts from souring the fun mood of the sport or activity. The fun that a person has can make their life happier and keep that person’s mood up to be more friendly to others. In fact, a study led by Dr. Carla Lucas in 2019 with kids around the age of 7 to 12 showed an increased sense of hope after reading a book. Hope can break through the stress or anxiety. It can reset how many people feel and how a person takes in what they are seeing, making them see the situation in a way they never had before. 

When I was moving away from my original home, I was devastated. I felt the sadness creeping into my daily activities. So I read the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini. Whenever I read these books I could feel the sadness that was plaguing me disperse. It made the experience much more bearable than it was before. And this could help many people in this situation or any other unfavorable situation.


People don’t have to read a thousand pages a day to reap these rewards. Research shows that only 20 minutes will do. My old school required reading at least 20 minutes a day. And it worked. Every kid in my class was noticeably more interested in literature and had much better vocabulary.

Reading could be a vital part of many children's lives. It could bring up your grades. Even 20 minutes a day could bring more understanding of others, a healthy mental life, and increased grades overall. I ask you to make your life better, for now and for later. I ask you to make our society a more welcome place. I ask you to read.

Sephora kids going rouge (Grace McCarthy)

Testers destroyed. Employees crying. Ten-year-olds screaming. This must be a tornado, right? It was a tornado of tweens. 

Currently, the U.S. doesn’t value public manners as much as other countries. The #sephorakids trend on TikTok has over 331.9 million views, revealing the bad manners displayed by the kids that destroy testers, or samples, and are rude to the employees.

People assume that having good etiquette is just saying “please” and “thank you,” and waiting to sit down until everyone sits down at the table. Public manners are really important, but U.S. citizens often forget them. According to a study by the Reader’s Digest, three quarters of Americans agree that manners are forgotten. People assume that because of the leniency that has evolved over the years, parents don’t think to emphasize the importance of manners. When I’m in public, I almost always see at least one kid with bad behavior. A King’s College study shows that only 52% of Americans think that proper etiquette should be taught, whereas in 1990, more than three-quarters thought that manners should be taught.

According to Elaine Swann, a famous etiquette teacher based in New York, manners are “a way of life.” The younger kids are, the easier it is for them to learn, because it will stick with them going forward. Proper manners is what helps people get along with their in-laws and secure jobs. When I am using my manners, adults compliment me and admire how polite I am, which makes me feel good and want to continue that behavior. Pier Forni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, uses the analogy that manners are like traffic lights. Forni says that “the rules of good manners are the traffic lights of human interaction, they make it so that we don’t crash into each other in everyday behavior.” This analogy sticks because manners consistently are valued and will remain that way as long as they are practiced.

Recently, the ignorance of manners is reflecting on future generations, more commonly known as child Sephora customers. Emphasizing childrens’ good manners instead of their bad will help kids improve. Being a good role model will rub off on younger generations as well. That way testers don’t have to be destroyed, employees won’t cry and 10-year-olds will no longer scream.

Learning differences and equality (Finley Milligan)

It was my superpower until it was not. 

When I was first diagnosed with ADHD, one of my biggest supporters was “always” there for me. They told me that I had a superpower and I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I felt normal and no different than others. I was proud that ADHD had made me a stronger person. That is, until I heard them say it was a disability and I was not capable of paying attention or learning. I won’t lie, that insensitive comment made me feel horrible. I soon realized that they clearly did not understand ADHD. Learning differences are just differences. They do not make anyone better or worse. 

In 2017, a study on the effects of learning differences showed that the most anterior part of the brain, the frontal lobe, can develop at a slower rate. This slower development can cause the networks to function differently. When the brain does this, it can trigger difficulties in concentration, following directions, regulation of mood and processing information. 

Many people who struggle with learning differences say that they have an extra personality booster because creativity is shown in more ways. Historical figures such Albert Einstein are suspected to have struggled with ADHD. In addition, Walt Disney and George Washington might have suffered from dyslexia. 

In 2023, an article from PEW Research Center stated that 7.3 million kids around the world are affected by learning differences—roughly one in five children. The diagnosis of learning differences can be hard on kids. When I was first diagnosed, I thought I was not normal and I could not do anything right. Millions of kids struggle with the same feelings I did. One study found that 18% of children diagnosed with ADHD, ages 4 to 6, had severe depression by the time they were 18. When the school work gets more difficult, kids start to feel not as smart as they thought they were. Children in the classroom with learning differences can feel a lack of hope and self-esteem. 

When someone has a learning difference, it doesn't mean it is a disadvantage. We all need to start looking at it from a different perspective and realize that it is just a different way of learning. Even though someone is not able to process information the same way as others, that does not mean they are not able to accomplish the same things as everyone else.

Skintoned dancewear (Viviene Osamor)

Skintoned dancewear is a commonly discussed topic but still en pointe today. 

Even after multiple people have talked about this issue, there has been minimal to no change because companies selling dancewear want us to believe that they have all the colors and that the troubles for dancers of color are over. Still, even popular dancers with big names don’t feel included. In dance, we have to wear skintoned attire to show our technique and defined lines. 

However, a famous dancer of color named Robin Williams (not the comedian) said, “My teacher happened to mention that we had on pink tights because the tights and shoes were supposed to match our skin tone." Williams recalled. “I thought about it when she said that because I was like, ‘Well, our skin isn’t pink.’ And I never forgot that.” 

Despite knowing Williams was a dancer of color, her teacher still said it. Statements like that make a person feel excluded. Not having many options for our skin tones makes dancers of color feel like we are not worth enough. In addition, when other people, especially teachers, make these comments, not only is it wrong, but to say it to a dancer of color is rude.

In 2020, Pointe Magazine stated, “Black and Brown dancers have been forced to spend money and time ‘pancaking’ their shoes, coating them in foundation so that they match their skin color.”  

I used to pancake my ballet shoes and dye my leotards because my teacher would say, “Viviene, your dancewear has to match your skin tone.” When I pancake my pointe shoes it could take me up to an hour just to get all the foundation on. I also have to find the right skin tone. The fact that I have to spend almost two hours to pancake my shoes is a problem that would not have occurred if there was more diversity within the colors of dance attire. 

Flat canvas shoes can be dyed, which is hard enough, but when it comes to pointe shoes it’s a whole other story if you want them to match your skin tone. The structure of the shoes is ruined when they get too wet, which means each pair, ribbons and all, have to be pancaked—a time-consuming process. 

When my dancewear didn’t match my skin, I had to sit and watch others dance because skintoned dancewear was part of the attire. It was difficult because sometimes my stuff didn’t match or I would be late to class because I had to find things to pancake or even redo already pancaked clothes. Shoes are especially a problem for dancers of color because, as they move around, the paint wears off or sticks to the ground, so we have to find transfer-proof makeup that can be expensive. 

If there were more varieties of color and less expensive options for dancers of color I wouldn’t have to waste money and time doing things that other dancers don’t have to do because they have a different skin tone. Others get to start dancing while I am still sitting there trying to get my shoes ready—meanwhile all they have to do is put them on and start. Not only is it unfair, but it’s frankly not inclusive. This is why dance companies need diversity in dance wear.

Honor the story (Beatrice Paine)

Hollywood has been making film adaptations since 1899, yet we still cannot perfect adapting  hundreds of pages into a two-hour film. Scenes from the book get cut because not all of it fits. 

Books have to be made into more accurate films.

The first film adaptation, according to a 2021 article from Movies Silently, was “Cinderella” from 1899, directed by George Mèliés. But even this adaptation was not accurate, missing key features from the original tale, such as a hazel bush and a pair of gilded slippers.

Another film adaptation that missed the mark was “The School for Good and Evil.” When the movie came out on October 18, 2022, I was excited to watch it because it is one of my favorite series. The script was written by Soman Chainani, the book’s author, making it hopefully more accurate. But no—the movie completely destroyed Agatha’s character arc and included faulty features such as blood magic that had nothing to do with the main plot. Surprisingly, even the book’s author can ruin their own script.

It’s always fun to see one of my favorite books made into a movie, especially to see how the plot plays out on film. But sometimes these films just don’t live up to expectations. The website Vocativ polled readers about 800 film adaptations, the majority of which were not considered as good as the book.

Even the very first film adaptation was inaccurate. The director for “Cinderella,” George Mèliés, based it on Charles Perault’s popular version of the story instead of the original Grimm’s fairy tale. Maybe the original tale was a bit too gory, with the inclusion of her mother’s grave, but then again Mèliés did add a scene with menacing dancing clocks. In the end, he changed some of the original features because he used a different version of the tale. But sadly, not many people realized the inaccuracies because most people at this time were more versed with Perault’s version of the tale instead of the Grimm story. 

It is important to acknowledge that the film was a book first. Beloved books are often chosen by Hollywood because they know that the movie will sell more. But this also sets standards for the movie that Hollywood cannot meet, unless they split the movie into parts. This is why movies like “The Hobbit” and “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows” are in multiple partsthere were too many scenes Hollywood just could not cut. 

Books must be made into more accurate movies.

Don't be a dupe, say no to dupes (Leela Patel)

I have never stolen anything in my life, but if you ask me about the shoes on my feet, they are stolen.

Last year, I asked my parents for Golden Gooses, the coolest new shoes that everyone had, including my older sister. My mother thought they were too expensive and that I was going to grow out of them, so when I opened the box and saw the exact shoes I wanted, I was shocked.

Only a few weeks later when I looked at the brand name did I find out they were cheap fakes. I had gotten dupes. At first I was fine with them, as long as they looked real. Then I saw a video of Cassey Ho, the owner of PopFlex, describing her recent experience. 

In January 2023, Shein, one of the largest fast fashion businesses that is famous for its cheap copycats, stole her Pirouette Skirt without her consent. She tried to stand up for herself, but her 20-person team was no match for the $65 billion business. 

Since then I decided buying dupes is unethical and hurts the original creator. 

Unlike counterfeits, dupes don’t use logos or brand names to avoid a lawsuit and keep the dupe industry alive. According to Ethically-Dressed, Shein has kept their business alive by copying many small businesses including Popflex, Audry Rose, Sincerely Ria and more. 

Imagine how all of these brand owners spend weeks, maybe months, designing, editing and making their products just to have them copied and sold for half the price.

After learning about these fast fashion companies, I felt pretty guilty for being obsessed with my Golden Goose dupes. 

While some of these creators, like Ho, can warn others about dupes by posting online, many are left hurt by the trend of fakes, or as TikTokers call them, “dooooops.”

A popular trend is to talk about your favorite fakes, but pronounce the word dupe (“dooooop.”) A USA Today article shows that the hashtag #dupe gained over 4.3 billion views in 2023, and #doop gained over 315 million views. 

While dupes may seem like an easy way to get the products you want without the high price tag, it hurts original creators much more than it benefits you. Although getting the real deal doesn’t have to be the solution, waiting for sales and buying other items are more affordable options that don’t require damaging small businesses. 

Not supporting dupe hauls or dupe influencers also helps fix the problem. The main thing you can do to help fix this issue is to close the fast fashion tab.

Watch women's sports (Polly Pitts)

It is the middle of March Madness; the school is covered in Men’s NCAA brackets and talks of the next game. No one talks about the Women’s NCAA tournament. While driving to Palace Social, a hangout and bowling spot in Bellaire, at least 20 TVs blare men's sports. Not a single TV shows women's sports. However, many don’t think of it as a problem. It’s just a normal experience. Women’s and men’s sports should be equally valued and recognized. We need to open up our eyes and stop gender inequality, especially in sports.

Both leagues are just as engaging, yet for the longest time, men’s sports have been put on a pedestal and has been, unsurprisingly, viewed more. A few months ago, I watched as Caitlin Clark, an outstanding 22-year-old woman playing in the NCAA, beat Steph Curry’s three-pointer record. Curry, a 36-year-old male who most people think of as the NBA GOAT, held the record since 2008, with many thinking that his record would be unbeatable.

Today, Clark is the NCAA’s all-time scorer with 3,528 points. 

At first glance, most have instant prejudice towards Clark due to a history of girls being seen as weaker, a sexist stereotype that is simply not true. 

Both sports have the same potential. When my brother and I were at the pool, we saw a basketball game on TV. “Let’s go!” my brother yelled. When we got there, he realized it was a women’s NCAA game and said, “Never mind.” I asked him why and his response was simple — he's never watched women’s sports before. His words gave me the answer that I had been looking for. The reason that people don’t watch much women’s sports isn’t because they think men are better. It’s because men’s sports are all they have ever been exposed to.

Women’s sports shouldn’t be the only sports broadcasted in places like Palace Social or be slotted at primetime on ESPN. Neither should men’s. The two sports should have all of the same privileges and the same amount of views. It is in our hands to stop inequality in sports. The next time you're done watching a men’s sport, turn on a women’s. Not because you have to, but because you want to.

Red Bull gives you health problems (Caroline Powell)

Dehydration, heart complications, anxiety and insomnia. 

While someone might think that these side effects might be caused by some deadly disease, they are actually caused by something that's probably in their refridgerator right now: energy drinks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 1,500 kids were sent to the hospital due to energy drink related incidents in 2011. That is a lot of people considering that it’s just a drink containing caffeine and sugar, right? Energy drinks should only be consumed by people over the age of 18 because of the lasting effects on a person's health.

The problem lies in the assumption about the ingredients. Everybody believes that energy drinks just contain caffeine, sugar, water and artificial sweeteners, but there’s much more. Many people who consume these energy drinks don’t know how some of these ingredients can harm their body. An article in the National Library of Medicine stated that commonly used ingredients in energy drinks are like maltodextrin (bad for your metabolism) and methylxanthines (causes insomnia, vomiting, seizures and more). 

Over the summer, my older brother saw an official Red Bull car and wanted to try a free Red Bull. The first question that they asked was, “Are you over 18?” Since he was only 13, he walked away empty-handed. Even the company knew the ingredients they sell cannot be handled until someone is almost fully developed. 

Yet it’s usually young adults who are consuming these energy drinks. This is because energy drinks are commonly marketed around places popular with teens. Everyone has seen Red Bull advertise their products through extreme stunts involving skiing and motor sports, which capture people’s attention. They think that these energy drinks will give them the best bursts of liveliness, but they don’t realize that that buzz will eventually wear off and negatively impact their health. 

A few months ago, I went to a field hockey tournament in Pennsylvania which took place in a multifunctional sports complex. As soon as I walked in, I saw numerous posters advertising an energy drink brand called Celsius. They were purposefully marketing this drink where they knew kids would come and need energy. My friends and I wanted to try a Celsius both for the buzz of energy and because we had never tried a kiwi guava flavored energy drink before. However, our moms were against it. If we were left alone in this situation, then we would have immediately drank the Celsius and acted like it was nothing.

Energy drinks can have a harmful effect on one's physical and mental health. So the next time that you see me, my fridge will be filled with Gatorade.

Save the axolotls! Wait, what even are axolotls? (Sandhya Sheth)

When I was in fourth grade, I went to a birthday party for my friend’s sister. It was entirely themed around axolotls, which look like salamanders, but are more colorful when genetically modified and have adorable little frills that serve as external gills on the side of their heads. They look like they are always smiling. 

I had never seen these creatures before, but they looked so cute with their little feathery gills and rainbow colors. When I did more research, I found out this was just an act. Axolotls are actually only brown and are quite endangered. You see, axolotls only live in one lake in Mexico, Lake Xochimilco. I was immediately hooked on this case of misdirection, so I decided to find out more.

If you haven’t heard of axolotls, that’s most likely because there are less than 1,000 left in the wild. If you have, then you see the problem. These animals are critically endangered, and they have been for over 15 years. Axolotls lived peacefully in Mexico until climate change and lack of awareness started taking their homes.

Because axolotls are an endangered species, we should put more research and effort into learning about and conserving them instead of looking the other way as this species disappears.

The first source I consulted was Google Maps, trying to find Lake Xochimilco in Mexico City. When I switched the map to satellite mode, I saw something surprising. Even though this was the last home of the endangered axolotl, there was no commotion at all. In fact, the description literally said, “Ancient lake with picturesque, verdant canals plied by colorful excursion rafts with mariachi bands.” The only clue that the area is extraordinary in any way is the word “ancient,” and that could mean anything, from ‘it has been here for a long time” to “this place is special.” There was a soccer place and a gym across the street instead of the research centers one would expect to find concerning a critically endangered animal. We are not putting in any effort to protect or learn about these little animals.

People view the axolotl as a genetically modified pet rather than what they actually live like in the wild. It took me several sources to cobble together the facts I found. On the other hand, I found more than five websites urging me to“buy an axolotl here!” and advertising “axolotl-friendly fish tanks.” You only need one website to get information on how to keep an axolotl happy in captivity. Axolotls should have a claim to their real home in Mexico, not a fish tank in someone’s house. It is not a good sign when more websites portray endangered animals as pets than as living beings that belong in the wild.

So if you have seen an axolotl, you know why I want to protect them. We should work forward to protect these poor animals because every species has a place in this world and exists for a reason. When we lose a species, we lose a valuable member of the community on this planet, a piece we will never get back. So find a way to help protect these innocent animals that are fighting for their land against people who try to block them out and destroy them.

Stop sexual violence (Lauren Smith)

Imagine being a young female gymnast. Raised so obedient that you are aware of being hurt, and you cannot tell anyone, because nobody likes a snitch. You try to protect yourself, but nothing is working because a sexual abuser’s goal is to manipulate and hurt you. 

There should be better ways to report sexual abuse, harassment and violence. Sexual violence is a broad term that includes sexual harassment and abuse and is undesirable physical or verbal attention. Sexual harassment can go from making jokes based on someone’s gender identity, to verbal sexual harassment, to stalking. 

According to the article “Preventing Sexual Abuse” by the Centers for Disease Control, over half of women have experienced sexual violence. Almost two billion women have been impacted by this problem worldwide. Sexual violence, abuse and harassment lingers with women and can make women and minors afraid of men or can make women overprotective of other women. This impacts not just women, but a woman’s family and friends. In this generation, sexual abuse, harrassment and violence for young girls is worsening because parents do not actually believe their child. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, one in every nine young girls experience sexual violence.

In the sports documentary “Athlete A,” by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, parents and athletes filed sexual abuse complaints against 54 coaches from USA Gymnastics. Nothing was done. To some people, the number 54 is insignificant, but to me, the number 54 is way too high for the number of abusers in the USA Gymnastics organization. Most minors decide to not tell anyone and let molesters off the hook. This is not okay because those 54 coaches should have been fired or jailed. What people don’t know is that telling trusted adults or police can be incredibly difficult. This is because women don’t know what could happen to them if the man finds out that the woman has called the police.

Women have been asked by powerful men to “wear something revealing” for the man’s liking. But what some men fail to realize is that women are not their puppets and weren’t born to satisfy them. There should be a helpline for women to call that is easier than 911, which can be hard for some women to call because they might feel ashamed. Once a woman has been abused, there is no going back to feeling safe and respected, which can lead to body image issues and anxiety. 

For women’s sports, there should always be a woman on the staff for girls to talk to if experiencing sexual harassment and abuse. Powerful men do not have the right to rape women and minors. 

Organizations like RAINN and People Opposing Women Abuse have created a safe place for women to turn to in order to help them break free from the violence. If you want to solve the sexual violence problem, donate to organizations that can help one of the most common problems that isn’t talked about enough.

Bring back libraries: The influence of library closures (Sloane Sullivan)

Recently, I was in a music video for a song, “My Friend the Library.” At first, I simply regarded it as a great opportunity to add to my resume. However, as the recording process continued, I began to realize this experience was opening my eyes to the horrors of libraries shutting down all around us. 

These closures are vastly hurting us, and it is crucial for libraries to be re-opened.

The rapid increase of libraries shutting down before our eyes is highly concerning and cannot go unnoticed. A 2023 click2houston article found that Houston Independent School District is closing libraries at 28 campuses. Libraries shutting down are not only hurting students, but also librarians who are being fired, which can have a strong impact on their life. 

In addition, my reading teacher last year at River Oaks Baptist School couldn’t have a classroom due to limited space and had to switch off classrooms every class, impacting our learning. 

A key factor in solving these issues is reopening libraries. To begin, kids need to take advantage of their opportunities to read as it can positively impact their mental health. A 2019 Healthline article followed up on a study measuring stress levels of students in the United States, discovering 30 minutes of reading lowered heart rate, blood pressure and distress just as effectively as yoga and humor. 

As a bookworm myself, I read at least 30 minutes a day and feel as though reading calms my nerves and relaxes me when I’m feeling stressed out. All kids deserve to have an accessible library to improve their mental stability. 

Furthermore, reopening libraries is also vital since less fortunate students lack access to reading materials at school, as noted by Janice Newsum in a 2023 click2houston article. 

“Many of them live in situations that are reading deserts,” Newsum said. 

Newsum captured the harsh reality of these students not being able to experience the joy of reading. The fact they have no book source is devastating, and they deserve local libraries.

Moreover, kids have always been drawn to electronics, but their screen time significantly increased during the pandemic when schools were shut down and there were no libraries to borrow books from. Personally, I don’t even want to know how many hours my daily screen time shot up. 

A 2022 Challenging America article studied the jump in electronic use through a study measuring a 52% increase, which equals an extra 84 minutes of screen time, leading a total 246 daily minutes on electronics. Children’s electronic use has gone far beyond the suggested two hours, and overusing screens harms us, even when we don’t realize it. 

Reopening libraries will remind us of the pleasure of reading, distracting us from electronics.

It is critical for libraries to be reopened because librarians will be re-hired, children will spend less time on screens and our mental stability will improve. However, first we need to show the world we want our libraries. 

Visit the My Friend the Library website and submit a video to join the fight for libraries. Together, we will get our libraries back.

Beyond the screen: Why reality TV shows don’t define a country's community (Mika Takashima)

A typical Tuesday has just passed. I arrive home wanting to add a bit of drama into my interminable day. Settling on the couch, I switch on the TV and get sucked into the endless vortex of drama-filled television. Seconds turn into minutes and minutes into hours. What was supposed to be a 20-minute break of a single episode has turned into a whole series over three hours. Welcome to the world of reality TV — a genre that is slowly taking over the world.

All around the globe, producers are choosing exactly what the audience sees, picking the juiciest pieces of drama but failing to include the backstory. All around, we are watching these reality TV shows and unknowingly putting a label onto a society.

It's everywhere. Reality TV shows are on every streaming service you could possibly imagine. In 2023, Investopedia stated that one episode of a reality show costs $100,000 to $500,000 to produce. While that may seem like a lot, it is significantly less compared to the cost of scripted television. For example, for one comedy show it cost $1-2 million to produce. Therefore, smaller streaming services love reality TV because it is eerily cheap for them to obtain the streaming rights. 

Both overseas and at my very own house, I cannot seem to escape the captivating screens of reality TV. On a recent trip to visit my cousins in Taiwan, I discovered that they had ludicrous perceptions and stereotypes of what America is like due to spending hours on end watching American reality TV shows.

Reality TV has the potential to shape public perception and influence societal norms. When viewers are bombarded with exaggerated portrayals of certain behaviors or lifestyles, the viewers may begin to accept them as representations of the bigger population. These stereotypes may be hurtful and disrespectful towards a whole country’s community. 

While popular shows may be interesting to watch, take a moment and think about what happens on the other side of the screen. Reality TV thrusts participants into highly stressful and artificial environments where producers examine their every move, causing mental health issues, which can range from eating disorders to depression and anxiety. One quarter of actors aged 18-24 are insecure about their body image and feel isolated from society. Actress Maddie Ziegler, who starred in the reality TV show "Dance Moms," stated in 2023 that even at the age of 21, she still goes to therapy to try and overcome the bad habits that she obtained on the show. One of these habits was as harmful as thinking that if she messed up, it would be the end of the world.

While the allure of reality TV might be enticing, we have to remember what mental harm production inflicts on cast members. Sacrificing credibility for rating and revenue is the bitter truth about this industry. Producers are so preoccupied with maximizing audience engagement, shaping narratives and saving money that they completely disregard the peoples’ well-being. Furthermore, an article in 2022 from Time noted that the cast members usually meet with the producers to create a coherent narrative and defined characters. By exposing this aspect of reality TV production, we unveil a highly constructed, orchestrated nature of what content the audience is viewing, further emphasizing the difference between the perceived legitimacy and the real manipulation behind the scenes. Overall we are only slightly uncovering the truth about the harsh reality of reality TV. Its inexpensive cost allows it to be highly controlled while at the same time perpetrating the mental harm that it inflicts on cast members. 

To truly understand and celebrate the richness of human diversity, we must look beyond the screen and embrace the complexity of our lived experiences. Only then will we be able to forge genuine connections and build diverse communities based on empathy, respect and mutual understanding.

A new era of baseball (Benjamin Wilson)

Imagine watching a baseball game, and the pitcher strikes out 10 batters. Then the next day that same exact guy hits two home runs. Sounds crazy, right? Baseball is wild, but one of baseball’s minority groups is making it even more exciting. The story I just told you is real, and the player’s name is Shohei Ohtani. He is one of the exciting new Japanese players to come onto the scene. There have been a total of 67 players born in Japan in MLB history. Of those, 12 have revolutionized the way that baseball is being played.

I believe that Japanese players have advanced baseball in massive ways, through making the league more diverse, introducing new pitch styles and introducing a new ball that could reduce injury.

What if I said that there’s a pitch that Japanese pitchers have mastered like no other? This pitch is a splitter, which looks like a fastball when it leaves the hand but drops when it gets close to the strike zone. All nine active Japanese pitchers use the splitter. It is considered one of the nastiest pitches. One Japanese pitcher on the Mets, Kodai Senga, even earned the nickname “The Ghost Fork” for the forkball for his splitter-type pitch. 

The splitter has taken the league by storm ever since Japanese pitchers have joined the league. These pitchers are becoming some of the most effective and dominant pitchers in the game because their pitches are so unfamiliar to a lot of today’s hitters. Now, hitters have another pitch to prepare for and learn how to hit. This pitch’s continued impact on the MLB is one of the many reasons that Japanese pitchers are so successful in today’s league.

Just a year ago, I went to the World Baseball Classic and saw that a certain pitcher was a big contributor to his country winning the title. But when he joined the MLB this year and when I started watching him, it seemed that he was struggling. A person might think he is just going through a bad stretch, but that is not the case. This pitcher is Yuki Matsui, who used to play the Nippon Professional Baseball, the major leagues of Japan, which uses a different ball than the one used in MLB. Yuki was so used to the Japanese ball that when he transferred to the MLB, he struggled with gripping the ball. Now, the ball that the NPB uses is making a run to become MLB’s official baseball. 

Pitcher injuries have been trending up in the MLB lately. According to MDedge, in 1998, pitchers spent 21,132 days on the disabled list (now called the injured list) across the league. However, by 2022, the total was up over 100% to 44,076 days on the IL. To stop pitchers from getting an unfair advantage, in 2019, MLB banned pine tar and spidertack that pitchers used to help them grip the ball, cheat and prevent injuries. Since then, pitchers have gone to intense measures to throw the pitches that they were once able to throw more easily. This ban is causing way more injuries because it has forced pitchers to change their mechanics. A lot of common injuries include strains and sprains to the arms. In more intense situations, pitchers become so badly injured they have to get Tommy John surgery, a procedure that helps stabilize the elbow. Tommy John surgery requires a recovery time up to 18 months, meaning these pitchers are usually sidelined for the rest of the season. These injuries could change the course of a team’s whole season. If MLB changed their official ball to that used in NPB, there could be fewer injuries because the official NPB ball is much tackier, so it is easier for pitchers to grip. A better grip leads to less season-ending injuries and better pitchers. And who wouldn’t want to see a 90 MPH curveball that spins at 3700 RPM?

Now showing in Sephora stores: 10-year-olds (Kate Zdeblick)

I spend hour after hour scrolling through videos on social media in which influencers state their opinion on a viral, controversial topic: Sephora 10-year-olds. In these videos, influencers disclose information about broken testers and angry employees. 

I love all things girly and selfcare-oriented. So I think kids using skincare is perfectly fine as long as they have guidance—from a dermatologist or parent—not from social media influencers. On the other hand, being disrespectful to an employee and refusing to clean up your messes is not okay. In general, it is improper to behave disrespectfully in public.

Jordyn Holman at New York Times proves this recent trend, as she states that young teens have spent 23% more money on skincare products in 2023 than the year before. As I read this report, I wondered what caused this huge skincare spike.After researching, I learned the answer: TikTok.

Shannon Doyne, a writer at the New York Times, illuminates the fact in one of her articles that the endless “Sephora haul” videos posted on TikTok make kids want to buy more skincare. This phenomenon occurs because the viewers simply want to fit in or follow the hot trend. Did you know that 38% of kids from 8 to 12 use social media? According to Fox News, this number proves that many young children have access to social media, which leads to young kids watching the endless “haul” videos and feeling urged to buy pricey products.

A parent was interviewed for the same article, referencing expensive products and claiming that her daughter filled her 2023 Christmas wishlist with expensive Sephora products, totalling several hundred dollars. Some brands featured included Glow Recipe, Sol de Janeiro and lastly, Drunk Elephant, the brand that started all the messy tester drama. 

I think it’s fine for kids to use skincare products at an appropriate amount. Yet the situation gets out of hand when 10-year-olds purchase $80 moisturizers because their young skin doesn’t need the product. These purchases are especially unnecessary because there are many alternative brands like Bubble and The Ordinary that offer the same products for a much lower price.

Professionals agree. A trusted dermatologist featured in Doyne's article states that certain products won’t affect little kids’ skin in a bad way, but they won’t do much to improve it either because young skin already provides the necessary benefits. Yet she admitted that a basic routine consisting of a gentle cleanser, toner and moisturizer is fine for kids. Although unnecessary, if this is something you like to do to express self-care, then I’m all for it (and so are dermatologists as long as there is no retinol involved).

Cassandra Bankson, a Sephora employee, argued on YouTube that “Sephora, at this point, is like a playground.” She claims that as an employee, she is not allowed to kick out customers. Instead, she has to clean up a new mess in the Drunk Elephant section every 15 minutes. She feels she is a “beauty babysitter.”

You may not love Sephora as much as I do, but the next time you go to a grocery store, dentist, restaurant or anywhere else in public, keep in mind that the employees working there spend a lot of their free time making sure you can enjoy yourself. To show your gratitude in public, you can just say a simple "thank you" when you leave a store because I bet that it will make many employees happy. Overall, it is inappropriate to treat workers or public places disrespectfully.

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