So Much For “Never Forget.”

I didn’t realize the date until a picked up a copy of USA Today from the library. I thought it was a mistake.

My classmates didn’t realize until we had to put it on an assignment. “Oh, it’s nine-eleven,” was exclaimed about five times in succession as one by one students finally realized that yes, it is, in fact, that dreaded day.

And that was it. An exclamation.

It wasn’t until 8:46 that we observed the traditional moment of silence. Ms. Castro usually leads it for the whole school. She didn’t. As far as we know it was just our little class of twenty that took out class time to remember the victims. But even then, the constant coughing, shuffling, and whispering made it the loudest moment of silence I’d ever experienced.

It made me sad to think that today marks a day that changed our lives forever, even if we were not born, and no one cared to talk about it.

That is, until last period when the students begged to talk about it. We almost didn’t; we had so much to do that it wasn’t going to be discussed at all. It would be the second year in a row that Mrs. Borges hadn’t given her famous presentation.

But we spoke about it. And I immediately understood why some would rather forget it. The information was not new to me; the event is one that has been discussed every year of my education since it began. But it still hit me like it was my first time hearing it. Like it was my first time hearing the screams and the phone calls. Or the first time seeing people walking out covered in ash, desperately jumping from the buildings, or watching the towers crumble like kinetic sand in a matter of seconds.

I thought about how this event that I was too young to even remember had impacted my life so much, though none of my family were victims. I thought of the hopelessness and fear everyone must’ve felt. I realized I felt the same with the string of recent school shootings, a list that keeps growing longer.

I thought of these things and I cried, because what else can one do? I constantly try to understand the evil in this world but to this day I can’t comprehend it. The AP Psychology class I’m currently in has only slightly cleared things up.

When I was finally done crying, wiping my tears and composing myself, I saw that I wasn’t the only one doing so. No matter how many years of hearing it, it hurts all the same. This day is a wound that will never heal. And as I sat there in that classroom of 15-17 year-olds I realized: the oldest of us are too young to remember and the youngest of us weren’t even alive, but we will never forget.

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Club Rush 2018

As you may or may not know from my bio, I am the proud president of my school’s Caribbean Cultural Club. This past week was Club Rush at my school and it was a truly wonderful experience. As a senior, I have my established routine. I see the same people in the morning for breakfast, lunch, and all my classes. But manning a booth during Club Rush allowed me to meet so many people (namely freshmen) I would not have otherwise interacted with. I’m glad I got the opportunity because it gives me faith that MLEC will be in good hands after my class leaves. Everyone brought so much energy and spirit into the gym throughout the week, and the presentations that clubs set up were truly remarkable. I’m looking forward to a great year for Caribbean Cultural Club and all the other clubs who will surely flourish and thrive with members from this fresh group of Jaguars.

Colors

 

You were red, and you liked me because I was blue
But you touched me, and suddenly I was a lilac sky
Then you decided purple just wasn’t for you

– Colors by Halsey

 

 

I took these when he had red hair and she had blue. Their love was young, but like their hair color, it has since faded.

Children Caught In Food Insecurity Crisis

I became very interested in poverty and food insecurity in Connecticut while working with the Connecticut Health I- Team. The following is an article I wrote on the issue. For the article by my fellow campers click here.


In stark contrast to the general financial well-being of Connecticut residents, the state is in a hunger crisis that is negatively impacting children, primarily in urban areas.

The most recent data from Feeding America shows that in 2016, 11.6 percent of the total Connecticut population was living with food insecurity, and of that percentage, 15.6 percent were children.

According to the parameters set at the World Food Summit in 1996, “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

While food security may be something most Connecticut residents take for granted, a significant portion of the Connecticut population wonders every day where their next meal will come from.

The impact of this issues is especially concerning when considering how it is affecting children. The 2018 report on Child Food Insecurity by Feeding America states that struggling with food insecurity puts children at a greater risk for “stunted development, anemia and asthma, oral health problems and hospitalization.”

negative effects even affect academics. The same report states that food insecure children may begin “falling behind their food-secure peers both academically and socially.” It also states that food insecurity is “linked to lower reading and mathematics test scores, and [food insecure children] may be more likely to exhibit behavioral problems, including hyperactivity, aggression and anxiety.”

Though the total population in Connecticut living with food insecurity has come down from 13.1 percent since 2014, food insecurity is still a prevalent issue across the state, especially in urban areas, Feeding America reports. East Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford are some of the most food insecure areas in Connecticut, according to a joint study done in 2012 by the Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy at the University of Connecticut and UConn’s Cooperative Extension System.

However, the same study shows that these locations also have a high ranking in terms of food availability. East Hartford, Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury are all top ten in the state for food accessibility, ranking at 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th respectively. “Food access is certainly an important factor in whether or not families can obtain food,” said Marcia Pessolano of the state Department of Public Health’s Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Program.

“However, food insecurity often reflects a lack of available financial resources for food within the household. Food insecurity is complex; poverty and food insecurity in the United States are closely related, but are not mutually exclusive. Unemployment and underemployment, lack of affordable housing, high medical costs and other competing financial priorities may leave families to choose between purchasing food and paying for other essential needs.”

Shannon Yearwood, the executive director of End Hunger Connecticut!, said that a lack of time to apply for assistance could also be one of reasons why food insecure people may not be able to access the resources they need. Another reason she cites is the stigma surrounding food insecurity that she says has grown recently, as well as the possibility that the state’s immigrant population may be fearful of seeking assistance.

End Hunger is advocating and working with legislators and schools to provide Connecticut children with the resources they need to become more food secure.

According to the End Hunger Nutrition and Food Insecurity Profile from 2015, many students are taking advantage of the meal programs available to them. The data shows that a combined 115,518 children were taking advantage of the School Breakfast Program and Summer Meal Programs in addition to showing an 88.2 percent increase in participation in the At-Risk Afterschool Meals/Supper Program.

Through programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the Women, Infants, and Children Program and the Child Nutrition Programs, DPH and organizations like End Hunger are working to lessen the severity of the issue of food insecurity in the state.

Yearwood said the most important thing about the work is that “we don’t get discouraged and we help folks have not just food, but also hope.”

New Haven Student Athlete Helps Develop School Football Team

 

The following is a profile I wrote on one of the campers I had the privilege of meeting during my time in Connecticut.


An athlete since age seven, 17-year-old Casmir Ebubedike is a model student and leader at Achievement First Amistad High School in New Haven.

“When I came to my school, football was in its first year, so basically I had the opportunity to be a leader and start something new,” he said.

Football was new to Ebubedike as well. Though he prefers basketball, which he has been playing since he was 7, Ebubedike threw himself into football in his freshman year. He even went so far as to sit out the basketball season during his junior year to focus on being a better football player.

“I’ve been focusing on football because I kind of want to keep it as an option that I can take and play at the next level possibly because I’m more likely to play football in college than basketball,” he said.

Ebubedike said his football team is like his family.

“In basketball and football, I feel like you’re kind of in a brotherhood,” he said. “You basically create family because you’re around these people a lot; you’re working hard with them; you’re sweating with them, and you have to make sacrifices for each other.”

Family is a big part of Ebubedike’s life. As a Nigerian-American, he said he is very proud of his culture and immerses himself in it regularly through food, movies, partying and social media.

“I think that’s one of the most identifying parts of me,” he said.

Though it is unclear, another characteristic Ebubedike thinks defines him is his focus on the future.

“I feel like I haven’t really narrowed what I really want to do yet, but I know that I want to be successful so I make sure I keep doing things that’ll put me and keep me on that track,” he said.

As a rising senior, Ebubedike has been putting thought into colleges and is considering several Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HBCUs.

“I’m looking for colleges that have strong communities that I can fit into and feel comfortable in,” he said, adding that HBCUs are “an excellent way to stay connected.”

For now, he will focus on his high school education and the opportunities that being an athlete will give him. In his last year at Amistad, he wants to bring leadership and a sense of community to his teams.

#Chitcamp 2018

I never knew how much Connecticut had to offer until I met the Chitlins (as I affectionately call our #chitcamp 2018 team.)

My experience with the Connecticut Health Investigative Team (C-HIT) was an adventure from start to finish. It was only my second time on a plane and my first time traveling out of state without my family. Surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous. I suppose I knew I was in good hands.

The C-HIT team welcomed me even before I got on the plane, and it was so much warmer when I landed. It was only a five-day program, but somehow the chitlins became a family during that short amount of time.

Even more unbelievable was how much we learned in that span. I was one of few campers with prior journalism experience and even I was a little nervous about the time constraints, yet somehow we pulled through.

Along with the amazing editors and campers, I got to meet so many professionals across the journalism spectrum. It was especially rewarding to get to speak to George Colli, Michael Lyle Jr., and Mark Mirko, who taught me broadcast and photography skills that I don’t develop as much. I was even featured on the WQUN AM 1220 afternoon broadcast with Lyle and Brian Smith to talk about the camp. You can find the audio here.

It was an all-around amazing experience, and like a true journalist, I documented all of it. Below, you’ll find tweets and photos that will tell you more about the experience than words alone can. Enjoy!

 

It Takes a Village

My Miami is not the metropolitan paradise lined with beaches that immediately comes to everyone’s mind when they think of The 305. My Miami is a little suburb where everything I need is no more than a short walk or a fifteen-minute drive away. I may want to live in the city later in life, but for now, I love living in my little Town of Miami Lakes.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” is a phrase that often comes to my mind when thinking of Miami Lakes. We really are like a village. Here, you know your neighbors and you’re bound to run into everyone you know at Main Street or Publix. We’d be happy to lend a helping hand or a cup of sugar. It’s just the way we are.

And while I’ve always felt this way, I was reminded of it in a beautiful way on Sunday. Everything about Miami Lakes can be summed up in four words: “free ice cream social.” It is just like the Miami Lakes community to think “it’s summer; it’s hot; it’s national ice cream day—let’s hand out ice cream!”

It was a sight to see. The sun was shining; music was blasting, and kids were zig-zagging everywhere trying to get in on all the fun. It truly was a family affair, one I feel blessed to have attended. I’ve hopped around Miami-Dade and Broward in my 17 years and though I’ve only lived in Miami Lakes for two, it’ll always be home.

How could it not be when it has so readily welcomed me in? Miami Lakes defines community. Its residents are the type who support the schools, churches, Boys and Girl Scouts, and everything else they can. We are always finding an excuse to gather because even if we’ve never met, we’re family.

Anyone who’s been around me for even just five minutes knows how much I love Miami Lakes. I am proud to be part of such a great community that truly is “Growing Beautifully.”

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

RI got the opportunity to visit my old middle school yesterday and it was so strange.

I’ve lived only a short walk away from it for the three years I’ve been in high school, but I’ve only visited been back about three times and pbky gone in twice.

Going inside yesterday was like going back in time, but not quite. So much was the same and yet so much had changed.

I could point out all the old things I remembered and all the memories I had there.

“This is the hallway where Dr. Sanchez jokingly called my friends and I hobos because we were sprawled on the floor taking a break from band practice.”

“Oh, the computer lab! I used to come here in the morning and mess around after setting up the computers for testing.”

(I promise I’m not a delinquent)

I had so many good times there. So many rooms held memories of some of the best times of my life.

But then there were all these new things: there was one of those really nice water fountains with a water bottle sensor (I love them and feel the should be everywhere) and the cafeteria is blue!

It was both a place I recognized and I place that was completely new. I haven’t really gone back to a place that’s half remembered and half forgotten so this experience was a whole new feeling for me.

I took pictures to show my friends all the changes and now I want to post them here just so I can look back in a little while and remember the feeling.

Who knows, maybe the next time I look at this post I’ll be standing in MLMS again and so much more will have changed.

Another Senseless Tragedy

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

The tragedy that occurred at the Capital Gazette newsroom on Thursday reaffirms the legitimacy of two pressing issues we currently face that many have tried to sweep under the rug: our country has a major gun problem and our journalists are under attack.

Jarrod W. Ramos, the suspected shooter, bought the 12-gauge pump-action shotgun used in the attack legally last year. Ordinarily, there would be nothing wrong with that, but this is not an ordinary case.

In 2011, Ramos plead guilty to harassment charge. After reconnecting with a former classmate via Facebook in 2009, Ramos quickly turned hostile as he “alternately asked for help [and] called her vulgar names” in his correspondence, according to the Gazette article written about the case.

“He seems to think there’s some sort of relationship here that does not exist,” said the woman to the judge from the case. “I tried to…

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