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YATW: Blog #2

Hey everyone this is Isabella Blackwell. Welcome to my second post of my “You and the World” blog. If you didn’t read my first blog, check it out here. What I wanted to look deeper into & focus on for my 2nd blog post was how kids and parents deal with having special needs & attention. I decided to reach out and actually talk to a representative who works with these kids (& volunteers) to see what life is really like for people in that situation. I talked to someone named “John” from the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. 

Q: What exactly do you do?

A: I pretty much do whatever Linda (Director of Volunteers) tells me needs to be done. I help out with the kids, & make sure everything is in order. 

Q: What types of support does the Ronald McDonald House provide for both the kids & parents? 

A: Its a home away from home where generally, it puts the parents at ease knowing that they have a nice warm bed to go to at night while the children are in the hospital. It’s just a friendly environment for them to stay at, and not really have to worry about anything else. 

Q: How do the kids cope with their environment at the hospital?

A: The kids cope with the environment very well actually. They don’t really see it as a place where they get better, more as where they go for a vacation. They think of it as just somewhere to have fun with the other kids that stay there. 

Q: How do the parents deal with leaving their kids at the hospital?

A: The parents deal with leaving their kids at the hospital feeling fine. They know that their child is getting better. 

Q: When you volunteer, what do you think that high school students like me take away from it most?

A: They probably take away the fact that they can play with the other kids. They learn that kids who have cancer or whatever the disease they have is aren’t really different than them, but the same in many ways. 

Q: Do the volunteers actually get to talk to the kids and their families?

A: The volunteers do get to talk to the kids and parents, but there are some guidelines they have to follow. They aren’t allowed to pick up a child at all. So they are allowed to talk to them, but they can’t get on a very friendly basis because it would turn into a liability issue. 

I took a lot out of this phone conversation. It made me think about how patients and just regular students live the same. They all have goals, & like to do the same things. Just like our parents are supportive of our goals, the parents of these patients are the same about their child’s growth and recovery. Overall, I enjoyed learning more about the different ways people live. 

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Human Trafficking


In my previous blog post I gave a general sense of where human trafficking takes place in the U.S. Also I gave some statistics. The difference between the last blog post and this one is I went out and did original research. My research was an interview about a book. This book is about human trafficking. Even though the book is about countries across the world it still fit in with the topic. On top of the interview I did more research on human trafficking in the United States. 
Human trafficking that is a big issue but many people don’t call attention to it. What is human trafficking? Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. Girls and boys, starting at the age of twelve, are forced into this “industry” involving selling their bodies against their own will. These traffickers, also known as pimps, use violence, tell lies, make threats and false promises, and other power/control to keep the victims involved. Human trafficking has been found in a vast variety of venues. These venues include residential brothels, hostess clubs, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution. 

This “industry” is world wide. I interviewed two seniors about the book/movement Half the Sky, Katherine Hatzidais and Catherine Nardone. This book is broken up into different stories about girls apart of sex trafficking. This was not their choice they were forced. Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It teaches about girls in different countries and what they are forced to do, sometimes by their parents. It talks about the movement and they help they provided young women. The movement was created because of inspiration of the book. Not only is the movement supposed to raise awareness but also provide steps to help these women fight against human trafficking and empower women. 

for sale
The interview went very well. Many questions were asked such as if Katherine and Catherine enjoyed the book, why or why not. Katherine. said “  It was biased. The information provided was very repetitive and it singled certain people out. Made the people who tried to help the girls seem like the bad guys. This is because they don't have the equipment to help these women. Also she felt as though the book wasn’t mature. It was very factual. Lastly, it needing to be a little more transparent.” Catherine agreed with Katherine. She added, “ Seem as though the authors were doing a good deed in a negative way. Also the stories were very repetitive.” 

Another question was what they learned. Katherine learned about not getting involved. Women aren’t allowed to go to school pushing them towards being in brothels. Catherine learned the authorities were in the pockets of the brothel owners. Also if the women had children they would take them away. Lastly, it’s safer to have a baby in Ireland than here. One question asked if the book effective? Catherine said, “The stories aren’t boring but they get old. You want it to stop. Stories don’t make you feel any better.” She liked the documentary and felt moved by it. Wasn’t moving enough to make her want to go and change the people. Katherine felt statistics were more effective. The stories were readable like an editorial. She liked it but thought there needed to be more to it. 
Human trafficking happens all over the world. More awareness needs to be brought to the topic. This is a big issue and people need to take a stand on it. It's not right and it needs to stop.
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Environmental Education Worldwide with Tatiana Shakirova

In my last major post, I went over the environmental situation our race’s communal greed, stubbornness, and ignorance has placed us in. Shifting climates, species going extinct, melting icecaps. Heavy stuff. These world-wide dangers we face are certainly no laughing matter, and yet the answer seems laughably clear. Considering this is an issue of ignorance, it seems clear that we should fight it with education. Education is, in essence, the engine with which change comes about in the world. An ignorant nation is a stagnant nation. An ignorant world is an unchanging world. After all, it’s very hard to fix a problem without knowing about it. So to that end, considering I am not very well educated about environmental education, I found someone who was. On a recent visit to the UK, I struck up a conversation that eventually found its way to the ethics of environmentalism, while admiring a victorian-era toilet in the Sherlock Holmes Museum, in London. The woman I was speaking with, Tatiana Shakirova, happened to be the Manager of Education for the Sustainable Development Program, for the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia, or CAREC. Later, I had a chance to conduct a short Interview with Tatiana via email about the importance of environmental education. 

The interview went as follows:

Q: What is your position within The Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia?

A: Manager of Education for Sustainable Development Programme

Q: What inspired you to enter the field of environmental education?

A: My own education and the level of pollution of my country and in my city.

Q: What is the status of environmental education in Central Asia? How widespread is it, and how is it incorporated into standard education?

A: You will find more information at the CAREC web-site:

Q: At what age is environmental education introduced into standard education in Kazakhstan?

A: We have a mandatory course “Ecology & Sustainable Development” in Kazakhstan for bachelors of all specialties [majors] of all Kazakh universities.

Q: How does CAREC approach environmental education, and what individual issues are considered most important to teach to students?

A: You will find more information at the CAREC web-site:

Q: Do you believe the world as a whole can benefit from widespread environmental education?

A: I do believe. I do not have any other choice, otherwise I should leave my job! 

Unfortunately, Ms. Shakirova was leaving for vacation at the time of writing this, but kindly took a moment to give her opinion. Despite the brief nature of the interview, Tatiana’s passion for environmental education, and the personal nature of her cause resonates after reading her responses. Pollution and climate change should be a personal matter to all of us. Every one of us can see the pollution that litters our grounds, darkens our skies and infects our waters. We can feel the erratic and dangerous weather changes. And so what do we do? According to Tatiana and the CAREC website, we spread the word. Apart from the mandatory Ecology & Sustainable Development course Tatiana mentioned, CAREC has organized educational lectures and courses for government officials from all over the central asian region, as well as many other programs for students. These are patterns we in the U.S. should be following. Unfortunately we’re are far from widespread mandatory environmental education. Courses stateside remain optional, obscure and poorly funded, but more on that next time. 

Environmentally yours,


For earlier posts, images and a prettier layout, click here. 

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Entry #2 — Including Technology


In my previous blog post, I talked about how music education is important in schools and how music technology can facilitate it. It was based on research I did online and my own opinions. However, since then, I have done my own individual research, in the form of a survey. In that survey, I found that, out of the 53 responses, most of the respondents were male. That made sense, as my dad sent this out to some musicians and an illustrator group, most of whom were male. In addition, most respondents were either 13-18 years old or 41-50 years old. This was expected, too, as I sent this out to fellow students, and most of my dad's friends were around his age and in their forties. As expected, most respondents were from the United States, but surprisingly, people responded from Germany to England and even Singapore! Also, an unexpected number of people with graduate degrees responded.

However, that part was relatively unimportant. The important parts were the questions about music education. Most respondents or their children were involved in a local school district, which was relatively unexpected but probably would be easily explainable when you look at the fact that children are included in the question. A surprising number of respondents played a musical instrument, which may have been skewed. When respondents were asked how important music was to them, 79% put an 8, 9, or 10, showing that most thought it was important. However, even more thought education was important, as 96% put an 8, 9, or 10 when asked how important education was to them. However, when asked about music education as a whole, the results were a bit more spread out. There were a good number of 5, 6, and 7s (28%). That shows that music and education were both important to people, but music education as a whole less so. Then, when asked about donations, people responded with everything from "No." to "$200".

There were two respondents, however, that provided a counter to what I was saying. Both said that using technology should be second to learning a traditional instrument. To tell the truth, I disagree. There are a few reasons for this. The first is because of schools' budgets. A piano can cost anywhere from $4900 to over $10,000; however, twenty cheap MIDI keyboards and a group license to a piece of music software can cost anything from $780 (Garageband), $1800 (Ableton Live) and $2600 (Logic Pro). As you can see, it's usually cheaper. In addition, space can be an issue; small MIDI keyboards usually take up two square feet each, but a guitar takes up a much larger space. Finally, they can be easier to teach with, as each kid can have an affordable "mini-piano" which can make any sound you like, instead of one large piano which students would have to take turns using.

chart_1 (1)

Over the next month or two, I am going to be contacting the school district, asking them about my plan, and contacting companies like Ableton to ask them about discounts. Hopefully I can somehow set something up to bring music education and technology into schools, however slowly this may take. I plan to start in schools that I know will benefit from this, like my former school, Cook-Wissahickon Elementary. They already have a music program starting up, and integrating this technology into the program would be beneficial to it. From there, I'd like to expand the program into other schools across the city. I won't be finished by the time the next blog post rolls around, but I sure will have gotten it started!

Click the images to go to their respective websites.


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Every Animal Deserves a Home... Part 2

As said before in my previous post, my name is Ava and I am a teenage girl from Science Leadership Academy striving to make a difference in the world of animals. I believe anyone can make a difference, no matter how small of a voice they start out with, and that’s what I’m hoping I can do through this project... Make a difference.

With the start of a new year, there’s a new hope for animals across America. 2012 was an increasingly better year for the animals, and there have been many adoptions. Many shelters and organizations helped in the time of need when animals yearned for care during the stressful event of Hurricane Sandy. 

Hurricane Sandy was a devastating time for both humans and animals alike. Although according to the ASPCA, there were 129 happy pets that were reconnected with their owners.

In addition to the good news, an article published in December of last year talked about how more and more shelters are becoming no-kill. When a shelter becomes no-kill, they need to have a large amount of help in the process because it’s very difficult to have a successful shelter that doesn’t euthanize animals. In one shelter alone there can be hundreds of volunteers. Volunteers work at the shelter to help take care of the animals, but they do not get paid. Much of the success of the no-kill shelters is because of the wonderful volunteers who devote time out of their personal lives to go out and help the cuddly creatures!

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Click picture to be lead to site.

Through a recent survey I created, I asked several simple questions. Almost 70 people filled out the survey! I wanted to know if people had ever adopted a pet from a shelter, if they believed that animals deserved better care in shelters, and if they had ever been to a shelter. Most of the results surprised me. I didn’t expect as many people to say that they had adopted an animal before. It also surprised me that almost half of the people that filled out the survey had never been to an animal shelter.

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Click the picture and scroll all the way down for a bigger copy.

I believe that through this survey, I have learned that it would be in my best interest to educate more people about the shelters along with encouraging them to take a brief tour of one.

Through the research I’ve recently done, I think that my opinion is not as biased. Although I do believe that many shelters have terrible conditions, my opinion has shifted and I now reassuringly know that there are many people out there who do care about the animals and are willing to do almost anything to help them.

I’ve started volunteering at an animal shelter, and so far, the experience has been amazing! Every week I go to the shelter and walk the dogs there. It’s a great feeling to get to know some of the dog’s personalities, but also a little sad to see them go if they get adopted. I know it’s better for them that they have a home, so I’m glad to see them leave for a better life. Below is the logo of the animal shelter I volunteer at.


Click the picture for more information.

For another section to this project, I plan on collecting old towels. Shelters use towels for many things, and when they wear down, the shelter needs new ones. Collecting towels would benefit the animals there, and the shelter would have one less thing to take care of. 

We are their voice. Let us be heard.

To view my first post, please click here.

Click here for my bibliography.
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You and the World #2

Hello. This is the second post in my You and the World project. To look at the first one, click here. I feel the information I have gathered since my last post has been very valuable. Homelessness is a problem that reaches into many different sections of life. A Philadelphia man has been taking pictures of the homeless and talking about them on the internet. To look at the website click here. What this man is doing is really important. How many times have you passed by a homeless person in the street and just ignored them? I have done it too many times to count.

One homeless man, Lemuel, who was quoted on the site was talking about how he is homeless and people ignore him when he asks for money, but then there are people who ask him for change so they can pay the meter to park. I think this reveals the real problem. People are so self-centered that they do not realize the needs of others. When someone needs to pay the meter to park their car, that is all they think about. When they see someone with change they think “Oh, problem solved!” even if they are homeless. We all need to think beyond our own want and needs and think about this community as a whole. To back this up further, I would like to bring up my survey. I did a survey for this project to see how aware people were about the poverty and homelessness that surrounds them. Look at the graph on the right to see the results.chart_1 There were more people that got things wrong but the results were close to even in terms of how many people got questions wrong versus how many people got questions right. Most of the time when someone got a question wrong they thought there was more poverty. This leads me to believe that it is not a problem of awareness, but a problem of caring. Many people know about the poverty problem in Philadelphia but it seems that they shrug it off. I decided to volunteer at a homeless shelter in order to alleviate the amount of people who are hungry and homeless. However, through this whole experience it has become clear to me that this is not enough. I urge people to volunteer at homeless shelters (here is a list of homeless shelters), but also pay attention to what is going on outside on the streets. Homeless people who either choose not to go to homeless shelters for whatever reason or who cannot get into shelters are left out in the cold. We need to take care of them to. We ignore homeless people on the street often. At least most people I see do. I think that the first step to end the homelessness abundance is to recognize that there are homeless people. We should stop averting our eyes when we see a homeless person but look at them in the eye. If they are asking for change stop and say sorry I do not have any as oppose to ignoring them. I have realized all the wrong things I was doing and I am starting to make a change. There are some homeless people like Lemuel, who had a bad habit and now need help rehabilitating. I bet that being homeless does not help in this process. I think for the sake of homeless people, and even for our sake we need to end the over abundance of homeless people.
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I Don't Understand

Finally something I was good at I thought to myself, the mile run. It was mid October the air was crisp and the leaves were beginning to fall. Not too cold and not to hot, perfect. Fourth grade me thought I was the best of everything so I was pumped. All 27 of us lined up on the middle school track, we began to run and each lap we finished we got a popsicle stick and after we got our 4th we were finished. I was the fastest girl in the class with a time of 8 minutes and 22 seconds. I was so happy with myself, I felt like I had to prove something to everyone since I was still considered “the new girl”. 

After everyone was finished all of the boys congratulated me and gave me a high-five. As we were walking back to the school me and my classmate Rod started a conversation. 

“What sports do you play?” Rod asked.

“Soccer” I responded. I was scared that he was going to ask what team he played for next, Ohhh there it is.. 

“What team do you play for?” Rod asked. He had a look on his face that showed he was really interested in knowing. 

“Sadly, none right now, since my family and I just moved here a few months ago, but I’m really hoping to get one one soon.” I replied. 

“Family?” he asked looking a bit confused. 

“Yes, family” I said, What was he talking about? This is why I don’t like meeting new people! I thought to myself again.

 “Why do you say family with the AAAA sound like “Amber” and not like “Apple” Rod asked. 

“I have no idea, thats just how I grew up...”

I didn’t really have an explanation for him since I grew up talking like this. He speeded up ahead of me and as he was walking farther and farther away I heard him keep repeating the way I said family over again until he was so far ahead that it faded. I was afraid that people would make fun of me because they said 1 single, 6 letter word differently then me. What was the big deal I asked myself over and over in my head. That night when I got home I told my mom what happened. She grew up in Michigan so when she moved to Philly she had many of these encounters. Me and my sister began to ask her how she said certain things. 

“Mom how do you say soda?” my sister and I said in sync. 

“Pop” my mom answered. She was a little annoyed because we always asked her this and then laughed. 

“Why do you call it that? Its so weird and annoying. What happens when you first moved here and needed to order a drink?” We asked. 

She stopped answering us because there was nothing else she could say except for thats how she learned and how she grew up. In the short story, “Hunger of Memory”, Richard Rodriguez explains what happened the first time he heard his name pronounced in English. “The nun said, in a friendly but oddly impersonal voice, ‘Boys and girls this is Richard Rodriguez.’ The nun didn’t say his name like anyone he had heard before, she said it the American way, which he was not used to. Richard didn’t seem upset or mad that she said his name like this, it was more of a cultural shock, something he wasn’t used to.

When we hear something that may or may not be the way you know it, our immediate reaction is to judge, and ask them about it. Though, in reality nobody says everything the same as anyone else. 


"You and the World" Teen Depression Continued

Since my first blog post,"You and the World" Teen Depression, I have found out that more teenagers are depressed than I thought. The statistics have sown outstanding numbers. On this site the numbers are plain and simple and that is only in the girls! Some of the things that they mention on the page are that the number of female that are depressed triples from the age 12 to 15. At 16 it still increases by almost a whole percentage. Then when the girls at different went to get help with their depression there was an ten percent difference between the girls that were 12 and the girls at the age of 17. I also found out that it takes about a month to get an appointment for help with your depression. Then when you are prescribed with depression meds it takes another month for them to work or even have any effect on you. I learned that many teens know many others or are those others that have gone through some form of depression. Most doing things such as cutting.

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​​These are the charts on the site mentioned before.

To add to my research I created a small survey. The survey asked questions like Have you or anyone you know gone through depression? Did you try to seek help for yourself or your friend? What did you try to do? If you have been depressed or know someone who was depressed did they do self harm? What kind of self harm? To take the survey yourself you can go to this address. I also interviewed a friend of mine who I knew went through some things that caused her to go to some drastic measures with herself. In the interview I asked some of the same questions as in the survey and let her tell her amazing story.
Like I said before this made me realize that more teens are depressed than I thought. When my interviewee was telling her story she said her best friend was someone who also had problems of her own. Her friend instead of telling her that this may ruin her life or even urge her not to do it, never told her anything to stop her or even anything about her own experience with the issue. My interviewee thought that this was very confusing and she never got why her friend didn't tell her anything. She had confided in this friend and told her everything and she didn't try to help her. Another thing that I found out was that bullying is a HUGE part of teen depression. When she was in the eighth grade my friend got bullied and two words stuck with her until high school those words were “loser” and “fat”. One thing that she truly thought was that the things were homologous. She thought that if she got to be skinny then she would be popular and if she was popular then she automatically would become skinny. That is all that was on her mind then, to become the most liked person in her school. I learned that depression has many side effects. Some being harmful to your physical body like cutting, burning, scratching, starving, drugs smoking and the list goes on. Some being mental. I did not realize how horrible your mind can get messed up from other people’s untrue words.
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This is an original piece of art. The idea came from the old bullying commercials. The words that are around her neck are in the shape of a person's hand. the hand is choking and hurting her. it represents how the words make her feel and how they affect her emotionally. the words on her arm are words that she cut into herself. you may notice that they are the same words that my friend was told most and didn't like most. That is because she inspired me.

Now that I have my research I can honestly say that if you know someone going through any form of depression then you should get them help or even help them yourself. my friend is now clean for over six months and that is because she got the help that she needed. If I were to say anything all I would say is help. The thing about people who are depressed though is that they don’t want to help all the time so it can be hard to get them the things they need, I know that but you still need to try. Talking about their feelings is actually good for them and all you have to do is be there to listen. It is very hard to help someone who is in that state of mind but you have to go through with it.
I still wonder why the girls are the main teens who are depressed. I wonder if it is because of the monthly or just the fact that we are girls and we show our emotions more that we are more likely to get depressed. Another theory is that maybe girls like to show their emotions more, so we find out about the girls rather than the guys. Guys don’t like to show their emotions so they never really get noticed when they do the same things that the girls may do, maybe even worse stuff since they bottle up their emotions. Now this may be getting a bit on the stereotypical side but for many cases this is the case. Even when you search anything simalar to “Teen depression” or “Depression in teens” most of the sites are geared towards the teens statistics in the females rather than the males.
For my agent of change part for Blog #3 I am thinking of doing a box or a posting of something for anyone to give in a submission for what they might be going through and I can reply to them with advice. I will need the help of someone who more experienced in this field of work to help me with what advice to give. In what they write to me they will write how I should get back to them whether it be via email, in their locker, or to a teacher however they want me to get back to them I will do that.

Thanks for reading guys! see you on the next blog post.


If You Can't Change It, Then Accept It.

For the most part, I talk just like those around me, never really had a language barrier. My friends accept the way I talk and so do I, but my parents seem to have another outlook on it.

"Hey mommy, can I have some of your juice?"

"Are you forgetting something?"

"Mom, can I PLEASE have some of your juice?"


"It's not can, it's may." she replies.

"Mom, MAY I PLEASE have some of your  juice?"

"There we go."

They do not speak the most proper grammar and have their slang on certain words, but it's nothing in comparison to how I speak. 

"Old Slang" is what they like to call it. Because my slang is actually present day and not from the '70's, it's "not acceptable" . I didn't grow up in their time and that's what they fail to realize. Anything I say that is slang or a word that may not be found in the Webster's dictionary is "foolish" or "sounds stupid" but it's just how I talk. 

I never grew up speaking the best english because as a child they never corrected me. They waited until I was older and already comfortable with how I spoke to address what they believe is a problem. I see it as them trying to change me . I mean, I talk to a point where it's understandable to practically anyone. Can't that just be enough?

Besides my parents never correcting me, I also went to predominantly black schools in West Philly. With that being said, it can only get so proper. These schools  "attempted" to force proper english upon me with english/grammar classes yet they spoke around us (students) with the least bit of properness. It seems as if I grew up being taught that properness in language was only there to impress, and doesn’t have to be present every conversation. Even currently in high school, properness is seen in essays that I write. I guess that it’s understandable since I’m gonna have to write formal papers in the future such as resumés. But it isn’t forced to make me talk like I’m going to the White House or dinner with an ambassador all the time. 


Around my friends, I don't care to impress and that's why when it comes to language, I don't care as to how proper I sound. To us , slang is like “future english”. So many words that were once addressed as slang are now in the dictionary.  As slang spreads pass neighborhoods and gets a definite definition, it is capable of becoming a word in the Oxford or Webster dictionary .

Even the slang that parents do not seem to approve of may not be in an well known dictionary there has been a dictionary created just for slang and the terms that are being used in this day and age. It called Urban Dictionary (online dictionary). Slang may not be respected by those who are older but the younger generation has been raised around all of the slang and will rarely listen to the proper way that they are suppose to speak because it may not sound correct. 

"Nigga, pass me that jawn next to ya. Nah, not that, the apple juice, dumb ass."

Any and everything can and will be said. It's just how I act around them. I'm comfortable enough with them to hear me talk freely without putting a load of thought into the wording of the statement rather than the content.  

Parents don’t accept the slang we use because in some ways they may find it disrespectful to talk to people with some of the things that we use with the people in our generation. Most parents were brought up with knowing how to speak proper and not being allowed to use profanity or many slang terms with the people that they were around or anyone at all. Parents really may have a problem with the slang and profanity because it can make the person using it look bad as well as it may make their family look bad, because people would think that at home the child using this slang and profanity wasn’t taught the proper way to speak to people at home and may have little or no home training. Parents also may not like the slang and profanity that children use in this day and age because it doesn’t make sense and they may have no clue on it means and wouldn’t know if it is a good or bad term. Also parents don’t like it because if you get to used to something you will use it at all times and parents want their children to talk to adults with respect . If they are always using profanity and slang then they may forget to try and use the proper and respectful language that they were taught to talk to an adult, and if an adult feels disrespected then they may want to take it out on the parent and start an argument due to the way that the child talked to them. 


I understand my mom’s concern for my language, but majority of my language isn’t even profanity, more so just slang. Of course I know how to code switch between my slang  and my proper language, but I don’t understand why my language is expected to be “perfect” at all times. Around my parents, I expect to be comfortable enough to express myself without a chain on my thoughts, not letting me use certain words that aren’t even near profanity. 

“You’re not going to make it out in this world talking like that,”  they said. 

My language is what molded me into who I am today and I’m proud of it if I say so myself. They act as if I’m not going to achieve anything in life just because of my slang, even though I have control over it . Slang surrounds everyone, everywhere and my parents seem to think that it is only me who uses it.  I will be successful, no matter what my language is, because my language is me . If my parents can't change my language, then they might as well accept it .


Finding Your Way Home


 Hello, and welcome to the 2nd edition of my “You in the World” blog. Just incase you didn’t read my first blog(Blog#1), let me recap. The worldly issue I am focusing on is the issue of adoption.  It is my belief that there are too many good kids out there that need a home. Yet they are being denied those homes, because they do not met a certain criteria. Because they do not fit into whats cool now days. I think it is always cool to make a child's life better. For this blog I went out into the world and decide to interview someone who has had the pleasure of giving a child a new home.

Q. Did you always want to adopt?

A.  No, it was never my intention to adopt.  My adoption became necessary because my mother in law had a foster child who only knew my husband’s family since he was 3 months old.  He reached age 5 and the state insisted we adopt or he would be removed from the home.  This would have been tragic for all because he only knew our ‘family’ as his family.  

Q.Why did you decide to adopt?

A. There was a great desire to help a child and keep a small person safe from harm and a more disruptive situation.  It also satisfied the need to help the family stay together.  

Q.How did the child a just to living in a new place?

A. He suffered separation anxiety and was later diagnosed with ADHD and depression.  We placed him in intense therapy and began to homeschool him from age 7 to 12.   

Q. How did your family adjust to the new person in the house?

A. My family had to relearn their relationship to our new family member.  My daughter now had a brother that was once considered her uncle.  My husband had a son that was once called his brother.  The adopted child now had a mom he only met three times before I agreed to be his mom.  

Q.Did you have to make any changes to your daily home life to accommodate the child's?

A. Yes, I became a homeschooling parent.  I made sure our home was a sensitive loving place for him to adjust even better.  We went very quickly from having one toddler to having a school age child with developmental delays and various personal needs.  

Q.Were there any problems that arose during the adoption process?

A. Yes.  The state, his custodian for 7 months, was very demanding for us to abide by their rules as foster parents.  We were limited as to the decisions we made while he was in our home under foster care.  

Q.Most people who adopt say that the child ends up teaching them something, do you agree? If so, what did your child teach you?

A. I do agree.  The bonds that grew from the adoption became just as strong as having given birth to the child.  How that child got to the family was no longer the issue.  How we would move forward as a family was our focus.  

Q. What would you say the best thing about adopting was?

A. A child was given a second chance at having a prosperous life.  

Q. When do you feel the child stopped being an outsider, and started being part of the family?

A. He became more acquainted with our family after about 5 months.  He really needed to test limits and get accustom to our home life structure.  

Q. Would you adopt again?

A. Yes, I would, if it means saving a young life, most certainly.  

Q. What advice would you give to anyone thinking about adopting?

A. I would suggest that you do your research on the special needs that foster children and adoptive children may have.  It is important to keep an open mind and heart.  

Even though this interview is just from one person’s point of view, this is what most people feel to be true. So I have researched a few other interviews of adopters and adoptees alike so you can get a feel of others experiences. 


Interview#2 Interview#3
What I feel the most important thing to take way from any one of these interviews is that adoption is not opening your home to a stranger, but giving a home to a lost family member, who just did not find there way conventionally.
Adoption Heart
Here is the link to all of the online source I used for my research
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What language is to me

“I’m done my homework, Dad.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I said I’m done my homework...”

“What? I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

“....I’m finished with my homework.” I grumble as I realize he’s only pretending not to

hear me so that I’ll use correct grammar. Let this paint a picture of how I have been taught the English language growing up. My English is proper, which entails correct grammar, not much slang, and a rather advanced vocabulary for a guy my age. Yes, I talk sarcastically improper and use tons of slang when I’m being casual or weird with my friends, but that is on purpose and aside from my actual persona. Growing up, my parents helped me learn proper grammar and what difficult words meant by simply educating me on proper English on a consistent basis as I learned the language. They didn’t stop at having me know how to communicate with words and speak basic English, they felt that since proper English was a part of their identity, that they should raise me with the same characteristic. Aside from how they wanted to raise me, I do agree with them that proper English is a good thing to be educated on.
“Hola negro! What’s up?”
“Chillin doe, you?”
“Herpin’ to the derp.”
If someone heard me talking with my friends, they probably wouldn’t know what to think of it. It’s a weird system that us teenagers have developed, talking with such strange slang. However, that’s honestly what conversation among me and my friends like. I see it as the definition of casual, which is what my general language with friends has evolved into. If for example one of my parents of teachers saw just how casual I can make certain words or topics seem, they’d probably be shocked. For instance, the word ‘negro’. I use it quite casually; I call most of my friends that. Personally, I have adapted to not thinking much of it. However, if somebody finds it offensive, I won’t use it to address them, or use it around them. However, most of my friends see it and it doesn’t affect them at all. It’s become such a casual term, which can sometimes be a bad thing. This is because the word has ties and roots to hatred. When it comes to edgy terms like “negro”, there is honestly such a fine line between okay and not okay. It’s a common occurrence today that words that root from hatred are used casually, and the speaker becomes numb to what they are really saying.

What I have noticed with myself is that I am aware of the history of the words I use, and instead of finding myself numb to what I’m saying, I am aware of what I’m saying, but I treat the word very casually and with no undertone of hate, (which painfully, is still arguable that I have become numb to what I’m saying). However, I do refrain from using words that stem from hatred and are still commonly used to talk down on someone or something. I do not treat these words casually, because they are words that severely damage the identity and emotions of individuals. Through being exposed to all different forms of speaking and slang, I have developed my own boundaries in terms of what is casual speaking and what is offensive.

“Yo, how you been brah?”
“Pretty good bro, you?”
“Chillin man. You tryna go chill today?”
“Yeah bro definitely.”

I have some friends who have very douchey ways of talking, like this for example. In the essay, “If Black English Isn’t A Language, Then Tell Me What Is?” by James Baldwin, he states that “People evolve a language in order to describe and thus control their circumstances or in order not to be submerged by a reality that they cannot articulate. (And if they cannot articulate it, they are submerged.)”. I’ve noticed that people sort of live in their own reality and they create or adapt the language that is appropriate with their world. For example, if there is a guy who really likes to party on the beach and loves longboarding and surfing, he might start using the words “dude”, “bro”, “brah”, “gnarly”, et cetera, because those are the word associated with his environment and activities. Thus, he incorporates those words into his language to help define and control his circumstances.

I have noticed with myself that whenever I am approached by a certain form of speaking, I quickly conform and talk like they talk. I do this because if the speaker hears me speaking how they speak, they will be more open about themselves because they will feel comfortable talking the way they do. I don’t really ever look down on people based on how they speak (unless they’re being extremely offensive.) However, because of all this, I’ve learned that a speaker’s language does not always affect their own identity, but can affect the identities of others. All in all, instead of making fun of someone’s language because I don’t know how to relate to it, I respect people for how they speak. I like when people know they like to talk, and I respect that because I can relate to it myself.

How I speak and my choice of vocabulary has basically always been accepted and not questioned mostly because I speak in Standard English and use proper grammar. Whenever I talk to people in strange yet casual slang, it’s a sign that I like them, because I know that they will embrace it and that I can be extremely casual and down to earth with them. My language means a lot to me and, if I think about it, although it doesn’t represent my views/opinions, the way I talk does represent who I am. My language intersects with my identity.
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You and the World: Bullying in the USA

In this post I wanted to not talk about the dynamics of bullying but stories from my classmates and my personal story. My story does include bullying but also circles around depression and why it started for me.
The worst of my bullying started in third grade I know third grade doesn’t sound like it could be bad and it was nothing compared to what I would have to deal with in the next few years. Four girls invited me to play with them, I had a blast. The next day when I expected them to play with me again they didn’t. They said that I wasn’t cool enough to play with them, and I was devastated, because I had no friends. That day I had no one to sit with at lunch, so I sat with the girl no one else would sit with because she was a “loser”. She ended up leaving the school after that year because girls were so mean to her, but to this day we are still great friends. I couldn’t believe they had driven away my only true friend.  I felt so alone and sad and in fourth grade my depression began.  In fifth grade I made new friends, they were the best friends I could ask for, they were, kind, thoughtful, and they listened to my problems. It was getting better for me and I was happier. One day after the school play I was walking out  after I had performed when I saw my parents standing by the door, they stopped me and told me I was switching schools next year, to a school that I dreaded.
The next year as soon as we pulled up in the car I said the words I always said “welcome to prison” that year went by and I only had three friends. These girls lived in big houses weren’t very smart and well to say the least they were the complete opposite of me, and by the next year I fell deeper into my depression. That year though, I made some amazing friends, and for the first time in two years I felt happy again, that happiness continued. I was friends with everyone in the school they all knew my name and on top of that I was getting straight A’s.
When eighth grade came around I was flying high out of my dark hole, until the night of October 26th.  That night my dad died. Almost at once I fell back into depression, One day after it happened I went to school. It felt nice to have all my friends hugging me and telling me how much they loved me, but it seemed like there was a black hole inside of me sucking up all the happiness in my life and turning it into depression.  For two weeks I stayed home with my mom, and when I got back to school I was suddenly an outsider. My friends stayed by my side but only about ten stayed as true friends. I feel terrible about it now, but I was pushing away my oldest friends in that school. I was being mean to them, and telling them to leave me alone. I didn't want them in my life, they didn’t understand. I thought my bullying was over, not quite yet. It began again in February when we went on a school trip to Wyoming. It was along the lines of embarrassing me, making fun of my body and continued until the end of the year. It was done by one girl, Hallel Raphael. She tormented me that year, not physical bullying at all but it was very discrete and sometimes it was over the facebook. By the end of that year I was so excited to be leaving, I had amazing times there but also too many bad bad memories.
Bullying is a huge teenage issue that needs to be addressed as a more serious issue across the US. Twenty-two states out of fifty states only have one law passed for either cyber bullying, or cyber harassment.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) 4,400 people a year kill themselves due to bullying. Over 14% of high school students have considered suicide and 7% have attempted suicide. According to studies done by Yale University victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide than non-victims. Girls from ages 10-14 are more likely to commit suicide due from bullying in their schools. 30% of kids of students are either a bully, or a victim, and 160,000 students are staying home from school from fear of bullies.
If it’s gotten to the fact where students don’t want to go to school, get an education, and have a successful future, they would rather kill themselves. It needs to stop, from me being someone who was bullied and know other girls and boys who are bullied, it’s painful, and everyday more kids are sinking into that black hole of depression.
Some people expect parents to jump in and help, but some kids don’t feel comfortable telling their parents because they are so afraid. Kids need to know that when they are at home they are safe, and if they are being cyber-bullied, tell your parents! They can try and stop the kids who are being cruel, and help their child from killing themselves. If parents don’t know what to do then to start they could remove any violent weapons from their home, and if their child has been cyberbullied then a parent can remove computers from their childs room, or put on passwords and website locks to ensure their safety.
I conducted an interview with Angelica Owens because she has become public about her middle school bullying experience.
Interview with Angelica Owens

When did your bullying start?-
My bullying started at pre-K.
Did it have an effect on you?-
It affected me a lot and made me have low self esteem

Do you have any idea why you were bullied?-
I don’t know why i was bullied. they never really told me why
How long did your bullying continue?-
it continued until 7th grade
Are you still haunted by it?-
I am still very haunted by it
How did you get bullied?-
I got bullied by getting dragged across the floor, kicking, punching, called names, and emotionally
Can you describe your self harm?-
My self harm made me feel like i was bigger then the world and I would cut myself with a sharp edge with my nail clipper but it would never bleed through.

Click here for my annotated bibliography

You and the World: Internet Privacy

I'm Toby, and this is my second blog post for my you and the world project. Since I last posted, the ITU meeting happened. Many of the governments present refused to sign the treaty, and the conference ended at a standstill. So for the moment, the internet will stay as we're used to. A petition has also been listed on to defund the ITU. I suggest you sign it.

Since the ITU meeting is over, I'm changing the focus of my project to privacy on the internet. According to Wired, the FBI is pushing for legislation for requiring devices to be easier to wiretap. Not only could this cause privacy concerns, it could also make it easier for criminals to listen in because of the backdoor that the FBI put in in the first place! In happier internet privacy news, Michigan recently passed a law that would give citizens the right to withhold their social networking username or password from an employer or parent who requests it.

I've also done some original research, creating a survey that people at SLA took. It asked questions about how anxious people were about internet privacy, what sites they were worried on, and why. A total of 40 people took the survey. Most people rated their level of anxiety at about 4 or 5, as seen here.


The site most people were worried about their privacy on was Facebook by a vast majority of 65%. 30% of people said they were not worried about their privacy on the internet.


For the last question (If you have ever been worried about your privacy on the internet, why were you?), responses varied. A number of people expressed concerns about colleges and future employers seeing their posts on social networks, while others were worried about stalkers. Other people were worried about people they don't know finding out their identities or seeing them in the wrong way. One parent (and IT professional) said they were concerned about SLA's SLATE blog being too open. They did not like the fact that student's identities and images (although there is no default profile picture and most students leave it blank) and said it should be on an intranet (private computer network) behind a firewall. Additionally, if you are not signed in as a student, you can only see the name of the instructor when looking at the public feed for a class. However, the names can be seen as the author of a blog post, even when signed out.

What I can conclude from this research is that most people are not too concerned about internet privacy, but many of the people that are concerned are especially concerned, worrying about their privacy even when their content is private. This correlates with the news article mentioned earlier about the FBI pushing for devices that are easier to wiretap. People that said they are worried about what colleges and future employers can see can rest a little bit easier because of the law Michigan passed mentioned above. Hopefully more states will follow suit.

I think that the FBI's suggestion for devices that are easier to wiretap is not a good idea. As Wired says, backdoors open the path to hackers. On the other hand, I do think that Michigan passing a law that gives citizens the right to withhold their username or password is a good thing, as it makes social networks a bit more private than their current state. Based on my survey, I think that Facebook's privacy policy should be changed, as it would explain why most of the people surveyed were worried about privacy on Facebook. Facebook's privacy policy states that Facebook may collect data about you while you are browsing in order to give you more relevant information, including your location. You should be given the option to turn this off. Also, since most people may not read the privacy policy, the fact that Facebook collects this information should be displayed in short form somewhere conspicuous. Another way to solve the problem would be to show a condensed version of the privacy policy when users sign up. This is because Facebook's privacy policy says that they will not collect information without telling you about it first, such as in the privacy policy. The privacy policy is linked to on the sign-up page, but just like license agreements, only a few people will ever actually read it. Not just Facebook should do this, but any digital service that requires you to read a long agreement.

Another concern expressed about Facebook in the survey was hacked accounts. Facebook has a feature, similar to Valve's Steam Guard, that would require you to enter a verification code when logging in from a unrecognized browser. This means that if a hacker managed to guess your password, they could not get into your account unless they entered the verification code sent to your mobile phone. Instructions on how to turn it on follow.

1)Mouse over the gear and then click Account Settings or Privacy Settings.


2)Click Security.


3)Find the setting that says Login Approvals. Click it. Check the box and click Save Changes.settings

4)Click Set Up Now and follow the instructions onscreen.
set up login approvals
This is a good feature, and should be enabled by default. However, mobile phone may not be the best way to deliver the security code. Phones can be lost or stolen. A better way to do it would be to send the security code to the user's email, in the style of Steam Guard.

After all my research, I'm left wondering why the people who are worried about internet privacy tend to be unnecessarily paranoid about it. For my agent of change post, I am thinking of presenting to advisories about my issue. You can view my annotated bibliography here. Thanks for reading!


Homelessness Rates

blog #2 Bibliography:

Writing about a topic like homelessness can be fairly tricky, it is hard for a student to get solid first hand information. This may just be because I am not that talented at talking to people, let alone strangers. The difficult part is differentiating the people who have just been exposed to series of unfortunate events and are still hurting, or the people who have sunk into their own failure and ended up victims of their own collapse.
Much of what makes these victims fall into this spiral is based on how people think of them. There are many people who will judge a person on the street at first glance. This may be unjust due to the fact that there are many homeless people that could potentially be dangerous or mentally unsound. Four thousand, that may not seem like an amount to warrant any infatuation, this is the number (approximately) of people who do not legally have homes. This is a number that should be lowered, drastically. One way to help is, instead of giving charity and walking away feeling like a great person as many people seem to have done,,) going to a shelter to help out. The shelters need assistance to stay sustained, most of the shelters seem to close during the summer causing many homeless people to relinquish their constant source of nourishment, shelter, and home. Going to a shelter is not a thing that everyone is obliged to partake in, there are many other ways to try and mend this cause. Many local establishments offer food drives, sandwich making, and other things that can really help. Homelessness has been on a steady rise in cities like Philadelphia, much of this is due to the scarcity of reasonable health plans. Many people who need health care plans will run out of money on insurance that should ease worrying, not cause more. In the past year the rate of homelessness has been up and down; generally falling steadily, there is no way of predicting where we will be in a few years.
Good ways to help out include, helping shelters with supplies or even making food to send on the weekends. I have seen many schools and other public locations offer food drives and things of that nature, and frankly these things are exactly what we need more of in this city (Philadelphia).
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"Little Lady with a Southern Voice"

Donesha Lee


“Say Good morning the way you do?”

“Gud Monninnnnng, SugaFoot!”

“Why do you finish everything with a cute nickname?”

“Force of nature buttercup.”

“That is to funny, you’re so Southern.”

I growled at my friend as he walked to his class, the smile disappearing from my face. According to everyone I have seem to come into contact with has explained that I carry an "undercover Southern accent" within my voice.I marched to my class just saying “Hey” to everyone else that day.

The sound of someone applying the “Southern tongue” to my voice annoys me to my highest level. It is not something I have been proud to take pride in, because most kids seem to make fun of my undertone.I try and defend myself as though I don't know that it is there,but it seems that I have been lying to the world for hiding who I truly am. Although it is safe to say that I am not the only one such as myself that has this internal conflict. My friend Leah just happened to get her retainer on the other day right after I did the week before, and she is having the same trouble as me. I had saw her and told her to “Ophen upppp luv!”She opened her mouth so I could see her pearly whites.“It feeeels fonny in my mooouth. She said.”I laughed and told her “Eht feeeelsa like tere iss soo mucha schpit in ya mouf luv.”She cracked a smile and said “You schound fonny! she began to laugh.”I told her she didn’t sound much better, entering our classroom, which made her laugh even harder because apparently I  sounded like I said “Yoou dhooon’t schnound mushh beffer.”We walked in the class and I stayed quiet for most of the class period.

The society we now live in has constantly put a pressure on us to have the what I guess people call a "sophisticated accent" that was forced upon everyone to learn.According to The Women Warrior, also known as Tongue Tied by Marine Hong Kingston what stats that, “-I have never come into contact with a black person who doesn't want to speak.”After I heard that from the story I can say that I am now a little bit older and have a lot of self confidence in myself.I am an “African-American” who speaks a lot because I like to hear myself give words to this world. I can now say that "I am happy the way I speak. No one can take that away from because it represents me in my unique way. No!I don't sound very proper all the time. No!I don't care that the hidden Southern accent comes from my grandmother, who's from down south. No!I will not give my peers the satisfaction of hearing me try to speak like someone I'm not.This is me, and I speak my way.” It just sucks that people now don’t just pick on my little “southern tone”, but a lisp that was forced on me by my dentist too.

It seems as though it has just been so much easier in life to just speak the way I originally have throughout life. Which means, I don’t try to use big fancy words, I don’t try to change my voice, and I don’t try and speak all “proper”. It just comes out that way sometimes. It seems as thought the way I ten to reflect myself is just as a Southern Speaker , but it is mostly because of my grandmother. I don’t mean to sound as though I blame her for my way of speaking. Although, I just truly believe she is the one that has most of the persuasion toward it. I will always remember the day when I went to my grandmothers and sat down in one of her chairs in her house. She said 

“How ye doin donesha?”

“i’m guud.” I replied.

She then asked “How ye doin in school?”

But at that exact moment when I wanted to reply back, it was as if something jumped inside my throat and made me speak the way I did.I wasn’t able to make out to what I wanted to say because what I actually said shook me up a lot. Instead of saying “I’m doing fine.” I soon found myself saying

 “i’m doin quit well thank ya ma’m.”

 It scared me so much that I didn’t want to say anything the rest of my stay there. It felt as thought someone had officially slapped the fact that I as a person born in the North, raised in the North, and proclaimed to be a Northerner was forced to sound as a complete Southerner. So now it has just come to my attention that I carry a Southern accent. It may not be the best thing to some people, but it truly reflects who I am as a character or person. People still will always point out my little Southern tone, especially around my grandmother, but I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. It completes me, and now that I am older I actually tend to get a little upset if someone doesn't point out when I first meet them. As a person I have utterly seemed to shock a lot of people with mu confidence in the language I speak, but if it wasn’t for that little Southern sound who is to say that that little undertone is not the help that caused me to get into a good school, or get a great job. No one. So on that note I will portray my Southern accent confident and fulfilling. I would not have it any other way. Now, that I have  come to realized this and have successfully understood my language, I  must say that I can honestly speak well with others, and portray the “little lady with a Southern voice” as my grandmother might say.

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Alienation of the Elderly Pt. 2

For this second blog post, I gathered information based off of the real world. I looked at a care facility near me. I was able to gather data in how well people outside our monitored. I think there are grounds for concern that relate to my issue to be found here. In the past there have been some incidents and trouble caused by some of the people there. (Urination in incorrect places, trespassing etc.) There are many people there who are perfectly sane and fine, however there are others who have been reported to cause trouble due to some mental issues. This is no fault of those living there, but in fact fault those who should be monitoring people who need supervision.

I did some observation on how many staff there were versus how many clients outside of the building at certain given time periods of the day. I was not surprised and found it quite fathomable that someone without the best grip on reality could wander off and put themselves or other people in danger. This is somewhat disheartening. 

I did less overall research in this round of researching. I tried to focus more on what the average care facility looks like. I wanted to be able to relate my research to the actual life scenario that I had seen. In order to say that something doesn't look right, you need to have a pretty good idea of what that thing is meant to look like in its best form. The research that I did from looking online and reading books, of a personal care facility in its best state, did not seem to describe the one that I monitored when doing my real world research. This means that there have been things going wrong on one side of the research, and I place a fair amount of faith in those who are choosing what the standard for personal care should look like.

Obviously this is an issue that requires some addressing, otherwise I would not have chosen this topic. To me, it really is something that takes priority over some of the other issues. It seems all too likely that someone will accidentally prematurely end their own life due to them not being looked after well enough by people who's job it is to do this. The issue now becomes what we can possibly do to remedy this issue. To find that, we need to know the specifics of the problem. There are a few possibilities on why some personal care facilities have issues like this. I am sure that the root of the issue differs throughout each facility, and that is one of the things that makes issues like this difficult to solve with one thorough strike. Some issues need to be addressed on a very individual and personal basis in order to ensure the best results and lack of waste in resources. This issue is most certainly one of the above. 

I still wonder about ways that this issue can be addressed. I also wonder what it would be like to live in one of these places. I think that for my third blog post I want to do something that provides entertainment for people in a home. I am thinking about  playing music for people in a home. Whatever I end up doing, I hope that I can make a difference in some way.

CLICK ME for a bibliography.

Media Manipulation, continued

Media Manipulation: A Growing Threat to National Safety Part 2

When I ended last time, the conclusion I came to was that we have to find alternate sources of information that aren’t controlled by biased corporations, which led us to the internet. Internet news was our next big problem. When you look online, you have large amounts of inaccurate sources to choose from.
As previously stated, the cause of this inaccuracy is open content. The media and information generated online is created by a limitless number of individuals. I conducted a survey asking students from my school if they had ever received and used incorrect information that they found on the web. 67% of the 27 polled responded yes. Of that 18, seven said that they used answer sites like and yahooanswers or wikipedia. These are all sites where the content is user generated.
On the other side of the argument, other large information sites have been becoming more incorrect over the years. As you can see in this 2009 graph from the Pew Research Center for People and Press, people are becoming more and more critical of the accuracy of large corporate news sources.
You can find the entire article here.
Finding information is up to you. You want to find unbiased sources when doing your research, from respectable organizations. Some good examples of information sites to use are PBS and BBC. According to, the ways you can look for unbiased information include looking for the amount of corporate ownership of the organisations, the diversity, whether it is ethnic, gender, or cultural, and to observe who the information is coming from.You can read the entire article here.

The way I see it, we as a population have a responsibility to do one of three things. We need to report the raw facts, without trying to defend our ratings or image, if we are in a position where it is of the concern. We need to have unbiased and accurate information if we are trying to spread knowledge. Fair is a website actively supporting accuracy and unbiasedness on the internet. Finally, it is our personal duty to know how to detect fraud on the internet. I plan on creating a video documenting and providing help with internet research. Thank you for your time and interest, and I hope this article has been helpful.

For my entire annotated bibliography, look here.

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Litter: Part 2

By Zack Hersh
“Travel and Leisure” recently named Philadelphia the sixth dirtiest city in the United States in 2012. While this is progress since being named the second dirtiest city in 2011, our city still has a long way to go.

Since my last blog post, a lot of new information on the topic of litter has emerged. Some of it confirms that we are starting to move in the right direction, but some also shows us that litter is still an ever present problem at a local and national level.

Plastic bags are a terrible form of litter. Animals may mistake them for food and eat them. They fly everywhere, get stuck in trees, and you never know where they could end up. In an attempt to reduce the number of littered plastic bags, many cities and countries, including San Francisco, Mexico City, and Ireland have put a ban on the distribution of plastic bags in some way. This may be a tax on plastic bags, or a regulation on how many plastic bags shopping centers may be allowed to have or distribute. This should help to reduce the amount of littered plastic bags or plastic bags in general, and deter people from using them. Most people are supportive of a ban.

To get a more personal level on the issue of litter, I conducted a survey as original research. This also justified that while litter is still a big problem, we are starting to move in the right direction.

Out of the 52 people that took the survey, only 31% of them have never littered in some way. And only 33% of the people that took the survey said that they never litter! While this isn’t good, if you know that you litter, you can try to stop. Nobody said that they litter all of the time, but 9 people admitted to littering sometimes or often. However, what was really astounding is that only 10 of the people that took the survey didn’t know somebody who litters.  That means that 42 of 52 people know at least one person who litters! Of those, 8 people know a teacher who litters! Teachers are supposed to be our role models, and if they are littering, then we have a real problem.

Probably the most important question I asked on this survey was what people thought should be done to fight against this problem. The number one response was “put in more trash cans and recycling bins”, over “organize pickups” and “raise awareness”,

and I can relate to this on a personal level. On a walk to the Franklin from SLA one day, I had a piece of trash in my pocket and I was looking for a trash ca to throw it out, and for the entire walk, I saw only 1 trash can, and it was right outside the Franklin. I definitely agree that adding more trash cans and recycling bins could reduce the amount of litter in our city.

After this survey, I still don’t understand people’s motives for littering. On my survey, 12 people said they thought that raising awareness was the best way to help with the problem, and I agree here also. I think if poeple who litter knew how bad it was, they would think twice befor littering.

As for my agent of change, I have many ideas for things that I could do. I’m thinking of doing a litter pickup, but I also think that raising awareness, or raising money for organizations, or for the city could be equally effective.

But you can also do your part. Talk to people you know that litter. Pick up litter when you see it. But most importantly, don’t litter in the first place.

For my bibliography, click here.

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Food Deserts: Part 2


            In my previous blog I talked about the concept and impact of food deserts, but now I feel the need to affirm that there is hope that this problem can be solved.  And even better, I can report that several sustainable and innovative solutions are now being explored.  Communities all over America that can be classified as food deserts are taking a proactive attitude toward this problem and are currently experimenting with possible solutions to ensure that everyone gets the needed nutrients.  This can take many forms, from community gardens to grocery stands outside of McDonald’s.  Let me describe a few of these efforts before I discuss the survey that I conducted about food deserts.

            New Orleans had the problem of getting good, nutritious food to its poorer citizens for such a long time that some were ready to give up on solving it.  Hurricane Katrina wrecked the fabric of the city so badly that New Orleans was considered a hopeless case, but they haven’t given up and are coming up with their own unique response to the problem. Their solution is pretty simple and sustainable for their community. They are growing vegetables in urban gardens, or as they call them, “urban farms”. In many ways this is even more convenient than the common grocery store, because everything that is being grown in these urban farms is there because of a real need. Another positive thing about this system is that it is not just about growing food, but it is also about educating others about horticulture so that people could grow their own food.  It is not easy for the people to adjust to cooking from scratch.  It is much simpler sticking to the fast food even though it may be unhealthful, because it fills them up quickly and is cheap.  What this misses is the whole purpose of eating food - to retrieve nutrients. This truly is an essential skill that is in danger of being lost in our society and yet is one of the simplest solutions to a tiresome problem.

​community garden in New Orleans

New York and Philadelphia have also come up with creative ideas about how to get inexpensive, nutritious food to its poorer citizens. In New York they have something called “green carts,” which are just a large food stands that sells the food that the neighborhood is lacking.  This works well because the food is cheaper, the lines are shorter, and they have more variety than many of grocery stores in these areas.   Many people prefer these green carts to the average inner city grocery store because they are more convenient in addition to being less expensive. It is a good system because it brings attention to the low-income local farmers who benefit from reaching more nearby costumers.  And the system also provides a health benefit to the community as it motivates everyone to eat fresh. In Philadelphia we have a lot of small grocery stores in these neighborhoods that provide the community of what they are lacking and adapt to their needs.

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​fruits from a green cart in New York

Earlier this month I conducted a survey on my topic of research to get data I could use for my blogs. I asked five questions: would you consider food deserts to be a pressing issue in America, do you know anyone with low access to nutritious food, how do you obtain your food on a daily basis, do you live in an urban or rural setting, and what can we do to help our community with this issue. It was instructive to learn that, while over 3 out of 4 people surveyed thought of food deserts to be a prominent issue, most didn’t know anyone who had low access to nutritious food and that most in this survey group could get their food at grocery stores.  Clearly, my survey group is not the group most affected by an ability get good food whether because of where they live or income status, and they, like most Americans, view this problems second hand.  Now that I know that our first step must be to educate the American public as a whole and that we cannot take action before we do so.

blog #2

For more information on food deserts click here for my annotated bibliography.

If you would like to see my previous post click here

To access a food dessert locator click here


By: Penelope Deoliveira

Dove stai andando?”  I whispered to my sister. She shrugged, and turned her gaze to our grandmother’s kitchen.
“Probably in there... sono affamata.
I looked at the kitchen door too, wondering what delicious food waited inside. My grandmother, who at the time was showing off another piece of antique furniture, made it clear that we couldn’t eat yet. Her guests were consuming every second of time she had, so she hadn’t bothered even setting the table yet.

“Yeah, I’m hungry too,” I said. “I wish these irritante, antipatico, gente would leave....think we should just go and get some food?”

We stared longingly at the kitchen, then at our grandmother. She wouldn’t stand for any nonsense, no, especially when her guest were around. We didn’t dare try; instead, we’d have to wait another hour for her to finish up her conversations.

My grandmother, or as my sister and I call her, Ema, was a black woman who took grammar and speech very seriously. I could tell it made her feel proud and important whenever she added a point in an intellectual (though, in this instance, inconvenient) conversation. She always spoke to me and my sister with fancy words like “hence” or “therefore”- even if the discussion was about potty training. One of the most annoying instances where every time I would say “Hey, that’s mines!” She’d scold me, and give me a half hour lesson on grammar. “It’s mine, not mines. You don’t work in the mines, child.”

So we sat, trying to entertain ourselves, while the adults talked about investments, politics, and everything else they thought was fancy and grown-up. Sophia and I had stopped trying to understand them ages ago...words flew into our ears, but no clear understanding appeared into our young minds. Half of the conversation we could just barely make out; we spoke the same language- standard english, but we didn’t know much. Of course, english was my first language, italian not appearing until years after. But there were words I just couldn’t make out. Maybe they talked too fast? Or maybe I was just slow?

“Mom, ho fame!” I whined. My mother sternly shushed me quiet, and I shrunk back further into my chair. My mother and my sister were the only others in the room who could speak italian. My grandmother  (on my mothers side) knew a little, and my grandfather knew none. It was my grandparents on my father’s side. They hail from italy, speak it well, and taught their grandchildren enough to understand a little.

Over time, my sister and I developed a mini-language between us. Half english, half italian became the norm, and only when we were at school or around strangers did we tuck the italian half away into our minds. When we we grew older, my cousin taught us a few curse-words that the grown-ups might not catch. Words that could have two meanings, or depended on what sentence it was used in, became our secret code. We became so accustomed to the way we spoke, between just the two of us, that eventually it sounded neither like english or italian.

In middle school, the italian part slowly faded from my speech until only a small taste was left clinging to my tongue.

“Ha-ha, and I told her to succhiare il cazzo,”
I told my sister, as we walked down the halls to our next class. Our friends were beside us; when they managed to hear the quick sprinkling of italian onto the main english course, well, they were shocked. “What? Was that english or gibberish?” One rudely asked. My cheeks always turned a crimson red when someone said something like this. I learned quickly that many didn’t like it when I spoke it, even to myself, so I reserved it for home and home only. That was the only way to spare myself from embarrassment.

For the few that didn’t care, they assumed I spoke it fluently, which is not the case. They’d point out things, and ask me to translate them to english; I’d try my best, but sometimes I could provide no answer.

“Ha, okay, okay, now...what’s that?” A boy pointed at a tree. I paused, thinking, the word on the tip of my tongue. Switching back and forth was becoming harder for me, since I had started using italian much less. I had become rusty, compared to my old speed- spitting out words faster than I could think of them.  

“uh.....albero? I think...” I stuttered. The crowd was not satisfied, and pushed further in inquiring more about my knowledge in the italian language. A girl in the group pulled out her phone, and held it close to my face. “What’s this?”

“A cell phone? I....I don’t know.” I answered. She smirked, tucked her phone back into her pocket, and started to walk away. “ I thought you knew all the words,” I heard her say.

Language is a funny thing- it’s associated with race, culture, who you are, yet it’s an entire thing in it itself. Language shows who you identify with, where your family was from, and most importantly who you think you are. English to me is like a life preserver in the vast sea of mixed words, racing through my mind. Confusion often fogs over my thoughts when I try to  think- italian and english both come to me at the same time, and sometimes I slip up. English is something to which I can cling to when I’m around others. You could say it’s my more developed language.

The italian language isn’t so much the words to me as it is the memories that come along with it-
loud meals and loose guests, delicious food, garlic and tomato scents drifting outside to the back porch. My house smells like a italian restaurant almost every day; you’d think chicken fettuccine and broccoli alfredo were all my mom knows how to cook. The stories my grandfather tells me comes to mind every time I think of italian; it’s a happy place amongst stressful situations. I often find that when I’m over-emotional, italian will leak out. I guess that makes italian my more reserved, but just as valuable language, saved for special situations.

As Gloria Anzaldua said: “We needed a language with which we could communicate with ourselves, a secret language.” Although this language...this, ‘engtalian’ is spoken by many italian americans, it’s unique. It lets one  communicate in an americanized yet somewhat traditional way, by blending both languages, and cultures. In other words, it’s a code- the small bits of italian confuses the english speakers, and the english confuses the italian speakers. Language is a way to show individuality, express feelings, and communicate with others. It’s affected by surroundings, backgrounds, and memories. In this case, it’s created my prefered language- Engtalian.

YATW Blog Post #2 (Gay Rights)

Hey, guys! I'm back for a second blog post. Can you guess what the topic is? Yep, Gay Rights yet again. There's so much to talk about this topic that I don't think I'd be able to fit it all within this blog post alone. Of course, if you're new to my blog post and are lost, here's a link to my first blog post on the subject. Click here to view blog post #1. 
Now, hopefully you've read blog post #1 because I'm about to dive into some new information. It's been about a month since my last post and boy there are tons and tons of new things I want to share with you! First off, we're having the first ever transgender women to compete in the Miss California USA Pageant! The name by which she goes by is Kylan Wenzel. This is a big step forward for many in regards to gay rights. Some of you may be wondering "How can that happen? I thought they didn't allow transgenders to compete." It is now allowable since the man Donald Trump has banished the rule of having the contestants be natural born females. 
To add to my research I've found a some meaty news I bet you would love to hear about! Have you heard of Pastor Dave Buehner by any chance? Some of you may know him and some of you may not. The thing is that he made a statement on January 8, 2013 that our nation's "embrace of homosexuality" will destroy everything. He says it will destroy society, lives, and families. Absurd isn't it? He has even went so far as to relate gay marriage to mass shootings across the country. He mentioned the Connecticut incident which happened last month. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Connecticut incident please click here for more information.) To me, I think he's just making a desperate attempt to try and strengthen the opinion of anti-gay organizations and change the minds of people considering supporting gay rights.
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    ​Picture of Pastor Dave Buehner's statement about Gay Marriage and mass shootings.   

Pastor Dave Buehner
Pastor Dave Buehner

I've conducted my own research at my school by sending out a survey to my fellow classmates and advisories. I had a total of 36 responses. The results were absolutely astonishing! Out of the 36, 31 participants responded that they were straight when asked their sexual orientation. The next question was in regards to whether they supported gay rights or not. We had a whopping 33 participants that said they supported gay rights. The question after that dealt with if those people actively supported gay rights. This one was rather surprising, but at the same time I expected it. The results were that 15 people actively supported gay rights, while the other 21 didn't. I mean don't take this the wrong way; I'm appalled that this many people actually did support gay rights actively. It's basically about 50% of all the participants, way more than I expected. 

Now, you're probably wondering what the final question was and let me tell you this was the most disappointing one. The final question was: "Do you think the government is handling the topic of Gay Rights as good as they can?" The results were that 82% of the participants said "no". This is disappointing to me because if you're own countrymen/women can notice that your not handling it well and they're pointing it out to you, why can't you do something about it? The government always says that their handling it to the best of their ability, but have we really seen any changes? I think the government doesn't want to make any "hasty" decisions in fear of losing trust from certain groups in the public. For an example, if the government decided to support gay rights, it's quite possible they'll receive much hate from certain groups such as extreme Catholics. As you may know having any sexual interactions with one of the same sex is frowned upon in the Catholic society. They've even have gone as far as to say you'll "burn in hell" for the "sins" you've committed towards god. I'm not saying Catholics are bad people it's just that there are some people who are extreme Catholics that happen to go against this concept because it says it's a sin in the Bible. I'm not here to judge. My job is to educate you on the matter at hand. This world is forever changing and we must keep up with it. There's absolutely no way that you're going to be able to ban same-sex marriages or rights, so why not just go along with it? That's just my opinion. 
Since the responses were sent back from my survey, I was able to get an idea of how my classmates and advisories think about this topic. I was able to understand that not everyone is going to agree with my topic, especially since it's a pretty big and sometimes an emotional thing to talk about. I understand that this topic is pretty well balanced on both sides, each side having strong valid arguments. I know I'm supposed to be in favor of gay rights, but I'm not going to ignore reality. What I can say is that we need to fight harder for what we deserve.  
My personal opinions are still the same even after I've found new information and conducted my own research, you're sexuality shouldn't matter, you should still have your rights. Think of it this way. You're born and you're given all the rights obtainable; then years later when you announce you're gay, those rights are stripped from you. How does that work exactly? I still don't understand some of the things our government does. 
I know this may seem a little pessimistic, but will our government ever change to benefit its people? We've been playing this game far too long. How much longer till we reach equality for all? I'm hoping through my agent of change part that I'll make some sort of an impact. My thoughts were to volunteer or help out in some way with organizations that deal with these matter such as the HRC (Human Rights Campaign). If I'm not able to do that then I'll probably go to other schools and have a talk with them about the topic if it's allowed. Those are only two of the many ideas I have for this project.  

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HRC's Logo

Click here to view my annotated bibliography!