Rediscovering the Love of Reading (Youth Speak Out Series)

This Quarantine has been an unprecedented and unforgiving time for many of us. Most people are feeling at least a little isolated; anxiety and depression are on the rise. Everyone needs a way to deal with the feelings that this period in time has brought. Teens and young adults, like me, are presented with a unique challenge, as they deal with the already jarring transition from childhood to adulthood. Towards the beginning of the quarantine, I was feeling alone and overwhelmed by all sorts of negative emotions that I did not know what to do with. Now having to adapt to adulthood, along with the changes our world is facing, it is understandable that many of us are feeling increasingly stressed out.

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels

While we cannot do much about the hand the world has dealt us, we are responsible for how we react. All of our negative emotions are augmented by the loneliness and stress that have been stacked on top of us. Many are unfortunately turning to unhealthy outlets to rid themselves of those pent up emotions. However, some of us are using this time to grow. People are overcoming their negative feelings in a myriad of ways: they are learning new languages, picking up new skills, devoting themselves to a project etc. There are no limits as to what you can do to help you manage the negative emotions that have accompanied this quarantine, different strategies work for different people. For me, the way to weather the storm of negative emotions that I faced was by rekindling my love of reading.

I was an avid reader growing up, and I always especially enjoyed stories set in fantasy worlds. I believe that reading so much as a young child helped me become a more curious and thoughtful person. However, as I got older, I began to be obligated to read things, especially at school. While I understood that it was necessary, this change in mindset completely derailed my enjoyment and turned me off to reading. Recently, looking for a way to pass the time, I started reading a couple of web novels. Almost immediately, I fell back in love with reading. As I swiped through page after page, reading about fantasy worlds filled with magic and splendor, I was provided with what so many of us need right now: an escape. Reading does not stop us from feeling, as many try to accomplish to get through these difficult times. Instead, books introduce us to, and let us feel a whole new slew of positive emotions. Good books allow us to live vicariously through their characters, they allow us to feel happy when they succeed and make us root for them when they struggle; they give us hope. 

Fantasy Book Recommendations for Teens:

  • Frith Chronicles: Written By Russian author, Shami Stovall, Frith Chronicles is a coming of age tale that is relatable to many teens. It is set in a world where Arcanists can gain powers by bonding with magical creatures. I would recommend it to fans of other series, like Harry Potter, that feature a magic school and many adventures .
  • Reborn: Apocalypse: Written by LM Kerr, Reborn Apocalypse takes place in an alternate dimension where humanity has been placed in order to compete to survive against other races. Eventually, humanity loses but the main character is able to return back in time back to when he was first pulled into the apocalyptic game with all of his knowledge about how to do better. I would recommend this book to people who might not even like to read because the game-like system which governs the alternate world makes  it very easy to get into and makes the reader feel like they are in a video game.
  • Cradle: The Cradle series, by Will Wight, has gained a very dedicated following online, and for good reason. It is a Western take on Eastern martial arts cultivation novels, in which strength dictates authority. It is incredibly well-written with great world building and compelling characters. It starts out a little bit slower than other fantasy books, but it picks up with each chapter you read. I would recommend it to those who have a little bit more time on their hands because the series is long and definitely gets you invested.

Jaydon is a senior in high school who lives in Pacifica with his family and his dog.

Why I Support Black Lives Matter (Youth Speak Out Series)

2020 has been a rough year for everyone, but change is happening. The passing of George Floyd, a black man brutally murdered by a police officer by the name of Derek Chauvin. This sparked the outburst for the protests of Black Lives Matter (BLM) with sayings of “Defund the Police” or “I can’t breathe.” Police brutality has been going on for years and has unfortunately been targeted toward the black community.  

Innocent black citizens across the world have been murdered by the people who are sworn to “protect and serve” their country. Protests have hit the streets, as of now, all 50 states have protested Black Lives Matter, and it is still happening today. For people saying “If someone breaks into your house, who are you going to call if you defund or abolish the police?” We aren’t saying defund or abolish the police to get rid of police as a whole, but to change the cement and the base of what the police force is built on. Back in the Civil War, the police force was a “slave patrol” and had every intention to find, capture, and return escaped slaves to their masters. Sometimes it went as far as killing slaves. Yes, we may call 911 for a missing person, domestic violence, etc., but we expect someone that only needs six months of training, a high school diploma and has a lethal weapon with NO de-escalation training to help us? There’s bound to be some sort of problem.  

There is also a saying, for the other side that Blue Lives Matter, but I, personally do not believe that saying. In Black Lives Matter, the black community is born with their skin color, and could/is afraid of them getting killed because of the color of their skin, instead with Blue Lives Matter, cops aren’t born with anything that could make them be afraid of anything. They are given a blue uniform, putting them in Blue Lives Matter. It’s unfair for people to turn around and say Blue Lives Matter if police can’t get killed due to the color of their skin. Yes, police could be afraid of their daily job, putting their lives in danger, but they signed up for it. They knew what they were going into. If you look down on the other races, why abuse your power and go out of your way to kill an innocent person due to the color of their skin? 

 A person I am about to talk about was killed by the color of his skin. Elijah Mcclain, say his name. Elijah was killed in August of last year but his case is just now opening back up. Elijah was 24 when he was killed by police. Elijah would stop by his local pet adoption center and would play the violin for the cats so they could fall asleep. One night, he was walking home. He was wearing a ski mask, and dancing/listening to music. A neighbor called the police, and had said they didn’t think that Elijah was doing anything suspicious, but to just check up on him. That didn’t end well, as Elijah was held down as paramedics injected an overdose of ketamine, a medication used to sedate someone. Elijah is one of the hundreds, of thousands, of black people killed by police. I feel horrible for Elijah and his family, Elijah probably had a better heart than me but was killed for the color of his skin.

So, in light of recent events, I hold my fist up high and will scream Black Lives Matter as loud as I can, so police brutality, and racism as a whole can end. There are plenty ways you can help support the movement. You can protest, sign petitions, and donate to cooperation’s that will help with the movement, and discuss the movement with friends and family. 2020 is a tough time, but we will get through this united.  

Black Lives Matter. 

About Rachel O.

Hello! I am Rachel. I am a young person who seeks to see change in the world through my writing. Although I aspire to be an actress on Broadway, I still love to write and love to inspire and create worlds of my imagination through my writing. I am very excited about this, as it is all very new and exciting for me, as it can help me grow and form into a strong independent person in the future.
Image from Taylor Madu

Teens, Too: A Voice for Young People at Big Idea Fest 2016

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One part of growing up poor in an urban environment, from my experience in New York City, is that you get stuck in a bubble, a sphere that is reinforced by socio-economic forces. For me that meant tenement houses in the Lower East Side, and later, the projects across from the notorious Ave D Housing projects. In that microcosm, my mom tried to keep me safe from violence by immersing us in the church, isolating us from the “world”. That probably didn’t work as she intended, but it prevented the opportunity to get involved with the community, gangs and the scene on the street. I never had the opportunity to go to summer or science camp or mix with people from different walks of life. It also meant moving around in a network of other working poor, isolated families. In that situation, it’s difficult to imagine another scenario or way of life. For sure books can reveal other worlds, opening the readers’ imagination and introducing possibilities, but nothing is more powerful than a high-context, lived experience. In my opinion, it is personal encounter that shapes aspirations and expands horizons. Perhaps my experiences are unique, but if the general happiness of the participants at this year’s Big Idea Fest is any indication, it’s an amazing place to be, no matter how old you are. img_1815

Big Ideas Fest might be the first time a teenager from an urban school gets to stay in fancy, four- and five-star hotel—with a pool, hot tub and all the other perks. This adds up in assets of navigational capitol that can be transferred into other areas of their lives. These young people will have the advantage of knowing how to navigate their discomfort in new spaces with new people, and also feel a sense of belonging in professional and recreational settings with mixed age groups, genders and vocations, which can have lasting impact on a student’s wellbeing and outcomes, not the least of which might be interview and social skills. At Big Ideas Fest, teen participants get treated like the thoughtful human beings they are, and if they don’t, they learn how to speak up and assert themselves by tapping into their personal power with tools taught to them at the conference. img_1820

My observation is that the student participants don’t always start out being confident and outgoing, but with the investment in them by staff and teachers, and quality interactions with other participants, many will flourish and find their places in the broader circle of the community. For these students, their Venn diagrams are suddenly overlapping with directors from international companies like Airbnb or with non-profit and grassroots founders, organizers and reformers from all over the country, people who seem more like themselves than distant success stories on the Internet. Big Ideas Fest does all of this youth from urban schools by providing them with scholarships to attend and take leadership roles.

Plus, these teens gain other forms of currency that may fall under the radar: They get to enjoy posh places in California, like the Ritz Carlton and Hayes Mansion, fairly exclusive places by most standards. Not only are these young people learning how to be another world, they’re also experiencing that world as an expert, contributing high value to the outcomes of their Action Collab groups. They speak up, step up and handle a microphone to share their insights about the things they really care about. There’s no doubt that we have no idea what these teenagers are bringing to the conference until we step back and let them have their say. These may seem like trivial things, but the truth is, Big Ideas Fest helps young people to see outside of the scope of class confines, and expands and inspires possibilities, opportunities and aspirations. That’s just one of the great ideas that comes out of the annual conference.