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A silver lining to ed budget cuts

Here’s the latest student column, by the Newark student board rep. Next month, we’ll hear from New Haven Unified’s Leslie Salvador.

BUDGET CUTS UNITE COMMUNITY

By Evangel PenumakaEvangel Penumaka

Newark Unified student board member

Before this school year, I wasn’t very concerned with the number of budget cuts being made. I hadn’t realized the consequences of these changes and felt they wouldn’t really affect me. At the same time, I had no idea who was making all these decisions that would change our school and passed it off as the Faceless Man who could care less about the schools, the students and the teachers. That being said, my experience on the Newark school board has opened my eyes.

This year, I’m piecing together how everything works, what different factors play a role in the decisions made, as well as the number of people who make these decisions. I learn new things at every board meeting, and I’ve realized how naïve I was. These cuts will affect everyone, regardless of the different impact it has on us.  Continue Reading

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Honors vs. non-honors classes

Here’s the latest student column by Fremont Unified’s student board member Jennifer Siew. It was to run last month, but due to e-mail problems and computer glitches, followed by (dare I admit) oversight on my part, it’s just now coming to you.

The next column, by Newark Unified’s student board member Evangel Penumaka, will be posted later this month.

 Editor’s note: Since the initial school board discussion, trustees have decided not to have honors social studies classes at junior high schools.

HONORS VS. NON-HONORS: A NEW BREED OF SEGREGATION

By Jennifer SiewJennifer Siew

Fremont Unified student board member

“I have a dream.” Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these famous words in 1963, calling for the day when blacks and whites in America could live in harmony, without prejudice or segregation, without the differentiation of children and adults based on skin color and ancestral background.

As a country, we’ve broken down the barriers between “us” and “them,” overcoming immovable obstacles of hate and ignorance of one another. Our country continually progresses toward complete tolerance and integration, being the leading figure and role model for other countries. Yet, as racial tensions are split and removed, a new kind of segregation not only has manifested itself in our society, but it’s being bred in our schools, nurtured alongside the growth of our youth and finding shelter in our acceptance and tolerance of its existence.

About two months ago, the Fremont Unified School District’s director of secondary education, Kathy Ashford, and Assistant Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi gave a presentation dealing with our junior high schools’ honors and non-honors system. The main goals of the new proposition were to give students who don’t score well on standardized tests better opportunities to enter the honors program. This included lowering the minimum STAR test scores for entrance into honors classes. Discussions on the issue resulted in one basic statement: We shouldn’t let kids who aren’t “up to par” in the same classes as our “honors” kids; if they can’t make the requirements, they should remain in non-honors classes.

Think about this statement for a moment. Honors vs. non-honors. Blacks vs. whites. See the parallel? Continue Reading

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Student columnist: hospitality lacking in Bay Area

Here’s the third student column, which we’ve started running monthly on the blog. Leslie Salvador is a senior at James Logan High in Union City.

Last month’s column was by Evangel Penumaka of Newark. Next month’s column will be by Jennifer Siew of Fremont.

SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

leslie salvadorBy Leslie Salvador

New Haven Unified student board member

I have been fortunate to travel across the nation as a member of the renowned James Logan Forensics Speech and Debate Team. Last month, on my second trip to Mississippi to compete in the 2010 Hattiesburg Hub City Classic, I again experienced southern hospitality and realized that that trait is lacking in the Bay Area.

After roughly six hours of being on a plane, the James Logan Forensics Speech and Debate Team, headed by Coach Tommie Lindsey, was welcomed with open arms by two members of the Hattiesburg High School Forensics Team, Reggie and Cory, at the New Orleans airport. They rode with our team for two hours to Hattiesburg.

The time they sacrificed out of their schedules on a weekday to welcome us was a huge gesture, but the hospitality did not stop with the two young men. It started the moment I stepped off the plane and continued throughout the trip, which was something extraordinary. I have never felt so comfortable in a city other than Union City. Continue Reading

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Student column

Here’s the second student column, which we’ve started running once a month since January. This month’s column is by Evangel Penumaka, student representative to the Newark Unified school board. She attends Newark Memorial High.

Last month’s column was by Fremont student school board member Jennifer Siew. Next month, we’ll hear from Leslie Salvador of Logan High School in Union City (New Haven Unified student board member).

LETTING INVISIBLE CHILDREN BE HEARD

BANG TEEN COLUMNIST EVANGEL PENUMAKABy Evangel Penumaka

Newark Unified student board member

When I tell people about the club I started at school, I am sometimes met with skeptic faces and replies such as, “Invisible Children? What, do you go searching for kids that are, like, invisible?”

The other responses I get are positive, as most people become curious about what the club is, and if they’ve heard about it, they are eager to help.

Invisible Children is a non-profit which started in spring 2003 by three filmmakers from San Diego who traveled to Uganda. They were looking for a story and an adventure, but what they found shocked them. They learned about the war that has been waging in Uganda for more 23 years between a rebel army and the government. The rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, is led by Joseph Kony. When support for the movement to take control dwindled, Kony resorted to abducting children and forcing them to fight in the war. Continue Reading

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The Argus welcomes student columnists

Starting today, and once a month through the end of this school year, a student column will appear on this blog. The students come up with their own topics, which may address educational issues or youth culture in general.

The columnists are all student board members for their school districts. This month’s column is by Jennifer Siew, a senior at Irvington High in Fremont. Future columns will feature the writings of Newark student Evangel Penumaka and New Haven student Leslie Salvador.

 STUDENTS: APATHETIC OR SIMPLY WAITING TO BE HEARD?

Jennifer SiewBy Jennifer Siew

Fremont Unified student board member

Have you wondered why, as our political and social issues seem to grow, each generation’s interest in these topics dwindles? It just doesn’t make sense. You’d think with an election resulting in the first-ever African-American president, the participation of first-time voters — mainly those too young to vote in the last election — would significantly increase. Yet, according to a Gallup poll, the percentage of first-time voters in the 2008 election (13 percent) was identical to that of the 2004 election.

Opportunities for our upcoming citizens to get involved are growing exponentially, yet our voices are being slowly lost to fits of ignorance and indifference. Or are they? Does our generation not care about these issues, or are we just afraid to speak up?

High school exposes you to an unbelievable database of opinions, varying points of view, interesting perspectives and surprising lessons. I don’t believe for a second that students don’t care about the world around them, especially when the economic, as well as global, crises we’re in at the moment are affecting us all so heavily.

So why is it we don’t hear our students speaking out when we need them most? Continue Reading