The Untold Story of International Students

Roughly 12 percent of CHS students are foreign-born, immigrants or refugees, according to Mr. Robinson. These students face an exceptionally stressful reality while having to adapt to a new country, but they also have to deal with the overly expensive and complicated college application process of the U.S.

Most people forget about the additional hurdles of applying as an international student, and schools overlook the fact that these students require extra guidance as they navigate an unfamiliar system.

As an international student myself, I’m constantly disappointed to find out that I’m not eligible to receive in-state tuition. If you think out-of-state tuition is expensive, imagine having to pay out-of-state for any college in state too. Even when I work so hard in school to go to my dream college, my decision will always come down to the money.

I dread the moment when I discover that I can’t apply to a great scholarship or program that would have been a good fit for me. Even the programs that I am eligible to apply for are complicated because they require additional financial documents to be submitted.

Without careful guidance, one could easily fill out a form incorrectly or miss a step that would sabotage one’s possibility to receive an important scholarship. For many of us, scholarship opportunities are limited, so we can’t afford to make a mistake that would delay, or worse, cancel our applications.

My parents are not familiar with the system in the U.S., and language is a barrier that has prevented them from getting as involved in the process as I need them to be. The feelings of stress and anxiety over applying to college aren’t healthy for a seventeen year old to deal with on their own.

Long conversations with other international students prove that I am not alone in the stress of having to independently figure out the college application process. Many of us agree that applying to college is only one step of a much more overwhelming process that includes battling for good financial aid, because international students have to pay out-of-state tuition everywhere, and changing our visas in order to study in this country.

As my fellow senior and friend Minsung Kim put it, “Our stress doesn’t go away when January rolls around and college applications are done – it just changes form.”

We are lucky to have very accessible and dedicated counselors at CHS, but with all these obstacles, the school should create targeted support groups for international students, refugees, first generation students, and other minority groups to help us achieve the higher education we want.

This year, I am a part of NC Scholars’ Latino Initiative, a mentoring program that guides Latinx youth throughout their high school years. NC SLI pairs UNC Chapel Hill students with high school student to work one-on-one on applications.

NC SLI has equipped me with the tools to take charge of my future, and it has been a strong support system that I have relied on to get through an overwhelming couple of months. It is crucial that we create more programs like this one at CHS, because every hard working and ambitious student deserves an equal opportunity to reach their goals.

I cannot thank my counselor, Mr Turner, and NC SLI enough for their guidance. But the college application process is still not over, and it’s not too late to help each other out. Whether it’s reading over a friend’s essay or referring them to a mentor program, we need to be there for each other throughout these frustrating, yet exciting, times!

 

For more information on NC SLI:

http://ncsli.unc.edu/

sli@unc.edu | +1 919 962 6313 tel

Why I’m Leaving CHS

Among the many valedictorians living off instant coffee and the constant pressure that you may never achieve your dreams because of a three digit number, it’s easy to forget that you have other options besides living just to work yourself to death.

Last year, I realized that spending an average of nine hours per day in an artificially-lit building didn’t make me happy. I loved being outside, but I didn’t have time for it.

Between my school assignments, theatre commitments and basic human obligations (sleeping, eating, showering), I had few moments where I felt like I didn’t have anything I should be doing. I was stressed. I was sad. But honestly, I wasn’t the only person fed up with the monotony of my current school experience.

I am lucky to attend CHS—one of the best public schools in the state. However, like all public schools, it has institutionalized issues: cramped bell schedules, large teacher-to-student ratios, and students struggling to find their niche. Most students manage to bite their tongue, make it through four years, and then move on to do the things they actually wanted to spend their time on.

I started to think something was wrong with me. The daily routine of things that I didn’t even enjoy started to drive me crazy. Why do I have to spend four years of my life stuck in a perpetual groundhog day?

The truth is, I didn’t. So I decided to apply to the Outdoor Academy, located in the mountains of North Carolina. I did it to mix things up, experience something new, and more importantly, to do something I was afraid of.

The thought of waking up every morning to a mountaintop sunrise started to become less of a pipe-dream and more of a quickly-approaching reality. I was thrilled to be in smaller, more specialized classes with an environmental focus.

Admittedly, the reality of spending four months with “the world being my classroom” (as advertised) was incredibly daunting, but the problem with my life in public school is that I wasn’t doing anything that scared me. Honestly, what scared me probably more than anything else was the idea of not doing what everyone else was doing.

The typical high school culture creates mountains out of molehills instead of actually just climbing the mountains. We place value on numbers and scores and grades and not on real, genuine experiences.

Public school is not for everyone, and the simple truth is this: just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it is the best option. Non-traditional types of schooling may be better for certain students. Don’t push yourself to settle for something that may not be for you.

If you’re tired of worrying about the molehills, it might be time to find your mountain.

How the Economy Sends us to School

We spend around 2,400 days of our lives in this system, and we have no say in those days. Seven hours a day, 185 days of the year, we are in the same building. But the people spending these seven hours aren’t the ones deciding the timing of them—businesses make these decisions for us. What I’m talking about is how our N.C. yearly school schedule reflects more the interests of the tourism industry rather than the those of the students.

Every year for three months, most of the under-18-year-old portion of the U.S. population (around 22.9%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau) becomes completely unoccupied and ripe-for-the-taking by the American tourism industry. During these summer months, most Carrboro families take trips to visit family in other states, see new places or just hang out at the beach. And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.

By creating this massive market for commercial America, our public school schedules—and, by extension, those of most private/charter schools—have become part of a carefully crafted system that provides business owners around the country with a massive and dependable source of income. Are we as a state really okay with our public schools being scheduled by business owners? Beyond that, our current schedule gives students only three minutes between classes, which gives the school day a nonstop feeling that can be overly stressful to students.

However, it doesn’t need to be this way. There’s a better school schedule; one that would give students more structure and make the year feel more spaced out. That schedule is simple: nine weeks on, two weeks off, for four quarters—and then a full four week break between each grade year. This satisfies both the district’s 185-day-per-year requirement, while still making the sub-18-year-old population available for commercial exploitation for a full month out of the year.

The benefits don’t stop there. With a full two weeks between each quarter, school becomes more structured, and student stress goes down thanks to the consistent and extended break time. Families will also still find it easy to take their yearly vacation, and may even find that crowds are smaller if they go to Disneyland during the two-week winter break instead of during the spring or summer.

But this still isn’t the perfect system. The second component of a perfect school schedule is equally as simple though: block schedules. Not only do block schedules allow students to have a more meaningful amount of class time everyday, but the 90 minute classes allow a standard course to be completed in one semester—meaning that students can take eight courses per year. Add that up and you can satisfy your 22-credit graduation requirement within just three years of high school. This in turn allows for more flexibility in class scheduling and creates more time in students’ schedules for extracurriculars and career development.

A combination of a four-class per-day block schedule and nine weeks on, four weeks off, would benefit students, teachers and parents, as well as continue to sustain the U.S. commercial machine. It is absolutely nonsensical for our education system to remain in its current state, which creates stressed students and is commercially-controlled; it’s up to us students to push change in that system.

Let’s Lead and Learn

In high school, we regard few things with more reverence than leadership. For the vast majority of my life, I wanted to be a leadership figure. But at last year’s Jaguar Jump-In, as I walked by the countless club displays, I was disturbed by how little I considered what I would actually get out of a club. Would I learn something? Would I gain experience? Rather, I focused my energy on finding clubs with attainable leadership positions.

Our environment trains us to have think this way. Our teachers, relatives and peers remind us constantly that colleges seek and admit leaders; in short, being a leader is synonymous with being an achiever.

As a result, it’s tempting to ignore or overestimate our qualifications in attempt to spearhead an activity. After all, those in charge get the recognition. But this negates an important concept: there are often people who are better suited for the job.

Not only would more experienced people do more to help a club or further a cause, but they are also valuable sources of knowledge. This sounds cheesy, I know, but the moment we emphasize resumé-building over learning, we do ourselves and our peers a disservice; it creates an atmosphere of one-upmanship, not an appreciation of wisdom.

This “leadership mindset” also gives students the incorrect impression that glamour should fuel hard work. As I prepare for college and my future career, I want a realistic preview of my future. Most of the work I do will go largely unrecognized. But why does this upset me, and others, the way it does? Wouldn’t it be far more upsetting to enter employment with unrealistic expectations, only to be disappointed?

Perhaps most upsetting of all, putting so much emphasis on leadership undermines a large portion of the workforce. For every leader, there are many more followers, and to praise leadership over following discounts their efforts. Are followers really any less capable simply because they aren’t the “face” of something? Can only leaders be visionaries?

I firmly disagree with this idea that being a visionary and being a follower are mutually exclusive. To work hard without receiving praise, to care deeply without needing recognition; that is to be a visionary.

Don’t mistake my sentiments as pessimistic, or even as anti-leadership. Some of the people I admire most are leaders, including both historical figures and students right here at CHS. Penny Newall, a junior, is a prime example. Newall heads the SECU Family House club, which she founded through her connections with the organization. Unlike many other Carrboro students, who know little about SECU, Newall knows enough to educate others and make a difference. Thus, her role as club president is appropriate.

Developing leadership skills can also be beneficial, as such skills can help people pursue interests and aid us in our understanding of a movement’s various obstacles. In short, there is a time and place for both leading and following, and neither should be disparaged.

We must allow ourselves to maximize learning opportunities instead of confining ourselves solely to impressive positions. I’d like to see teachers, parents and even students stop asking us what we’ve led. Instead, ask us what we’ve learned.

Protest or Pass

When asked to choose between legal and illegal protests, the answer seems clear. But looking further, there’s a much more complex rationale for civil disobedience than meets the eye.

From a historical perspective, almost every successful movement has required activists to display defiance both legally and illegally.

This is clear when looking back on riots during the civil rights era, where we tend to view unlawful protesters as brave revolutionaries. Sit-ins, road blocking, and other illegal demonstrations from the past are seen favorably now– so why don’t we view those who are doing the same thing today in a positive light?

The same goes for civil rights leaders such as Malcolm X, who said in a 1964 speech to Peace Corps, “It doesn’t mean that I advocate violence, but at the same time, I am not against using violence in self-defense. I don’t call it violence when it’s self-defense, I call it intelligence.”

Most people would agree that self-defense was a necessary measure during segregation and slavery. Protesters today are being lead by these same values, but we tend to look down upon their right to defend themselves and their liberties.

Centuries of protests and riots have proven that often times those trying to make a positive difference are the ones punished for their civil disobedience, rather than those who initiated the unrest. There is an implicit double-standard of keeping the peace in times of conflict.

This trend of reformers being consistently looked down upon by other people of their time is shameful. Only after a widespread movement and change in society are these people praised—and by then it’s too late.

Although unlawful action is never preferable, it can be a necessary measure when attempting to reform systems and institutions. Creating unrest now has the potential to save thousands of lives in the future.

Police tear gas and arrest a crowd of demonstrators in Venezuela. Photo courtesy reuters.com

A Deplorable Political Revolution

Brexit. Trump. Bernie.

Whether it’s Boris Johnson in England — whose UKIP led the misleading and unfortunate movement to separate the country from the EU — or Bernie Sanders — whose “revolution” ended in successfully pushing his party’s platform much farther left than Hillary Clinton probably would have liked — the political world is being seized by radically different candidates and movements.

With the force of young people and the chronically disadvantaged behind them, these movements have the potential to not only drive our world forward on issues like education, justice reform and women’s rights, they also reveal deeply entrenched divisions and long-harbored hatreds in societies around the world.

Donald Trump took the GOP by storm and bent the entire party to his will while garnering only 46 percent of the GOP primary votes. His rise to the top of “The Party of Lincoln” was an exercise in opposites, with the candidate garnering the most votes, for and against him, of any candidate in U.S. primary election history.

Political experts all over the spectrum have composed a similar narrative in talking about Trump, Brexit, and Bernie. At first, they dismissed them as fads or hoaxes faced with insurmountable odds.
“How could Jeb Bush lose?” said right-wing talk-show host, Rush Limbaugh. “British citizens will see the light!”

“Hillary’s coronation is all but guaranteed,” said The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.

Look where we are now.

But pundits aren’t the issue here. They couldn’t have seen the populations of people who are the backbones of these movements: the liberal college students across America who led the Bernie or Bust movement; the economically depressed, conservative, white racist population in England who is tired of a faceless international organization stealing their hard-earned tax dollars to save Syrian refugees, or the similar populations in America who want to “Make America Great Again.”

Disenchanted blocs of voters have always existed in some number, but now they have spaces, like Twitter, and figureheads, like Donald or Bernie, through which they have made their opinions known—deplorable as those may be.

A revolution of this type and scope has taken years to come about and it will be a while until the effects fully materialize. Years of political and economic dissatisfaction have resulted in this enormous population of people with a distrust for “the establishment” — politicians, corporations and our world as a whole.

Emotions are running so strong that these traditionally-centrist and satisfied people are able to abandon some or all of their values; they have turned to people like Trump, Sanders, or Johnson as a way of voicing their displeasures.

Liberals, like me, may still be in disbelief at people who want to build a wall, defund Planned Parenthood and restrict which bathrooms we can use. But this is our reality now, and our democracy must adapt as it always has.

Although putting them in a basket and calling them deplorable might seem effective and necessary, how much progress have we ever gotten with that approach?

What the mainstreaming of bigotry has done is create a shift in our overall political climate. But the fundamentals of our democracy remain. And, as we should with any new ideological group that gains power in that democracy, all factions of America must work together to craft meaningful legislation that benefits the majority.

Bernie supporters rally in Greensboro on September 13, 2015. Photo courtesy Julia Klein

When Computers Choose who Lives and who Dies

Two cars are heading towards each other on a narrow bridge. Their brakes are failing, and they each have two options: swerve or continue straight. If both cars do the same thing, both drivers die. But if one swerves off the bridge and the other doesn’t, one driver lives. In most cases, the drivers will both choose to do nothing and both die. But what if they don’t have a choice?

With the arrival of self-driving cars, which are controlled by computers rather than people, this choice of what to do in the case of an imminent crash could no longer be for the driver to make.
Instead, life and death decisions may be determined by a so-called “death algorithm” downloaded into the car at its construction.

In July, the owner of a Tesla died when his vehicle, set to autopilot, failed to brake and collided with a trailer-truck. He was not driving, and some consumer advocates argue Tesla should be held responsible.

With the fast pace of technological innovations, we are destined to see more and more self-driving car on the roads in the near future. Many will still have aspects that allow humans to override autonomous control, but the cars will eventually be forced to make more choices about imminent collisions.
Soon, autonomous cars will be able to communicate information with each other, such as how many passengers each has and who those passengers are, in fractions of a second, and then act accordingly.

But do you choose who lives and who dies based off this information, and how?
What if one of the cars on the bridge contained a family of six, and the other a single passenger? A convicted felon in one, and the President in another?

I know these scenarios are hypothetical, but self-driving cars are here. I am not a philosopher nor any kind of expert in morality, but someone will have to answer these questions before autonomous cars become widely available. So here’s what I believe.

The minute we start attaching different values to different lives, we cross the moral line. Call me unsympathetic, but I do not care if the crash is going to be between a schoolbus of children and a bus of inmates on death row; a life is a life. There cannot be a grey area.

We could ask the algorithm to save as many lives as possible, even if it meant suicide for certain cars. But who would buy a car they knew could choose to kill them? How would you feel if someone close to you died because their vehicle was on track to collide with a group who happened to carpool that day?
That leaves a last option: the algorithm is told to always act in the best interest of its own passengers. More lives would be lost, but this is the way we drive now. We prioritize ourselves. We cannot swerve off the bridge.

If you look in terms of the bigger picture, we are selfish. But that’s ok. Self-preservation is what makes us human. The value we put on our own lives is not wrong; rather, it is what distinguishes us from the technology we build.

Computers don’t have instincts or emotions. They’re highly analytical and able prioritize society over the individual with ease. Which unsettles us, rightly.

Whatever your opinion, try to think about these things now rather than later. Write to Congress (if you believe the government should have a role in regulating death algorithms), Google, Tesla; make these decisions about your life and the lives of those around you rather than leave them up manufacturers of self-driving cars.

As our world becomes more technologically advanced, we will need to figure out how exactly we want this world to look. Computers cannot think on their own (yet), so we are the ones who get tell them what to do. Let’s make sure we’re telling them the right things, whatever you interpret that to be.

Senior Paige Watson lets her car do all the driving. Photo by Mireille Leone

The Equality Issue No One Talks About

In today’s economy, a woman is paid seventy-nine cents for every dollar a man makes. That difference – the extra twenty-one cents males are paid for having a Y chromosome – is called the “gender pay gap.”

One of the core ideals of the United States is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. The idea is to give everyone the same tools, then it’s up to the individual to achieve what he or she can with them. Today, only white males (like myself) are granted the full set of freedoms that our country supposedly gives everyone.

The gender pay gap has existed ever since women entered the workforce after World War II. In the 1960, women were paid forty cents less than men. That means in the last fifty years, we have cut the gap by a measly twenty cents.

If women aren’t given the same opportunity that men are to make money, how can the U.S. brag about freedom and equality for all? For the U.S. to continue as the beacon of democracy and fairness we love to think of ourselves as, fixing the gender pay gap ought to be a top priority.

The question remains: how do we fix the gap? A good start would be outlawing pay inequality, but the U.S. has already tried that. In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay act with the goal of “equal pay for equal work.” The law did create some success, as the twenty cent decrease in the pay gap since 1960 demonstrates.

However, the U.S. government does not have the ability to check the salaries of every company in the US for pay equality, so simply stating in law that women and men will be paid the same does not solve the issue.

A simple solution that would close the gap is a ban on negotiation for salaries. Men are, statistically, better negotiators than women. Fifty-seven percent of men ask for higher salaries than what is offered to them, but only 50% of women do the same, according to a Princeton study.

As a result, men start with higher salaries than women, so even if pay raises are the same for both genders, men make more money. By banning salary negotiation, starting salaries would be the same for every new employee at the company. Men would also benefit – not all males are comfortable negotiating, so a ban on salary negotiation would level the playing field for males as well.

Although most of us at Carrboro High School have never had to negotiate for a salary, almost all professional fields have salary negotiation at some level, meaning a good amount of CHS students will encounter it. The practice is antiquated and unfair – being a good negotiator does not mean you will be a good employee.

The issues that lead to discrimination are often deeply rooted in institutions and have no easy solution. The gender pay gap follows this trend. Banning salary negotiation will most likely not end the gap, but it will almost certainly close the difference between male and female salaries, pushing us closer to fulfilling our promise of equality and freedom for all.

Freshman Jordan Smith and Junior Chris Hodge represent the pay gap. Photo by Mireille Leone; photo illustration by Sofia Dimos

Accutane Accusations

Despite accusations of increased risk of suicide and depression, Accutane, a drug prescribed to high schoolers and young adults, reduces acne and boosts the confidence of those suffering from embarrassment.

Some worry that Accutane spurs self-harm. Yet, large population studies performed on teens and young adults taking various acne medications found there was no correlation between Accutane and mood changes.

Accutane is negatively perceived by the public despite being a drug that has helped many.
Last year, I almost went on Accutane. When I told my friends, their response was extremely negative: “it will ruin your body” and “you don’t need it, acne is just a phase!”

My acne had progressively worsened, and the treatments I was prescribed weren’t working. A solution I was excited about quickly became shameful.

My aunt also struggled with cystic acne as a teenager, and when it got worse she became extremely self-conscious. Her acne was resistant to all the treatments she had tried; putting on makeup was the only thing that made her feel human. She hid behind her hair, shielded her face from the world and wondered if she repulsed those who looked at her.

Isotretinoin (the generic form of Accutane) was initially studied to be an anticancer drug, but researchers found it to be a better anti-acne medication. It is currently the only FDA approved drug with the chance of ‘curing’ acne. Studies performed at UNC Dermatology have shown that 75% of patients who complete their treatment course (6-7 months), will not have acne again.

Having severe acne can be depressing and debilitating in itself, and those with it are more likely to experience major depressive disorders. By getting your acne under control, you not only reduce your risk of scarring but also improve your self image, confidence and improve your mood.

The perfect airbrushed appearance of celebrities in the media is unattainable, but acne is a normal part of development that everyone faces. Luckily, Accutane relieves the struggle and embarrassment of severe acne for those who suffer with low self-esteem. If acne is having a negative effect on your well-being, I recommend visiting the dermatologist. Let them help you feel comfortable in your own skin.

Don’t worry: It’s just your changing body.  Illustration by Katy Strong