Should There Be Changes to the School Lunch?

All public school students experience lunch in the cafeteria.  Although lunch is meant to be a healthy and delicious meal, recent reports suggest that that is not always the case.  High schoolers are actually throwing out their lunches and are turning to the junk food offered in the vending machines.  If there are new and improved lunches in public schools, then it is confusing as to why students are choosing to dispose of them.  It is important to educate ourselves about the food we eat in public schools because it can affect our physical and mental health.

Some students are still buying junk from the vending machines even though there are a variety of choices for lunch.  There are “health risks,” according to a “Mother Jones” article that claims that chemicals can be hiding in packaged lunches.  Schools need to be sure that what they are serving to students is safe to eat.  However, it is true that schools have improved lunches.  According to an online article from “”Health Research Funding,” schools “…are offering the foods that meet the nutritional standards that every student must possess.”  Melissa Malloy, the School Foods Service Manager for Academy of American Studies, Newcomers High School and three other schools, has the task of coordinating the transport of lunches and creating the menu for each day.  She agrees that “…public school lunches have come a long way,” and that the lunches are approved by a dietician before being sent out to schools.

One senior at Academy of American Studies, Nikole Versoza, has been eating the school lunch since her freshmen year.  She feels that there are foods that she “…can’t really choose from, such as pizza, which is served every day.”  Versoza believes that there has to be a variety of options for students who eat hot lunch because eating the same, unhealthy meals can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.  One in three kids are overweight or obese in this country, and part of this is due to the lack of healthy options in lunches nationwide.  Those who do not like the lunch, often choose snacks, which are not healthy or filling alternatives.  Versoza included that she would “…rather bring something from her house instead of the food choices sometimes.”

Although there are usually three options for lunch, some students believe that there could be additions to it.  Cece Humphrey, also a senior at AAS, said that she would often buy goldfish if she is not full from her lunch.  Spending money on school lunch and trips to the vending machine add up at the end of the year to hundreds of dollars.  When asked if there should be changes to the lunch, Humphrey immediately shouts that “there should be more fruit than just apples.”  She revealed that “people with braces cannot eat them and there is no other choice for fruits.”

There are effects of eating unhealthy food that are essential to know about.  A “Livestrong” article suggests that “proper nutrition is tied to better academic performance.”  Students have class after lunch and those who don’t eat can lose focus and begin to fall behind.  A student from the Academy of American Studies fainted because they chose not to eat lunch at all. Eating healthy is significant to a healthy body and mind.

The school lunch has positives and negatives, but it is even more important to always eat lunch.  Choosing not to eat lunch at all or only eating snacks can negatively impact students physically and mentally.  It can affect sleeping patterns, performance in school, attention spans, and cause constant headaches.  Some students think that there should be more fruits and vegetables added to the salad bar and counters.  If you are dissatisfied with the current school lunch, take action and contact the School Foods Service Manager.

Written by Rachel Manheim

Photo Credits to Rachel Manheim


Obstacle for Ex-offenders in the College Applications

For several decades, private and four year colleges in the U.S. except CUNY have made it mandatory for applicants to provide their history of crimes. Due to this requirement, ex-offenders are struggling to reflect on their past mistakes and take hold of the opportunities to do better. Robert Lewis, in his article High Hurdle to College for Ex-offenders, states that as part of the college application process for SUNY, nearly all ex-offenders are called in for interviews and questioning regarding their former criminal behavior. He states that by this stage, hardly any of the applicants receive positive reviews on their assessment or immediate confirmation on their enrollment. According to The Sentencing Project, the rate of incarceration in the U.S. is currently the highest in the world. However, SUNY police commissioner Bruce McBride justifies the criminal history specification with security concerns and the probability of recidivism during a student’s attendance.

Former New York City police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, stated in his interviews and published book, Jailer to Jailed, that the U.S. needs to make prison reforms due to the growing rate of incarceration. He criticized the prison system for being “tough on crime” because minor crimes can result in lengthened prison sentences. As more people are convicted of crimes, there is an immediate effect on the number of ex-offenders. The increase in criminal charges creates an obstacle for ex-convicts when they try to find a job, college admission, or anything which requires filling out applications. According to Robert Lewis, although there are numerous applicants with a criminal history who have been denied acceptance to college, over half of them drop out during the application process. They lose hope and confidence in themselves. In March 2015, state data showed that 35,000 individuals were released on parole in New York however, approximately only 500 had access to educational programs including college.

In an interview for the The Obstacle Course, Adrien Cadwallader recalled his experience with college officials from New Paltz as they questioned him about his past, especially his run-in with the law. Cadwallader, a 33 year old ex-offender whose criminal record consisted of 20 arrests spoke about how discouraged he felt in the process of applying to college. While in prison, Cadwallader caught up with his studies and hoped to gain a degree after his release, which would help him start over with a positive mindset. Therefore, determined, he went to the college evaluation and sent in letters from his psychologist and parole officer. After answering all the inquiries about his criminal record, he was eventually rejected by New Paltz and he gave up on college. “I felt like I was being set up to fail,” Cadwallader stated in the article by The Marshall Project.

Based on the article, Ban the Box by Michelle Rodriguez, currently 19 states in the U.S. including, Ohio, New York, and Oregon have “banned the box” for employment, which means one does not have to make any comments regarding their criminal history. Rodriguez clarifies that although an applicant’s background can be investigated after they’re hired, the legislation ensures that everyone is presented with a fair chance in the initial application process. These laws have inspired people to achieve the same for college admissions. A few schools have already removed any questions regarding criminal history such as St. John’s University as stated by Ariel Kaminer in the New York Times. More “ban the box” campaigns are being held throughout the nation. Further organizations such as the Center for Community Alternatives are advocating these ideas and publishing their research in order to eliminate assumptions of recidivism, which is a relapse of criminal behavior.

Deputy commissioner for SUNY, Paul Berger, expressed that awareness of the applicant’s criminal history is vital to campus’ safety. He further explains that it’s not their intention to discriminate against the applicants, instead they simply want to determine whether one is eligible for their college by extending the evaluation process. They also have to take into consideration that accepting ex-offenders may result in negative responses from students taking classes on that campus. “I think it’s okay for colleges to look into an applicant’s background. The college administrators have a responsibility to learn about them prior to accepting them. It helps them prepare for any situations relevant to the student which might occur in the future,” Tashi Sherpa, a junior in high school stated. Another student, a senior in high school preparing for college, Diana Rodriguez said “ I believe that criminal records should be asked about for the safety of the students at schools. This will show the true character of a person while making it possible for colleges to prevent accidents from occurring. It will inevitably affect the ex-offenders applying because it shows their irresponsibility in certain aspects and cause prejudiced thoughts against them.” Although Rodriguez revealed that this procedure may produce a negative impression of the applicants, particularly ex-offenders, the priority is to maintain a safe environment for learning.

Most applicants have always been obligated to inform colleges of their criminal history which influences their decision to either give up or to overcome the obstacles. As Robert Lewis claimed, everyday more ex-offenders are being rejected admission which reduces their chance of finding a decent job. College security officers like Paul Berger argue that the right to acquire the criminal history of applicants is necessary and helpful in determining an applicant’s eligibility.

Written by Tsering Dolkar

Photo Credits to Eiocoalition

The Flash Review

The Flash is a show that keeps you guessing about what will happen next and who will be the next to fight the invincible red and yellow speedster. It is a show that is not only action packed, but is dramatically suspenseful and has a hint of witty humor.  You follow the one and only Barry Allen aka “The Flash” who is a young and new superhero fighting Mata humans and crime in his city with his friends at star labs. You can see him fight powerful enemies who challenge his speed and smarts. You go through an emotional yet inspiring journey with Berry while he deals with keeping his identity and saving his loved ones. You may or may not like superheroes, but I guarantee you’ll like this show either way. Tune into channel 11 on the CW and catch up!

Written by Saima Khan

Photo Credits to Comic Book


The Model U.N. Club prepares for the Global Classrooms International Model United Nations Conference in 2016

Each year, the Model U.N. club attends a high school International Model United Nations Conference, and this year, the club will be representing Belgium. At the conference, students will be discussing certain topics that affect the world today and creating solutions on how to solve these maters. This conference allows students to experience firsthand on what it is like to be working as part of the United Nations and they will learn how to combat world issues with different nations as well. The club, which is conducted by Ms. Condon, continues to prepare for the conference that will be held in May 2016, to not only represent Belgium, but also the Academy of American Studies.

Written by Esther Park

Photo Credits to Sarah Malonda

Crisis on College Campus

Growing up is something many people experience in college. But for some, it can be traumatic. Unfortunately, it’s not rare for someone to experience sexual assault. There have been sexual assault reports from all across the country. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, sexual assault is, “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim,” which includes oral sex and unwanted sexual touching. Perpetrators may use psychological manipulation or threats to force themselves onto the victim. Sometimes, the perpetrator can be family or close to family. According to RAINN, 2/3 of sexual assaults are committed by someone known or close to the victim. This is often also known as acquaintance rape or date rape. Otherwise it is often a stranger.

According to the Campus Sexual Violence Resource List, an estimated 20-25% of women are sexually abused throughout their four years of college, with 9 out of 10 knowing their perpetrator. “35% of attempted rapes, and 22.9% of threatened rapes happened during a date” (RAINN). Also, a woman living in a sorority house is three times more at risk of getting sexually assaulted than a woman living in the dorm rooms. This is because of sorority and fraternity interaction.

It is important that this information be released to up and coming college freshmen. When interviewing Paola Tejeda, an Academy senior, about how she would handle this situation, she said she would fight as hard as she could to avoid any harm to herself. “If I were to be sexually assaulted, whether I was raped or not, I would never keep it to myself. I would immediately go to the police or campus security.” Tejeda also joked, saying, “If a guy were to try anything, I would emotionally scar him into never doing it to anyone ever again. He’d never live it down. I’d warn other girls, too.” The West Virginia University Student Center of Health has an entire page of tips for preventing sexual assault. While at a party, stick with your friends and avoid sharing or accepting drinks from strangers. Hold on to your drink at all times or get a new one if you’ve lost sight of your drink for even one second. When it comes to dating, avoid secluded places, know your limits and trust your instincts. If you feel something’s off, you have the right to leave. Keep in mind that date rape isn’t always avoidable. Signs to look out for in your relationship include extreme jealousy and intimidation. Always be aware of the kind of person you are dating. If he has a history of violence, this should be a concern.

As Academy seniors leave home to start college in the fall, it is important to know the sad truth about rape on college campuses in order to keep this from being their reality. Since it is reported more often these days, there will hopefully be more security and a greater understanding of issues surrounding rape in college and how to avoid it.

Written by Maria Alvarado

Photo Credits to Rampage

Processed America

Do you really know what you’re eating? Can you even pronounce half of the ingredients in your food? Your answer to these questions is most likely no. The reason for this is that most of the food we eat is filled with processed ingredients and contain so many chemicals that are cheap and easy for companies to obtain. Because of heart disease and obesity, America is in a health crisis. When we walk down the street, fast food is the easiest and quickest option. Healthy options aren’t readily available when those are the ones that we need. America has become a processed county and it’s seen in the people who walk through the streets every day.

One place to start is with our children, as they are young, able to make a change early, and they are the future. According to the CDC, the number of overweight children in the U.S is currently at 38%. The main problem directly correlated with this issue is the school lunches that your children are being served. According to Bettina Elias Siegel, school lunches can hold up to 39 extra grams of sugar. The way we eat starts from habit and if people start eating fast food, that’s what will continue. School is the best place to start. School is where children get the most influence on their lives. It is mandatory that schools teach health and good nutrition. However, historically, the things being served in school went against what was being taught. In 2011, Michelle Obama, started the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, making attempting change in school lunches for the first time in 15 years. Schools are now mandated to offer fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins every day. In addition, the sodium content of these foods is gradually being reduced (USDA). Once this begins, it can start to move into their homes and eating healthy may not be something that seems hard or unattainable.

The next step is teaching adults that eating healthy isn’t hard. Most adults in America don’t even know what they are supposed to be doing to live a healthy lifestyle. According to the United Health Foundation, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, as it accounts for about 25% of all deaths each year. More and more foods contain processed ingredients, sugar, fat, and salt. According to Dr. Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman, an all plant-based diet is what we should be eating, as it can prevent heart disease and in some cases has reversed the effects. This is an extreme view, but should be taken into consideration. Fresh plant foods are the healthiest, but minimal meat intake is okay – come on we all like a hamburgers every now and then – it won’t hurt anyone, everything just needs to be taken into moderation. The same goes for sweets, we all can’t give up cookies and ice cream forever. Less processed, more natural foods, and moderation is the key to learning these new habits.  This is what people need to be taught. Small changes can go a long way.

Eating healthy and natural is expensive, time consuming and not affordable for all families. This was actually proven wrong when ABC went and tested this claim with an actual family. They took a family and sent one person to get a full fast food dinner and one person to home-cook a healthier meal. The time that it took to complete the task and the cost were recorded. Not only was the home-cooked dinner quicker, it was also cheaper. This proves that anyone can do it, but it will require change and will help in the long run.

Balance is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. The first step is changing the way that America uses food. Instead of advertising heavily processed foods, we need to replace that with organic and natural options. Both children and adults will benefit from this change. Our bodies were made to live off the food from nature like our ancestors.  It’s time to educate our friends and families, and together healthy options can become the easy option.

Written by Amanda Staszewski

Photo Credits by Fox News