Greetings to all our readers. This is our last Sophomores Speak Out. Next year we will be moving up and won’t be eligible to write as sophomores. We’ve really enjoyed writing for you, and hope that you find our choice of topics interesting this week. We have a wide range for our last page. Everyone wrote about what they cared about, so enjoy and have a great summer.

Here Comes Summer

By Hannah Marlin>

I can’t wait for school to be over. Summer is so close, but seems so far. In order to get out of here, students still must write papers, take tests and quizzes and put together projects. With summer around the corner, it’s easy for kids to get distracted from the work they must complete to finish their courses. Sophomores recently had to take the second round of MCAS this year — math — for two days, and there is still one more round to complete before summer break. Not only do we have two more days of biology MCAS next week, but shortly after that there are finals. Luckily for some students, depending on what classes and teachers they have, they get to substitute coming into school for a two-hour test with a project, or get to take their final during class on the last regular day of school. Our biology classes have to make a book about all the body systems, which hasn’t even been assigned yet. Seniors have finals this week but had their last regular day of classes last Friday. Thankfully, Memorial Day weekend was beautiful and sunny all three days. A little windy, but I’d call that a little bit of summer heading our way. No matter how much work we have ahead of us, we all know that it will pay off once we find ourselves sitting on the beach, soaking up the relaxation of summer.

Decision Time

By Solvig Sayre>

As the end of the school year approaches, it is time to sign up for next year’s classes. What levels? What subjects? What electives, and of course what are your friends choosing? All these considerations play a role. I’ve made up my mind about everything except what level of U.S. history (a mandatory class for juniors) I should take. I am trying to decide whether I should take the general history or advanced placement history. Advanced placement will give me college credits and will count higher on my GPA. It will be a much heavier work load, but is it worth it? Is the better college résumé worth giving up discussions with a diverse group of people whose company I don’t generally get to enjoy? I’ve enjoyed all my history courses with a varied group of people who are engaged in daily debates and discussions with varied opinions. Due to the diversity of the students our deliberations are unique. I find it ironic that some people would like to have the classes divided into different levels when we are studying the division and assimilation of different cultures. Doesn’t it make more sense to learn about all the cultures of the world with the best representation from each culture as possible? If I do decide to take the advanced placement history class, I will miss the range of students to engage in debates with that I have had in my high school history classes so far.

Hitchhiking on the Vineyard

By Michael Kendall>

I’m fifteen years old, I don’t have my learner’s permit yet, and I live off of Lambert’s Cove Road. I hitchhike against my parents’ will. I don’t really see anything wrong with hitchhiking, though other people might. If you look at the positive things about hitchhiking, some of the obvious ones are that it’s a free way to get where you want, it saves gas because no one’s going out of their way to give you a ride, and it’s an opportunity to meet new people or connect with old friends. Some of the negative aspects of hitchhiking are that it isn’t all that reliable (though I’m usually able to get where I want), some people might say that it isn’t safe, from both the hiker and the picker-upper’s points of view. If the driver isn’t a safe driver or isn’t a safe person, or if the hiker is an unsafe or unpleasant person, this could be a problem — except when you’re talking about kids on the Vineyard this really isn’t the case. Kids here are just looking for a ride and not trying to cause any trouble like people might be off-Island. There is a visible pattern which connects the people who often pick up kids hitchhiking on the Vineyard. In both the summer and winter it is almost always Islanders who will pick you up. This makes sense because these are the people who might recognize you or simply understand what life is like on the Vineyard and feel like picking you up. Now it’s summertime and the roads are starting to get busy, out of state plates are becoming ubiquitous and rides appear to be harder to come by. To summer residents and tourists coming here for the day, please listen to the child in your heart and pick up that hitchhiker on the side of the road.

When Will We Ever Learn?

By Sarah Hall>

Last week in Mrs. Weintraub’s global studies class we watched Hotel Rwanda, a true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager, who housed over 1,000 Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. The events in Rwanda went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world and in about three months 800,000 to a million people were brutally murdered. The targeted people were the Tutsis who were killed and tortured by the Hutu extremists. Watching this movie made me think a lot about how in many ways it related to the Holocaust. After the Holocaust people said that events like that couldn’t and wouldn’t happen ever again and that history would not repeat itself. Well guess what? It did repeat itself in 1994 with the events in Rwanda and it is happening right now with the War in Darfur.

And are we doing anything to help? No we aren’t, or at least nothing that I have heard about other than support groups raising money and celebrities trying to get people to pay attention. But our government isn’t doing anything and we aren’t the only ones. I just don’t understand how the United States and other nations around the world can’t come together and make a plan and address the genocide that is occurring in Darfur. The war there has been going on since 2003 and some people don’t even consider it to be genocide when it definitely is. What else would you call mass murders and rapes happening every day and 400,000 civilians killed and 2.5 million people displaced from their homes with the number of refugees growing every day? Do you want to look back 20 years from now when your children or grandchildren are in school studying the war in Darfur just like we study the Holocaust, and say, “Why did we let this happen?” Do want the war in Darfur to be the next Holocaust?

Change Must Come

By Taylor Chisholm>

I feel that everyone talks just to hear their own voices. People talk all the time about the Holocaust and genocide, but really no one is doing anything to make it not occur again. The genocide in Rwanda was devastating enough, so why are we sitting around watching another genocide happen in Darfur? People need to open their eyes and listen to what is going on around them. We need to know what is going on all over the world. Teens are the people who need to look around the most because we are the next generation, and if there are things that we want to change in our world, its not going to be done for us. We are going to have to stand up, fight and do it for ourselves. We need to come together and work together. Teens are the adults of tomorrow. We need to be the best we can be and start a path toward improvement in this world. Mahatma K. Gandhi said: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Tragedy in Rwanda

By Reece Boyd>

The beginning of the Rwandan genocide was on April 16, 1994, and during the next 100 days, 800,000 Tutsis were killed by the Hutu militia. Using machetes and clubs as many as 10,000 people were killed in a day. Rwanda is one of the smallest countries in Central Africa with just seven million people and is composed of two main ethnic groups, the Hutu and the Tutsi. Although the Hutus make up 90 per cent of the population, in the past the Tutsis were considered the aristocracy of Rwanda and dominated the Hutu for decades, especially while Rwanda was ruled by Belgium. In 1990, the Rebel Tutsi army invaded Rwanda and forced the Hutu president into signing an agreement which mandated that the Hutus and Tutsis would share power. This set the stage for disaster.

Reflections on the Holocaust

By Lauren Gray>

The Holocaust was a horrible time in our world’s history. Millions of innocent women, men and children, just like us, were murdered because of one man’s crazy vision, and others following him. Hitler and his followers had these people killed just because they were Jewish. It was Hitler’s crazy idea, but the worse part is that somehow he causes other people to do it for him. It is unbelievably hard to understand why people would murder others, why they would starve them, gas them and throw their children into an oven. We can only see that the Nazis were brainwashed into believing that they were doing the right thing. I can see that people want to belong to something and feel normal. It’s like belonging to a church, people feel secure as if they are doing something right. A long time ago, and maybe even today, the church could control you just like Hitler’s Nazi ideas could control his followers. When you are controlled by a higher person, a leader, you can get caught up and end up doing anything your leader tells you to do. I think Hitler made the Germans believe that they were better than anyone else and obviously they would be happy about that. I think it has to do with insecurities. The Nazis liked feeling better than everyone else, and when you get caught up in feeling powerful over someone else you can do just about anything.

Could Another World War Happen?

By Grant M> cCarthy>

Thankfully the Germans did not win World War II and they did not manage to complete their goal of killing all the people they considered unfit to live. They shocked the world with what they had done, killing up to six million Jews. To even think that this could happen is unreal, but the thing is that people can be made to do crazy things. Though no group can be compared to the Nazis, the genocide in Darfur is a massive slaughter that shows no signs of stopping. Could another world war happen? Well if it did, let’s just say no one would survive.

Struggle Over the Holy Land

By Andres Silva>

Israel and Palestine are in a debate or argument or a huge conflict over land and how it should be governed and shared. The Palestinians come from the land that the Israelis settled as Israel and so were part of the people of Israel. Many of the Palestinians are now fighting the Israelis over this land where they once lived in peace. My opinion on this whole situation is that it is stupid to allow hunger for land and power to destroy peoples’ lives instead of sharing the land. It’s insane what some of the Palestinian leaders like Hamas are doing. The debate over the Holy Land will never end without an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and they’re too blind to see that it’s not about power and glory, but about living together in the country that belongs to both of them.

Standing on the Shoulders of Others

By Troy (85) Small>

We all stand on the shoulders of others, and the struggles faced by those who came before me have forged a path that I can follow. Today a black man is running for President and he stands a good chance. Fifty years ago, that would have been an impossible idea. Because of the struggles of others, today I can be whoever I want to be. As a young man of color, I don’t have to be famous. I don’t have to break barriers or achieve something amazing. I have choices that would have seemed impossible only a relatively short time ago. The world that I am inheriting is a better place because others stood up and challenged and I commend them for their courage and determination to make America a better place.

Editor’s Note: Troy gave this address at the dedication of the 21st site on the African American Heritage Trail at the superintendent of schools office in Vineyard Haven.

Got Religion?

By BreAnne Russell>

Has our generation lost religion? Let’s face it, most teens these days don’t take religion seriously. I don’t know anyone who goes to church every Sunday. It’s just one drastic difference between our lifestyle and that of our parents’ generation. We all believe in something, but when I asked 10 of my close friends if they believed in God, most of their replies were either confused or were a firm no. Some teens do believe in God and follow their parents, but religion seems to be fading or really becoming important only when you get older. I myself have a busy schedule with sports, homework and family and my family has never seemed to keep up with the whole Sunday morning routine. I am not saying that no one attends church any more or no one believes. I know that there are many people for whom church is important. I just believe church rituals have become a much smaller part of the all-American lifestyle. It makes me wonder if by the time my kids’ generation starts, will there be such a thing as ritual attendance at church and commitment to religion? Religion comes from your family’s beliefs. If your family doesn’t go to church every Sunday then obviously you will be accustomed to that lifestyle and when you are a parent, you will not go with your family. When it comes to sports and politics, most people have strong opinions. In the past arguments about religion and ritual were passionate and people cared about what religious beliefs other people had. It’s amazing how things have changed.

Cruelty to Animals

By Vikki Segal>

Out of everything in my life, my cat is the most important thing. I have had her since I was two. My whole life I have loved animals and having one myself gives me a point of view about pounds and pet stores. I cannot even come close to describing how mad those places make me. Keeping animals stuck in cages is just the same as placing a human in jail. All of these amazing creatures deserve to be cherished. Being kept in these harsh conditions makes them sick and some pounds even kill the animals after they have had them for a certain amount of time. What gives anyone the right to kill something that has done nothing wrong? Why is it okay for animals to be tortured and killed?

Speaking Out

By Haley Rossi>

Throughout the year, Dr. Weintraub’s sophomore students have written and contributed diverse articles on what we care about and what is on our minds. It has given us the opportunity to voice our opinions and gain recognition within our community. It lets others know how we feel as young people and the issues we face. It brought on more opportunities for our class such as appearing on MVTV with Bob Tankard and establishing names for ourselves while highlighting our concerns with national, world and social issues. As one student said, “Before Sophomore’s Speak Out, I was just a voice waiting to be heard.”

Dr. Weintraub’s class is a fun, new, academic experience and a class we all look forward to. It is a hands-on project-oriented way of learning that comes along with fun learning experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Dr. Weintraub is a wonderful teacher whom we have all come to love.