News Update: HERN Helping Homeless Youth

By | Ciara Speller

Homelessness in Boston is at all all time high, and it’s not just adults that this epidemic is affecting.

There is an estimated number of 4,000 homeless students currently enrolled in Boston Public Schools this year, and the Homeless Education Resource Network has been helping these displaced youth in the area since 1992.

Mary William, HERN Program Director, says that when the program first started the numbers were much lower, by the hundreds, and have recently spiked.


“We provide some support, as best as we can. We go to she shelters at night to do some homework help, and we also provide resources to the parents,” said William.

The impact that homelessness can have on the ability to learn, is also a problem, and William says that the children “function” as best as they can, but they endure a lot on a daily basis, which makes learning harder.

To learn more about homelessness and the work of HERN, visit




Amory Park Bike Parade

photo credit | Town of Brookline

Brookline’s Amory Park will be home to a bike parade on May  22, and event for the entire family to enjoy. Cycle Beacon Street, with no cars to get in your way. The event consists of a  five mile loop with Brookline Police Department leading the way and making sure that each cyclist is dafe.

Cyclists who can ride five miles on a hilly course at a speed of 8 miles per hour without stopping, which means that cyclists at almost every level will be able to enjoy the ride.

There will be a co-parade for younger riders and any cyclists that do not wish to want the ride through Coolidge Corner ( the biggest hill of the course). The parade will both start and finish at Amory Park.

And this event is entirely free of charge.  All Brookline residents, and those who live outside of town are encouraged to celebrate, and call attention to the environmental, physical, and social benefits of bicycling.


11am-12:30pm Registration and bike safety tents
11am-3pm Party in the Park with food to purchase, music, community displays, give-aways, and alternative bikes on display and to try out.
12:30pm Ride starts promptly!
1:00pm Free frozen treats for everybody

For more on this even,  visit

BPS Parents Are Hoping to Hit the Lottery

By | Ciara Speller

Massachusetts has been ranked countless times as the nations leading state for education, and there are some schools that parents are willing to fight over, in order to get their child a top seat at a leading institution.

Once a year, parents of Boston Public Schools (BPS) must go through a “lottery” process when determining which school their child will attend in the upcoming academic year.

BPS allows students in kindergarten through eighth grade attend schools of their choice in the city depending on where they reside.

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The process in deciding which school is fit for your child is an intricate and grueling one, according to Dr. Mneesha Gellman, Assistant Professor of Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College, who says that sometimes the end results can make you “just want to give up and move away.”

Gellman, a resident of Jamaica Plain, recently went through the “lottery” process for BPS with her daughter who will start kindergarten in the fall, and explained the key factors in how parents choose the ideal school for their child to attend.

“It’s a very overwhelming and complex system,” said Gellman, in regards to deciding on the right BPS for her daughter to start her academic career at.

Gellman looked at geographic proximity first. And along with her, are many other families who heavily rely on public transportation because they are without a car living in the city. If the school they are interested in requires multiple transfers just to get there, their dream school begins to become a distant reality.

Next she looked at educational equity, a factor that parents of BPS rank as top priority, says Gellman.

The measure of achievement, fairness and opportunity in education, which are all linked to the study of excellence, is extremely important to BPS parents when ranking the order from highest to lowest in regards to the lottery process.

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Lastly, Gellman looked for schools that incorporated bilingual immersion, as she and her husband are raising their daughter to speak both Spanish and English. There are roughly 20 percent of Spanish speakers in Jamaica Plain alone, a factor that also resonates with other bilingual parents in this diverse Boston community.

After parents feel that they have completed and submitted required information for the lottery process to their best ability, 16-20 BPS schools are then allotted to them, as a result of the information that they submitted to the BPS welcome center at their time of registration, and done alphabetically by last name.

“I think that we have to remind ourselves that education is a fundamental right, and being able to provide that to all children is important,” said Gellman, who also remarked that 20 to 25 percent of children do not get a seat at the top priority school that they put in a bid for.

Gellman was placed on the waitlist for her top choice school, with 15 others ahead of her, forcing her to accept a spot at her third choice school that has a “reasonable reputation, not great, but reasonable”.

Though many parents carefully make plans to have their child attend the top school in their area, many will be waitlisted and are forced to attend schools that do not have the best reputations.

Some students are forced to attend schools that do not have on site kitchen facilities or bottled water, which parents like Gellman have begun to stray away from, when selecting their top tier.

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To increase the chances of receiving an assignment to a school of choice, students should apply in the first registration period for their grade, but in Gellman’s case, it is not a promise that you will placed in a school of your liking.

“Its been a high learning process for me,” said Gellman who is going into the upcoming academic school year with low expectations, and urges parents to do research and be productive when decided which school their child will learn valuable tools for success at.



Massachusetts Makes Strides Against Bullying

By | Ciara Speller

Bullying is an issue world-wide that continues to leave its mark on our youth every day, and recent studies are showing that Massachusetts ranks first for preventing this epidemic in school systems.

Under, bullying is identified as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” In most cases, this behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. And the long term affects that bullying can have on a child is immeasurable.

Bullying includes actions such as threatening the well being of someone, spreading false accusations, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group or participating in something on purpose.

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Massachusetts schools have created ways to make speaking out on bullying confidential, insuring the safety of their students, which is easily accessible on most Massachusetts school websites.

“Massachusetts is a highly educated state, when it comes to issues with Bullying. It’s something that just cannot be tolerated,” said Stephanie Richards, who has been a guidance counselor at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School for the last 12 years.

Richards believes that the state has been ranked as the leading contender in bullying prevention, because it is so progressive.

She also believes that bullying problems have remained under control in her school because she always wants to move forward and offer the best services to students that she possibly can.

According to the National Education Association, nearly 160,000 children miss school on a daily basis, out of fear that they will be attacked and become subjected to bullying violence while at their educational institution.

One in seven students, grades K- 12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying, but sadly, only 30 percent of young people admit to bullying others when approached about this matter and it is unknown how many victims’ do not choose to speak up about what is happening to them.

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Did you know that when bystanders intervene and put a stop to someone being bullied, the bullying usually stops within 10 seconds, 57 percent of the time?

Paisley MacNeil, a student at Maria Weston Chapman Middle School in Weymouth, believes that it is important for bystander’s to step in when they see something wrong, because it can change the outcome of a situation, and stop someone from feeling unnecessary pain and embarrassment.

“I think it is important because from my experience it can lead to a lot of problems down the road, such as depression and suicide,” said MacNeil.

MacNeil stated that bullying has been a problem in her middle school, but authorities at Maria Weston Chapman, have always engaged and gotten involved to try and rid of this epidemic.

MacNeil said that one of her biggest fears is the way in which other students who are bullied could react to a situation, which might affect their peers and those around them.

According to a research survey conducted by, surveys show that two out of every three children that are bullied, admitted that they know how to make an explosive, and 1/3 of students who were surveyed, said they have heard another student threaten to kill someone.

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Far too often, these startling statistics have become a reality, and if the problem is ignored or deemed “not that serious,” irreversible affects can take place and forever change the life of a child, something Richards urges.

And it is not just physical bullying done in the classroom or on school grounds that is troubling to Richards, but the rise of bullying done via the internet, also referred to as “cyber bullying” is something that many schools are battling with.

Cyber bullying can take many forms, including sending mean messages or threats to someone’s mobile device, speaking rumors online on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, stealing a person’s social media account information to hack their account and post damaging content on it, taking unflattering pictures of a person and spreading them socially and circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person.

An article entitled Anti-Bullying Help, Facts, and More, published on, states that “Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.”

More than 1 in 3 youth have experienced cyber threats online, and one of the hardest cases if cyber bullying to handle, due to the power of the internet and people now being able to disguise themselves and create fake profiles to act out and bully.

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“I think cyber bullying will be a continued issue, it’s the biggest gray are for schools, people are just mean, the don’t see the person on the other end, don’t see how their words and actions make someone feel, teaching people that words really do have a great impact on other people,” said Richards, who also believes that every bullying situation is unique which also makes it challenging.

Like Cambridge Rindge Latin School, many schools are now offering outreach and support groups that pertain to the bullying epidemic, educating the youth on the troubling statistics, and providing a safe heaven for many students who have been attacked or have succumbed to the pressures of bullying.

Massachusetts schools have adapted Groups like STARS, which advocates respect amongst student groups into their programs, having peer mentors and promoting respect in a school motto, in efforts to foster a safe and happy environment in its school systems.

Because of this, both Richards and MacNeil are hopeful that bullying will be kept under control in Massachusetts’s schools and urge students to speak up and make a difference.

They cannot express how important speaking up is and stress that if one person decides to stand up, a world of a difference can be made.


6th Annual Brookline Youth Awards

The 6th Annual Brookline Youth Awards sponsored by Brookline Hub, the Town of Brookline, and Coolidge Corner Theatre will be held at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on April 27, 2016.

Join outstanding youth, parents, faculty and friends for a night of special acknowledgment to 12 Youth Award recipients, as well as the presentation of the Brookline Youth of the Year Award.

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In the past, award recipients have been identified for their achievements, overcoming adversity, or standing up for others dealing with these hardships, showing exceptional kindness, character and generosity of spirit.

Typical nominees are teens who volunteer their time in service to their community, display leadership in support of a cause, and/or show exceptional success, ingenuity and creativity in their chosen pursuits.

This year, Senator Elizabeth Warren will address the audience by video, congratulating each recipient, and mentioning their accomplishments and two adults will also be honored for their commitment to Brookline youth.

For more information visit the Public Schools of Brookline homepage.


Brookline Youth Take on the World

By | Ciara Speller

The issue regarding climate change is a major topic of discussion throughout the world currently, and students of Brookline Public Schools have taken this matter into their own hands.

Pierce Elementary School hosted a premier event for a Youth Adaptation Climate Challenge on Saturday, where students in kindergarten to 12th grade, showcased their research and creative inventions that went into solving ways to save the planet. Crystal Johnson, the creator of this event, explained why the Brookline Youth Climate Adaptation Challenge is important and prevalent to what is taking place on our planet, in regards to global warming, climate change and adaptation.

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Pierce Elementary Cafeteria filled with Climate Fair proposals. photo credit | Ciara Speller

“This is an annual event that will evolve. It is designed for youth to develop critical thinking skills, and that is invaluable,” said Johnson, an environmental professional with a background in environmental education, in her opening remarks.

These “invaluable” skills were displayed in the forms of poster boards, demonstrations and scaled models, directly dealing with public health issues, water crisis’s, pollution, biodiversity and energy transportation.

The planets water crisis is an area of concern amongst many scientists and citizens, due to dwindling water supply.

Basins of this essential liquid matter lie beneath us, until it is extracted for our every day use, and a study conducted by NASA has shown that eight out of 37 of Earth’s largest aquifers were “overstressed” or “extremely or highly stressed,” signifying that there is little to no natural replenishment happening.

Middle schooler, Gabriel Barnett who is concerned with how we are managing our water resources, presented his idea on a “Better Way to Desalinate Water in a Drying World.”

Gabriel Barnett explains water desalination to a parent. photo credit | Ciara Speller

Barnett explained that many people all over the world are facing droughts due to the steady trend of drying aquifers, and his project demonstrated how we can use the planets ocean water with proper filtration to drink and aggregate crops with.

“ A lot of people die from hunger and thirst every day, so if we use sea water, we can use it to help people who are dying every day and it probably wouldn’t put a dent in the oceans supply,” said Barnett.

Water provides drink and irrigates crops to about 2 billion people in our world and Barnett also explained why scientists are urging us to understand the detrimental effects that “overstressed” aquifers are having on our water supply.

Coinciding with Earth’s water supply crisis is the way in which bodies of water are being mistreated, resulting in pollution of the alternative water source that could be used to avoid a water shortage.

Ocean Plastic & Sea Turtles, an article found on, states that hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other mammals, including 1 million seabirds die each year from ocean pollution and ingestion of marine debris.

Fifth grader, Danny Treistman, at student at Pierce Elementary, showcased his project “The Garbage Patch Solution,” which he explained could lessen some of the oceans pollution issues.

Dany Treistman answer questions from judge at Saturday’s event. photo credit | Ciara Speller

Treistman’s idea suggests that a solar powered windmill would be used to collect and filter out garbage and debris from polluted waters.

“ I learned that wind was a good resource to recycle all the garbage,” said Treistman.

Much like Treistman who learned something that could move us forward in terms of protecting the planet, so did many parents, faculty and staff who attended the Youth Adaptation Climate Challenge.

“Youth are the next generation of active citizens and leaders,” said Johnson in response to why it is imperative that youth become informed on world happenings.

Students of Brookline Public Schools that participated in the challenge have every intention to continue spreading awareness on the effects of climate change and global warming, and say they plan to attend the event next year with greater efforts of making change happen.

What’s The Big Idea?

The Brookline High School 21st Century Fund is kicking off their event ” Courageous Conversations: Student Voices on Life” on March 17, at 7PM in the Brookline High School auditorium.responsibility-e1427578738794

The Seeing the World Through Different Lenses series will allow students to share their stories in this parent-oriented take on  this Day of Courage.

A catalyst and incubator for innovation, the Brookline High School 21st Century  Fund fosters success for all students. Through courses, forums, programs and research, the fund supports inventive faulty-led initiatives  that energize teachers, inspires students and support the excellence of Brookline High School.

For more information, head over to the Brookline Interactive Group via Facebook.