In My Opinion: Too much weight placed on tests for college admissions



Malala Yousafzai won a Nobel Peace Prize at age 17 for defending women and children education rights. She is the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate and was was named one of “Time Magazine’s” 100 most influential people in 2013, but if she wants to get into Stanford, she’s going to have to take the SAT’s first.

SAT’s and ACT’s have always played an integral role in the college admission process, yet too much weight is placed on an exam that does not show every student’s ability to succeed in college. There are so many extraordinary students who are deterred from applying to their dream school simply because their SAT score does not meet the requirement, even if their GPA does.

A high GPA shows a student’s commitment to education and the hard work they have put forth in school. On the contrary, most of the time, a high SAT score shows that a student is a naturally gifted genius or that they have the affluence to afford hours of SAT tutoring. Aren’t colleges looking for diligent students? How can one test, provided just once a month for seven months of a year, possibly show a student’s dedication to learning?

The weight of standardized tests is also a financial burden to students and a disadvantage to those of low-income families. More affluent students have an advantage over those who don’t come from money. They can afford to spend thousands of dollars on SAT and ACT tutoring, not to improve their critical thinking skills, but to learn the tricks to get them a high score on the standardized test of their choosing. The standardized test have become just another way for companies such as College Board and ACT to take money from students desperate to get into a good college.

The cost of these standardized tests quickly adds up. Not only do students have to pay more than $20 each time they take an SAT or ACT, they also have to pay a fee to send their scores to the universities of their choosing. On top of this, many students will spend thousands of dollars on tutors due to the importance of these exams. A 2009 report from Eduventures calculated that about 2 million students spend $2.5 billion a year on test preparation and tutoring. Therefore, students with low incomes tend to have lower scores, for they cannot afford the absurd price of SAT and ACT tutoring.

However, some universities have realized the benefit of making test scores optional on their applications. About 850 schools and counting do not require test scores, and this has led them to attract a strong and diverse pool of applicants. It encourages minority students and low-income students to apply to that university. After making test scores optional, Wake Forest University saw an immense change in diversity in their student population. Since making test optional in 2009, their percentage of non-white students has shot up from 18 percent to a now 30 percent.

I believe that every university should allow sending test scores to be optional. There are so many academically talented students who are penalized by their test scores in the college admissions process, whether it be because they cannot afford tutoring and preparation books, or because they are not strong test takers.  The truth is not all students can get a 36 on their ACT while maintaining straight A’s and participating in thousands of extracurricular activities. Yes, the SAT and ACT test do display student’s knowledge, yet weighting them the same as a student’s grades is unfair.

If earning a Nobel Peace Prize at age 17 isn’t enough to get an acceptance into college, then something is clearly wrong with the college admissions system. Yousafzai’s humanitarian work and passion for education should be enough to get her into any university, even without the inclusion of standardized testing scores.

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From My Perspective: Moving can be hard, but it is not impossible

Sajuana Pai


Moving from a different country can be a challenge; however, it is a wonderful transition for junior Sanjana Pai.

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In my opinion: America’s next president shouldn’t be a politician



Donald Trump is the right person to be president because he isn’t a politician:

Since perhaps Herbert Hoover, who himself served the government as secretary of commerce, every U.S. President has been a politician.  However, public approval polls regularly reflect dissatisfaction with our presidents. A good argument can be made that Americans simply don’t like politicians.

This may also explain the early popularity of non-politicians running for president this year, such as Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson. Americans are looking for a change in leadership.  They want a president who has the courage to say what needs to be said, is confident in his/her decisions, and has actually accomplished something other than being elected to a public office.

According to Cypercast News Service (CNS news) the polls have shown that Americans are tired of business-as-usual politics.  Americans are done with politicians who say what they think people want to hear merely because it is politically expedient.  Donald Trump isn’t one of those people.  He says what he thinks, regardless of whether it’s a popular position.  The bottom line is you know what you get with Donald Trump: straight talk. Trump speaks to the people, not at the people.  This country needs to feel good about itself and Donald Trump has the ability to motivate people to do just that.

A good leader is someone who is confident and can get the job done.  Anyone can learn to solve problems, communicate or even mentor others.   However, confidence cannot be taught.  Certainly each of our presidents has had their own brand of confidence, but few have displayed confidence to the degree of Donald Trump.  His name brand “Trump” is known by the masses from his successful business, hotels, golf courses and television shows.  Because he is so well known, his confidence is believable while the remaining candidates running for president have little national name recognition and lack the appearance of confidence. Americans want a leader who they know can do the job and leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that he or she know how to do it. Trump is that person.

America also needs a president who has actually accomplished extraordinary things other than being elected to public office.  The United States government is the largest bureaucracy in the world, employing more people than any other government, with a budget that dwarfs the finances of the largest corporations in the world.  If the primary role of the president of the United States is to be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the country, then who among the candidates other then Donald Trump is best equipped to perform this function?  Nobody. Trump is generally believed to be one of the world’s most successful business owners.  As a CEO he is responsible for growing companies, delegating to individuals who have expertise in different areas, negotiating transactions and handling intense pressure.  These qualities provide the foundation for an excellent president.  Consider the fact that, despite the size of the United States economy, we have historically entrusted it to politicians who have never owned or operated a business. Trump, on the other hand, has experience running large businesses with international implications giving him a unique skill set unmatched by any other candidate.  Trump understands the importance of surrounding himself with experts in their fields to counsel and make important decisions because of his businessman background. Trump will surround himself with the most qualified individuals to solve our country’s problems without regard to political pressures.
Donald Trump is a successful businessman who speaks to the American people, exudes confidence, and is fit to be the president of the United States.

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Opinion: Adidas raises bar with James Harden signing

As James Harden recently signed a contract with Adidas, reportedly worth $200 million over 13 years, Adidas obtained an NBA All Star and reigning MVP frontrunner who will be big for this company.

Adidas seems to be climbing its way up the endorsement ladder.  With this signing, Adidas now has some top-tier NBA players endorsed who are all entering the prime of their NBA careers including: John Wall, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard and newly acquired James Harden.

Although this contract involved an absurd sum of money, this signing is really going to promote the brand and help brighten the future.  A bright future is something that Adidas needs, considering the fact that after they signed Derrick Rose to a five-year $95 million dollar contract in 2011, Rose was plagued by injuries the following three years. He was sidelined the second half of 2011-2012 and all of 2012-2013 with a torn ACL, and a good chunk of the 2014-2015 season with a torn right meniscus. Adidas has clearly been in need of a new face of its brand, and that is exactly why it made the Harden signing.

When Harden entered the league in 2009, he trademarked the slogan “Fear the Beard.” Harden is on the rise, and has been ever since being traded to the Houston Rockets in 2012.  He has finished top five in scoring, all of the past three seasons. Harden had never eclipsed 20 points per game in his tenure with the Thunder.

It has been a tradition for some players to grow out a playoff beard, but Harden’s thick beard has always gotten special attention.  Fans have worn fake beards to games in support of Harden.  This is great for Adidas because Harden’s beard helped him become more recognizable and well known around the league.

Besides the ability to grow a long and luscious beard, Harden also cares about the way he looks and dresses.  When it comes to promoting a brand, fashion is always a huge factor.  Because of his fashion sense, Harden may be able to come up with some new and improved ideas for this company.

In 2014, Adidas fell behind Under Armour to number three in sportswear market sales and Nike recently took over the Jordan brand. They realized they needed to take a risk.  Obviously there is more competition in the market now, and that risk can lead to reward for Adidas.

Most importantly, James Harden is a great role model and great competitor.  It is not often that a high-caliber, high market player hits the endorsement free agency.  Adidas acted fast and made a great choice.  Although $200 million dollars sounds crazy, it was a great investment for its future.


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Opinion: Paying it forward pays off



This past year, I experienced the most terrifying two hours of my life when I realized I had lost my wallet. Inside was my driver’s license, credit card, insurance card, house key, everything that helped me get through my daily life.

In a moment of forgetfulness, I had left it behind outside of my friend’s house, and my first thought was that I was never going to see it again. I was proven wrong when I returned home and found my wallet lying on the front porch of my house.

A wave of relief passed over me, followed quickly by a flood of appreciation. In addition to all of the important items in it, that wallet was given to me as a birthday present. It was a great feeling to know that whoever found it had the goodness to drive all the way to my house and return it with everything intact.

The two boys around the age of 10 who found my wallet came back the next day to make sure I had seen it on the porch. I thanked them for not just going out of their way to return my wallet, but for opening my eyes to the good of people and how we should all be acting

People are always quick to judge others, automatically thinking the worst. Most would think that the person who found the wallet would steal the credit card and the identity. The newspapers or news channels that post stories on the evils of people perpetuate this idea. Yet, here was my wallet, home safe and sound.

The fact that someone was good enough to return my wallet got me thinking that we all need to be better to each other, take the two minutes to go out of our way for someone else and pay it forward. This is not a new concept: a quick search on the Internet will tell you that the phrase was first used back in 317 BC in a small play. The phrase “you don’t pay love back, you pay it forward” then reappeared in 1916 in the book “In the Garden of Delight” by Lily Hardy Hammond.

In fact, there are others out there still trying to make “pay it forward” happen today, and that’s how all of us can get involved. April 30 is International Pay it Forward Day. The founder of the organization, Blake Beattie, lives in Australia and is aiming to inspire 3 million acts of kindness around the world. Last year, people from 70 different countries participated, whether it was from buying someone a cup of coffee or collecting books and distributing them to the less fortunate.

Paying it forward doesn’t have to be anything big. It can be something smaller such as holding the door open for someone or just simply smiling at a person who is looking down and asking him how his day is going. Just make it count.

That means all of us. If someone is walking in the parking lot with no umbrella while it’s raining, offer her one. If someone drops a backpack and everything spills out, stop and help him pick it up.

I guarantee that the feeling after will be rewarding.

To learn more about Pay it Forward Day visit This website offers more about the day and ways that everyone can get involved.

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In my opinion: music festivals should not have age restrictions


Music festivals consist of much more than just sweaty, screaming, poorly dressed people. Being a fan of the music festival scene myself, I have witnessed it all, and while some argue that there should be an age limit for concerts, it seems to me that the atmosphere is just fine for a middle schooler who is seeking to enjoy a favorite DJ.

Some fail to realize that the music is actually the reason to attend, not the “party” or the “raging.” Music played at festivals ranges from computer-generated EDM to rap, to country. Some festivals that feature electronic music, such as Ultra Music Festival, Electronic Daisy Carnival, and Sunset Music Festival, have been putting age restrictions on entry. This forces those who are not of age to miss out on what could have been the best day/days of their lives.

The establishment of age-restriction policies means young fans must watch these festivals as videos when they are released on YouTube or in the form of live-streams. The supposedly safer atmosphere of watching from the comfort of one’s home eliminates middle schoolers from the crowd, and even those who are simply not yet 18, depending on the restrictions.

It is unfair that these fans are deprived of a rich cultural experience simply because they are not of age. Age restrictions are usually set to allow those that are ages 16+, 18+ or 21+ into the events. Setting an age restriction of 16+ is suitable; elementary schoolers might not be safe in these crowds but middle schoolers definitely are.

What this age restriction is basically implying is that the atmosphere of a music festival is not safe for an emerging teenager. But I disagree. Colorfully dressed people, good vibes and blasting music is more than suitable.

In September 2014, the Ultra Music Festival in Miami placed a new age restriction on entry to the event, only allowing those 18 and older to attend. This left out 17-year-olds, who are more than capable of surviving in a crowd full of sweaty, screaming ravers, as well as 16- and 15-year-olds.

Setting age restrictions gives a negative connotation to festivals, suggesting that the atmosphere might be dangerous for younger people. This is not the reputation music festivals should be have or be judged on since there is much more to it. Music festivals serve the sole purpose of bringing people together for music. This is what they are all about.

Music festivals have recently acquired this bad reputation of being prone to deaths among young people, but this is merely something that may occur anywhere else. One death in a festival, although tragic, shouldn’t stop thousands of younger fans from attending. There are other solutions to promoting safety at festivals. For example, eliminate dehydration by lowering of the price of water. Water fountain stations scattered throughout festivals could also be useful. Ultra charged $5 per water bottle last year. If this festival’s organizers really want a safer environment, affordable water is the least they can do.

The best days of my life have been at music festivals. The two times I’ve been lucky enough to attend these concerts, I was 16. I was there to enjoy the music and they were experiences I wish I could re-live once again but will be unable to next year because I am not yet 18. From a 16-year-old’s point of view, the atmosphere was safe. It might’ve gotten sweaty, but the crowd of positive energy was just fine.

Maybe it’s the provocative clothing worn by young girls, the flashy bracelets or the word “molly” that’s thrown around that can give electronic dance music festivals a bad reputation, but in reality, this genre of music is much more than that. There may be the festival-goers who are there for the illicit drugs, but there are also those that are there to enjoy the music. Electronic dance music is like no other genre. The music festival experience is indescribable and fans of all ages should be able to live it.

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Opinion: Sign me up


We humans, as a race, are cyclic creatures, and nobody should ever break our routine, or they face our wrath. Unfortunately, closed doors seem to take the brunt of this abuse.

My friends and I have created a game thanks to the students here at the Bay: on days the Media Center is closed, how many people will disregard the sign that clearly says MEDIA CENTER IS CLOSED in the mornings and will still try to open the obviously locked door and stare at it frustrated until someone from a nearby picnic table says “Library’s closed.”IMG_0371

It gets more entertaining when the library is closed for the students but open for staff and faculty. Then, the students will walk into the unlocked library and will have to be escorted out of there by big, burly security guards.

This incredible phenomenon isn’t, however, limited to only the media center. Countless times, teachers will lock their rooms, post a sign outside telling their students that they’re either: a) not available during that period; or b) have moved the class to another room.

Students will try the door, sometimes pounding it and kicking it until a mysterious student, one with the ability to read, tells the others exactly what the sign says.

Now this may just be my opinion, but I think that when a teacher or faculty member posts a sign outside a door or a window, she means for the students to read it. I know, I know, that causes too much work. But don’t think of it like reading that assigned book from English class you hate, think of it as a text message, but on paper. And instead of sending it, the teacher put some Scotch tape on it and hung it up for all to see. So not exactly a text message, more like a group chat.

Even outside of high school, people ignore signs. Store says that its closed? Expect people to cup their eyes and try to peer in the darkened window. Even the Nicktoons show “Spongebob Squarepants” made a comment about this, having a customer knock on the closed doors and ask Squidward if they’re open. When the Squidward tells the customer to read the sign (which, spoiler alert, says CLOSED) the customer proceeds to place an order.

Bottom line: Read the sign and accept the fact that some people just don’t want you inside.

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Opinion: Beware the Ides of February



Yes, it’s that time of year again when it is socially acceptable to complain about unsatisfying relationships and dream about unrealistic, Hollywood-based, super-human beings that will sweep us off our feet. The incredible time when grocery stores are having entire chocolate aisles on sale, and the time flowerbeds bloom in red and pink. The time of the year when lust is in the air.

You read correctly. Lust is a word that is typically accompanied by negative connotations, and you all know which ones I’m referring to, whereas the word we would all love to hear, LOVE, is nothing but fluffy, sugarcoated, goodness. We are wrong for thinking in this way.

In reality, (aka the high school spectrum) lust should be what we connote as light and fluffy, because deep inside, most of us acknowledge the fact that in this time of our so-far-short-lived lives, lust is all there typically is. The teddy bear you received from your significant other last year now lies indifferent and dusty in the cold, desolate corner of your room. The flowers you received have withered and the baked goods that were exchanged have been eaten, digested for nutrients (their prime function), and then forgotten. I do not believe this to be a tragedy, don’t get me wrong. In fact, I prefer the hard truth of lust’s temporary, superficial nature, rather than the intense, all-consuming, platonic idea of love.

Valentine’s Day has become an obligation almost. Something like love, that at our age is not very common (since fewer than 2 percent of marriages are to a high school sweetheart according to the website 20 High School Sweethearts Marriage Statistics” by Brandon Gaille), has morphed into something we are ashamed of not having. We wonder where we went wrong, what we could have done differently. We obsess over how every person around us seems to be roaming the hallways with emoji-heart-eyes. How the sensation that overwhelms the atmosphere cyclically through the Ides of February seems like love, when really, it is merely just lust. It will most likely end, and there is nothing wrong with that, or you.

The best way to accept this and not live like a cold, soulless robot for the rest of your life, is to enjoy the moment, immerse yourself in the feelings your significant other gives you, and all the while remember that this is just another chapter of your life. So go ahead, make mistakes. Type that text message with all of the hearts and exclamation marks your little heart desires. Trip, fall, and get back up again. It’s a cycle, so don’t think of it too much.

This Valentine’s Day, remember to beware of the temptation to make something ephemeral, eternal. Beware the Ides of February, but don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it.

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From My Perspective: Free Spirit Conference inspires budding journalist



Viewed from the eighth-floor window of the Newseum’s conference center, Washington, D.C., seemed conquerable. Heck, the world seemed conquerable. The sprawling scope of the city was reduced to a diorama of matchbox cars and pebble-sized people, flanked on one side by the white wedding cake of the Capitol Building. RGB LISA B

My reflection glinted on the glass plane, refracting across the patchwork of tree-lined streets. It looked like I had been absorbed into the soul of the city itself. I was part of this buzzing, electric nucleus of politics and history and art. I was part of D.C.

For five sun-soaked days from June 21-26, this was the stomping ground for me and 50 other young journalists selected to represent their states in the annual Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. Together, we were treated to a dizzying, all-expense-paid program of speakers ranging from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists to civil rights champions, tours through the USA Today offices and press boxes on Capitol Hill, as well as excursions to the district’s monuments and museums.

USE Free SpiritThe Newseum, a museum devoted in chronicling the history of American newsgathering and educating the public about the First Amendment, spared no expense in funding our media immersion. Its conference center on the eight floor served as our home base for sessions with journalists from Politico, TIME magazine and the Washington Post.

No amount of preemptive research (i.e. Facebook stalking) about my fellow Free Spirits could have prepared me for the colorful cast of characters I would encounter at the conference, a motley crew replete with the creativity and courage of seasoned journalists.

There was a boy from the district who immediately trumped all our introductions by nonchalantly mentioning that he once played basketball with the president. There was a girl from Atlanta who could spurt out little-known political factoids at a mile a minute.

There was my roommate, a pageant queen from Idaho who was every bit as brainy as she was beautiful. And there was a girl from Alabama who, in what was one of the most stupefyingly happy moments of my life, announced it was my birthday and caused a chorus of 50 voices to erupt in a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

I’m continually flooded by memories of the experience I shared with the other Free Spirits. Hardly a day transpires when I am not awash with recollections of the time I scoured the entire Vietnam Memorial with the scholar from New Mexico to stencil over the name of her uncle killed in combat, or the time I bristled with indignation as we learned about the student press restrictions imposed by Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier in the decadent D.C. district court. I still savor my team’s hard-fought victory in a current events quiz show (go blue team!), and fondly revisit each floor of the Newseum in my head.

USE Other White House Group

Even five months later, the words of the speakers still rattle in my brain. I can never shake off the velvet voice of “PBS NewsHour” anchorwoman Gwen Ifill as she recounted the racism that hounded her early journalism career or former press secretary Ron Nessen’s account of his heated exchanges with the press corps during the Vietnam War. Most of all, I’m still chalked with a tremor of emotion at the memory of Rep. John Lewis’s plight as a Freedom Rider when he spoke about the media’s role in the advancement of civil rights.

All these sessions served to invigorate our passion for journalism, even in an era when the industry is shadowed by a rain cloud of uncertainty. We were all collectively taken aback when David Gregory of “Meet the Press” warned us during a taping of his program at NBC studios that a journalism degree was not a prudent investment.

We each had qualms about the decline of newspapers, the editorialized nature of news networks and the massive layoffs occurring all across the industry. But the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference helped assuage our fears and assure us that we could pioneer a new vision for the future of journalism and navigate the new digitized age.

USE unnamedWhenever I revisit my experiences as a Free Spirit, I feel as if I was transported back to the window of the Newseum, surveying the bustling city below me. I can conquer D.C., the world, the journalism industry and all of life’s “little league failures,” as Al Neuharth would say. I’m invincible.

And when I see on Facebook that the Free Spirit from Colorado is organizing a protest against her school board’s censorship of textbooks, or when the boy from Washington launches a vehement political tirade on Twitter, or when the girl from Connecticut is shaking hands with President Obama, I’m overcome with the feeling that one day we’ll change the world.

Because you know what?

We just might.

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Opinion: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge true purpose should be known



What is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? Most of you can probably find the answer on your Facebook feed.

Throughout the past few months, it’s been impossible to go on social media without seeing “ALS ice bucket challenge” pop up. But let me ask you a question: why are you pouring a bucket of ice on yourself?EMILY C COLOR copy

Most of us are capable of dousing ice-cold water on ourselves for the world to see, yet I bet only a fraction of us can say what ALS is and what purpose the ice bucket challenge serves for those affected by it.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Due to the degeneration of motor neurons, ALS often results in death. The life expectancy of an ALS patient is two to five years from the time of diagnosis. Only 30,000 people in the US have ALS, and there is no cure for the disease thus far.

Unlike those who roll their eyes every time they see another ice bucket challenge pop up on their Instagram feed, I feel joy seeing such a little known disease getting attention. Since the ice bucket challenge began, the ALS Association has received $15.6 million in donations compared to $1.8 million in donations it received last year. The only thing I roll my eyes at is how little people will care about the disease once their video is posted.

The problem with the ice bucket challenge is it has become such a pop culture phenomenon that people are forgetting why it began in the first place. If people are not aware of the importance of ALS research, and the impact the challenge has had, the ice bucket challenge is in danger of becoming just another fad that will be buried into the depths of social media in a matter of months.

Why do I say this? Let me take you back to a time when everybody wore “I Love Boobies” bracelets to support breast cancer. How many people still wear those bracelets today? While those bracelets stood for an excellent cause in breast cancer awareness and gave attention to a life-threatening illness, most people bought them for the comical phrase written or to blend in with their friends. The bracelets, which were made to promote breast cancer, became a fashion trend rather than a charitable donation.

The ALS ice bucket challenge is on the path to a similar fate as the “I Love Boobies” bracelets. Due to people’s ignorance, participants have no care to keep the trends going. When such great causes are getting attention, we cannot let them turn into fads.

This is the first time the ALS community has received so much attention, and it would be a shame to see the ice bucket challenge become just another forgotten hashtag on social media. Instead of caring how many likes we get on our ice bucket challenge videos, we should care about how much the challenge has helped ALS research.

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