Living without clean water, food, and electricity. Without shelter or money. Living 50 miles away from the closest medical facility. Those conditions are commonplace for Pakistani citizens, the majority of whom regularly dealt with these circumstances even before recent flooding devastated multiple communities across the country.
Adrian, a senior, stands at his desk in his English class. For what seems to him like an eternity, he stares blankly at the passage he is supposed to be reading aloud. "Focus," he tells himself. "No silly mistakes." For most Blazers, reading a few words aloud is an easy task. But on this morning, it's not easy for Adrian. Stoned, smacked, baked, blazed - he's high.
Sophomore Michael Morganstein walks down the hallway, pausing to say hi to his various friends. Suddenly he hears "M-Squared," his family nickname, booming down the corridor. He turns around and sees his dad smiling at him.
Most high school students pick up an instrument or join a sports team as an after-school activity, but not senior Sally Ravitz. She wanted something more exciting, more dangerous. Traveling at speeds up to 115 miles per hour and soaring 3,000 feet in the air were exactly the changes that Ravitz desired. Now she attends lessons at Freeway Aviation every Saturday in order to obtain her pilot's license.
A land with no real voting, no freedom of speech and no voice for its people living under an oppressive government rule – it sounds like a description from a history textbook or a fantasy novel. But for 11 years of her life, this was reality for senior Thu Nguyen in her home country of the Vietnam.
As Blazers' Facebook walls have begun filling up with a multitude of prom photos and comments, senior Kamal Ndousse's wall remains empty. No pictures of his date smiling as she fits on the $30 dollar corsage, no parents glowing with pride over their grown up boy. Instead, the pictures were replaced by memories of the "most epic" night of his life: a Local Area Network (LAN) party where he and his friends connected their computers and played video games for 28 hours straight.
The sun shines down on the field's freshly cut grass as two teams in different-colored uniforms line up in their formations. The players put on their game faces and dig their cleats into the ground. But as the opening whistle sounds and the first pass is made, both teams rush to the ball in what appears more like a battle than a soccer game. The only mediating force against the chaos of youth sports: junior Connor Dowd and his shiny whistle, signaling his position as referee.
It happens all the time: a friend is over-energized, a teacher loses his train of thought, a peer drinks one too many Red Bulls before class. It's easy to jokingly blame attention deficit disorder (ADD) and move on with the conversation. But for some students who actually cope with ADD, other learning disabilities and physical handicaps that make schoolwork challenging, it's no laughing matter.
It all starts with eye contact. In the middle of a party packed with other high schoolers, Jacob, a junior, might lock eyes with a girl — then, the two might strike up a conversation or, if he's lucky, start dancing. From there, it's a series of tests: casual touching and flirtatious whispers to gauge her interest. Before long, the two are hooking up – usually making out, sometimes more. When they're done, Jacob says, he walks away, moving back into the party.
Freshman Manpreet Gujral's response to the burqa ban is immediate and strong. "That's wrong," he says. "Anybody should have the right to wear or do something for their religion." For Gujral, the matter is personal: He is a Sikh and he wears a turban.
There's a new civil rights movement afoot in America, and it plans to stretch the definition of 'person' beyond race, gender or religion. This time, Murray Hill Inc. is spearheading a movement to demand that the Maryland legal system extend campaign freedoms to the corporate world. After the Supreme Court declared in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in January that corporations have the same rights as individuals, Murray Hill pounced on the opportunity for publicity and a chance to poke fun at the Court's controversial decision. That's right – the Silver Spring public relations firm is running for Congress.
Freshman Samendjy William couldn't move. She couldn't speak, either, because the debris pinning her down shot pain below her ribs every time she tried to call for help. Unable to see the widespread destruction around her, William imagined that the trembling earth had opened a gash in only her house. Nearby, underneath the rubble, her older cousin whispered words of encouragement. William inhaled the air she could reach, and prayed: "Jesus, please, show me your miracle."
Their heads rest comfortably on their small hands, their eyes fixed on the sight before them. But they are not entranced by bright colors flashing on television or videogame characters leaping across the screen. These kindergarteners are mesmerized by a picture book, whose colorful pages are turned by hands twice the size of a 5-year-old's.
As students trickle into the meeting in a Blair classroom, she gives each a welcoming smile and a gentle hug. When the "catching up" session begins, she sits in the close circle of chairs along with them. She listens quietly to their experiences of the past week, their ideas for changing the world and their solutions to violence in Africa, stepping in only rarely to ask questions and offer insight. Wanjiru Kamau - or "Mama Kamau," as the students call her to show their respect and admiration for her in a traditional African way - is the founder and executive director of the African Immigrant and Refugee Foundation (AIRF). She has devoted her life to helping African immigrants adjust to American culture without losing their old traditions.
Their village was called Friendship, but freshman Yakemi Wilson's grandparents feared even to peek out the window. Outside, ethnic riots had torn through Guyana, and Wilson's grandparents were holed up inside their house, unwilling to show their faces to the aggressors fighting beyond the panes.
Walking into a room and inhaling the buttery scent of baking pastries and cakes that emanates from the oven inspires an acute pang of hunger, a deep gnawing in the pit of the belly that will remain until the craving has been sated. For a select few, the aroma of a cake in the oven inspires a different type of hunger entirely - a hunger for business.
Sitting day after day through her eighth grade French class, sophomore Sally Barth, like many foreign language students, found herself in a continuous state of confusion. As time ticked by slowly each class, Barth struggled to speak and understand a language which at times seemed no more than gibberish. But instead of continuing to slip, Barth took her foreign language education into her own hands. She got a pen pal.
For many Blazers, receiving a vaccine or a shot offers a permanent peace of mind. For sophomore Yesli Leon, receiving the swine flu vaccine in late 2009 meant only a temporary respite from worry.
Senior Walter Martinez feels the adrenaline rushing through him as he straps in, knowing that in a few moments he will be traveling at 120 miles per hour. After the flash of a green light, his car comes to life, roaring and springing off the ground. The race will be over in less than 15 seconds, so he has no room for error. He must change gears with precise timing while being able to control a car going the speed of a roller coaster. Perfection is key.
A Christmas tree standing in front of the City Hall in Copenhagen twinkles with thousands of bright, white lights - but the energy powering them is purely green. Every day, a different Danish politician spends half an hour on an exercise bike connected to the tree to provide the mechanical energy to illuminate the tree and light up the city with an enchanting glow.
It's somewhere between a sport and a dance form, a means of expression and a medium for competition, a source of pride and a lesson in self-discipline. A dance form that originated in the United States, stepping brings the members of the Lady Blazers, Blair's step team, together as artists, teammates and, most importantly, as family.
Late afternoon, on Jan. 12, junior Ruben Dumay's sister delivered a shocking piece of news to him: An earthquake had struck Haiti, their home country. Her tone of voice lulled him into disbelief. The cries on television and photos on the Internet soon revealed a new reality, though: The earthquake had been a lethal, 7.0-magnitude catastrophe. Dumay wasn't sure what to feel. He trudged to school the next day, but when he returned home, he dammed the flood of media around him – television darkened, computer powered off – and collapsed into bed without speaking to anyone.
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