Category Archives: air pollution

Why we’re late to school — long commute, need more sleep

lateness

opinion piece

by Nicole Funes

Daily agony: my alarm rings, as I stumble out of bed at 5 a.m. way before the blue jays start to squawk. Shower, dress, quick juice and race five blocks to the bus stop. That run downhill gets my heat beating.

It’s now 6:45 and if I’m lucky I’m on the first of two buses that cross Oakland from East (south) to West (others have to transfer twice). It’s an hour and 20 minute ride and I have to be lucky — the buses have to be on schedule and follow their route without “incident” for me to make it to school on time.

There are a handful of us loyal to the West: we were displaced by gentrification but we identify with West Oakland and its community spirit and “family-like” feel.

Nevertheless, school administrators greet us with curt remarks “Late again?” and stony stares, as though we stopped at the corner store for a chat or overslept.

Anywhere between 12 to 40 students arrive late to school every day, said Will Blackwell, who teaches manhood at McClymonds. Tardiness can affect grades, other teachers said.

It’s clear that we need more sleep and less stress about the commute.

Just look at the newest study: a study by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement showed that later start times for high school students are better. The three-year study involved 9,000 students at eight high schools in three states.

Earlier studies in Minneapolis showed that later start times (and more sleep)produced higher graduation rates.

Even McClymonds students recognize that sleep deprivation affects their school work.

“I’m tired and irritated in the morning,” said Kaya LaForte, a freshman at McClymonds, who is an A student but feels she could do more if she were not so tired.

Part of her problem is the long commute. “It can take an hour or more. The bus driver could be making a lot of stops. Some people might have to take 2 more buses, and BART, then have to walk sometime and then might not make it,” she said.

Like others, she often skips breakfast.

She feels targeted when she comes in late. The response to the bus saga at school: “That’s not an acceptable excuse. You need to leave 5 minutes earlier.”

Sleep affects performance, the study showed. More sleep, researchers found,  improves grades and standardized test results.

“We did find that there was statistically significant improvement in their grades in English, math, social studies and science, all the core academic areas,” said Kayla Wahlstrom, director of the University of Minnesota Center and the study’s author. “And we found improvements on standardized tests, like the ACT test.”

The study showed that schools with start times at 7:30 a.m. had just 34 percent of students who reported getting eight or more hours of sleep, while schools with  start times of 8:55 a.m. had 66 percent of students getting eight or more hours of sleep.

Wahlstrom also said coaches told her that the athletes were more able to remember plays and could perform better physically with more sleep.

“It’s easier to get up in the morning when you get enough sleep,” said Anthony Beron, a sophomore who played JV football and is a long distance runner. “When you’re rested, you can run faster, longer and compete harder.”

Why Students Smoke Weed (or Don’t)

OPINION PIECE

by Lee Benson

Is weed a problem at McClymonds High School? Does it lead to absenteeism or cutting class?

Apparently less so, this year, so far.

Geometry teacher Elise Delagnes says,” It was a big problem last year and I had many students come to my class high, but this year it has gotten much better.”

In fact, no students have been suspended for being high at McClymonds. “Weed is not a problem at McClymonds,” says Principal Tanisha Hamberlin.

The changes at McClymonds reflect what is going on nationwide. Statistics show that the percentage of students who smoke weed in high school has dropped from a shocking 8.2% in 2002 to 7.3% in 2009.

As teens begin to smoke weed at a younger age, we would like to know the reason why this is happening. Why smoke instead  of going to class, getting good grades and going to college? In our interviews with several students at McClymonds, we discovered that many students react to stress by coming to school high.

First of all, most students won’t admit that they smoke. They can’t smoke at school because hallway cameras record comings and goings of students. “This is prison, they have cameras everywhere,” says junior Quadry Wesley.

Most students also say that sports and drugs don’t mix. At McClymonds, most students play at least one sport.

“I don’t smoke weed because I don’t want to let anybody down who is important in my life,” says Miles Mitchell, a junior and a tight end on the football team.  “I feel like it is a bad influence on little kids. Another reason why I don’t smoke is because I play for the varsity football team and I am trying to get a scholarship so I can go to college.”

Emoni Fountain, a senior and the starting quarterback agrees.  “I don’t smoke weed because I’m an athlete and it makes you have bad lungs, I don’t feel like weed is something that will help me get to where I am trying to be in life. I see people smoking around me all the time and I see the effects of it and I don’t want any part of it.”

In my opinion, students smoke weed  for different reasons, to relieve stress, because it’s cool, to fit in.

Those who do smoke say they work as hard as they play. “I smoke weed because it’s fun. I like to chase the high. It’s kind of relaxing and everything is way more funny than it would be when I am sober,” says junior David Smith. “Just because I smoke doesn’t mean that I don’t get my work done,  I still have above a 2.0, so I really don’t see a problem with it.

Sophomore Jasmine Richardson agrees. “I smoke sometimes because it is funny when you’re high, also I smoke because I want to and it keeps me occupied.”

Popularity and Dangers of Sideshows: Will Latest Police Crackdown Work?

by Lee Benson

After three people were shot at an East Oakland sideshow last weekend, Oakland police said they would crack down, once again, on the long-standing popular phenomenon, which inspires rap lyrics such as Macaroni Time by Chief Keef.

It’s clear from interviews with students at McClymonds that as dangerous as sideshows may be, they attract youths because they feature drag racing, stunts such as donuts, souped up cars, and rowdy crowds. “It’s dangerous but exciting,” said James Smith, a junior. “And then there’s not much else to do at night in West Oakland,” said Kelton Reynolds, a sophomore.

Even community workers agree. Olis Simmons, president and CEO of Youth Uprising, told reporters that  youths in Oakland need positive alternatives to sideshows, but she does not have the resources to keep her neighborhood youth center open past 8 p.m.

In West Oakland, the city recently finished building a youth center on Market Street, but lacks the $190,000 for programming.

Alternatives In Action staff member Shelley Smith feels there are many alternatives, until 6 p.m. at the youth center at McClymonds.  “Kids have many different options of activities to do afterschool.  Some play games like pool and air hockey, some go to the studio and record music, and some chill and eat snacks.”

At night, however, there are no alternatives, community workers say. “(We need) to actually think creatively like some of our sister cities like  San Diego and think about other ways that we can actually redirect this energy,” Simmons said.

Energy does flow at sideshows. Spinning cars whirr, the rubber of tires burn, and crowds cheer. 

The chaos can be scary, students said. Tyanna Jackson, a senior at McClymonds High School says that, ” I have been to one on International but I will never go again. Side shows are crazy, cars are in the intersection doing donuts and often there is at least one person who is injured or worse. At this one, people began to shoot at each other.”

Most sideshows are impromptu. They move to another area if police appear, even West Oakland, which is smaller and easier to patrol than East Oakland, says Jacob Miles, a junior. “I went to a side show on 12th and Adeline, and somebody started shooting like ten minutes into the show,” he said.  “Everybody ran and that was my last time going to a side show.”

Students would prefer not to have to run. Desean Nelson, a junior at McClymonds High School said,” It doesn’t make any sense that people can’t just go to an event and have fun without having to worry about getting hit by bullets.” He added,  “The world that we live in is getting too sick and this unnecessary violence needs to stop.”

In the meantime, Oakland interim police Chief Sean Whent announced several strategies, including having police and CHP officers at popular spots for sideshows. Police launched a similar crackdown in 2010, increasing fines and ticketing spectators. It was unsuccessful.

What “Healthy Environment” Means to Mack Students

by Janiero Rodriguez

This week, two youth groups at Mack — YOLO and Real Hard — are promoting the idea of “healthy environment.”

I asked several students and a tutor to define “healthy environment.”

Kardel Howard (not photographed), a sophomore, said

“Water is clean. No trash on the street. The air is clean and smells like trees.”

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Miles Mitchell, sophomore:

“A healthy environment to me is violence free environment and an environment that is very green.”

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Daishawn Shannon, sophomore:

“Keep everything clean, not just your own neighborhood.”

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Lavance Warren, sophomore:

“To keep your neighborhood streets clean.”

Tutor Amy Nickersen said:

“A healthy environment is an environment where you can thrive physically, emotionally and spiritually, physically — clean, safe, makes you feel good. Emotionally — inspiring environment, creative, where you can think productive thoughts.”

Sustainable Future for Oakland: Students Care

readytomeet

by Anthony Beron

Oakland High senior Kasey Saeturn relies on the bus for the long trek to school every day. It’s already overcrowded and unreliable.

Her nightmare could end: an alternative plan known as Scenario 5 could make Oakland more “sustainable” while investing more money in buses to restore service to levels that existed in the past, she told  at an environmental impact report hearing on April 16.

“Buses are overcrowded,” she said.  She also supports “eco-friendly buses.”

Saeturn was one of several students to testify at the hearing about the Environmental Impact Report, which analyzed several alternatives to Plan Bay Area.

In their testimony, students supported Alternative 5, touted as “the environmentally superior alternative,”  which would decrease greenhouse gases and particulate pollution that triggers asthma. It would also budget more money for affordable housing and buses.

The other students were graduates of McClymonds, Street Academy and Bentley high school, who are now attending college. The Rose Foundation’s summer program “New Voices Are Rising” had stirred interest in the plan.

Woody Little, a student at UC Berkeley who grew up in Rockridge, urged that any plan avoid displacing people from their current neighborhoods and create more affordable housing.

Plan Bay Area is a long-range transportation and land-use/housing plan for the entire San Francisco Bay Area. It includes the Bay Area’s Regional Transportation Plan (updated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission), and the Association of Bay Area Governments’ demographic and economic forecast.

This is the first time legislation is asking MTC and ABAG to adopt a Sustainable Communities Strategy, which will coordinate land use and transportation in the regional transportation plan. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for cars and light-duty trucks in the nine-county region.  If the plan succeeds in getting people out of their cars, there would be more people riding buses and BART.

Pamela Tapia, a McClymonds graduate, told the story of her family’s displacement: that her mother now has to travel four hours to work and spends $60 a day. “The EIR fails to factor in the impact of gentrification on housing costs in neighborhoods that historically have been home to low-income residents.” Another McClymonds graduate, Devilla Ervin, talked about his foster mother having to move to Sacramento to find affordable housing.

Brenda Barron, who graduated from Street Academy and now attends San Francisco State, testified about changes in transportation: there are no buses near her home after 10 pm. She said that public transit  should be more affordable and frequent  and matters to younger people.

Another public hearing is scheduled in Fremont on May 1 at 6 pm at the Mirage Ballroom.

Asthma in West Oakland: How It Affects Mack Students

OaklandTribpanelPamela

by Jonae Scott and Anthony Beron

Students at McClymonds are four times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than students at Piedmont High, just four miles away.

Just ask Pamela Tapia.

Now 19 and a 2011 graduate, Tapia recounted being hospitalized for two weeks as a Mack sophomore, just as she was writing a story for Oaktown Teen Times about air pollution and diesel fumes in West Oakland, which has the 3rd highest rate of hospitalization for asthma in the state.

“The story was no longer about statistics,” she said. “It was about ME.”

Tapia was one of six speakers at a forum about asthma sponsored by The Oakland Tribune on March 20. They tackled every aspect of asthma from triggers to vitamin D deficiency, from code enforcement to social justice issues.

For Tapia, the first asthma attack was disorienting. “Why do I feel like I’m drowning,” she recalled. It spurred her to be an activist with the Rose Foundation and along with McClymonds students from the Law Academy, to confront issues that adults were ignoring. “No one in the West was speaking up [at that time],” she said.

Tapia and Fremont High senior Pearl Joy Balagot wrote stories about asthma as reporting fellows for the Tribune. Balagot’s story this week focused on strict guidelines in the Oakland Unified School District for taking kids with asthma on field trips. In her investigation, Balagot found that most teachers were not aware of the guidelines.

The reaction was similar at McClymonds.  Ron Delaney, who teaches U.S, History,  had not heard about the new guidelines for asthma, but he had not taken any students on field trip. Kat Hall, who teaches engineering, had taken 13 students on a field trip, with one who identified as asthmatic. She said his mother kept his inhaler and said he did not need it for the field trip.

While the first panel, which also included Oakland Tribune reporter Katy Murphy,  focused on youth and asthma, the second panel addressed environmental factors and health strategies. Experts included Joel Ervice, an expert on diesel pollution regulations, Brenda Rueda-Yamashita and Dr. Washington Burns, who organized the county’s Breathmobile.

In and Out of Shadows: A Play About Undocumented Youth Hits Home

Felix and his momHomero Rosas plays Juan Two

by Romanalyn Inocencio

Watching In and Out of Shadows at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco was like sitting in my living room listening to my Mom. The Filipina mother in the story threatened like my mother, giving you a choice of what household instrument you can get hit with.

It hit home because I’m Filipina and these life stories — focused on fears about the police, stress over grades and college — reflect the anxieties of my undocumented cousins and friends.

Some significant details are different of course. The stories of crossing the border into the United States from Mexico, when one kid had to be drugged because he could not learn his fake name,and another had to crawl through the sewers, are harrowing.

The musical builds on a familiar theme: college application.  In it, the undocumented teens are preparing their personal statements for an AB 540 conference at UC Berkeley (AB 540 allows DREAMers to attend California colleges at in-state rates).

 We meet Angel, who arrived in the US alone via a sewer when he was 13. And Juan who, as a determined six-year-old, had to be drugged with cough syrup during the crossing because he adamantly refused to take his cousin’s name as his own. We watch a newly urbanized “vato loco” (crazy dude in Spanish) teaching an undocumented Chinese friend how to speak street Spanish.

Running through the entire musical is the fear of deportation. Many families in the  play  have deceptive status – undocumented parents who lie to their children about their papers (often telling their children they have papers, when they don’t)  and who live in constant fear of separation.

Even under AB 540 or President Obama’s recent two-year deportation deferral program for certain undocumented youth, students who get to stay may suddenly be left alone with nobody to take care of them. The diverse group of young actors, many whom are directly affected by the issue, mix English, Spanish, Tagalog and other languages as they examine the unwieldy human effects of this messy political issue.