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MARCHING FOR OUR LIVES

Samir Banerjee









Valentine’s Day 2018 should have been about passing around chocolate hearts and declaring love to that special someone. Instead it marked yet another dark moment in our nation’s bloody history of school shootings. Sadly, there have been numerous occasions to mourn those who have met an untimely death and just as many times to enact measures to prevent future tragedies. Like a broken record, the dirge of death plays on repeatedly. Yet the cacophony of political discourse that consistently accompanies these tragedies along with the clatter of “thoughts and prayers”, were finally rejected by the survivors who said it was enough. Never Again. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have channeled their grief towards a campaign to end these senseless acts of violence and are demonstrating what leadership should be while shaming the namesake leaders who have failed so many children countless times.


I learned early on that being an activist has no age limits or pre-requisites. Simply being born entitles each and every one of us to participate in the human race and the cultivation of humanity. To many, we are called minors and yet, we are the major driving force in this movement. Some label us as future leaders and yet, we are leading the conversation today. They think that because we are unable to vote, our voices will not be heard. They call us kids as if we were helpless little fuzzy creatures- as if we need protection. It’s ironic, considering that most of those elected to serve and protect us have failed to do so. Perhaps we are too young to be entrusted with the vote, but apparently we are not too young to be murdered in our classroom.


None of this suggests that our education and the lessons taught to us by adult mentors are a waste – it’s fear that distracts us from what we as students are supposed to be doing. Perhaps the most pertinent advice to the young Marjory Stoneman Douglass high schoolers came from none other than the woman whose name their school bears: "Be a nuisance when it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, & disappointed at failure & the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption & bad politics — but never give up."


ANIMAL ASSISTED HAPPINESS

Jatin Chadha









On 2/11 Agents went to volunteer at Animal Assisted Happiness in Sunnyvale. The goal of Animal Assisted Happiness is to enrich the lives of parents and children who have special needs or health concerns by helping them interact with animals. This was a great experience for all who volunteered as we got to interact with different kinds of animals, as well as interacting with children and their parents. The children enjoyed interacting with the animals, while we were helping them interact with the animals and it brightened my day to see myself make someone a little more happy. We fed and gave water to the animals, as well as cleaning out their stalls. This experience helped me destress and enjoy the beauty of nature. I enjoyed volunteering to make others more happy.


LITERACY RATES REFLECTION

Prithika Appani









This past Saturday, a few agents and I got the amazing opportunity to volunteer in the Reading and Dreaming Program at Centerville Library. This program was created by AoC to combat declining levels of literacy in today's youth. On Saturday, the volunteers and I were greeted by an enthusiastic group of kids; it was refreshing seeing the kids take such a keen interest in books.


This was my first time volunteering with the Literacy Rates Project and it was incredible, especially because I have always loved working with kids. Working with children is a truly rewarding experience since you have the ability to make such a substantial impact on their life. In addition, the kids are always so energetic and eager to learn that it makes the time and effort worthwhile. Although some kids can be difficult, it's important to remain patient and keep encouraging them to learn.


Before the children arrived we picked out a diverse collection of books that met the kids' reading standards. As they arrived, we were each given 1-2 children to work with. We spent a few minutes introducing ourselves and making the kids feel more comfortable. After that, we had the students read to us, during this time each volunteer kept a vocabulary list of words that the student was unfamiliar with. After the reading session was over we reviewed the list of words and the volunteers had to fill out a reading progress sheet charting the kid's growth. I really enjoyed how we got to talk to the parents about the kids' progress. Moreover, all the parents were really appreciative, warm, and friendly.


I loved creating a safe space for these kids to better their reading skills. This project made me feel like I was making a significant difference in people's lives and given the opportunity, I would love to volunteer here again.