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The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

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Content for This Generation
Updated: 50 min 34 sec ago

What I Didn’t Learn In High School

September 18, 2016 - 8:00am

Leading up to high school graduation, I heard many of my classmates say, “four years of classes and I didn’t learn a thing.” They were joking, but to me, it wasn’t that funny….it’s actually kind of true.

I went to a big public high school. It wasn’t the best learning environment for me. I was stressed out by all the homework, worksheets, and tests. Rather than encouraging me to think for myself, my grades seemed to be determined by how well I could memorize facts and dates. I felt like a robot.

The one exception was my government class. There, my teacher based his curriculum on current events, not textbooks. If it wasn’t for that class, I would’ve been lost when it came to issues or who to vote for. I enjoyed the coursework, and most importantly, I felt like I was learning.

This is what an education is supposed to do. School isn’t just about acing tests or cramming in information. It should help you understand how the world is and, hopefully, shape it for the better.

Categories: Blog

The Literal Face of Diversity in STEM

September 14, 2016 - 2:21pm
Haile Shavers speaks at the opening for the Kapor Center for Social Impact.

As start-ups and big companies like Uber move into downtown Oakland, the tech industry continues to struggle with workforce diversity. This summer, Google released its latest diversity report, revealing that its workforce is 2% Black, 3% Hispanic, and 31% women. Facebook has a similar race and gender breakdown. Their employees are 2% Black, 4% Hispanic, and 33% women.

The Kapor Center for Social Impact is pushing for Oakland’s expanding tech industry to reflect the city’s diversity. The Kapor Center purchased a billboard on Broadway and 22nd Street that reads, “As Oakland becomes more tech, let’s ensure tech becomes more Oakland.”

The billboard features the face of Haile Shavers, a computer science major at UC Berkeley. Shavers is an alum of SMASH (Summer Math and Science Honors Academy), an educational program for low-income teens of color to take STEM courses. At the opening for the Kapor Center’s Oakland headquarters, Shavers spoke to Youth Radio’s Grace Vaughan Brekke about getting her start in coding. What follows are excerpts from their conversation.


Grace: What do you hope to do with your computer science skills?

Haile Shavers: That’s kind of a big question. I used to want to be a software engineer, but then I found out that’s not really a path I want to take. I like the more social side. I like talking to people about code. I like being collaborative with other people on my team, which is what I do now at NBC. [Haile spent the summer as an Operations & Technical Services Intern at NBC Universal Media.] And even though we write code for a portion of our job, a lot of it is talking.

Grace: What’s it like to be a young woman in the computer science field?

Haile: It’s interesting. It’s a bit lonely. There’s not a lot of women at Berkeley studying computer science, and that number goes down for women of color, black women. There’s like three of us and we’re all best friends.

And even though it’s lonely, that actually makes me work harder. I feel like us being in the computer science major is going to open up doors for younger women of color to go in.

Grace: Was there anything that ever made you consider quitting?

Haile: Umm… yes. I don’t want to say everyday, but there are moments, I would say, especially last semester, about like every two weeks, where it was like mmm, do I really want to do this? … I do. Gotta push, I can’t stop. Like if I did stop, what else am I gonna do? That’s kinda my pep talk to myself.

Haile Shavers spoke to Youth Radio’s Grace Vaughan Brekke.

Grace: What were the perceptions of coders among your peers and your community as you grew up in Oakland?

Haile: I definitely didn’t know what coding was, what computer science was.

We had a computer in our house, and I had the privilege of going to like this camp for young girls. We did a workshop, and it was like, “Take apart the computer.” And I did. “Put it back together.” It was cool.

Grace: What was that program called?

Haile: That program was called Expanding Your Horizons. The one workshop I do remember was a computer hardware workshop where we took apart this like big computer, and then put it back together, turned it back on, and it worked.

So immediately, I went home, took apart our computer and my mom was like “Okay, you’re breaking our computer! What’s happening? What are you doing?”

And I was like, “I know what I’m doing. I got this. It’s okay.”

She said, ”Um…okay just be careful. Please don’t electrocute yourself.”

I was like “Ma, I got this. I know what I’m doing.”

Grace: What would you say to young women trying to figure out what they should study in college?

Haile: I’d say study what you think is fun. Because, honestly, in the end for me, as much as I may complain or be stressed, there’s a part of me that has a lot of fun. If what you want to study is STEM, then find that piece of fun that’s going to keep you going.

Grace: Why is diversity in this field important?

Haile: I think it’s important–personally just for me–so I can feel comfortable in these spaces. I think being comfortable in tech spaces, STEM spaces, any space you’re in–is the number one key. In order for me to do well, I want to feel comfortable, I want to feel like I can contribute my ideas and they’ll be listened to. It’s okay for me to be the only one, but I want to know that there’s support.

Categories: Blog

Rejecting My Native Language

September 11, 2016 - 8:00am

In middle school, I came up with this brilliant plan to defy all Asian stereotypes. I was loud. I hid my high test scores… And I stopped speaking Chinese.

When I stopped speaking Chinese, I essentially cut off all communication with my family. They’d ask me something in Chinese, I’d respond in English. They’d just stare at me. When I was hanging out with my friends, I didn’t want to speak Chinese so I’d ignore my family’s calls. My aunt occasionally got so worried about where I was, my teachers would find her wandering my school’s hallways.

I started to realize my mistake on the very first day of high school, when my Chinese language teacher asked my class if any of us were bilingual. While most of my classmates’ hands shot up proudly, I hesitated. It had been so long I could no longer say that I was fluent.

Now, I’m trying to regain my fluency by speaking Chinese as much as I can, but It’s not as natural as it used to be. But I’ll keep trying. It’s worth it to reclaim that part of me that I thought was long gone.

Categories: Blog

Will Teens Still Pledge Allegiance Post-Kaepernick?

September 9, 2016 - 1:00pm
Dominic Altieri, an 8th grade history teacher at Synergy School in San Francisco, facilitates a class discussion about 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s recent decision not to stand during the national anthem. Photo credit: Teresa Chin/Youth Radio

Seventeen-year-old Garrison Pennington is a hard-core San Francisco 49ers fan and a self-identified patriot. So his current feelings about his team’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who recently decided to stop standing during the pre-game national anthem, are… complicated.

“So I actually found out from my dad, who came from the football perspective of, ‘What is he doing? I don’t want to see that happening. This is football. This isn’t politics stay out of it,’” Garrison said. “And when my dad talked to me about it at first, I completely agreed with him.”

Garrison says he’s the kind of guy who always stands for the flag. But then he noticed how Kaepernick’s actions were making people actually talk about important topics. Like racism. And what it means to be patriotic.

“You have to have someone who’s willing to stand up, or in this case, sit down, to bring attention to those issues.”

“I think I would stand. But if it gets worse…. I don’t know.” — Gabrielle  Manion, 13”

Just a few miles away at Synergy School San Francisco’s Mission District, eighth grade history teacher Dominic Altieri is also talking about Kaepernick’s actions. But in terms of the Bill of Rights.

“This is tailor made for a middle school topic,” Altieri says.

For today’s discussion, Altieri splits his class up into groups with different assignments. Gabrielle Manion, Kaia Levy-Kanenaga and Tomi Osawa are talking and researching the reasons people are mad about Kaepernick sitting out.

“It’s good to like, put your hand over your heart and stand up but I don’t get why do you have to do that at a National Football Game?” Gabrielle says.
“Like it makes sense at the Olympics but we’re all in America when we play football,” Kaia adds.
“And also a lot of people are made because they say he’s disrespecting the military because they’re fighting for freedom of speech,” Tomi says.
“I’m really mixed right now,” Kaia says. “It doesn’t make sense but it was a good point. Like what he was saying was good.”

Of the three students, only Gabrielle is black. And if she were in Kaepernick’s shoes?

“I think I would stand,” she says after a pause, “but if it gets worse…. I don’t know.”

Eighth grade history teacher Dominic Altieri listens along with his students to the unsung third verse of the U.S. national antehm, which references slavery. Photo Credit: Teresa Chin/Youth Radio

I get why Gabrielle is conflicted. I’m black, and growing up, my mom always made sure I knew the history of black people in America. She made me watch documentaries about slavery, civil rights, police brutality, you get the picture. I’m 15 now. And up to this point, I never really thought about the connection between racism and the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance that much. Is it really that big of a deal?

It is to Amanda Agustin. She’s 17 and says she often stands for the flag, only because people get mad when she doesn’t. But she won’t put her hand on her heart, or sing or recite the pledge.

“Because I don’t believe it’s true,” Amanda says. “I believe if I were to say I pledge my allegiance to a country that has liberty and justice for all, I would be lying.”

Though that doesn’t mean that she’s giving up on her country.

“I do believe it should be love it or fix it,” she says. “If the country is not doing for you as it should, that doesn’t mean you abandon it, that’s not patriotic to me. It’s fix it.”

Back in the classroom, the 8th graders are wrapping up their lesson. As they head to lunch, their conversations keep going… about patriotism, racism, and police violence.

These kids might seem kind of young for such a heavy conversation, but Altieri says, given the world we live in, it’s necessary.

“There’s a sadness that we still have to deal with this, but there’s no sadness in someone waking up or someone realizing things are not as they should be,” he says.

The 49ers first regular season game is Monday. And with lots of young people watching, Kaepernick says he plans to sit again for the national anthem.

Categories: Blog

Exclusive Interview With Kicks Director Justin Tipping and Actor Mahershala Ali

September 8, 2016 - 5:04pm

Before his feature film debut Kicks hits theaters nationwide tomorrow, director Justin Tipping and actor Mahershala Ali stopped by Lake Merritt in Oakland, California to talk with reporter Syy Abdel-Qawi.

Filmed in Oakland and Richmond, the movie follows Brandon, a teen who sets out on a mission to retrieve his first pair of Air Jordans from a group of neighborhood boys who stole them off of his feet earlier the same day. Tipping and Ali discuss how the movie explores masculinity and violence.

Categories: Blog

Youth Speak On Black Lives Matter

September 8, 2016 - 10:22am

In response to the more than 600 fatal police shootings so far in 2016, and the nearly 1000 fatal police shootings last year, Youth Radio’s Hasinnie Bennett created this video commentary trying to make sense of why African-Americans are two and a half times more likely to be shot and killed by police.


Categories: Blog

I might have Asperger’s Syndrome. But do I really want to know?

September 4, 2016 - 9:38am
Creative Commons image by Håvard Bjerke.

Most people are unaware of the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome — they include an unusually high IQ and a difficulty surviving in the social world. The fact that the symptoms vary in gender doesn’t help. Serenity Baruzzini, age fourteen, does not yet have a formal diagnosis, and now she’s struggling to decide whether or not she wants one at all.

Serenity comes to us from the Philadelphia-based Mighty Writers program.

Categories: Blog

Turning Away From The Ivy League

September 4, 2016 - 8:00am

I come from a family of high achievers. Both my parents attended ivy league universities. But for college, I chose a different path.

For much of high school, I put everything into schoolwork. I didn’t think too much about girls, looks, clubs, or popularity.

My outlook changed when my sister chose a small liberal arts college over an Ivy. I was shocked. But over time, I saw how happy she was at her school. It made me reconsider how I viewed college. How my choice didn’t have to be based on rankings or legacy.

When it came time for me to apply to college, I didn’t apply to any Ivy League Schools! Instead I gave more thought towards fun factors like clubs, sports, and greek life.

In the end, I chose a small private school near the Rockies. Although it’s not a school ranked at the top of the Princeton Review, it’s the school where I see myself having the most success.

Categories: Blog

Turning Away From The Ivy League

September 4, 2016 - 7:00am
University of Denver, my ultimate college choice!

I come from a family of high achievers. Both my parents attended ivy league universities. But for college, I chose a different path

For much of high school, getting into a prestigious college was my sole focus. I put everything into schoolwork. I didn’t think too much about girls, looks, clubs, or popularity.  

My outlook changed when my older sister chose a small liberal arts college over an Ivy. I was shocked. But over time, I saw how happy she was At her school. It made me reconsider how I viewed college,  How my  choice didn’t have to be based on rankings or legacy.

When it came time for me  to apply to college, I didn’t apply to any   Ivy League Schools! Instead I gave more thought towards fun factors like clubs, sports, and Greek Life.

In the end, I chose a small private school near the Rockies. Although it’s not a school ranked at the top of the Princeton Review, it’s the school where I see myself having the most success.


Categories: Blog

Teens React To Kaepernick And Patriotism Debate

September 2, 2016 - 11:54am
Photo Credit: Brook Ward

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem is sparking conversations about patriotism, tradition, and America’s history of racism. But it’s not just football players who are having to navigate these values. In classrooms across the country, students are taught to honor the flag during their daily pledge of allegiance. Youth Radio talked to Garrison Pennington, Amanda Augustin, Nicolas Lai, and Dominik Vaughan, who are grappling whether to take their own stand… by sitting down through the pledge.


Categories: Blog

Stresses of High School

August 28, 2016 - 8:00am

Adults tell me to follow my passion but who can afford it in this economy?

I began college tours this year. I walked through beautiful campuses with grand staircases, green lawns and students clutching Apple products while toothy, optimistic tour guides kept urging me to “just follow my passion.”

For me, that statement comes with a disclaimer.

Often people who can follow their passion, come from a place where money isn’t a concern. But I’ve grown up under different circumstances: I am aware of money. I save spare change, have a thrifty wardrobe and feel the constant need to measure the practicality of my passions.

If I had it my way, I’d be a journalist–traveling and interviewing strangers around the world. But lately, I’ve began to question this dream. Would I make any money? Or would I just end up being a lonely unpaid blogger?

For now, I’m leaning toward more practical career paths: something that could last through a recession, please my parents, and have a stable income. It may not be my “PASSION”, but it’s a path I’m willing to follow.

Categories: Blog

Food Allergy Round Table

August 26, 2016 - 4:41pm

By Jack

Allergies can affect anyone. An allergy is a condition in which the immune system reacts abnormally to a foreign substance. There are numerous types of allergies from avoidable allergens like food allergies, and unavoidable allergens such as seasonal allergies. There are also several reactions to allergens like anaphylaxis, a life threatening reaction where your throat swells up and closes to the point where you can’t breath and sinusitis where the tissue lining of your nose swells. I have a peanut allergy where I will go into anaphylaxis. Thus I carry an epi-pen which delivers a life saving dose of epinephrine that counteracts the reaction.

With me today I have Christine, Ahmad, and Bella

Do you have any allergies?

How has your allergy affected you?

Did you have to adjust your diet after finding out about your allergies?

How hard do you think it would be to adjust your life around a common food allergy like peanuts?

What responsibility do people without allergies have to help those with allergies?

Categories: Blog

Musical Confidence Commentary

August 26, 2016 - 4:35pm

by Jack

All of my life I’ve heard the phrase “If you love something, never be afraid.” For all that time the expression went in one ear and out the other, until I participated in jazz competition where I learned the true meaning of this life changing phrase.

In April of this year my school’s jazz band went to the Reno Jazz Festival to compete against schools from across the nation. Every rehearsal, each day this year, has been leading up to this competition. from the day we learned that we would be going to this competition I immediately began to worry about playing because I had never competed while playing drums. Additionally, at every turn I would doubt my abilities on drums, resulting in me hesitating to show out during class and during performances.

I have played music all my life to the point where it has become a part of who I am as an individual. I have played piano for my whole life and drums for 7 years. Despite being told by other people that I played well, I distrusted them and stuck to my idea that I was horrible for the entire year of rehearsals until we arrived in reno. Once we got off the bus in Reno and started our practice, I told myself to put it all out there and leave nothing unsaid, because if I did I would regret it.  Although I was scared beyond belief, as I played in front of the judges and, I maintained the state of mind to leave everything on the stage and I did. Once we received our unanimous score of  superior from all three judges, I felt a huge amount of stress lift off of my shoulders.

This whole overwhelming experience  forced me to realize that if I really do leave everything on the stage and not look back, there is no need to worry about what other people think. Similarly if you care enough about something it doesn’t matter what other people think, only what you do.This message applies toward everything, in that if you love what you do, in any sense , others people’s comments don’t matter, just as long as you love it and are proud of it.

Categories: Blog

DIY Toolkit: How To Make A Podcast

August 26, 2016 - 3:54pm

Podcasts are EVERYWHERE right now. It seems like everyone has one — celebrities, comedians, politicians, authors, your cousin, your mom, you mom, your dog.  And for good reason. Unlike other forms of storytelling, high quality podcasts don’t take a lot of tech. Just some creativity, a strong work ethic, and a little know-how. So what are you waiting for? Check out our DIY resources below, and let’s make a podcast!

And for all you teachers out there, we’ve also put together our best youth-tested lesson plans, handouts, and activities for teaching media skills in our Teach Youth Radio hub page.

Categories: Blog

DIY Toolkit: Telling Stories With Data

August 26, 2016 - 10:22am

Introduction to Data-Driven Storytelling

When people hear the word “data,” they immediately conjure up mental images of spreadsheets, clipboards, and math equations. But in truth, data is a key part of the way we make stories, fun, relevant and accurate. Rather than rely on opinions or subjective speculation, data allows us to find and capture trends, answer investigative questions, and visualize complex relationships. In this unit, you’ll learn how Youth Radio’s professional producers and teen reporters work together to turn data into award-winning transmedia stories about the world we live in.

PRESENTATION/VIDEO: Data Storytelling: Case Studies from Youth Radio

So when it comes to data-driven story telling, where do you start? Journalist and graphic designer Teresa Chin walks the viewer through various ways that Youth Radio has incorporated different types of data into its online and audio storytelling. From lead-laced candy to teen narcissism, you’ll learn how you can use data to inspire your reporting, or start with a question and find evidence to answer key questions about how the world works. You can go through the slides in the video, or explore at the examples at your own pace.


In Part 1, you’ll learn about some examples where teens started with a data set and built a story around it:


In Part 2, you’ll learn about some examples where teens had a story idea and had to find a corresponding source of data to backup their reporting:

If you’d like to do this presentation with your classroom, the slides are available here: 

ACTIVITY: “What Does An Engineer Look Like?”

SOURCE: https://medium.com/the-coffeelicious/you-may-have-seen-my-face-on-bart-8b9561003e0f

A picture is worth a thousand words — but that doesn’t mean those words are helpful or accurate. Societal stereotypes are often reflected (and reinforced) through the images we are subjected to every day. For example, if most engineering job postings depict white men, it can be tough for someone outside that box — say a young woman of color — to feel like she “belongs” in that field.

This activity uses creative commons image search to generate a simple data set of what the Internet suggests a given STEM occupation “looks like,” creating a space for students to discuss how that message may differ from reality.

Download the entire lesson plan including all materials and handouts here:

FULL LESSON PLAN- “What Does An Engineer Look Like

  • Grades: 6-12
  • Time:  30 minutes – 1 hour
  • Materials: Computer with Internet access, worksheet (included), pen/pencil
  • Tags: Media Literacy, Data Science, STEM careers, Photography

Q&A – Understanding Privacy and Data – web cookies

Even if you’re not a data journalist you probably interact with data on a day-to-day basis. Youth Radio’s Myles Bess asks Product Manager and privacy expert Michee Smith to explain why ads follow you around online, and what you can do to protect your information. Video produced by Youth Radio’s Chaz Hubbard.


  • How to make an infographic (Part 1) –  Video + Lesson from Youth Radio
    • In this DIY lesson plan from Teach Youth Radio, producer Teresa Chin and intern Soraya Shockley walk students through the process of visualizing data, starting with what type of graph best matches your data.
  • Youth Radio Interactive Portfolio Page – Data-rich interactives, games and apps
    • Youth Radio interactive is a digital makerspace where young people at Youth Radio combine programming and journalism to develop new tools, and to tell dynamic stories about issues facing their community. Check out their interactive portfolio, which includes several data-rich storytelling projects, games and apps.
  • Data Storytelling Tips – Tableau
    • Tableau is a free online tool that you can use to turn data sets into meaningful visualizations.  The company released a free white paper with tips and examples of successful data storytelling projects.



Categories: Blog

Loving Your Disability

August 25, 2016 - 6:52am

My chest was tight and I couldn’t breathe–because my spine was pinching my right lung. My classmates passed me on the track. And when all of my friends were done, I still had another lap.

Until that mile run in the seventh grade, I used to pretend my disability wasn’t there. But that day, I realized I’d have to face it.

My doctor told me that one in a million people have multiple pterygium syndrome — a combination of congenital scoliosis and a joint disorder that makes it hard to move my arms and legs. At the age of 10, I went from being a kid who climbed trees and ran just about everywhere, to one who might never play sports again. I felt angry and alone.

Then, I was adopted out of foster care, and eventually my mom took me to wheelchair basketball because she didn’t want me to give up on being active.

I remember my first time in a gym full of other kids with disabilities. Some were making basket after basket from in their wheelchairs, but I was just trying to get used to pushing one for the first time.

From then on, I practiced every Saturday and traveled out of state to compete with other teams. My body changed. Muscles grew. My lung efficiency shot up–I got more air with each breath.

The emotional changes were even more profound. As a former foster kid, I was used to being alone, and not relying on other people, But to improve as part of a team, I had to learn to listen to criticism, be vulnerable, and trust my teammates. Eventually I was able to do the same with my adoptive parents.

My case of scoliosis won’t ever be “fixed.” For a while, it was getting worse. At its most extreme, I couldn’t walk a block without scorching pain. But I stopped seeing my disability as a limitation. Scoliosis enabled me to be who I am–the athlete, the daughter, the friend.

With a Perspective, I’m Christie Levine.

Categories: Blog

Queens of the Castro Interview

August 23, 2016 - 5:23pm

The Queens of the Castro is a non profit organization based out of San Francisco that aims to educate schools about the differences between gender and sexuality by performing drag shows, as well as provide scholarships and other opportunities for LGBTQ+ students. I called one of their founders, Taica Hsu, to talk about this organization.

Hear the whole show at https://www.mixcloud.com/OutLoudmn/outloud-radio-episode-3/

https://youthradio.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/HondaHybrid_Nila_Pt1.mp3 https://youthradio.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/HondaHybrid_Nila_Pt2.mp3


Categories: Blog

The Pressure To Stay In STEM Classes

August 21, 2016 - 7:00am

I recently dropped a course for the first time: calculus. But I felt pressured to stay — partly because I was one of the few Latinas in class.

The goal is to get more girls and people of color into STEM courses–and here I am, dropping out. I felt bad being given this opportunity and passing on it. In the past, I haven’t worried so much that I’m a Latina girl in the classroom, but usually I’ve been more confident with the material. As I got older, and more aware of race inequalities.

I started noticing in my AP classes, there were less students that looked like me. And the issue goes beyond my school. It’s reflected in classrooms all over the country.

Black and Latino students make up 37 percent of high school students but only 27 percent of students in AP classes, that’s according to the Education Department.

Schools usually present education as a ladder. The harder you work, the higher you climb. But if minorities are underrepresented in the more competitive classes, how can we be expected to climb as high?

Categories: Blog

My Bully Experience (By Flora Calmo )

August 19, 2016 - 7:33pm

I’m going to be talking about why people bully others and my experience.

The middle school I went to was United for success. In 6th grade there was this boy who was taller than me. We had classes together and he used to bully people for no reason. I also got bullied by him. He used to make fun of me because I was shorter than him. I know I’m still short but I don’t understand why do other people care so much if I’m short or tall.

In middle school I really did not care because it did not matter to me. He bullied me once again an I told him “why do you care so much if I’m short, like my parents do not even care if I’m short”. I really got mad because I did not like the way he was treating me. Since then he stopped bullying me and I still saw him bullying others but they did not step up and he kept doing what he wanted to do. I felt bad seeing them get bullied because they did not deserve to get treated bad.

According to Bullying Numbers, “California’s Total estimate of bullies or victims involved in bullying is around 1 million from age 5 to 18’’. That article was published in 2014.  I also found a more recent article that was published on January,15,2015. This article  I read explains how not only people get bullied but there is also bullying in other subject like the LGBT, bullying students with disabilities, bullying students of color, weight-based bullying and there is more. However, this article showed the percentage of bullying going on and it’s around 70%, which I think is pretty bad. It’s a big issue that keeps repeating again and again.

Another problem is that people have issues sleeping because they get bullied and also they believe what others say about them. So my suggestion is if you get bullied by someone you just need to step up and tell them how you feel and make them understand that you don’t like to get bullied. We should treat everyone the same. There is no reason to bully someone who did not do anything to you.

Categories: Blog

San Andreas Movie Review

August 19, 2016 - 7:15pm

By Christine


Just last week, I had the pleasure of celebrating my friend’s eighteenth birthday by binge-watching films with Dwayne Johnson in them. One of these movies was San Andreas.

San Andreas is a natural disaster film that hit theatres in May 2015. Directed by Brad Peyton, the movie stays true to its definition of a natural disaster film, and is a natural disaster itself. The film includes cinematic shots of buildings flying across the screen, and some background information about the San Andreas fault. At first glance, the trailer for San Andreas looks promising. Action packed clips, and a rescue of a damsel in distress, leaving viewers sitting on the edge of their seat, waiting to see what will happen next. However, the film is literally the trailer repeated ten different times in ten different locations.

The movie opens with a typical teenage girl listening to Taylor Swift before she promptly drives off the road and hangs on the side of the cliff. There, she waits in suspense until finally Raymond “Ray” Gaines arrives in his trusty helicopter, pulling off a dramatic rescue and saving the day. This is the first damsel in distress. The film then jumps to a Caltech seismologist named Lawrence Hayes. Him and his colleague Dr. Kim Park are at the Hoover Dam doing research with a fancy earthquake detector machine when an unknown fault nearby suddenly ruptures. This fault triggers a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that causes the dam to collapse on itself. In a sudden turn of events, Dr. Park decides to become a martyr and risks his life to save a young damsel in distress. The girl is swept away by her mother without a scratch or a second glance at Dr. Park. Spoiler alert, Dr. Park does not miraculously survive and reappear. Throughout all this commotion, Hayes somehow manages to save his trusty earthquake machine, and returns to his office to reveal that the San Andreas fault is shifting. His magical detector says that there will soon be a huge earthquake that will cause mass destruction along the cities near the fault line. At this point in the film, the director decided to have his own take on a famous Jaws quote and had a random assistant pop up and ask Hayes, “Who should we call now?” Which Hayes replies with, “Everybody.” Only twenty minutes into the movie and we have already reached the climax of the film. However, the film doesn’t end until two more damsels in distress are saved. One from a collapsing building, (where Ray manages to swoop in with his helicopter and save the day, again.) and the other from a trapped car. There are scenes from famous landmarks in California, including the Hollywood sign falling down and the golden Gate Bridge breaking into pieces.

San Andreas is different from other natural disaster films because not only does it feature mass destruction, but it also features some intense romance and character development. There are scenes that reveal Ray’s troubled home life where him and his wife, Emma, are going through a divorce. The film has some saucy drama where Emma plays a jerk move and leaves Ray for a handsome architect named Daniel. Several more earthquake clips and a tsunami later, Ray’s daughter nearly drowns until he manages to revive her through CPR without drowning her again with his tears.

The film finally comes to a close with him and his family standing on top of a hill (which somehow manages to remain intact after all the disasters) overlooking all the destruction. With no real way to end the film, the director has an American flag unfurl itself revealing what’s left of California in all of it’s patriotic glory. This film could have been better if there was an actual plot line along all this destruction happening and more independent women, instead of shots with buildings flying over the place and seven thousand damsels in distress.

Overall, I give this film two and a half stars out of five. Half for the death of Dr. Park, one for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and one for the American flag at the end.

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