Right to the First Amendment

While the freedom of speech is one major medium for students to actively use their voice, they can also consider their freedom of the press, a road that seems to be less traveled on. Student journalism is something that students might want to keep an eye out for or get involved in.

Written, photos & video by Ruben Hernadez

Throughout history, many people have taken a stand for their beliefs. Peaceful protests, assemblies, and petitions are all examples of ways that people have made the first steps towards starting a movement in favor of a change. We are able to take these steps because of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“There are many key areas that we can benefit from within the first amendment,” Journalism Professor Paul Brown said. “As somebody involved in journalism, I’m focused on freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Of course, you also have freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and the right to petition.”

While most citizens of the United States know the amendment itself, there seem to be some misconceptions on some of its entitlements. In regards to freedom of speech, some envision the cliché protest yells and chants.

“You can certainly go to the south steps of the Capital or be in front of a government building and be a part of a grand assembly,” Brown said. “You can chant and express yourself with signs, but with the use of social media you can utilize this right in an easier manner. Just by having a Twitter or Facebook account with X amount of followers, you have the potential to spread your message even further.”

The internet has evolved into our lives, more so now than ever before. Since the early 2000s, net neutrality has grown into a heated topic that is now in the government’s hands. Net neutrality raises many concerns among the American people, one is having an “open” or “closed” internet. This past December, Congress was set to vote on the Congressional Review Act, which could overturn the FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules set in 2015.

Utilization of the first amendment doesn’t have to be exclusive towards people outside of universities and colleges. We learn about our basic civil rights through the education system in our history and government classes, to know and understand them as we grow. These teach us the boundaries that we, as Americans, can legally live our lives in the U.S.

Student Government Association Director of Communications Lauren Ashlee said, “students need to know that if we don’t like something – if it’s negatively affecting us and [we] need help with a situation – we need to be able to use our voice. This applies to when we need to protest something, write news articles, or when we need to use media to get out the information when we feel like we’re being ignored.”

Freedom of speech often extends to freedom of the press. In the current political climate, media has taken heat for certain publications and questions. Fake news has been on the rise, according to President Donald Trump. However, according to Yahoo’s Daily Digit, trust in the American media by its citizens has seen an increase since 2016. It also states that 84% of Americans believe media to be “critical” for our democracy.  Student journalism is something that students might want to keep an eye out for or get involved in.

“We’re the boss of the government, the government is not the boss of us,” Brown said. “We want to make sure they’re doing the right thing we feel is the right thing for them to do. So, we need young people, especially in today’s digital age, where it is easy to get lost in the sea of journalism from all directions, to be the future leaders in this industry. Understanding the concepts of journalism now will help the industry thrive, but it all starts with student journalism.”

Since 2016, the amount of journalism degrees being earned is on the decline. However, students continue to be involved in their high school and college media outlets,f they exist, to share the opinions and views of other students.

The reason I think it is important for students to study journalism is because it’s the future of journalism,” Brown said. “We need to have journalists to conduct our democracy. That’s what the founding fathers envisioned; essentially an unofficial fourth branch of government to make sure that those who are in power are always beholden to us.”

There also may be students who want to voice their own thoughts and take action. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do that; and it can start with those around you.

“Listen to your peers,” says Ashlee. “If you have a concern, get two or three of your peers and see what they have to say about it, especially if you don’t want to join an organization and don’t know where to start. Talk to a professor, for example, and see if they can lead you to a higher power.”

When it comes to issues at ACC, the Student Government Association (SGA) can act as a voice for the student body. Many may think that SGA is strictly political, that is not the case.

“SGA is the border between the student body and the board of trustees,” Ashlee said. “We are the middleman, we see the struggles and needs of the students and see how we can make our school better. We always try to see how the student council can better serve the students.”

The first amendment has stayed constant through different time periods since the passing of the U.S. Constitution. While times have changed, through a variety of eras and development of technology, the first amendment has never failed to be consistent.

“The first amendment is there for us to fall back on regardless of what era we’re in,” Brown said. “Of course, we’re in the digital era with smartphones and social media. The founding fathers could have never envisioned this, but they did envision the idea of the government’s ability to be flexible in letting the people express themselves in a democracy.”

While the first amendment is an outlet for many people to express themselves, we can also vote to have our voices heard. In the midterm 2018 elections, people were encouraged to vote for the change they wanted; whether it’s a vote or a speech given, there’s no one way to have your voice heard.

“If you don’t vote as a millennial in 2018, it’s not a big issue,” Ashlee said. “Just know that there is an older person that has different political views than you do that is going to vote. They will be your voice because you didn’t vote. If you don’t vote, someone else will do it for you. If you want your voice heard, do your research.”

While voting is separate from the first amendment and your freedom of speech, that is not to say that they don’t work hand in hand. Your voice can be in the form of anything from standing in front of a crowd to putting in a ballot.

“Voting and the freedom of speech should go hand in hand,” Ashlee said. “You voting is your freedom of speech. It is your right, and no one has the right to tell you who to vote for, or why. Do your research, and see who you like based on their ethics and what their stance is. You can also use your freedom of speech to get other people on the same boat as you when it comes to voting for candidates.”

Everyone has a duty to those around them to understand what issues are currently happening and seeing how it affects them. Understanding how to work with those around you, however, is also something to think about.

“You need to be a voice for the people,” Ashlee said. “If you see a problem, you need to stand up and not be afraid what other people think of you or how you’ll be taken. Two is always better than one, and 1,000 is better than ten. You need to unite with people who you think are fighting for the same things you’re fighting for.”

Fighting for change is something we see often, especially with the amount of reform that citizens of this country are calling for. Whether you want to join that cause is your right as an American citizen, even if it means no action.

“Take what life gives you, and change it,” Ashlee said. “Go on the path you think you should be going on. Don’t sit there and accept it because it’s the easier thing to do. People’s lives don’t change because they think they’re doing it easy. People’s lives change based off of work, ethics, and how much they’re willing to put in.”

The Rise of Vaping

The JUUL: Is it the cause for the rise in nicotine addiction across young adults?

Written & Photos by Sheridan Smith
Video by Ruben Hernandez

Juul Smoke GirlThe 1988 Surgeon General’s Report discovered that cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are addicting, the pharmacologic and behavioral processes that determine nicotine addiction are similar to those that determine addiction to drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Cigarettes were finally deemed

harmful as many began fighting nicotine addiction. In 2006, electronic cigarettes were introduced to the U.S. to wean people off combustible ones.

“I smoked cigarettes at first, and then I went to vaping,” says student, Axel Anderson.

“Since it was so portable and so easy to change the cartridge, I decided I’d just go to [the Juul].”

A Juul is a specific kind of e-cigarette released in 2015. However, on Nov. 13, 2018 Juul CEO, Kevin Burns, released a statement about stopping flavored Juul pod sales to all 90,000 + retailers, as well as ceasing their social media presence.

The Truth Initiative states Juul accounts for 71.2 percent of e-cigarette sales since Aug. 2018. In Sept. 2018, the Federal Drug Administration stated that e-cigarette use among youths has hit record highs. This called for the largest enforcement effort in the FDA’s history to issue warnings and fines to retailers – online and brick and mortar – illegally selling JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors.

“I would say [I switched to the Juul] honestly because more people had the Juul,” says student, Kelsey Cantu. “It was like a thing, so I was like why not? It was more expensive, but it hits better.”

Juul versus a pack of cigarettes

The difference between the Juul and other vapes is the use of pods instead of a refillable tank. One Juul pod consists of about 5% nicotine, equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. But in vapes, the person may choose how much nicotine they would like in their refill juice.

Like other e-cigarettes, Juul’s intention is to help people who struggle with nicotine addiction – which it can – but it mainly attracts young adults and teenagers. The device has definitely made appearances on several school campuses, where it’s illegal to use. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, in 2017 over 2.1 million high school and middle school students used e-cigarettes. Another study from last year found that one-fifth of students have seen Juuls in their schools.

“At my [high] school, a good amount of people in my grade used them,” says Cantu. “We would all go in the bathrooms during class and hit them. Especially if we had study hall and out [of class], we would all go in the bathroom and stay there for like a good hour or two and just Juul in the stalls,” says Cantu.

Teenagers and young adults seem to be attracted to the JUUL because of its design, easy access, fruity flavors and lack of scent. These assets allow the device to be easy to hide when in plain sight – such as in a classroom setting.

“It’s definitely easy to hide because you just keep the smoke in, and they don’t smell. It’s discreet, and you can hide it easily like I always had it on me at school,” says Cantu.

The Juul’s accessibility and design is a concern of numerous health associations, including Truth Initiative. The effect nicotine has on an adolescent’s mind is also a concern of theirs. People are aware of the effects of cigarettes, but the effects of Juuls and vaping have never really been unmasked to the consumer.Juul pack of cigarettes

“I’m a coach for a living, so I run a lot and stuff. Because I vape so much, [the vape] would kind of affect me after a while because I was inhaling so much vapor. I [would feel it physically], and I don’t want to vape anymore, at least not as much, so I went to a different mod that I can actually regulate the [nicotine],” says Anderson.

Since so many people are attracted to the Juul, it’s also causing an increase in nicotine addiction across a generation that was supposed to be nicotine-free.

Cantu says, “Yes [I would say I’m addicted] because if I run out of pods, I always have to go get more because I feel the need to hit it more if I run out. I’ve tried to stop for like short periods of time, but then I’ll be like whatever and just do it again and buy more.”

Anderson says he switched from a Juul after three months after noticing he was going through a pod every few weeks.

“You can almost feel it because you’re inhaling all that juice, which is just vapor, and you can kind of feel it weigh you down for a little bit,” says Anderson. “It makes you take a break for a while, but then it’s super hard because of all the nicotine.”

There has been no concrete evidence as to the long-term effects e-cigarettes have on the human body. Individuals should be more educated on what they’re inhaling, to understand how it affects their body.


Dreaming of an American Education

Written and Filmed by Ruben Hernandez[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Living the American dream is something that many people have chased for years.  For those living in the United States, it can be achieved with a great amount of effort and relentlessness. However, those who have found their way into the states from another country have a few extra obstacles to overcome. Alex Albino, a Dreamer and DACA recipient, is one of these people.

“I was born in Celaya, Mexico,” Albino said. “More specifically in the state of Guanajuato. My family and I moved to a smaller town, but at the age of eight we relocated to the United States because my parents were having legal issues with a small business that we had. We came to the States to support ourselves and live a better life.”

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act protects young immigrants from the risk of deportation. With the potential repeal of this act currently being discussed among political and governmental entities, Dreamers, like Albino, have to be aware now more than ever.

“While I have four siblings, my older brother, my twin brother and I are the ones protected by DACA,” Albino said. “There are some things you have to do in order to be eligible to be protected, which some people don’t know about. I’m not sure how much trouble a 16 year-old can get into, but part of the process was me having to undergo a background screening. My older brother was also drug-tested.”

Albino is one of thousands of immigrants with protection under DACA. However, that is only a first step towards the end goal of American citizenship.

“They checked if we were going to school or not at that time,” Albino said. “They also checked things like what year we came into this country and how old we were. In the end, they gave us what is similar to an ID, but instead is basically a work permit. It lets me work anywhere in the United States.”
  Albino says that there is plenty to the process of becoming protected and keeping his DACA status, especially in the legal sense. However, when it comes to daily life in the U.S., Albino and his family want to live their American dream.

“We try not to stand out as much,” Albino said. “That’s especially due to the current administration, and because we aren’t from here. We just live life; we pay our taxes, work day-by-day, and strive. We also try to stay out of trouble, simply because we are trying to become good citizens of this country.”

  In his time since moving here, Albino believes that he has found a good place to start and make something of himself. He’s found many opportunities that he says wouldn’t have been presented in Mexico.

  “Socially, I think I’m striving,” Albino said. “I try to be as social of a person as I can. Also, some people think that it is difficult learning English, but I will say that English is one of my strongest subjects. Growing up here – for the most part – I’ve grown culturally attached to the language.”
Many DACA recipients have the common goal of wanting to live a normal, American life. While the political side of the DACA discussion may be a constant debate, no words are necessary to understand the peace that many immigrants are wanting to obtain for themselves.

“I’m personally appreciative,” Albino said. “I’m appreciative for every day I’m here, and I would not trade it for a moment in Mexico. In general, I think we’re all living for the American dream. I love being able to stay in the country and being able to enjoy the opportunities that others have.”

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Mental Health

Written by Ruben Hernandez

Mental health is the foundation of our existence. Not only does our own mental health affect our well-being, it attributes to how we operate, react and feel.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Mental illnesses are categorized into two sections: Any Mental Illness (AMI), and Serious Mental Illness (SMI). AMI covers all of the general mental illnesses, while SMIs are a smaller and more severe subcategory of AMIs.

AMI is defined as any sort of mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. These disorders can range from a mildly impactive disorder to one that causes severe impairment. As of 2016, there are 44.7 million U.S. adults with AMI, which is 18.3 percent of the U.S. adult population.

SMI is defined as mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that causes functional impairment and interferes with major life activities. There are 10.8 million U.S. adults with SMI, representing 4.2 percent of the U.S. adult population.

Almost one in five adults over the age of 18 have some sort of mental illness. It seems that mental illnesses are becoming more common and are caused by a variety of factors.

According to a 2014 study by Oxford University, serious mental illnesses can reduce life expectancy by 10 to 20 years. More specifically, the reduction in life expectancy in bipolar disorder, for example, is between nine and 20 years, and seven to 11 years for recurring depression. The reduction of life expectancy among smokers is eight to 10 years. Yet, we publicly recognize smoking as more of a problem than having a form of anxiety or being diagnosed with depression.

So, why don’t we worry about our mental health more often? Part of that answer seems that we don’t want to. There are people who feel no urge to worry about their mental health because it’s a hindrance to their goals. Many, also, tend to push their feelings to the back of their minds. Others believe there isn’t enough time for their emotions, as they are occupied on juggling activities such as work and education.

Those with mental illnesses that are still in school, such as young adolescents, have seen hindered progress towards attaining their education. According to Columbia University, anxiety disorders affect 31.9% percent of all adolescents, and co-occur in one third of depressed youth, and attribute to a reduced likelihood of not attending college. Those with a repeated occurrence of social phobia are almost twice as likely to fail a grade or not finish high school.

One way to help this is acknowledging your mental illness. While that is easier said than done, just being able to recognize the fact that there is something wrong is a step in the process of living and coping with a mental illness.

Those impacted by mental illnesses usually experience it in their own way, so offering solutions like “just go workout” is a gray area.
Counseling, therapy, medication and even service animals are ways to nullify the effects of a mental illness.

However, none of those can totally erase the impact of having an illness. There isn’t a “cure” to mental illness.
We can offer possible solutions to help live and cope with our mental illnesses, but there’s one thing about wanting to ease the impacts of an illness: it’s all a solo journey. You are the person responsible for your own journey, and while others can help and support, it’s all on you to make the decision to overcome  your struggles. So, take a deep breath. Relax. If you find that you might be struggling with any sort of illness or disorder, know that it is okay to feel the way that you do. You are not alone.

If you need assistance, please utilize the counselors at ACC at austincc.edu/students/counseling.

Film Review: Love, Simon

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Written by Ruben Hernandez

When it comes to film, many approaches on what high school looks like have been made; some more accurate than others. Love, Simon takes a classic approach to high school with aspects as parties, friends in groups of four, and even half-eating breakfast while walking out the door are all present in this film. Simon has a loving family, great friends, and is about to graduate high school. He has a fairly normal life except for a secret he’s keeping: being gay.

Simon exchanges emails with Blue, the love interest in this story who comes out anonymously through the school gossip website. Simon writes to Blue under the name “Jacques,” and though their identities are unknown to each other, they form a close bond. This bond will not only be put to the test but will also put Simon and his friends through hardships.

The journey and the emotions behind the process of coming out is one that can really put someone’s spirit and soul to the test. Love, Simon did an amazing job conveying those emotions and displaying that journey. The emotion that Nick Robinson, who plays Simon, displays and how he fulfills his character was definitely something to watch.

This nice thing about the film is that it is one of the few major LGBT films we’ve seen within the past few years, including films such as Moonlight. With the normality of being gay or likewise in today’s culture, it’s no wonder why I found this movie so relatable. It left me with a sense of simplicity, as Simon’s experience is similar to many “coming out” stories. But the complexity at the same time comes from the raw feelings and emotions that involve being gay and being comfortable expressing that to others. This movie brought the audience I was watching this with, including myself, to tears. This movie was a step in the right direction in LGBT representation and the understanding of what it means to “come out.”

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ACC at PRIDE Parade

Written by Ruben Hernandez
Photos by Stefanie Vermillion

The annual Austin Pride Parade is a festivity that comes once a year. From across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, the festival allows self-expression in a variety of forms from all walks of life. While the Pride Parade isn’t Austin-exclusive, locals did use this as an opportunity to hit the streets and enjoy Austin’s nightlife. Many establishments, like Apple and Google, marched to show their Pride spirit. ACC was no exception to the long list of organizations that marched through downtown Austin on September 30th.

“I think it’s of paramount importance that you celebrate Pride, especially in times like these,” second-year ACC student Jacob Silverthorne said. “The point is to be loud and proud, and to remind people that no matter what they do or if they’re trying to take away our rights, that we’re not going anywhere. We’re still going to be here.”

Pride is a big deal for many. Some see it as a way to acknowledge a group of people who may not always have the spotlight. It’s a way for people to come together for a better cause.

“The Pride Parade is a celebration of our difficult past, our current place in society, and where we are going,” first year ACC Student Patrick Rodriguez said. “I feel pride is a way for people to come together and say, ‘We are gay and we deserve an equal place in the world.’ Even though the parade has evolved into many varied forms, it still shows our diverse and varied cultures within the LGBTQ and friends community.“

Not only is it important to some that the general public celebrates Pride, it is also comforting for others to know that ACC celebrates with them. Having an entry in the parade shows that ACC is supportive to those that are members of the LGBTQ community.

“Knowing that ACC is involved regardless of the political or religious rhetoric, shows me that the school supports an equitable environment that is committed to treating all of its students with respect,” SIlverthorne said. “Just simply having ACC attend, and show their support for LGBTQ rights goes a long way in making not only me feel welcome, but also other LGBTQ students as well.”

The Pride Parade is a sight to see for many first-timers. Silverthorne believes that while it may be fun to attend, there’s a lesson that attendees should walk away with.

“If someone went to Pride and had to learn something, I think that they should learn that we’re just like everyone else – people who value our freedom,” Silverthorne said. “We also value our liberty and our ability to search for happiness in the one life that we get. LGBTQ lives are just as important as theirs, or anyone else for that matter.”

Due to weather complications from Hurricane Harvey, the Pride Parade was rescheduled. The Pride Festival is set for October 21st in Austin at Fiesta Gardens.

More photos of ACC at Pride Parade can be found on the ACC LGBT eQuity Facebook page.