United States Immigration Updates
By Megan Turchi
BU News Service
By Megan Turchi
BU News Service
By Megan Turchi
BU News Service
Former Mayor Tom Menino died last week, but he didn’t go without leaving a strong legacy in Boston and more specifically here at Boston University. The Menino Scholarship is a merit scholarship given to 25 Boston public high school seniors each year, granting them four years of free tuition to Boston University.
WTBU reporter Megan Turchi spoke with Mike Dennehy who directs the Boston University Boston Public Schools Collaborative Office, is the advisor to the Menino Scholarship, and was a Menino Scholar himself on what Menino’s legacy will be at BU.
By Megan Turchi
BU News Service
You may start seeing a price increase for your favorite beverages. If the Massachusetts voters vote yes on the bottle bill question in the November election, water bottles, sports drinks, juices or tea would each cost 5 cents more than they do now. The new law would update a 1983 law that that stuck a 5 cent deposit fee on beer an soda — that could be reimbursed after bringing the cans to a recycling center. Environmental groups and the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group want your vote to be yes. BUNS editor Megan Turchi spoke with Dierdre Cummings who is the Legislative Director of Mass PIRG who is working with the “Yes on Two” campaign.
By Megan Turchi
BU News Service
This weekend a “Lowell Celebrates Kerouac” festival will occur in Lowell, Mass. to celebrate the late novelist and beat generation figure, Jack Kerouac. Kerouac started publishing in the 1940s, but has remained a timeless figure in American culture, even today. BU Professor and “Paradise Road: Jack Kerouac’s Lost Highway and My Search for America” author Jay Atkinson teaches a class at Boston University about Kerouac. BU News Service editor, Megan Turchi, spoke with Atkinson on the topic.
(Photo Credit: J. Juniper Friedman)
By Megan Turchi
BU News Service
Let’s be honest here, Scots should be thanking their lucky stars that their quest for independence failed. It’s been a week now since the Scottish vote for independence happened. 55 percent of Scottish voters voted to stay a part of the United Kingdom. These 55 percent of voters had the good sense to do so.
(Soundcloud photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, Christian Bickel)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Charles River is the cleanest it has been since 1995 when it received a D rating. But, does that mean you are ready to dive in? BU News Service editor Megan Turchi has the story.
By Nicolette Overton
BU News Service
The McKim Exhibit Hall is nearly full, but quiet, even for a library. Couples walk hand in hand, mothers quietly answer their children’s questions and some people wipe away tears. They are all here to see the Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial exhibition, organized to honor the one-year anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
“We are remembering what happened last year,” Cassie Leventhal, 26, said, who ran track and field at Northeastern University and now lives in New York City.
She is running the Boston Marathon this year.
“It’s cathartic,” Johnny Leo, 39, an art dealer with Fountain Art Fair in New York City said. He came to the exhibition with Leventhal.
“We came to pay our respects,” Leventhal said.
Rainey Tisdale curated Dear Boston using the items left in memoriam after the Boston Marathon bombing last year.
“Very shortly, the day after, police blocked off Boylston and people started leaving things at the barricades,” Marta Crilly said on the phone, an archivist for reference and outreach at the City of Boston Archives.
Crilly said when the police removed the barricades, city workers moved most of the items into Copley Square. At that time, fragile items were taken to the Mayor’s office.
“They contacted us and said, ‘We have these items, they need to be saved. Can you help us?’” Crilly said.
About two weeks after the Boston Marathon, the archives received the initial set of paper items from the Mayor’s office.
Items left at the barricades and in Copley Square include running shoes, paper signs, flags from countries around the world, flowers, sports jerseys, sunglasses, hats, and stuffed animals all with words of encouragement, love and solidarity.
Leventhal said that trying to make everyone happy without starting controversy was the hardest part in creating a memorial exhibit.
“Representatives of different cultural institutions were involved in strategies for public access and saving the items,” Crilly said.
The exhibition showcases most of these items in Plexiglas cases. The exhibit’s centerpiece is a dais with a quilt-like arrangement of running shoes.
The placard states: “Running shoes were what distinguished the Boston Marathon bombing’s makeshift memorial from those commemorating other American tragedies. Hundreds of runners left their shoes – a clear symbol of their identity as runners- at Copley Square.”
Dear Boston has enlarged photographs of the memorial site, which act as dividers for the sections of the exhibit. There is also a slideshow of photographs that plays on repeat.
Next to the viewing area for the slideshow are three potted trees covered in small white tags with messages written in bright-colored markers. Visitors can write messages and hang them on the trees or sign a guestbook on the way out.
“I thought leaving messages was therapeutic,” Leventhal said. “We could only witness from a distance last year. We all wanted to jump in a car and take Highway 84 up here.”
Leventhal has run other marathons, but this is her first time running the Boston Marathon.
“It was my grandfather’s dying wish that I run in Boston,” Leventhal said. She is running for Dana-Farber Cancer Institue.
Leventhal just missed the cut-off for qualifying times for her age group, but she said she was going to run for Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team anyway. She has had five family members treated there and her uncle is there now.
“Boston’s the Holy Grail of running,” Leventhal said. Her bib number is 26213 and she is running in wave three, corral nine, which starts at 11 a.m.
Crilly said that many items that were not on display at the Dear Boston exhibit are being digitized. To see these items and get more information go to http://marathon.neu.edu/bca.
The Dear Boston exhibition is open through Sunday, May 11 during library hours in the McKim Exhibit Hall at the Central branch of the Boston Public Library.
By Megan Turchi
BU News Service
It was 6 a.m. on Patriot’s Day in Concord, Mass. The ground was soft, moist and covered in dead leaves. The sky was still dark as the moon hid beneath cloud cover. In the distance across a small bridge, the boom of several cannons infiltrated the early morning air.
After the cannons ceased, the strains of the National Anthem could be heard in the distance, barely audible over the chatter of hundreds of military men and women preparing to “ruck,” or walk with a rucksack, 26.2 miles for fallen soldiers. The “ruckers,”as they call themselves, were missing the annual dawn salute at Minutemen National Park to recognize the opening battle of the American Revolution.
First Lt. Steve Fiola of the National Guard, from Fall River, Mass., stood nearest to the dawn salute, and seemed to hear the anthem immediately. He turned around and faced the waving flag in the distance—the voices of the ruckers drowning out the tune. Without a sound, Fiola turned and glanced back at the chatting men and women. One by one, the ruckers went quiet and raised their hands in salute. The historic American Revolutionary battlefield went quiet—all was still except for the sounds of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Men and women in the military have been rucking the Boston Marathon for years, and this is the first time they would not be included on the traditional route. At the end of February, the Boston Athletic Association, or B.A.A., which oversees the race, announced that due to heightened security this year, no backpacks would be allowed during the race.
Fiola and his team had less than 40 days to put together a new event.
Fiola had walked last year’s Boston Marathon, crossing the finish line only about 30 minutes before the bombs went off, running straight toward the explosions without thinking twice. This year, he and the others would not be able to participate, all because of their rucksacks.
“Everyone wanted me to stand up on a building and bang my chest like a baboon to petition,” Fiola said. “It is just a waste of time and it is irrelevant to the cause, which is putting on a rucksack and paying tribute to our fallen.”
Walking the marathon without their backpacks was not an option for Fiola, who created the “Tough Ruck” group after the 2012 marathon in order to unite all military ruckers under the same cause and name, after seeing countless groups ruck separately.
Last year they had about 30 military men and woman march under the Tough Ruck name. They now have more than 1,000 members in the group all over the country, and though they did not all show up yesterday, more than 400 people registered for Saturday’s ruck.
“The rucksack is the embodiment of what we need to live,” Fiola said. “We put that on for our fallen brothers and sisters. We ruck, because they can’t.”
On this cold, mid-April Saturday morning, the ruckers were transported by bus from the parking lot to the white tented check-in table, which was staffed by volunteers—family members or friends of those who were there to walk, and also of the fallen.
The ruckers stood around in groups chatting, stretching, eating, or drinking energy drinks to prepare for the approximately six- to eight-hour walks ahead of them.
Nolan Calamia, of the Army Reserve, originally from Long Island, New York, was standing alone with his rucksack by his side after check in. He raised $410 that will be donated to the Military Friends Foundation, which provides for families who have lost a loved one in the military, where all of the money raised at the Tough Ruck will go.
“Personally we didn’t lose anyone,” Calamia said. “I am marching for two firefighters. If they hadn’t been there, then I wouldn’t have my uncle.”
Fiola was ever-present around the group before the walk, thanking higher-ranking staff for coming, answering phone calls from lost drivers, and talking with his own mother, who was volunteering.
He is the only child of a single mom, and grew up with few luxuries. But this was never an excuse to slack off for Fiola, he said.
He enlisted in the National Guard in 1998 when he was 17 years old, going away to basic training before his senior year of high school.
He remained in the service for 12-and a-half years, when he decided he wanted to have a bigger impact on the military.
“I got tired of commanders who were making decisions that were disconnected from decisions soldiers were expecting,” Fiola said. “So, I went through accelerated office candidate program through Alabama Military Academy in 2010 and then went to Fort Lee for a basic transportation officer course in 2011.”
Though he already has two bachelors’ degrees, Fiola is now enrolled in a doctoral program is studying leadership psychology.
“A big problem in the National Guard is suicide,” he said. “How do we fix that? I am trying to help distinguish between people who lead and people who are leaders.”
As ruckers approached the check-in table, they received long yellow ribbons to attach to their rucksacks. Some had one, others had five or six, but they all had fallen soldiers’ names hand written on them in black pen.
As it got closer to 7 a.m., Fiola, who wears glasses and has a soft, approachable face, got up in front of the ruckers. He led the group through a moment of silence to honor fallen brothers and sisters.
“The importance of being on this ground is profound,” Fiola said to the group. “This is where it started. You are going to be on land where the regulars in the militia, the blacksmiths and the farmers, they literally died right here fighting for our freedom.”
The ruckers this year left the check-in tent and headed down a sidewalk into the town of Concord. They then departed the town and traveled onto the Battle Road Trail through Minutemen National Park, where they would do four laps—each 5.5 miles. After their last lap, they would continue back into Concord toward the race start.
There would be two water stops: Meriam’s Corner and Fiske Hill.
All of the men and woman lined up at the start with rucksacks on, most weighing around 40 pounds.
Fiola said his rucksack usually contains an extra uniform, cold or wet weather gear, extra socks, a medical kit, boots, water, food, granola bars, sustaining-type food, extra t-shirts, an ice pack or two (not for injury, but for hot days), face cloths and a wool blanket or sleeping bag. It weighs about 37 pounds without water, but more than 40 once water is added.
Fiola walked to the front of the pack, but it was not he who would be starting the ruck—it was the “cowboy hat hero,” or Carlos Arredondo, a Costa Rican native who wore a cowboy hat, a blue-and-yellow Boston Strong sweatshirt and carried a large American flag on a pole.
Arredondo became famous last year from the iconic photo of him helping Jeff Bauman, who lost both of his legs in the Marathon bombings. Last year, Arredondo had been at the finish line as a Tough Ruck volunteer. He lost his own two military sons—one in Iraq in 2004, another committed suicide in 2011.
Last year, Arrendondo carried a small American flag that quickly became soaked in blood.
Saturday, he carried a much larger flag whose colors shone vibrantly against the early morning sun.
The 26.2-mile ruck began at about 7:30 a.m.
As they headed into the town of Concord, spirits were high and the ruckers stuck in groups. Though Fiola said they would not walk together the whole race, he started the ruck with Mark Welch, also in the National Guard, who was one of the first responders to the Marathon last year.
Welch said he followed Fiola’s lead to the finish line last April. Welch, shorter than Fiola, but with a larger-than-life, outgoing personality, rucked for SFC Michael J. Squillaci, his very first squad leader out of basic training. Squillaci died in 2013 of an apparent suicide.
Maureen O’Boyle, of Lynnfield, Mass., was left standing alone after everyone had passed through the town. She had an orange Tough Ruck volunteer shirt on and pinned on her left side was a picture of her son, Kevin James O’Boyle. He died this past August after serving two tours in Afghanistan.
“It is a shame they can’t hear the cheering crowds,” O’Boyle said in reference to the usually loud Boston Marathon route. Much of the Tough Ruck route would be silent.
“Only 24 more to go,” Welch yelled as he passed through Meriam’s Corner, two miles into the ruck. “Hurry up!”
Fiola quietly passed at a steady pace with a big grin, giving high fives to volunteers.
“This is the finish line right?” another rucker said jokingly as he passed by the food and water table.
Volunteers in orange shirts handed out water, bananas and granola bars.
After more than seven miles of rucking in their military fatigues and boots, many of the ruckers changed their socks and took a small break at the second checkpoint, Fiske Hill.
An Army Ranger sat on the ground and took off his socks. His feet were red and blisters were starting to form. He lathered his feet in baby power, switched his socks and started back toward Meriam’s Corner.
Fiola entered into the checkpoint, smile still intact, and said, “We’re done, right?”
Though the volunteers cheered on the runners at each of the checkpoints, the rest of the ruckers’ route, filled with switchbacks, hills and open space, lacked the typical Boston Marathon atmosphere.
After rucking back and forth for hours, just past 1 p.m. the start line was turned into a finish. BAA and Tough Ruck signs lined the path to the 26.2-mile mark. The BAA donated signs and medallions to give to the ruckers.
The men and women started to trickle in at around 1 p.m. and would continue over the next two to three hours.
Every rucker had a different reaction to finishing—some limped, others ran. One woman fell to her knees with joy and exhaustion, yelling “Yes!” and immediately bursting into tears.
Volunteers handed out custom BAA medallions for the ruckers—all of these volunteers were Gold Star families, meaning they had a family member give their life to service.
A mom chased a little girl in a white sweater with a large American flag on the front while girls in pink dresses high-fived the ruckers as they returned. Everyone cheered as soon as another rucker was spotted in the distance.
The wind blew, and planes from the nearby base thrummed overhead.
Fiola finished his ruck at 3:10 p.m.
Last year at this time, Fiola, Welch and Bernard Madore, who was also at the Tough Ruck, left their ruckers and their rucksacks near the Boston Public Library and ran back toward the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
They tore down barriers made of steel, helped people out of bleachers and made tourniquets from ropes and belts.
“There were body parts and debris everywhere,” Fiola said.
This year as he crossed the finish line in Concord, Fiola high-fived and chatted with people he knew, picking up a little girl cheering for him. Before his boot hit the line, he put his hands in the air and did a little dance, swaying and shaking.
“I was trying to stay grounded,” Fiola said about last year and how he acted in front of the rest of the ruckers. “I don’t look at myself as being allowed to show fear or vulnerability because I have soldiers looking to me.”
He was able to walk straight to his car and take off his rucksack this year.
After walking 26.2 miles, Fiola did not have a drop of sweat on his face and did not break stride by limping.
“I’m tired, but I could still go,” Fiola said after he dropped off his rucksack, stretching his back. “I feel great. I got sore feet, but that’s par for the course.”
By Megan Turchi
BU News Service
Clara Wainwright sat at one of the low standing tables of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Education Studio. Behind her, in front of the windows, bright colored flags hung from string with phrases such as “hope,” “peace,” “love” and “Boston Strong.”
On the table in front of her lay a square green piece of fabric, the start of a Tibetan flag, which she had glued on smaller, cut out pieces of fabric. There were blue squares in the shape of a winding pathway, trees in the bottom right corner and a orange and blue pattern to the left.
“Proceed as the way opens,” Wainwright said she would be writing on her flag. “It’s good advice.”
Wainwright, a local artist, worked with Eve Perkins to create the Stewart Gardner’s most recent interactive project.
For the last four Sundays, the Education Studio has been open to people of all ages to make their own Tibetan flag, dedicated to the upcoming anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Today was the last day for the public to make the flags and thus far, 300 flags have been made. The museum plans on hanging them up in Evans Way Park by Friday.
We had a lot of people come in who were connected in some way or had friends or family who were injured,” said Johnetta Tinker, Director of Community Programs at the museum, behind a table covered in fabric scraps. “People have been so gracious.”
She said that she gave people the choice to take their flags home with them, but that everyone decided to leave their flag to be put up on display. Last week, 68 kids came from a nearby Tibetan Sunday school to make flags.
“It is important because it captures people’s hearts,” Tinker said. “I felt we should be a part of this marathon. When the prayer flags blow in the wind, it would blow throughout the universe. It is something to be hopeful for.”
Tinker had a box she flipped through of finished flags and said that everyone has their own message and style they want to convey.
“The idea of Tibetans is they hang flags in high places so wind can pick them up and carry prayers all over the world,” Wainwright said. “Last Sunday when the Tibetans came, it was wall to wall, the kids were so quiet and went right to work.”
She said she talked to one of the teenagers about the silence in the room and why there was no fighting or bickering. He responded: “That’s the way we were raised.”
Wainwright and Perkins are both quilt makers and this is not their first art project commemorating the 2013 marathon.
The two women have both been featured in the Boston Globe and on WBUR for their project, Mending Boston, a 13 by 5 foot fabric display in which they went to sites around the city and had Bostonians “mend and talk about the marathon.”
The four corners of the fabric were used to remember the four people who were killed and there is a yellow strip down the middle to symbolize the marathon route. People could mend whatever they wanted to the quilt, but Wainwright preferred that it be something positive. It was on display at MIT for a while, but is now at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, where many of the marathon bombing victims went for treatment.
“I was following Clara’s lead,” Perkins said, regarding both the Mending Boston and the Tibetan flags. “It was just amazing to hear different people’s stories. It is amazing what happens when people are quite and are working together – people’s inhibitions are dropped.”
Munjeet and Perry Geyer brought their two daughters to the museum to decorate the flags. The girls have been to the museum before and love to come.
“We are making flags because it’s almost the anniversary for the Boston Marathon,” the Geyer’s older daughter said.
Munjeet Geyer said that they live only a few blocks from where the bombs went off last April.
“Art gets them to think about what they are doing,” Munjeet Geyer said. “It helps them understand and they know they are doing something nice.”
The younger Geyer daughter decorated her flag with sunshine, flowers, hearts and the words, “have a nice day!”
Mitzi Marsh, who was working at the table with Wainwright, said that Wainwright sent an email to all of the people who had worked on Mending Boston to go to the Stewart Gardner to help on this project as well. Marsh and Wainwright have been friends since they were young girls.
Marsh’s daughter-in-law was injured when running the marathon last year and was in the hospital for five days, but has now recovered.
“I feel like I am contributing to those who were injured,” Marsh said while gluing fabric shaped like flower petals on to her flag. “Anything you can do to up spirit in Boston is fun and satisfying.”
Look for the hundreds of flags to be on display by then end of the week in front of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Evans Way Park.
By Megan Turchi
BU News Service
On a fairly quiet midday trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, a group of three teenage to 20-year-old women sat on the ground in the Catalonian Chapel Gallery with their backs against the wall.
“He looks like an old man with a receding hairline,” one of the women said, referring to a statue from Italy, making the other two women laugh.
After about five minutes of gossiping about the latest school news, the three women left the gallery, while a tour, led by an MFA guide, ranging from college-aged students to adults from many different ethnicities, entered.
“These walls were removed from a chapel in the early 1900s,” said the guide, a middle-aged woman with an MFA lanyard around her neck and a patterned dress. The group, about 15 people, stared at the recreated Catalonian Chapel.
“This must have been right before the Protestant Reformation,” a college-aged women in a white sweater said to a women next to her. She wore glasses, had a cartilage ear piercing and had her hair in a bun. They appeared to be paying close attention.
Though education budgets have decreased in the past decade, making it harder for schools to find money for field trips, there seems to be a bigger problem deterring teachers from implementing out-of-school activities: the standardized test.
“We see 55,000 student visitors a year,” said Nicole Claris, Manager of School Programs at the MFA in the employee cafeteria. “Close to 30,000 come for guided visits and we have a lot of teachers who bring their students on their own and they have a wonderful experience, but a lot of teachers want a docent tour.”
A 2012 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that the majority of states decreased education spending per student from the fiscal years 2008-2013. Massachusetts was not one of those states, increasing its spending on education by 6.7 percent. But the report made it clear that even the states with increased spending were not back at the pre-recession levels of education funding.
Low funding may actually be only one small factor in deterring teachers from taking field trips.
“There are ways you can find money to get field trips,” said Shantae Toole, a Trotter Innovation School 5th grade teacher over the phone. “Especially working in Boston Public Schools, because people want to give money for urban districts.”
She said that standardized tests and Common Core State Standards, a nation-wide organization that sets academic standards in math and English for K-12 students, are actually the largest constraints.
“I worry that with more and more emphasis on standardized testing that the worksheet becomes a way to help students memorize names, dates, places and facts,” said Dr. Christopher Martell, clinical assistant professor at the Boston University School of Education, while sitting in his office.
Though Martell does believe school funding plays a role in the lack of field trips, he said that he believes strict federal and state school curriculums are the main barriers preventing teachers from taking students beyond the classroom.
Currently, teaching history and culture frequently involves a teacher storytelling and handing out worksheets because of the fear that students will not memorize the needed material for standardized tests.
“I feel like hands-on experience is equal to book reading experience,” said Toole, who does take her classes on field trips. “When a kid reads about something and they can discuss it, you can push their learning even further by taking them out to experience it.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System is a testing program that must test all public school students in the state, measure performance and report the performance of students, schools and districts.
Toole said that there is a direct correlation between MCAS and the Common Core Curriculum standards.
This past week, the state of Indiana removed itself from the Common Core Curriculum and, according to an article in Time Magazine, is the first state to withdraw.
“You think about this idea of testing and your job rides on it and the school report cards rides on it,” Toole said. “Extended learning outside means its another day you can’t teach. People get a lot of anxiety about impact testing.”
Martell said that he does not see standardized tests going away, but he thinks it is essential for students to experience field trips. Some destinations, like the MFA, try to contruct field trips in accordance with state curriculum and test standards.
“There is the second hurdle of state testing,” Claris said, after mentioning that funding can be a problem because of high bus costs. “We do the majority of our tours in April through June and that’s when state testing is over.”
Claris mentioned that their MFA tours try to comply with Core Curriculum and standardized tests, as a way to help schoolteachers.
“It is a trend with museum education,” Claris said, regarding standardized test compliance. “I think any good museum educator is doing it. We do it very explicitly.”
The MFA has created two new outreach programs this year, sending educators out to schools or coming to the classroom digitally to teach about their collections.
“I would like to say I am hopeful,” Martell said. “I think it is going to take more teachers to encourage their peers to do these things.”