A Palestinian’s Daily Commute through an Israeli Checkpoint Summary

The title itself sums up what this piece is about. But, to go more in depth from the view of Palestinian’s going through this ordeal both physically and mentally, it can be very degrading and frustrating.

As stated early on, the Israelis took all of Jerusalem and their armed forces crushed the Arab armies thrown against them. With that being said, they hold the power and control the lives of Palestinian’s in a sense. Multiple checkpoints have been set up, 39 reported, either allowing or denying access to Palestinians. They can deny access to work, travel, and medical permits with a mere and mostly false excuse of “security.” They have closed Israel to Palestinians without travel or work permits, except for those in E. Jerusalem with special statues. Women over 50 and men over 55 may enter for a day without a permit from the West Bank giving that the checkpoints are open. Furthermore, all Palestinians from Gaza need special permission. Construction workers from the W. Bank must be married, have a kid, and be 23 years or older to receive a permit. Now, the are more than a hundred different kinds of permits for traveling, studying abroad, praying at Jerusalem holy sites, visiting relatives, attending weddings or funeral, get medical treatment, and of course- working for the tother other side of the separation barrier.

Many men work to build Israel but not before crossing one or more checkpoints. If they are late or are no-shows, a day’s pay is docked. This also means less money to bring home and provide for their families. This is the way of life for many of these men so most, if not all, cannot really afford to sleep in because of the troubles of the checkpoint or any problems that may arise.

Help is only a thought. They have been abandoned with no help from their government or anyone else for that matter. Past presidents including Obama, Clinton, and Bush have failed to relieve them of their hell on earth so most people say that this is a never-ending ordeal.


Image result for planSo, where do we start?

Well for one, we need a plan!

By writing letters to the Virginia Department of Education, we can push to have a broader range of drug education placed into the curriculum.

One important thing to make the board of members aware of is that we do not intend to promote the use of drugs but show the real problems associated with using the drugs. Yeah, it gets you high and you might feel on top of the world but that high ends eventually. Then you go seeking another high and the more you seek these highs, the more addicted your body becomes and the more the drugs slowly start to eat at your body and brain. It is important to let the youth know that doing drugs can lead to the point of dependency. Not an “oh I really need to get high” craving, but a”cannot live without.” That is the point where they become a true addict. That is the point where serious help needs to be found.

So, while artists like Lil Pump, Jhene Aiko, or even Snoop Dogg are blasting through their speakers telling them to get high and be young, wild, and free, school needs to be on the other end saying, “Oh yeah? Go ahead if you want to but this is where that’ll lead to and this is what can happen. This is the truth about the falsely glorified life you so wish to live.”

School is meant to “groom and prepare” us for the real world, which in a sense it does, but y=mx+b only gets us so far. We need to talk about drugs, and violence, and ways to survive on our own, paths to take in life, etc,. We can do it, we just need to give people the push to do it.

Here is the link to the letter: https://rampages.us/leshaiarait/2018/12/05/dear-virginia-department-of-education/

Dear Virginia Department of Education,

Dear Virginia Department of Education,

My name is Tiara Stephens a freshman psychology major at Virginia Commonwealth University. In my Focused Inquiry class we were assigned the task of researching a problem amongst youth in Richmond and coming up with possible ways to address and even solve the issue. As you know, we are dealing with the third wave of a very damaging opioid crisis. According to World Health Organization, there were approximately 63,632 deaths due to opioid drug overdose. As of 2015, 5,376 of these deaths can be attributed to teenagers and has since been on a rise, increasing by 19% in 2017. These drugs include but are not limited to: alcohol, cocaine, heroin and other illicit opioids, prescription drugs, and synthetic cannabinoids. Furthermore, Fentanyl is the most abused drug in youth aged 18-25. People either take Fentanyl knowingly or unknowingly being that drug dealers have started mixing Fentanyl with heroine to increase the high. Nonetheless, this is still an opioid that poses a very big problem.

This is a very complex situation, so there is really no concrete solution or method to pinpoint and end this issue. What we can start with though, is education. Students in America spend at least 11 or 12 years in school, and a lot of times even more. School has a big influence on the thought process and knowledge students obtain and take with them in life. We have educators set in place to teach students information to prepare them for the real world, information that they can use now but especially later on in life.

I remember being in high school and learning about tobacco and alcohol. We would have assignments where we created presentations on the dangers and effects or a fill-in-the-blank worksheet about these drugs. No, I do not intend on downplaying the seriousness of either drug because they both claims thousands, if not millions, of lives every year; however, there are more serious drugs that need to be and should be included in the curriculum. Drugs that change people’s lives forever just like the ones we talk about in the classroom. My sophomore year of high school, my father, step-mother, and I were driving to North Carolina for Christmas and they were listening to Doctor Radio. I remember hearing the mention of an opioid crisis, but still, as a 16-year-old in the 11th grade-I did not know what an opioid was or even an opioid crisis. Yes, we have the power to research this information on our own but that is not the point entirely. Again, we have educators in place to provide the information to us. Not only do they have the credibility, but they also have the means to do so. In a survey taken of high school students, teens who consistently learn about the risks of drugs from in school are up to 50% less likely to use drugs than those who don’t. We have had programs like D.A.R.E providing statistics and numbers on people who have used or are using drugs, but kids do not need numbers. They need the background information, the foundation of it all, not just what lays on the surface.

After doing research using the Virginia Department of Education website and looking under the SOL tab for “all health”, I have found that inhalants are now included in the curriculum and on the tests. This is great and by no means do I plan on attacking this. But again, drug access is not limited to buying it from someone off of the corner or what we find under the kitchen sink. We have doctors who prescribe drugs highly susceptible to being abused often which is why we need to talk about these drugs as well. We need to make students aware of the possibilities they are vulnerable to, should they ever have a serious trip to the hospital.

One important thing I want to emphasize is that my intention is not to promote the use of drugs but show the real problems associated with using drugs. Yeah, it gets you high and you might feel on top of the world but that high ends eventually. Then you go seeking another high and the more you seek these highs, the more addicted your body becomes and the more the drugs slowly start to eat away at your body and brain. It is important to let the youth know that doing drugs can lead to the point of dependency. Not an “oh I really need to get high” craving, but a mindset and reality of “cannot live without.” That is the point where they become a true addict. That is the point where serious help needs to be found. It is also important to remind them of the feasibility of an addict keeping a job, securing a place to live, having a car, and mainly other normal life situations versus someone who chooses not to use drugs.

While artists like Lil Pump, Jhené Aiko, or even Wiz Khalifa play through their speakers telling them to get high and be young, wild, and free, school needs to be on the other end saying, “Oh yeah? Go ahead if you want to but this is where that’ll lead to and this is what can happen. This is the truth about the falsely glorified life you so wish to live.”

School is meant to groom and prepare us for the real world, which in a sense it does, but “y=mx+b” and class periods on historical sites will only get us so far. We need to talk about drugs, violence, ways to survive on our own, paths to take in life, and many more essential things in life.

The youth is our future and right now we are in an era where they are subject to being everything that we do not need due to social media, peer influence, and bad personal choices. Like Dr. Ben Carson, a philanthropist and former neurosurgeon, school can be the one thing that young students take pride in. This can spark the interest in them of leading a better life than they already live or the people around them live.

It takes a village to do just about anything, so as long as we work together and provide them eminent information, we can change the lives of many people. Not only will it bring awareness to people, but it will also shed light on a damaging drug addiction in the United States that we merely pay any attention.

Hook: Fentanyl is the leading drug of choice among teens in Richmond, Virginia. What started off as a pain medication, soon turned into an overly addicting and abused drug.

Background summary: According to Richmond Times, of the 1,133 people who died due to opioid overdoses last year, fentanyl contributed to 618 deaths.

Overview of argument: People are not getting educated enough on what they could possibly be taking and the effects of these drugs on their bodies and life in general.

Thesis: If we establish the education of Fentanyl in schools, people are less likely to abuse this drug and become more aware and cautious.

What are you most worried about with this paper?

Hm, finding out how to stop and prevent drug overdose as a result of misusing and excessively using Fentanyl. There are so may ways to be introduced to this drug. It is a legal, schedule II opioid prescribed by doctors as a form of pain relief. It also can be bought on the streets as it has become very popular. So whether we eliminate it from the streets or the hospital, it is always going to be found somewhere. People know they should not do drugs. We are told this from the day we are old enough to comprehend more times than not but it is such a complex issue. There is no right answer and there is no real solution. I think another big issue is the money prescribing opioids brings in. Doctors pocket more money prescribing an opioid medication versus a non-opioid medication. So, with that being said, these companies are not going to stop manufacturing these drugs just because people are dying nor will these doctors stop prescribing them. So again, it’s an all around complex issue.

What questions about your topic do you still need to answer?

Age group affected. My sources, are talking about Richmond, Virginia as a whole which is fine but no particular age group. I also need to narrow down how I am going to answer my research question.

What do you need to research still? 

Preventive methods.

Drugs and Youth in RVA

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 570,000 deaths each year attributed to drugs. This includes but is not limited to: tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. Right now, Virginia has one of the highest death rates in the United States due to drug abuse.

Teens are extremely vulnerable and easily influenced into trying things they normally would not just by choosing the wrong group of friends or being in a pressuring environment. Teens tend to start off as using drugs “just at parties” or “just for fun,” but fail to realize these “simple pleasures” can turn into deadly, life-changing habits.

So, sometimes teens might feel the need to fit or be cool causing them to neglect their moral and personal views and beliefs.

This one act eventually turns into multiple acts of using, or worse- death.


When I imagine extraterrestrial life, it is actually quite frightening. There is this stigma against foreign objects and physical beings, for lack of  a better word, so are they as bad as we imagine or are they just like us? Trying to just live life and provide for people they care about? I feel that Martians would definitely see us as outsiders, we would be the weird looking humans to them. They might poke us, or stare at us, or touch our hair trying to figure out “what is standing before me?”.

“Are YOU ready for new life? Do YOU want to explore another planet? Are YOU willing to live on another beings home? Visit www.loc.gov/Marstravel and answer our questionnaire. If we are interested, we will contact you shortly. Remember you could be a lucky 1 in 50!” The flier appeared in my head, now a distant memory figuratively and literally.

Shuttle EX-S149 has just landed, commuting 50 “lucky” Americans as the ad said. With a hard thud, the shuttle door opened. And there they were. Thousands, maybe millions of Martians surrounded the shuttle, some scared, some curious, others unbothered.

“Woah, they really are green!” exclaimed an eager little red-headed boy.

Some had one eyes, others had two, even three. Their hands were either short of five fingers, or had more than. Some were tall, short, thick, thin, straight, curvy, but like the little red-headed boy said- they really are green.

Over the loud speaker the captain announced, “Flight 299018 has just landed on Mars. Thank you for flying with NASA.

And we sort of stared at each other, and at them, then back at each other.

“Well we can’t stay up here forever, we’re here now,” said an older woman grabbing her bags and descending the stairs.

So, we all followed suit.

The rich, red dirt crumbled under my feet with the two steps I took. “What do we do?” echoed in my head as both species stared at each other in silence.

They began poking and pulling and touching and laughing and speaking in a language only they understood.

A loud, overlap of chatter began amongst them all.

And within a few moment, a loud voice roared, “Silence.”

There he was, being carried by six or seven men. Captain Smek.

They gave us the full run down of who was in charge and how things might go at the orientation back on Earth.

“Welcome,” he started as he descended his throne “this is your new home.”

“I am Captain Smek, and I am here to give you the experience of a lifetime.”

He began showing us their houses molded from mud, rock, and water. Their chow center. Their communal restrooms. A few of their job stations. Their hospitals. Their police stations. And even their prisons.

Everything was red. Everything was built from the same material.

So even to my surprise, they put us in jobs the first day, even the kids.

So as you can imagine, a lucky opportunity soon turned into a damned one.

The Better Disciplinary System: Suspension v. Restorative Justice

For a school like St. Joseph’s Villa, I feel that restorative justice is more appropriate. We have kids who come from a troubled life or have been expelled from other schools and come to the Villa sort of as a last resort, so suspension is the last thing they really need. There are preventive measures that could be taken. Nine times out of ten, they do not have someone at home that will listen to them or even take the time to. Having someone you are comfortable around and can talk about things that are bothering you is unmatchable. Sometimes kids just need a listening ear. A chance to explain why the did what they did, how they are feeling, and anything else on their mental.

As Pedro Noguera stated, suspension is seen in the light that if these “bad” kids are gone then the good people will be able to learn, the good people will be safe. This is not the case at all. Not only does suspension produce these “bad” kids, but it also further sets them behind. Keeping someone from their education for their wrongdoings simply not the answer. In-school suspension would even suffice but is rarely resorted to. Instead kids are suspended temporarily or indefinitely and losing out on material vital for their success which sometimes can push them further into a “hole”.

So, in conclusion, I feel that restorative justice is the more appropriate action to take for defiant students at the Villa. Suspension is an overused and easy way out- the quickest way to not have to deal with students. Not that this is the case at St. Joseph’s Villa, but in general. To avoid possibly affecting kids even more, suspension should be the last resort after all the help available has been provided.



For this unit two paper, I will be analyzing and comparing and contrasting Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli and The Racial Segregation of American Cities Was Anything But Accidental by Katie Nodjimbadem. The similarity points I find in both sources were the degradation and separation that white Americans fought so hard for regarding other races born of a foreign or domestic country. Both texts are based on factual information and examples from historical context. Luiselli uses her experience from volunteering as an interpreter and even her personal experiences; on the other hand, Nodjimbadem uses policies, acts, and the overall treatment of African Americans to show the lengths white Americans have gone to as far as keeping certain and/or specific races separated from them. Our country has a haunting foundation of slavery and oppression dating back to 1493. Christopher Columbus needed money to pay for his New World expeditions, so he shipped Indians to Spain where there already existed slave markets dealing in the buying and selling of Africans (Gilder Lehrman Institute, 2009). Then again, slavery with African Americans beginning in 1619 with the arrival of 20 plus to the British Colony in Jamestown, Virginia, that unofficially ended more than two centuries later in 1865. This information is included and presented to show that we have a history of degradation of other races as stated before. If they were not providing a service, i.e free work at the beck and call and supervision of someone deemed superior, then they were considered useless. It, in a sense, became a societal norm which is why it was and still is carried through generations in personal, political, religious, and economical aspects. As far as the separation side, the building and implementation of the wall on the US-Mexico is a big symbol of support for separation. Yes, the wall itself is an idea to get used to, but it is also the lengths people are going to and the measures being taken. People take this idea to heart and feel joy in knowing a wall will separate them from people they so wrongfully hate and despise of. This wall along with a questionnaire that determines the fate of millions of immigrants, or intentionally denying a housing application or job to someone because of the color of their skin or ethnic background all lead back to separation. Even 30 years after the end of slavery, separate but equal was happening all across America and deemed constitutional (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896). One thing history does is repeats itself, so the neighborhoods and small areas of a state or city“set” for a specific race (i.e Chinatown or El Barrio) or the enslavement, slaughter, or mistreatment of ethnic group and races continually happens just with a different group on the next wave of racism.

Summary/Background: Source One

     Tell Me How It Ends can be classified as a primary source, written by Valeria Luiselli who has lived through the experiences talked about throughout the book. It was published in Minneapolis sometime in April of 2017 by Coffee House Press. Valeria Luiselli is a Mexican author who even herself had to deal with being an immigrant. The intended audience of this, in my opinion, is America. It would be a shame to put a cap on just it being for the younger generation or the older generation. I feel as if everyone in America needs to read content of this nature to see that people struggle and endure traumatic experiences just for a slice of the life we live and they more times than not, will not get. I feel that the background, being her seeking citizenship status, adds some personal touch and a sense of relation to the people she has encountered. The main goal, I feel, of Luselli’s book was to shed light on the reality immigrants face when seeking a home, refuge, or happiness here in America. This absurd image and description of the American dream has consumed the minds of people wanting out of their everyday horrors or wanting to find and live a life of happiness like a sea of thick cobwebs you cannot shake. No, they are not welcomed. No, they are not granted citizenship at the price of a small fee and pass of an interview administered by a USCIS officer. No they do not live life here comfortably. And no, they are not treated with basic human decency. Instead, they are murdered, raped, beaten, denied medical treatment, barely fed, deprived of water, and detained in and cramped in a “icebox,” as referenced by Luiselli. These people are willing to do anything for a chance at changing their lives only to possibly be assaulted or denied citizenship. Hindering these immigrants plays into and highlights the plaguing desire of separation whether it be permanently or temporarily.


     One strength of this paper would be the status she had, an interpreter for kids coming here seeking entry for a better life. Her position as an interpreter, who essentially sets the precedent for how these court cases could possibly go, versus just another American citizen guides this book and sets the route for how this book will go. She has an insight on what really goes on when refugees come to America, unlike you and I. We merely read books and news headlines, getting barely a glimpse of all that they endure or the process for them to be here and have their voices heard if they make it past the border. Another strength was her and her family waiting for their green cards themselves. Personal experiences have an untouchable power. Her along with the people she spoke to, were being profiled, mistreated, and judged. In a car ride with her husband and step-children, suspicion arose among authoritative officials because of their national origin. So, hearing first hand from her the experiences she went through, adds on to the reality of immigration, the laws on it, and the stigma against it. She helped to shed light on what happens when people seek entry into the U.S. and even provides a little knowledge and truth behind our many misconceptions.


Summary/Background: Source Two

     The Racial Segregation of American Cities Was Anything But Accidental was written by Katie Nodjimbadem and can be classified as a secondary source. Using historical policies and records and articles from the past, she compiled it to be used in her book. The book was published by Smithsonian in 2017. Katie Nodjimbadem is the former staff reporter for Smithsonian magazine born in El Paso, Texas. I feel that her background as an African American writer helps her to convey the message of the book in a clear and concise way. When you speak on or write about your history and the history of your ancestors, you have no choice but to get it right. It is the least you could for them, yourself, and whoever sets eyes or opens their ears to just listen. The intended audience would be anyone interested in learning about the history of the land. The title of the book itself tells the content of the story and provides support for one of the points in my paper all in one. In one particular answer Nodjimbadem gives, she states that the FHA had evidence that if African Americans moved into white neighborhoods, the property value had actually risen. This was the complete opposite of the justification that segregation was necessary because African Americans caused a decline in property values. The FHA completely ignored their findings, and segregation obviously still stood. This played in the favor of the Roosevelt Administration in the sense that they needed justification for the New Deal policies. Another argument brought up, according to Nodjimbadem, was that the government subsidized mass production builders to create suburbs on the condition that they only be sold to white people.  The FHA even went as far as prohibiting resale to African Americans. It was proven that many African Americans could actually afford to live in white suburbs, but situations such as reverse-redlining withheld African Americans from such opportunities. Reverse-redlining can be defined as the targeting of banks and mortgage of minority communities for exploitative loans, called subprime loans. These kinds of loans were intended for African-American and Latino homeowners to refinance their homes at a low-interest which would explode into an alarming high rate once they were subjected to and locked into their mortgage. As a result, there were higher numbers of foreclosures in these neighborhoods than white neighborhoods. So this further supports the argument of separation and degradation of other races. People who had the power to do so, intentionally ruined the finances of African-Americans and Latinos to either to keep them out of white, suburban neighborhoods or simply because they wanted to.. Also, African-Americans were denied the opportunity to be sold certain property on the basis of their skin color. I mean, looking back, the FHA inexplicitly held the key. The key of changing the way America was thinking at the time. What people thought they know, was completely wrong. African-Americans were not causing a decline in property value, but in fact, more times than not- the opposite. Yet, they chose to ignore these findings for their own selfish reasons. To touch on the degradation point, many all-black suburbs, became overcrowded and became slums causing a decline in property value. Here, you have African-Americans who are denied certain housing, prohibited from living on certain blocks that were majority white, and intentionally setback financially. So what do they do? They are forced to live somewhere purposely neglected and abused because white people cannot stand to live beside them.      



     I feel a weakness of this source would be the focus on the African-American race. Yes, she mentions Latinos being impacted by the reverse-redlining but that is the only time she references to another race. A wider look or insight on more races would strengthen her argument in her book and really unveil the truth about America in this time period. Aside from this, I do really love that she came with nothing but facts. She did not answer with her generic opinion or something we pretty much all think about the situations in the past, she came with hard facts. Opinions are great, they add personal touch, but they are just that, opinions. No truth, nothing to prove true, nothing to look up, just your word. So, it really started off with a strong foundation pertaining to the FHA, Roosevelt Administration, Housing Act of 1949, Buchanan v. Warley, the Great Depression, and so on. When people read something with more facts than opinions, I feel like they have no choice but to finally accept that “this is how my country is and this is how it wanted to be.”                                     


Conclusion (Source One and Source Two)

     In conclusion, both sources do have notable differences, but also significant similarities. The notable differences include but are not limited to: source one is primary, whereas source two is secondary; the ethnic background of the authors; the scope of race and America they explore; and the aspect of race and America they talk about. Referencing to the scope of the relationship between race and America, Luiselli focuses on immigration on a national level; on the other hand, Nodjimbadem focuses cities in America and even mention a particular city, Richmond, Virginia and even Virginia as a whole. As far as the aspect of race and America, Luiselli touches on the topic of immigrants and Nodjimbadem speaks on American citizens. Nonetheless, both pieces of work were very important and offered some interesting points and had important similarities. They both touched on the overpowering presence of racism here in America directed towards anyone who was not a white American. This is the foundation for what they wrote about to tell a story and show the bigger picture of America in the past and even now, in the present. Another similarity would be that the things talked about actually happened, whether it be to them or people they have come across or read about. They did not just write about some fantasy or how they imagined life was, they both wrote about things that either already happened or was currently taking place. I feel that these were two great sources to be compared because one source centered on the way of life during the 20th century and a little into the 21st century while the other focuses on our more present immigration situation.


References (Sources)

Luiselli, V. (2017). Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press.        


Nodjimbadem, K. (2017). The Racial Segregation of American Cities Was Anything But Accidental. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian.         


Buchanan v. Warley. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved November 6, 2018, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/1900-1940/245us60

“The Dirt on Ocean Garbage Patches” by Jocelyn Kaiser

One way we could all help the environment is to stop littering. People throw tons of trash on the ground all day, including myself. What we fail to realize is that not only is this illegal, but it is also very harmful to wildlife and diminishes the beauty of a city. Trash more times than not ends up in the ocean. This can block sunlight, or even worse kill an animal by causing it to choke.

Another way to help save the environment is reducing the use of cars. Cars let out a lot of pollution which adds on to are diminishing ozone layer which protects us from uv light and harmful rays from the sun. This along with smoking can take us a long way n advancing.