Photo by Cecilia Tzompantzi, YPIE Scholar 2026
In this Issue
An Update on the COVID-19 Vaccine
Has Donald Trump Actually Improved The Economy
Entertainment and Lifestyle
How the TikTok Craze is Helping Students
Ways to Maintain Physical Health During Quarantine
What is SAD and How Can I Cope With It?
7 YA Books by POC Writers
Our Voices Heard
The Blood of Africa
YPIE QuaranTimes Staff
Salamatu Lawal, Editor-in-Chief
Alyssa Lee, Our Voices Heard Editor
Catarina Mendes, Politics Editor
Julia Azulay, Entertainment and Lifestyle Editor
Shemar Forbes, Layout Editor & Director of Communications
Yismel Castro, Layout Editor
Welcome to the YPIE QuaranTimes
Produced by YPIE’s Journalism major, the YPIE QuaranTimes is a way for YPIE students to connect and share experiences during these unprecedented times. YPIE Scholars are using this time in so many creative, meaningful ways. As such, the YPIE Journalism major hopes to highlight all of the talents in our community through this publication.
An Update on the COVID-19 Vaccine
By Vanessa Gentile, YPIE Scholar 2026
Throughout everything during this pandemic, we always wanted an answer. Now, almost one year in, we don't have as much information as we thought we would. The closest thing we have are promises. Since the beginning of quarantine, President Donald Trump has told us to keep an eye out for a vaccine. In speeches, press conferences, and even the presidential debates, President Trump assured us that a vaccine will be coming “very, very soon.” But is he right?
It’s possible, but not at the moment.
As much as we wish that we could magically create a vaccine, it takes lots of time, money, and research. On average, a vaccine can take about ten years before it is distributed to the public. With this knowledge, it seems nearly impossible for there to be a vaccine anytime in the near future.
The best-case scenario is that we get a vaccine in mid-2021. Mask wearing and social distancing will still be used in order to stop the spread of the virus. There is a slight chance we can get a vaccine earlier; however, the vaccine won’t completely cure the virus. The chances of COVID becoming, at the very least, manageable, will be facilitated through our efforts. We cannot continue having large social gatherings, not wearing masks, or disregarding social distancing. This will only prolong the eradication of this virus.
Is it possible we will have a vaccine 10 years from now? Yes, and it looks like we will get one within the next 1-2 years. A lot of companies, such as BioNTech, claim that they are close to getting a vaccine, with most of them already in testing phases. It’s a waiting game for now, but it’s a game that President Trump’s predictions are losing.
By Yismel Castro, YPIE Scholar 2025
Many individuals are familiar with the famous landmark case of Roe v. Wade and its controversial ruling. The issue that was presented before the court was whether or not females should have the right to choose to have an abortion.
Despite much opposition, the U.S. Supreme court ruled that a woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion should be protected by the U.S. Constitution. This took place in the year 1973, which paved the way to one of the most intense political conflicts recognized in American history.
Opinions on abortion laws are still one of the many important elements that separate political candidates and allow citizens to carefully think about their options. Amy Coney Barrett is one of the many political figures who has expressed her stance on the intense abortion issue.
She presented herself as a conservative who does not believe in ending the life of an unborn child. She has openly shown support to several organizations that are known to be pro-life, and even signed a letter that mentions "the value of human life from conception to natural death." Even further, Barrett signed an anti-abortion advertisement back in 2006, which allowed her to build the perfect record to obtain support from anti-abortion groups.
Barrett is the Supreme Court Judge that will fill the empty spot left by the memorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who unfortunately passed away on September 18, 2020, after serving for nearly three decades. Barrett’s position on abortion laws has startled individuals who recognize themselves as “pro-choice” supporters because they fear she is aiming towards dismantling the ruling of 1973. Anti-abortion activists, however, are hoping that she will be the one to bring back the “pre-Roe” nation and provide females with options that will give them more accessible options other than termination.
When faced with extreme controversy regarding her new position as a judge and her own personal beliefs, Barrett expressed that she doesn’t think women’s right to abortion will change and continued to say, “I think the question of whether people can get very late-term abortions, you know, how many restrictions can be put on clinics, I think that will change."
Barrett is known to be a conservative Catholic, however, she attempted to reassure the nation by saying that she possesses the ability to separate her beliefs from her rulings. She vowed to practice and follow the law instead of basing her decision on personal views. She recognized that the church teaches that abortion is immoral, but that her “views on this [abortion] or any other question will have no bearing on the discharge of my duties as a judge."
The only option citizens have is to hope Barrett acts in a way that suits the law by following it accordingly. If Barrett is able to separate her personal opinions and only employ the facts when presented with a case then citizens will be served with the proper justice they deserve.
Help Save Earth! By Daniellle Yeboah, YPIE Scholar 2027
Has Donald Trump Actually Improved the Economy?
By Paola Baizen, YPIE Scholar 2027
At a Campaign Rally in Orlando, Florida on June 18th, 2019, President Donald Trump stated, “Our economy is the envy of the world, perhaps the greatest economy we've had in the history of our country.” President Trump has also previously claimed, “We built the greatest economy in the history of the world, and now we are doing it again.” In these instances and many others, President Trump has continuously stated that he has improved our country’s economy and that the unemployment rate has gone down greatly during his presidency. But how true is this claim?
Recent research from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis has shown that President Trump’s words are, in fact, true. During the first few years of his presidency, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the economy went up by 0.2%. However, the country had already seen signs of an improving economy as the GDP had gone up by 2.3% during President Barack Obama's last year in office.
Donald Trump has also previously implied that during his time as president, many people living in the United States have suffered less from unemployment. For example, on March 10th, 2019, President Trump had tweeted that within the first two years of his administration, the U.S. had seen the, “...best economy, lowest unemployment & much more!” This is true because the unemployment rate had been on a continuous decrease since the Obama administration, and well into President Trump’s years in office until April 2020. However, the unemployment rate increased to 14.7% in April 2020. This may likely be due to coronavirus lockdown precautions, as many people were unable to work during this period of time. As of September 2020, the unemployment rate has gone down to 7.9%.
To conclude, President Trump’s statements are true, however, his administration did not singlehandedly improve the economy and lower unemployment rates. In fact, former President Obama had already slightly improved the economy and lowered unemployment rates, and President Trump seemed to continue this trend.
Entertainment and Lifestyle
How the TikTok Craze is Helping Students
By Natalie Maldonado, YPIE Scholar 2025
TikTok is the latest overnight sensation. It is a video-sharing app that allows users to post 15-second videos to keep others around the world continuously scrolling. Although the app is targeted at a younger audience, it can be used for so much more.
TikTok is not just an app for laughs. It doubles as a powerful tool to help students around the world with their academic needs.
During quarantine, students had a difficult time adjusting to school. Tasks became more daunting and conversations with teachers became less accessible. Additionally, students became perplexed with the several platforms provided for schoolwork, and getting help with individual work problems was not easy. Most importantly, getting college help became more difficult.
But TikTok offered a variety of homework help videos and tutorials on how to properly use the platforms provided by teachers to do assignments. Users create instructional videos that explain how to navigate these platforms and videos on specific topics, aiding students. Personally, I frequently watched the math help videos. The “tutors”, as they called themselves, were very helpful in breaking down difficult problems.
Not only has TikTok helped students navigate the new virtual learning environment, but it has also helped them prepare for college.
During this time of uncertainty, it can be difficult getting high school students the college help they need. With the closure of schools, students have not only been missing out on academics, but also other resources like their guidance counselors and college advisors. This has left many students lost in their navigation of the college application process. Yet, many TikTok users are dedicated to creating informative videos to help high school students find their way.
In addition, many students have not been able to receive the proper SAT help they need because of COVID-19. To combat this, TikTok tutors go over SAT questions that were requested by viewers and show how to achieve the correct answer.
Tutors also provide SAT tips for incoming test days and ways to make the test less stressful. From college essay tips to college reviews, to deadlines reminders, to scholarships and more, TikTok covers almost every aspect of the college application process.
I have found several scholarship opportunities on TikTok, relaying them to my friends and peers whenever I get the chance. I have received tips on how to better my college essay and tips on what to avoid writing about. The best part is that this college help is coming from professionals, former students, and even current students. You could even receive advice from a Harvard student--how cool is that?
I will be sharing some of my favorite helpful pages on TikTok. Make sure to use these if you would like, or if not go on TikTok and start searching for the help you may need. This can truly benefit you in the future.
● @languageschool: French language tutoring
● @goharsguide: Gohar Khan, MIT student created this page to help students with college applications, test prep, and essay advice
● @testpreptips: SAT tips and SAT help
● @growingwithgabby: Provides scholarship opportunities
● @roseknowstests: Test prep help
Ways to Maintain Physical Health During Quarantine
By Shemar Forbes, YPIE Scholar 2025
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that everyone receive at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. But as COVID-19 cases surge, many of us have been advised to stay home, making it difficult to fulfill this recommendation. This poses a detriment to our immune system and overall physical health. To mitigate this, here are several ways to stay active while in quarantine.
One of the things WHO advises people to do in order to stay physically healthy is taking short active breaks. These breaks can include anything as simple as cleaning or gardening, or something fun such as dancing or playing with children. WHO also encourages people to walk, whether it is in place or around. To reduce the time we spend sitting down, WHO also recommends that we stand up after 30 minutes or so passes, and, if possible, remain standing as we work. Below are more home-based exercises WHO recommends:
Knee to elbow: Stand upright and touch one knee with the opposite elbow; alternate sides.
Plank: Go on the ground and firmly support your forearms, with your elbows under your shoulders. Ensure that your hips are at the same level as your head.
Back extensions: Lay on the ground and touch your ears with your fingertips while lifting your upper body, keeping your legs on the ground; lower your upper body and repeat.
Squats: First, stand upright and keep your feet at a hip distance with your toes pointing slightly outwards. Then, bend your knees, ensuring that your heels are on the ground and your knees are over your feet; bend and stretch legs and repeat
Side knee lifts: Stand upright and lift your knee to the side, having your elbow touch your knee; alternate sides.
Superman: Go on the ground and place your hands under your shoulders and your knees under hips. Lift one arm forward and put the opposite leg back; alternate sides.
Bridge: Lay on your back and firmly place your feet on the ground with your knees over your heels. Lift your hips as high as you can and then slowly lower them again; repeat.
Chair dips: Grab a chair and hold onto the seat, with your feet about two feet away from the chair. Bend your arms as you lower your hips to the ground, straightening your arms; repeat.
Chest opener: Stand upright and interlace your fingers behind your back. Stretch your arms and open your chest forward; hold this position for a couple of seconds and repeat.
For more details on these workouts, check out WHO’s website.
Some other ways to stay active include having a virtual dance party with friends over video chat, watching a yoga video, or playing soccer with family; the possibilities are limitless.
Do you listen to music when you exercise? If so, feel free to share your favorite songs here and check the link regularly to get more music suggestions. Happy exercising!
S.A.D. directed by Felix Ureña, YPIE Scholar 2026
What is SAD and How Can I Cope With It?
By Catarina Mendes, YPIE Scholar 2025
As 2020 slowly comes to a close, Winter is fast approaching. The days are getting shorter, and the weather is getting colder. People will likely be spending more time indoors, and with the pandemic, people have already been spending more time indoors than usual. With the arrival of Summer, people were anxious to get outside, but now as the darker, cold days of winter approach, many will have limited ability to safely get outside and get some sunlight.
Even in normal times, people often have a difficult time coping with the gloomy Winter days. Scientists have determined that roughly 20% of the U.S. population is affected by some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter months. About 6% suffer from full-blown SAD, while the other 14% have a milder version, often referred to as the Winter Blues.
As SAD is a form of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), symptoms of SAD are quite similar. They include depressed mood, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, low energy, trouble sleeping, appetite or weight changes, and difficulty concentrating.
In previous years, people have been able to go out when and where they wanted, but with the danger of COVID and the restrictions it has led to, options are now limited. It has been noted that some experts believe the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to an increased number of SAD cases this Winter. Not only are people likely to spend the majority of their time indoors, but many also won’t feel comfortable getting together with people, and will therefore also be isolated. Many have been mostly isolated since the beginning of the pandemic in March, but cheery, bright, warm weather was prevalent, which can positively affect mood. Another factor in potentially increased SAD cases this year is the stress and anxiety the pandemic has caused. Many have lost loved ones or battled COVID themselves. Others are no doubt already down due to the lack of social interaction and fun activities they normally would enjoy. COVID has fundamentally disrupted the way we live as a society, and people have had to adjust to this new normal.
But there are several ways to combat and treat SAD. Once a patient is diagnosed, doctors can use light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy to help treat them. In light therapy, the patient spends time sitting in front of a lightbox, which mimics natural light, since natural light isn’t in abundance during Winter months, and this is one of the main contributing factors to SAD. The therapy has been proven effective at positively impacting mood. Psychotherapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy, allows patients to be proactive about their own approach to SAD. It teaches them coping and management skills.
Patients can also practice certain mind-body connection techniques, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, or art/music therapy in order to help relax. In addition, making your environment brighter, exercising, and getting outside if and when possible can also play important roles in effective treatment. Light really does have an effect on mood, so a brighter atmosphere could help significantly lift mood, similar to a lightbox.
Exercising has also been proven to improve mood, as it releases endorphins and can help people feel productive and healthy. It gives the mind something to focus on, while also improving physical health! You can exercise from the comfort of your own home with simple training videos or online instructions. In order to successfully manage SAD, it is important to find what works best for you and stick to it.
During a time where people already long to get outside and do things, there will now be fewer opportunities to do so, which could potentially negatively impact the number of SAD cases the U.S. sees this Winter. Even so, people can combat the condition in a variety of ways. Relaxation, exposure to bright environments, going outside when possible, and mindfulness all play significant roles in helping lessen the effects of SAD and could help more people than usual this Winter.
Among Us by Jazlynne Gonzalez, YPIE Scholar 2026
7 YA Books by POC Writers
By Hillary Diaz, YPIE Scholar 2025
The other day I found myself looking at my bookshelf, scrutinizing every single title and author’s name. No, I wasn’t doing it for fun or because I was bored. I was doing it because I wanted to prove to myself that I had a diverse bookshelf. I wanted to know that the stories I hold are a representation of the multicultural society that surrounds me and that I wasn’t only reading stories that represented one portion of this community. Sadly, my fears were confirmed by the apparent absence of diversity among the writers.
After feeling shameful and deciding that moving to the woods and changing my name was not the best option (dramatic, I know), I took my computer and did some research. It turns out that I was not the only one and communities of readers on Youtube and Twitter feel like books by people of color (POC) writers are often ignored by the media.
To respond to such a significant issue, the YPIE Book Club and I decided to recommend books by POC writers (you're welcome.) Listed below are a few YA novels that are a must-read:
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Zuri Benitez is a prideful teenager that finds honor in her family, Afro-Latino roots, and neighborhood. As Brooklyn rapidly becomes more gentrified, Zuri finds herself powerless in the presence of what seems the inevitable end of the multicultural place she called home. When the wealthy Darcy family moves across the street, Zuri doesn’t want to do anything with them. Especially with the cold and arrogant Darius Darcy. In this modern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Ibi Zoboi explores the intricate aspects of our modern society while maintaining the charm and drama of the original novel.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Xiomara Batista is a teenage girl silenced by the traditional beliefs of her mother. Feeling unheard and trapped in her Harlem apartment, Xiomara starts to express her emotions and thoughts through poetry. When her innate desire to write takes her to a slam poetry club, she must find a way of assisting to the meetings without her overprotective mother finding out. A voice for Hispanic teenagers, Xiomara reflects the story of hundreds of girls, demonstrating that in the face of adversity, silence is never an option.
Love from A to Z by S.K Ali
When her teacher doesn’t stop reminding the class that Muslims are “bad”, Zayneb decides that she has had enough and confronts him. Immediately after the conflict, she gets suspended, and her problematic teacher starts to target her activist friends. Filled with guilt, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Qatar, where she will try to become a “nicer” version of herself. There she will meet Adam, a caring teenage boy with a big secret; last November, he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In this unforgettable romance, the author will explore the importance of identity and the marvelous nature of love.
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee’
This heartbreaking novel follows a tight-knit group of young second-generation Japanese American citizens, whose life is completely changed by the mass U.S. incarcerations of World War II. Fourteen teens. Fourteen stories. And the one vision of fighting the racial injustice that threatens to pull them apart. In this young adult novel, Traci Chee manages to develop a concise story meant to transport the reader to the dark side of American history.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicole Yoon
When romantic Daniel Bae meets the pragmatist Natasha Kingsley, he is convinced that fate has something much more extraordinary in store for them. There’s just a little problem; Natasha is only twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica, and falling in love with a stranger is not an option. In this boy-meets-girl novel, Nicole Yoon brings a new twist to the trope by introducing themes of immigration and identity that connect with a young audience.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Sixteen-year-old Star Carter is caught between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. When her childhood best friend is brutally killed by the police, her life is completely changed. Star was the only witness. Khalil was unarmed. This young adult novel follows the consequences that the murder of Khalil have on Star, her community, and the world around them. A powerful story that explores significant themes of police brutality, racism, and grief.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L.Sanchez
Olga is the perfect Mexican Daughter. She did not attend college; instead, she stayed home to work part-time and help her parents. Julia is not the perfect Mexican daughter. She has big dreams and no intention of following her sister's path. However, their lives change drastically when Olga tragically dies in a traffic accident. Now Julia must deal with her grieving mother, who is always comparing her to the perfect Olga. But the death of her sister only uncovers traces of a secret life that remains unknown for Julia. With the help of her best friend, Lorena, Julia will try to find out who her sister was.
Our Voices Heard
The Blood of Africa
By Salamatu Lawal, YPIE Scholar 2025 and Alyssa Lee, YPIE Scholar 2026
In Nigeria, there is a movement urging for the demolition of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Originally formed as a response to the surge of violent crimes in Nigeria, SARS has now become the very thing it was created to combat.
Amnesty International recorded at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment, and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020, the demographic being targeted comprising of predominantly males between the ages of 18 and 35 from both low-income backgrounds and vulnerable groups. What’s worse is that there is no documentation of even one SARS officer who has been held accountable for human rights violations.
With #endsars trending globally on Twitter and thousands of Nigerians protesting,
President Mohammadu Buhari has been under pressure to disband this squad. Bahari claimed that he will disband SARS; however, many are skeptical of this due to the numerous times this has been claimed in the past.
Amidst #endsars, there has also been awareness brought to what is happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo with #congoisbleeding. The country has been facing several issues including child slavery and the exploitation of its natural resources. Congo produces half of the world’s utilized congo, and the country reaps no benefits from this. Instead, large corporations like Google and Apple, are profiting from Congo's resources while the country bleeds. Children work 12 hours a day digging in mines just to be paid $2.
Along with the cobalt exploitation crisis, Congo is facing wars resulting in the deaths of over 6 million people since 1996. These wars, also known as the “African World Wars” also involve Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Libya, and Namibia. Being in the center of this war has destroyed Congo’s infrastructure and has left its civilians both physically and psychologically damaged.
In the southern parts of Cameroon, the long-standing Anglophone problem remains prominent.
On September 9, 2017, separatists claimed the independence of Ambazonia and began to fight against the Cameroonian government. The conflict originally started off relatively small but soon spread to most of the Anglophone regions within a year.
As the attacks by separatists groups increased, security forces have responded by killing masses of people, torching homes and other properties in villages, and torturing suspected separatists in detainment centers.
Although the government declared that they did not tolerate the actions carried out by the security forces, they failed to investigate them and punish those responsible.
Armed separatists groups alike have killed, kidnapped, and even tortured many innocent civilians. This opposition group has been utilizing schools as bases, where they can deploy troops and weapons, as well as hold hostages when they see fit.
You can read more into the complexity of the Cameroon crisis here: World Report 2020: Cameroon
Child trafficking is one of the largest issues faced in both Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
Many Ghanian children are taken from their homes and transported to work in the fishing industry on Lake Volta.
These children are forced into horrible conditions imitating that of the slave era. Coupled with the fact that they work long hours every day, these children are having their entire childhoods stripped from them by desperate fishermen.
One of the more common jobs for the children includes diving below the surface to untangle fishing nets. This act is incredibly risky which is why fishermen use children in the first place.
Their smaller frames allow them to maneuver around the nets and undo them with little difficulty. They also take up less space on the boats, can be physically dominated by their masters, and are less capable of putting up a fight when they do not receive their wages, which is a frequent occurrence.
PACODEP is a non-profit organization that works to provide educational and clinical facilities to the poor children working on Lake Volta. Not only do they rehabilitate the children, but they are also taking measures to raise awareness that slavery is prohibited.
Here is a direct link to the website where you can read their mission statement and find a way to donate to the cause: PACODEP
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