Chewing khat changes brother into angry stranger

When I come in the door from school, my brother, I hear you fight with your friends and I can see you in your room chewing “khat.”

From the Internet, I have learned that the branches of dried leaves are a natural stimulant from the Catha edulis plant, a large shrub which grows in East Africa and Southern Arabia. Fresh khat leaves are crimson-brown and glossy but become yellow-green when they dry. They also emit a strong smell.

Back in Africa, our father says, men use khat as a recreational and religious drug. Our father’s use of khat is one reason our parents divorced. Now our mother worries about you.

Ruun was the best sister. Then illness struck.

Every day as I wake up and try to go ahead with my life I think about my middle sister, Ruun, and the pain she goes through each day.

I don’t even know if she is okay because — immobile, unable to speak and confined to her bed — all she does is just look at me with a blank stare. I feel sad because I think I can’t help her in any way.

Ruun, who is 20, was stricken with bacterial meningitis six years ago shortly before our family moved from Nairobi, Kenya, to America. It began as a run-of-the-mill ear infection. But it soon became life-threatening and she was hospitalized.


Teen pregnancy on rise after 15 years of decline

A baby means love.

Dora Rosales, 19, grew up thinking her mother never liked her, much less loved her. Her father died from AIDS and having no where else to go, she turned to the only source of love coming her way – her boyfriend.

Your Turn -- Teens advise the new president on what youth need

September’s Your Turn writing contest asked teens to give their opinion on what the next president could do for American youth. Here is a collection of the advice they have for President Barack Obama.

"Hard Rain" hits hard

On July 20, 1969 at 9:32 in the morning, people across America were looking at television footage of the Apollo 11 astronauts walking on the moon. While that was going on, British photographer Mark Edwards was lost while on assignment in the Sahara Desert.

Edwards was very lucky to be rescued by a Tuareg nomad, who took him back to the nomad’s camp, brought out a cassette player from his hut and played a song by Bob Dylan — “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall.” While listening to the Dylan song about the dangers of nuclear war, Edwards imagined connecting the lyrics and his own photographs of environmental damage to the earth. “I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest…,’’ Dylan sang. “Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten.”

September Your Turn -- essay highlights

Several of September’s essays contained illuminating points about what teenagers care about right now. We liked them so much that we put together a list of their quotes.

I want Barack Obama to open the border for three reasons. First, most of the Latinos want jobs. Second they want a life that Mexico can’t give us. Third, Latinos are not criminals; we just want a better life for our kids such as education, jobs, and things like that. — Luis Pacheco, 14, Harding High School

Teens at Central talk about their clinic

Central Senior High School in Saint Paul has had a sexual reproductive clinic, Health Start, since 1976, said Tonja Schuster, a medical assistant at the clinic. Last year, out of a student body of 2,100 teens, about 1,000 of them visited the clinic, she said. Students at Central share their thoughts on how the clinic at their school affects the student body and the controversy in general about housing clinics in public schools.

Clinic needed to protect students

For the first time in recorded history at Hopkins High School, more than of the twelfth grade students reported being sexually active, according to the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey.

Hopkins puts clinic on hold

Tension is building at Hopkins High School after the recent postponement of a decision by the school board on whether or not to house a satellite of a reproductive health clinic at the school.

“Last winter, I worked closely with West Suburban Teen Clinic and would refer students to them. They did a survey about wanting the clinic to be more accessible and that’s when the light bulb popped into my head. If you can’t get the kids to the service why not bring the service to the kids,” said Bobbi Pointer, a registered nurse and the licensed school nurse of Hopkins High School.

In May, the school board received a proposal from Pointer along with other district staff to implement a teen clinic in the high school. This proposal came shortly after the results of the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey showed 53 percent of male seniors and 50 percent of female seniors reported being sexually active.

But, in August, the Hopkins school board was confronted by a handful of people who protested against the installation of a clinic in the high school and shortly after these meetings the clinic was suspended.


Clinic would be message of low expectations for teens

Allowing a teen clinic to operate inside a school only promotes sex to teenagers, and it becomes almost expected that women in school will be sexually active. Allowing a teen clinic to operate inside a school only promotes sex to teenagers, and it becomes almost expected that women in school will be sexually active.

Bike sharing at RNC a success

As the RNC packed its banners, balloons and giant TV screen and headed out of town, the Freewheelin bike-sharing program piloted at the political conventions in Denver and St. Paul reported terrific success.

The program is a joint operation between Humana, one of the nation’s largest public health benefits companies, and Bikes Belong, a bike advocacy organization that works to help programs that get people on bikes.

Freewheelin aims to cut down American obesity levels and the nation’s carbon foot print, according to a press release.
With a total of 7,523 rentals, riders pedaled 41,724 miles — 15,141 of these miles in the Twin Cities — burned a total of almost 1.3 million calories, and reduced their carbon footprint by 14.6 metric tons.

Young voters stress economy, Iraq and health care

Andrew Korte, 21, sat on the steps outside of the library at the University of St. Thomas one recent afternoon, snacking on a sandwich along with his friend Jeremy Leavell. Leavell, 21, is also a student at St. Thomas. Like most young people around the nation, Korte is uncertain what the future has in store for him.

“There’s going to be a lot of students coming out of school looking for jobs, and they’re going to be more concerned about whether or not the jobs are going to be there,” said Korte.

He’s not alone. As the nation gears up for the November Presidential election, young Minnesota voters are voicing concerns about the economy, the Iraq war and education costs.

Catalyst mobilizes teens against tobacco

ThreeSixty reporter Ariel Kendall interviewed Andy Berndt, program director of Catalyst — a Minnesota program that encourages teens to become activists in the fight against tobacco. Here’s an excerpt from their e-mail interview.


Smoking ambushes my brother

I looked outside the fogged window one cold winter afternoon to see my 15-year-old brother smoking a cigarette. I couldn’t believe it. Was this the same kid who got upset when our father smoked, who told Mom “I don’t want to be around that”?

My Dad started smoking when he was seven. It was his way to relax and rebel. Now he’s so dependent he’d rather have cigarettes than food. And you can tell. His voice is deep and raspy and he coughs a lot. The smell, ashes and burn marks are everywhere.

I don’t want my brother to turn out like that. Then I noticed that all his friends were smoking, too. In fact, when they’re skateboarding in the street, rolling past one another with ease and showing off their new tricks, they also pass along a cigarette.

Brighter than white

Weeks before her big date, 22-year-old Gigi Burt was still restless. She bought a new outfit, got her hair done, and most importantly, whitened her teeth. Hoping to restore the radiance in her smile, whitening her teeth was the last step in achieving what advertisers call the “all-American” appearance.

According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the number of bleaching procedures cosmetic dentists have performed has soared by 50 percent for the past three years. Fueled in part by aggressive marketing, this trend toward teeth whitening has a new generation of young people craving the next beauty fix- turning whitening into the newest, easiest, and sometimes cheapest cosmetic fad.

Teens rush to whiten their smiles

When 17-year-old high school junior Mahyar Sorour began whitening her teeth with Crest Whitestrips, it was because her orthodontist recommended it after braces. However, as time went by, she admits that it has become much more.

“Whitening my teeth was so easy and fast, I couldn’t stop!” she said. “And the best thing about it is that I can use it whenever I feel like my smile needs some brightening. Even though I [whiten my teeth] a lot, I still like to make them stand out for special occasions. It really is a confidence booster.”

Facing and fighting the stereotype

Native American stereotypes have affected my life, negatively and positively. The most important and perhaps the most offensive stereotypes are of the “drunk Indian” and of Indians as drug users. And some people refer to us as “wagon burners.”

Growing up, I ‘ve been surrounded by the often harsh interplay between stereotype and reality. Some of my family could easily be classified as stereotypical Native Americans, being aggressive drunks.

However, that stereotype has motivated me to follow a different path. I did a little research and found that Native Americans have one of the highest incidences of chronic alcoholism.

Juno keeps it real and serious

Juno is set in the ever-changing seasons of Minnesota and follows teenage Juno (Ellen Page) throughout her nine months of pregnancy and the choices she makes. Everything about this film was perfect, the script, the actors, even the, attitudes of the actors. Juno’s persistent jokes give the film a light-heartedness. She is familiar, like a friend. Although strong and clear about what she wants, she faces problems that she has no control over. The film is set in Minnesota reminding everyone that unplanned pregnancies do happen. Juno just adds a funny twist to make.

How often do you drink?

Q & A with Hazelden Expert

Jim Steinhagen, executive director of Hazelden Youth Services and the Center for Youth and Families offers his insight on what teens should know about drinking and recovery from chemical dependency.

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