Child Soldiers by Jason H. Curcio

Dear Reader,

You may be familiar with child soldiers being notorious for having been drafted, or volunteering, at a very young age. Their actions will depend on their childhood, depending on whether or not they had a hard time when they were young. As you may know, child soldiers are often seen as perpetrators. While that may be true for some cases, it is unfair for all of them to be seen as perpetrators even if some are innocent. It is really hard to generalize what child soldiers should be seen as, which is why it is good to have a middle ground. I am aware of your leadership in this country, which is why I want to request that a law is made for child soldiers which states that they should be given amnesty as long as they show remorse, and/or are under the age of 13. These two requirements create a middle ground and a fair trial for these children.

The parameters I’ve given should be enforced during the process of deciding whether or not a child is a perpetrator or innocent. Showing remorse is a good way reason to give a child amnesty because it shows that they know what they did was not good, and could be put through. a rehabilitation process. Some may think that showing remorse isn’t the right way of deciding because the children could easily lie, and get out of being prosecuted. This argument is illogical because lie detectors can be easily used to show the real truth behind a child’s words. If the child is not lying then they should be given amnesty and taken through a rehabilitation process. On the other hand, if they are lying then they should be prosecuted and given consequences. This method will ensure that the decisions made by the trial aren’t falsified. One case of a child not showing regret is when they enjoy killing. Emmanuel Jal is a child soldier, and has grown up knowing that killing is the right thing to do. He once said, “…In five years as a fighting boy, what was in my heart was to kill as many Muslims as possible.” This is obvious that he doesn’t mind killing at all, and shows little to no regret in his actions.

Another point of view that one could make would be that child soldiers are being forced into this war. An article on child soldiers uses a quote that talks about these children being pushed into fighting without their consent. The reporter says, “…and are pushed by their adult commanders into perpetrating atrocities.” A good point was made on this quote which was that these children aren’t looking at the bigger picture when committing these crimes. They aren’t thinking about the victims of their actions. If they are not prosecuted, then they will be standing right by more potential victims. It is important to acknowledge that child soldiers have to be looked at individually, or else the guidelines of prosecution could be too general for the individual case. Looking at each case will extend the amount of time needed to make a decision, and can drag out the process. This is inefficient and time consuming which is not the right choice assuming there are a lot of child soldiers cases.

A child’s age can directly affect their actions, especially if they are young. One of the reasons being that they are very easily manipulated, and controlled when it comes to receiving orders. This makes them the perfect target for commanders because they know that the children will follow their orders. Ultimately these children have been taken away from their childhood which makes it easier to understand why they may be willing to fight. They are angry that their parents were left them or were killed, which makes it so that they can use that anger to kill other people.

To sum it up, I think child soldiers should be given amnesty, only under certain circumstances. It doesn’t make sense to prosecute a child that is 9 years old and was grown up knowing that killing should be rewarded. It simply isn’t the child’s fault if they don’t know the consequences of their actions. In every way, child soldiers are wrong to recruit, which is why it is so important that they are given a fair chance of showing they can function as a member of society. Being a citizen and knowing that there are potentially dangerous child soldiers all around you, is a scary thought.


Jason H. Curcio

Child Soldiers Should Not Receive Amnesty by Seb

Dear General Public:

Child soldiers are being used more and more in recent wars. In many war-stricken, third-world countries, children volunteer to fight in deadly wars, often choosing to kill their own family to be accepted. It is my position that child soldiers captured by the U.S. should not be given amnesty, official pardon for people who have been convicted of political offense for the crimes they commit.
First of all, child soldiers are the same thing as child criminals. Child criminals are never given amnesty for the crimes they commit, so child soldiers shouldn’t be given amnesty either. To add on to that, child soldiers often commit crimes far worse than those committed by child criminals. Some may think that child soldiers should receive total amnesty because of their young age, but it turns out many soldiers know what they are doing when they go to the military looking to be signed. Child soldiers take lives, including the lives of people in their own family, and should be punished for it.
Giving child soldiers pardon would also be denying victims and their families justice. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) in Article 3 “[e]veryone has the right to… security of person.” This means anyone that violates someone’s security of person is considered a criminal under law, and should be prosecuted. Later in the UDHR, in Article 6, it states “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere before the law,” meaning that no matter who they were hurt or killed by, a victim still has the right to try anyone who committed a crime against them no matter who they are.
Finally, child soldiers should not be given amnesty before the law because if they are pardoned, will then begin to participate in worse crimes. When child soldiers begin to be not punished by the law for the crimes they commit, the military commanders will begin using them for the worst and most dangerous missions because the children won’t get punished. As stated by Stephen Leahy in the article “Prosecuting Child Soldiers For Their Own Safety,” not “prosecuting child perpetrators could indirectly expose child soldiers to greater risks, since military commanders might delegate the “dirtiest” orders to children because of their immunity from prosecution”. This will force children into positions that are worse than the ones many are currently kill, and will likely result in more deaths of both enemy troops and children, something that is negative.
All of this information proves that child soldiers should not be given amnesty for their own safety. If they aren’t they will be forced into positions that are worse than the ones they are already being put into. Giving captured child soldiers amnesty would also mean putting them out into the U.S., which could lead to terror attacks or the radicalization of other residents. It will also deny victims of the child soldiers justice, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Child soldiers must not be given amnesty in order to protect them, and protect the american people. Thank you for reading my essay on this highly controversial topic.


Sebastian Solòrzano

Sebastian Solòrzano

Should Child Soldiers Receive Amnesty? by SL. GG

Dear Reader:

The issue of child soldiers is one surrounded by controversy. The question of whether the government should provide child soldiers with amnesty is widely disputed. Many believe that only children within a certain age range, or only from a few countries, etc, should receive amnesty. However, although these are valid points and worthy of discussion, it is far more reasonable to state that child soldiers should receive amnesty provided that they are fully rehabilitated. Child soldiers deserve rehabilitation because their actions are not their fault, they are underage, and they are brainwashed in order to be forced to commit acts of violence.
The first step in recognizing the need for amnesty is that the acts of violence committed by child soldiers are not the fault of the child soldiers. To begin with, many child soldiers are forced into wars or violence against their wills. Jeffrey Gettleman’s article Armed & Underage notes how in some cases “hunger and poverty drive[s] parents to sell their children into service.” The same article also presents the fact that, in the case of Myanmar, “thousands of boys, some as young as ten, are purchased, kidnapped, or tortured into joining [Myanmar’s] army.” Other children go to army bases expecting a safe haven from the war and violence that is ravaging their villages and towns. Instead of finding safety, they are drafted and unable to leave for fear of being tortured or killed by their commanders. According to former child soldier and now activist Ishmael Beah, the life of a child soldier is that “you go out, you shoot people, … you do whatever the commander wants you to do — if not, they will kill you. And then you’re fed drugs… there’s always ways of killing people in front of you to desensitize you — you’re given more drugs after that. You watch…films as just a way to keep you in this madness.” In the midst of this numbed horror, the child soldiers are sent out to fight, placing them in a kill or be killed situation. One hesitation, one life spared, could mean death for a child soldier, brought upon them either by the person they were supposed to kill, or by their commander.
There are many who would say that the age of a child soldier is irrelevant when it comes to granting them amnesty; everyone chooses their own actions, and everyone should be held accountable for their choices. In the case of child soldiers, however, although there are some who manage to escape from the violence, the majority of child soldiers are unable to do this for a multitude of reasons. To begin with, child soldiers are unable to fight back against the people commanding them. The commanders are in a position of power, whereas the children are soldiers — easily punished and easily replaceable. If they disobey, fight back, or try and fail to escape, there is every chance that they will be killed. We cannot possibly expect every child soldier to even attempt to escape with the odds backed up so high against them. Alongside this, child soldiers are not necessarily mature or developed enough to formulate or implement complex and successful escape plans. Child soldiers, here referring to children under the age of 20, are not old enough to do so. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “[t]he rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until he or she is 25 years old or so.” Children are simply not capable of making life altering decisions, primarily decisions that result in life or death. Their brains are not developed enough to do so. Child soldiers are not old enough to be reasonably held accountable for their actions, particularly when under the threat of death for disobedience.
Even if a child soldier was mentally capable of formulating a suitable escape plan, chances are that prolonged exposure to violence and drugs, combined with the loss of their family would keep the child from implementing their potential plan. It is also the case that after having lost their safety, security, and family, children “want to belong to something, especially if they live in a society that has collapsed completely. Their communities are broken down, they want to belong to anything slightly organized and these groups become that.” This testimony was given by former child soldier Ishmael Beah, now an author and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Ishmael Beah stated in an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos that “this [violent/military] group, in a weird way, sort of becomes your surrogate family, you begin to look up to the commander as a father figure because you’ve lost everything dear to you. ” Children end up transferring feelings of attachment and safety that would otherwise go to their parents to the figures in their lives with authority and who provide them with food and shelter; the very same commanders that have the power to kill the child soldiers for disobedience or cowardice. This attachment that many child soldiers feel towards their commanders can provide another incentive to obey.
Brainwashing can not only create a feeling of attachment towards those in power, it can also cause child soldiers to enjoy the violence they are witnessing/inflicting. In Somalia, where “[m]ost children have never been in a classroom or played in a park,” 12 year old Awil Osman is a member of Somalia’s military. When asked by what he enjoys, he responded “’What do I enjoy?’” Awil asks. ‘I enjoy the gun.’” This enjoyment of violence can often be mistaken for menacing, unstable, or even terroristic. Although it is certainly easy to see why quotes like these would be interpreted thus, it is imperative to remember that even the most toxic mindset can be unlearned to some extent. Although children like Awil may never be completely free of these thoughts and feelings, through sufficient therapy and rehabilitation they may be able to recognize that pro-violence mindsets are dangerous and a direct result of the trauma they experienced. Brainwashing must be reversed so that child soldiers are no longer a danger to their communities. The effects can be reversible. Former child soldiers like Sierra Leonean Ishmael Beah are living proof of that.
It is evident that rehabilitation is key to allowing child soldiers to reenter society as functioning members of the community. Once brainwashing and programing has been lessened and/or undone, child soldiers are able to see and process the negative effects of their actions. They are able to realize that their actions were harmful and not to be repeated. Eventually, child soldiers can be integrated into society without fear that they will be a danger to themselves or the community. Providing child soldiers with rehabilitation and amnesty provides an opportunity to recover and have a new life. A brilliant example of how child soldiers can be constructive to society is author Ishmael Beah, to whom I have made references above. Beah is a former child soldier who was rescued by UNICEF and rehabilitated. He has used his experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone to spread awareness about child soldiers, violence, and the necessity of rehabilitation. Beah has used and continues to use his own trauma and recovery as a way to spread awareness about a topic that many consider uncomfortable. All things considered, child soldiers have a right to amnesty on the grounds that they will be provided adequate rehabilitation and therapy. As I have made clear, child soldiers deserve rehab because they are victims of war, have undergone brainwashing and trauma, and are simply not old enough to be prosecuted or denied amnesty for their actions.

Suicide in Youth by DC13

“It’s just a phase.” What parents don’t realize is how much pain a person has to be in for them to think that their only option is to take their own life. Suicide is not a joke. What are we doing wrong as a society to make it so that over 5,000 youth lives are lost each year to suicide?
The thing that a lot of teens aren’t realizing is that suicide is permanent. You can’t come back once everything is better. Once you tie the rope, step off the edge, swallow the pill, pull the trigger, whatever you choose – there’s no going back. You’re gone. Forever.

Suicide is a growing issue in youth that is often pushed aside or overlooked by adults. I personally have had multiple adults tell me that it’s just a phase, or that my feelings and opinions aren’t real because of my age. I took a poll of everyone in class 8B to see how many people had had adults tell them that what they were feeling wasn’t legitimate because of their age. Out of the 23 people that were in the class that day, 13 of them said that this happened to them regularly. This means that over half of the class has been told that because they are teenagers, that they can’t possibly feel a certain way, or that it’s “just a phase.”

Warning signs are pushed aside and ignored because we’re ‘too young to have feelings like that’ The Jason foundation said that : “4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.” Adults have simply neglected to admit that these are real problems, therefore leading to teens not getting the help that they need.

An 8th grader at Bullis Charter School who would prefer to stay anonymous said:
“I knew I needed help but I didn’t know how to ask. It made it worse when my parents didn’t say anything about the cuts and burns on my arms. It was like they didn’t notice or care. My step mom had told me multiple times before that I needed to ‘toughen up’. “

If someone has the courage to speak up and ask for help, we should encourage and support them. Not tell them that they’re too young to be able to feel that way.

Pushing away problems and pretending they don’t exist only makes it worse. Teens today are too focused on hiding cuts and self harm from their parents because they are scared of the negative response that they will get rather than the help that they need. Teens should be focused on being teens, not the best way to kill themselves.

I Have Been There Too (Just Not in the Way You Think) by M. Kaz

The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but having new eyes.
— Marcel Proust

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-8-08-03-pmThe night air was smoky and smelled of pineapples and pollution. A steady stream of Bullis eighth graders trailed out of the bus, as they grabbed their luggage and chatted about what would come next. They were excited for dinner when they finally saw the two decker bus at the airport, patiently waiting for them. Finally, actual food. After their first taste of local cuisine, they finally drove to the hotel. The drive had been interesting, towering buildings with flashing neon lights illuminating the night sky. Some students sat staring at the city in complete awe, while others rolled their eyes as if saying Where have you been? It was almost 8:00 pm when we had finally gotten to the hotel. I tried to tell the bus driver to get that big black luggage in the corner but the ongoing talking was too loud for any words to be actually understood. Despite the jet lag from the long-haul flight, everyone on the trip was eager for the next two weeks of activities. However, most students were hesitant about what comes next. Although some had been to China multiple times, it was the first time that all students have been to the southern western part of the country. Would this trip leave them with a good impression or a bad one? How will it affect their future?

Over the course of our brief stay, I’ve learned several things (yes, education was what the trip was actually based on) about taking care of myself, embracing new culture, and most importantly, about each other and ourselves. These lessons came from the chances we got to visit local landmarks to keeping a good hygiene(trust me, I swear some people didn’t shower for 3 nights straight in the dorms) to visiting local schools and gossiping with our local buddies. We weren’t merely tourists in a foreign land, we were travelers seeking for more. As residents of the Silicon Valley, we were constantly pressured to be the best. We traded a week of studying, of trying to get ahead of others, for this. It was organized and well planned yet crazy and raw at some times. Was it worth it? Definitely.

Chengdu was like a bowl of mapo tofu laden with spices of all sorts (it was also literally a bowl, since Chengdu was located in a large valley), waiting for us to stumble on and give it a taste. Since the start of capitalism in China, the economy has boomed, providing many companies a new chance. We could already start to see the beneficial change occurring in Szechuan(but my buddy did say that the value of the yuan was decreasing and the stock market was crashing. I was like, geez, thanks for ruining my mood). The streets were a blend of new and old; old architecture and new stores and businesses. Many of our student buddies at DFLES (Dujiangyan Foreign Language Experimental School) had siblings less than a year old since the One-Child Policy was recently abolished last year.

“Oh no, we’re too old.” My buddy’s mom replied when I asked if they were planning to have more kids. “Abby’s already in middle school. The age gap would be too large.”

Living in the dorms was also a valuable experience for many of us. They were less luxurious than our rooms in the 5-star Howard Johnson, but the staff at the school made sure our stay was comfortable by supplying us with layers of blankets and sheets. The rooms were sparsely furnished-except for the bunkbeds lining the walls, which served as an opportunity for some to let’s dump our luggage out all over the floor! Each room would bring back its own special moments with them back to good ol’ (actually sunny) Cali. In the dorm I stayed at which I shared with 6 other girls, there were late night whispers after lights out, hardships discussed, dashes between rooms, the sesame and ginger drugs, and oh yes, the Bottle Shrine. I’ll admit it now-we were a little crazy, just a little out of control during that short span of free time before lights out.

And finally, I’ll conclude with a little tribute to our buddies at DFLES (I know, I’ve mentioned them multiple times already) and the locals that accompanied us. Thanks, 刘妷威. Even though it was extremely awkward for us at first (me trying to speak Mandarin and you insisting it was fine to speak English), it was fun to know you more and your obsession with Twilight (Don’t worry, I understand, I’m obsessed with anime and manga). I wish I could also be class president like you. +sighs at my miserable life+ I’ll be waiting for you to visit our school (like a stalker). Thanks to our bus driver, who, despite his constant honking, managed to drive us through traffic quickly. And thank you to Susan and Sugar, who planned the order of activities each day for us. You guys were able to solve anything that came in the way. Thanks Susan, for dealing with us in the dorms. We can be one weird bunch.

On one more final last note, we want to thank the staff and teachers who made this experience possible. As students, we’re really grateful for the memories we’ve made. It was a wonderful, awesome, pfft-I-can’t-find-any-words-to-describe-it-perfectly trip. So thank you. A lot.        

Things to Try and Tips to Remember:

  1. Bring some extra “comfort foods” from home, such as instant noodles or chips. The food at DFLES doesn’t look very exciting, but it tastes great. Still, it’s best to always have some emergency food.
  2. Try the numbing spice. It has this ticklish feeling when you eat and it makes you feel like I dunno…awkward. But you can’t get the real taste until you actually try it. So do it. (They provide a lot of it during lunch at one of the elementary schools.)
  3. The pandas were absolutely ADORABLE. It’s usually crowded at the Panda Base, and it’s difficult to get a good shot. Just push through the crowd, it’s what everyone does. Same goes when you want to take pictures at popular tourist sites.
  4. Buy a calligraphy brush from JinLi Street. This is the biggest decision I regret not doing. The brush hairs are really soft and fluffy, and they’re also really cheap. If you have room in your suitcase, buy a ginormous brush. You use it to paint on the sidewalk with water.
    1. Another thing to buy: Crystal Rice chains. They’re made on site so you actually get to watch the craftsman write on the rice grain with this tiny, miniature, inking tool and insert it into the small crystal. You even get to decide what to write on the grain. In Mandarin though.
  5. Wear your backpack in front of you. It’s called pickpocket prevention. Trust me, once you do it, everyone will want to be like you.                                                                                                     

Children of the Syrian War by Amrita Sangani

Across countries around the world, children laugh, play, and enjoy the frivolous activities of being a kid. However, in war torn countries such as Syria, children are growing up much sooner, many evacuating their homeland to seek safer ground.

Since March 2011, when a civil war erupted in Syria, two million people have begun migrating from Syria to find safety primarily in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. These refugees include one million children. Some, if not most, of these children have lost their families, friends, homes, and schools. In this country, many booms and blasts are heard everyday, hurting innocent children.

Several countries and organizations are trying to help these children regain their strength, both mentally and physically. Dr. Christine Latif, the response manager for Turkey and northern Syria from World Vision stated that the children of Syria have, “experienced more hardship, devastation, and violence than any child should have to in a thousand lifetimes,” ( As a result, several Syrian children are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, and millions have been forced to quit school.

One child refugee, five year old Omran Daqneesh, gained international media attention when an airstrike struck his neighborhood and a photo of him injured and distraught was posted on the internet on August 13, 2016 (New York Times). The photo of him in shock in the back of an orange ambulance has been posted on newspapers all across the world.

A six year old boy, Alex, from New York, decided to write a letter to President Obama on August 21, 2016, asking if he could adopt Omran and make him his brother (Fox News). Situations like these show how much love all the children in Syria are receiving and how there are many efforts to improve the lives of these children.

In his letter, Alex stated what he and his sister Catherine will provide him if the President allows him to adopt Omran. He wrote, “we will give him a family and he will be our brother.” Additionally, he wrote that he will wait for Omran with flags, flowers, and balloons.

Though Alex may not understand that the United States government is not allowing refugees into our country due to controversial security threats, he sure has a heart large enough to support the children of Syria, including Omran.

Omran is not alone. Several other people, including ordinary citizens whom you have probably encountered in your daily lives, have experienced what it is like to be a political refugee. Parthiv Sangani, a father of two girls and husband to Misti Sangani, was one of these people.

When Parthiv was seven years old, he, and the rest of his family, were living in the East African country of Uganda. However, Idi Amin, the president of Uganda, expelled all Indians from Uganda. Each person in his family had to leave the country within 90 days with only one suitcase.

When leaving Uganda, Parthiv had to leave his, “house, school, car, friends, and belongings.” Leaving Uganda was a dangerous journey; as they drove to the border of Kampala, they ran into several checkpoints where armed guards, acting as toy soldiers, searched their car. Several other guards shot the Indians that drove by, but Parthiv was lucky. The Ugandans were blaming the 1% of Indians in the country for every problem that Uganda was facing.

The Sangani family left Uganda to go to Kenya, and Kenya to go to India. In Jamnagar, where Parthiv’s mother’s family grew up in India, he was not able to resume going to school because the only English school in the town was already full, so he had to stay home. Meanwhile, Parthiv’s father, Rashmikant Sangani, got a Visa to the United States where he took foreign doctor tests to see if he could stay, a process which took a year, but allowed for the rest of the Sangani family to move to New York.

In the end, Parthiv had his education disrupted, lived a year without his father, lost all his friends and belongings, but, as a child refugee at age seven, was able to move to the United States. Here, he was united with his father and resumed his education. When Parthiv described what it was like to arrive in the US, Parthiv stated, “It was very nice.” Unfortunately, not all child refugees are as lucky as him.

Malala Yousafzai, a 19 year old who rose to fame after being shot for speaking up for girls education and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, is making an effort to help education for Syrian refugee children since many had to stop attending school like Parthiv.

Since millions of refugee children are no longer attending school, Yousafzai is launching a half a billion dollar campaign to help fund education for these vulnerable children (Cable News Network). According to a study issued by World Vision, the number of Syrian youth in education has plummeted to a 15-year low in the past five years as a result of the war.

Either way, no matter what, people all across the world are trying to help these children who are facing some of the most difficult hardships imaginable. The civil war in Syria has no apparent waning, and though many of these children are losing hope, optimism is spreading.

Many of these children have not seen their families in years. Because of this, the world needs to start acting as a family to these children. The message inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in New York, written by Emma Lazarus, rings true today, accurately reflecting the weight of the Syrian refugee crisis, for children, and adults.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”