Luke Chinman, 17, photographed outside his home in Squirrel Hill. He is a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Pandemic isolation helped me better understand my queer identity

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Social isolation changed the way we communicate. When my family and I began to quarantine last March, shifting my junior year at Taylor Allderdice High School online, suddenly every single social interaction I had was intentional. Every exchange was with someone I knew very well—I wasn’t striking up a conversation with a classmate in the minutes before my physics class would start or running into an old friend inside the Rite Aid down the street from my house. I was only keeping in touch with those closest to me, and, like most people, I wasn’t making an effort to reach out to the people I kind of knew. 

But that distinction, at the time, felt like a drop in the bucket of societal changes brought by the worsening spread of a deadly virus. As the days of quarantine dragged into weeks and then months, it manifested itself in different ways: Some people cut their own bangs, tried their hand at home hair dye, shaved slits in their eyebrows.

Dakota Castro-Jarrett, 17, is a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School. Here he is photographed at Allegheny Commons park, which is near his home in East Allegheny. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

COVID-19 has shown that students like me deserve more of a say in the decisions our schools make

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The recent debacle over a proposal to close six city schools is just the latest in a series of disappointments many of us have been feeling about Pittsburgh Public Schools over this chaotic past year of schooling during the pandemic. I’m a senior at Taylor Allderdice High School and a member of the Northside community. I was among those distressed by the consideration to close these elementary and middle schools.  

The schools under threat include Allegheny 6-8, Arsenal 6-8, Fulton PreK-5, Manchester PreK-8, Miller PreK-5 and Woolslair PreK-5. The proposal also included changing the grade levels that several of the schools teach, like making Minadeo PreK-5 a middle school. Since this idea was first brought up at a Feb.

Teaching can be a ‘joyful slog,’ but during this pandemic, I found myself looking for ‘joyful’

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Teaching is hard work but, when it’s going well, I find it hard to imagine any career more joyful or fulfilling. I have shared both of these realities with a number of student teachers, interns and new colleagues over my years in the classroom. Before March 2020, I would tell anyone who would listen how much I loved my job. It adds great value to my life. Alongside the fulfillment of teaching, I have made intentional choices throughout my career to achieve a healthy work-life balance and have counseled other teachers to do the same, always with the mindset that we need teachers with valuable experience to persist in the profession for the long haul and for the benefit of our students.

In the shadow of the opioid epidemic, how should we care for patients in pain? Reflections after breaking my neck.

I broke my neck four months ago. I fell in my backyard and landed on my head, fracturing my first cervical vertebra in three places and dislocating my first and second vertebrae. Within 24 hours, those vertebrae were fused with surgical screws, rods and spacers, and I woke to a series of frightening, disturbing — and probably entirely typical — hospital encounters. 

To friends, I’ve described my post-surgical hospital care as characterized by “pain mismanagement” — but I don’t think my experience was either unusual or against any rules of in-patient care. Rather, I suspect, it was the result of an attitude that is embedded in for-profit medicine and enhanced by institutionalized suspicion of patients’ accounts of their pain. 

I’ve found myself pondering what it is that drives the scorn many of us notice in medical personnel when it comes to pain care: is it narcophobia, understandably driven by the opioid epidemic, but inappropriately applied? Or is it a dimension of the objectification that is necessary to a model of care driven by profit?

Commentary: Pittsburgh is America’s apartheid city

Like the children in Alex, Black children in my hometown were growing up in one of the nation’s least livable and unequal cities for Black Americans, according to the landmark race and gender equity study published in 2019. At that moment, I had arrived at an uncomfortable truth. Pittsburgh was America's apartheid city, not the nation's most livable city.

As a community health nurse, I know a barrier to health care when I see it. The COVID vaccine signup process is one that can cost lives.

Health systems that prioritize people who are able to go online for hours, hunting for scarce vaccine appointments, are creating barriers for vulnerable people who often have spent most of their lives pressing their noses against the window of a healthcare system that doesn’t seem to care about them.

Toy Slaughter raises a fist during a Black Lives Matter march in Downtown Pittsburgh on Tue., June 16, 2020. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Pittsburgh City Paper)

Misremembering a summer of protest: Comparing the Capitol riot to the racial justice movement cements a false history

Compelling personal stories
told by the people living them. Ever since an insurrectionary mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the racial justice protests of summer 2020 are again a hot topic of discussion — primarily among those seeking to downplay the seriousness of Jan. 6 by asserting, as a supposedly self-evident comparison, that protest violence this summer was worse. We heard this rhetorical move during the impeachment proceedings last week even from the jurors themselves.

(Photo via President Joe Biden's official Instagram @joebiden)

Trump threatened the dignity and safety of Latinos. Biden’s early steps give me hope.

Compelling personal stories
told by the people living them. In 2015, a presidential candidate, who ultimately won the election in 2016, launched his presidential campaign by calling Latinos "criminals, drug dealers, rapists," here to "take your job.” We heard that hateful rhetoric from Donald J. Trump again and again in the course of four years while he was the president. The damage of these hateful words and labels not only affected our local Latino community in Pittsburgh and elsewhere in the United States, but also our neighbors. It divided us in more ways than one. It emboldened those who had these hateful thoughts of Latinos already, and it fed wrong and damaging stereotypes of our community to those who had yet to know us.