Student voices: Can clothes identify you?

By Lauryn Williams | Urban Agenda

Clothes are an essential part of life, without your clothes some would say that it’s almost the same as losing your identity. For some their clothes are more than just pieces of fabric, they express their personality and offer a sense of identity.

There are many different types of clothing: pants, shirts, shorts, leggings, sweaters etc.

That’s not all. There are thousands of stores and brands to choose from, where you can get all of these clothes.
Stores like Abercrombie, American Eagle, Nordstrom, Forever 21. and H&M– are just a handful of stores people that are around my age shop to buy the clothes.
Different personalities will be attracted to different stores that sell clothes that will appeal to people with different personalities.

After getting new clothes, the feeling I have is indescribable. It’s like a rush of confidence. Knowing that I have a new fresh pair of jeans or a new shirt to wear out or even just to put in my closet and save for a special day gives me a great feeling.

Often when someone is walking around, the first thing people notice when they see them is the clothes that they are wearing and for some that can be very nerve-racking.

Many people, especially girls, like to dress nicely and wear name brand clothes. This could be because those people who notice what they’re wearing will recognize the name brands and think more highly of them.

In order to wear the name brand clothes, you have to have name brand money and for many they are not that fortunate. So for those who do not have access to all name brand clothes they must get their clothes somewhere else.

Many teenagers want to feel like they fit in with their peers and they might think that by not having those brands, that they are not cool or unpopular.

My advice for someone who might feel this way is to wear the clothes and not let the clothes wear you.
Just because your clothes are super expensive doesn’t mean that you are any less important. So, not only do clothes give people a sense of self but they can also make someone feel like they are less important than those around them.

For many, clothes aren’t just something you wear, they are your passion. For fashion designers and models they have created careers out of designing and wearing clothes. Something that is so simple, in theory, has been used by many to fulfill their dreams.

(Lauryn Williams is a rising junior at Avonworth High School, which is just North of Pittsburgh, PA. This is her first year as a student in the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop.)

Growing homelessness problem in America includes more children

By Avery McCoy | Urban Agenda

Throughout the U.S. homelessness continues to be a national problem. Thirty-five percent of the United States homeless population consists of families with children, which is the fastest growing segment.

“The street homeless are generally men between the ages of 27 and 60,” said Anne Kangaroo, who is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In Pittsburgh, there are at least 128 shelters that help women, men and teenagers overcome their situations because they’re are homeless in the city that most of us call home.

“Each year Allegheny County participates in the Point in Time survey where we attempt to count all homeless people in the county. In January 2013, a total number of 1,492 homeless people were counted. Of those 1,492 people, 398 were children,” said Brandi Harrison, director at the Wood Street Commons shelter.

A person who is homeless does not have a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. Three and a half million people were forced to sleep in parks, under bridges, in shelter or cars.

Homelessness disproportionately affects people of color, with more than 80 percent African- American. About 15 percent of homeless are white.

The leading cause for homelessness is people getting laid off from work. If someone doesn’t have a stable income, it is very hard for them to get by, according to the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness website.

Lack of affordable housing is another cause of homelessness. The cost of housing in the United States is increasing while the minimum wage has not increased in four years. Cuts in Section 8, federal assistance for housing programs and social services, have coincided with the rise of homelessness in the U.S.

Some people may become homeless due to a drug or alcohol problem. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 20 percent of the homeless population suffers from some form of mental illness.

People, such as women who are trying to escape domestic violence, mental, physical, or emotional abuse tend to become homeless. They usually live in homeless shelters until they find a safe place that they can live in.

(Avery McCoy is a rising junior at Oakland Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, PA. This is her first year in the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop.)

Student voices: Who lives a ‘normal’ life?

By Jasmine Beltran | Urban Agenda

I do not believe anyone lives a ‘normal’ life.

People may do normal things such as, go to work, eat, shower, play sports, or walk their dogs, but everyone has their own unique life.

Celebrities may think dealing with paparazzi, having a hair stylist, talking on T.V., etc. is normal, but people who live in middle class, struggling to pay for college, may think otherwise.

I believe I do things a normal teenage girl usually does.

For example, I am a cheerleader at Woodland Hills High School. I like pink; I hang out with my friends; etc. Although I do those things, my life situation may differ from others. Uniquely, I grew up with two deaf parents that live in two different states.

I communicate with my parents through sign language, texting, and video chat.

Though my mother is deaf, we still argue like normal mothers and teenage daughters do. My parents still live ‘normal’ lives although they have a disability. They drive, go to work, buy groceries, and order take-out.

Growing up with deaf parents can be very cool and very frustrating, all in the same.

Talking with my parents in sign language seems normal to me, but eyes seemed to be glued to us, while we discuss anything in public.

I will never know the true sound of my parent’s voice but that’s what makes it so unique.

As I got older, I’ve learned to appreciate my situation and the talents that I’ve gained from it.

I have, because it can benefit me in many ways. I will always know how to do something that not many others know.

It’s important to learn to make the best out of your situation. Always.


(Jasmine Beltran is a rising junior at Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh, PA. This is her first year as a student in the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop.)

Quality the main factor when pricing clothes

By Avery McCoy | Urban Agenda

Have you ever wondered why a Burberry shirt can cost as much as $1,095 while Walmart sells shirts for $10 or less?

“There are many reasons why one brand or company sells its items for a much higher price than the others,” according to LaMont Jones, an award-winning fashion critic and four-time judge of the council of Fashion Designers of America Awards.

Burberry is a classic luxury brand that has been around for more than 150 years. The British fashion house uses a fine material called gabardine — a smooth, durable twill-woven cloth, typically of worsted or cotton — in its famous trench coats that cost as much as $2,895.

Compare that to Walmart, a national chain that buys much of its goods from overseas factories and sells them at low prices. The fact is, in most cases, “location affects price,” Jones said.

Burberry has manufacturers in China, and Walmart has factories in Bangladesh.

“If labor is cheaper in Mexico than New York, the maker can afford to sell the item for less” Jones said.

Although cost isn’t necessarily a reflection of the value of an item, it is up to the consumer to read the labels, he said. They need to do their research to be a knowledgeable shopper.

In that case, quality speaks volumes for the high-end brands. The durability of the weave, quality of cotton, and material would be much softer.

“A Burberry shirt should look better, feel better and last longer than a similar shirt from Walmart,” Jones said.
Consumers steer pricing.

The brand will charge as high as customers are willing to pay. It’s the typical supply-and-demand aspect of economics.

If consumers start backing off, then the company will drop the prices.

“When you buy luxury, you’re paying for the superior quality that is supposed to be behind the name,” Jones said. “I remember once during New York Fashion Week and stopping by the Burberry flagship for an event and seeing a $300 dog water dish with the classic Burberry plaid pattern.”

High-end companies have continued to please consumers for many years. This could be why some people do not mind spending hundreds of dollars on a shirt.

“Everyone that loves fashion, loves Burberry,” British athlete Denise Lewis said during an interview in London, in Hyde Park, where Burberry presented the new collection for Autumn Winter 2012/2013.

Years from now, consumers will be able to pull out a Burberry shirt that will then be considered high-end vintage. That same Walmart shirt they bought years ago would probably be falling apart.

“Burberry is a very special brand because of their long and rich history as well as their attention to quality and luxury at every level of creation, production, and distribution,” fashion blogger Kendra Murphy said.

Moderate and high-end department stores such as Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom recognize that companies such as Burberry are trustworthy.

“We stopped just making stuff,” Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts said. “We’ve created a pure brand. That is the essence.”

(Avery McCoy is a rising junior at Oakland Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, PA. This is her first year as a student in the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop.)

Local organizations take on domestic violence

By Tyler Hughes | Urban Agenda

Denise McGill, group home manager of Gwen’s Girls. Photo: Maur'Shea Morgan/Urban Agenda

Denise McGill, group home manager of Gwen’s Girls. Photo: Maur’Shea Morgan/Urban Agenda

“Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults,” according to Safe Horizon, an organization that provides services for victims of domestic violence.

According to Denise McGill, group home manager at Gwen’s Girls, domestic violence is a large problem in the United States. The most prevalent forms of domestic violence are emotional and physical.

Ms. McGill believes living in high poverty areas where resources aren’t plentiful is one reason people face anger and violence in their homes. She also believes the people they meet in those environments expose them to more negativity.

Ms. McGill is responsible for the staff and the compliance of the girls.

“My biggest responsibility is keeping everyone safe,” she said.

Gwen’s Girls is a nonprofit agency with two locations in Pittsburgh. Ms. McGill is proud of the job that she does and likes to help better the lives of young women.

A particular success story that stood out to Ms. McGill was of a 17-year-old girl who struggled with her child’s health problems and teen motherhood, and was a victim of domestic violence.

“Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates” — 30 to 60 percent, according to Safe Horizon.

The site also notes that most domestic violence incidents are never reported.

The young woman’s child was underdeveloped at the time of his birth and had health complications.

The girl was also behind on schoolwork and had failed grades more than once.

The young woman was able to overcome all of her obstacles. Her son was put into health services and he started to develop better. The young woman graduated from high school and eventually went on to college later in her life. Ms. McGill found this to be the best story that she has witnessed in her career so far.

But there are also some stories of regression after the young women are too old to live in the group home at 21 years old.

“People are creatures of habit,” Ms. McGill said, meaning that some people regress to their old ways if put back into the environment they wanted to escape from.

Gwen’s Girls does not let clients return to group homes; instead, they provide support for the girls by helping them find a way to get by, often referring them to other programs.

Domestic violence can also be prevented in communities.

“For domestic violence to end, people have to not be scared to ask for help from others for their safety, mental and emotional state,” Ms. McGill said.

Safe Horizon notes that the best way to stop domestic violence is to “help change the facts. Speak up, speak out and make a difference for victims of domestic violence.”

(Tyler Hughes is a rising junior at City Charter High School in Pittsburgh, PA. This is his first year as a student in the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop.)

Generations debate role of technology

By Tori Sims | Urban Agenda

The youths of modern society have made TVs, iPhones and tablets their gods.

“My iPhone is my everything. I put my personal business on there. I also save contacts and make to-do lists,” said Reggie Franklin, 18, who is petrified when he can’t find his phone.

Jean Dyer is from an older generation. She was raised on a farm in Virginia where everything was done by hand. She said technology was not even heard of in her time. “In school, we were not educated about machines and calculators,” she said.

Technology is becoming increasingly complex. There are difficult instructions to follow, software is often being upgraded and most technology has system failures.

“I had challenges. I didn’t have all the technology like the children now,” Dyer said. “I had to go to the library because the computer didn’t have the sources it does now. The TV and phones were limited. I played outside all day long and interacted with the other children.”

There are too many children today fighting over what was said over the Internet.”

As a result, she thinks social skills are getting worse.

Travis Maxwell, 19, said that many young people get too worked up in technology, but he has another viewpoint on the situation.

“I can’t work without my phone and plus it’s for emergencies,” he said.

But he also agrees that social media is causing a problem in our social lives.

Dyer didn’t have calculators. She had to go to the library and read books to do a paper. Now, the Internet provides sites where you can pay for some- one to write your paper. The younger generation thinks that what they do is work, but back in the day, activities took more thought and strategy.

People have become more dependent on new technology, according to, a web- site where people share their opinions on different debate questions. More than half of the respondents said they think technology could cause problems, such as decreasing social skills, and not challenging the brain.

(Tori Sims is a rising senior at Parkview High School in Little Rock, AR. This is her first year as a student in the Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop.)

Photo feature: Remarkable March.

By D’Anna Anderson | Urban Agenda


Police officers from different states participate in a memorial march for fallen officers Wednesday in Homewood. The visiting marchers are with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, which held its national conference in Pittsburgh this week.

Police officers from different states participate in a memorial march for fallen officers Wednesday in Homewood. The visiting marchers are with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, which held its national conference in Pittsburgh this week. Photo: D’Anna Anderson/Urban Agenda.

(D’Anna Anderson is a rising senior at City Charter High School in Pittsburgh, PA. This is her first year as a student in the Frank Bolden Workshop.)