Please, Don’t Choose Ignorance

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The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, July 7, 2019 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Lyrah Panarigan, Moanalua High School, Class of 2020

I remember seeing a poster in my pediatrician's office that read, “Vaccines hurt, but not as much as these diseases do.” What followed directly below was a horrifying collage of viruses. The images, now ingrained in my mind, kept me glued to my chair to take a 2-second pinch, ultimately reducing and preventing possible diseases. With the rise of the anti-vaccination movement and the skepticism surrounding vaccinations, it is important to not be ignorant. 

“Ignorance is strength” was the mandate screamed in the world of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. In 1984 and 2019, people choose to be blind to the truth and suffer the consequences because of lies. Orwell’s wake-up call applies to us in 2019, and being ignorant caused us more weakness than strength. 

HIV, AIDS, SARS, Zika, Ebola and now measles. Time and time again we encountered such outbreaks, and time and time again our society could have ended these epidemics. The anti-vaccination movement is the result of ignoring the problem, and we can only blame ourselves for the new outbreaks.

The federal government only took notice of the widespread dilemma the moment it emerged as a threat to the population. They demanded vaccinations but hesitated  due to religious and false reasonings, such as the prospect of autism noted by anti-vaccination activist and gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield. Although the government encourages vaccinations, there is no set protocol in addressing those who are against taking them. 

To the U.S government, please, do not be ignorant. Prioritize our health because saving a life is crucial. Encourage people to protect themselves in order to protect others. Raise awareness about these diseases, how to prevent them, and how ‘herd immunity’ works: as more people get immunized, the more unlikely it will be for diseases to spread and outbreaks to occur. As for those who cannot receive vaccines due to medical issues, encourage them to check with their physicians on a regular basis for possible diseases or infections. Focus on fixing what can be fixed and what will benefit our people rather than harm them. This government was created by the people, for the people, and taking smaller resolutions brings us closer to solving the big issue and saving millions of lives. 

Parents, please, do not be ignorant. Currently, some parents are refusing vaccinations in wake of the growing spread of measles domestically. It is admirable to be a parent and to stand up for what they believe is right for their child. However, a parent actively harms their child by turning them away from the needle. This time, it will not be the child that cries from the pinch, but it will be the parent that cries from regret. 

In April of this year, the Center of Disease Control reported 704 documented cases of measles in the United States, the highest number of reported cases since the record breaking 963 during 1994. Of those 704 cases, 71% were identified to be unvaccinated individuals. Parents cannot let their child be part of this statistic. Every child deserves to live a long, healthy life. Regardless of religion, you are a member of a larger society. My parents have taught me to think about others, and it is in the best efforts of wanting our society to be immunized.

The world is connected in more ways today compared to the decades in the past. As advances in almost every industry rise, the awareness for many other issues rise as well. In raising efforts in one thing, it is affected by another. Social media was powerful enough to raise awareness about diseases, yet it was also powerful to instigate false claims made about vaccines. All these issues, fake news, and controversies result in overwhelming feelings for everyone. Ignorance should not be one. 

Lessons from a graduate: Expand your horizons

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The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, June 2, 2019 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.

By: Mina Gusukuma, Kalani High School, Class of 2019

In the midst of the many ceremonies for the thousands of high school graduates, it is fitting to reflect on the experiences that have proved pivotal in my formative years. Knowing what I know now, I would urge my freshman self to become involved with everything I find remotely interesting and to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Clubs, sports, and extracurricular activities are part of that. Experiences like Key Club, leadership classes, and conventions have all played a major role shaping who I want to become - a student that is excited and enthused for her future endeavours.

Kalani’s Key Club taught me to be grounded and humble in every situation. I’ll miss the dedication of getting up at 3 a.m. to volunteer at the Honolulu Marathon and seeing the pride of the runners after finally hitting the finish line. Participating in fundraisers and raising money for things that the we needed had created a newfound appreciation for our earnings. Setting up Halloween games for the children at Aina Haina Elementary School was a great experience that helped me to discover how much I enjoyed entertaining and working with kids. I wouldn't know how much volunteering is needed if I’d never took a chance.

In my freshman year, I was approached by my photography teacher to help photograph the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress held at the Convention Center. It was easily one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life. It was amazing to meet leaders from around the globe and witness them working together towards the common goal of protecting our only home. I was taught to appreciate sustainability and the science behind keeping a healthy planet.

It was through the networking of my leadership class, known as Center For Tomorrow's Leaders, that I was contacted by the project assistant of the annual Gals with Lei Forum. I was incredibly honored to be asked to sit on a panel with four accomplished, distinguished women. I’d just turned seventeen when I spoke at the conference and was easily the youngest person on the panel. Although I was yet to do some of the amazing, wonderful things that these women had done, I shared with the audience what little but meaningful things I had learned by just doing my best to be a well-rounded person. I explained the insight that I had gained from balancing school, two jobs, and my family and friends while trying to also figure out my passions. I felt confident speaking to the audience. There was a sense of relief knowing that these people were not there to judge me but chose to listen to what I had to say.

I know, if presented the opportunity, more students and youth could contribute their thoughts and experiences. This is why I'll always urge students to get involved in any way they can. Writing in a column like this is an experience I wish was given to every high school student, as it gives a voice and credible platform for difficult, yet needed conversations. It is crucial that both youth and adults share their input and work towards creating a better understanding of our shared society. The way that things are looking now, Hawai’i may need to make space for the positive change that our youth will bring because we are more accomplished than we've ever been.