Writing-and-Outlining

Pursue Your Passions: Two Sixth Formers share their careers journeys

Following National Careers Week, two Sixth Form students have shared their careers journeys through Barr Beacon School and how, by taking on and seeking out opportunities to explore their career aspirations, they have become more confident about their futures, even in the middle of a pandemic.  

The Summit 

By H Kumar-Mehay, Year 13 

“If my career journey has taught me anything, it would be to make the most out of everything you have and to use it as your own catalyst for more opportunities.” 

I guess I have always had an inkling of what career I wanted to pursue: dentistry. 

That’s right another student wanting a career dedicated to solely ‘helping people’ because of the sheer gratification it brings and the fact that I’ve always had a ‘passion’ for science. Those may sound like cliches for an application form but they are all true for me. I have always liked giving a helping hand to those who need it, even in times where people are completely content, and I’ve spent hours studying science textbooks, whether the articles were strictly relevant or not: from glucoregulation of the pancreas to the counter-current flow systems in fish (it’s more interesting than it sounds).  

Now, although I have been rather dedicated to preparing myself to be a perfect applicant to apply for dental school, I haven’t always had this mind-set. It’s one thing to know what you want right? Do you want to be famous? Rich? Even the next Gemma Collins? To each their own, I guess.  But the point is these are all dreams or aspirations. How many people actually achieve these things? The most important step is actively doing something to make those ‘dreams’ a reality.  

For me, that motivation didn’t always come from within. The catalyst for my motivation wasn’t an epiphany as I was sat in a dental chair or brushing my teeth. It was our school. From Careers Fairs to exam countdowns, it was evident that to get to where I needed to be, it wasn’t going to be handed to me. I would have to work for it and work hard. Every time I asked a university behind their booth in the sports hall ‘What are the requirements for your dentistry course?’ they would throw AAA in my face every time (even if I did cross my fingers they would specify grades that were at least a few grades lower), getting a high score on aptitude tests and what seemed like doing every extracurricular activity under the sun. Being swamped in prospectuses and flicking through their health sciences courses it was pretty evident the work that I was going to put in would be colossal, right?  

At the time, it seemed like I had a mountain to climb with not trekking poles or walking boots softening my journey – and the summit often felt like it wasn’t something I was going to reach. But the more I actively did and said ‘Yes’ to any opportunity that was given to me, big or small, it had a multiplier effect on the next thing I was going to do to help build my application. And the more I did this, the more I saw the support networks I had the whole time. I wasn’t alone hiking after all. These opportunities and the people offering them to me were the people who were lifting my feet. Luckily for you and me, these support networks are at our school. All of the opportunities I have had to help mould me into someone confident in applying to their dream course have been offered by Barr Beacon. Whether it was in Year 8 filming a BBC Schools news report to build my confidence and collaborative skills, or in Year 11 going on an exchange project to Italy to improve my communication and independence… all of these occasions have amalgamated and prepared me to be ready and confident to embark on the rest of my career pathway.  

These opportunities don’t have to be anything crazy. What’s important is that you have truly done something actively to fulfil your dream. If my career journey has taught me anything, it would be to make the most out of everything you have and to use it as your own catalyst for more opportunities.  

It’s not always clear what we want. Unlike me, you might not have a clue on the career you want to have. But my advice: take a small aspiration and run with it. You don’t have to be swamped in university prospectuses to know what you want but if you take all the chances given to you to help you live that dream, I know that our school can do it and will always be there to lift our feet to help us reach the summit of our career journeys. 

Sharks and the pandemic 

By E Lorton-Mulcare, Year 12 

“I think the most important thing the pandemic has taught me is to allow change into your future plans.” 

  • What do you want to do when you grow up?  
  • Who do you want to be? 
  • Who will you work for? 
  • What will you do? 

We’ve all been asked these questions since beginning of school, and back then it seemed like we had centuries to plan, to change our minds, and change our minds again. Many of us have gone from saying we wanted to be astronauts to doctors, from princesses to authors, from footballers to lawyers. And then there’s people like me who when first asked ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ answered the same as we would now. For me, that’s to be a marine biologist. 

From the ages of between 4-6, my fascination for the ocean and the creatures it hides beneath its depths began: this started from watching the infamous film Jaws with my brother (admittedly at an age that was way too young) where I became mesmerised by sharks. Ever since then I would constantly be watching shark documentaries and laughing at ridiculous shark films. But when I found out I could work with them as a marine biologist, that’s what I promised I would grow up to do. And I still say that now. 

The pandemic has given and taken away opportunities that would help me to achieve my dream job, but we will focus on the positives. I began to reach out to different researchers across the world asking them for advice on how to work with sharks and the path I should take. I got a surprisingly large amount of responses, all wishing me well on my future plans and giving me interesting stories on how they came to also be marine biologists. I hope to use their stories and advice in the future when I come to look for jobs in the marine biology field and aid my knowledge about the different types of work I could do. 

Secondly, I have been able to complete many online courses about the ocean, learning about the secrets it holds in its depths, from the effect of climate change to overfishing. These courses will not only aid my applications to university but will also help me to find a job in the future. Having this knowledge means I’ll be able to hold key conversations with future employers and colleagues that may help me to get a job or discover different opportunities. It also means that I’m able to conduct my own research. By being exposed to different articles I now know how research is prepared and analysed as well as how it’s presented.  

I have also been able to look at different types of courses I would like to do at university and find their requirements. I now know the exact university I want to go to and the course I want to do as well as the extra activities they offer that interest me. 

However, I think the most important thing the pandemic has taught me is to let change into your future plans. As someone who plans everything meticulously, the pandemic a lot of what I had planned, as it did for everyone, from the small to the big. But now I know that change can’t be avoided and, more often than not, it will be out of our control. We shouldn’t let this change what we want to do though. If you have a passion for something, pursue it no matter the situation! There will always be a way to achieve it if you are determined and prepared to work hard.

Like I’m sure we’ve all been told thousands of times: do something that makes you happy. For me that’s studying sharks, for you that might be helping people or exploring literature or history.  

Are you prepared to work hard through the difficult times of the pandemic and become the person that you want to be? 

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World Book Day

World Book Day (4th March 2021) is an important day for us at Barr Beacon School because we can share with our pupils a love of reading. Reading is a great way to relax, and it has many benefits including: improved memory, better vocabulary and increased focus. We’ll be celebrating through a series of virtual challenges and discussions about what we like to read. At the beginning of the week, pupils will be guessing which Barr Beacon celebrity is reading to them in The Masked Reader, and on Thursday pupils will be taking part in a Book Jacket Design Competition. Check out our Twitter to see our #ShareYourShelfie images and have a look at some staff bookshelves.

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Express Yourself Challenge

Express Yourself: Week commencing 22nd February

For our Express Yourself challenge, pupils are spending three afternoons away from their screens, taking part in creative activities designed by our teachers. There are activities related to each subject.

Here are some of the outcomes:

This is a great and useful diagram completed away from the screen: Superficial Surface of Human Heart by V. Sahdev in Year 7

K. Nicholls in Year 9 has made ‘Pain Au Chocolat’ using one of the activities from the modern foreign languages department.

Here is some history creativity from K. Owen in Year 10.

She created the trench system as a personal project, which was linked with her study of her Conflict and Tension topic, as well as her own passion for history. She did apologise for the castle being made of Duplo as this was the only ‘Lego’ available! She is currently creating history resources in the form of a ‘game’. We look forward to seeing her resources from this. 

Here is some more brilliant history modelling of trench warfare – this time from Year 10 J. Martin.

I decided to some litter picking in my local community. When I got home I did some research  about the local area. Here is what I found out:

The word ‘barr’ is Celtic for hill. Barr Beacon is the highest point in the West Midlands. Perry Barr was once kown as ‘little barr’ but was renamed.

Great Barr was documented in the Doomsday Book as ‘Barra’. It was one of many hills where fires (beacons) were lit to warn of enemies.

Doe Bank Lane was a field boundary from the royal borough of Sutton Coldfield. It was a ditch with one side higher than the other and was used to stop deer from leaving hunting grounds.

Bridel lane was a very rural rack that went from to Walsal, to Sutton Colfield and further on to Liechfeild.

In WW2, Americans soldiers were stationed in the Pheasy Estate. Most of their equipment was buried in the fields near dobank park.

With her fascination with wolves, G. Askey in Year 10 has created an amazing papiermâché wolf using newspapers as part of her creative piece for the Express Yourself Challenge. She did a fabulous job! 

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Equity or Equality?

By H. Kumar-Mehay, Head Girl

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Newsome, Consultant for the Matrix Academy, regarding one of our previous posts on the Black Lives Matter movement. In our meeting, we discussed the crucial yet somewhat difficult feat of educating students about racism within the classroom and what ways we could reveal the truths of this to students so we can all comprehend the issues that many members of our society face each day.

One of the questions I was asked was if I could explain the difference between equality and equity. I sat in the chair of this glass-panelled office eyeing the room for some answers but truthfully, I couldn’t answer this. In all honesty, I felt quite guilty for not knowing the difference. Surely after doing so much research and having many conversations on the topic, I should have understood the difference between these words which seemed as if they were identical, yet worlds apart in the same instance.

After sitting there for some time, Ms. Newsome told me that with the idea that, whilst equality is treating everyone the same but on the same level, equity was about treating everyone equally through treating people based on their needs and differences.

Now understanding the difference between the two, I’m constantly reflecting on that experience to connect it to my own life experiences.

It is important to have special months for oppressed groups, like Black History Month (October) and LGBT History Month (February), where we rightfully appreciate these groups of people, whose achievements might not have been appropriately rewarded in the past: the people who have been oppressed, who constantly strive for the equality that they rightfully deserve. 

Without equity, there is no equality. 

In order reach true equality, we must appreciate the principle of equity, through meeting different needs of minorities in our society.

It is simply not enough to not be racist; we must be actively anti-racist. We must actively fight against discrimination of all kinds. 

I want to thank Ms. Newsome for enlightening me further on this topic and constantly encouraging my curiosity. Every day, I reflect on our

conversation which inspires me to fight for equality. Whether it’s based on race, gender or sexual orientation, thank you for helping make me realise that fighting for equality is not a ‘One size fits all’ approach, but is unique and individual each time as we seek to ensure every single individual feels valued in our school, on our streets and in our society.

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Safer Internet Day 2021

On Tuesday, 9 February 2021, we will celebrate the 18th edition of Safer Internet Day with actions taking place right across the globe. With a theme once again of “Together for a better internet”, the day calls upon all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all, and especially for children and young people.

Read on to find out more about practical ways in which you can get involved in the celebrations. Whether you are a young person, a parent or carer, a teacher or an educator, a policy maker, or whether you represent an organisation or industry, everyone has a role to play in creating and maintaining a better online world.

And, noting the global reach of the Safer Internet Day campaign, on this site you’ll also be able to discover more about the planned actions of European Safer Internet Centres, global Safer Internet Day Committees and a range of organisational and industry supporters – we’re progressively updating profiles for the 2021 campaign, so please check back often for the latest updates.

https://www.saferinternetday.org/resources

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Mental health – keep the conversation going

By H. Kumar-Mehay, Head Girl

Mental health – keep the conversation goingBy H. Kumar-Mehay, Head Girl
Last week was Children’s Mental Health Week, and it was all about raising awareness and what can be done to help those who are suffering from poor mental health. The week may now be over but the conversation mustn’t stop.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. However, it can be harder to maintain mental health and to break the taboo associated with it. Mental health is something everyone has. But for some, it can often be hard to put your feelings into words and to talk to others, and more often than not the easier option is to stay silent, keeping your feelings to yourself. The current lack of physical contact from anyone outside your support bubble can make things even harder. But there are ways to make things better.

Reach out to others

Barr Beacon School has an extensive support system, and your teachers are here to help. If you ever have a really bad day, if something is worrying you, or if you want to share some good news, your teachers will be there to listen! It is as easy as dropping them and email or a message via TEAMS and they’ll respond, offering advice and support. So why not give it a shot? If you’re up to it, email at least one of your teachers after reading this and ask them how they are. I promise you they’ll appreciate it! If you don’t want to reach out to your teachers, phone a friend or a family member to talk to, or you can set up a group facetime to have a catchup. It will be a great way to ease stress and relieve loneliness.

Keep a healthy routine 

During lockdown it is easy to slip out of a routine: playing on consoles, scrolling through TikTok… the hours fly by. The next thing you know it’s 1 am and you’re still awake. Sleeping less than 8 hours a night deprives the brain of valuable time to repair itself and rest for the day ahead. It is vital to try to sleep a minimum of 8 hours to wake up feeling fresh and happy, ensure you wake up at least 40 minutes before the beginning of form to get freshened up and eat breakfast. You also need to get that beauty sleep in! Sleeping and waking at regular times, eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise will leave your body and mind feeling stronger and better. Take time out of your day for some self-care, in whatever way you would like: you can read a book, have a spa day at home, buy yourself some new clothes (online at the moment!) or go for a run. Just take a step back and enjoy the little things in life.

Dealing with Online School

  • It can be very appealing to set an alarm 5 minutes before the beginning of form time and log into form whilst still in bed. However, this will not allow you enough time to get fresh and eat breakfast before the start of the school day, which will make you feel groggy and unfocused during your lessons. Waking up earlier gives you time to set up your desk and get ready for the day. 
  • Make sure you are still using your planner to stay organised and ensure you are completing your homework/TEAMS assignments in plenty of time. Avoid rushing to do it last minute as it will make you feel stressed.
  • Your working environment can have a huge effect on your mood. Whilst working from your bed is a very comfy and warm option, it is best to sit at your desk/table with your books and equipment to best emulate the school environment. This will make you feel more focused. 
  • Sitting in front of a screen for hours can be quite draining, and so it’s ok to stand up and take a stretch during your lessons. Similarly, use your breaks wisely, go outside and get some fresh air as a substitute for using TikTok.

Find ways to replace the activities you miss.

Whilst it’s not possible to go to the cinema or to the gym, why not try something new? Maybe it’s time to fix that bike that’s rusting in your garden or learn a new language, write a blog or kickstart your YouTube channel… the possibilities are endless. Embarking on something new will give you focus and something to aim for, as well as relieving stress.

If the way you feel is affecting your ability to function day-to-day, or becomes overwhelming, please reach out to someone and talk. Things will always get better. And, even at times when you feel alone, there are always people there for you, rooting for you.

The NHS have a website for tips on improving and dealing with Mental Health – https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/

Samaritans offer free and confidential support; you can contact them by phone 24/7 at 116 123 

For a list of more support options, please click the following link – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

Hopefully, we can all be back in school sooner rather than later. But, for now, please look after yourselves and follow the current government guidelines.

VEXPO

The Virtual Careers Expo

The Virtual Careers Expo is now open! 

The Expo is a virtual alterative to our annual Careers Fair, created by the Black Country Skills Factory. It will provide pupils and parents access to a wide range of careers advice and information, all under one virtual roof. This includes zones dedicated to:

  • University
  • College
  • Apprenticeships
  • Skills and Training Programmes
  • SEND opportunities
  • A Video Vault
  • Live Vacancies
  • Pop-up Labour Market Information

Pupils also have the opportunity to take part in Careers Expo competitions; all the details have been emailed directly to pupils. 

The Expo closes at 6.00pm on Thursday 11th February.

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Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021

On 27th January, Year 12 history students commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day with an online event where pupils engaged with a holocaust survivor, interviewed by Natasha Kaplinsky. Charlie Birch writes about the experience here.

As of 2021, there are fewer and fewer survivors of the Holocaust. What if someone told you the name Eve Kugler? A retired journalist, 90-year-old Eve resides in the United States. She has only just turned 90 years of age and has receives both available COVID-19 vaccinations. Times are difficult with this global pandemic but she and her family “lived against the odds” and her story is exceptional. As her story unfolded we really came to admire her strength and her courage.

German Origins: Born in 1931 in Germany, Eve Kugler was born into a family that consisted of her father, who was a businessman, a mother and two sisters Ruth and Lea. She recalled the tenseness of the Holocaust as a young girl and remembers the cruelty of the simple words told to her family from the officer at the police station, she lived only a few hundred meters across from; “nothing will happen to you.”

In 1938, the Kugler family became early victims of the Holocaust. Posters screamed “Juden Verboten” (Jews are Forbidden) on the streets of where the family lived. The Jewish community saw belongings and their crafts burned as the respect for them drained almost entirely. Eve Kugler’s grandfather of polish descent was sent back to Poland too. The struggle of holding onto significant aspects of their life seemed inevitable. But what was to come was far from expected: Kristallnacht. Across Germany and Austria, Jewish businesses were burned to the ground. The Kuglers lost their business and their faith in German society. This was followed up on by the fact the father was dragged from their home to the concentration camp of Buchenwald; he was one of 30,000 Jews to be taken. Her mother swept away not only tears but the shards of broken glass from their home. News from their aunt revealed that their synagogue was burned to ashes. Her father returned home after her mother obtained a valid visa and bribed officers with money. Her father returned to a family evicted from their home. He urged the family to get their belongings and leave. It was decided Ruth and Eve would leave for the USA and the others would flee to France in hope of reaching extensive family outside of Paris. Arguments over the decision were concluded and the family had their goodbyes as Eve and Ruth stepped onto a train. The long and complicated train journey began…

The Journey of life: The train journey weaved through France and the train stopped in Marseille. The girls then travelled to Portugal through occupied Spain. Now all the sisters had to do was get on a ship. Eve recalled the “scary encounter” with the Nazis at the border – fear was not the only emotion she would feel on this unexpected journey. Eve was asked about her feelings as an 8-year-old standing and waiting for the unknown. She told listeners how she did not understand the complexity of the situation and she didn’t understand how the last encounter with her family would be the last goodbye. 

As they boarded the ship, she recalled how food was dispersed and how she had not seen as much food in her life. The seasickness and the overload of food made children sick due to the richness of the food. She had that for 3 weeks as the boat sailed across the Atlantic. Eve and her sister Ruth arrived in New York. They, like hundreds of children, were sent to foster homes. At first, the sisters were separated before being placed in the same home in 1940. Over the course of her childhood, Eve was in three different foster homes. Eve gradually grew to understand WWII but still did not have the acknowledgment of treatment of Jewish people during this time. She was, however, receiving letters from her family, up until 1942 when they suddenly stopped. Eve thought her family had perished. She cried almost every night despite her sister telling her that their mother would always say there were to be together soon. Ruth was right. “She is always right” Eve stated.

Reuniting: Unknown to Eve the family survived and lived in France and stayed there until the Nazis ordered a mass round up of Jews in Paris. The Kugler family were on “the list”. The French resistance located the family and informed them. Consequently, the resistance smuggled Lea to an isolated farm as the mother and father were taken into French concentration camps. Her parents survived four concentration camps in total and twice avoided two deportations to Auschwitz. The family finally fled with Lea thanks to the French Resistance. The family fled and reached New York, causing immense jubilation amongst the Kugler family. Eve’s parents lived until their 90s. With the help of her parents, Eve graduated high school and university, earning a degree in journalism. Eve only gained full understanding of the Holocaust from her mother and father and did not tell her neighbours or friends about her life experience until she released a book with her mother called “Shattered Crystals.” The book was made free of charge online due to the fact Eve’s mother wanted the story to be told and saw the book as a way to reach out to so many people. The book is still presently online and the Kugler family is still also presently going strong. As a survivor, Eve says she feels guilty about surviving, feeling she has occupied someone else’s chance of life. This highlights the fact we need to need to be grateful for what we have in our life. Eve has two surviving children and grandchildren as well as the family extending from her sisters. Chances of having such experience, with her having her own family, looked very so slim but this showcases that anything can happen and that anything is possible. 

“Once a survivor, always a survivor”: Eve stated that if she “wasn’t an optimist she wouldn’t have survived.” During her time in foster homes, Eve challenged herself to go on and on, which built internal strength through the hardships of what life had given her. Understandably, she still becomes affected by the Holocaust but views talking about it as an opportunity to make people think about who they cherish. She also wanted us as listeners to her story to think about a point of light in darkness and to be courageous as individuals. As people we will experience struggles particularly during our lifetime. Eve’s story can be a lesson into not only being grateful for what we have but also be humble and positive about what we have. 

Her quote “once a survivor always a survivor” will most likely not apply to all of us in the same extreme way she had to face. But everyone has, and everyone will, overcome their own situations. Have gratitude and keep going is what Eve would say.

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Reflecting back on 2020 – and looking forward

By M. Hill, Deputy Head Boy

2020 was unlike any other in our lifetimes. The collective struggle of our society in fighting a constant battle has been a new experience for the all of us. With protests in Hong Kong, devastating wildfires in Australia, wars, volcanic eruptions, oil leaks in Ambarnaya, a catalogue of racial injustices including the murder of George Floyd, a massive explosion in Lebanon, the deaths of many, many innocent people, multiple floods and earthquakes, the rise of COVID-19 and much more. No wonder we felt so tired and overwhelmed. 

2020 was truly a year to remember. 

In spite of this overwhelming madness, there have been a rather large amount of positives things that have happened throughout the year. 

Although it isn’t really apparent, our society has taken a huge step forwards in its approach to equality, acceptance and respect. With some ‘haters’ still standing tall, trying their best to force their outdated opinions on others, many of us have risen together to fight back and ensure we all feel proud to be who we truly are. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Hey! It’s 2020 bro, you can’t be saying that any more” (or similar) many times. Although a simple comment, it reflects on how much our society has begun to accept those who don’t conform to the old normalisations and expectations. That, is a huge step forward and is something to be proud of. Alongside this, I’d like to draw your attention to just a few of the many positive things that have happened over the course of 2020, and share with you a valuable reflection on them as a whole. 

Polio was officially eradicated on the African continent

On 25th August, with the help of the WHO, Rotary International, CDC, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gave, the Vaccine Alliance, Africa was deemed Polio-free after the last confirmed case was recorded in 2016 in Nigeria. This virus has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands, and to see its eradication in Africa is wonderful.

Dogs trained to protect wildlife have saved 45 rhinos from poachers in South Africa

In March, the Southern African Wildlife College and Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance had used various beagles and bloodhounds to track down poachers in South Africa. Over the last decade, 9442 African rhinos have been lost to poaching, and with this extraordinary work by these two organisations, they were able to prevent an extra 45 rhinos being poached. Poaching is a serious issue in South Africa, and it gives us hope that organisations such as these are making extraordinary attempts, and succeeding, in reducing the number of rhinos lost. 

People around the world rose up to protest against racial injustice

After the devastating death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, USA protests had arisen in nearly all major cities. Hundreds of thousands of people had flooded the streets, desperate to make a change to the overwhelming racial injustice that infects our society. This stand against racism had extended to more than 60 different countries in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and against the racial injustice and police brutality. In response to such a movement, the officer responsible for the death, Derek Chauvin, was charged with second-degree murder, alongside his accomplices for abetting the murder, reforms were made in the way police were to handle members of the public, vows to put more funding towards youth and social services, new databases for collecting video footage of all police action, the removal of several Confederate and slavery-linked statues around the world, action in the media to address institutional racism, and changes to many commercial products to more accurately represent black lives. This change has been a dramatic one, and as an advocator for equality and acceptance for those around me, it is incredible to see a world standing up for those who society treat with disrespect and animosity. 

Crayola had released new inclusive skin-tone crayons

It may seem trivial to some, but moves like this are important. In May, Crayola had released its most inclusive skint-tone crayons to date. The ‘Colours of the World’ pack includes over 40 different skin colours, allowing children to “accurately colour themselves into the world”. Such an idea has propelled the inclusivity of all children of different skin tones into the world, allowing them to feel accepted and ‘normal’, whilst allowing them to understand that there are many different skin tones in the world, with all being equally as important as the next. It is typically thought that we are taught to treat those of other skin-tones differently, leading to preset ideas of others when they are older. Having such an inclusive product for children to use is a definite advancement in enabling our society to function collectively, rather than as isolated groups. 

In addition to the horrible events of 2020, there were many incredible ones too. A valuable reflection on 2020 that I believe is necessary to take away, is that through all of the darkness and trauma you may experience, either individually or with others, you are never truly alone. You will always be wanted in this world, and you should never feel insignificant. No one can be better at being you than yourself, so you should feel free to be the best you that you can be. Amidst all of the valuable lessons 2020 has taught us, the most important now is to love and cherish those around you, and do whatever makes you happy. 

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