Don’t Give In

We as a people are all sitting on the wrong side of history.  Nobody, from the left nor the right, has bettered themselves and come out as a leader in the fight against racism, incoherent nationalism, and a bigoted belief system in the neo-Nazi party.


As hateful fear-mongers came out from their shells and filled the streets of Charlottesville to scream and express their wrongful opinions, thousands of people who opposed this kind of racism filled the other side of the roads.  They were screaming right back at them.

For years, the neo-Nazi Ku Klux Klan white supremacists (yes, I am categorizing these hate groups into one, unified wrong) have been ignored by the general public – and for good reason.  They have been ignored because their message was not only denounced by everyone, but also because the best defense to this kind of unprecedented hate is silence from the other side.  By not feeding fuel to the fire, our society has silenced these groups for years.

Years went by, the social media world grew, tensions in an unordinary presidential election rose to new heights, and the wrong became more prominent.

Instead of ignoring these once silent protesters, who would often perform their sickening rituals in hidden forests across the country, people began to speak out.  People began to show their pre-existing disapproval with this racist behavior.

Although speaking out against hate and bigotry has always been the way to improving our society, this American experience is different.  The white supremacists should and have been disapproved by nearly every public official, but this experience still is different.

I feel entirely bad for these racists who exist in America.  Not only, for some odd reason, do they believe that they are the superior race because of the color of their skin, but they also believe that they can change any good person’s opinion on race in this country.

They can’t.

But changing the American opinion on race is not the only goal that these people have.  What they want is exposure.  They want the television sets to be blaring footage of their hate-filled rallies.  They want us to see that they are here.  And the sad part is, they are winning.

As they line the streets, opposition to them lines up on the other side.  We outnumber them – and they know that.  We don’t want them in our cities and neighborhoods – and they know that, too.  But we as a people can’t be broadcasting their message.  We can’t be allowing them to show what they stand for.  We know they are here, but we can’t allow ourselves to hear their voices.

Take the cameras away, ignore their calls of injustice and discrimination, and stop lining the streets against them.  Our country is against their actions, but they will never go away unless we do.

Soon enough they will be protesting to nobody.  Nobody will hear their desperate, pathetic calls.  Nobody will be standing by them, fueling their anger.

It is so critical to understand that we will never change the derogatory opinions of the monsters who are apart of the KKK, neo-Nazi, and ‘alt-right’ groups.  We never will.  Their backwards beliefs will continue to reverse their livelihood, and we will march on as a progressive society with values so deeply rooted in equality and fairness that racism will not be tolerated in the most miniscule form.  Racism and hate should never be tolerated, especially to the extent that the past year has allowed it to be.

The only way to get rid of this rearview mirror type of behavior is to spread the right message.  Spread the message of acceptance and fairness that both Republicans and Democrats know is right.  This is NOT a partisan issue.  By putting blame on one side of the aisle is to create a lie, because the only force acting on the side of the alt-right is hate.  Their hate towards people’s religion, people’s skin color, and people’s beliefs is the only fuel they have as long as we continue to not give in.

Silence out the hate and spread the right message.  Just spread love.  If all that can be done, the David Dukes and Richard Spencers of the world will crawl back into their holes and fade away.  Do not feed their fire.  They want your undivided attention, so don’t give them it.

Do not line the streets against them, because they will fade away.  Do not scream back hate in their faces, because they are not worthy.  Do not give them your attention, because you have more relevant issues in your life to cover.

Nobody wants these groups to come to their neighborhood.  By ignoring their protests and childish cries, they will fade away.  But by fueling their fire, they will only continue to grow.  We cannot let their hate grow.

To the alt-right, neo-Nazi, KKK, white extremists:  I do not want your vile protests near me.  Nobody wants your hate-filled message and nobody wants you around.  I can assure you that America has no place for you, and I can promise you that my city of Pittsburgh has no place for you.

The City of Champions has no place for losers.



Why the Mahoning Valley Needs to Fix Their Conference Alignment Problem

YOUNGSTOWN – It’s that time of year again in the Mahoning Valley.  As school years are coming to an end, athletic departments and superintendents across the area are scrambling to find a new conference for their high school to join.

Within the past few months, the Mahoning Valley’s two premier athletic conferences, the All-American Conference (AAC) and the Inter Tri-County League (ITCL), both fell apart.

The AAC will still remain a competitive conference in the Valley, keeping hold of stronghold programs like Austintown, Boardman, Canfield, and Warren Harding.  The ITCL, however, will lose all of its members as two separate leagues are being formed:

The Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference will include Columbiana, East Palestine, Leetonia, Lisbon, Southern, United, Wellsville, and Toronto.

The Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference will include Jackson-Milton, Lowellville, Mineral Ridge, McDonald, Sebring, Springfield, Waterloo, and Western Reserve.

Geographically, the two new conferences make complete sense.  Northern schools like McDonald and Jackson-Milton no longer have to make the trip down the Ohio River to Wellsville.  Likewise for Wellsville, who will no longer have to make the trip to Lowellville.

As for the AAC, basically the entire middle tier of the conference has disappeared.  Girard, Hubbard, Jefferson, Lakeview, Niles, Poland, and Struthers have all decided to leave the 21-team conference and form their own – the NorthEast8 (NE8) Conference.  Former-ITCL school South Range has also accepted their invitation to join.

This new conference will be sure to cause problems for teams who regularly play.  Rivalries like Jefferson – Ashtabula Edgewood, South Range – Crestview, and Poland – Canfield will all carry on, but problems can arise when it comes to playing home-and-home series for sports like soccer, basketball, and baseball where these schools would usually see each other twice a year.

I do not quite understand the push and politics for the new conferences in the area to be formed.  Every year, every school seems to have to be on their toes for the next big move.  It is amazing that school districts that have been supporting sports in the Mahoning Valley for longer than my family’s ancestors have been in the United States have the ability to lose their historic ties.

The tri-county area of Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull Counties should come together as one to form a single, unified set of conferences that not only values their ties, but also create new ones.  For too many years, there have been missed scheduling opportunities, dismantling of seasoned rivalries, and nonsense conference championships.

What is the point of a high school owning a trophy that reads “All-American Conference Blue Tier Champions” if the schools that were in that tier and conference then are not in it now?  Meaningless confusion is what comes to mind.  If a high school is not beating their rivals or schools in the area, then how could a conference championship be justified?

Conferences are created because communities and schools share a similar region and enrollment.  Spreading apart conferences has caused major travel issues for schools that have no business playing each other until the Regional Finals due to their proximity.

Here are my proposals:

Included next to each school’s name is their estimated high school enrollment (per U.S. News and OHSAA).

1.  Put all the big schools together and add in the Catholic schools.  It is no secret that competitive balance only comes with competitive head counts.  Let the big schools play and let the rest trickle down.  The new Steel League will be more competitive and more enjoyable for every competition in every sport.  For years, Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline have been struck with terrible traveling accommodations and unequal representation.  Those schools are known for excelling in football, but this new conference gives them an opportunity to compete in all sports in the Valley.  Playing schools like Poland and Boardman would be good for all parties involved because those schools not only share similar proximities, but also similar competition levels.

The Steel League

  1. Austintown Fitch (1,677)
  2. Warren G. Harding (1,381)
  3. Boardman (1,358)
  4. Canfield (910)
  5. Howland (884)
  6. Poland Seminary (725)
  7. Ursuline (478)
  8. Cardinal Mooney (450)

2.  Move teams away from the Canton and Ashtabula areas.  Schools like West Branch and Salem have found a home in the Northeast Buckeye Conference, but those trips to Canton South and Carrollton can be equaled with trips to Niles and Hubbard.  Schools like Jefferson and Ashtabula Edgewood have also found homes in the NE8 and AAC, but those schools need to find a more local audience with their sports rather than travel an hour per contest.  Eliminate Stark and Ashtabula counties all together.  I would also extend an invitation to Beaver Local, who has been isolated from the rest of Mahoning Valley athletics.  I have also included Chaney High School in this group upon their impending reopening.  East & Chaney’s new enrollments are merely predictions based on their current enrollments and district realignments.

The All-American Conference (Red Tier)

  1. Niles McKinley (722)
  2. West Branch (625)
  3. Youngstown Chaney (613)
  4. Youngstown East (613)
  5. Hubbard (611)
  6. Salem (588)
  7. Beaver Local (581)
  8. East Liverpool (578)
  9. Struthers (567)

3.  Combine the bottom of the AAC with the top of the ITCL.  Separating the schools on the bottom of the AAC from the schools at the top of the ITCL was just wrong.  These are schools that will see each other in nearly every sport come tournament time, and it will also be way more competitive.  Proximity between these high schools is also a huge benefit for this tier of the new AAC.

The All-American Conference (Blue Tier)

  1. Lakeview (550)
  2. Girard (534)
  3. Champion (437)
  4. South Range (426)
  5. LaBrae (412)
  6. United (381)
  7. Newton Falls (372)
  8. Crestview (369)
  9. Liberty (357)

4.  Restore the big division of the small schools.  Having the small schools, mainly of the former-ITCL, become unified is important.  Separating them between the bottom tier of the AAC and the top tier of the ITCL was a mistake because it eliminated rivalries that are not only neighborhood-bordering, but also more balanced.

The Inter Tri-County League (Upper Tier)

  1. Springfield (349)
  2. East Palestine (347)
  3. Campbell Memorial (335)
  4. Columbiana (330)
  5. Mineral Ridge (308)
  6. Brookfield (306)
  7. Southern Local (271)

5.  Create a new middle tier and give the small Catholic schools a home.  The politics of the old ITCL have to go.  The conference had a great original setup; based on enrollment numbers, schools would move up or down between the two tiers of the conference so the competition was relatively equal.  Same goes here for this multi-conference platform, while adding a few more schools to the mix.  In the end, Maplewood is the ultimate winner of this situation.  Since they don’t have football (*), this also allows the middle tier of the ITCL to play at least one game in the Upper Tier and one game in the Lower Tier every year.  The middle tier of the small school’s conference would not only be more competitive, but also would create new rivalries between schools that should have been together already.  Giving schools like Warren JFK a conference would be great for all sports – proximity and scheduling; not to mention a new rivalry with Valley Christian.

The Inter Tri-County League (Middle Tier)

  1. Lisbon David-Anderson (263)
  2. McDonald (253)
  3. Badger (252)
  4. Maplewood* (233)
  5. Western Reserve (232)
  6. Valley Christian (216)
  7. Warren JFK (189)

6.  Bring in more small schools.  Another problem with the old ITCL is that schools like Mathews and Southington Chalker weren’t in it.  By adding them in, it gives the new ITCL a more stable base and a great sports schedule across fall, winter, and spring.

The Inter Tri-County League (Lower Tier)

  1. Leetonia (225)
  2. Mathews (222)
  3. Wellsville (217)
  4. Jackson Milton (210)
  5. Sebring (189)
  6. Lowellville (188)
  7. Southington Chalker (164)

7.  Keep the old Northeastern Athletic Conference (NAC).  This conference doesn’t need to change a thing.  Most of these schools don’t offer football (*) and have a stable conference already.  Although schools like Southington Chalker, Mathews, and Maplewood would move up to the new ITCL, the other schools would remain the same.  This would also give Heartland Christian a conference for the sports they compete in.

The Northeastern Athletic Conference

  1. Pymatuning Valley (386)
  2. Grand Valley (369)
  3. Joseph Badger* (252)
  4. Newbury (184)
  5. Bristol* (176)
  6. Windham (171)
  7. Lordstown* (154)
  8. Bloomfield* (67)
  9. Heartland Christian* (76)

This system only works if superintendents and athletic directors all cooperate.  All of these conferences need to be tied together so that if enrollment numbers drastically change, schools can be rearranged to move up or down to play with schools their own size.

This system would not only value rivalries, but create tons of new ones.  Keeping these ties would be great for communities and school districts.  Football is also valued greatly with this setup and gives schools proximity to other schools in their conference.

It’s time for the end of the dismantling and realignment.





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The Opinionated Truth: Ripped to Shreds

Why on earth do I study journalism?

In a matter of months I saw my profession ripped to shreds, torn apart for the fable that it is, and placed in a cage as everyone in the country threw their peanuts at it like an animal in the zoo.

It is true that unless you are on the inside, then you have no idea the real story.  All you know is what the entertainers behind desks and laptops have told you.  And that is it.

In Congressman Tim Ryan’s office, we have the news on almost all the time; most of the time it is CNN and MSNBC.  But even the staff here watches the news and reacts:

“Why is this a topic?”

Melania not holding Trump’s hand, how much money the New York Police Department is spending to protect the Trump family this month, ‘Republicans slowly retreating from Trump’, and all other nonsense.  It seems like every day there are constituents calling to complain about the next Trump narration.

But I can promise, nobody truly cares here on Capitol Hill.

Yes, there are Republicans and Democrats both calling for the investigation of a Trump collusion.  Yes, there are Democrats (Rep. Al Green) calling for impeachment.  But if you strongly believe that these issues are the only thing that Congress is working on, you are highly mistaken.

They could care less.  Regardless of the position of the executive office, there is no lack of proposals, meetings, and congressional sessions talking about real-life issues.

Just last week, Tim introduced a bipartisan bill with Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) called the Veterans Wellness Act of 2017.  According to Tim’s House website:

This legislation would bring mental healthcare to our Veterans by establishing a two-year grant program to provide integrative wellness programs at Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).

The bill would also provide funding for:

  • Repair or renovation of facilities to create or improve a wellness center.
  • Complementary and integrative medicine and wellness programs.
  • Childcare for classes.

Earlier this month, he worked with Congresswomen Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to introduce legislation to protect the pension plans of nearly 10 million workers and retirees.  According to the House newsletter:

The Keep Our Pension Promises Act would reverse a provision passed in 2014 that could result in deep pension cuts for millions of retirees and workers in multi-employer pension plans.

The new legislation establishes a legacy fund within the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation to ensure that multi-employer pension plans can continue to provide pension benefits to every eligible American for decades to come.

The pre-conceived notion that Congress is not running smoothly and that there is a divide in Washington is completely false.  Congress has proposed many new legislations and has been letting the Trump-train take its own course.

Your congressman/woman does not care what is going on in the White House.  Let the chips fall where they may.

In this time of mistrust and brainwashing in every form of media besides local news, it is important to know which publications are important for Americans to read and listen to.

My personal suggestion would be to avoid the Washington Post and read more of The Hill.  There are some great writers who are on staff at the Post, but the agenda-pushing that many of their feature articles are commuting to their readers is absolutely horrific.  Some of their most recent headlines include:

“The Walls are Closing in”

“The Ongoing Debate Over Trump’s Disclosure to Russia”

“What scandal? So far on his foreign tour, Trump has escaped ‘that Russia thing.’”

And these stories are all under the topic of ‘politics’.  To me, it is just the usual daily dose of entertainment news that pulls apart journalism.  There will be an outside investigation, but this is not news on Capitol Hill.

To read the latest news on Congressman Tim Ryan and his latest proposals and focuses, follow his newsletter @ Congressman Tim Ryan.







The Opinionated Truth: An Open Letter to a Younger Me


Let me open up by saying you do not need anybody.  You do not need someone to tell you what to do; you do not need someone to tell you where to go to school; you do not need someone to tell you how to live.

The most important thing for you to realize is that if you are not being your own person, then you are lost and will not be found until you change that attitude.  If you listen to what everyone else is saying, you can learn a lot about what you don’t want to be, where you don’t want to go.

Every day you are told to go work, save money, hangout with your friends, take advanced courses in schools, and find a cheap college while majoring in something extremely practical.

That is not what you should do.

As far as working goes when you’re young and in high school, be sure to do it in moderation.  Working 40 hours a week and working weekend nights are simply not worth it (not that you ever did).  Always stick to the small jobs; stick to the babysitting, the refereeing flag football, and the cutting grass.  Use that extra time to relax at home or hangout with friends.  Those moments are far superior.  You have the rest of your life to work and worry about money.

Speaking of money, be sure to save some.  And no, I don’t mean putting every cent you earn into the bank.  I mean by taking a portion out of every check you make.  With every small job you do, you should be putting 10% of it away.  Put it somewhere you won’t touch it.  Somewhere that you can never get to it.  Just 10% of everything you make – is that too much to ask?  Obviously, since your bank account is extremely subpar today.

One thing that you were never good at is making time.  Something that is so vitally important to you before you go off on your separate ways is to hangout with those people that helped support you to where you are today.  Make time with your friends, and I don’t mean going out to eat at Applebee’s after every football game.  Go travel, even if only for a day; go to festivals, even if the attractions are mediocre.  Make time for those people, because I promise you each and every one of them has different plans for college and beyond.  Not all of those plans have an end-destination in your small hometown.

While your school friends are important, so is your grades.  You have to make sure you study, but don’t overbook yourself; schedule more art classes.  Those advanced AP courses and STEM Physics class is honestly just not worth it for you.  Most colleges could care less about what classes you took.  The things that are important are your GPA and your ACT/SAT score.  Spend more time studying for the standardized tests and take those tests more than just once – which I know you didn’t do.  The AP courses in English are far more important than the others, but the AP Calculus’s and AP History’s of the world served only as stressors for fields of work you knew all along that you didn’t want to go into.

Next is finding a college.  No matter what anyone says or thinks, just go with your gut.  You don’t need to go to a big state school and become a little fish in a big pond.  Just like in your hometown, you want to play a bigger role on a smaller stage.  Like you did, you went to a small school.  Somewhere that has a different feel to it; somewhere that you know no names.

Your major is also important, but it is not everything.  You’ll switch your major multiple times before you find that one (or perhaps two) fields of concentration that interest you.  Take your time and make the most of the experiences that your university offers.  At those school clubs and events and conferences is where you will get the most of your education.

Finally, it is going to be increasingly important to keep a document of references.  Whether it is acquaintances, teachers, employers, or just people you know – they all will come in handy one day.  And since you chose a small university, they will also know you by name, know your story, and know your challenges.

The importance of patience during this time in your life will help you tremendously.  The people you will meet and the opportunities that will be presented are what will drive you into a career.

Patience, patience, patience.



The Opinionated Truth: The Trains of Capital Hill

As I finally get into the swing of things in D.C., I find myself seeing the connections.  The errands I run for the staff on a daily basis take me to some amazing places.  Never in my life have I been to somewhere so secure, so debauched.  People are running left and right down the tunnels of the offices of the United States Congress; they know exactly where they are going.

For miles and miles, I am not running cross country; for miles and miles, I am running through the halls of legislation.

The Capitol building is connected to all the House offices as well. An absorbedly small subway train takes people to and from the offices to the Capitol building itself.  There, debate and conference take place.

It is fascinating to see the numerous amount of people walking through the basement of the House offices to get to this tiny little subway system (which by the way only saves them about a 200-meter walk).  But the importance of everybody’s purpose on that miniscule subway car is what makes captivates me.

Bills to be signed, cosigns to be made, meetings to attend.


The Opinionated Truth: Look at Iran

Is it really that bad in the United States?  Every day, this country displays to me how lucky I am to be here and not there.

On the other side of the planet, an influential election is taking place in Iran.  Hard-line candidate Ibrahim Raisi is challenging incumbent Hassan Rouhani to become the next Iranian president in this Friday’s election.  Rouhani has been known as a moderate president during his five years as the head of the country.  His moderation is not exactly humanistic, many say.

During his tenure, Rouhani has been an enemy to the advancement of human rights in the Middle East and the rest of the world.  According to Human Rights Watch, Rouhani has not fulfilled many of his campaign promises he made when he first ran for office. Drug-related offenders have been executed at an alarming rate and free speech continues to be a massive hurdle for Iranians. Facebook, Twitter, and hundreds of websites are barred from use.

Here in America, no matter how hard he has tried, Donald Trump has not been able to block any portion of the first amendment that has and will continue to be used against him during his time as president.

Over in Iran, users of Telegram and Instagram have been subject to arrest by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.  This proves to me just another reason why we have been so blessed in this country.  Freely, we can say what we want, post what we want, and spread all the fake news that our little heart’s desire.  Even our nation’s president can say whatever he wants, showcasing just how free our press stands.

As I sit in Tim Ryan’s congressional office on my second day, it is clear to see and hear the frustration around me with the Trump presidency.  Some of the calls to the office that I answer as an intern are simply therapy sessions for people worried about our president and his ties to Russia.  And believe me, there have been many.  Nevertheless, I sit here – writing what I want.

Here in America, the debates are about if a drug offender should be incarcerated for ten years or two.  In Iran, a drug-related offense can lead to an execution.

How lucky is the American public?


The Opinionated Truth: Confidentiality

I walked into my first day of work to think that I’d be busy and at the end of the day ultimately, to be exhausted.  I did end up being exhausted, but that was only due to my lack of sleep the night before and the constant traveling I have been doing; I have gone from Pittsburgh to Youngstown to Pittsburgh again, and finally to Washington – in three days.

One of the first things I did today was sign a confidential agreement with the Congressional Office; this agreement bars me from talking or writing about specific meetings, visits, and other information that goes around the Ryan office at Longworth House Office Building.

Today’s tasks were not too daunting.  My job mainly consists of answering phone calls, sending constituents to people on Tim’s staff, and taking notes on certain briefings to Congress.  The briefings are posted weekly and for the most part, as an intern, I get to pick and choose which ones I want to attend if I am interested in them.  This Thursday, I get to attend one involved NASA.

As I watched people come in and out of the office today for meetings with Ryan’s staff, I thought just how different it would be if Tim was elected Democratic House leader.  Nancy Pelosi is on television every day, always at a podium (tonight she is being featured on a CNN Town Hall).  Of course, Ryan is a rising star on Capitol Hill and wears many hats for the Democratic Party; but just how many more meetings would be happening in the office that I work in if Ryan was the Democratic leader?

How much more confidential would these meetings be?

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The Opinionated Truth: Introduction

I guess I am not a big fan of losing.  I have never taken losing well.  Whether it was being on a winless flag football team and losing in the first round of pee-wee playoffs or losing a race on the track against an All-American, I just never took losing well.  Even when I was supposed to lose, it still frustrated me more than anything in the world.


I guess that is why this internship in Washington, D.C. has become so important to conquer.  For the next six and a half weeks, I will be interning under U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH).  This is not the position I saw myself to be in during the early summer of 2017 – but here I am, sitting in my bed just a few blocks from District of Columbia’s downtown social haven.

After having dinner with Congressman Ryan, his family, and close colleagues this past January, I have seen just how much of an emotional impact his life took after Donald Trump’s November election victory.  Just by talking to him, one could tell that he is a man on a mission, fighting for his party and his congressional district in Northeast Ohio.

After his January loss against Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for House Democratic leader in an effort to alter the course of the blue party, Ryan has continually spoken out against Trump and his childish tenacities.  Ryan has disagreed with Trump about nearly everything; Trump’s refusal to invest in clean-energy and his administration’s consideration to eliminate the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

I believe that it’s safe to say Tim hates losing, too.

Over the next few weeks I plan to gain a better understanding for what is really happening in the highest office in the land.  What is the Democratic Party’s real plan to taking down Trump and his policies?  Is there a plan at all?

By watching any news station (go ahead, pick your poison), you would think it is a disaster in Washington.  With what the news media feeds us on a daily basis, it is easy to see why people think it is a mess in Washington.

And that is just our problem.  We don’t really know the truth and we don’t really have an understanding for it because we are hearing it from fabricated organizations that are trying to have a more compelling story than their rival networks.

As a journalism major at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, it has frustrated me beyond repair how many times I have seen cable networks try to battle each other.  There is no truth to their struggles.

I have tried to trust each and every network as I tried to understand why they were all so damn opinionated.  Every single news anchor has their opinion, and in the past year it was heard loud and clear into the ears of every American man and woman.  God, I hope they didn’t listen.

My profession is filled with liars, cheats, wannabe entertainers, and false advertisers.  Every day I am thankful for picking up my double-major to also earn my bachelor’s degree in political science.  Because then maybe I don’t have to deal with journalists trying to oust their competition rather than tell the truth.  They hate losing, too.

Journalism is dead.  Not because writing or poetry or storytelling is dead, but because the truth is.

For the first time in my writing career, I get to explore the inside.  I will be able to form my own opinion from seeing everything first-hand.  This is my story in Washington, this is my opinionated truth.