As the new year has rolled into motion, many people have resolutions on the top of their minds to make it better than previous years.
Since 2020 was a challenging year for most, improvements are necessary. New Year’s resolutions can be a little nudge to start making the changes needed to foster a more successful experience.
“I think people hope 2021 would be better,” senior Sarah Brautigam said. “We all want it to be a clean slate.”
While having a clean slate mindset can be very beneficial, it is important to remember that there are always going to be bumps in the road. Especially with a pandemic, now is a time to remember that problems don’t just disappear if you ignore them.
“Just because 2020 is over, it doesn’t mean that life is just going to magically go back to normal,” sophomore Abby Spino said.
Despite this, there are always things that can be done to make issues more bearable. That is why people should start making little improvements to guarantee that 2021 will be a better year.
“I think that New Year’s resolutions are great ways to start off the new year,” senior Leesa Farree said. “It motivates people to reach their goals and encourages people to work on themselves.”
Working on oneself can mean a lot of different things. For some, it can be a change of perspective.
“My New Year’s resolution was to maintain a positive attitude,” Farree said.
Working on oneself can also include more physical goals.
“My New Year’s resolution this year was to be more active and actually do what needs to get done,” Brautigam said.
Regardless of the resolution, though, they are usually hard to stick to.
“I think that it can be difficult to stick to resolutions because sometimes we get busy and forget or can’t physically do what we need to,” Farree said. “I think that perhaps reminding yourself with notes or alarms to work on a particular goal could be helpful to sticking to a resolution.”
There is a surplus of ways to help motivate oneself to keep at a goal, but one of the best ways is to have someone hold you accountable for it.
“It definitely helps to have someone hold you accountable for your resolution,” senior Morriah Bauman said. “I think people should follow social media [accounts] that influence whatever they’re aiming for. They just need to keep a constant reminder of what their goal is.”
Even if a goal isn’t completely reached, making progress still counts. And including more positive influences like a social media account regarding your goal can improve one’s experiences and perspectives.
“People can make the best of 2021 by starting to accept the world now and how it’s going to be for a while,” Bauman said. “Things are not going to change overnight, and people need to get used to it whether they like it or not. Just trying to make the best of things and see the positive makes a big difference.”
Greensburg residents know that when fashion trends come and go, you can usually find the remnants scattered throughout thrift stores.
Stores like Goodwill have lots of affordable clothes that can help people develop their own style and fill their wardrobes.
“Thrift shopping to me is just an affordable way to get really good clothes,” senior Damiana Walker said. “Everything I’ve ever gotten from thrifting has lasted me longer than a lot of clothes newly bought. Plus, thrifting helps me find clothes that suit my out of the box style.”
Thrift shops often have a lot of older items of clothing, so they are very useful to find outdated styles that are becoming popular again.
“I think thrift shopping became popular again because history tends to repeat itself with fashion trends that were extremely popular in that time,” freshman Marlie Dietz said.
Many teens agree that certain styles tend to bounce in and out of the spotlight of what is popular.
“I feel like there has been a rise in thrifting due to the whole vintage aesthetic coming back, such as mom jeans, dad sweaters, baggy shirts and low waisted jeans,” Walker said.
Regardless of what is or isn’t in style at the time, thrift stores still have a great variety of affordable clothes thanks to the community. Thrift shops – especially smaller local ones – thrive off donations, so it is important to donate old clothes that could still be worn.
“I donate things that I don’t use or wear anymore because I feel that if I have something that, while it may not be of value to me, it might prove useful or nice to someone else,” Dietz said.
Even if people think that no one would want to wear an article of clothing because it isn’t cute enough or it doesn’t fit their aesthetic, it is still much better for the environment to donate old clothes.
“Fast fashion is polluting the earth when companies are mass producing clothing made out of cheap materials that aren’t good for the environment,” sophomore Emily Frazier said. “And once something goes ‘out of style’ people just throw it out, but after a while, the amount of clothing being thrown out will add up.”
With fast fashion stores like Hollister, Rue 21 and even Hot Topic, trendy and sometimes low-quality clothes are mass produced and sold. This mass production often has terrible effects on the environment.
“Fast fashion production and manufacturing processes result in a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, which is damaging to our already damaged planet,” Dietz said. “Fast fashion also depletes non-renewable sources and uses massive amounts of water and energy.”
Even though fast fashion can be harmful, some people just can’t avoid it.
“I think fast fashion is a tricky business because not many people know where their clothes are actually coming from and what they’re made of,” Frazier said. “Most people go for the name brand clothing just because it’s trending without really knowing the consequences.”
Whether people are buying from name brand stores or shopping second hand, it is always important to donate or recycle used clothes so they don’t add to the pollution fast fashion has caused.
One major thing that has changed regarding thrifting as it has become more popular, though, is that people tend to be more open minded about it now. In the past, there was often a stigma regarding thrifting. Some people thought it was just for poorer people, but everyone can find great things while thrifting.
“I think the stigma that people are being looked down on for secondhand shopping has changed tremendously,” Frazier said. “Since thrifting has become a ‘trend,’ more and more people have been less afraid of being judged and hopped on the bandwagon and realized that it is pretty fun and you can find really good things.”
Celebrities can be canceled at the drop of a hat. With technology ever advancing and most people having recording capabilities in their pockets, mainstream media can easily find an incident involving a celebrity, consequently showing the public all the details. And once that happens, there is no telling what will become of the star.
Sometimes it’s a beloved author, a pop star or a professional athlete who takes a step out of line, and society is quick to see, but slow to forgive.
“Consumers are so quick to cancel but slow to accept the change in the person because they know that those who are craving back the spotlight will do anything to get it back, and once they do get it back, they will change to their old self,” junior Sage Blair said.
Over time, the world and circumstances change. But it has long been debated if people, and who they are at their core, ever change.
“I think that people’s beliefs do change over time,” senior Noah Dann said. “It is hard to accept these changes because our environment wants us to maintain our beliefs, but we want to change and can’t.”
Toxic is a term used to describe a person, environment or situation that is unpleasant or damaging. And when taking a look at cancel culture, it does have some toxic traits.
“I believe that cancel culture is very toxic,” Dann said. “I believe that a thing that happens in the past, where the person tried to change, should not come back and hurt them in the future.”
Media coverage is a factor in how people know what’s going on in today’s world with celebrities. Whether this is through Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or Facebook, social media can be a powerful influence on how someone is perceived by the public.
“More people are getting ‘canceled’ today than ever because of the ability to search people up so easily,” Blair said. “You can go to an influencer’s Instagram and scroll to the bottom and see something that you can cancel them for. It’s just too easy.”
Social media outlets are rarely fair as they can fan the flames of a media firestorm for clicks. And more clicks means more money.
“I do think it is toxic; the media makes it toxic,” senior Savanna Altieri said. “That is their business, and their business only, and the media shouldn’t exploit them.”
Although it can seem like when celebrities get caught saying or doing cancelation worthy things they are no longer going to be accepted by the public again, there is still hope for redemption.
“Previously canceled people can win back their audience and consumers through showing they’re genuinely sorry,” Blair said. “They can take action and donate to an organization that relates to what may have gotten them canceled ( ie: said things about LGBTQ+ community and donates to The Trevor Project and provide support for that part of the community).”
In the end celebrities are human, and they make mistakes.
“I believe that everyone deserves a second chance,” Dann said. “Any person can change and become a better person if given the chance.”
In every corner of GS, books filled with invaluable information, epic tales and beautiful worlds are going untouched due to two factors: Covid-19 and budget cuts.
Covid-19 has changed almost every part of life for most people, including how and where students learn, and libraries are no exception to facing these changes. A constant fixture at both the middle and high school are the libraries. The middle school has a boundless Maker Space and many books that are not being used. At the high school, the once vibrant atmosphere of the library has gone dormant. But, even in this day and age, libraries are important places for reading and learning.
“Covid-19 is the biggest change to the library this year because you [students] are all in your own little worlds with these computers in front of you now,” high school librarian Mrs. Carrie Vottero said. “There is just no traffic like there has been in the past and that has changed the entire lifeblood of the library. There are no children here.”
Knowing how to use a library is an important skill. Students, young ones especially, need to learn how and where they can find information and stories. And this goes beyond the Dewey Decimal System.
“Having a vibrant, well-funded school library is really important to very young children because it sets them up as lifetime users and lovers of libraries in general,” Mrs. Vottero said. “And the wanting of information gathering. I think of you kids as information seekers; I use that term in here a lot because that is what a library is, a place where you can come to gather information.”
Having a place to not only get information, but books for leisure purposes is important for students. Plus, the positive space it provides helps students in a different way.
“Whether it’s a book you’re reading for fun and pleasure or whether you’re doing research for a project, or whether you’re here with another student or a teacher collaborating on an assignment,” Vottero said. “Maybe it’s just a time out space for to find a moment of calm and quiet. You have to teach a child to love a library. So, losing that for our young children is a tragedy.”
While it is important for elementary-aged students to have access to libraries, it holds importance to older students as well. From the resources it provides to the programs it sponsors, the library has a lot to offer.
“The library helped me early on; I was able to read a lot and get really good at writing and spelling,” junior Trent Lenhart said. “Also, it has always served as a relaxing place for me.”
These programs and resources make a positive impact on students’ lives. Whether that is being a part of a team or just having somewhere to go, all students can benefit from having consistent access to libraries.
“I have done WIRC and have enjoyed it every year I’ve done it,” Lenhart said. “While also reading plenty of books from the library…”
Lenhart is not the only student to have positive experiences with the library. Many other students have found a safe haven among the stacks.
“In middle school, I liked to go hang out in the library during enrichment and help out,” junior Ryann Shirey said. “I would check books in and out, put them back on the shelves, and help to organize the library. In high school, I have been in the library every day that I’m physically in school. I can’t do a ton to help but I did help pull out a lot of this year’s WIRC books.”
Students are the key to the library. It is there for students to use and love. But to use a library properly, students have to go in person.
“I would like to see kids coming in more than they come right now,” Vottero said. “I think it’s difficult to do that because they don’t encourage you to leave your classrooms right now and for good reason. I’m not going against that… I think that individually you can ask for a pass to come down during your free time. I certainly hope that students remember that this room is here, but I understand why you’re not here. Our routine in the building is not the same.”
Greensburg Salem, like many other school districts, shut down in school learning in favor of virtual learning due to COVID-19. But there was more going on behind the scenes that could have a serious effect on students,
“We monitored how students can effectively social distance within the buildings,” Director of Secondary Education Dr. Ken Bissell said. “Also, the numbers that were coming in from the county, as far as numbers of cases in the buildings. I know we drew a line that if we had five teachers that were out whether it was for a positive test result, or because they were forced to quarantine, we were going to shut down.”
With a whirlwind of information coming from many different news outlets, it can be hard for people to decipher what is factual and what is not. However, decision makers, like the GS administration, have to take information from the top.
“We’re using state and county mandates and suggestions,” Dr. Bissell said. “As well as Department of Education and Department of Health guidelines.”
While some students are doing fine with the transition to virtual learning, others are not.
“I feel overwhelmed by the amount I have to do, which stresses me out,” freshman Sarah Faulk said. “When I stress out, I get less done and then more piles up and then I get more stressed and it just snowballs from there.”
Not being in school affects more than assignments and stress levels. There have been missed opportunities as well.
“I planned to run cross country for the first time this year after doing track last year and I was really looking forward to it, but my parents would not permit me to run because they didn’t want me having any unnecessary contact,” senior Ella Johnson said. “Also, I do mock trial and we have to do all of our trials completely online which is really challenging to adjust to.”
Not everyone agrees with the decisions that the GS administration made, and they made their voices heard.
“We received pushback form both sides,” Bissell said. “From closing, many people said ‘We want our kids in the building’ for many different reasons. We also had many people pushing us that we weren’t closing on time. I think that whatever decision we made there was going to be push back.”
Climate change was a popular conversation that got dropped due to COVID-19 news and then by the 2020 election. But, that does not mean that it is no longer an issue. Climate change is still a problem, even if it is not at the top of everyone’s list.
Climate change will affect everyone in a negative way if it is not controlled. This is not limited to hotter summers and colder winters. It goes beyond these events.
“The climate affects our everyday lives,” junior Ecology Club member Alyssa Angiolieri said. “An example would be a farmer needs rain to grow his crops. When the climate starts changing and there is no rain, then there are no crops. This year’s harvest for farmers was terrible because we didn’t have a lot of rain this year. No crops means no food for us and no rain means our ecosystems can become damaged.”
People who are concerned about climate change will be glad to hear of a piece of legislation that could help lessen the effects of climate change in coming years. It is called the Green New Deal.
The Green New Deal was proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) of New York, to help the United States reduce its carbon footprint in coming years.
“The primary climate change goal is to reach net-zero greenhouse emissions in a decade,” Jessica McDonald, a writer for factcheck.org, a non-profit organization that works to monitor factual accuracy to consumers said. “’Net-zero’ means that after tallying up all the greenhouse gases that are released and subtracting those that are sequestered, or removed, there is no net addition to the atmosphere.”
While net zero greenhouse gases for the United States is the main goal of the Green New Deal, this is not the only goal in mind. Within 10 years, the Green New Deal hopes to secure healthy food for low-income communities, invest in infrastructure, create jobs within the renewable energy field and reduce air and water pollution.
“I love almost everything about AOC’s ‘Green New Deal’,” Angiolieri said. “I think if it were enforced it would be very effective. We need to convert to clean energy which is one of her goals. Part of the deal is to also restore ecosystems which is also just as important. Using non-renewable energies damages ecosystem and, as mentioned before, affects climate change.”
Not everyone agrees that the world is in crisis due to the changing climate. Some scientists do not think that humans are the ones to cause climate change.
“A report found more than 1,000 scientists who disagreed that humans are primarily responsible for global climate change,” Encyclopedia Britannica reported. “The research on 11,944 studies actually found that only 3,974 even expressed a view on the issue. Of those, just 64 (1.6%) said humans are the main cause.”
Not all the news is bad. With COVID-19 flooding main-stream media outlets, some new advancements that have been made did not receive much media attention
“There was a satellite that was launched to monitor and collect data on rising sea levels,” science teacher Mr. Angelo Testa said. “This will help us understand the influence climate change has on rising sea levels. This was a collaboration of US and European effort to help us understand the effects of climate change on a global level.”
While technological advancements are what are going to effect the most change, individuals can make an effort as well.
“Some ways people can help is by switching little things,” sophomore Rory Damico said. “Like, instead of driving the five minutes to school or work, walk or ride a bike. If it’s raining, ride a bus. If you don’t want to do those, carpool with some friends. If there are less cars on the road, there will be less carbon emitting into the air. Small things like that are how you can help.”
Because of the Coronavirus pandemic this year, many people have had to turn to alternative methods to volunteer and donate.
Times have been tough for everyone, but some people still want to do their part by donating what they can and volunteering as much as possible. However, regulations set to protect against Covid-19 have made these activities hard to do.
“For me, personally, I have not seen many volunteer opportunities,” senior Ally Brumley said. “I coach youth cheer every year and that was canceled. At the New Haven Court at Linwood, no volunteers are allowed in.”
Many volunteer opportunities have been canceled because of Covid-19, but there are many ways that people can still help.
“I think that people who were already struggling to provide for their families have been affected the most by Covid-19,” senior National Honor Society Vice President Ella Johnson said. “Because many people have lost their jobs and aren’t getting the same wages that they used to, the number of people in need has risen. I feel like homeless shelters aren’t getting enough attention.”
While there are many new restrictions, food banks are still operating and need volunteers. And there are plenty of other things that people can do to help the community.
“I know it’s cliché, but I think charity begins in our own homes,” librarian Mrs. Carrie Vottero said. “We can all help out and be kind and empathetic to the people we live with. Something as simple as checking on your neighbor, calling a friend and making sure they don’t need anything or speaking with someone you know who might be lonely and isolated. We all need to be taking care of each other.”
Along with reaching out to those closest to someone, it is always a good idea to send a little bit of love to those who need it. Seniors in nursing homes are particularly isolated right now.
“I think that sending letters to nursing homes can help because they are unable to see their families right now or other people in the home,” senior Jenna Stillitano said. “They need some joy in their lives.”
Elderly people specifically are much more vulnerable to Covid-19, so volunteering has been very strict. However, community members could always make cards and write letters to brighten up the days of those in nursing homes.
“So many [nursing home] residents are upset or confused as to why they aren’t able to see their families,” Brumley said. “Little things truly are making their days. A simple card would genuinely mean so much to them.”
Simple gestures as small as sending a card have been cheering people up all year long. Volunteering and donating usually spreads lots of cheer, as well.
“The holidays are always a big time for donating and volunteering specifically because there are less fortunate people in the world that need help or a little extra holiday spirit,” Brumley said. “And this year it is so important because there is no sense of normalcy.”
Helping those in need always tends to make people feel better, especially nowadays.
“Being kind feels good,” Mrs. Vottero said. “There is great satisfaction in helping someone else. This pandemic makes me feel helpless and unable to control my world. Helping someone else makes me feel as if I have some control over what happens to me and someone I love. For me, helping someone else makes me feel as if I can do something, at least in my small corner of the world, to make the world a better place.”
As Covid-19 cases rise this holiday season, families must think outside the box to safely spend time with each other.
Thanks to technology, spending time with family is more accessible than ever. In order to avoid any risks of spreading the virus, family members of all ages and in all areas can video call one another.
“We have been using Zoom in my family,” art teacher Mrs. Kelley Audia said. “We used it to celebrate Thanksgiving. I was with my immediate family and we video-called people.”
Staying at home with just immediate family can greatly reduce the risk of catching or spreading Covid-19. Even though some people might not prefer video calls, it is one option to keep in contact with others.
“I don’t like video calls, but it is better than nothing,” junior Evelyn Swanson said. “I’m glad that since we can’t visit, we can at least see each other and talk.”
Many families have had to adapt the way they celebrate this year and Zoom makes a good alternative for meeting in person. They can stay at home and do similar activities, like watch movies, listen to Christmas music or bake cookies.
“Because we can’t do our normal traditions for Christmas, Zoom calls and Facetime become the next best thing,” sophomore Glenn Willcox said.
Video calling and social distancing have also provided a way to somewhat preserve old traditions.
“We are doing everything that we usually do that we can do at home,” Swanson said. “We have been decorating, painting ornaments and baking.”
New traditions have also had the opportunity to arise.
“We’ve had a lot of campfires and been outside a lot,” Mrs. Audia said. “That’s been a tradition that we’ve started doing this year because we can be socially distanced and not have to bring everyone inside.”
If families are planning to get together during the holidays this year, there are many things that they can do to minimize the risk of contracting the virus.
“If people plan to visit their loved ones this year, I think that they should wear masks and try not to stay long,” Audia said.
Overall, there are many ways that people can interact with loved ones without endangering anyone.
“I just hope that everyone is careful and does their part to keep the community safe,” Audia said.
As local cases of Covid-19 rise, schools in the area have been forced to close down and go fully remote.
GS schools have been as fortunate as possible during the Coronavirus pandemic, but no one knows what the future holds. The elementary schools have gone fully remote twice and the entire district is fully remote until at least January 4th. With the uncertainties surrounding Covid-19, many people have started to worry and speculate how long the hybrid system will last.
“I think that we should honestly close [all schools] if we want to stop the spread of the virus,” freshman Drezden Gesalman said.
With cases rising in Westmoreland County, there is a possibility of all schools shutting down. Schools like Yough and Greater Latrobe have already gone fully remote during the spike in cases, and they will remain online until their county statistics show two weeks of “Moderate” transmission rates.
GS had to make a similar call when they decided to go fully remote until at least the end of Christmas Break.
“There were several data points to examine when looking at that decision,” administrator Dr. Gary Peiffer said. “These factors include the most recent number of positive Covid-19 cases per 100,000 in our county, the positivity rate of Covid from PCR tests which indicate the rate the virus is spreading, the numbers of positive tests among our students and faculty and the number of faculty who have to quarantine due to being in close contact with a positive case.”
Many factors dictate whether or not GS schools can stay hybrid or not, but one of the most important ones is attendance. If there are too many students and staff at home, it can be difficult to keep the schools open. It is challenging to find enough ways to cover the classes of a teacher who is home quarantining. However, it’s better to be safe and quarantine if there is a possibility of having been in contact with a positive case than risking spreading the virus even more.
“I think that we should be remote [because of] the number of cases in tech schools because kids hang out with lots of other people and are capable of spreading Covid-19 unnoticed,” senior Kassidy Sullenburger said. “On top of that, there are probably more cases than we think because not everyone shows symptoms and that puts everyone at risk.”
Asymptomatic patients are difficult to detect, which is definitely not a good thing when dealing with a highly contagious virus. People may be carrying Covid-19 and not even know it, so ordinary precautions like masks may not be enough.
Similarly, teaching children to wear a mask and stay six feet apart is a challenge, so it did not surprise some to hear that Metzgar Elementary had to close for a week in October due to cases within the school.
“Maybe it should remain closed because the little kids aren’t always capable of understanding the complicated things happening right now, so they’ll continue to spread it,” Sullenburger said.
It can be a challenge to understand the risks of Covid-19 at any age, especially that young. However, there are many advantages and disadvantages to keeping children out of school for safety.
Especially for high schoolers, online school can be tedious and confusing.
“I believe that it is difficult to get ahold of teachers because everyone is online at different times,” Gesalman said. “If I were to message a teacher and say they wouldn’t respond for an hour, then I may log off and get an answer in the morning. For some students and I, it’s been hard to explain to myself and receive directions over the computer.”
Communication has been difficult for some teachers as well because they may have a hard time reaching some students.
“It is more difficult [to get in touch with students],” chemistry teacher Mrs. Tammy Elliott said. “It is much easier when you see students in class every day to check in with them or remind them of assignments. Now, I can send chat messages and it may take hours for them to respond, and sometimes they never do.”
Communication isn’t the only issue regarding online school, though.
“It’s harder to do my tech classes because sometimes I don’t have the materials I need to do the work I need to do,” Sullenburger said. “Tech kids are struggling heavily right now because we have classes that make virtual learning impossible.”
While GS schools may be fully remote right now, classes offered at the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center are still being held in person, as well as online. As long as a student has transportation to and from the high school, they can attend the in-person classes at CWCTC.
“If we can drive there we are allowed to go, but f we can’t we have google classroom stuff that has all of our assignments, projects and attendance,” Sullenburger said.
Even fully remote students can agree that some classes are more challenging to do online.
“I think there are definitely classes that are harder to do online,” junior Hannah Schweiger said. “I think pottery is definitely one of them because most people don’t have the materials for it and if they don’t have a license and their parents work and can’t get off, it can be difficult going to the school a lot to get stuff or drop stuff off. I also think classes like chorus, child development and drama could be harder to do online.”
Despite how challenging a course may be, some students just might need a little extra support with online instruction. There are many distractions outside of a school setting, and most teachers understand that it isn’t always as easy to learn online.
“I think it depends on the student,” Mrs. Elliott said. “Many students do very well with working and learning independently, setting their own schedule and getting their work done. However, there are students who are social learners who need or prefer the interaction and group work. That is what motivates them to learn, and so far it is harder for them to be remote.”
Sports and afterschool activities would also be greatly affected by going fully remote. If there are too many cases, there is a chance that the activities will be canceled.
“Different after school activities have been affected in different ways,” Dr. Peiffer said. “Many activities were postponed or canceled. Coaches and sponsors have been thinking out of the box to provide extra-curricular activities for students while adhering to the guidelines established by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.”
In general, going fully remote might make some classes a struggle to do. However, health and safety remain a priority for most staff, students and parents, so they are willing to deal with a little bit of discomfort.
“Overall if classes do get shut down (in person), there will have to be ways to accommodate every class and if the school doesn’t get shut down there will have to be changes made to keep it safe for every student and teacher,” Schweiger said.