Student Feature: Natalia Backos

By Ari Case

Backos posing proudly with her dog, Boozer. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

With roughly 2,500 students, GS is not a large district. Within the numbers, though, many students are notably high-achieving—not just in academics. One student, sophomore Natalia Backos, is among them.

This year, Backos was invited to the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The Westminster Dog Show is one of the most coveted shows in the world, and the most well-known in America. Only about 80 junior competitors are invited each year, with a lengthy list of requirements.

Backos has met them all, and more.

Her first show was when she was around 2 years old.

“[I’m] third generation,” she said. “I was practically born at a dog show.”

She grew up tagging along to her mother’s shows and began to participate herself.

“When I was six, I started showing a standard schnauzer,” Backos said. “Her name was Promise and we showed together for [about] a year and a half. And we did a lot of winning. And she’s what [really] provoked my love for the sport.”

Young Backos with her first show dog, Promise. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.
Backos and Promise after a win. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

Over the years, she has shown many other dogs that grew with her. Her current show dog is a six-and-a-half-year-old Parson Russell terrier named Boozer.

Boozer standing proudly in perfect form. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

“He is basically my child,” she said. “He sleeps in bed with me every night and he stays in the hotel with us. He comes to every single dog show with us—he’s always there.”

Backos has shown Boozer for several events, and he has won both his breed and group. Together, they are the #1 junior in the breed and #4 terrier junior nation-wide.

This doesn’t mean that Boozer is simply a good-looking dog, or that Backos knows how to have him spin the right way.

Boozer on a podium with Backos after a big win. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.
Another view of Backos and Boozer’s win. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

“It’s less than being judged against each other, like what dogs are prettiest,” she said. “It’s not like a beauty pageant. It’s based off of a written standard.”

She went on to explain that the standards are set, but each judge has a subjective opinion of each dog. Some days, certain judges will rank a dog far lower than a different judge—based on the same exact written standard.

“No matter how good you think you are, there’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t think of you that way, no matter [what] you do,” she said.

This reliance on subjective opinion can be difficult to deal with for competitors, including Backos.

“I really [take] people’s opinions, [to] heart,” she said. “When somebody says they don’t like me or they don’t like a certain thing that I do, it can make things very difficult for me because I’d like to please people [no] matter what. And you know, when somebody says that I just wasn’t good enough that day that can really be difficult.”

Backos said that she experiences fluctuation in confidence levels for shows, even before she gets to the airport.

“I’ll always have some form of anxiety about it,” she said. “Even though I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s still something that I’m always [on] the tips of my toes about. [You] never know how good you really are.”

She explained that this can be difficult for her to handle, because competitors need to be confident to show well.

Despite these difficulties, Backos and Boozer are still one of the best junior teams in the country.

Backos walking Boozer at a show. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

This success comes with its fair share of problems, though, especially regarding teenage development.

“It can get really stressful because sometimes [I] just want to be a regular kid and not have to do something every single day, every single weekend,” Backos said.

She expressed that it is difficult to make plans and keep up with her friends when she is frequently hundreds of miles away on the weekends.

Contrarily, she shared that showing has taught her how to “talk to adults that can impact [her] life.”

Perhaps more important than difficulty making plans with friends, Backos has also had trouble with extracurriculars and schoolwork.

“It makes doing other activities very difficult,” she said. “It’s very much [like] a full-time job. So, musical season gets very difficult [and] sports get very difficult. [It] makes me really have [to] pick and choose what I’m doing.”

She explained that while showing is a lot of work, she benefits from it. She is able to make connections that will help her in the future in addition to scholarships as prizes that add up quickly. The prize for the Westminster show, a large one, is a $10,000 scholarship for the winning junior, who will then tour with others who placed first in their respective categories.

These scholarships are immensely beneficial, especially for students like her, who have big plans for education.

Backos is a straight A student enrolled in several Honors and Advanced Placement courses. She genuinely enjoys learning and puts extra effort into work when she is absent for shows.

“On the way to the dog shows, I’ll do my homework at the hotels,” she said. “[Anytime] I’m just sitting around, I’ll be doing some work. So, it’s always a balance.”

In the past, her teachers have worked with her before and after shows to ensure she understands and completes the necessary material.

One of these teachers is Ms. Kristen Solomon, English and Mock Trial teacher.

Ms. Solomon said that Backos was given extensions when she was absent, and that she “always turned in her work” and that it “didn’t seem to affect her grade” in the class—Pre-AP English I.

Trigonometry teacher Ms. Christina Burkhart expressed much of the same sentiment regarding Backos’ work ethic.

“She’ll get all the work done before she goes, and if she has questions, she’ll come and ask,” Ms. Burkhart said. “[Sometimes] she’ll just make it up when she gets back. She’s very responsible.”

Burkhart explained that she works with Backos in advisory and after school when she needs help with a topic she missed in class.

Due to understanding teachers and a determination to learn, Backos has succeeded in balancing school, showing and her extracurriculars fairly well.

She urged other students to participate in extracurricular activities if they can and to “get involved with your school and community.”

A concern for many is that it will be difficult to balance activities with schoolwork and other obligations, but high school is the time to get involved and find things that make students happy.

“I would encourage [students] to participate in extracurriculars and not be too nervous about balancing schoolwork,” Solomon said. “I’d say utilize a calendar and plan to know what you’re missing.”

This is one of the strategies Backos uses that helps her keep everything in check.

Backos kneeling beside Boozer during a show. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

It is because of her will and dedication that Backos has gained her way into the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club dog show, and many around her are proud of her efforts. She exhibits the aspects of a true golden lion.

As Backos prepares for Westminster and heads to several other shows in the meantime, Solomon wished her luck.

“I think it’s really exciting that she’s involved in something so unique and I’m proud of her,” Solomon said.

Other teachers shared the same sentiment of pride.

“It does not surprise me that she got into this because she’s very determined and willing to work hard for what she wants,” Burkhart said. “So, this is, you know, a fabulous experience for her. And I wish her all the luck and all the best.”

Alumni Spotlight

By Brianna Campagna

Although GS is a small suburban school, many passion-filled students have graduated and gone on to do successful things.

One way that former students can see what their fellow graduates have achieved is on LinkedIn. The employment network has a GS Alumni page, which former students can join.

Physics teacher Mrs. Cheryl Harper has managed the LinkedIn page for approximately three years now.

“I saw former students putting their resume there and connecting with people who gave them leads on internships and jobs,” Mrs. Harper said. “There is the ability to see how well a lot of our graduates are doing and how happy they are.”

As of the end of October 2022, there are just under 300 alumni involved on the page. Any alumni is able to join the LinkedIn page.

“All somebody has to do is be a high school alumnus and send a request to join the group,” Harper said. “I check to make sure they are really an alumnus of the high school. Then I just accept their request.”

One alumnus who is involved on the LinkedIn page is Tristan Elma, who graduated in 2017. He attended USC to study computer science and computer engineering.

Portrait of Elma. Photo courtesy: Tristan Elma.

“Once I got there, my focus became setting myself up for my career, so I started working hard to land an internship and get some industry experience,” Elma said. “I struggled to get an internship until the summer of my junior year, when I worked for Intel. In that position, I helped develop test code for their nonvolatile memory chips.”

Soon after he enrolled in USC’s progressive degree program, where he was able to obtain a master’s degree while he continued to finish his undergraduate classes. During all of this, he was uncertain if this was the career path for him.

“Until the very last minute, I was unsure of whether I wanted to pursue computer software or hardware engineering,” he said. “After asking one of my favorite professors for advice, I ended up following in his footsteps to get my Masters in computer (hardware) engineering.”

Although Elma enjoyed Intel, he felt as though his interests were best met elsewhere.

“While I was ready to go back to Intel for another internship, I ended up going to Samsung to pursue a position that I felt was more in line with my interests and skills,” he said. “I interned there last summer and fall while I finished up my grad school remotely, then I was offered a full-time position after I graduated in December to work on their GPU team, specifically on standard cell library maintenance, CAD/EDA infrastructure and physical design. I’ve been at Samsung ever since, living near their research center in Austin, Texas.”

Elma has always had many influential people in his life; his family has always inspired him.

“My family has had the biggest impact,” he said. “My parents, especially, have always stressed the importance of academics and pushed me to work hard in school. They also both studied science in college, which is likely why I envisioned myself going into STEM even as a kid. In school and college, I also had many incredible teachers and professors who cultivated my curiosities and equipped me with the skills for success.”

Alongside the people who inspired him, his experiences helped him find his interest in engineering.

“Although my mentors have been the biggest influences on my life, I’ve also had life-changing experiences in summer camps, extracurriculars and internships that have shaped my trajectory for becoming an engineer,” he said.

Elma’s motivation has been his passion for his field.

“My main motivation is that I’m extremely interested in my field and get genuinely excited by the projects I get to work on,” he said. “There have been a lot of challenges on the road to my current position, but I’ve never lost sight of my goal, which is to do something that I love and is in demand at the same time.”

One recommendation that Elma has for students is to do research on what will take them to the career path they want.

“Once you have an idea of what you want to do, do your research on what it will take to get there,” he said. “For example, if you’re going after a specific kind of job, you can search job postings to get a sense of what qualifications and skills you’ll need, and you can even check websites like Glassdoor to see what the interview process is like. From there, you can work on building your resume and skillset, tailoring them to help you achieve your goals.”

Some qualities that Elma has, such as determination, helped him get to where he is today.

 “I don’t shy away from challenges and I don’t give up when things go poorly,” he said. “For example, my freshman year of college was the hardest year of my life in many ways, but I dug deep and kept going. At first, I was behind in my classes relative to my classmates and my GPA suffered. I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it through, and I was scared because all I heard from upperclassmen was how much harder classes got from there. But I worked through my struggles and managed to do better every semester until I started getting 4.0s.”

GS has helped form Elma into the person he is today from experiences outside of school hours.

“I think the most important things I learned at GS are lessons that go beyond the classroom; experiences that have shaped my character and changed the way I think,” he said. “One example of this is the maturity I developed as I balanced classwork and extracurriculars. I really had to think about how I should spend my time and why I did what I did. This taught me not only to manage time, but also to figure out what matters to me and to be intentional in life. Unlike random facts you might study, lessons like these tend to stick with you.”

Megan Taylor, who graduated from GS in 2013, is also involved with the GS Alumni page on LinkedIn. She studied Early Childhood Education at the University of Pittsburgh. While she was there, she studied abroad twice in Italy and Ireland, which opened her love for travelling. Before the end of her college career, she got a job at Uber.

Portrait of Taylor. Photo Courtesy: Megan Taylor.

“During the summer before my senior year of college, I started working part-time at Uber in a Driver Support Hub,” Taylor said. “I was able to network myself in this role with connections I made at my other job as a Pitt Tour Guide. I’m proud to say I’m still here over six years later. I built my career in Sales and Account Management across Uber Eats SMB restaurants. In my current role, I manage US & Canada Uber Eats Enterprise Marketing Sales as a Senior Operations Manager.”

Taylor currently lives in New York City with her partner, Tomás, where she has resided for nearly five years. Looking back on her time at GS, she admires the unique, dedicated teaching staff that taught her.

“Greensburg Salem is unique because of the empathy and dedication driven by the teachers and staff,” she said. “In and out of the classroom, I’ve leaned on teachers like Mr. Gazze, Mr. Lenzi, Mrs. Audia and Mr. Snider when I felt lost. Take advantage of those that want to help you – it will make a world of difference.”

The extracurriculars that Taylor was involved in taught her successful skills to use in her current job.

“During my time at GS, I was a majorette in the marching band, ran cross country and track, was in all the musicals and participated in the district chorus,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve partially attributed my success to being really involved in extracurriculars in high school. It taught me how to work toward a shared goal, be accountable, public speaking, juggle priorities, etc.”

Advice that Taylor has for students is to “be curious” and explore many different career options.

“I candidly put myself into a box early in my high school career by solely exploring careers in education,” she said. “As a result, I entered my senior year of college uninterested in what was ahead of me. It all worked out regardless. However, if I could have done anything differently during my time at GS, it would have been to shadow professionals in various roles and have extensive conversations with adults about what they enjoy about their fields.”

Taylor has helped herself stay motivated and advises students to do the same.

“Being motivated and generally driven has helped me take advantage of every opportunity that’s been presented to me,” she said. “Reflecting, I can see a domino effect of how each opportunity has led me to the next one. My advice is to be bold, ask questions and put yourself outside your comfort zone. I promise you won’t regret it.”

Exodus and the Locusts

By Mia Saraceni  

Teen years are the time when one begins to figure out their identity, interests and plans for the rest of their life. It’s a formative time, but it can be difficult to learn and grow while in the midst of a great national tragedy.  

The Covid-19 pandemic was the tragedy that took the world by storm, and it caused intense confusion, especially for young people. Most people are still in the process of wading through the aftermath, but a new threat is slowly butting its head in.  

Mental health issues across the nation became greater than ever before, but with a lack of societal care came a heightened stigma, leading to a lot of teenagers left struggling.  

Senior Lauren Mahkovic was one such student who struggled during the pandemic, providing many sentiments regarding her personal experiences.  

“When the school year finished up and Covid got worse and worse, I got really depressed,” Mahkovic said. 

Other students, such as fellow senior Grace Kaminsky struggled as well, both with her mental well-being and school life.  

“Life during Covid was tough,” Kaminsky said. “It was hard to adjust to everything around me, especially turning my living space into an educational setting without getting the two mixed up.” 

Most students were left wrestling between their diminishing mental health and school life practically going down the drain, but that struggle reached more people than just teenagers.  

English teacher Mrs. Mary Logan experienced many difficulties she was forced to wade through during the pandemic, some that permanently changed her to this day.  

“Covid and world events have shaken me so hard that I withdrew from all news, current events and almost all social media because it was stressing me out to a breaking point,” Mrs. Logan said.  

Horrible statistics and news of constant death were practically shoved down the throats of every person in America, leaving almost everyone with a bad taste in their mouth.  

The pandemic was just the start of hardships though, as life from there on out changed and in some people’s opinions, for the worst.  

The newest issue plaguing the world is not in regards to illness, but rather a horrible threat of war.  

The Russo-Ukrainian War officially started in early 2014, but the conflict has escalated to such a point where citizens of the United States fear their livelihoods might be caught in the crosshairs of a nuclear bomb.  

Some people believe the threat to be nothing but hearsay spread around by the likes of the media and those who submit to its teachings, but others find genuine concern with the event.  

One can argue, though, that the teenage generation has been pushed too close to the ledge, so much so that they simply don’t care.  

Political cartoon by Mia Saraceni.

“Our generation is so desensitized to war, violence and the threat of immediate death that it’s just kind of another day, to be honest,” Mahkovic said. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked such havoc on some of Generation-Z that nuclear strikes and the potential of total annihilation is just another thing to shrug at, which is a poignant piece of reality.  

An apathetic point of view doesn’t always have to come from a place of deep fear, it could just come from utter disbelief.  

“They’re bluffing,” senior Alex Toth said. “They’re not going to drop bombs. There was a recent meeting between the Russian military leaders about possible tactical nuclear weapons being used in just small scenarios, nothing to wipe out a city.”  

Toth is a member of the United States Army Reserve, a branch of the Army, who participates in monthly battle drills and classes in preparation for possible federal activation.  

Passivity is emotion that’s few and far between when it comes to outlooks on the event, and most lie in-between the barriers of fear and positivity. 

“Ever since 2020, I feel like there has just been a long succession of disruptions, so it’s a moot point to talk about ‘further possible disruptions,’” Logan said.  

The idea of a “new normal,” especially after everything that has happened and is on the brink of happening, is practically unrealistic because of the ever-changing events.  

Americans have constantly concerned themselves with whether or not to care about massive and potentially life changing events, whether that be sickness, natural disaster or war, and those clashing opinions make for a hostile environment.  

Not only have teenagers had to worry about plague and war, but they’ve also been incredibly affected by the ever-evolving, volatile political feud going on in the United States.   

Extremists on both sides of the political spectrum create such a combative environment that it’s impossible to disagree on respectful grounds. 

“Everyone is becoming so polarized,” Mahkovic said. “Everyone has become so extreme. There’s no room for compromise, like you should be more willing to put others before yourself or listen to others before stating your own opinion.” 

Kaminsky shares the same idea that “everything has become so extreme.”  

Politics and political feuds aren’t a random and disjointed piece to the horrible puzzle, they’re necessary for understanding why mindsets in the U.S, especially those relating to sickness and war, are the way they are.  

When one is in the middle of a tug-of-war game, it’s only a matter of time before they reach a certain side.  

“Keeping our heads above the water and maintaining hope for the future is the only plan,” Logan said. “No matter what happens now.” 

Thanksgiving Festivities

 By Ksena Spencer

As Halloween comes to an end and people start to get ready for Christmas, Thanksgiving sets the holiday spirit to snowball into Christmas.  

Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated by giving thanks to loved ones, opportunities, the year’s achievements and taking time to appreciate the good things in life.

“I am thankful that I am in generally good health, and that I have a fantastic wife and son,” math teacher Mr. Al Toret said. “I am also thankful that I am able to have a good outlook on life and that I still smile more than I do frown on most days.”

The Turkey Trot is a 5k run and walk held every Thanksgiving Day for the last 30 years in downtown Greensburg. This is a good way for the community to get together and do something that anyone can participate in.

History teacher Ms. Lucy Iapalucci said that her family starts their Thanksgiving Day by participating in the Turkey Trot followed by breakfast and football.

Many people have traditions that they have passed down from generation to generation in their families. Traditions include stories, rituals, routines, gifts and various other things that families celebrate together during Thanksgiving. Traditions could be as simple as going around the table and taking turns saying things that they are grateful for.

Thanksgiving foods include turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and many other foods.

“My wife’s stuffing recipe is quite good and I think that the world should know that,” Mr. Toret said.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that a lot of people travel to visit family and value the time of being grateful for each other.     

This year, 58.63% of people from a travel survey are planning to stay close to home, according to https://financebuzz.com/thanksgiving-data.

Cooking turkey sometimes is a big task, so there is a butterball turkey hotline that people can call in and ask someone questions about their Thanksgiving turkey. Questions they might have about cooking turkey include how to season it, how to pluck the feathers and whether to deep-fry it or roast it. Call 1-800-BUTTERBALL or text 844-877-3456 to talk to their turkey experts.

According to https://worldstrides.com/blog/2016/11/9-fun-facts-about-thanksgiving/:

  • Turkey wasn’t in the menu at the first Thanksgiving. Venison, duck, goose, oysters, lobster, eel and fish were likely served alongside pumpkins and cranberries (not pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce).

According to https://blog.aghires.com/15-thanksgiving-food-facts:

  • Americans buy 365 million pounds of turkey the week of Thanksgiving, usually whole turkeys.
  • Over 480,000 lbs of fresh pumpkins are purchased each year for Thanksgiving, mostly likely to make a pumpkin pie or some may use for décor.
  • Even with the extra calories, it’s a myth that the average person gains five pounds over the holiday. Most people only gain about eight tenths of a pound.

According to https://www.babyquip.com/blog/thanksgiving-facts:

  • In the Guiness Book of World Records, the current largest pumpkin pie was baked in 2010 by the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers in Ohio. It weighed 3,699 pounds and measured 20 feet in diameter. The ingredients included a whopping 1,212 pounds of pumpkin, 109 gallons of evaporated milk, 2,796 eggs, 525 pounds of sugar, 7 pounds of salt and 14.5 pounds of cinnamon.
  • Big Bird’s costume on Sesame Street is made from turkey feathers that have been dyed yellow. The American Plume & Fancy Feather company is responsible for making Big Bird’s suit which includes 4,000 turkey feathers.
  • Cranberries aren’t just for eating. Native Americans used cranberries to treat wounds and dye arrows.
  • Male turkeys are called toms.
  • Wild turkeys can run up to 20 miles per hour.

There are many fun facts to find about Thanksgiving. It is a holiday that is unique since it’s known for specific types of foods and how far traditions have carried on since the first Thanksgiving was celebrated.

“I think it’s important that people celebrate Thanksgiving because I feel like it brings families together,” freshman Lauren Galvin said.

Short Film Shines Light On the Beauty of Greensburg

By Emily Frazier

The behind the scenes of Morelli and Hughes filming at a local shop. Photo Courtesy: Marcus Morelli.

A film capturing the life of the City of Greensburg has captivated the GS community. Repost after repost occurred the day the film was released, for people felt personally connected with the video and all it featured.

Skene-19 Films is a video production company that has been in business for over 10 years. Owned by Greater Latrobe alum, Marcus Morelli, and assisted by GS alum, Derek Hughes, Skene-19 Films creates many types of videos, ranging from promotional commercials to entertaining short films.

One of their latest films was for the City of Greensburg called This is Greensburg. This Is Greensburg featured many GS students, businesses, activities, events and more.

Morelli and Hughes filming a feature for Seton Hill University Dance Academy. Photo Courtesy: Marcus Morelli.

“The main purpose, initially, was for advertising,” Morelli said. “The city hired us to do a 2-minute promotional video and a 30-second commercial, and that’s what we set out to do, but the more we shot, the more we learned that this footage was special; we love this city.”

In January 2020, the city greenlit Morelli’s proposal, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, the project was put on the back burner to be continued later. As soon as things started to become normal again, Morelli and Hughes set out and filmed every aspect of life, collecting hours upon hours of footage.

“I would wake up early in the morning and get cool sunrises and get cool sunsets,” Morelli said. “I’d take my camera around town and get little moments in time.”

The City of Greensburg gave Morelli and Hughes ideas on what needed to be filmed, but they found themselves capturing more than that.

“We were hired by the city for this, sure, but it turned into more of a passion project,” Hughes said.

They went outside of the box and chose to shoot in locations they hadn’t planned on before taking their camera and drone with them.

“We took the initiative of shooting football games and Greensburg Salem students,” Morelli said.

Seniors Madison Krofcheck and Kayla McMichael were two of the many GS students featured in the film. Krofcheck was seen dribbling a soccer ball at her game and cheering under Friday Night Lights, enjoying her hobbies. Caught in two aspects of her daily life, McMichael was shown conducting the marching band and serving customers at Prantl’s Bakery.

Other students who were spotted in the film include freshman Izabella Caruso, senior Lillian Gatons and her brother, Quintin Gatons(a ‘20 graduate), junior Ava Hardaway, freshman Natalia Hardaway, senior Colten Houser, senior Isaiah Payne and other members of the GS football team, seniors Gabrielle Sheffler and Kaidence Thomas in the Salem Psychos student section, the GS marching band, senior Aleah Collins and members of the cheer team.

The filming of Houser’s feature at the fire department. Photo Courtesy: Marcus Morelli.

From a commercial standpoint, Morelli and Hughes also filmed snippets of life in local businesses and events, though they struggled to choose who and what to film.

“Well, if we could have, we would have featured every single business,” Hughes said. “We went to a bunch of businesses and realized we couldn’t fit everyone in, but hopefully the essence of it makes it feel like everyone was involved.”

The amount of footage they accumulated over time shocked them. They knew something more was blossoming from this project.

“To see what we had after a day of filming, to see how special it was becoming, I think that was a really cool part, to see how it evolved,” he said.

Positive feedback from the community came in waves.

“We’re very flattered and humbled that it went kind of locally viral,” Morelli said. “We hope the film can live on for a long time.”

Let’s BeReal

By Emma Helmick

Alert! Students only have two minutes left to take their BeReal and stop class.

BeReal is a new social media app that sends a notification at a random time in the day. It has a two-minute timer and no filters to remain authentic.

“The BeReal app is a way to communicate with friends through pictures,” freshman Izabella Caruso said, “It is a way to see what your friends are doing and to interact with them and even people all around the world.”

The notification is the same time for everyone, but it can be sent at any point of the day.

“I think it is just a fun app and doesn’t take the time to satisfy like Instagram or TikTok,” junior Drezden Gesalman said.

On different social medias people only post what is good in their lives. BeReal shows what people’s everyday life actually looks like at a random time.  

“I would say hundreds or maybe even thousands of teens are on this social media app around the world,” Caruso said. “While scrolling through suggested friends I see tons of different people, all with different locations.”

Everyone has a friends list with people they can accept or decline, however there is also a discovery page which has millions of people who can be reacted to or friended.

Because of BeReal’s random timing, it can become a distraction at work or school.

“I think its disruptive the same way cell phones are,” U.S Government and Politics teacher Mr. Nicholas Diehl said.  “Kids are addicted to their phones, and it becomes disruptive because you’re supposed to take it right then and there.”

If someone’s picture is not taken within the two-minutes, it is considered late, which gives people the determination to stop and take their picture no matter where they are.

“I definitely think this app is a distraction in class,” Caruso said. “I remember when the app first came out and all I would hear is, ‘Look the BeReal went off’ or ‘We have to take our BeReal.’ I can even say I have gotten distracted when it went off during class and wanted to take mine.”

The notification can become a temptation for kids and sometimes can just give them another reason to be on their phones in school.

“I think it is a very positive app,” Gesalman said. “You can react to other people’s posts, but honestly it is more about seeing just what your friends are up to at the time.”

Fall Sports Wrap Up

By Luke Dinkel

The 2022-2023 fall sports season has come to an end at GS, which means that the seven fall sports have officially finished their season.

The Varsity Football team ended their season with a 4-6-0 record, finishing 5th in the league.

“I feel like we could have done better than we did,” junior Adam DiPasquale said. “I feel like we didn’t really come out fighting at the beginning of some games and got behind and lost confidence in each other. I feel like we lost games that we should have easily won. But in some games, we fought hard as a team and just came up a little short. And the games we did win we all worked together and fought together as a team to win.”

The Girls’ Varsity Volleyball team finished with a 2-10 conference record.

“This season our team started off looking pretty strong,” freshman Julie Elias said. “After our first couple of games, we slowly saw the way things were going and desperately wanted to change our losses into wins. We ended up coming very close to some of the top teams and won against a few teams as well. This year more than any, our team formed a strong bond with each other and our coaches. It wasn’t the season we all had imagined, but we all learned a lot and became a better team and individual.”

The Boys’ Varsity Soccer team finished their season with a 3-11 record.

“We had a lot of talent on the team this year; we just couldn’t execute our season the way we had hoped to,” junior Carter Rizzo said. “The team played physically and had some good games. I think we need to build more trust with one another and find some team chemistry to strengthen our game.”

The Girls’ Varsity Soccer team finished with a 1-11 record.

“The season didn’t go how we expected; we had a lot of injuries and bumps during the season,” junior Taylor Carr said. “I think we all grew a lot more as a team and we were working towards doing better next year. We will all be practicing in the off-season and hopefully come back even stronger next year.”

The Varsity Golf team finished the season with a 5-6 record.

“I think we had a great season this year; we had a lot of great players,” junior Grant Smith said. “The team missed out on a couple of must-win matches, but overall, we had a great season.”

The Girls’ Varsity Tennis team finished their season with a 3-11 record.

“We entered the season having to replace five varsity starters from the 2021 team, including first, second and third singles,” Head Coach Mr. Christopher Gazze said. “Of our returning athletes, only four had varsity experience and we had five girls new to the team. Offseason workouts were about teaching the fundamentals of the sport. I felt we had a terrific attitude as a team, open to learning and very supportive of each other. Everyone wanted to get better. It was a process, but I was pleased with how we progressed. It didn’t always result in wins, but we competed with talented teams and kept matches close. There was a lot of growth throughout the season that sets a solid foundation for next year.”

The Girls’ Varsity Cross Country team finished their season with an 8-5 record, while the Boys’ Cross Country team finished with a 6-7 record.

“Both the boys’ and girls’ teams had great seasons for the talent we have,” Head Coach Mr. Nathan Snider said. “The girls’ team finished 8-5 and the boys’ were 6-7.  Both teams won the meets they should have won, and each won a meet they probably shouldn’t have won, which is always fun.  The team spends a lot of time working to get ready for the season and it’s nice to see that hard work pay off. Individually, having Aaron Tressler finish 15th in the WPIAL and advancing to States is a great accomplishment.  I thought we had some girls that could make it, but the competition was a little better than we were.  They ran great, but just not quite enough.  Hopefully next year they will be able to advance as individuals.”

Cubs’ Den

By Emma Helmick

The Cubs’ Den playground outside of the classroom. Photo by Emma Helmick.

High school students are training new cubs to become Golden Lions.

Cubs’ Den is a preschool in the high school. Each kid has their own high school helper to guide them and work with them individually.

“Having 25 high schoolers and 15 preschoolers in the room at the same time takes a lot of planning and structure, but we have so much fun,” Child Development Teacher Mrs. Tiffany Smietana-Lysell said. “It is nice having the high schoolers in class before the preschool year starts so that we can establish routines and get ready for what to expect out of our little ones.”

Makenzie Span teaching the preschoolers the alphabet. Photo by Emma Helmick.

High school students who take child development start off by learning how to act around little kids, how to talk to them and how to work with them in any situation that may occur before being put in an actual environment with them.

“Providing high schoolers with the hands-on experience to work one-on-one with the preschoolers is truly the best way to directly apply what we learn about child development and early childhood education,” Mrs. Smietana-Lysell said. “This gives high school students first-hand experience to understand the professional aspect of the position along with all of the preparation, time-management and ethics that goes into teaching. This is a neat experience for the preschoolers because they have the ‘big kids’ to look up to and learn from during this impressionable time of their lives.”

The child development students must plan out lessons to teach the kids before even meeting them. When preschoolers arrive, the high school helpers have to keep up with journaling their assigned kid’s growth throughout their time in Cubs’ Den.

“I want to go into a field after high school where I work with children, whether that be being a teacher or a therapist working with children,” senior Crysta Collins said. “I can use what I’ve learned in Cubs’ Den to interact with children and use my knowledge to create lesson plans if I decide to teach.”

This class helps the preschoolers prepare for kindergarten, but it is also helping students who want to be teachers or do any job where children will be involved.

“I think it’s really fun to be able to teach them while still being a student because it gives the kind of nostalgia from whenever I was in Cubs’ Den when I was younger,” sophomore Greta Hagofsky said.

Cubs’ Den has found a way to bring back students and make them the teachers.

“Throughout Cubs’ Den I’ve learned leadership and responsibility. Cubs’ Den also teaches patience because it’s not easy to work with preschoolers, especially when they have short attention spans and don’t always listen or focus,” Collins said.

Working with the children is not expected to be easy. There are backup students who can step in and help out if those who are new to the class are struggling or do not know what to do.

“The best way to describe Cubs’ Den is ‘organized chaos’ but in the most fun way,” Smietana-Lysell said.

Mental Health Services at GS

By Brianna Campagna 

Motivational sign hung in the guidance office. Photo by Brianna Campagna.

Many people struggle with mental health issues on a daily basis, often wondering where to find help in their battles.

GS attempts to minimize the amount of stress that staff and students undergo by providing mental health services. 

Health class is regularly taught in 10th grade alongside gym class. Health Teacher Mr. Patrick Hutchinson is one of the three teachers who teaches Health class at GS. The students spend one unit learning about mental health. 

“Mental health is taught as our second unit of the year,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “We first talk about the way the brain communicates with itself, sends signals, and controls thoughts, feelings and behaviors. We go over eight common mental health disorders; what causes them, how they are treated, and examples of what those disorders look like in your everyday life. We then learn about how to treat these mental disorders. We also discuss two often overlooked but powerful influences on our mental health which are social media and nutrition.” 

When Hutchinson is faced with students who are struggling, he offers a helping hand. 

“I always recommend to my students to talk about any health issue they are having, especially mental health,” he said. “Saying it out loud can be a relief in itself, which is sometimes all they need to do. But talking to another person and finding out that they have similar feelings or that they have go through the same emotions can help so much to make that student feel like they are not weird, or alone, or sick.”

Hutchinson recommends that students talk to a trusted adult about issues they may be facing.

“I also strongly encourage students to talk to an adult, any adult,” he said. “Talking to a peer is great but when an adult is introduced to the problem, they often have more knowledge on how to seek advanced help.” 

When it comes to seeking help, the school counselors are available as resources to students. School Counselor Mr. John Manley is one of two GS counselors. He often works with students whose last name starts with M-Z, but any student is permitted to see either counselor.  

“I can meet with students and Mrs. Klipa and I both are qualified to meet with students to discuss concerns or issues that they may be experiencing,” Mr. Manley said. “We don’t diagnose. We don’t prescribe medication, but we are counselor educators.” 

The best advice that Mr. Manley has to offer to students is to “come and talk.” 

“The hardest part sometimes for students is to make that initial step into the office and be willing to talk about what’s going on and open up because that can be uncomfortable,” he said. “But we want students to feel comfortable enough to come and see us and to share if they’re experiencing some difficulties. We might not be able to fix all the problems, but it’s important to at least start that conversation.” 

There is a mental health resource that was recently introduced to GSSD called Care Solace. This website is available to any family in the district and provides help for students of families struggling with mental health or substance abuse. 

“The mental health service that is new to the district which we discuss [in health class] is Care Solace,” Hutchinson said. “It is for students, their families and district employees to help them access quality mental health support.” 

The services provided by Care Solace are offered 24/7. Their hotline is 1(888)515-0595. Care Solace does not charge for their services, and confidentiality is ensured. 

 “It can help connect students and families to resources outside of the school and help them find a person that they can work with to get them connected to the most appropriate resources,” Manley said. “We also have resources within the school’s Student Assistance Program. We have a team of teachers who are trained who meet once a week to discuss if there are students that are experiencing difficulties and how we can get them connected to appropriate sources to help them.” 

Mr. Manley, along with Superintendent Dr. Ken Bissell, has made efforts to publicize these resources. Alongside resources provided to students, there are resources provided to all GSSD staff. 

“We have an Employee Assistance Program,” Dr. Bissell said. “Our EAP [Employee Assistance Program] is a 24/7 service where they can call into a 1(800) phone number and they can get immediate service to any counselor at any time. That can be a quick check in, or it can be something where they’re helping to get them set up with counseling services for an ongoing service with local providers. That is probably the biggest thing that we have.” 

Bissell hopes to better educate teachers and staff on the resources available to them.  

“Part of what we’re working with HUB International to do is to get that word out to more of our staff about the available opportunity,” he said. “We send out messages and reminders to the staff all the time about the Employee Assistance Program. But one thing that we’ve talked about as a county wide group is when do people need the information? They don’t need it when they’re just looking through an email. They need it when they need it.” 

 The healthcare provider for Westmoreland educational staff is Westmoreland County Healthcare Organization, which has recently released a website for more immediate access. Many different services are offered through the healthcare provider 24/7. Both newsletters and contact sources are available to the staff. 

“What we’re finding out is we needed to find a way to give them the resources at hand,” Bissell said. “And that’s where in just this past month, September, we released a new website to provide all of the health care needs and provide the information for the EAP. If somebody has a child with a broken leg and they need to know information from their health care provider, they can get it there. Know that mental health services are a big piece of what is available at that website.” 

Alongside what is provided with the Westmoreland County Healthcare Organization, the district plans to provide more training for staff in the district to deal with their own mental health struggles. 

“We’re also looking into more of an in-depth training of how to train staffs minds, to connect the mind body experience because a lot of mental health is created through stress and trauma,” he said. “There’s not enough being talked about of stress in the workplace and teacher stress.”

The teacher training that Bissell is most excited for is Outdoor Odyssey, a leadership academy located in Boswell, PA.

“Our district leadership team is going to attend Outdoor Odyssey,” he said. “They will try to work through methods of connecting the mind and the body by coming up with productive ways to train [teachers] on how to get through stressful situations. It’s going to start with our leadership team. Then we’re going to start working through teacher teams, and eventually build that into getting more of our students to go through those leadership trainings.” 

Many schools in PA receive money to fund mental health care in hopes of providing a comforting environment in the school setting.  

“Across the state, 500 districts receive a minimum of $100,000 that should be going toward mental health care, and $100,000 that should be going to safety and security,” Bissell said. “There’s a lot of overlap between safety and security. A lot of safety comes from how we feel safe but if we don’t feel safe, then it doesn’t matter what [mental health] systems are in place, right? So, a lot of that comes to our mental health of how we’re dealing with the stress that creates a better feeling of safety. Addressing mental health, it’s taking those funds and providing training opportunities for staff and students of how do we better cope with stress, trauma and, and other issues.” 

The end goal of providing students and staff mental health services at GSSD is to help everyone learn to cope with their stress. 

“Everybody has different stresses for even the same situation,” Bissell said. “So, we’re trying to get everybody to learn how to handle that.” 

Red Ribbon Week Makes a Return

By Mia Saraceni

Observed by many schools across the country, Red Ribbon week is the longest standing anti-drug campaign in the United States. While GS hasn’t taken part in this for quite some time, a small club is determined to bring it back.

Members of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) were the brains behind getting the plan into action, proposing the idea to both GS principals.

The club, led by physical education and health teacher Mrs. Alyssa Lukatch, consists of students who pride themselves on promoting good choices for their peers. Such an event this year is the return of Red Ribbon Week.

Originally started in 1998, it began after the death of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena, also known as Kiki. On a mission to stop the import of illegal substances from Mexico, Camarena was murdered by drug traffickers and, after his passing, people began wearing red ribbons in his honor.

Schools across America have commemorated Camarena’s sacrifice since, but with the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping the nation, it was forced to a halt, at least at GS.

SADD club Social Media Chair Ashlan Price is in charge of promoting the week to students, and she plans to do so by various means.

Dress-up themes for the week. Photo Credit: SADD club.

“We started a SADD club Instagram because that is the main thing that gets teenagers’ attention,” Price said. “We thought if we could post more and make it more popular, then more people would get involved.”

Student participation in this event is critical, as the message needs to be spread so that it can reach the people it needs to the most.

Mrs. Lukatch holds firm in the same belief as Price, that the more engagement, the better.

“Anytime you bring awareness to an issue—no matter how big or small—it will make an impact,” Lukatch said.

Drug use has impacted students in high school for as long as one can remember, whether that be directly or indirectly. The club’s mission- and the mission of Red Ribbon week- is to hopefully hit home and maybe influence better decisions for all students.

Besides using social media to spread the word, Price plans to use posters displayed in the hallways to inform students.

“We plan to have posters advertising the spirit days for the people that are unaware of the Instagram,” she said. “We were looking into posters to advertise the SADD club, as well. We want to get more people involved.”

Spirit week is planned to begin on October 24th and end the 28th, and the club has a lot of ideas on what is to go on.

Co-President Ella Henry is one of the main faces involved in the events, and she planned a multitude of fun happenings.

“That Wednesday [October 26th], when students wear red in honor of spreading awareness, we’ll hold a drug Kahoot during advisory,” Henry said. “Students who win can come down to Mrs. Lukatch’s room to receive their prize.”

While actual ribbons won’t be handed out, the spirit week remains, and students are encouraged to take part.

The week’s themes are as follows: Monday is a neon themed day, Tuesday is beach theme, Wednesday is wear red, Thursday is a day to wear your favorite shoes and Friday is jersey day.

Club Treasurer Alice Wilkinson plans on handing out a multitude of fun prizes such as pencils, sunglasses and tote bags.

Besides all the fun things planned, there will be a more serious part to this very important event.

“We will be creating memorial hearts for those affected by drug abuse,” Henry said. “I would like to clarify that SADD club will overlook this process and confidentiality will be ensured. They’ll be writing things like ‘friend,’ ‘aunt,’ etc.”

The general consensus among both leaders and members of this club is that drug use is a pandemic that widely affects almost every person, and their opinions on why Red Ribbon week is so important have glaring similarities.

“I think drugs are something that are now normalized, and they are something that are huge in today’s society,” Price said. ‘I would like to stop that. The SADD club and Red Ribbon week are to prevent drugs. The more people we get to join, the less people who are making destructive decisions.”

Henry shared the same sentiment, citing almost the same reason as Price.

“I think Red Ribbon week is very important to recognize, for there’s so many people that die from substance abuse,” she said. “If people can be made aware of those effects, then hopefully we can reduce those affected by addiction.”

Wilkinson is in agreement with both Henry and Price as well.

“I think it’s important because drugs and alcohol have affected so many people and their families,” she said. “I think it should be something people are at least aware of, whether or not they’re personally affected by it.”

While nobody is jaded enough to believe this will change the minds of every person who abuses substances, the fact that this could reach even one person is reason enough to make it happen.

“It may not be a message that reaches all students, but even if it can reach a few, it’s worth putting out there,” Mrs. Lukatch said. “Its nice to see students and staff come together on an issue that hits some of our students and community pretty hard.”