Two Sides of the Same Needle

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? That is the question. Among students and adults, everyone has their own opinion about what’s right.

   Winter is upon us, and as the snow falls outside, students are falling out of classrooms due to sickness.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the flu vaccine is administered before the flu season begins. The season for the influenza virus can stretch from November to May, but peaks in the winter months, December through February. While the flu vaccine is one of the most well-known vaccines, there are others that are just as important.

“[Some of the most common vaccines are] MCV, MMR, polio, chicken pox, the flu and pneumonia,” School Nurse Miss Amanda Cogley said.

   The meningococcal vaccine (MCV) prevents meningitis, which is an infection of the brain and spinal cord, and may cause blood infections. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) contains weakened forms of the measles, mumps and rubella viruses. Getting vaccinated helps the human body protect against diseases. Mrs. Julie Firmstone, a high school science teacher, explained how a vaccine works.

School nurse Miss Amanda Cogley works diligently each day to ensure students are safe and healthy. Photo by: Delaney Bortz

“The basics of it is that it’s a weakened or dead form of whatever that virus is,” Mrs. Firmstone said. “When they put it in your body, your body recognizes it as foreign and forms a response to those foreign entities, so the next time they’re exposed they can react better to them. They can react faster to them.”

While receiving a vaccination greatly lessens the chance of contracting a disease, it can’t guarantee that it won’t be contracted. Senior Sydney Tressler doesn’t believe in vaccinations and is worried about the chance of contracting the disease.

“They inject the live virus into you with the live vaccines,” Tressler said. “Not all of them are like that, but most of them are live vaccines. They give you the live virus, which makes you sick.”

If there is no vaccination received, no symptoms may show up, but the disease may have still been caught.

   “If you’re not vaccinated you have a greater risk of getting that [disease],” Firmstone said. “Not that it’s 100%- you could go your whole life and never get chicken pox without the vaccine. If you do get it, some viruses can lay dormant in a person for a period of time, and then when they begin to express themselves from stress or something, another virus, or whatever else affects it, you may still not know. Therefore, you could be at risk to be contagious for a period of time. If other people aren’t vaccinated, it could affect a lot more people.”

Even when you get a vaccination, it may not stop the disease from spreading.

“Things like the flu aren’t necessarily [stopped] because there are so many different strains of them,” Firmstone said. “There’s a gamble every year with the flu vaccine to really guess which one. The CDC and the World Health Organization, the WHO, they have to track the flu the whole year prior to figure out what form of the vaccine they should give, which version of the flu vaccine should we predict will be affecting this region. Even different regions of the Earth could have different vaccines for that year.”

Senior Alexa Cuccia doesn’t support the use of vaccines due to the fact that she has had some of the diseases that vaccines protect against, and is all right.

“I actually had whooping cough, I had chicken pox, I’m alive and I’m fine,” Cuccia said. “I did not get whooping cough from someone unvaccinated. People [who are] vaccinated get whooping cough. There are people who have gotten chicken pox who are vaccinated. Do you know why? Because when you get the vaccination, they’re putting that disease in you. You could get [the disease] from the vaccine. Someone [could] get vaccinated with the flu shot and come near me and just give it to me because they’re literally walking around with the virus.”

Non-vaccinated students may make others fearful for how it affects their own health. Photo by: Delaney Bortz

  When vaccinations are occurring, it lessens the chance of somebody contracting a disease. If enough people don’t receive a vaccination, it can hurt the rest of the population.

   “Once 30% of the population is not vaccinated, it decreases what’s called herd immunity,” Cogely said.

According to, herd immunity is when people get vaccinated and prevent the disease from traveling through a population. This prevents an outbreak in a community and makes everyone living there less likely to get the disease. Cuccia believes that people are protected through herd immunity and don’t have to receive vaccines.

“The only way to actually be protected forever is natural immunity,” she said. “If you read about it, it says how many times you have to get your vaccines updated through life because it’s not natural. If you get that natural immunity, you have it for life.”

There are many reasons that someone would choose to waive a vaccination, though.

  “Either it goes against their religious beliefs, or they have a moral objection to them,” Cogely said.

 Some of the moral objection to vaccinations comes from the belief that they cause autism. The debate on whether or not vaccinations can cause autism was caused by a study by Andrew Wakefield and twelve colleagues in 1998. They studied 12 children and said that all 12 showed signs of developmental issues after exposure to the MMR vaccine. Nine were eventually diagnosed with autism.

    Further studies into the vaccination later refuted the claims that vaccines cause autism, and 10 of the 12 others who worked on the paper retracted their statements. The retraction was because the data was insufficient and that no link was found. The paper was completely retracted in 2010 and was admitted to be incorrect and contradict with former investigations. Despite the paper being disproven, the research still discouraged people from getting vaccinated.

“I know a lot of people feel that it has an increased risk of autism,” Cogely said. “They [also] feel that herd immunity will prevent them from [getting it]. And fear of possible long-term effects.”

Flu vaccines at local chain pharmacies make it easier for more people to get vaccinated. Photo by: Delaney Bortz

   Despite so many people receiving a vaccination, there may not be as much research on the topic as there should be.

“With literally every other drug or medicine they do a placebo trial,” Cuccia said. “Someone’s given a drug that’s not a real drug, and then they give one that is real. With vaccines, there is not that safety testing done. There is literally nothing done on that at all. But why not? Why do they refuse to do that trial? Get the non-vaccinated kids, get the vaccinated kids, do a study of them through their life and see which is healthier.”

    The possible lack of research into vaccines can also cause the material to not be taught well to students hoping to be in the medical field.

    “I’m doing my senior project on vaccines so I’ve been interviewing holistic doctors, who come with more of a natural approach, and I’ve interviewed a medical doctor, too,” Cuccia said. “I asked him how much he got taught about vaccines in [his] schooling, and he said ‘nothing at all really. We just get told that vaccines are good and this is what you give to your kid,’ and that’s all they’re told in school.”

   Tressler has researched vaccines and is very well informed on the concepts. One of the things that she wrote about was the number of chemicals in a vaccination.

    “I did my senior research paper on [vaccines], and nobody knows about anything that’s in a vaccine,” Tressler said. “There [are] so many different extreme chemicals that can harm your body like formaldehyde and mercury. People always say vaccines don’t cause autism [and] they don’t, but they contribute to it because if there’s extreme amounts of mercury, [and] you keep getting different shots over and over again the amount of mercury in them affects your brain. There are so many cases where right after someone’s child was vaccinated, literally 24 hours later they were showing signs of autism.”

    While there may be a link to autism through certain vaccinations, there are ways to still be protected and avoid the possible risks of being vaccinated.

   “I’m a mom, so I understand the risks and I know that there is some research that shows a link between certain types of autism and things with vaccines,” Firmstone said. “As a scientist, though, I did research on it and found that you can opt to separate out the vaccines so you don’t get them all at once which is one of the risks supposedly associated with the increased chance of having autism.”

    When parents don’t vaccinate their children who are attending school because of these fears, it can lead to consequences for not just their children, but others in the classroom.

    “I think it has an extreme effect on a student’s progress and their success,” Firmstone said. “I think that it may not be that some students can actually rebound from it, while other students can take a lot longer to rebound. It’s dependant on the student, too. Their work ethic, and things like that. I think it affects every student, in one capacity or another.”

    Even if vaccinations have risks, there are advancements to vaccines to help make them safer and to prevent the spread of diseases.

    “There’s the HPV one that’s to help prevent cervical cancer and certain types of cancers in males,” Firmstone said. “That’s an advancement. I think with the flu vaccine, they are really trying to work hard at getting a better strain, or combination of strains, I think medically they’re doing that. Also, the vaccines possibly coming up for those with AIDS and HIV. There are some studies that there might be some of those in the near future.”

   Even with these advancements in vaccinations, that doesn’t stop people from being wary of anyone who’s not vaccinated.

   “Everyone is scared by the non-vaccine people,” Cuccia said. “I’m not vaccinated, and everyone’s always like oh my god, you’re going to get sicknesses. But my question is if you believe that vaccines work, and you believe that they’re effective, then why are you worried that you’re going to catch something from me? You’re vaccinated, you should be protected.”

   Vaccinations can help prevent diseases, but not everyone thinks they’re the best option for them.

   “People should at least be informed about what’s in them and do research on them before they have an opinion about them,” Tressler said.

Graphic created by: Delaney Bortz

Green (Card) Means Go

As a national discussion, the topic of immigration has spread through our country’s politics as well as the halls of GS.

   A current battle on the United States border is raging, and there doesn’t appear to be a happy ending in site.

   Immigration is a long and hard process that, according to the United Nations’ migration report, affected 258 million people in 2017. There have always been people emigrating to other countries, but most of the public eye in America has been turned to the Mexican/American border where a large group of immigrants is attempting to cross into America without the proper papers. They’re a part of the migrant caravan. Many people have emigrated to America before the migrant caravan, two of which are senior Asher Joy’s parents.

   “My mom came first in 1989, and my dad in 2000,” Joy said.

   They were granted citizenship in 2011 and went through a long process to get the privilege of being an American citizen. They had to learn about American history and culture and pass a test to be accepted into the country.

   “They already knew how to read and write, so that stuff was easy,” Joy said. “They just had to learn about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, that kind of stuff. [There were other things like] who’s the Senator. There was a test they had to take, I helped them study a little.”

   Despite a cultural climate that isn’t always welcoming to people from other countries, Joy said that her family hasn’t really experienced much discrimination.

   “I know some person where my dad was working didn’t want my dad to serve him because he was not from America,” she said. “Other than that, not really.”

Ellis Island in New York is now used as a museum showing what the immigration process used to be like. Photo by: Delaney Bortz

   While there are legal immigrants to the country, people are attempting to cross the borders into America illegally. While it might be hard to gain citizenship into the United States, not everyone agrees that the regulations to be able to enter the country should be lessened

   “Personally, I feel like my parents had to go through a lot to become citizens and whatnot, and I feel like it shouldn’t be easy to just walk across the border and become a citizen,” Joy said. “I think it has to be fair. At the same time, I don’t think it should be that strict. I know [the people on the Mexican/American border] were living in poverty, and they wanted better lives, so it should be easier for them to gain citizenship.”

   The immigrants on the border who are attempting to enter America have gone through their fair share of tribulations.

   “I don’t really know [much about immigration], but I have heard of the migrant caravan,” junior Lien Ferry said. “There are a bunch of immigrants, and I heard some stories about how they’re treated really harshly, which I don’t agree with.”
   The migrant caravan currently at the border is a large group of people who have traveled more than 2,000 miles from Honduras to reach the Mexican/American border. The migrant caravan may have traveled a long way to reach the border, but there is a lot of controversy on whether they should be let into the United States or not. One opinion is that they should have to return to Honduras and reenter the country the legal way, which can take years.

   “I do believe that [immigration is] a good thing, but it should be done correctly,” sophomore Adam Nichols said. “My ancestors were Italians [and] they came through Ellis Island. They did it the right way. I would like all the current immigrants that come over to do it the right way as well. I don’t want any people coming in illegally.”

   While Ellis Island hasn’t been used for immigration in 60 years, there are ways that people can enter the country with a green card. A green card is a permit allowing people from foreign countries to live and work in the U.S. permanently. The four fastest ways to apply for a green card are to have family already living in the U.S., have a job willing to sponsor you for a work visa and green card, be a refugee or someone seeking asylum in the U.S., or enter the visa lottery for a green card. While these ways can eventually lead to a green card, it can still be hard to obtain one due to America’s immigration policies.

   “I think the U.S. should have policies that help immigration, but at the same time aren’t too lenient,” Joy said. “I think that’s important as well.”
   The fact that it can be hard to obtain a green card is part of the reason so many people enter the country illegally. According to the Pew Research Center, there were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2016. While that is a big number, it’s only about 3.3% of the U.S.’s total population for that year. The migrant caravan has approximately 8,500 people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. The conflict isn’t just with the United States. As they’ve moved from Honduras to the Mexican/American border, they crossed through Guatemala, which is the country between Honduras and Mexico. The Mexican authorities claimed that as they passed from Guatemala to Mexico, they attacked their agents with rocks, glass and fireworks. U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the issue in Mexico at a press conference at the beginning of November 2018.

   “They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” Trump said. “I told them to consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like what they did to the Mexican military and police, I say consider it a rifle.”

Senior Asher Joy’s mother (in green) when she moved to New York after immigrating. Photo courtesy: Asher Joy

   There were also stones thrown at three border patrol agents on the Mexican/American border, which led to the use of tear gas on the caravan.

   “They were being provoked by [an] aggressive force from the other side, there’s not much they can do, really,” Nichols said. “If you’re getting rocks thrown at you, people can get pretty injured from that. I don’t want to use aggressive force as in guns, because that could kill people and I don’t wish that upon anyone, [but] I don’t know if [using tear gas] was the [nicest] thing to do.”

   When the people attempting to enter America try to cross the border illegally, they are actually committing a crime, even if they’re seeking asylum, and can be subjected to criminal prosecution. If a family is being prosecuted, the children cannot be held in jail, and are given to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and wait for the opportunity to live with a relative or sponsor inside the country. This has resulted in the separation of approximately 2,000 children from their families according to the Department of Homeland Security. Many children were traveling with their families and only wanted to be safe and live in nicer conditions, but are still being punished for leaving their home country.

   “You really just shouldn’t come in illegally,” Nichols said. “That’s the wrong thing to do. If they could be sent back as a unit, that’d probably be better. You don’t want to be cruel to people, wish bad things on other people, but they keep coming towards our border because we do have it well here in America. I wish we could help their own country so they could make their own country prosper. Then they wouldn’t have to come over illegally and face all these difficulties.”

   As the border crisis continues, tensions on immigration become more of a problem. The issue with immigration has continually been a dividing factor in the U.S., whether it’s between settlers and natives in the 1500s or conflicts that are affecting people in the modern world. With the United States population being 19% immigrants, the people affected by these issues don’t just live near the border.

   “Just talk about [immigration] more,” Ferry said. “It’s not something you talk about at dinner with your family, but it should be talked about more often, especially since it affects so many people.”

Student Spotlight: Tyler Tech

With a passion for all things tech, junior Tyler Vandenberg has created an entire brand around what he loves to do.

   In 2005 a small video sharing website started called YouTube through which many people have found work, including GS’ very own tech support junior Tyler Vandenberg.

   “Seventh grade is around when I started the YouTube channel TylerTech,” Vandenberg said. “It was over the summer and I was watching some YouTube videos of some tech YouTubers, and I thought that I had the same knowledge so why not make some videos?”

   While his inspiration was through YouTube, Vandenberg’s interest in the technological world started at a young age.

   “The first thing I remember was in third grade,” he said. “It was bring your kid to work day, so my teacher brought her kid to work, and he hid all of her desktop icons. I had to try to figure out how to get those back.”

   His work has certainly taken a step up from hidden icons. Today, TylerTech provides a variety of different items for GS.

   “I’ve done software for the school,” Vandenberg said. “I’ve done different live streams for different school groups. I do the basketball live streams too. I’m just kind of here as the unpaid version of CCL.”

Junior Tyler Vandenberg works on his laptop. Photo by: Delaney Bortz

   CCL (Computer CenterLine Technologies) is a company based in Greensburg that provides information technology solutions to schools. Vandenberg’s knowledge of technology is used by many people in the school because he completes some of his work during school.

   “Most of my tech stuff happens in third block, that’s my programming class, and even though it’s a programming class I don’t always just do programming,” Vandenberg said. “I’ve done [things like] set up 3D printers in there, stuff like that. Throughout the day I have teachers asking me questions, sometimes I’ll do my own research during class on different tech stuff to keep up to date and to improve my knowledge.”

   Despite using his class time to complete research and work for his business, he isn’t particularly worried about the outcome.

   “I probably shouldn’t do this, but I put my tech stuff at a priority higher than school,” Vandenberg said. “I know that in the future, that’ll probably be more important. It’s not that hard to balance [school and Tyler Tech]. I just say I’ll do the schoolwork later.”

   While Vandenberg may occasionally put his tech research above schoolwork, he devised a system to help other students complete their work or get help in classes.

   “Last year, Dr. Maluchnik came to me and said that they wanted to make an Excel spreadsheet to track where kids were,” Vandenberg said. “They wanted every teacher listed in there, and they wanted every advisory teacher to put where they were. I knew that wasn’t going to work, but I made it anyway and showed him, and I said ‘This works, but there has to be an easier way to do this. If you give me a week, I’ll find it out.’ This was around Thanksgiving last year, so over Thanksgiving break, I threw together a prototype that sort of worked, showed it to him, and he liked it. Then I got the list of all the kids and I made a database of all the kids and their advisory teachers. The program searches for that advisory teacher, and sends it out.”

   The student database is one of the ways that Vandenberg has attempted to improve GS with the use of technology. By starting TylerTech, he hoped to upgrade people’s technological understanding.

   “My goal is to help people with technology and improve how people use technology,” Vandenberg said. “[Starting a YouTube and building a website] seemed like steps I could take to improve what I’m doing”

   Mr. Matthew King, the high school video production teacher, uses the student database.

   “I use it as often as I have students request to come to my class and to travel to other classes,” Mr. King said. “I still use the traditional sign out sheet, [but] I find the app to be very helpful to notify people when I want them to come in. Even if it’s the afternoon before, I’ll submit a request.”

   Along with using Vandenberg’s attendance system, King has also had him in the classroom.

   “I only had him once, [in] his freshman [year],” King said. “He did very well. Coming in, he had a lot more skill than most students do because of his Tyler Tech channel on YouTube, and his website and so on. I haven’t had Tyler for class since then, but I know his video skills are, I would say without being able to see them first-hand, above what most of my second [year] students have.”

Tyler Vandenberg’s logo for Tyler Tech. Photo courtesy: Tyler Vandenberg

   On his quest to help improve people’s understanding of technology, he has had to research to improve his knowledge.

   “What I did to get started was I just started researching on my own,” Vandenberg said. “You don’t really even need a starting point, just start learning as much as you can about computers, and look for ways to get involved where you can get involved.”

   Vandenberg has managed to get involved in the school by providing the live streams for many different activities, but the business offers more than just that.

   “The things [TylerTech] offers are different live streaming video [and] software design,” Vandenberg said. “I just haven’t had anyone but the school use my services.”

   Even though TylerTech is a business, Vandenberg says he doesn’t make any money.

   “So technically TylerTech doesn’t make any money,” Vandenberg said. “That’s why I’m allowed to call it a business legally because I never registered the name TylerTech, but it doesn’t make any money so it doesn’t matter.”

   Though TylerTech may not be a registered name, it was the original name of his YouTube channel.

   “My experience with YouTube early on helped me,” Vandenberg said. “I think that also kind of built the brand name TylerTech because I don’t think I’d be called TylerTech without that YouTube channel.”

   As many YouTube channels do, TylerTech also has the option to buy merchandise with the company logo on it.

   “The merchandise part of it was whenever I saw that other YouTubers were doing it so I just found a way to make it and sell it,” Vandenberg said. “I just kind of added different features so that I could learn how to do it if anyone else needs help adding features to their website. I can make that a business option, stuff like that just so I gain the knowledge.”

   Throughout the school year, students can be seen walking the halls with the TylerTech logo emblazoned across their shirts.

   “It gives me a good feeling [to see people wearing TylerTech merchandise],” Vandenberg said. “I feel like if they’re wearing a TylerTech shirt, they’ve had a good experience with the business or with me in general.”

   Despite having his own business, Vandenberg is just a teenager and may be looked down upon by outsiders for his age. Technology seems to be one business that people think is better dominated by the younger generation.

   “I haven’t ever had that happen to me,” he said. “I think most people know that the younger people know more about technology than them most of the time. They’re usually open to kids helping.”

   As Vanderberg broadens his horizons, TylerTech continues to grow into what could one day be a successful business.

   “I think there is an option for TylerTech to become successful, and that’s what I want to do,” Vanderberg said. “I think software design is probably what I’m going to try and do for it to make it a real business because you can make a lot of money and it’s easy to get started in that.”

Flipping the Script

Students are involved in sports typically done by the opposite gender but is their experience any different from those around them?

The next match is about to start, and the two opponents walk onto the mats. They take their positions and wait for the cue to start wrestling. They look each other in the eye. One is a girl.

Seeing students in a sport dominated by the other gender is a rare occurrence at GS. There are two students who openly participate in an activity like this, sophomore Owen Johnson and junior Riley Stoner. Johnson is a member of the dance team and Stoner is on the wrestling team.

“A lot of my friends are on dance team and they asked me to do it, and I agreed to do [dance team],” Johnson said. “Also, I thought it would be fun.”

Sophomore Ethan Kelley as the mascot at the first football game of the season. Photo courtesy: Mr. Lenzi

Despite the threat of being discriminated against for participating in something that isn’t typical, they both said that they’ve had no real issues with discrimination or stereotyping.

“[Due to participation in dance team] I learned that our school is a lot more accepting than I thought it’d be,” Johnson said. “I thought I’d be bullied for doing it, or something, but I really wasn’t. It’s been really great.”

While he doesn’t really receive any prejudice for being on dance team at GS, Johnson said that other schools are often surprised to see him out on the field with the group of girls.

“Not anyone here, but a lot of dance teams from other schools are like ‘oh, there’s a boy,’” he said.

The stakes are a little lower for Johnson than Stoner in their activities. Dance team is a part of the band, and doesn’t compete individually, while wrestling is a one-on-one contact sport. People could refuse to wrestle against Stoner if they choose to, forfeiting their match.

“They usually do want to wrestle me,” she said.

With so many different options of activities, some people still choose to pick the hardest route, going with the one that has the opportunity to give them more issues. It could be started as an activity in high school, or something that’s been a part of daily life for years.

“[I’ve been wrestling] since I was seven,” Stoner said.

Choosing an activity to participate in can be a big decision, and should be considered carefully, especially if the decision could be pushing what is considered normal. The activity could require extra effort that wouldn’t necessarily be needed for another activity. Miss Alyssa Palenchar, the girls’ health and gym teacher, has seen more students participating in activities dominated by the other gender.

“I have seen a rise where a lot more students are going out of their comfort zone and participating in sports that [they wouldn’t] necessarily have,” Miss Palenchar said. “For example, football. There are more girls going out for football and wrestling. Guys [are joining things like] the dance team. There has been a rise and I think those people are starting to have an impact on other people as well.”

As more people push the norms of athletics, it gets easier for everyone to pursue one. Today, there are less restrictions on men and women, and what they get to partake in. There is still a limit on what they can participate in, though.

“I think it stems back from a while ago when we were so set on seperate genders because I feel like men are stronger than women, in some sense, just by the way their anatomy is,” Palenchar said. “I feel that that’s why we have had separate gender sports for such a long time, because they still see that as a setback or a difference between the two. It’s just that the anatomy is different.”

“Just try it out, and if it’s bad for you then don’t do it. It’s better to try than to not do it at all”

— Owen Johnson, ’21

Despite there being less of a divide between men’s and women’s athletics, it can be hard for them to be successful in particular situations.

“I think [that] in certain circumstances there are,” Palenchar said. “A woman isn’t going to go out and be a linebacker, but they could be just as successful as a male in kicking, or something like that. I think it just depends on the sport, and what position they’re trying to fill.”

Trying something new and different can be scary, but the people who have tried new things have really enjoyed it.

“Just do it,” Johnson said. “Just try it out, and if it’s bad for you then don’t do it. It’s better to try than to not do it at all.”

The Secret Life

Students have started second instagram accounts in order to post things they wouldn’t otherwise make known, but why?

  Sometimes, talking to faceless people on the internet is the best way to share your problems. Many teenagers have an instagram account dedicated to doing exactly this. They call it a finsta.

   A fake instagram account (finsta) isn’t an account on a different media site made to look like an instagram. It’s an account on instagram that’s hidden from a main grouping of followers, with only a select few chosen to bear witness to the person behind the facade of fun activities and perfectly staged pictures.

   “It’s cool because you can post things on instagram but there’s not the pressure of a main account,” junior Elizabeth Armentrout said. “[The pressure of] having [your main account] look aesthetically pleasing [isn’t there]. [With a finsta], you can just post whatever, and be real.”

   People have a mixed opinion on finstas. Some people have one and actively use it. Some have one just to fit the trend. Others hate the idea of having a finsta account. Junior Mia Parise, who thinks finstas are unnecessary, has a good grasp on the difference between a main instagram account and a fake one.

An example of a finsta.

   “Basically, a main account people post what they want everyone to think their life’s about,” Parise said. “On a finsta, they post what they want to complain to their friends about.”

   A main account is commonly called a rinsta (real instagram) as a companion to the slang for the fake one. As you decide what account you’re going to post your pictures on, you have to think of the content, and where it’s appropriate.

   “My finsta posts are just about how I’m feeling, or what’s going on in my life,” Armentrout said. “My rinsta posts are more just like the highlights.”

   On a finsta, people tend to post about things that have happened to them, or pictures that they don’t deem worthy of the public eye seeing. Some do polls, or tags about themselves to share more with the select people who follow them.

   “I don’t like them ‘cause they don’t really serve a beneficial purpose for anything other than for people to complain on,” Parise said.

   Many people do use them to complain to no one, hoping that someone will see the post and like or comment on it in solidarity. Junior Mason Palmiere has a similar opinion, despite having an account himself.

   “I know I have one, but I think they’re dumb,” Palmiere said

   He, like many others, has an account just because people he knew had one.

   “My friend has one, and my sister has one,” Palmiere said. “So [I said] you know what, I want to complain about stuff and no one’s going to listen to me. I’ll just post pointless stuff, and post it on there.”

   Many people use social media to complain about their life circumstances; however, it’s not always on a finsta account. Social media is the fastest way to share your experiences with the public, so why not use it to complain about the annoying person who interacted with you on the street today?

“They can be good if that person doesn’t really have anyone to talk about their problems, and wants to vent to whoever their followers are on their finsta. But they can also do that on other platforms, or just text people or make friends. [They could] actually go out and talk to people”

— Mia Parise

   “I feel like people do the same exact thing on twitter often, and I feel like there’s not really a reason to have another instagram where you do that,” Parise said. “If you don’t want to post something on your regular instagram, why are you going to post it anyway to a different account?”

   People seem to post about their issues more on social media for the whole world to see instead of talking to friends about the problem. Talking about your life to an unknown audience seems a much more daunting task than just talking to your friends about it.

   “I don’t really know [why I talk about things on my finsta],” Armentrout said. “It’s just kind of been instinctive [to talk to people online]. I think the finsta, it feels like a safe place, even though it probably isn’t.”

   By talking online instead of in person, many people know all of the things that happen in life, even if it’s not stated directly to them. However, more people see the heavily filtered version of life that’s posted to a main account, with significantly more followers than the private finsta.

   “I think it’s about how they want people to think of them,” Parise said. “On their main account, they’ll post what they want everyone to see, but on their finsta, they’ll post about stuff they probably verbally communicate to their friends too.”

   Some posts are more personal than others, which could seem weird sharing to an audience that can’t be seen.

   “I don’t really post it for them,” Palmiere said. “I just post it so I have a place to complain to.”

“Now, it’s more real and you realize that everybody has problems and stuff. You’re not comparing yourself to others in the same way”

— Elizabeth Armentrout, ’20

   The art of complaining is a fine one. Being able to make it vague enough that no one will know who it’s about in case they’ll tell someone else, but give enough information to fully get the emotions across and gain people’s sympathy is how a finsta post is designed.

   “They can be good if that person doesn’t really have anyone to talk to about their problems, and wants to vent to whoever their followers are on their finsta,” Parise said. “But they can also do that on other platforms, or just text people or make friends. [They could] actually go out and talk to people,”

   Whether the finsta account is a necessary part of the daily routine or an occasional occurrence, it can be a benefit for everyone. By posting about the everyday life events, the internet isn’t just a place to broadcast the best version of you.

   “Before, it was just all fake, and you had to live up to those standards,” Armentrout said. “Now, it’s more real and you realize that everybody has problems and stuff. You’re not comparingyourself to others in the same way.”

More than College Credit

As seniors take on applications and college visits, some can’t help but thinking about the reputation of the school.

They’ve noticed your SAT scores, and they think you’d be a good fit for their school. Colleges are reaching out to get people to attend their school, but just getting a promotional ad in the mail isn’t enough. When looking at schools, there are more decisions to make than just the top five reasons listed on a copy-paste letter.

Deciding on your plans for after high school is a giant and terrifying decision for high school upperclassmen, but one that everyone must make. Not all students plan to attend school after graduation, instead choosing to dive right into the workforce, or have another year to think about their future. Those who choose to continue their education have differing requirements and requests for a college or university, so no one is looking for the same things.

One thing that is consistent through the decision process is that everyone has an opinion, and some are pretty common. There is a stigma attached to attending a community college, or a school that’s been deemed a party school, making students avoid those schools. Similar things happen to anyone who plans to attend in state schools or out of state. But some, like senior Natalie Susa, have a reason for wanting to leave the state.

“I really wanted to go to New York, and I think it’s the perfect place for my art career,” Susa said. “I really like the schools in New York, a lot [more] than the ones in Pennsylvania.”

In many big cities, there is a large art culture, but New York is one of the most well-known. With multiple large art museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, and the Broadway theatre district, culture can be seen all across New York City. One thing that Susa was looking at specifically is where the school was located.

“That they were in New York,” she said. “That they had my major, such as art education and the studio arts. That they had big dance studios so I could dance and I could join the dance team and stuff like that.”

NYU campus Photo courtesy: Natalie Susa

“For me, one of the main advantages is being able to stay around my family,” Schwartz said. “I wasn’t one of the people who wanted to just go real far away, and get away. Especially having little siblings, just being around my family is important.”

Not everyone has dreams of the big city, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t dream big. Schwartz wanted a school with a good reputation in the programs she was looking at.

“I’m interested in being an optometrist, so having a good science program and a good acceptance rate into graduate school is important,” Schwartz said.

While both Susa and Schwartz have plans to attend a bigger school, senior Rena Caruso doesn’t have the same plans.

“I’m not 100% set on a major, so it’d be better to start at community college,” Caruso said. “[It’s better to] get my basic classes [done], and transfer to a bigger college [later]. I’ve also been offered the starting position as pitcher as a freshman for the softball team, so that’s kind of influencing it.”

Some students are motivated to attend community college because of the lower costs compared to other universities and colleges. Mrs. Laura Klipa, school guidance counselor, has some other reasons for students choosing community college.

“For me, one of the advantages is being able to stay around my family”


“Some motivating things I see are cost,” Mrs. Klipa said. “Some students are very aware of how much that they’re gonna take on and what other options are. Some other factors are majors offered. Where is the major offered, what school, does it lead to post-graduate programs? The other thing I see is some students have location preferences. Some want to stay behind, be close to family, others want to get out of here, go as far as possible to [try to] have more independence. I think there’s also factors like athletics, and sometimes that ties in with the financial situation because they know that they’ll get a bigger award at certain locations.”

Students seem to pass up the opportunity to attend community college, despite the lower cost. Some see it as a lesser option to a big university, thinking that the programs won’t be as good. Others think they could do better than community college.

“I didn’t [think about community college],” Schwartz said. “I figured I kept my grades up and I thought that I could get some sort of scholarship money.”

While attending community college can save money, some think it won’t grant you the same college experience others would get by attending a bigger school outside their hometown.

“I think a lot of people just want a new experience, and community college doesn’t always [have that],” Susa said. “[With] colleges out of state, and sometimes colleges in state, you’re going very far away and you’re living on campus. That’s a better experience for me. In my opinion, community college is more just a continuation of high school.”

Attending community college seems to be the minority opinion for first-choice schooling. Students would rather attend a four year school from the start than start at community college and move up from there.

“[We have the] class of 2017 information, we didn’t look at last year’s yet,” Klipa said. “Now this is self-reported information. So when the seniors graduate, at graduation practice, we have you report to us what your post secondary plans are. Whether they actually go and do this or not, I’m not 100%, but at one point in time, about 20% of that class, the class of 2017, reported that they were going to go to a two year school.”

Many might avoid community colleges just because they’re local, and there’s not as big of a sense of adventure and independence that going out of state, or across state, can give. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a good option for schooling, though.

“A lot of people think community college is bad because it’s less expensive and it’s not well known,” Caruso said. “It’s just within your community. Nobody’s going to travel across the country and go to WCCC. For me, it feels like a good option.”

Even if community college isn’t the final plan, there are still ways to use the school to help save money in the long run.

“You see a lot of students take some general credits over the summer, even if they’re attending a major university,” Klipa said.

By taking general education courses over the summer, the time spent at a bigger school wouldn’t be used up taking them. This way, the classes that you take in college can be what you’re majoring in.

When deciding on a school, cost is an important factor. Saving money where you can, whether with scholarships or by attending summer classes, is ideal. There are many different factors that go into picking a school, however. Decisions should be made based on what you want out of a school, not what other people want for you.

“I think you need to visit the school multiple times, different times of the year,” Klipa said. “Talk to people that are in session, alumni, check out the programs of study, check out the housing multiple times. That’s really how to make the best decision. I don’t think a reputation is something you want to make that big decision on.”

Every school can’t have a clean reputation, which can discourage a student from applying. Even if a school has a good reputation, others can influence your decision based on their own experiences, whether good or bad.

“I heard a lot about NYU, and the fact that it wasn’t the greatest school from my cousin,” Susa said. “She said ‘they’re so bad there, they kick students out’ and all this stuff. ‘They’re really mean there, and you’ll like Sarah Lawrence a lot better.’ I looked at NYU anyways, and I did enjoy it, but I didn’t like it as much as I liked Sarah Lawrence, surprisingly. I was originally thinking of NYU.”

“I hear they’re not very strict on alcohol and stuff like that, or at least it’s not as strict as it could be”

— Natalie Susa, ’19

One type of school that tends to have a bad reputation is one that gets the title of a party school. Some students decide to avoid universities that are known as party schools to avoid that stigma, while others don’t care.

“I think just being around that would probably get you more involved in that kind of lifestyle, and take away from your studies,” Schwartz said.

A party school is a college or university that has a reputation for alcohol and drug use, or a culture of reckless and promiscuous behavior. There are reasons that colleges gain this reputation from students, however. They aren’t just given to any school that has a party.

“I mean, for IUP, I hear a lot, especially from friends that are going there, that their classes aren’t hard at all,” Susa said “They’re not being challenged and that’s even more reason for them to go party. I hear they’re not very strict on alcohol and stuff like that, or at least it’s not as strict as it could be. I feel like [it’s] just reputations and things you’ve heard, stuff like that.”

IUP is one school in Pennsylvania that many know solely as a party school. The reputation discourages some people from attending, with the fear that they’ll get involved in the party scene, and it will take away from their studies.

“I’ve heard some [students] say that with, say, IUP,” Klipa said. “[However], I’ve seen a lot of students go there and have great experiences that [weren’t] influenced by any of that.”

Whether or not attending a party school draws you away from college courses is up to the decisions that are made. If the goal is to focus on studying and maintaining a certain grade level, then students should take the steps to keep it that way.

“I know personally, I would go to school to go to school and not party,” Caruso said. “That’s not the type of person I am.”

While attending a party school doesn’t seem like the best idea, that may be the school that works best for you.

“It’s like shopping for shoes,” Klipa said. “You’re looking for the best fit. What’s comfortable, what kind do you like, what’s your style. It’s really just individualized. Each person has a different set of preferences [and] expectations. It’s just what fits the person’s personality. That’s why I think getting out and going to college, everyone wants that after high school. That’s why it’s more desirable at times than going to a two year program, or going straight to work. You’re kind of getting to try on that pair of shoes, try on that independent lifestyle, see how it feels to live in this life, or this setting that you think is going to meet your personality preferences.”

Senior Project Spotlight: Homecoming

A new dance arrived at GS for the first time in many years, and it’s all thanks to one senior.

Senior Sam Malinowski set an ambitious goal for herself with her senior project this year, deciding to plan an entire Homecoming Dance.

“I always wanted to do something for the school and I [didn’t] think GS would let me do a lot of things with it,” Malinowski said. “It’ll be interesting, I think, because we haven’t had it for almost ten years.”

One of the regulations for senior projects is that they have to tie into your future career choice. The project is the final step of the Career Awareness Program (CAP).

“I kind of want to be a wedding planner, so [the Homecoming Dance will] h

homecoming autumn

GS students pose at homecoming dance photo by Autumn B.

elp me learn to organize and plan events,” she said.

Mr. Christopher Gazze, her senior project Advisor, talked about all the planning Malinowski had to do in order to hold a dance.

“You need to plan, budget-wise, what you can spend and starting from scratch here basically the revenue’s going to be ticket sales,” Mr. Gazze said. “She had to estimate how many people are going to come out, deciding on a price point that she can have enough budget to pay for the dance but also that people can afford to go. She was looking at pizza and drinks there, to provide for the students and to sell, budgeting for the DJ, and also working with the school. She had to plan as far as the facility use, facility usage forms, a date. Also, she has to plan to get chaperones, so there’s a lot of aspects that people don’t see, because they just go out, buy their ticket and then they’re there.”

Malinowski figured out some of her budgeting by having the dance on school grounds, instead of renting a room somewhere.

“I’m having it in the courtyard, so it’s going to be outside,” Malinowski said, “It’s only going to be $10, so it’s really cheap.”

Having a dance off-grounds raises the ticket price, which can be seen with Christmas Dance tickets and Prom tickets. The Homecoming Dance has a cheaper ticket price so that people who enjoy dances don’t have to spend a lot of money, which brings hopes of a successful night.

“It’s new,” she said. “No one at the high school has been to a Homecoming Dance, so I think it’ll spark people’s interest.”

Gazze, having seen previous Homecoming Dances GS has tried to hold, had a few worries, but is overall hopeful.

“I know lately there have been a lot of students excited about the prospect of having a Homecoming Dance, so in that aspect, I definitely think it can succeed,” he said. “I also have some reservations because the last time we tried to have one there was some enthusiasm and we, unfortunately, had some low attendance. The other concern is it’s so early in the year it limits your planning time. Having Homecoming the third week of school is crazy. It’s the earliest I can remember having it. But as long as everyone’s excited about it and hopefully we get a beautiful night and have a cool event out in the courtyard, I think it will be really neat.”

One of Gazze’s concerns with the project comes from his previous experience with planning big activities with the Student Council Association (SCA).

“It’s someone’s senior project,” he said. “You’re letting them do it. I’m used to being involved in the planning process with Student Council officers, so this one, kind of letting her go on her own and make mistakes and have successes, is really different for me. But that’s the only way she’s going to learn the process.”

Senior Sasha Vogel wasn’t aware there was a Homecoming Dance until she asked some friends about it.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Vogel said. “A lot of schools always do a Homecoming Dance. It’s a kind of formal dance in a way, so you don’t always go to prom, so the other kind of [formal] dance we have is the winter dance. This gives you another dance to dress up.”

Even though the Homecoming Dance is new to current students, and rivals the Christmas Dance and Prom, students don’t expect it to be as fancy. They’re just going to try out a new dance, and have a fun night with their friends.

“I know we always talk about having a Homecoming Dance and [that] it sucks that GS doesn’t have one, so I think it’ll be cool to see a lot of people come out and enjoy it,” Vogel said.

The dance was mostly advertised through online media and has a hope of continuing in future years.

“It’s another type of fancy dance, and it’s a dance that’s not the winter formal or prom, the only other two,” Vogel said.

Students are excited to have a new school dance available for them to attend. It’s another excuse to get dressed up and enjoy themselves. This brings hope for Malinowski, who wishes for her project to continue in the future as another activity to add to GS.

“I am going to weave a planning guide at the end of my senior project so whoever wants to take it on can have a guide,” Malinowski said.

GS’ Homecoming Queen is typically announced at the Homecoming Football game. Students say that the activities should stay at the game instead of moving to the Homecoming Dance.

“Everyone always goes out there,” Vogel said. “It’s a lot more organized at the football games, I think, and you can go a little more all-out, because if you do it [in] the courtyard it’s not really as fancy.”

Aside from the football game and dance, there’s a whole spirit week for Homecoming. Gazze hopes that the dance will add another element to the week.

“Hopefully something like this can make Homecoming a week that’s more about events than just the Friday night football game,” he said. “It’s a week of fun events for the student body and it’s something they can look back on and be like ‘Yeah, we had an awesome week during homecoming.’”

Even though the dance itself is over, Malinowski still has a lot to prepare for before her project is ready to be presented. There is still the opportunity to continue the dance in upcoming years, either as a senior project or with SCA and Mr. Gazze.

“I hope it succeeds,” he said. “If it does it gives [the SCA] officers something to work for in the future, to make it bigger and better.”

Experiencing America

Imagine leaving your home and everything you know, to be educated in a country that you’ve never been to before, in a language that isn’t your first. That’s what many students around the world do every year through student exchange programs.

At GS, new students come to GS every year from all over the world. This year, there are three students from different locations. Greta Schoenig is from Germany, Sophia Huang is from Taiwan and Hassan Almusaddar is from the Gaza Strip in Palestine. Students make the decision to become exchange students for many different reasons.

“I just can’t sit at home and just work for school,” Schoenig said. “I have to do something, and I love to travel, so I just decided to do this.”

Huang’s reason for doing the exchange program was similar to Schoenig’s.

“I wanted to experience the American life and school,” she said.

Almusaddar had a very different reason for joining the exchange program.

“[I joined the exchange program to] exchange my culture, and to clear stereotyping about the Middle East,” he said.

All of the exchange students say that the school system in place here is very different than the ones they have back home.

“I think the block system is interesting,” Schoenig said. “I can’t learn Spanish and AP Psych, some subjects are different. In Germany, you have to take the classes, and over here you can pick some.”

Almusaddar said he hadn’t heard of Law and Economics before coming to GS. Huang said that she doesn’t have Law and Economics, but she also mentioned that foods and gym classes are missing from her school’s curriculum. She stated many differences between America and Taiwan, such as the amount of homework and dismissal times, but said the biggest difference is the food.

“In Taiwan, we eat rice and noodles every day,” she said.

Being from other countries, exchange students don’t have the opportunity to be a part of activities at GS for all their high school years. They can join various clubs and teams while they’re here. Schoenig is a part of the girls’ tennis team, Almusaddar is a band manager and has plans to join the boys’ tennis team during their season this spring, while Huang is part of the girls’ basketball team.

“I play tennis, but that’s it,” Schoenig said. “I was thinking about getting involved, but I don’t know where.”

Coming from another country, these students need somewhere to stay. Junior Thomas Barnette-Contreras stepped up to the plate and is hosting one of these students, Almusaddar, through the American Field Service (AFS).

“Freshman year, I was pretty good friends with Wakako, from Japan,” Barnette-Contreras said. “One day I was having lunch in the library and she was passing around AFS bracelets to people. She gave one to me, and I had no idea what exchange program she was using, so I did a little more research on AFS and it piqued my interest. I never really considered hosting a student until recently, especially after the French exchange with the high school. I had such a good time with it that I thought maybe I could give a whole year a try.”

A lot goes into hosting an exchange student. The first thing you need to do is contact an AFS representative in the area. You receive an application for the hosting program. With the application, you need to register your family 


Junior Thomas Barnette-Contreras and family with exchange student Hassan Almusaddar

with AFS and have multiple background checks done on all family members. There’s paperwork about your job, what you do and your daily routine. You have to send images of your house and family. The Westmoreland chapter leader has to come for a home visit before the student arrives, and there are continuous visits throughout the student’s stay. Barnette-Contreras has enjoyed hosting Almusaddar so far and has plans for what they’ll do for the rest of his stay in America.

“The best part of hosting is just showing him my daily routine and showing him all the spots that I like to go to,” he said. “I think he’s really been enjoying the spots we’ve been taking him so far, and we plan on taking him on trips throughout the year to see more of the country.”

The exchange program isn’t for everyone, but if you think you’re interested, contact AFS so a student can get a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“It’s really nice having an exchange brother for a year,” Barnette-Contreras said. “I think it’s a really great experience being able to share my parents’ love and support for an entire year and giving him the best experience possible.”

Student Security

Change has started for schools all across America to protect the student body from threats that haven’t been seen before.

There have been over 100 mass shootings in the United States since 2018 began, according to Business Insider in an online article on June 28, 2018. Companies around the world are starting to provide students with protective gear to accompany the ongoing threats to schools. While you can decide to purchase protection, schools have started implementing new drills and policies to try to protect their students. These are to help students to be more comfortable and safe in the buildings.

“The best way to protect us all the time, and that’s whether you’re at school, or at a restaurant, or a football game, or a concert, is to be proactive and think ‘alright, what is my easiest exit out of here,’ and how can I keep myself safe if something did happen,” Assistant Principal Dr. Joe Maluchnik said. “It’s not about changing your whole lifestyle, but it’s about being proactive and thinking ahead of what could happen where you’re at.”


Illustrated by Kenzi C.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education requires fire drills to be conducted once a month while school is in session, but only in public schools. Public schools are also required to conduct at least two bus evacuations a year. In addition to the required fire drills, GS has been trying to implement active shooter drills into our regularly scheduled fire drills.

“You have no choice but to continue to plan and prepare,” Dr. Maluchnik said. “All schools are thinking differently than we did 10 or 20 years ago, just like when there used to be a lot of fires in schools. What did schools and other buildings do? They started putting in sprinkler systems, they started putting more fire extinguishers in, doing more fire drills. And since that happened, I believe there hasn’t been a death in a school [from] a fire since the late 1950s or 60s because they’ve put things into place. Hopefully, the safety things that we’ve put into place will decrease those things from happening.”

New drills are definitely a way to help the school stay safer, but there are other ways to keep a school safe.

“We have had executive sessions that discuss safety measures that we are planning to implement,” GS school board member Mrs. Charlotte Kemerer said. “Some of them we cannot discuss because, obviously, we would not want them out in the open for some potential person to understand what we’re doing. Some things have been discussed at budget meetings, like jam locks or the possibility of having a resource officer. While we do know that one is not going to resolve any potential problems at five schools, one is better than none.”

Mrs. Kemerer, as a board member and not a faculty member, isn’t in the school building all the time. Because of this, she doesn’t get to see students every day to see how, and if, they’re taking any steps toward change. She wishes to see more action from the student body outside of the school that’ll make an impact.

In the schools, it’s much easier to see the effect that gun violence can have on students. Mrs. Jackie Yuhas, one of GS’s Chemistry teachers, has seen change among the student body.

“You hear students talking about taking action,” Mrs. Yuhas said. “That never used to be a thought at all. Unfortunately, it’s become part of everyone’s everyday thinking.”

While these events affected the employees of the school and caused a jumpstart in action, students decided to take a stand too. Last year after the devastating shooting in Parkland, Florida, many students rallied with the March for our Lives movement. It drew major attention and the movement continues today, even if people aren’t actively marching. One student who seems to care a lot about student safety is sophomore Lexi Marx. Marx participated in the school-wide walkout with a fair amount of the student body.

“[Students] can be more aware,” Marx said. “They can be into it more. Just care about it.”

Students have opinions on the kind of things that can be added to protect their lives, too. They are not just worried about their grades anymore. When a student starts to see an effort to help keep the school safe being taken, they’re sure to notice.

“We’ve closed a lot of the entrances in the morning, and just in general,” Marx said. “That’s a good step, whether it’s inconvenient or not sometimes. They definitely seem to be more aware of it. We can’t have headphones in the hallways anymore, which I think is smart.”

Teachers are making changes inside the school buildings as well. Many members of the students and staff are changing the way they function on a daily basis, all in an effort to stay safe.

“Everything we do is different,” Yuhas said. “We used to not lock our doors, all the doors are locked now. There’s just a different feeling in the buildings. It’s a different mindset, not only in schools, I think, but in society.”

Students also see ways to help improve the protection of the school, due to knowing the school like the back of their hand, and the student body just as closely.

“I would say [add] metal detectors, or at least some sort of bag search every month at some point,” Marx said. “While we are closing off some of the entrances, that doesn’t mean students can’t still bring things into school.”

Kemerer said that they are looking for students to be more active with their safety, and talked about what was said at a board meeting.

“[They] would like to see students participate,” Kemerer said. “How they feel about something like a metal detector, and I’m not saying we’re getting that, but [Joe Gongaware] discussed that at the school board, but we haven’t had any reaction to that.”

From the standpoint of someone who’s always in the building, Dr. Maluchnik had some different views on what the student body is doing.

“I see students are more concerned,” Maluchnik said. “They care more, they want to give their input more on safety, which is good, and they look out for each other, even. They always did, but students are more apt to come to us if someone looks like they shouldn’t be in the building, [and] they don’t have a pass.”

The bottom line is, Schools are changing. New policies and safety procedures are going into place for the benefit of everyone. Hopefully, this leads to a brighter future for bright individuals.

“I think school is a place where we should go to learn,” Marx said. “Not to think about waking up, going to school, and not coming back.”