Teaching and Learning

Teachers across the country work second jobs and it’s a combination of salaries and financial situations.

A career in teaching is a passion for many people and having one great teacher can be life-changing; this makes it especially shocking to hear that one in five teachers work second jobs according to Education Week.

   “I work many jobs – some are with the school district and some are not with the school district,” math teacher Mrs. Christine Burkhart explained. “I’m a single mom so I come from a single income household and I have two children in college right now.”

   Thankfully, Burkhart’s teaching career has not caused any conflict with part-time jobs which include retail, SAT proctoring and working detention.

   “Most people for part time jobs are looking for people who are willing to work, they show up on time and they have some availability,” she said.

   However, she does admit to there being occasional strange moments if she happens to work with students.

   “I’ve had former students that are technically ahead of me so I’m going to former students and asking, ‘Hey, how do I return this item?’ or ‘Hey, how do I find this item?’” she said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a problem, it’s just odd.”

   Though she’s able to manage working multiple jobs, it can take a toll on anyone.

   “I think it makes it hard on the teachers because during Christmas time when I’m working a lot at my other part-time job, it becomes, you know you’re tired, we get worn down and sick,” she said. “I understand why teachers have to do it, but it’s hard.”

Math teacher Ms. Christine Burkhart writes on the board as she teaches class. Photo by: Emma Skidmore

   However, there are many factors that go in to education finances apart from teacher salaries, including millage rates. A millage rate is the amount of tax on $1,000 of property value. Schools use millage rates to calculate a budget and the current rate in Greensburg is 88.22 for schools. This means for every $1,000, there are about $88 in taxes.

   “I see all sides,” she said. “I actually think our tax system should almost be changed. I think it [the finances] should be discussed because I don’t know that a lot of people understand that the tax base in Greensburg is becoming smaller and smaller. Seton Hill is buying up a lot of property and they don’t pay taxes. Excela Health, the churches – they don’t pay property taxes. Our tax base is being taken down and I don’t think a lot of people know that. I also don’t think people really understand what a mil is. When it gets written in the paper that a school district is raising their millage by two mils, people get upset, but when you actually try to figure out what a mil is, it’s not an awful amount of money.”

  Burkhart also recounted the hiring process and three interviews she went through to eventually be hired at GS.

   “Back in 2001 things were a little bit different,” she said. “There was a little bit more money in the schools and [it was difficult to get a long-term teaching job because] there weren’t a lot of openings in the school districts. Now when teachers are leaving they’re not hiring for that position so that makes it more difficult now for them.”

   Though there are discrepancies in how much a teacher should be paid, it can also be situation-dependent.

   “I don’t know that I will continue working two jobs,” she said. “I’m doing it because for two years, I have two kids in college continuously which is just a big burden. I don’t want to go in to a lot of debt so I’m trying to do these jobs so I don’t go in to debt. Will I continue working all these extra jobs after two more years when my son graduates? Probably not.”

   Nevertheless, being a teacher is still extremely valuable to her.

   “Being inside the classroom actually doing the teaching, I absolutely love it,” she said. “I absolutely love teaching, I love that part of the job. There’s nothing better than that.”

   New hire Mr. Angelo Testa also recounted his interview process and while he doesn’t work a second job during the school year, he does things over the summer to make a little extra money.

   “I guess you could say that compared to other careers, teachers might make less on the average compared to other professions,” Testa said. “[It] might be because of the teacher’s schedule. They do have summers where they could pick up another job or free evenings.”

   Statistically, teachers are the ones who are more likely to work second jobs than other career paths as reported by Dick Startz, an Economics professor at the University of California.

   “The simple solution would be to increase pay,” Testa said. “If teachers were paid more money then I guess there would not be a need to work second jobs. It’s tough because then you’re affecting the entire Greensburg community because you’re increasing wages for teachers and you have to increase taxes. The school only gets so much money, so it’s tough.”

    However, for the teachers at GS, passion will always be more important.

Mr. Angelo Testa teaches his freshman Environment and Ecology class. Photo by: Emma Skidmore

   “Not just teaching but teaching science was my main goal,” Testa said. “Because I like science and because I’m so passionate about science, teaching other people about it and getting them to like it as well is why I wanted to do it.”

   That passion extends outside of the seven hours inside the walls of GS.

   “The scope of a teacher’s job goes beyond the recognized school day,” school board member Mrs. Lynna Thomas said. “Most of the teachers I know devote many hours outside of the classroom – grading papers, putting lessons and assignments together, organizing materials as well as working on professional development and learning so they can continue to stay current on the knowledge in the field.”

   Having worked more than one job herself, Thomas understands how difficult it can sometimes be.

   “I know that it can be mentally and physically tiring to do so,” Thomas said. “While I don’t believe it would necessarily affect their passion for teaching, I think it could affect the time, energy and focus a teacher needs to perform at their very best.”

   From her perspective, the solution is more than just increasing pay.

   “To me, it is not a question of agreeing that salaries should be greater, it is a question of how to find ways to better fund public education so that we do not create such a burden on local taxpayers,” she said.

   She believes that in addition to reforming salaries, teachers could be supported more by encouraging professional growth, listening to their input and placing more value on education overall.

   “It is important to have state and federal support to improve teacher salaries for all teachers in all districts so that we can get closer to paying them what they deserve,” she said. “Right now teachers working in poorer districts are doing the hard work of dealing with students who have many struggles and needs, while having fewer resources available and getting paid less for the work that they are doing. This is not right. There should not be such great discrepancies between poor districts and rich districts.”

  As an integral part of the community, teachers do much more than just teach the curriculum.

   “I think that our society on the whole does not fully understand or value the work that teachers do,” she said. “We entrust teachers to care for our children, to keep them safe, to educate them so that they can become productive members of our communities and care for us in the future. We hold them accountable for students’ social, emotional, moral and intellectual growth.”

Making Money or Music?

Underfunded and understaffed – is this the problem art and music classes face even at GS?

Music and art programs seem to be constantly underfunded and understaffed across the country, seemingly always on the brink of being cut entirely. For many schools, that has become a reality, but could GS be a victim?

   “You need to know a lot about music theory and music history [for a music profession] and we don’t have that,” senior Maddy Kaufman said. “That’s why I dropped wanting to be a music teacher because I didn’t know all of it.”

   Currently, there is one band class that is offered only one semester with 15 students enrolled. All other music programs are clubs or extracurricular activities. While GS boasts a marching band and a concert and jazz band, resources are still scarce.

   “Since we only have one director for both the middle school and the high school, we’re really lacking in everything,” Kaufman said.

   Due to this, Kaufman firmly believed she wasn’t prepared for a college music program.

      “I tried to work at it but with school and everything I didn’t have a lot of time,” she said. “If I had more classes I’d probably feel more prepared but because I don’t, I didn’t.”

Art student and senior Natalie Susa focuses on her piece. Photo by: Emma Skidmore

   Students also find that there’s a certain reputation that comes with wanting to go into an art or music field.  

    “A lot of people think – it’s kind of the same as going into art – you’re not really going to find a good job that pays well,” she said. “You either go and become a performer or you can become a teacher but there’s a few different careers you can go into. People don’t realize that so they think [if] you’re going into music, you’re not going to make any money.”

   However, the amount of research that backs the value of music and art classes in schools is staggering. For high schoolers, possibly the most compelling piece of evidence was tested during the 2012 SAT when music students scored 20-30 points above average in math, reading and writing according to the National Association for Music Education.

   “The past three years, I had a different class on my schedule other than concert band so I had to go into guidance and say, ‘No, I want this one,’” Kaufman said. “Up until last year I was like, ‘This is my career choice, I need this class.’ They had me in a foods class and I don’t need foods, I had concert band on my schedule and they’re like, ‘Okay, but are you really going to need concert band?’”

   Kaufman believes one way to help the program is to improve it at the middle school level.

“If we had more classes and support in the middle school, then we’d have a lot more people in the high school doing music programs and then we would be able to have more classes,” she said. “I think we have a total of 15 people in the concert band class.”

   The amount of staff and funding available also poses an issue, and this isn’t an issue exclusive to band classes.

   “We need more staff, we need more funding, we’re really lacking in quite a few parts of it and we’re like no, this needs to change,” she said.

   Despite this, the heart of the program – the students – are what really shine.

   “I think that the students that we have in the program are really enthusiastic about playing music, learning music and performing music,” band director Mrs. Jaime West said.

   Although the program faces some obstacles, West believes the program is far too important to cut entirely.

   “I think that music is too important to our community to ever let that happen,” she said. “There are enough students here that really love music and do a great job with music and represent the community well enough that I don’t think that would ever happen. It would not be a smart thing to happen.”

   While it might not be happening at GS, it’s frightening to see just how many schools are affected across the country each year. According to Children’s Music Workshop, 1.3 million elementary students are denied access to music classes.

   “There’s been so much [research], what an important part of everyone’s life of music is,” she said. “It’s everywhere.You can’t go into an elevator or a mall without hearing music.”

   Though the classes at GS are safe, counselor Mrs. Deborah Rietski agreed that a lack of money and resources was a constraint across the board and not only in art and music programs.

   “I would say they [the art and music classes] are always evolving and we have added a lot of art classes,” Rietski said. “We’ve added the AP art portfolio class. We tried to offer an art history class but didn’t get a lot of interest in it. We’re trying to expand music in terms of club activities like guitar club. If we can’t get a class per se added to the schedule, we’re trying to offer more activities for participation in those two areas.”

   Furthermore, the scheduling process is limited due to single classes and electives versus requirements

   “Just the logistics of getting all of the classes in open and available spots is difficult,” she said. “Electives are kind of pigeon-holed in to places where other classes maybe aren’t, and you have to spread the core classes.”

   This means that students might end up in electives that weren’t necessarily their first choice.

   “I think some kids who may not feel they have talents in music or that they’re creative in art, they might see those as just exploratory,” she said. “I wouldn’t call them blow-off classes, but exploratory classes so they can get a little bit of exposure.”

  The counselors look each year to add classes they feel will both benefit and engage students.

   “We’ve talked about trying to add, with student interest, some more performance-based or art and music based classes,” Rietski said.

   They also communicate with the teachers in order to revisit things that may need changed in upcoming years.

   “We’ve asked teachers in that department for revisions or changes for next school year,” she said. “We didn’t get any new ideas this year [and] we have added things the past two years. So I think for the time being we just want to try to grow the classes that we’re offering right now.”

“Your education is your responsibility,”

— Mrs. Audia

   Students in these programs can see first-hand the changes they would want to be made and similar to music, some feel it’s been made difficult for them to take art classes.

   “I’m in the gifted program, so I always get told I should be taking more math and science classes but I want to be an art teacher so I don’t need a lot of math and science classes,” senior Jessica Aul said. “I’ve doubled up almost every single year that I’ve been in high school so it doesn’t really make sense for me to take extra math classes and science classes on top of that.”

   Aul also feels that the art classes are sometimes treated as simply filler classes.

   “They just get thrown in to painting or drawing or something, and the kids that actually want to go into the art classes are basically told that they just can’t,” she said.

   She has also seen the lack of resources in the art room.

   “There’s about 30 kids in my painting class and we have barely enough bottles of paint to go around for like, 15 students,” she explained. “We run out of stuff so often and there will be times when we just don’t have stuff that you actually need. I think last year in one of the painting classes they literally used paint substitute, which is like plaster mixed with water, because they didn’t have any white paint.”

   She also feels that by doing art at a high school level, she is somewhat limited in the kind of art she can create and explore.

   “AP art has definitely helped me feel better about doing my own kinds of artwork,” she said. “But I feel like I haven’t been exposed to a lot of art because we’re basically told to almost censor ourselves to make our own artwork. I made a piece that was kind of political that was about gun violence and I was told I could not hang it in the school. Then, all of these school shootings happened and they were like, ‘You can hang that now.’ You have to wait until something bad happens to be able to talk about what it is but I feel like it’s more important beforehand.”

   Aul, a former band student herself, recognizes the value of both art and music.

   “Everyone thinks that no art goes in to art or in to music,” she said. “[Playing music] you have to learn how to memorize everything, you have to learn how to remember it on the spot. With art, you learn all about the art history and you learn all these techniques that you put in to all of your pieces.”

   Despite some limitations, art teacher Mrs. Kelley Audia feels good about the current state of the art program.

Senior Sydney Hirst and junior Megan Shissler perform during the Christmas band concert. Photo by: Alex Podolinski

   “I think we have a lot of diverse classes that we offer between only having two members of our staff who are technically the visual arts department,” Audia said. “Obviously we’ve been cut because we used to have three teachers.”

   She doesn’t see a lack of student interest either.

   “We ended up with, I think, 27 [students],” she said. “We have a couple kids who sit over at the counter but then I had a couple drop the painting class because they had to take other courses like maths or sciences that are just required. It happens. Unfortunately we’re an elective. I think that’s unfortunate for kids because they enjoy our classes so much and they look forward to those classes. It’s a shame they’re kind of stuck taking the classes maybe they don’t get excited about and spending all that time, that 85 minutes, in a class that isn’t really their interest.”

   She has also heard of students express difficulty about getting art classes on their schedule.

  “I have quite a few students who are in the gifted program and are very serious artists,” she said. “They’re current seniors and they’ve expressed this need to kind of fight in order to get visual arts on their schedule. That’s something I’m aware of and I tell all students, you know, your education is your responsibility.”

   However, Audia is confident that the community can see the value of art and does not fear it being cut.

   “I think what’s really important as an art teacher is to continue to do things that make us visible,” she said. “It’s really easy to settle into your job and kind of do things the easy way. By sponsoring National Art Honors Society, by doing extra outside of school things that we do like having the art exhibit that we have in January, all those things just build us up so we do get recognized. Just like the chorus concert is a staple, our art show is a staple now and it has been for 11 years.”

   Audia has experienced how tough the financial limitations can be on the class.

   “The budget is always tricky and I feel like maybe this is my fault than maybe anyone else’s fault but we order in February and I find it so difficult to make a prediction as to what my spring semester is going to look like,” she said. “I’m running out of paint nearly every year and I’m doing it again this year – I’m going to be really low on white paint. We always try to keep a little extra in our budget so we can make those reorders, but this year we really don’t have it. That’s something that’s a problem and something that needs to be improved upon.”

   Audia remembers how art personally affected her as a student and why it is so valuable.

   “It’s super important to be exposed to culture and music and these are the things that get people out of bed in the morning and get kids to come to school,” she said. “They’re valid and they are valuable and I think kids feel appreciated. When I think of when I was a teenager, music was everything to me and art was everything to me. If I didn’t have those art classes, I wouldn’t have wanted to come to school.

Freadom

Controversy can be found in anything and literature is no exception but students and English teachers have united to learn from them.

Carrie, Gone with the Wind and Harry Potter – aside from all being award-winning and iconic books, they’re all challenged novels as well. GS is no stranger to controversial books, with an incredible collection in the library and a project exploring controversial topics through books in 11th grade.

   “What I like about the project, I think it gives students, first of all, a choice so that’s one big reason I like to have that project,” English teacher Mrs. Marla Nelson said. “I also like the project because it connects directly to Fahrenheit 451 which is a book that we read so it’s another reason why I selected the project for the research aspect.”

   This challenged book project gives students a chance to choose and read a controversial novel like the aforementioned titles.

   “I think they’re valuable because they present some good, controversial topics that give students a chance to really look at things from a different perspective,” Nelson said. “Often times the books that students select have a strong connection to the teenage years, so I think that’s another reason why the topics are engaging and the books are engaging for the students.”

   However, Nelson thinks the books in this project are subject to change.

   “I think there will be ones [books] that will be added,” she said. “Just because of the nature of our young adult literature genre, a lot of the authors are writing controversial books, for example, Speak which was a more modern young adult piece of literature dealing with very controversial topics.”

Librarian Mrs. Carrie Vottero buries herself in a novel. Photo by: Emma Skidmore

   While there may be movement nationally to ban or remove a book from shelves, there is rarely, if ever, a problem at GS.

   “I always make sure the students are aware that they have to make sure their parents are on board with approving it,” Nelson said. “I have in the past had, maybe a parent that would say, ‘I don’t want this one read,’ so then we just select another one.”

    However, school districts are able to ban books from being taught in class.

   “As far as the curriculum, that is usually decided upon by the English department working together,” she said. “Many of our books in the curriculum are books that are challenged.”

   At a high school age, reading these controversial books can be especially critical.

   “There should be the opportunity, within of course some limits because it is a school, there are some things if a principal says this can’t be read,” she said. “I do think that especially at the high school age that the more you’re exposed to things that are controversial it helps you to grow as a person [and] to become more well rounded.”

   However, is there ever a point where a book crosses the line?

   “I think it depends on the theme [and] the message of the book,” Nelson said. “I think sometimes it can be graphic in nature if that is to get across a particular theme. For example, AllQuiet on the Western Front is a book about war and it is graphic. It has to be graphic and vivid in its description.”

   Of course, doing this project means spending time in the library.

   “I think that our library with Mrs. Vottero, she’s really provided a good atmosphere for our students to have the opportunity to read a lot of different types of books,” Nelson said. “She just has been able to bring in a good variety of books which I think has been beneficial for our students.”

   Librarian Mrs. Carrie Vottero is the gatekeeper of all things literature at GS and describes herself as pretty open minded.

   “I know there are certain things that are kind of trigger points for some people: sex, drug use, violence, diversity of characters, language, those are the big ones,” Vottero explained.

   She takes great care in ordering books that will not only pique student’s interest, but be engaging and valuable to read.

In addition to the vast collection of books, students use the library to study and work with others. Photo by: Emma Skidmore

   “The only books I buy for this library are books that I’ve read a review about that have been really, really well reviewed,” she said. “I want you to have the very best literature that’s available so that’s what I base a purchase upon.”

   While she researches the books before buying them, controversial issues don’t necessarily influence her judgement as long as they are presented in an enriching way.

   “What I’m concerned more about is the quality of the literature – the story itself – is it something I think is valuable for you to read and for you to have access to,” she said. “If there’s content in it that’s controversial, what’s controversial to me might not be controversial to you.”

   She firmly believes in having a wide variety of novels, catering to both students and staff.

   “Books are supposed to make you think, they’re supposed to make you question and wonder and see somebody else’s point of view,” she said. “If it’s something that’s unpleasant for you or something that you don’t agree with, then I would expect you not to read it. I don’t want you to read that. A library is all about choices and I want you to have as many choices as I can possibly give you here in this library.”

   Everything she does is to promote learning through books.

 “Having the best books makes you, I think, excited to read things and I want you to be readers,” she said.

   Most students have noticed the work that goes into building such a wide collection of books and really haven’t experienced a time where they wouldn’t be able to read something specific.

   “The library has always had books that are controversial and I think that’s important,” senior Jessica Winrick said.

   She agreed that it’s especially important for high schoolers to be able to choose what to read.

   “I think it’s up to the student,” Winrick said. “I mean, we’re almost adults now. We’re in high school, we’re not kindergarteners.”

   For books that already have a reputation as being controversial, they often comment on national and world issues as well.

   “From where we’re heading now, I think they might become more controversial,” she said. “Lately our country specifically has become very divided and everyone is mad at each other for these things and it’s only getting worse.”

   Furthermore, due to the sheer amount of information available due to the internet, it’s not so easy to control what should and shouldn’t be seen.

   “I’ve seen controversy on the internet so I assume that it has an effect on what we read,” she said.

   The value of controversial books is not lost within the walls of GS and there are certainly the resources to experience new perspectives.

   “You get to learn about other people’s opinions,” Winrick said. “You’re being open-minded instead of sticking to your own opinions. You’re learning about other things and that’s what a book is for, to learn.”

Big Feats for Small Businesses

The businesses that add community value and good coffee to Greensburg share their experiences and secret to success. 

Sitting at the small, round metal table in the middle of the cafe, Kim Renter ran up to the counter to attend to a customer asking for a brownie to-go. Moments later, the woman asked if she could put a sign in the window advertising a fundraiser for the library and if she could take a picture of the interior for social media. This interaction was just a small window into the life of a small business owner, and Renter’s reality.

Nestled on the same block as the Greensburg Hempfield Area Library and the post office, the DV8 cafe has married coffee and local art for over 15 years.

“If you look around, I mean, these are your every day people that live in the area that create awesome, awesome art,” co-owner of DV8 Renter said. “These are people, age range from 15 to well into their 70s. People like it. We try to do local everything.”

The coffee shop offers much more than just hot drinks, they often provide a venue for local organizations and participate in or host numerous fundraisers.

“We did Art For Recovery which is recovering addicts who do art, we had that as one of our exhibits,” Renter explained. “We did [a] Diversity Coalition fundraiser and this past Friday had a fundraiser for No More Dysphoria, which was actually not organized by us but we offered up the venue and had four bands play. It was packed.”

However, this wasn’t always Renter’s life and learning how to own a small business definitely had a learning curve.

“My background was in the corporate world; I was in marketing,” she said. “The hardest part [about running a small business was that] I did not know coffee. I was in consumer products in marketing but it was not food products.”

DV8 is no stranger to being unique and being different is exactly what they believe in.


“Sometimes people just think about the basics when they’re starting a business and sometimes there’s a lot more underlying”

— Rachel Flowers

“One of our biggest achievements is we always say that we want this to be a space for people to feel comfortable and we’re not like everyone nor do we want to be like everyone else,” she said. “I think we’ve brought together a collective group of people.”

While they don’t intend to expand like some of their competitors, their business is always growing.

“We’re always coming up with new ideas of how to expand business,” Renter said. “We want to do a monthly open mic night so we can really dip our toe more into the music because everytime we do have music there, it’s very successful.”

Despite being a small business, their product combined with the one-of-a-kind atmosphere of the cafe means that being priced out by chain businesses is not a concern.

“To the best of my knowledge, [I] price better than my competitors, certainly better than Starbucks,” she said. “I provide a very, very high quality product for the price.”

However, Renter does feel she is on the outskirts of the business district of Greensburg.

“I would like to see more development [in the area] because that’s what brings new customers in,” she said. “My daytime business is very strong, particularly with the post office and the library; that generates traffic.”

The cost of running a small business is also much more than meets the eye.

“If you want to have a decent staff, you need to pay a decent wage,” co-owner of Sun Dawg cafe Rachel Flowers explained. “It’s a matter of the fact. It’s not only just your cost of having an employee, there’s also the cost of training an employee, too. Then there’s also a lot of other things that come into play like taxes and whatnot.”

Factors like insurance, workers’ compensation and building upkeep make for a lot of different aspects to worry about.

“Sometimes people just think about the basics when they’re starting a business and sometimes there’s a lot more underlying that you don’t [think about],” Flowers said.

Being relatively close to college campuses and the high school, the cafe sees lots of student clientele, but ultimately, it’s a mix. This is also influenced by their advertising, which can be found mostly online through social media.

“On occasion we might run a Facebook ad and they’re so reasonable and their outreach is so much more than even a newspaper would be,” she said. “We truly believe that people get most of their information via social media these days.”

While they have implemented new menu items and have even moved to a new building, customers are still hungry for more. However, balancing work and personal life is just as difficult, if not more, for a small business owner.

“We’ve been doing this for a lot of years and one of the reasons we started doing Sun Dawg for breakfast and lunch is that we have children and our children mean a lot to us,” Flowers said. “We wanted to be able to be home with them in the evenings whereas we were always away for the evenings and the weekends with our other jobs working in the restaurant industry. It became very important for us to be there with the kids, however Sun Dawg has just grown into something way more than we ever anticipated it to grow into.”

Due to the rapid growth of the business, they expanded to a larger store front in February of 2018. This milestone can be credited to their hard work and dedication to the restaurant and why they believe they able to succeed.

“We’re here working it,” co-owner Ray Flowers said. “Other places sometimes will have employees that work it, we’re actually physically here working.”

In addition to that, Sun Dawg attributes some of their success to a great, fresh product that can be enjoyed by anyone, strong customer service and originality. For this reason, the cafe does not fear being priced out by larger, chain businesses.

“We have a very unique product and everything that we do here is fresh,” Rachel explained. “When things are fresh like that and then you can typically see a local business working like that, people are a little more forgiving as far as your price goes and they can see what they’re getting.”

Co-owner of The White Rabbit Thomas Medley sees his success partly as a product of timing and location.

“I think that we opened in a time and in a location, meaning not just Greensburg, but in this particular spot with a lot of visibility,” Medley said. “We were delayed by at least 3 months with our opening, it was actually closer to five, so we had signs up for a really long time. It hurt us monetarily but it also generated a lot of interest.”

Medley sees the coffee shop as more than that. It’s a place for live music, meetings, studying and even conducting interviews.

“We’re not just a place to grab a coffee or biscuit and go,” he said. “If you’re sitting here for six hours, there’s a very good chance you’re going to strike up a conversation with one of us or with someone around you. It’s almost a sort of community building thing from within the walls.”

Similar to Sun Dawg, The White Rabbit went through a change once they started gaining popularity, but what’s the secret to success?

“I think you have to be [confident] almost to the point of arrogance in what you do in order to open a business,” Medley said. “If you don’t think you’re the best, you should go work for someone who’s better so you then become as good as them. If you don’t think you’re the best at what you do, then you have no business opening a business. There are going to be a thousand things a day that make you second guess that.”

Medley doesn’t credit his growth to just the quality of the product; every factor works to make a business successful.

“People don’t just come here to have a good cup of coffee, service is everything,” he said. “If we don’t create an environment where people want to be-and that’s not just me that’s the staff that we hire, the way that we train, just the general atmosphere the building itself has that we’ve sort of brought to light-I don’t think we’d be nearly as successful.”

That success was fast growing and much more than Medley could have projected.

“We were way wrong [in our business projections],” Medley said. “It doubled what we thought we were going to do, then the next year doubled that and then the next year was another 15 percent on that. We expanded really quickly, it was almost like an inflationary sort of expansion.”

Due to this, a renovation was imminent.

“Our work flow was not set up to handle the volume we were doing, the floor was literally falling apart,” he said. “The floor behind the counter, there were literally holes in it from us running back and forth.”

This renovation meant that The White Rabbit was here to stay.

“This is not a side gig for us [Amber and I]; we’ve devoted everything we have to making it work, and I think that shows,” he said.

“The secret to success is just [to] put everything on the line. If I fail I lose my house, I’m homeless. If my business closes I have nothing. Therefore, failing is not an option.”

— Thomas Medley

Devoting everything is exactly what they did, and what the reality is for many small business owners.

“The secret to success is just [to] put everything on the line,” he said. “If I fail I lose my house, I’m homeless. If my business closes, I have nothing. Therefore, failing is not an option.”

This makes the possibility of competing with a larger business especially terrifying.

“We’re pretty on par with Starbucks pricing,” he explained. “What does instill a sense of fear in me is not being priced out but being outbranded. People view Starbucks as the epitome of specialty coffee. If you’re walking down the street with one of their cups and their obnoxious green straws it’s a status symbol.”

While people are usually willing to support small businesses, there’s always an air of uncertainty when compared to a larger chain.

“With a Starbucks or a place like it, you know when you walk in what the experience is going to be like almost down to what the cashier is going to ask you,” he said. “That’s from Singapore to New York, that’s a universal experience. That’s where I think chains have the biggest benefit and that’s why that’s the thing that scares me.”

With an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a masters in library science, as well as looking for a job during the 2008 recession, opening a small business wasn’t always the end goal.

“I went back into the cafe world full time and then met Amber and said, ‘Oh, we’re both really good at what we do,’ I was a cafe manager at a shop and she was the executive chef,” he said. “Like all good employees, she and I would complain about the owner and in doing so after six or seven months we kind of had a de facto business model. We thought, ‘You know what, let’s just do it.’”

After being both an employee and an owner, Medley realized that the coffee world and this path were his passion.

“I’ve always been better at this than anything else I’ve ever tried,” Medley said.

While the cafe boasts good coffee and delicious desserts, it is also home of the The Rabbit Hole, a small record shop just underneath the storefront.

“Every little town needs a coffee shop and a record store,” Medley said. “And a book store, but I’m not opening another business.”

While each business does something different to set them apart from their competitors, they all add an equal amount of community value.

“The three businesses, they kind of overlap,” Medley said. “We all have such different customer bases and a different meaning to different people.”

Student Profile: Joe Gongaware

Sophomore Joe Gongaware is paving his road to success by starting his own business to follow his passion.

As the majority of high school students work thankless, minimum wage jobs in order to make a little extra spending money, sophomore Joe Gongaware is following his passion and making some cash while doing it.

“I went on a family vacation when I was 12 I believe and when I was there I started taking pictures with my phone camera,” Gongaware said.
While he never thought of himself as an artist, photography has become more than a creative outlet for him, it’s a passion.

“It [photography] really gives me a chance to be artistic,” he said. “I can’t pick up a paintbrush or a marker and draw, I have to hone this craft of taking the picture and editing the picture. It’s just extremely relaxing to me, getting to plug in my headphones and editing 300 pictures on my laptop.”

Gongaware has explored many avenues of photography, ranging from film, portraiture, sports and landscape.

“Definitely editorial and portrait photography right now [is my favorite],” he said. “Landscapes are always fun but I’ve never been real good at them. Nature is always good and sports [photography] was the first thing I did and then after that I kind of got away from that because it’s not as creative.”

As both a student athlete and photographer, he has found sports photography to have many challenging elements to it and respects those who pursue it as a career.

“Famous sports photographers like Steph Chambers, they have such [a] talent because you have to capture motion, you can’t make it,” he said. “When you’re a sports photographer you have to capture that emotion the split second [it happens].”

While he still enjoys taking pictures at games and matches, each type of photography presents new and exciting components he enjoys working with.

“Sports photography is fun to a point,” he said. “What I like about portrait photography, for the most part, is I’m in complete control of what’s happening.”

Gongaware is also able to make a little money off of his photography and as a high schooler pursuing a passion that can be really exciting, but that’s not why he does it.

One of Gongaware’s photos posted on his photography instagram from working with Millers. Photo coutesy: Joe Gongaware

“The money is a plus,” he said. “I do a lot of free jobs just because I love doing it and I love getting the experience for it. It’s not always about the money. It took awhile for me to realize I’m good enough to get paid to do this.”

However, experience, improvement and sheer enjoyment come first.

“The main goal with making a profit off of [your] passion shouldn’t be to make money, especially as a kid,” he said. “Don’t put money in front of doing what you love.”

Gongaware also finds himself continually inspired by travelling and big cities.

“Traveling is a big part because it lets me see new things and of course a lot of my inspiration comes from other people,” he said. “Travel photography and street photography include portraiture and include landscapes [and] street photography. It sort of takes every type of photography and condenses it. Really, you can’t define street photography. Just seeing new things and hearing new languages inspires me to get out and shoot more.”

He has even had the chance to meet one of his role models.

“I actually met a photographer in New York,” he said.  “His name is Louis Mendes and he’s a really famous street photographer. I look at his work and it’s just crazy.”

While at first nervous to approach him, Gongaware was thankful for the experience.

“I wasn’t going to talk to him because he had a student with him but I took a picture and he saw me take the picture,” he explained. “Then he called me over and I was like, ‘Oh god.’ We talked for a solid 20 minutes; his student was just chilling in the corner, he was so cool.”

Gongaware has learned the majority of what he knows now from Youtube and is a fan of Mango Street, a photography channel with over 700,000 subscribers.

“They do editorial street photography they’re really awesome,” he said.

He also continues to get experience in the field through doing work in the community and seeking out opportunities from local businesses. Currently, Gongaware is working with the formal dress store Millers in order to grow his fashion portfolio.

“I knew if I do want to pursue photography when I get out of high school I’m going to have to go into fashion,” he said. “That’s what I want to do [and] that’s where the money is for the most part in portraiture, other than like school pictures.”

Gongaware also focuses on his business taking senior pictures and growing his website, acknowledging social media is half the battle.

“At least from my personal experience, PR and reaching out to people is, I think, 70% through social media [and] through online,” he said. “It’s so important to advertise nowadays because there’s so many photographers [whose] social media presence is such a big deal because that’s how people see your work.”

It’s no secret that social media plays an important role in expanding his business.

“I definitely would like to see the business grow,” he said. “I like taking people that aren’t models and taking pictures of them, seeing the expressions on peoples’ face when they get their [senior] pictures is priceless.”

Despite his hard work, it begs the question, is he taken seriously as a high schooler striving for professional goals?

“If I’m at a sporting event with a press pass, you have these photographers that have been doing it for 30 years, they’ve been through film, they’ve been through digital,” he said. “People look at a kid with a good camera-but not a camera they’ve seen other photographers use-and they’re like, ‘That kid doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ When I do portraiture and I’m in my element, I’ve got my reflectors everywhere and my camera, I think people take me a lot more seriously when I’m in control of the environment versus when I’m not controlling the environment.”

Being a student also presents a challenge in terms of managing his time between photography, school work and extracurricular activities.

“If I was just in school, I’d be okay [balancing photography and school], but because I have the sports, I don’t get home until 6:30 every day so it really is a balance,” he said.

To Gongaware, having an “eye” for photography means always thinking in terms of what makes a good photo.

“When you can go out into an uncontrolled environment and take pictures, seeing the composition of a picture before you take it is having an eye [for photography],” he said. “You have a sense of the environment and a sense of the emotion you want to capture before you take the picture.”

His work and practice with film photography helps him practice this skill.

“I think it really helps me with my composition because every shot is money,” he said. “Film is like $12 a roll nowadays. I really stop and think more about the pictures.”

Due to the expensive equipment needed, he does yardwork and gets help from his family to buy cameras, lenses and everything in between.

“I can see my work benefiting me more than just in the sense of getting a job,” he said. “I get to control when I work, how long I work, how much money I make. Seeing a dream come true, it’s awesome.”

While Gongaware doesn’t need any more of an introduction, and his work speaks for itself, senior Philip Fyock had only good things to say about the senior picture experience.

“He picked good spots and everything and made it quick and easy,” Fyock said. “He told me what to do, basically walked me all the way through it.”

Gongaware’s passion was apparent to him throughout the session.

“He was in awe with some of the pictures and the spots we went to,” Fyock said.

Fyock chose Gongaware to support his fellow teammate and was pleased with everything his business had to offer.

“He’s my friend and I wanted to give him business,” Fyock said. “They were cheaper prices, too, than anybody else.”

The experience was easy and professional and the final pictures turned out great.

“He sets it all up and gets all your pictures for you afterwards,” he said. “He’s fun to be with, just a cool guy.”

Fyock sees a future in photography for Gongaware and believes he has a career in it.

“I know he has opportunities to go places and I feel like he’s good enough to go places so I feel like he could take it somewhere,” he said.

Fighting Fortnite

Getting victories might be fun for you, but hip hop and rap artists are feeling like they’ve lost.

From K-Pop to “Seinfeld,” many pop culture references have all been victims of the game played by millions, Fortnite. The popular battle royale game is a favorite among teens and college students but there’s more than meets the eye. The game, while free, gives players the chance to buy certain customizable options-one of which is the dances.

These dances, or Emotes as they’re called in the game, are pulled directly from TV shows, viral videos or rappers. However, there is no credit or attribution in sight.

“It’s messed up because if I made it [a dance] somewhere, I’d want to be credited for it,” freshman Trevor Swartz said. “The fact that they sell it to people and don’t credit anybody, and the people that came up with the dance get no credit for it [is wrong].”

“It’s messed up because if I made it [a dance] somewhere, I’d want to be credited for it,”

–Trevor Swartz, ’21

Creators have come forward with their feelings toward the game and some have even begun to seek legal action. One of the most notable complaints is a series of tweets from Chancelor Johnathan Bennett, more popularly known by his stage name, Chance the Rapper.

“Fortnite should put the actual rap songs behind the dances that make so much money as Emotes,” Bennett wrote in his tweet. “Black creatives created and popularized these dances but never monetized them. Imagine the money people are spending on these Emotes being shared with the artists that made them.”

Unfortunately, the truth is that many players don’t stop to think about what’s more than meets the eye.

“I’ll probably still buy it anyways,” Swartz said. “Even if it is credited or not.”

In addition to a credit added to the dances in the game, there is also dispute over whether the original artist should be compensated.

“Some of the profits should go to them, maybe like 25%,” Swartz said. “But not all of it because Fortnite still has to make some money.”

While most people believe this is more of a case having to do with morals and ethics, artists are seeking legal action against Fortnite and their parent company, Epic Games.

“This is our craft that you guys basically stole,” rapper and creator of the Milly Rock, 2 Milly told Insider in an interview. “You stole it for money so pay us our money.”

But is it possible to copyright a dance or dance move? Legally, the answer is yes, but only under certain parameters.

“Copyright law does not protect any dance or any dance step or move in particular,” expert attorney for Kirkland and Ellis LLP, Ms. Shanti Sadtler Conway, told “Insider.” “Rather, it protects what is called choreographic work. So you do need to have more than one or two steps together.”

While copyright law doesn’t protect what is called “social” or individual dance moves, the question becomes if it’s a matter of cultural representation and appropriation, especially since many of these dances were created by rap

and hip hop artists. For example, many young kids playing the game may only know it as a Fortnite dance and have no idea about the original creator.

“Little kids don’t have the knowledge that us teens do when we play,” Swartz said. “Like [thinking], ‘Hey, I saw that on Instagram,’ or ‘Hey, I saw that on Snapchat.’ They just think, ‘Oh, Fortnite dance, Fortnite dance,’ but like, the Backpack Kid came up with the Floss, they don’t who the Backpack Kid is.”

This is also influenced by the fact the names of the dances are changed, further angering creators. For example, 2 Milly’s dance the Milly Rock shows up in the game as the Swipe It.

Graphic created by: Emma Skidmore

“The thing is, if Fortnite is going to use this dance, anyone who cares enough to know what the dance is will know where it’s from,” senior Tristan Moyer said. “It’s free recognition for them [the artist], so I feel like them complaining about it brings a lot of attention to their name regardless.”

Clearly, there is a divide between who popularized a dance and who created it, but should Fortnite be making an effort to bridge that gap?

“Cam Newton didn’t really start the dab, like Migos dabbed in like 2011 in their music videos when no one knew them,” Moyer said. “Dabbing was around but Cam Newton was the one who made it big, so he did the same thing Fortnite is doing.”

While some may care about being credited more than others, there’s no doubt that when it comes to money, it sparks conversation. Fortnite is projected to make $12.6 billion in revenue this year as reported by Techspot, made almost exclusively off of optional, in-game purchases. For them to make this money off of unoriginal content seems wrong.

“I 100 percent think they should be credited but compensated, I feel like that’s kind of muddy,” Moyer said. “I mean, they should, but I really can’t imagine them getting credited. Yes they should-will they? Probably not.”

Despite the opinions voiced by artists about the use of their dances, Fortnite doesn’t seem to have plans to change the credit they lack.

“It’s just a very gray area; there’s no black and white to it,” he said.

While the majority of people know the dances are pulled straight from pop culture and viral videos, it’s still unclear as to where the line is crossed between a specific dance or gesture and something that’s just common knowledge.

“I feel like they change the names so that they don’t get copyrighted,” sophomore Quintin Gatons said. “They use all these popular dances and just change the names around.”

However, while possibly one of the most notable, Fortnite isn’t the only culprit of this. The Milly Rock can be seen in NBA 2K18 and they also did not contact the creator before using the dance. Beyoncé has even been accused of dance plagiarism in her “Countdown” video, mirroring the choreography a little too closely to that of Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker.

“I’ve seen them [the dances] in movies and other things like that,” Gatons said. “It’s not original, obviously.”

While players may already know where dances are from, some feel that Fortnite has a responsibility to give credit where credit is due.

“I feel like, in some way, recognize [the artist] and show them [kids] where it’s originally from,” he said.

However, the odds are stacked against those looking to sue Fortnite, as legally they don’t have the upper hand.

“I don’t feel like it’s going to be the end of the world if they don’t [seek legal action],” Gatons said.

The game could also pioneer their own original dances, but players may not be as responsive to something they don’t recognize.

“They’ve come up with some of their own [dances], but I feel like they should try to do all of them instead of using other people’s,” he said.

The Trouble with Vaping

As the rule “no vaping” is now heard on the tail end of the standard “no smoking,” speech, it’s clear that people feel that this is something worth being addressed. Due to the “epidemic” of vapes and Juuls now in the hands of minors, what was used to help smokers quit is now being used to fit in with fellow classmates.

“You’re still getting all the chemicals in your lungs,” school nurse Mrs.Tammy Gladkowski said. “You can still get the blackened and damaged lungs, the COPD, the emphysema and lung cancer. You still get all the long term effects as if you were smoking.”

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a lung disease that causes restricted air flow and results in difficulty breathing. It also puts those afflicted at a greater risk of heart disease and lung cancer.

cartoonresized

Illustrated by Molly K.

“I don’t think there’s enough research; it’s probably just as bad [as smoking a cigarette],” Mrs. Gladkowski said. “I think even some of the research is saying there’s even more chemicals, [it’s] possibly worse.”

While nicotine is a concern in vaping, it’s not the only chemical to be worried about. Cancer causing ingredients found in antifreezes are found in vapes along with diacetyl, a flavoring agent that causes popcorn lung when inhaled.

“Just getting the education out there, posters, texts, emails and getting the public aware, like a wellness program [is the best way to address the issue],” Gladkowski said.

Vaping and e-cigarettes can not only affect overall health quality, but school performance as well.

“Nicotine can affect concentration, it can cause irritability if you get addicted to it, mood swings and that type of thing which would ultimately affect a student’s work ethic,” she said.

The problem with vaping is widely a teen issue due to the discreet design and fun flavors. Teachers around the country have seen it taking place in school and districts are using new technology to stop it. Plainedge High School in Long Island, NY has installed vape detectors in bathrooms.

“I think there’s definitely a wider use of vaping, and not so much vaping in school because the smoke is so evident, but I think more so with Juuls it’s easier to keep that hidden,” Principal Mr. David Zilli said.

A 2016 report from the US Surgeon General stated a 900 percent increase in usage of e-cigarettes in teens from 2011 to 2015.

“We’re hoping to continue to gather knowledge and information to share with students about the real facts of it,” Mr. Zilli said.

This aim to inform students of the dangers of vaping could be due to campaigns like Truth, an anti-smoking program. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 6 percent of high school seniors smoked cigarettes daily in 2016 as opposed to 1995 where that number was 25 percent. Though these campaigns have seen a significant decline in teenage smoking rates, it seems like a classic “be-careful-what-you-wish-for” situation as teens turn to vapes.

“If there’s harms and dangers out there that are evidenced based, it’s our responsibility to inform students,” Zilli said. “Yes we want to educate students academically, but we also want to educate them socially, emotionally and physically as well.”

Though peer pressure or rebellion are possible reasons as to why a student would start smoking or vaping, their environment outside of school could be a factor as well. According to the Center for Disease Control, 2011 to 2013 data showed that food service and accomodation employees are the most prevalent smokers. This could be a part time job for many students.

“I worked at a restaurant for five years and everybody that I worked with all smoked,” Health teacher Ms. Alyssa Palenchar said. “They were all taking smoking breaks so I would say that has some sort of influence on the person.”

Ms. Palenchar believes that by making these things so convenient to use, they aren’t helping smokers quit.

“I think that it’s just an excuse for people to keep going,” Palenchar said. “It’s not really helping them stop, it’s just helping them get around the ways of doing [it] that cigarettes can’t [offer].”

With people continuing to think vaping is healthier than smoking, she sees the trend continuing as ways to get the nicotine advance. However, the information will grow as well and due to the success of anti-smoking campaigns, one is bound to see vapes being addressed.

“Doing these certain campaigns and having teachers and students go out there and promote non-smoking and activities you can do without smoking is a way to help,” Palenchar said.

Students are influenced by classmates and friends which is why peer pressure is a huge factor. This means that if vaping continues at school, the cycle won’t stop.

“More and more kids are going to get to the high school and they’re going to see that kids are vaping and they think that they need to vape to fit it so they’re going to do it,” senior Noah Roach said.

While he doesn’t feel pressure from companies via ads or commercials, he still sees it around him.

“I don’t know how they really can [address it] because kids aren’t going to listen,” Roach said.

Senior Mackenzie Soriano has noticed its prevalence among users and doesn’t see it stopping.

“They came out with the vape pen and then they came out with the juuls, like it’s not going to stop,” Soriano said. “They’re just going to start making new things so the industries can continue.”

With the appearance of vape shops around the area and even in the mall around teens and kids, it’s not a secret that it’s an increasing production.

“I feel like that’s unnecessary to have that in the mall,” she said. “They don’t even have doors, you just see people vaping in there. They want kids to see you vaping.”

 

She feels that it’s an issue worth addressing in school.

“I think they need to hold an assembly and tell kids why it’s not a good idea,” Soriano said. “Why do you want a nicotine addiction? You’re 17.”