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 vaccines.gov, 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.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

nyc
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”


— ABBEY SCHWARTZ, ’19

“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.”