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.

Students Take the Wheel, Drive GS Forward

  GS students never stop giving their time to their school and community, and this April, two organizers gave their time to help two community events stand out above the rest.


   Dodge for Dementia

   On Saturday, April 8, 256 students from 11 school districts in the region came to GS’ gymnasium for one reason and one reason only: Dodgeball.


A GS dodgeball team crouches at the line, ready for the Dodge for Dementia tournament to begin. Photo credit: Gabe Vogel

  At some point or another, every high school student feels the intensity of a dodgeball match, but in terms of scale and purpose, GS’ Dodge for Dementia wasn’t the typical dodgeball tournament.

   “We came up with the idea at the National Honors Society [NHS] conference in Pittsburgh back on November 29,” senior NHS President Melissa Paravate said.

   Paravate remembers the date because, whether she knew it then or not, the commitment she made was monumental. At the conference, their task was to create an event for their school that could raise funds “for a good cause.” From the start, Paravate and the NHS organizers were drawn to the Alzheimer’s Association as well as World Vision, an organization targeting international poverty with a focus on children.

   “We wanted to do something to make a difference,” Paravate said.

   And of course they did, but how would NHS raise the funds? What would the event actually be? For Paravate, the answer had to be a sporting event. Paravate and the team of NHS organizers were initially torn between volleyball and dodgeball, but they decided that volleyball was too exclusive.

   “We didn’t want it just to be aimed at athletes,” she said. “We wanted more people to get involved. So we picked dodgeball.”




Seniors Tony Altieri (below) and Kevan Downs (above) competing in their respective matches. Photo credit: Gabe Vogel

  “At our school, we promoted it all over the halls, posters everywhere, announcements all over the place, social media, you know,” she said.

  But that was only effective at GS. To get other schools to participate, Paravate recruited three other NHS members: seniors Erica Faulk, Peter Laskoski and Troy O’Black. Then, like foreign ambassadors, the four drove around the entire county, from Southmoreland to Burrell, meeting with school administrations to get them involved in their event.

  “The amount of people we had to contact and the ways we had to contact them….” Paravate remembered. “Emails, phone calls, messages… any way that you can think of to contact people we definitely did.”


The participators weren’t just students! Excela Health sent a team to help the cause and compete as well. Photo credit: Gabe Vogel

  After this and months of planning, Paravate’s team finally hosted the event two weeks ago. It was a triumph both for them and for the GS team that won the tournament. Juniors Reid Amundson, Kobe Dinsmore, Dajauhn Hertzog, Lucius Nicolai, Jack Oberdorf, Sage Parsley, Noah Sweeney and one senior, Darren Beirne, made up the winning team.

  “I was really pleased with the whole tournament,” Paravate said. “Everybody showed up, and all our referees came.”

  Paravate wanted to give “a huge shout-out,” to the National Guard, which sent six reserve officers to referee the tournament among teachers and other volunteers.


On behalf of NHS and the organizers, Troy O’Black thanks their supporters, listed on Paravate’s shirt. Photo credit: Gabe Vogel.

  The NHS President said the event had its share of flaws. For example, Paravate thought she missed the mark on organizing the time slots, meaning they had much more free time than they anticipated. Additionally, it was hard to get teams to sign up at the beginning. The organizers had to do a lot of “chasing.”

  “People were really understanding that this is only our first year doing this; we’re only seniors in high school,” she said. “We did our best.”

  All in all, the event was a success. The event was highly praised by many participants and by GS administration. According to Paravate, the Dodge for Dementia team raised $2,383 just on the day of the event, in addition to all of the sponsorship and participation money raised beforehand. Paravate said she estimated the event’s total revenue at about $4,300, all of which will be donated to their beneficiaries, along with the NHS and the National Junior Honors Society [NJHS].

  “Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped us out with this,” Paravate said. “We couldn’t have done this without everyone’s support.”


Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

   Dodge for Dementia was a boisterous event, but the art students in room 238 gave to their community in a quieter way, donating symbolic pieces to the Blackburn Center’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes®️, which was held at Offutt Field last Saturday, the 21st.

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A group of walkers leaving Offutt near the end of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Photo by: Jules McBride.

   Every year since 2011, the Blackburn Center, a local anti-violence organization, has held a march against gender-related and domestic violence somewhere in Greensburg. The event is largely a fundraiser, and it’s growing in popularity: in recent years, the number of walkers has more than tripled since the first WMHS®️. Mrs. Kelley Audia, art teacher of room 238, spoke of the event.

  “Men come – I know they get the Seton Hill football team to attend – and they wear red high-heel shoes, and they symbolically walk a mile in those shoes to symbolize their support,” Mrs. Audia said.

  In past years, the Blackburn Center has held the event at Lynch Field and St. Clair Park, but no matter where they’ve marched, they always bring one thing: art.

  “Offutt Field is a big space, so I’m kind of hoping we can make enough of a visual impact and provide as much as possible,” Audia said.

  Though she couldn’t attend this year, the art teacher donated a collection of pieces to the March, which were displayed around Offutt’s fence for all the participants to take in. Over the last two years, WMHS®️ has seen in the neighborhood of 1,100 participants, which means the donated work got a lot of exposure.

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A few of Painting II’s many symbolic pieces zip-tied to Offut’s fence. Photo by: Jules McBride.

   Throughout the years, Audia has encouraged her advisory class to get involved and make art for this event. This year, her art students also chipped in.

  “My Painting II kids did the piece out in the hall, and the Printmaking kids were very willing to help,” she said.

  Painting II, which Mrs. Audia has first block, created a set of colorfully painted ink prints of shoes. Some depict the symbolic high-heel shoe used by the Blackburn Center, while others are more inventive. A few are decorated with quotes or positive messages, while others stand alone. This year, the Painting II students took notes from Andy Warhol.

  “We try to do something different every year, but we typically kind of focus on shoes as our subject matter,” Audia said. “So this year we took Warhol as our inspiration, specifically his early work.”

  These pieces were small, but Audia and her class made a lot. Audia said that it might be possible to arrange them like a quilt to strengthen their visual impact, but in the end, they decided to spread them out around Offutt’s fence.

[Junior Molly Krunszyinsky, Sophomore Haylie Roth, Mrs. Kelley Audia, and Senior Matis Stephens hold their respective pieces.]


   In addition, the printmakers made a piece of their own.

  “My printmaking class did what’s called a collograph of houses,” Audia said. “They each had to choose and design their own houses, and we did a whole sort of city block.”

  The piece was placed on the front end of the football field so that the participants could see it as soon as they walked in. It boasts a full row of unique houses, accompanied by a quote above the rooftops: “A house where someone feels unsafe is not a home.”


   The piece was placed on the front end of the football field so that the participants could see it as soon as they walked in. It boasts a full row of unique houses, accompanied by a quote above the rooftops: “A house where someone feels unsafe is not a home.”

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The printmaking class’s piece, lifted from the fence by the breeze. Photo by: Jules McBride

   Audia and the art classes also donated a mixed media piece entitled “Cultivate kindness,” a collaborative piece by seniors Katelyn DiCriscio, Kendra Kennedy, Claire Simpson and two juniors, Hannah Ahearn and Natalie Susa.

“I think it’s important for people to get inspired to let themselves be heard,” Audia said. “And giving these pieces is something that can accomplish that.”


So what?

  GS students will never stop finding ways to give to their school and their community. At GS, there are perpetually student-run or student-oriented events to raise funds, such as Open Mic Night, the talent show, and of course, Mini-THON. But when one is surrounded by student leaders, organizers, dodgeballers and Mini-THONers, it might become natural to ask: Why? What’s the incentive for giving hours of one’s life to a larger cause or a one-night event?

  “You don’t always need to get something out of it,” Paravate said. “There was nothing in it for me.”

  Paravate didn’t know if she considered herself an altruist, but it could be justified. The NHS President claims she has over 800 volunteer hours under her belt.

  “I think it’s really important to give back and make an impact on the people who are coming up,” she said. “Make it something people in the future would look forward to, if they would want to do it again.”

  The NHS President and the art teacher had unique stances, but both thought it was important to inspire others.

  “I always tell [my students], you’re doing something for the community,” Audia said. “And that might not seem like a big undertaking, but when it all comes together that’s going to make a big impact. Art is powerful.”

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As the walk simmered down, participants, some still carrying signs, hang out in pockets by the Offutt locker rooms. Photo by: Jules McBride

  Mrs. Audia hopes to expand NAHS into more than just face painting and donating. She has thought about taking her students to events promoting art and art activism. Paravate is optimistic for the future, too.

  “I do hope [Dodge for Dementia] continues,” she said. “But it really depends on who your [NHS] officers are next year.”

   Paravate in particular wanted to express her gratitude to the multitude of GS staff, students and community leaders who gave their time and money to make Dodge for Dementia work. Greatly pleased with the support and compliments she got, she regards her event as a success.

  “Mrs. Harper told me she didn’t think I was crazy enough to pull this off,” Paravate laughed. “Well, we all learn things about ourselves through a process like this!”


Spaghetti Engineers Bring Two Trophies Home

[Featured Image: The winners of Carbone’s Spaghetti Bridge Engineering competition pose with their awards. Pictured Left to Right: Ian Merendino, William Crites, Mrs. Cheryl Harper, Christopher Writt]


   51 pounds, 6 ounces – that was how much it took to break a pasta bridge constructed by three GS juniors at Carbone’s annual Pasta Engineering competition.

  “You have to build a bridge that’s a meter long at least, under a kilogram, and the goal is to get the bridge to hold as much weight as possible before it ultimately breaks,” junior William Crites, one of the three winners, said.

  On March 12th, Crites and his two teammates, Ian Merendino and Christopher Writt, were just one of 23 teams from all over western PA that crowded into St. Vincent University’s Fred Rogers Hall. Each team carried with them a bridge they constructed out of spaghetti and lasagna. Each bridge was tested to its limits, and the weight it held was listed as the team’s score.

  The trio of juniors were the last to put their bridge to test, and took the win by almost 10 whole pounds. Juniors Scott Armentrout and Peter Mica, whose bridge looked set to take second with 41 lbs 6 oz, still took a third place trophy home.


Armentrout and Mica pose alongside physics teacher Mrs. Cheryl Harper with their medals and third place trophy. Photo by: Julius McBride

  Carbone’s only gives awards to the three strongest bridges (plus one for aesthetics), but all of the GS teams did well. Second place may have eluded them, but every GS bridge held at least 20 lbs. It pays to be knowledgeable in modern bridge design and material science.

  “Obviously, there’s a lot of physics behind it,” senior Peter Laskoski said. “We spent weeks studying structural design of bridges in real life and what makes a good solid bridge.”

  Laskoski’s team didn’t place in the top three, but its bridge held a respectable 27 lbs 8 oz, enough to top well over half of their competition.

  At the beginning, there were plenty of choices to make and designs to pick. Trusses, cables, suspension wires, as well as basic aspects such as shape and size were all considerations for the competitors. However, Crites, Merendino and Writt knew what they wanted.



Wooden blocks hold the spokes in place as the glue sets. Photo by: Jules McBride


   “We chose the arch bridge,” Crites recounted. “Since all the weight was load-bearing in only the center of the bridge, and there was no need to have the weight distributed evenly, the arch-bridge was structurally the most sound.”

  Crites was referring to the fact that the testing weights aren’t put on the bridge itself, but are added to a bucket that is hung on a hook at the center of the bridge’s base. This means that the team didn’t need to design a bridge optimized to hold weight along its entire length, just at its center.

  “Our entire class modeled their bridges after practically the same design,” Laskoski said. “We modeled our bridge after previous designs that our school has done that have won in the past.”

  In recent years, the arch design has proven its effectiveness by dominating the competition. The record holding bridge to date clocked in at an astounding 109 pounds. That legendary bridge used a large number of “cables,” just one noodle thick, to help to distribute the weight over a sturdy arch. This year, the top three teams attempted the simple design, hoping to reap the benefits. But of course, just because the design was simple does not mean it was easy to build.

  “One of the issues was making sure the arches were as symmetrical as possible,” Crites said.

  To build the most symmetrical bridge they could, Crites’ team used a variety of tools, including placing a frame of nails in a board to curve the arches just right. The entire way through, the trio used careful measurements, precise gluing and teamwork.

  “We had to come up with the best possible idea,” Crites noted. “Usually Ian would come up with the first idea, then Chris and I would revise that. Then we’d all three come to an understanding on how to address the issue.”

  Even when the various hurdles of building the bridges were jumped, getting the structures to St. Vincent was still a challenge. And remember, they’re made out of spaghetti.

  “We were nervous the bridge was going to break just walking through the door,” Laskoski said. “That was probably the most nervous I was.”

  Before their various other design choices were put to the test, each competing bridge was given a display spot in the Fred Rogers Hall. Each of the 23 unique bridges, traditional and hybrid, painted and unpainted, all sat on tables throughout the hall. Spectators could indulge in refreshments and admire the design of every bridge, while competitors could scope out their competition. Meanwhile, every bridge was weighed, measured and inspected by the moderators to ensure it followed the specifications laid down months earlier. GS teams made sure to keep an eye on the other arch bridges.

  “It was kind of nerve-wracking walking around, seeing the other bridges,” Laskoski said. “There were definitely some well-designed bridges from other schools that gave us a run for our money.”

   It shouldn’t come as a surprise that building a bridge out of dry spaghetti is not easy. If a bridge isn’t properly fortified, small asymmetries can make a bridge twist, lean or buckle unexpectedly under enough weight. Thus, during the competition, minor mistakes could quickly become major concerns. Competitors are sure to watch for even small issues every step of the way.

  “In the end, it just comes down to good joints and good symmetry,” Crites said.

  According to Laskoski, their bridge would have done much better if not for one small oversight.

  “The bridge worked as planned,” he said confidently. “From a structural point of view, the arch was pretty well done. The downfall was that we overlooked a very, very tiny detail in our bridge.”

  Laskoski’s team noticed early on that their base wasn’t completely level. In his own words, the issue ended up being “makeshift” taken care of, but not properly fixed.

  “When we looked at the footage, that was exactly where our bridge broke,” he said.

  Crites, Merendino and Writt had better luck. They were the last team to bring their bridge up, and had a brief mishap with the scale before clocking in at 51 lbs 6 oz, surpassing the standing winner by almost 10 pounds.

  The number scored by the team of junior boys is certainly impressive, but less than half of the standing record. So then what was it that stopped them from getting any higher?

  “It worked as planned,” Crites said. “Everything was going well with our bridge. Until…”

  Crites’ team had the same adversary as Laskoski’s team: the base.

  “We didn’t make our base long enough, so the bridge didn’t break the way it was supposed to,” Crites explained. “The amount of weight caused it to flex, and it just slid off the side.”


Laskoski (center) and his teammate Colin Bashline (left) prepare to glue down the load-bearing spokes onto their arches. Merendino and Writt (right) work in the background. Photo by: Jules McBride

But a victory is a victory, and despite their shortcomings, Crites and Laskoski were both glad they were able to participate and grateful for the conceptual science in Honors Modern Physics.

“I think in that part of HMP, we learned a lot,” Crites said. “I mean, I didn’t know anything about tension or compression beforehand.”

Laskoski didn’t think they would have made it without HMP either.

“Not just anybody can pick up a pile of spaghetti and some hot glue and make a bridge that can hold even five pounds,” Laskoski chuckled. “Or one pound.”

  And that’s true. A handful of teams from other schools walked away with a score around two or three pounds. Sadly, a few teams even got a score of zero.

  “You have to have some conceptual knowledge of what you’re doing to even attempt to make a bridge out of pasta,” Laskoski added. “We learned a lot about bridges and forces and tension prior to building the bridges. This is just kind of an added on project that Mrs. Harper does for us so we get some experience with forces and tension.”

 Crites and Laskoski both agree that Carbone’s Pasta Bridge competition fits within the Honors Modern Physics curriculum. Though bridges may not be as exclusively modern as particle physics – a subject covered in the same class – bridge physics is obviously still relevant.

  “Obviously, we’re still going to be building bridges in the future,” Crites said. “So it’s good to learn and I would consider [the competition] a part of Honors Modern Physics because it encompasses many of the aspects of modern physics that we still use today.”

GS WIRC Team Out-reads their Competition

   [Featured image: Seniors…? Poses with their ribbons, trophies, and WIRC plaque. (Left to right, top down:  Jessica Prentice, Janelle Hayward, Grant Hoffer, Jesse Quatse, Melissa Paravate, Maria Mlinarchak, Claire Simpson, Shannon Brady, Elizabeth O’Neal, Gillian Perez), Photo Courtesy: Claire Simpson]

   Last week, six months of reading and preparation paid off at the Westmoreland Interscholastic Reading Competition (WIRC), where Seniors…?, a GS team, took first place.

  WIRC is a quiz-bowl style competition hosted at Seton Hill University where teams compete to get the most questions right. Teams, usually more than one per school, compete in rounds where each team is paired against another team. When the dust settles and the day is over, whoever has the highest total score wins the competition. The structure is simple. The subject matter is not.

  “I haven’t been to a competition yet, so I can’t say too much about it, but the thought that we read a lot of books is definitely true,” senior Kane Claflin said the week beforehand.

  Competitors face the challenge of remembering details of the content, plot and characters of 30 books preselected by the high school librarian, Mrs. Carrie Vottero.  

  From his year of reading, Claflin maintained that WIRC is all that it seems: reading, reading and reading. This is Claflin’s first year, but he has friends who have participated in WIRC for four years, including a chunk of his team, The Good Guys, who snagged the sixth place spot this year.

  “The reason that we started our team is because of Claire Simpson’s team, and so I think they’re our biggest competitor,” he chuckled.

  Simpson was a member of this year’s winning team: Seniors…?. Simpson herself was unable to schedule an interview, but her teammates, seniors Janelle Hayward and Jessica Prentice, were able to speak about their involvement.

  “I think a lot of people think it’s boring, but I like it,” Prentice said. “It’s fun to go to Seton Hill for a day,”


WIRC’s exclusive shelf and its rapidly cycled books. Photo by: Jules McBride

 “Seniors…?” was the chosen name for Hayward, Prentice and Simpson’s team because of their mostly senior team members. Regardless of grade, they were all eager to compete.

  “It’s always fun to geek out,” Hayward added. “We have a blast when we’re there.”

  Both Hayward and Prentice enthusiastically agreed that competition day was a holiday for them, but ceded that some of this year’s books dragged. Not all of them are fiction, and some, like The Kingdom of Little Wounds, are a hefty 500 pages.

  “Usually a lot of them are enjoyable, but this year they’re few and far between,” Hayward said.

  Hayward praised The Serpent King, and Prentice said that The Sun is Also a Star was the only book she enjoyed. But there were not a lot of books up their alley this time around.

  “There’s a lot of nonfiction this year,” Prentice groaned.

  As aforementioned, the book selection, as well as a myriad of other tasks, is done by Mrs. Vottero and Mrs. Debbie Kozuch, the GSMS librarian.

  “[Mrs. Kozuch and I] receive the registrations from the different teams from all over Western Pennsylvania,” Vottero began, listing their duties. “We have to create a schedule for them to compete against each other, we have to reserve the facility, Seton Hill University, be in constant contact with the people there, set up the cafeteria….”

  Many students do not realize the hours the librarians put into WIRC. Across the middle and high school divisions, almost 1,000 students compete every year. Of course, all of these students need buses and slots on the schedule, not to mention lunch at Seton Hill. The logistics of all of these things and more fall squarely on the librarians’ shoulders.


Mrs. Vottero sorting the certificates, ribbons, and trophies to be awarded at the competition. Photo by: Jules McBride

 “You have to have the space organized,” she continued. “You have to do the scoring of the event, you have to write the questions….”

  Vottero is always enthusiastic about the event, but when it comes down to it, she’d rather spend time helping her students manage their team and organize practices to increase GS’s fighting chance rather than hosting the competition.

  “Greensburg Salem has six teams this year that really deserve their own coach,” she said. “I don’t get to spend nearly enough time being that coach to them because I’m running the actual event.”

  Vottero believes GS students are disadvantaged because librarians at neighboring districts have the opportunity that she doesn’t: getting to read and practice alongside their teams.

  “I feel bad about it all the time,” she said. “I wish I had more time to prep and question [the teams], and have pretend contests and see how prepared [they] are.”

  However, Hayward and Prentice don’t feel necessarily disadvantaged.

  “We’re doing our own thing, you know?” Hayward said. “We just have to do what’s best for us, and [Mrs. Vottero’s] coaching may or may not mold with our strategies.”

  The pair both competed in WIRC at the middle school, where Mrs. Kozuch regularly quizzed teams on certain books. They agreed that Mrs. Kozuch’s questioning definitely helped, but were skeptical of any impact beyond that.

  “I don’t know if we’d need it,” Prentice said.

  Because Vottero doesn’t coach, student teams become largely independent. According to the librarian, most of the teams prepare themselves for the competition to the best of their ability, and Vottero places “great faith” in the idea they will.

  And they do. Throughout the years, new approaches have been created or old ones tweaked by inventive student teams.

  “We try to get two or three people on each book, because if you only have one person on each book, the odds of them remembering for every single question are slim,” Hayward said. “We also like to do notecards on the day of the competition to prompt each other and get our minds running.”

   Seniors…? used a hand-drawn chart, while The Good Guys preferred an Excel spreadsheet, but both use the same concept: charting the books vs. who’s read them.

  “I’m in charge of most of the administrative things, like keeping track of the books that people have read, and making sure people get the money for our shirts and everything,” Claflin said.

  Of course, this isn’t a GS-only event. Dozens of schools participate every year, and a few quickly became “threats” in competitions past.

  “I want to say that Hempfield won the top three spots last year,” Vottero said. “First, second, and third place. Which – wow – that’s a really big deal.”

  According to Vottero, 39 teams competed this year – a typical number. Hempfield’s sweep of the leaderboard last year means that their wins haven’t been flukes, and GS students were ready to be diligent to keep up. For Seniors…?, that diligence clearly paid off, as Hempfield’s best team placed second.

  “Hempfield is usually the team to beat,” Hayward remarked before.

  GS readers were also watching out for DuBois Area, a more secluded central Pennsylvania school district. In the very first year DuBois participated in WIRC, they were hardly acknowledged, that is, until they trounced every team they played and won the competition. This year, they also placed high in the top ten.

 “I would love to see us take those top three spots this year,” Vottero said, almost predicting the future.

Mary Poppins Cast Flies into Opening Weekend

[Featured Image: Left to right, front: Audrey Johnson (Mary Poppins), Sarah Koebuck (Mrs. Corry), and Alex Podolinksi (Bert) finish off a dress rehearsal run of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Photo credit: Charity McBride]  

As February wanes into March, the auditorium comes to life, and the 2018 cast of Mary Poppins will put on a show of many firsts to thrill the audience opening night.

The cast will take to the stage Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening and a Sunday matinee.

Aside from production details which are not allowed to be disclosed until the curtain opens, this year will be the first year where two non-high school students have a role in the show. Logan Lewis, who attends Metzgar Elementary, will play Michael Banks along with Ellie Swanson, who will play his sister Jane. It will be Lewis’ very first musical.

“I think I’m like Michael at the beginning,” Lewis said of his role. “I can be a cool kid, but sometimes a very nice kid.”

Lewis spoke positively of the musical, but noted that even his schedule was “crazy,” with musical rehearsal and trombone practice back-to-back on Tuesdays.

Even at the high school, many GS students have a similar attitude about their musical schedule.

“There’s no schedule other than musical,” laughed senior Audrey Johnson, who will play Mary Poppins. “Essentially, when I’m not at rehearsal, I’m sleeping or eating.”

The name Audrey Johnson may ring a bell, as she was crowned Homecoming Queen this year. Freshman Owen Johnson (unrelated), a chimney sweep, made similar comments to Audrey.

“I usually go home, do homework, eat dinner, then come here [to rehearsal],” Owen said.


Audrey Johnson pictured with Alex Podolinksi (Bert) during the iconic number Step in Time. Photo credit: Charity McBride

Owen and Audrey share more than a last name. They both have been in every musical they could since they were in 6th grade.

A lot of students in musical have this sort of streak. But this year, a few students found rehearsal schedule to be too challenging, and caused a stir when they quit. Three of them had roles with lines and/or singing parts. Sophomore Autumn Fink, formerly the Bird Lady, was one of them.

“Sometimes I just wanted to go home and rest,” Fink said.

According to Fink and pretty much everyone involved, preparations for this year’s show have been rigorous. The later practices are usually long and hard, but this year, the various special effects, multiple costumes per person, the presence of two fifth graders in the cast, the stage crew playing car-sized tetris with an abnormally large number of set pieces, and the show’s various dance styles all had the cast busy and the directors busier. For this reason, Production Director Mrs. Sue Glowa was unable to schedule an interview to contribute to this article.

“In middle school they would have this specific group of people go, and [they’ll] work on you the entire time,” Fink said. “I felt it was better that way.”

Audrey, who also worked on the middle school’s stage crew, felt that the middle school musical schedule was more regimented, whereas the high school’s directors have a difference in style, and prefer to “finesse it.” She considered it a minor detail.

“The costuming is really the biggest difference,” she said. “All the [middle school] costumes are hand-made, and they’re really particular about how you look. Here, they’re more concerned about sounding good rather than looking good.”


Audrey striking an authoritative pose during the more sinister Playing the Game. Owen Johnson, pictured directly below (obscured by wig), plays one of the toys. Photo Credit: Charity McBride

At the middle school, all the music is taken from pre-recorded tracks, so as a freshman, Owen was excited for the live music at the show. After his first night working with them, he relishes what the pit adds to the show.

“I really like that we can change the tempo and be more lenient with timings and stuff,” he said.

Owen, whose first high school musical will be this year, noted that the atmosphere is different from the middle school.

“The people here [in musical] seem more interested in the musical,” he said.

The freshman dancer’s thoughts are reflected by the number of cast members who agree it’s worth the tough schedule. The first perk that Audrey mentioned was being able to “connect with the audience,” but she also knows a lot about the value of music education, as she wrote her senior research paper on the subject.

“There’s a term called ‘transfer,’ which means when you succeed in one thing, it can help you succeed in another thing,” she said.

Actors not only need to learn how to focus onstage, but their spatial awareness needs to be refined. An actor must keep in mind the location of the audience, other actors, props, set pieces, etc. In addition to this, one run may differ from another, and adjusting usually demands critical thinking and creativity. These skills are not only vital to performing onstage, but to performing in school.

“So if you’re able to learn music or dance, it could help you in your math class, per se,” she said.

According to Audrey, musical specifically could help in a more direct way.

“It can help your English; there are words in that show that I’ve never heard before,” Audrey said.

Most musicals portray historically accurate settings, or at least some historical elements. Because they are built poetically, lyrics sometimes contain uncommon words or phrases. This is especially true in the case of Mary Poppins, which rhymes excessively with the word that made it famous (precocious, halitosis, etc.) and has plenty of British words (promenade, miffed, gasworks, lummy, etc.).

Audrey emphasized that one does not have to be musically gifted; just being “musically participant” is enough to benefit from skill transfer.

Owen also said it was good to get involved. Musical, like all student activities, is another hobby students can use in their future.


Two crew members inspect for possible set changes a week prior to opening night. Photo By: Jules McBride


Even Fink encouraged students to participate.

“I’d just say give it a try,” she said. “If it’s something you would think you’d be interested in or you think you could become better from, then I would say to definitely give it a try. And if you don’t like it, it’s okay not to like it.”

Fink called Mary Poppins a “growing-up show,” as in it shows how the children, Jane and Michael, mature. It’s not just a show targeted at children. Mr. and Mrs. Banks go on their own emotional journey alongside the kids.

“In the beginning, Mr. Banks wants to love his family, but he’s unsure how to show it,” senior Dante Howard said of his role. “By the end, he understands how to truly love his wife and kids.”

Sophomore DeLaney Swank also commented on her character’s development, the mild Mrs. Banks.

“Winifred is caring and always tries to her best to take care of her husband and children,” Swank said. “As the show progresses, Mary Poppins and the children help Winifred realize that she has her own voice, and that she shouldn’t be afraid to use it.”

Eventually, all the characters – old and young – learn the values of life.

“Winifred is a wonderful and dynamic character that teaches an important lesson,” Swank said.

In other words, Mary Poppins is not exclusively a kids’ show.

“You can watch it as a kid and understand it,” Audrey said. “But an adult can watch it and understand it on a deeper level.”

Many of the musical kids are involved in other activities. Owen, along with a handful of other ensemble members, actively reads for WIRC, a competition that happens the Monday after opening weekend. Audrey holds the lead role but finds time for a myriad of things throughout the year. She is president of the SADD club, an SCA member, and teaches kids at her church on weekends.

Exhausted as they are, the cast overall cherishes being in Mary Poppins, and are optimistic about tackling opening night.

“Musical has been a wonderful experience, and I think there’s only one word to describe it, which is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” Audrey said, harkening her role.

The Faces of Mock Trial

The following is an article written by Emma Skidmore for the last issue of the Lions’ Den, unpublished due to an error.

by Emma Skidmore


As the GS Mock Trial teams kicks off their season, they are facing changes outside of the courtroom. Former Coach Mrs. Elizabeth Simone has decided to step away, resigning as the advisor for the Mock Trial team.

Despite her absence, she is positive the team will continue to be successful.

“I think they’re [the team] going to be absolutely fine,” Mrs. Simone said. “They are more than prepared to go for it and the people who are going to be helping and coaching them are great. They’re more than capable.”

Simone chose to resign due to the time commitment clashing with her personal life.

“It literally comes down to time,” she said. “My husband got a new job and it’s an unpredictable schedule and we have to be able to pick up our five-year-old on time every day.”

However, the team was very understanding.

“They know how important my family is and because we were together so much last year, my daughter had to come to some of our practices so they knew that it was a bit of a struggle and they totally understood,” Simone said.

In the wake of a victorious season last year, she is very confident the team will continue to succeed without her.

“I don’t think the change in leadership will mean anything for their success,” Simone said. “Mock Trial is very subjective in the scoring and I literally never knew from trial to trial how things would go.”

Despite her faith in the team, she will miss aspects of being coach.

“I will miss the interaction with the students,” Simone said. “I’ll miss laughing with them.”

Through Mock Trial, she has formed relationships with students and the team has positively impacted her life.

“I love seeing how the skills that they built in Mock Trial like public speaking and questioning and thinking on your feet pay off in their careers,” Simone said.

Though she won’t be coach, she still wants to help the team.

“I will volunteer and I will help, but I don’t want to be in the way,” she said. “It’s possible that I would give feedback to something that the coach said and they need to listen to their coach.”

Similarly, students have a generally positive outlook on the change.

“I’m a little nervous because it’s a big change, and any change is scary,” senior Claire Simpson (front, second from right) said. “The new coaches seem really into it and ready to fill Mrs. Simone’s shoes.”

Simpson expressed her hopes for what the new coaches will do as well.

“I hope they push us to be better,” she said. “We have some major potential on our team but if we get cocky, it’s all over. They’ve got to keep us straight and humble.”

Simpson is still very enthusiastic for this season despite the changes.

“I hope we can really step it up to the next level,” she said. “We’re all really involved and ready to do serious work and have a great season.”

While other teammates may be more worried than others, she is confident in how they will ultimately respond to the change.

“I think we’ll handle it as we always do- as a team,” Simpson said.

Like Mrs. Simone, students feel that Mock Trial has had a positive impact on their life.

“Mock Trial has given me a great group of friends and it’s really fun to go into trial with them,” senior Johnny Stafford (back, leftmost) said. “Win or lose, we gain a lot of experience, but winning a trial is a huge accomplishment.”

This change may seem difficult to some, but the team is accustomed to new experiences.

“I understand that a new coach will probably need a little bit of time to understand everything, but for most of us as juniors, it was our first time on the team and we managed to win States,” Stafford said.

He believes that the seniors will have to take on leadership roles now more than ever, but that challenge will prove to be worth it.

“It might be difficult, but Mock Trial is always hard and that’s why we love it,” Stafford said.

The Mock Trial team will now be coached by Mr. Nick Diehl and Mrs. Kristen Solomon.

“The kids who do Mock Trial are really good kids, and our Mock Trial program is really special,” Mr. Diehl said. “Truthfully, it’s an honor for me to be involved.”

Mrs. Solomon wanted to help the team as much as possible.

“Former students approached me and I wanted to be helpful and I wanted to work with them again,” Solomon said.

Both new coaches are hoping to positively influence the team and help them to become even more successful.

“I think having an English background means I can help them develop the language in their arguments,” Diehl said.

Similarly, Solomon is looking to bring a fresh perspective to the team.

“I will give them encouragement and critique them to make them more confident for when they actually do compete,” she said.

Each coach is excited to work with the students and hoping for a successful year.

“The Mock Trial team has some phenomenal kids on the team,” Diehl said. “Most of being coach and a teacher is helping to pull out of kids what’s already there.”