Senior Project Spotlight: Homecoming

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

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

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

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

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

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GS students pose at homecoming dance photo by Autumn B.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experiencing America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Trouble with Vaping

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

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

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


Illustrated by Molly K.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dress Code Dilemma

The Great Dress Code Debate has roots dating back to 1969 when students showed up to school wearing black armbands to protest the controversial Vietnam War. However in today’s day and age, the conversation has shifted. Every year, schools around the country face backlash for their dress codes as students cite unfair or discriminatory treatment.

“I don’t know that we’ve had anyone [feel] unfairly targeted,” Principal Mr. David Zilli said. “We try to inform them we’re trying to maintain a sense of safety here and if that means addressing something, it’s not about who they are, it’s about what they have on.”

Mr. Zilli believes that GS is lenient with what students are allowed to wear and realizes it’s also a matter of accessibility with what students are able and want to buy.

“We’ve always been understanding of what the current trends are in clothing but also need to understand there are some parameters in terms of making sure students are covered,” Zilli said. “There were days in the past when shorts had to be fingertip length and we just know those types of clothing can’t really be purchased that much anymore. We’re not looking for parents to go out and buy a completely separate line of clothing for their students to come to school.”

While the goal of a dress code can be argued – whether it’s to promote professionalism and safety or restrict expression – schools can agree on wanting the focus to be on learning.

“I think what we’re looking at is to be respectful of self and others,” he said. “We could enforce dress code all day, every day and our goal here is for students to learn and walk away from here future ready, prepared for the world beyond GS.”

The Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) in Alameda, California has instituted an “anti-dress code” that begins with, “students can wear.” It goes on to allow students to wear articles of clothing that may be an issue at other schools including midriff baring shirts, yoga pants and hats.

“We believe these changes will reduce inequitable and unnecessary discipline and help us maximize learning time,” AUSD Chief Academic Officer Steven Fong told Teen Vogue.

This “anti-rule” could be in response to the multiple instances of students feeling like the dress code was being used to discriminate against them due to other factors like their race, gender or religious beliefs. The scandals are countless and seemingly out of hand, spanning from a Texas dress code violation video showcasing exclusively female students to an African American student facing the police after not removing a bandana.

“I usually vouch for the students that are getting in trouble for their clothes because honestly, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” senior Kenny Shea said.

Shea doesn’t see a controversy about the dress code at GS and has never had a problem with it.

“It’s not like anyone gets in a lot of trouble for not dressing appropriately,” he said. “The only thing that really happens is that they ask you to change.”

Solving dress code violations and the discussion of school uniforms go hand-in-hand, but that doesn’t always seem like a viable solution.

“I’d rather express myself through my clothes,” Shea said.


GS students show their style

While he has few qualms about it, other students are frustrated.

“There were a lot of other people with no straps at all, so bare shoulder, or shorts that were extremely high,” senior Christine Holcombe said when she explained how she felt unfairly treated because of her shirt straps. “It’s kind of like, ‘What am I doing wrong? Why don’t I get accepted?’”

Even though Holcombe can feel defeated by the dress code, she acknowledges that it isn’t all bad.

“I feel like it’s a good rule to have some type of dress code regulation but we need to expand it a little bit,” she said. “When we have extremely hot days, we’re going to want to wear tank tops because it’s so hot.”

While GS aims to keep the focus on education and not the dress code, it doesn’t always seem that way to the students.

“I was already being pulled [from class] for something but then they stopped me before I could even get out the door and said, ‘You need to change and if you don’t change, you cannot go back to class or you have to put something on top,’” Holcombe said. “I ended up having to wear a jacket for the rest of the afternoon.”

She has also noticed differences in dress coding between genders.

“Guys, their shirts, can be more inappropriate with the designs,” Holcombe said. “I see different people walking around with guns on their shirts [but] with girls, I feel like it’s a lot different.”

Though the dress code may never be perfect, the goal is to strengthen the attention on education for all students.

“There’s definitely some good parts about it because some people are very inappropriately dressed,” she said. “I think that’s a good part that we do have a dress code in place but I think it needs to be revised.”

Saving Lives on the Sidelines

Friday night lights, salty snacks, soda and students filled with school pride – these are the hallmarks of a high school football game. On the sidelines, however, paramedics stand with their equipment. While fans may only think about an injury in the moment it happens, the lasting effects can be worrisome.

“I think that there obviously needs to be changes throughout the rules from time to time with injuries occuring every so often,” football captain and junior Trent Patrick said. “I do think that schools should look at more proactive ways to finding better ways for students to be protected.”

Just six years ago, 163,670 middle school or high school players were in the emergency room for concussions according to the At Your Own Risk program.

“I think that some of the rules have been changing already and in order for students to maintain that level of safety, I think some of the rules do need to change,” Patrick said. “For instance as we had this week with the early dismissal, I think that needs to be addressed whether to let players on the fields whenever it’s so hot and humid.”

In 2017, the National Federation of State High School Association’s new rule to ban blindside blocks made national news and the guidelines are updated every year.

“I think that our coaches prepare us enough to teach us the right way to do things on and off the field and I feel safe in the equipment we’ve been issued throughout the season,” he said.

With the presence of Athletic Trainers, students are staying even safer.

“The safety protocols for all the sports are pretty standardized now,” Athletic Trainer Miss Barbara Marschik said. “We’re luckily in a day and age where we’re not making it up as we go. The school district is really good at providing those safety policies and we kind of fill in the blanks on the medical side.”

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Senior Tyler Williams stands at football game photo by Autumn B.

While it’s exciting to get new equipment, Miss Marschik feels GS is prepared to handle any issue with what it has now.

“I think the way that the coaches and the administration and us all work together is what makes us such a great team and what makes emergencies go as smoothly as possible when things do happen,” Marschik said.

According to the Huffington Post, schools with Athletic Trainers have lower recurrent injury rates and report more concussions, giving students the care they need and not letting issues go undiagnosed. Marschik treats everything from cuts and bruises to broken bones and rehabilitation.

“You just never know what’s going to come your way so you have to be ready,” she said. “Sometimes we even get to go observe their surgeries so we see them in the moment, but typically once they come back to school or they’re able to ambulate and move again, that’s when we start working with them again. They come see us instead of going to practice and we do rehab and just try to make small improvements every day.”

Not only do the trainers work reactively with students, but they also help them to prepare in order to avoid getting the injury in the first place.

“We really work with the teams a lot in the off season for strength training and hopefully, protect them and their bodies and their awareness of their bodies moving in space before they even hit the field so that they’re stronger and more aware,” Marschik said. “Hopefully we eliminate some of that injury beforehand.”

The responsibility falls on everyone to keep the players safe and Assistant Football coach Mr. Matthew Boe feels the same way.

“Safety, from my perspective, has always been a priority,” Mr. Boe said. “We would have had to be doing something really, really wrong to see a significant change [in rules].”

However, research shows that 90 percent of student athletes sustain some degree of injury while playing their respective sport according to At Your Own Risk.

“It’s a sport that’s physical,” Boe said. “It’s demanding and there is a likelihood of some form of injury. Despite all measures, the likelihood of getting hurt is high.”

Sometimes, coaches and players can do everything possible, but Mother Nature has a different plan.

“For football for example, we have to do a week of heat acclimation,” Boe explained. “That’s essentially in response to several student athletes across the country over the years who [experienced] a shock to the system. And due to that shock, have experienced cardiac arrest or heat stroke or things of that nature.”

At Your Own Risk reported that over 300 young players suffered athletic-related deaths between 2008 and 2015. GS coaches recounted serious injuries they’ve heard of or seen happen.

“There’s a kid from Laurel, I believe, that is kind of a headline in the news due to a spinal injury, a significant spinal injury,” he said. “I think it’s those types of stories that often draw the attention. They don’t see how Tyler Williams [for example] has been predominantly healthy the entire time. You hear about the kid that gets hurt.”

GS Boys’ Assistant Varsity Basketball coach Mr. Andrew LoNigro remembered a particularly stressful time on the court when a student had a seizure during the game.

“It was one of the most real experiences I think, and everyone was concerned,” Mr. LoNigro said. “That prompted some changes on our end as far as the coaching staff went. We constantly questioned if players are okay, how they’re feeling, what medications they were taking and things like that. And the parents gave us some signs we need to look for too,”

He has seen the requirements to coach change throughout the years to ensure player safety as well.

“[There are] certain clearances that every coach must have every year and safety tests that coaches now need to take every year as far as player safety and things like that go,” LoNigro explained.

Like football, basketball presents its own set of safety precautions.

“Players don’t wear any head protection in basketball, so I’ve seen multiple players hit the court head first,” he said. “You have rolled ankles [too], nowadays kids are wearing more low top shoes where in the past with the high tops it would really protect your ankle.”

Safety is also the students’ responsibility. 54 percent of students athletes kept playing despite an injury in order to support their team according to At Your Own Risk.

“If the referee blows the whistle for a player being injured, we take them off the court,” he said. “They have to be evaluated by one of our trainers. Now, where it becomes kind of a judgement call for the coach is if you see a player hit the ground head-first or head to head contact; as a coach we’ve been trained, and now we have to look for signs of concussions.”

Nevertheless, high school sports not only promote team spirit, but learning outside of a classroom.

“I think there’s tremendous value in sports, things such as learning to get through adversity and revealing character when the chips are down and when things aren’t going your way,” LoNigro said. “I played them the whole way through [high school] and that’s why I coach now, to teach those lessons.”


More information can be found at:

Student Security

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

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

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


Illustrated by Kenzi C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Future Editors…

When you see closing letters on other blogs, final pieces by renowned columnists, or sign-off broadcasts by retiring radio hosts, they usually address their vast audience, talking about their fondest memories and greatest achievements before one last farewell.

But that really wouldn’t make much sense for me. My readership is nonexistent now, and if this site continues to exist in its current form, most readers will likely be future students looking back on the history of the school or the history of the site. Addressing this letter to the present with respect to the past wouldn’t make much sense, now would it?

So, I decided that instead of a farewell letter, I would write to you future editors of  The Lions Den. Mr. Lenzi tells me that, regardless of whether the editors of the paper will make physical copies or not, from this point forward, this site will serve as home to every article written.

As of now: June 1, 2018, is in its fetal stage, but it has potential, and there are two things that can actualize it. Those things are love and money. With dedication and love from a team of people, maybe an assigned photographer and thorough team of student editors (I’m sorry, Mr. Lenzi) along with a little bit of cash to buy things like video features could really make this site shine.

Some of the ideas I had with the current site that I never followed through on include:

  • Updating the site’s homepage with seasonal photos
  • Recording the scores of sports games in a separate widget
  • Pairing articles with photo galleries
  • Animated charts
  • Making a custom icon for the site tab

Though these things in themselves would certainly take some work, and I would be thrilled to see a loving team do these things and also incorporate their own creative preferences. I’m sure one of you future editors will realize an idea that I wasn’t able to because (A) I am but one man, (B) I’m lazy and (C) I am limited by the current version of the WordPress engine.

All in all, though I didn’t publish nearly as many articles as I was told to, and not nearly as many as I wanted myself to, and though I sometimes dreaded coming to first block in the morning and handing in my articles just to see I made the same mistakes made over and over again, I’m really fond of this, and I sure do hope that you, dear future editor, will be too.





Julius N. McBride

First Digital Editor

GS Students Become a Part of National Walkout

   At 10 am on March 14, 2018, over 100 GS students left their classes, joining the ranks of hundreds of thousands of other students across the country in honor of the 17 students who died in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL.

  “We wanted to get everyone to stand together to try and change things,” senior student organizer Jordan Mitchell said.

  Major media companies have made it clear that student, school and activist groups around the nation were protesting the current gun possession laws. However, Mitchell and her partner, senior Dante Howard, did not advertise GS’ walkout this way, abstaining from any mention of guns or gun laws. They instead focused on uniting the student body to rally for school safety and honoring the lives lost in Parkland.

  The core idea was present in the students who showed up on the 14th, but many had different takes on the assembly.

  “I just feel bad for the parents of the kids who passed away from this,” freshman Aiyana Morris said.



Stylized postcards on which students were given the opportunity to write to Parkland families. Photo by: Jules McBride.

   Some students, like Morris, openly said their purpose dealt with guns. Morris did not specify that she wanted guns restricted or not, but did make clear that she cared about weapon safety.

  “Gun safety is something that should be expressed more often,” she said.

  Other students, such as senior Hannah Douglas, said that the assembly was not a protest against gun laws.

  “Maybe [students] are thinking that this is a protest against gun rights,” Douglas said. “Which is why a lot of people would not want to be here. A lot of people in Pennsylvania support having guns in their possession.”

  Douglas is correct with that statement. The statewide laws in PA are non-licensed open-carry, except in Philadelphia.

  “We’re not here to say no one can have guns,” she said. “We’re here to honor the lives of those who were lost.”

  Guns didn’t seem to be on the mind of many of the participants. Most, like Douglas, seemed focused on their student body.

  “I’m here to say that this isn’t okay,” junior Cole Turnbull said, referring to the bomb and shooting threats that have happened infrequently at GS in recent years. “It’s nothing to joke around about.”

  Turnbull’s classmate, junior Sean McFeeley, who stood on the opposite side of the gym, had a stance focused on the suffering of those in Parkland.

  ”I’m here to honor the families for what happened down in Florida,” McFeeley said.

  When asked why some students might not have come to the event, McFeeley was quick to point out what he thought they may suspect.

  “Well, they might think this is about gun control,” he said. “If it is or isn’t, I’m just here for the families.”

  Several other students felt similar to McFeeley in the sense that they simply wanted to honor the families of those who died, and didn’t pay mind to why others might have been there.

  “I want people who come to this protest to have a voice,” junior Adam Goldstein said. “I want people to be able to say: ‘Hey, it shouldn’t be like this. Kids shouldn’t have to come to school in fear of dying.’”

  Goldstein, like McFeeley, was asked why he thought some students didn’t attend.

   “Some people may not have come out today simply because they want to stay in class,” he said. “Or, it’s possible they disagree with the idea of leaving class for a protest. Others might not come out because they disagree with the idea of a protest itself.”

  Neither Goldstein, McFeeley nor Turnbull condemned those who didn’t participate.

  “Everyone has their own opinion,” Turnbull said. “Some people are with it, some people aren’t.”


The gym floor on March 14th, flooded with walkout participants. Photo by: Jules McBride.

   What students said at the event matters less than what they did there. A large number attended and many attendees actively participated. Students had the option to write postcards or letters to the families that lost members in the Parkland shooting and sign a poster [featured image] that now hangs in the lobby. All the while, Mitchell gave a short speech and read the names of the victims aloud.

  “We wanted to make people aware that this can happen anywhere, and we wanted people to take that more seriously,” she said.

  Signatures accrued on several petitions set out on a table in the middle of the gym. According to Mitchell, those petitions will be sent to state officials as well as Senator Conor Lamb and district representative Eric Nelson and state senator Kim Ward. The organizers hoped that the petitions would get legislation talking about improving schools “security-wise.”

  “We read all the names of the people who passed in Florida,” she said. “We had a moment of silence too.”

  During those 15 seconds, the familiar kind of chatter usually heard in every corner of the school stopped, giving way to the airflow in the gym and the silent reflection of hundreds of students.

  “This made people aware that they actually died,” Mitchell said. “We honored them that way.”

  Most would say that 17 minutes is not a long event, but more than enough to make a statement. At the end of the 17 minutes, principal Mr. David Zilli concluded with a short speech, sending the students back to their usual schedules. For the sake of all of GS, he hoped this would not be a “one-and-done.”

  “You think about this moment and how you can take the next step and make this something that lives forever,” Mr. Zilli said. “This is the first step in making real change for all of us. For you and for me, for your kids and for your kids’ kids. This is our chance to keep this something that’s important to us, that’s near and dear to us because we respect and love each other.”

  At this, Zilli announced that Mitchell and Howard were going to release balloons outside to conclude the assembly. As students returned to class, their appearance out the window reminded them of the reasons they came.

 “I appreciate your respect and your willingness to be a part of this,” Zilli concluded. “Have a wonderful day as a Golden Lion.”