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.

Senior Project Spotlight: Homecoming

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

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

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

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

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

homecoming autumn

GS students pose at homecoming dance photo by Autumn B.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experiencing America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thomasresized

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.

cartoonresized

Illustrated by Molly K.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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.

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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:

www.atyourownrisk.org/studentathletes

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.”

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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, gshslionsden.org 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.

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Sincerely,

 

Julius N. McBride

First Digital Editor

Getting to Know the GS Class of 2018

   Less than two weeks of school remain for the graduating class of 2018, a fact that evokes many feelings for the seniors, who are anxiously preparing for their future.

  As one might expect, the 2018 seniors have no small amount of things to share, nor dreams to realize. Here are six of them and their stories.

 

 

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Describe yourself. What are your hobbies, interests? Who do you hang out with? Etc.

  Well, I’m not that interesting of a person. I do mock trial, I like running, and I try to go to the gym at least four times a week.

Where did you go to elementary and middle school?

  My living room! I was homeschooled [laughs]. But I did go to Saltsburg starting 8th grade.

Freshmen, sophomores, and even juniors don’t really understand what it’s like to be a senior. Could you sum up the experience?

  A lack of motivation – that’s all I have to say! I was literally the nerdiest freshman you’ve ever met. I did every project like a month beforehand. I would get the work before it was even assigned… and it would be done before it was assigned. This year, I barely do my math homework!

Describe the feelings of being nearly two weeks from freedom.

  Indecisive – that’s the one word I’d describe it with. Maybe that’s just me, though. Everyone’s like “What do you want to do with your life?” and I say “That’s a great question [laughs]. You could answer it better than I can.”

Is there anything you can’t wait to do once you’re out and free?

  I mean, I’m excited for college. You get to study what you’re interested in more so. So it’s actually finding out what you like, rather than just a little bit of everything. So that’s cool. I guess I’m also excited to do internships and research and actually accomplish something besides “Congrats, you’re on honor roll! You know what I mean?”

Tell us a little bit about your near future plans. Are you going to college? If not, will you be working?

  I plan on going to Penn State, tentatively for chemical engineering, I have no idea if that’s going to stay the same – actually, I do know that.  

Why Penn State?

  It’s in our state – which is a big thing because I didn’t want to go super far away. It’s a good distance. It’s also very accredited in the field that I am pursuing, and so, obviously, accreditation is important. And it seems like a fun place to be. I’m not joining a sorority, though [laughs].

  Penn state also has a nuclear reactor. So that’s pretty nifty.

Will you continue postgraduate work? Why or why not?

  Oh yeah, of course. Not everyone but most people go to college, and you’re not going to be distinguished just by having a bachelor’s. And besides, I want to get my MBA because I want to be the boss [laughs]. I don’t do well with taking orders, so I want to be educated. I think going to a UC school would be cool. My mom went to UC Berkeley, but I’m not looking at Berkeley, because that’s like – [indicates “high level” with hand].

You’ve learned a lot of things here, some of which will never serve you again. Are there valuable things you have learned at GS?

  I learned a lot through mock trial about leadership and working as a team, especially through controversy. There was a lot of butting heads, but you still have to work as a team. So, working with other people would be a good thing to say.

What will you miss most about GS? Will you miss it at all?

  I think it’s cute. Everybody’s so nice here. This is me comparing two different schools, by the way. There is not one good thing I have to say about my last school other than my social studies teacher: the only decent thing about that school.

  But at this school, everyone is so nice. I came in my first day and, other than one person in my Spanish class, everyone said “hi” to me, and they were all really chill. I feel like I’ve been here for a long time even though I’ve been here less than two years.

  It’s a lot different from other schools. The other schools, I think, are really cliquey. Like really cliquey. But here I feel like I have a friend from every different group.

  I like how we set up our honors classes, too. It’s just the right amount of rigor without being overwhelming because of the block schedule, which definitely helps us learn faster. When I was working at Wendy’s with a kid from another school, they were still doing things in calculus that we had been done with in three days. We move so much faster than everyone else, just in a good way.

***

 

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Describe yourself. What are your hobbies, interests? Who do you hang out with? etc.

  Well, I love the outdoors; anything outdoors is basically where I’ll be.

Freshmen, Sophomores, and even Juniors don’t really understand what it’s like to be a senior. Could you sum up the experience?

  Yeah, it’s rough. You start looking ahead, but not in the present, where you are now. You don’t worry about high school. It starts becoming “Oh, what college do I want? What do I have to do for college?” Your senior year, Senioritis is real. It does kick in.

Describe the feelings of being nearly two weeks from freedom.

  [Jokingly] Me, I’m like “How many more days can I miss before I get sanctioned?” I’m down to four, by the way [laughs].

Is there anything you can’t wait to do once you’re out and free?

  I’m excited to go to college, get out of the house, and get away from the family for a little while. And yeah, I want to do all the internships and stuff, but actually accomplish something with what I feel passionate in.

Tell us a little bit about your near future plans. Are you going to college? If so, where? If not, will you be working?

  I’m planning on going to Penn State Behrend for plastics engineering, but I don’t know if that’ll stay because I’m debating environmental systems engineering, so there’s that.

Why did you pick Behrend?

  Penn State Behrend has one of the few plastics programs around. I think they’re like one in five in the country that has a plastics program. Originally, when I toured Penn State Behrend, I realized how big it was and how many people graduate with a major in plastics. I had taken a tour at MSA – that’s Material Safety Appliances, and I wanted to look into it more, so I did what I guess you could call a job shadow at MSA. I ended up loving the everyday routine.

Will you continue postgraduate work? Why or why not?

  It depends on what the job requires. I’ll do my internships throughout my degree, and if whoever wants me to go back for school, I’ll go back for school. If that helps me move up, I’ll do a little extra school. It’s all what they want and what I want. I don’t know, though, at the moment, because I haven’t, you know, started yet.

What will you miss most about GS? Will you miss it at all?

  Well, I guess you could miss it because it’s a small school. Not like Hempfield, you know?  I’ll miss the small atmosphere at Greensburg Salem. You can get one-on-one teacher time, not like at college.

  And I like the block schedule more than anything. It seems the day goes faster and you learn more. You don’t have as many classes to do homework in.

  But yeah, I’m not gonna miss it at all [laughs]. I’m glad to get out and move on.

***

 

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Describe yourself. What are your hobbies, interests? Who do you hang out with? Etc.

  Music. That’s my biggest passion right now. Pretty much all I do is go home, play guitar and read, sometimes.

Any clubs or activities in the school?

  Oh, yeah. I did French club and foreign exchange this year. I’ve also done numerous choir activities, like county chorus, select ensemble and stuff like that.

Where did you go to elementary and middle school?

  I went to Hutch, but only for 5th grade. I moved from South Carolina.

Freshmen, Sophomores, and even Juniors don’t really understand what it’s like to be a senior. Could you sum up the experience?

  Being a senior is getting to the point where you’re ready to just leave, and sometimes it is hard to find that motivation because you know you’re so close. You’ve been through school so much, and the last year really wears you down with a bunch of deadlines coming up, like, college applications, signing up for scholarships, doing your senior project, and preparing yourself for your next step.

Describe the feelings of being nearly two weeks from freedom.

  It’s so exciting. I’m kind of nervous, but I think the excitement overrides that, because I’m ready to move on to the next phase of my life and get into my actual interests. I’m getting into foreign language.

Is there anything you can’t wait to do once you’re out and free?

  This summer I plan on trying to go to as many concerts as I can. I’m going to Warped Tour, and I’m also going to see this band called The Wrecks.

Tell us a little bit about your near future plans. Are you going to college?

  Yes, I am going to college. I am going to IUP in the fall, and my major is Spanish Education and hopefully I’m going to minor in French. And then after college, my plan is to teach abroad.

A major in Spanish but a minor in French? What could you do with that combination?

  Well, my plan is to get certified in Spanish and then certified in French. There’s no French major at IUP, but there are still ways I can get certified in teaching French with a minor.

Does teaching abroad also mean teaching English?

  [Skeptically] Yes? I might be able to teach Spanish to very young kids, but mostly it would be teaching English as a second language. Then, once I’m done, I just want to teach Spanish or French once I decide to settle down.

Why did you pick IUP?

  Because their education program is really good, and they’ve got a nice foreign language program. And, my cousin went there. She actually started out as an education major, but then she switched to biochemistry [chuckles]. Really big change, I know.

Will you continue postgraduate work? Why or why not?

  Yes, but I don’t know where. I’m just kind of seeing where life takes me. I might even still be going to IUP, but once I get closer, I’ll figure that out. I just gotta get through right now.

What will you miss most about GS? Will you miss it at all?

  I think I’ll really miss the relationships between the teachers and the students. Whenever I was struggling in school, I really did get the help I needed. We have a lot of one-on-one, and our school’s really special because we have that close connection with the teachers.

You’ve learned a lot of things here, some of which will never serve you again. Are there valuable things you have learned at GS?

  I don’t know. Because we live in a small town, we’re nice to everyone. We’re nice to everyone we encounter because we don’t know who they are or what they’re going through. I think I’ve learned to be nice to everyone, just to say “hi” to them even if that’s the best part of their day.

***

 

 

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Describe yourself. What are your hobbies, interests? Who do you hang out with? Etc.

  Well, I work two jobs at New Haven Court and Famous Footwear. New Haven is a Senior living home. I’m in National Honors Society, Red Cross, and Interact Club. I love playing soccer, playing sports – I like to watch football on TV, hockey occasionally. My friends are all seniors and so is my girlfriend, Makayla.

Where did you go to elementary and middle school?

  I went to Metzgar Elementary and Greensburg Salem Middle School.

Freshmen, sophomores, and even juniors don’t really understand what it’s like to be a senior. Could you sum up the experience?

  Well, being a senior entails a lot of responsibility. For me, I had two jobs and had to constantly keep up with those. I had to make sure I was there on time – I left school early for work release. Then you also have the senior project, which takes up a lot of your time if you want to do it well, which I did. You’re always doing journal entries, you’re always thinking about your senior project. And then you’re also thinking about college and getting all the requirements done – Kent State requires ALEKS, this online math test, and all these applications. Then you have all the requirements of all the clubs you’re in. I did National Honors Society and Dodge for Dementia this year – a huge part of my senior year. And then you have your sports, your practices that run two and a half hours after school. I’d go straight to work from those, come home, work on my senior project, do any homework, then go to bed – [laughs] – for about four or five hours a night.

Describe the feelings of being nearly two weeks from freedom.

  [Sighs] I’m very excited and I cannot wait. Yes.

Is there anything you can’t wait to do once you’re out and free?

  Well, I can’t wait for summer, obviously, my last summer with all my close friends because we’re all going to different colleges. I cannot wait for three months without a lot of stress. Even as like a junior, you had a little bit with thinking about your senior project, but with these three months, I’ve got all my college requirements done by now, I’m just so excited and cannot wait to relax.  And then I cannot wait to just experience college and do what I actually love to do.

Tell us a little bit about your near future plans. Are you going to college?

  I’m going to Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. They have over 45,000 students across eight campuses, and I’m going to the main campus. I’m majoring in architecture and I am doing a 5-year program. It’s a masters program; after five years you receive your master’s. That’s one of the reasons I’m going to Kent State. I got about $55,000 in scholarships, too, and that’s another reason why I chose them [laughs]. My other schools were Penn State, University of Maryland, and Ohio State. And all are great schools, especially in architecture, but Kent State rises above all of them because of the 5-year masters program.

  I also like the distance, and the number of students it had was exactly what I wanted it to be. Penn State and Ohio State had a ton, and, well, Maryland had a similar number but it was just a little farther away. So Kent State just mixed it all together and made it perfect.

So why architecture?

  Well, I’ve always had an interest in designing things. Just, literally anything. I’m really good at layouts and planning, and that’s what you have to be when you’re doing architecture. And I love any shows on HGTV, any of those interior design or architecture shows. Also, my grandparents always built their own houses when I was young. You know, they designed their own houses, did all this outdoor outside stuff. And I always was involved so it gave me a big interest in it.

Will you continue postgraduate work? Why or why not?

  Yes I will. After graduation from college, I already have an internship set up with Des Moines architects in Pittsburgh. They have a close relationship to Kent State University.

What will you miss most about GS? Will you miss it at all?

  I will miss a lot of the great things we do here, one of them being that we were able to do Dodge for Dementia this year. I will also miss Mrs. Harper a lot. I will miss a lot of the teachers here, I didn’t say all, I meant some. Mrs. Harper being one of them. I have grown to know a lot of people from different grades, and you know, we do a lot of things here at Greensburg.

You’ve learned a lot of things here, some of which will never serve you again. Are there valuable things you have learned at GS?

  Yes, for sure. I’ve learned a lot of valuable things, well, academic things obviously, but just a lot about other valuable life things. A lot of our teachers are really good about just talking to you about not just teaching you about academics, but also life skills as well. Mr. Zahorchak and Mrs. Harper would be two teachers that do that.

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Describe yourself. What are your hobbies, interests? Who do you hang out with? Etc.

  Well, I would say I’m really into art and writing. My hobbies are really anything to do with art. My favorite thing is just hanging out with people, talking to them, seeing what they’re into. I definitely surround myself with my closest friends and try to make the strongest relationships I can with them.

Where did you go to elementary and middle school?

 Hutchinson and Greensburg Salem Middle School, But I transferred to Maxwell Elementary (Hempfield) for a year.

Do you remember anything from that year at Hempfield?

  Well, I was in a wheelchair when I was there because I broke my leg really severely, and I remember that people would put me at the top of the ramp and push me down. At first it was fun, but then people just started doing it real fast, and I would fall. I re-broke my leg twice because of it.

Freshmen, sophomores, and even juniors don’t really understand what it’s like to be a senior. Could you sum up the experience?

  Stress. All the time. Like, everything feels like it’s so insurmountable. And the senior project, even if you have everything prepared, feels super stressful. And it’s a very hand-holdy project; it tells you everything you need to do, but there’s just so much. It’s definitely a lot more intellectually demanding to be a senior, and I don’t know if that’s because I take all the honors classes, but regardless, I think that everyone could agree.

Describe the feelings of being nearly two weeks from freedom.

  Well, I’m no longer living with my mom, so once I graduate, I will be 100% completely free, and I can do whatever I want. I feel throughout my entire life I’ve been pushed to not live my life to the fullest, and once I graduate, school will be over and I won’t have any obligations except for work. It’s really surreal. I think about it, and I can’t believe that I’m already here. I remember like it was yesterday being 12 years old and saying ‘I can’t wait to be 18 and graduate and be free.’ And now here I am.

Is there anything you can’t wait to do once you’re out and free?

  Travel. I want to pack a bag, and if I don’t have any money to fly or drive, I’ll walk somewhere. Just go. I want to see new things, new people.

Tell us a little bit about your near future plans. Are you going to college?

  I’m looking for jobs right now. I’ve called at a bunch of places: Panera, Journey’s and a couple pet stores, but I’ve heard literally nothing back from anyone.

  For college, I’m going to triple Cs for a year for architectural design, because I want to do something with art that will make me money. After WCCC I want to transfer up north to Mt. Aloysius.

So why WCCC?

  ‘Cause it’s cheap. I wanted to get my cores out of the way. I want to spend as little money as possible on college because I have… $15 to my name?

What about beyond college? Let’s say you’re out and you have your architectural design degree. What now? Will you continue postgraduate work?

  I’m not sure. It really depends on how much money I have or if I’m even still enjoying the major I’m in. I might decide to change it. But besides that, I still want to travel. Even if I just have $10 in my pocket, I’m still going to try. As long as I can go somewhere and not go somewhere in my life and I’m not stagnant, I’ll be happy. Conformity and consistency really irritate me.

You’ve learned a lot of things here, some of which will never serve you again. Are there valuable things you have learned at GS?

  To be honest: academically, no. I’ve learned a lot of things academically but I’m never going to remember them, Ten years from now I’m not going to remember what a logarithm is. I barely know what a log is and I learned it last year. There’s a lot of things I’m ever going to need and much less remember.

  But socially, some of the lessons I’ve learned have absolutely formed me into who I am today. I’ve been on all parts of the social spectrum: I’ve been one of the popular kids, I’ve been bullied, I’ve been the bully. I’ve been the quiet kid in the back, and I’ve been the troublemaker. I’ve been everywhere. And I think I’ve learned a lot about everyone in general. I’ve learned that everyone’s really different in their own way, and I really enjoy looking at that. I’ve learned so many social lessons and how to deal with people, how to treat problems differently based on the personalities involved.

  I think the most important thing I’ve learned throughout high school is what it says on my arm. “I am mine before I am anyone else’s.” Originally, I got the tattoo because it was something that meant something to me. I wanted to cover up my scars. My mom didn’t want me to get a tattoo at all, so before I got it, my mom said to me: ‘You need to get a quote on your arm if you’re going to get that ugly snake.’ So, I got upset and said ‘Fine, I’ll put a quote on it,’ and I got this one, and she was furious because she knew that was a shot at her.

Will you miss GS at all? What will you remember it for?

  My friends, and the absolutely hilarious memories that I’ve made. I get so sad when I think about leaving my friends here. Odds are, I’m not going to talk to most of them again, and you know, I’m going to try and they’re going to try, but distance will separate us, and that’s just how it is.

  I’ll never see what they grow up to be as a person, at least fully. And even then, they won’t be the same as I know them now. So I think I’ll miss people the most.

  I’ll miss the structure. I’m terrified of having a life without structure. I feel like I’ll just lose all motivation for everything. Realistically, I know I won’t. I’ll push myself because that’s who I am.

You hate conformity and consistency but you’re terrified of living without structure?

  I make my own structure. I have my own little ledger I carry around to keep a schedule. You know how in the summer when you’re like ‘Oh, I’m so depressed because I have nothing to do, and I don’t have the motivation to seek something to do?’ That’s what I’m scared of.

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