POLL: Gun Control and School Shootings

  [Photo Credit: Getty Images]

   Do the names Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg sound familiar?

   In March, immediately following the shooting at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, a national campaign in favor of banning firearms rose out of Florida, spearheaded by these two survivors-turned-activists. Across the nation, waves of Americans raised their voices in reply. Some voiced their support. Others, their disapproval.

  After the event, there was an abundance of columnists, news anchors, show hosts, politicians and thousands of personalities on social media whose were happy to speak out. Although its focus was on school safety and not gun laws, GSHS also spoke out in March. Clearly, school security is more pertinent to GS, but gun laws are, understandably, part of the conversation. To capture this conversationThe Lions Den took a voluntary poll of the GS student body on their opinions on gun laws and armed violence.

  While examining the data, The Lions Den asks that the readers remember that a poll is only a representation of public opinion, not an accurate picture of any one person’s opinion. Individual opinions themselves are more complicated than a simple yes or no.

Do you believe stricter gun laws or gun control measures will decrease the risk of school shootings?

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Students were polled during 2nd and 3rd lunch on April 25. Students were also asked their sex and grade, but were told they could refuse to answer any or all parts of the question. Some did not mark either their sex or grade, but the vast majority were totally compliant. Most, but not all, of the lunch tables were polled per lunch period.

 

Total Polled: 180 students

Male / Female:  92 / 87

Senior / Junior / Sophomore / Freshman:  56 / 32 / 60 / 32 *

For those not graph-savvy, here’s a point-by-point rundown:

  • Overall, a little over half of GS students believe that stricter gun laws will not decrease the risk of school shootings.
  • About one in three GS students believe that stricter gun laws will decrease the risk of school shootings.
  • About one in ten GS students are unsure of the effects of stricter gun laws.
  • The majority of male students believe that the risk of school shootings will not be decreased by stricter gun laws, whereas females appear much more divided on the issue.
  • When it comes to the effects of gun laws on school shootings, female students appear more unsure than male students.
  • On average, freshman are least sure about this issue, whereas juniors are most sure.*

   *By happenstance, about half as many Juniors and Freshmen were polled as the other two classes. Thus, accuracy within these categories should be regarded as questionable.

According to a survey taken by Hamilton College in 2013, the overall results at Greensburg Salem are not extreme by any means. The raw data from the survey can be accessed here. Hamilton’s 941-student nationwide survey reported that about 47 percent of high school seniors believed that stricter gun laws would decrease gun violence to some degree. Three years later, the respective number at GS was 46 percent. For the opposing opinion, Hamilton’s number was higher. This is likely because Hamilton’s survey had a different method which did not include a ‘Not Sure” option.

However, Hamilton College reported that the opinions showed no difference in opinion between the sexes. Interestingly, this is not the case for GS. Male GS students appear twice as likely as females to say that gun laws would not be effective at stopping school shootings.

 

There may not be anyone at GS who has been empowered as much as Hogg, Gonzalez and the survivor activists in Parkland, but that does not mean that GS students don’t have the ability to get involved, make a statement, and be informed.

 

Students Take the Wheel, Drive GS Forward

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

 

   Dodge for Dementia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

So what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

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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.”

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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.”

Spaghetti Engineers Bring Two Trophies Home

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GS WIRC Team Out-reads their Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Poppins Cast Flies into Opening Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Even Fink encouraged students to participate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Band is a Family, not a Club

   With the fall season long over, it sure has been a while since anyone at GS has heard the triumph of a brassy 500 Fight Song or the thrumming of the drums through the air, and it’ll be a long time until anyone does, that is, except for anyone who has walked into room 316: the band room.

    Ms. Jamie West has been the director of marching band and the maestro of the band room for almost 15 years, and before that was herself involved in her school’s marching band at Saltsburg; she believes the marching band is essential to the school. Not only is the band the largest student organization, but according to West, it is more valuable than some classes.

    “I think that what kids learn in marching band is so much more valuable than notes on a page or marching on the field or even putting on shows every week,” West said. “We teach them to be good citizens, and we teach them to be responsible. [Musically oriented] kids are generally the more successful kids. And I think it has a lot to do with not only the musical skills we’re teaching, but also those soft skills, like being an organized and put-together person.”

    The band, as disorganized as it may sound in 316, is a dynamic group. There’s drumline, the flag-twirling majorettes, the various instrumental sections and dance team, who all act like their own families, but are all able to cooperate to perform. This diversity gives students the opportunity to experiment with different roles throughout the years.

    “If we didn’t have band, it’d be hard to explore different kinds of art,” Sierra Flanders, a junior, said. “And we don’t have just marching band. We still have summer concert band and jazz band.”

    The GS band doesn’t compete, but that doesn’t stop some of the members from finding a real meaning in the marching band, as well as its counterparts, like the jazz band or orchestra. Some say it would be accurate to describe the band as a family.

    “All the guys in drumline are like my big brothers,” junior bass drum Maddy Kaufman said. “I love being around them so much.”

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Kaufman (left from center) and bass line at the 2017 Christmas parade. Photo courtesy: GSHS Yearbook

    Kaufman picked up the flute in 4th grade in hopes of transitioning to the piccolo (the name amused her), but in 7th grade she was inspired by lessons to switch to drumline. Since, she has manned the bass drum.

    “It means a lot to me,” she said.

    Kaufman’s opinion is not unique to drumline, however. Despite holding a drastically different role, junior Emma Skidmore of the dance team agreed with her.

    “I would definitely say we’re a family,” Skidmore said. “I mean, we’ve really been through the ringer together.”

    According to Skidmore, “the ringer” is the rain-or-shine philosophy of the school band, such as playing out in the freezing cold rain at late-fall football games, and band camp, which happens for two notoriously sweaty weeks in August before the football season begins.

    “And we’ve done fun stuff, too,” she said. “We’ve gone to Disney together; this year we’re going to New York. So I’d say we’re really are a family.”

    Skidmore tried out for dance team her freshman year and quickly learned that “the band trip,” as it is called, is the largest perk of being in marching band. Hauling every member to Orlando to visit Walt Disney World happens to be a particular favorite among band kids.

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Flags collected by various band members hang below their arrangement of band T-shirts  on the primary wall of room 316. Photo By: Jules McBride

  

   “We went to Disney World, and we performed,” junior and former flute Robert Dietrich said. “But it was a super long trip, and there was only one day we performed. The rest of the time, we got to enjoy ourselves.”

    Dietrich was a long time flute in marching band, but decided to commit to musical and his part-time job at Taco Bell. Uniquely, Dietrich has been on the inside, but he also understands the view from the outside. When asked about misconceptions that the outside students may have about band kids, Dietrich expressed concern about students not joining due to a fear of commitment.

    “I’d imagine that people think that it’s super rigorous,” he said. “Or you have to be really dedicated, and if you’re not a super crazy band nerd, you’re not gonna have fun. But that’s not the case at all.

    Dietrich made clear that he didn’t mean to say that marching band was a blow-off.

    “You have to try,” he said. “But you don’t have to commit your whole life to it.”

    When asked, West used similar phrasing.    

     “I think some kids might think they have to be super, super good at an instrument, or that it’s every day, or that there’s more time commitment than there actually is,” she said. “We practice two days a week. Sometimes we add a third, but only maybe twice [per year].”

    The band students and Mrs. West agree that joining the band is not handing over one’s entire life to an instrument. In fact, there are many students who join the marching band as a manager. In this position, they act as a sort of logistics worker, but according to West, many who later pick up an instrument end up trying out for a seat.

     Even among the pure instrumentalists, there are still many who branch out or even multitask. Flanders, who in fourth grade picked the trumpet “because it looked the easiest,” provided some examples.

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Flanders (right) on the field at halftime with fellow trumpet Kane Claflin. Photo Courtesy: GSHS Yearbook

   “We have people who do track, and we have people who do hockey,” Flanders said. “We have people who do normal sports, and then we have people who don’t do any sports. I mean, we have people who are artists, we have people who enjoy science…”

    There are even students who fill the roles of both a band member and cheerleader.

   “There are a lot of games where they have to switch between being in the marching band and being a cheerleader,” Dietrich explained. “They’re on the field playing their instrument in their cheerleader uniform, and then they go back and start cheering. Crazy.”

    As a whole, the band brings a form of self-expression and family to the students who join it. It’s easy to see by the number of students like Flanders, Kaufman, and Dietrich who have been involved since the get-go.

     “I’ve played flute since 4th grade, so do the math, that’s like seven years,” Dietrich said.

     As one can imagine, the band is always busy making GS livelier with parades, pep rallies, and their usual presence at Offut field. Currently, concert band is is filling room 316 with the sound of preparations for their Coffee House this May, where the cafeteria will be graced with casual entertainment in what could be described as an “open concert.”

    “It’s not like a concert where you have to sit quietly and clap at appropriate times,” West said. “The music is ambient, and it’s just a really nice night.”

  

 

The Faces of Mock Trial

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

by Emma Skidmore

 

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

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

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

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

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

However, the team was very understanding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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