Holiday Dance

By Emma Helmick

Students gathered at tables enjoying each others company. Photo by Emma Helmick.

GS students dressed up and ran to the dance floor for a night of partying.

The 2022 Holiday dance was held in Crabtree at Marian Hall. It lasted from 5:00pm to 9:30pm and almost everyone was dressed up formally for the occasion. Dinner was served at 5:30pm.

“This location was much bigger than last year’s,” sophomore Alexxus Reynolds said. “It gave us a lot more space to move around and dance, which was good. The only downside was that the restrooms were smaller.”

There were about 250 students who made reservations, and it was more spacious than last year’s dance at the country club.

“The main reason for the venue change was to increase the capacity,” SCA co-advisor Mr. Christopher Gazze said. “We were previously limited to approximately 225 guests.”

Many more students could attend this year and there was still room for everyone.

Everyone having fun dancing to the music. Photo by Emma Helmick.

“The music was one of the best parts,” sophomore Alexxus Reynolds said. “The DJ played a lot of unexpected throwbacks that I think everyone loved.”

During the time for dancing, which was from 6:30pm to 9:30pm, the DJ played a variety of music for almost everyone to enjoy.

“The food was better last year, but I had fun and the music was okay,” junior Bryonna Macioce said.

The dinner options consisted of chicken, alfredo, red pasta, roasted red potatoes, green beans and garden salad. Long’s Catering provided the food. They also had a large cookie table for dessert.

“I know my friends and I had a really great time, but I also know that some people did not, especially those who were not comfortable dancing,” Reynolds said. “But from most of what I have heard, everyone enjoyed themselves.”

Although most of the guests were on the dance floor, some stayed at their tables for the majority of the time.

“There was more and easier access to parking and there was more room for dancing,” History teacher Ms. Lucy Iapalucci said. “Plus, the kids all looked amazing.”

The doors were open to leave from 8:30pm to 9:30pm. People were leaving at different times, so there was almost no trouble with getting out.

“I do not see how the kids could not have a blast,” Ms. Iapalucci said. “Music, friends and dancing. The perfect mix.”

Christmas Recipes and Baking

By Ksena Spencer

The smell of freshly baked sugar cookies and royal icing fills the cold air as Christmas approaches with people baking classic holiday recipes.

Why do people bake around the holidays? Pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving dinner, sugar cookies, gingerbread houses or fruit cake on Christmas are all examples of holiday treats.

Visit Ella’s Confections on Instagram @ellaconfections, to place an order with her: email

Holidays are often nostalgic for people, so baking ties in with the feeling of doing something that isn’t often done for a holiday. Baked goods may also be t5radition that a family may have for specific holidays.  

Baking is an activity that anyone can try. It could be a good way to have fun with family or used as a bonding activity between friends, a significant other or just something that can be done alone.

Bakeries often get busy during holidays and receive orders for special made pastries. Baked goods are ordered for Christmas parties, family gatherings and for Christmas day itself.

Small baking businesses often find themselves getting many orders for sugar cookies, gingerbread houses, cakes and many other holiday treats. A local small business that is run by a student of GS, is called Ella’s Confections which junior Ella Henry takes custom orders for cookies and other baked goods.

“I’m most busy during the month of December,” Henry said. “I think that’s when I get most of my cookie orders. However, surprisingly, most of my orders this month are baby showers instead of Christmas themed specifically.”

Other cultures and ethnicities have traditions or their own foods and recipes that they make for Christmas. Some families do not always do a traditional “American” Christmas or Christmas Eve meal. Some families put time aside to bake with each other.  

Foods teacher Mrs. Morgan Ferczak said that on Christmas Eve her family has Polish meals such as perogies, stuffed cabbage, mashed potatoes and meatloaf.

Baking allows one to be creative using ingredients, techniques or even construction. Gingerbread houses are a great way to use candy and icing as a challenge to build something with walls and a roof that can stand.

“I’d like to try making gingerbread houses from scratch,” Henry said.

Sometimes recipes do not go the way they are meant to go and then people have to find a way to improvise.

“When I was 10, I did not know how to use Royal icing and it took a lot or trial and error,” Henry said. “The first time I tried Royal icing it was not pretty.”

Following a recipe isn’t always an easy task for some. Sometimes the recipe is not followed correctly and a step is missed. This causes food and recipes to not turn out how they are supposed to.

“One year, I made yeast rolls and I overfilled my mixer and while it proofed the yeast rolls went all over the place,” Mrs. Ferczak said.  

Baking is purely chemistry. When all the ingredients have been mixed and are ready to be baked, the ingredients react with each other to make the finished product that is eaten.

According to, flour gives a baked good its structure, while baking powder or soda gives it airiness. Eggs are like the binding glue, oil and butter tenderize, sugar sweetens and water gives moisture. When the dry and wet ingredients are combined, gluten is created by proteins from the flour bonding, while the baking powder or soda releases carbon dioxide which makes the whole thing expand. After that, each ingredient competes to get water for itself, which is why putting them in the right order is important.

According to, for hundreds of years recipes were shared orally or by teaching rather than being written down. Cooks and bakers learned by watching their mothers, aunts and grandmothers.

Fruit is one of the oldest desserts and still is included into so many recipes made today.

Along with fruit, spices have been something people can add to their baked goods to make them their own.

Each culture has their own spice combination that they use. Ginger spiced compotes are found in Asia, rose water and honey scented fruits in the Middle east, and cinnamon and vanilla in the U.S.

Gingerbread is one of the oldest cookies, with Greek recipes dating as far back as 2400 B.C.E.

By the Middle Ages, gingerbread had spread across Europe and was popular with royalty. Queen Elizabeth I is often credited with the idea of decorating the cookies.

Through the years, baking has changed in many ways. Baking used to only be done with ingredients all mixed together by the person who made the sweet treat. Today box mixes and pre-mixed packets can be found in any grocery store, including in a range of flavors, colors, gluten free and various other differences.

Christmas time is known for its gingerbread houses, sugar cookies, eggnog and many other sweets. People have learned how to manipulate ingredients into something that tastes good and is enjoyed during special occasions.

“Around the holidays, people spend a lot of time baking together as a family,” Henry said. “I like going to my grandma’s during Christmas time and baking sugar cookies with my cousins. It’s fun because it really makes it feel like Christmas Time.”

Kayla Wright Awarded the Heisman High School Scholarship As a School Winner

By Emily Frazier

Kayla Wright standing proudly. Photo credit: Mr. Manley.

Hardworking senior Kayla Wright was awarded the Heisman High School Scholarship for her outstanding work both on the field and in the classroom. 

The Heisman High School Scholarship  recognizes and rewards senior student athletes who have shown leadership and effort; those who have excelled in the classroom, on the field and within their community. It is meant for both athletes and non-athletes who participate in community activities. 

“To have somebody from Greensburg recognized as even being a potential awardee or an awardee is a pretty prestigious honor,” Co-Principal Mr. Adam Jones said. 

In order to be eligible for this scholarship, students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better, must be a senior, must be proven leaders in their school and must be involved in one of the sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee, the Paralympic Games or the National Federation of State High School Associations. 

Wright is the captain of the varsity cheer squad, a member of the lacrosse team, the president of the Letterman’s club, the treasurer of FCCLA, a member of the Interact club and an officer in the Spanish club and the French club. 

“She looks for opportunities to not only vocally lead, but lead the way by example,” Mr. Jones said. 

Applications were open from August 15 to October 18. Winners were announced in the month of November. Up to $10,000 could be received in scholarship money. 

“My mom and I have been looking all summer for [scholarships],” Wright said. “I just filled out the application and wrote an essay, and that was that.” 

This scholarship has four levels. More than 5,700 applicants, one of them being Wright, have been recognized as school winners. The next level up is the state winners who receive $1,000. The next, national finalists, receive $2,000. And finally, the national winners, who will be announced November 30, will receive the maximum of $10,000. 

By winning this scholarship, the recognition makes Wright stand out amongst her peers. 

“I was really excited because I’ve applied to a lot, but I haven’t really won anything yet,” Wright said. 

One in 8 Billion

by Brianna Campagna

Even with 8 billion people occupying the world, everyone can occupy one square meter of room and fit on the Island of Cyprus. Although people take up a small portion of land, the effects that everyone makes on the world are greater than projected.

On November 15th, 2022, the world’s population officially hit 8 billion people.

Currently, China has the largest population with over 1.4 billion people. In 2023, India is predicted to surpass China. In an attempt to control China’s population, their government had a limit on how many children were allowed to be born into each family.

“[China] had a one-child policy until 2015, a two-child policy until 2021 and now a three-child policy,” International Studies teacher Mr. Robert Lehman said.

Most countries do not have limitations on family size to slow down the growing population.

“Governments do not necessarily want to control population because more people, which usually means more taxes and a larger labor force,” Mr. Lehman said.

China has been able to relax their household policies due to the advanced education women have the opportunity to receive.

“The bottom line is the more educated women are, the more opportunities they tend to have, which usually equates to wanting less children,” Lehman said. “Women’s rights and world population issues are intertwined.”

Lehman believes the world’s growing population is not negatively affecting the world.

“You always want populations to grow, just not too fast,” he said. “Growing populations spur economies, create stable labor forces and increase the odds for new inventions, medical advancements and all the ‘good stuff’ humans are capable of doing. In many parts of the world, population is already stabilizing or even shrinking. This will slow down worldwide growth. For example, the world just hit 8 billion people. Experts say that we will hit 9 billion in 2037.”

Others are rather concerned with the growing population.

“I worry that our planet lacks the capacity and resources to permanently sustain such a great number of people,” senior Rachel Leo said.

Rather than population control, Leo hopes that people will take individual responsibility to reduce the impact of climate change.

“I believe that efforts should be focused toward addressing the policies and corporations that allow environmental health issues to be disregarded rather than directly toward the number of people inhabiting the planet,” she said. “There are many avenues through which the general public can perform simple acts that will help our planet. Overall, living a ‘greener’ lifestyle lends itself to opposing the dangers we face due to the growing population. One way that I believe is especially valuable is to shop responsibly. The most sustainable lifestyle is one that consumes the least.”

World population status written on Mr. Lenzi’s chalkboard. Photo by Brianna Campagna.

Fun Facts

According to CNN, demographers reported the population growth rate has fallen to less than 1% per year, which should prevent the world from reaching 9 billion people until 2037.

There are currently  more men than women in the world, but that should even out by 2050, according to CBS.

According to Pew Research Center, China, India, the U.S., Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Brazil make up half of the world’s population.

Tutich named PIHL Player of the Month

by Luke Dinkel

Owen Tutich playing an ice hockey game at Kirk S. Nevin Arena. Photo by Cameron Caretti.

Senior Owen Tutich has been selected as one of the PIHL players of the month. Tutich is a 2-time PIHL All-Star and led the GS Varsity Hockey Team in points in the 2021-22 season with 25 goals and 20 assists (25-20-40) in 19 games played.

The reason Tutich is always considered for these awards is due to how he stands out on the ice.

“He can play the game any way,” Head Coach Cory Mentch said. “If you’re a defenseman he can beat you with speed or finesse or grit.  If you’re a goaltender, you might get the puck put over your shoulder from the top of the circle or you might get backed into your net and danced.  If you’re a forward in a board battle, good luck.”

 Whether it’s on the ice or in the gym, Tutich isn’t afraid to put in extra work.

“There are many reasons that he stands out so much on the ice,” junior Noah Outly said. “The biggest thing that makes him stand out is his hard work he puts in.”

Despite the skill that he has, Tutich is always working to get better.

“He never misses a practice and never takes a drill off,” Outly said. “The work he does off the ice has a big part too. He’s constantly in the gym, working to get stronger. What makes him stand out during games is how well he knows the game and how fast he is.”

Tutich already has plans to continue his hockey career after high school.

“There are a couple different paths that I could take to play hockey after high school,” Tutich said. “One option would be to go straight to a college next year and try out for the team of the college I go to. Another option is to play in a junior league, which will mean taking a gap year to play hockey if a team were to contact me.”

With leadership comes responsibility, and Tutich never shies away from either.

“He’s a hard-nosed, tough kid,” Athletic Director Mr. Frank Sundry said. “He possesses the skills needed to score goals, but more importantly he’s that leader that every team needs. His leadership is what is driving this team to their early success, and I think it’s exactly what the team needs to achieve their ultimate goal of winning the Penguins’ Cup.”

Taylor Swift fans are disappointed

by Emma Helmick

Swifties prepared to battle their competition trying to purchase concert tickets to see the “Mastermind” behind it all.

Ticketmaster organized a presale for people to sign up for because Taylor Swift has such a huge following. But when the time came to actually buy the tickets, fans were faced with some serious complications.

“Over the years I feel like Taylor has really blown up, which makes sense of all the chaos coming from these concerts and because her most recent tour was in 2018, fans are more eager to see her,” sophomore Lily Slavnik said.

Since her “Reputation” tour, Swift has had four albums come out, but because of Covid-19 she has not toured for any of these until now. She is doing an all-Eras tour to make up for what she and her fans lost.

“It took 4.5 hours,” Classroom Instructional Assistant Mrs. Leisa Ecklund said. “It was worth it.”

The people who ended up getting tickets still had to wait for hours and some people had to pay unreasonable amounts.

“I am upset because I signed up for the presale and got confirmed, but when my pap went to buy tickets for me, he had to sit at his computer for 6 hours and ended up not even being able to get them,” Slavnik said.

Over 14 million people tried to get tickets for these concerts, but about 15% of these people had complications with the website.

“I think that buying Taylor Swift tickets is chaotic because she has such a big fanbase,” junior Alexa George said. “If you want to buy a ticket, you are fighting with millions of people and that can be a challenge.”

Even though Swift plays shows in stadiums, buying tickets can still be really tough.

“My mom had to wait in the queue for 6 hours before the line started to move,” George said. “When she first joined the queue, she was 2000+ in line.”

Brianna Campagna waits in the queue for Taylor Swift tickets. Photo by Brianna Campagna.

Since all this madness, Swift spoke out by putting a message on her Instagram story saying she is “Extremely protective” of her fans and that “There are a multitude of reasons” why some of her fans could not receive tickets.

2.4 million people ended up with tickets so far, but there were people buying them just to resell for a lot more than they were originally sold for.

“The cost and time are worth it,” George said. “I think that this will be one of Taylor’s best tours.”

Art of the AIDS Crisis

by Mia Saraceni

          When one takes a look back on the 1980s, the most common visions include lots of neon, teased hair and glam metal. It’s seen as one of the greatest periods of all time, but nobody tends to remember the darkness hidden within.

          Amidst all the neon and chick-flicks, a deadly disease was being spread along with an even deadlier stigma. From 1981 until the early 1990s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was sweeping the nation and spreading detrimental misconceptions.

          The most common of all the delusions was that the virus could only be spread by homosexual men, and that catapulted mass amounts of homophobia and fear.

          The world for that community was absolutely turned upside down, and one of the few things they were able to hold onto was expression through art.

          “Some artists felt like it was something they could use to reflect upon their own feelings,” art teacher Mr. Darryl Audia said. “I think we can say that’s true for anything.”

          One of the most prolific figures of the time was Keith Haring, an artist who used simple pop art to convey serious messages. His work has become so notable, in fact, that almost anybody can recognize it at just a glance.

          While Haring created pieces about many controversial world topics at the time such as the crack cocaine epidemic, he was personally connected to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, having been diagnosed with the disease in 1988.

Ignorance = Fear 1989, Keith Haring.

           Haring created the above piece titled Ignorance = Fear a year after he was diagnosed, pushing the envelope on what people should be discussing versus what was actually being portrayed.

          He was facing imminent death, but kept creating and kept attempting to shove reality down the throats of those blinded by ignorance and disbelief.

          In his journals published by the Keith Haring Foundation, Haring wrote of many trips, experiences and ideas on art itself and the things he created.

“‘The paintings are not final statements,’” he wrote. “‘They can be changed, reshaped, combined and destroyed.’”

Haring believed that every piece was a work in progress, never finished and always evolving, which is very telling of the epidemic and how the disease and stigma still affect the world today.

Fight AIDS Worldwide 1990, Keith Haring.

          While Haring was the most famous artist to create commentary pieces on HIV/AIDS, he wasn’t the only one who demanded change.

          Less bold and more poignant, artist Hugh Steers created a multitude of pieces not only regarding the disease, but also his sexuality.   

Bath Curtain 1992, Hugh Steers.

          Steers was a figurative artist who focused on the small yet surreal details of life, ones that are so often overlooked by the average person.

          Similarly to Haring, he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1987 but kept creating up until his final days.

          His piece Bath Curtain, as seen above, could be seen as an attempt to visualize the reality of the disease for the people who have otherwise not experienced it, but the true nature of his art is the expression of his own emotions.

          “Self-help and self-care can sometimes start with creating,” Audia said. “A lot of artists during that time, just like our time, probably used that as a coping mechanism or a crutch.”

           Bath Curtain uses body language and lighting to convey the pain and suffering of an ostracized community.

          HIV/AIDS became a prevalent and driving force for Steers towards the latter years of his life, as he was slowly succumbing to the disease. His pain and suffering provided the world with poignant pieces that represent the shared conscience amongst his community.

Morning Terrace 1992, Hugh Steers.

          The above piece, titled Morning Terrace, is an example of Steers expressing his own sexuality while leaving the viewer wondering what exactly is happening.

          The depiction of a male figure wearing high heels was a shock to an otherwise ignorant community, one that wanted to ignore any and every indication that one might be different.

          Steers used his work as a prod to American culture and its defects. In an interview with QW Magazine a few years prior to his death, he gave his opinion on his own work and its relation to others.

          “‘I think I’m in the tradition of a certain kind of American artist—artists whose work embodies a certain gorgeous blackness,’” Steers said. “‘Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline—they all have this austere beauty to them. I think that’s what characterizes America. The atmosphere, its culture, its cities and landscape. They all have that soft glow of brutality.’”

          While paintings are the most popular method of creating works of art, artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres used sculpture as his medium of expression.

Untitled: Portrait of Ross in L.A 1991, Felix Gonzalez-Torres via Art Institute of Chicago.

          This 1991 piece affectionately named Untitled: Portrait of Ross in L.A, is a 175-pound installation of wrapped candy currently calling the Art Institute of Chicago home.

          The 175-pounds represents Gonzalez-Torres’ late boyfriend, Ross Layrock. It begins as a healthy load of candy but as viewers come and are beckoned to take a piece, it slowly diminishes until there’s nothing left.

          It’s a physical representation of what HIV/AIDS does to a person, slowly eating away at everything that made them human.

          Layrock was diagnosed in 1987, the same year as Steers, and shortly thereafter, Gonzalez-Torres himself was also diagnosed.

          His work is vastly different from any social piece from the time, as he offers his piece up to the world and asks them to slowly destroy it. In an interview with Tim Rollins just a year before his death, he shared a sentiment regarding his work.

          “‘Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed,’” he said. “‘I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art.’”

          His connection to the disease was the inspiration for all of his mature works, granting the public a view into the reality of what they ignorantly named the “gay cancer.”

          The point of art is expression. The pieces created by Haring, Steers and Gonzalez-Torres are just a few examples of the thousands of sculptures, paintings and drawings created by people affected by HIV/AIDS.

There are thousands of people and artists alike who deserve recognition for their activism, especially during a time so crushing and spurned.

          It was a mission to gain clarity and understanding from the public, one that they eventually received many years after their deaths.  

          All three artists mentioned died within a few years of their diagnoses, never getting to fully see the shift in public perception. They never had the opportunity to see the impact their pieces made on the movement to fight stigma.

          “As in all things, time will clarify the events which are presently unclear,” Haring wrote.

The Dressember Project

by Ksena Spencer

Dressember’s Instagram post for their 10 year anniversary. Photo credits: Dressember.

December is HIV/AIDS Awareness Month, Universal Human Rights Month, Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month and Dressember.

Dressember’s movement is to spread awareness for human trafficking and to fight against it by wearing a dress or tie during December.

“I didn’t know about Dressember until now,” junior Alaina Blend said. “I do like the cause and spreading awareness for human trafficking and I would definitely help fundraise.”

The fundraising program started in 2009, when Dressember CEO and Founder Blythe Hill challenged and pledged herself to wear a dress every day of December. More and more people joined to challenge themselves until this pledge turned into a way for anyone to fight against human trafficking and spread awareness.

“Most of the tips I’ve heard about how to be cautious and avoid being trafficked have been learned from social media or my family,” Blend said. “Schools should do more to spread awareness.”

Every December people across the world make a pledge to wear a dress or tie for all 31 days of the month. They are able to make their own website through Dressember’s main site to start their campaign. The journey starts with making a money goal, promoting it in communities and through social media.

The website sells pins that say, “ask me about my dress,” or tie to catch people’s attention so they want to ask and learn more about the cause.

According to, a total of 2,198 persons were referred to U.S. Attorneys for human trafficking offenses in 2020, a 62% increase from the 1,360 persons referred in 2011. In 2020, for the 47 states that reported data, 1,564 persons were in prison serving a sentence for a human trafficking offense.

Statistics for human trafficking. Photo credits: Dressember.

Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings through recruitment or abduction by means of force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of forced labor, debt bondage or sexual exploitation.

Human trafficking victims can be any age, race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, nationality, immigration status, cultural background, religion and education attainment level.

Making out a number of how many victims there are is difficult due to the fact that the crime of it is often hidden and offenders try to keep their actions secretive.

Trafficking victims are usually forced to live in small spaces with many other people, no heat and no electricity.  

Donating to these campaigns that people make through Dressember is a good way to support victims and survivors of human trafficking.

“I think we should do a fundraiser, I think it would bring awareness to the students and help the community,” senior Taylor Werts said.

Dressember is a way to fight against human trafficking and spread awareness during the month of December. Women and men all around the world can easily participate in the pledge to wear a dress or tie every day. These clothing articles are usually something people already own so not too much money is spent on it.

          “I didn’t know what Dressember was at first, but after looking into it, I’m very glad there’s something to bring awareness up about sex trafficking,” Werts said.

Curl Up With a Good Book this Winter Season

by Ari Case

With Thanksgiving break approaching, students may have a bit more time on their hands. Instead of watching hours of TikTok or racking up more playtime on Overwatch 2, consider cozying up with a book. The break from screens can do any person good, and within a good book so many things can be found—hope, love and warmth chief among them.

“There’s something special about cozying up with a good book,” librarian Mrs. Carrie Vottero said.

In this second edition of The Lions’ Den’s book column, Mrs. Vottero and the paper’s staff hope to spark interest in a book or two for the holiday season.

With the level of chaos and negativity in the world right now, sometimes books are the perfect way to remind people that it will be okay, and there is good in the world. R. J. Palacio’s Wonder is the perfect story to do this. It follows Auggie Pullman, a boy just starting public school in 5th grade, as he learns what it means to be a friend.

The core message of the book is one the world needs to hear: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

For those who may not always feel so kind to the world, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman could be just the right story. Soon to be a movie starring Tom Hanks—filmed in Pittsburgh—Ove is nothing short of an old curmudgeon. He hates cats and people who jog and wants nothing to do with most of the world around him. So, when loud new neighbors move in next door, Ove must suffer further—until he finds joy in life again. Backman weaves a tale of comedy, unexpected friendship, grief and love—for life, each other and the world around us.

Vottero poses with A Man Called Ove. Photo by Ari Case.

“It’s definitely worth reading,” Vottero said.

Few books capture the feeling of found family like The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Set in the 1960s, it follows 14-year-old Lily as she runs from home with her caretaker Rosaleen. They are taken in by the eccentric beekeeping Calendar sisters who spend their time with the Daughters of Mary. With their help, Lily learns what it means to be a woman—a daughter, a sister and a friend to people who truly care for one another.

Another book with a female narrator is Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson, though it takes a vastly different direction. Great for lovers of Agatha Christie or E. Lockhart, the mystery has readers on the edge of their seats at every turn. Stevie Bell is a true-crime lover starting her first year at the boarding school of her dreams, the site of one of the greatest unsolved cases in history. Decades ago, the wife and daughter of the founder were kidnapped in the twisting gardens and riddled pathways of the school—never to be seen again. As the mysterious “Truly, Devious” murderer resurfaces, Stevie must follow every thread she can find to solve the cases without becoming the next victim herself.

“It’s the perfect book to pull you out of the chilly weather and into the thrill of the story,” senior Emily Frazier said. “I gave it a shot and am glad I did.”

Readers who enjoyed Coraline or American Gods will appreciate Neil Gaiman’s retelling in Norse Mythology. Gaiman takes classic myths and twists them in his own special way to be even better. It is a great read for anyone who is interested in mythology, but also for those who simply enjoy fantastical tales and peculiar adventures.

“It’s written by Neil Gaiman,” Vottero said. “How much better could it get?”

Finally, a recommendation from both Vottero and several staff members, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is a beautiful book for young adult readers. A favorite of many who read it, copies of Perks are often found with paper flags and notes scrawled in the margins, cracked spines and worn pages—put simply, one does not just read it. Set in a Pittsburgh suburb, the book follows Charlie through his freshman year as he learns about love, loss and the hardships of not just high school, but life itself.

A signed poster and copy of Perks in the library. Photo by Ari Case.

“It’s a book that talks about stigma that no other book can cover in the way that it does,” senior Mia Saraceni said. “It’s very relatable, especially for people who usually can’t find something that they relate to.”

As temperatures drop and the holidays approach, books can be a lovely source of warmth for anyone. In their pages can be escape or simply comfort, but whatever is found will be a joy.

“One of my favorite things about reading is curling up in a nice chair with a warm drink, [with] windows around you that are all frosted up and it’s toasty inside,” Vottero said.

One of Vottero’s favorite warm holiday tales is A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. It is short and sweet—as memorable as the title suggests. The story follows an unlikely but strong friendship between a young boy and an old woman as they bond over holiday rituals and Christmas spirit.

Vottero reads her favorite Christmas story. Photo by Ari Case.

“It’s not very long, but [it’s] beautiful,” Vottero said. “It was the sweetest story.”

For someone with less time or lack of interest in a long novel, short stories are a fantastic way to read. My True Love Gave to Me compiles holiday spirit and unique writing from popular YA authors like Jenny Han, David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell. Heartwarming stories that anyone can enjoy, the collection is nothing short of merry and bright.

My True Love Gave to Me sits on a shelf waiting to be read this holiday season. Photo by Ari Case.

Hopefully, any reader can find warmth in one of these stories, because there is something special about the solace a good book brings.

“There’s no experience like reading a book you feel at home in,” Saraceni said.

Student Feature: Natalia Backos

By Ari Case

Backos posing proudly with her dog, Boozer. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

With roughly 2,500 students, GS is not a large district. Within the numbers, though, many students are notably high-achieving—not just in academics. One student, sophomore Natalia Backos, is among them.

This year, Backos was invited to the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The Westminster Dog Show is one of the most coveted shows in the world, and the most well-known in America. Only about 80 junior competitors are invited each year, with a lengthy list of requirements.

Backos has met them all, and more.

Her first show was when she was around 2 years old.

“[I’m] third generation,” she said. “I was practically born at a dog show.”

She grew up tagging along to her mother’s shows and began to participate herself.

“When I was six, I started showing a standard schnauzer,” Backos said. “Her name was Promise and we showed together for [about] a year and a half. And we did a lot of winning. And she’s what [really] provoked my love for the sport.”

Young Backos with her first show dog, Promise. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.
Backos and Promise after a win. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

Over the years, she has shown many other dogs that grew with her. Her current show dog is a six-and-a-half-year-old Parson Russell terrier named Boozer.

Boozer standing proudly in perfect form. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

“He is basically my child,” she said. “He sleeps in bed with me every night and he stays in the hotel with us. He comes to every single dog show with us—he’s always there.”

Backos has shown Boozer for several events, and he has won both his breed and group. Together, they are the #1 junior in the breed and #4 terrier junior nation-wide.

This doesn’t mean that Boozer is simply a good-looking dog, or that Backos knows how to have him spin the right way.

Boozer on a podium with Backos after a big win. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.
Another view of Backos and Boozer’s win. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

“It’s less than being judged against each other, like what dogs are prettiest,” she said. “It’s not like a beauty pageant. It’s based off of a written standard.”

She went on to explain that the standards are set, but each judge has a subjective opinion of each dog. Some days, certain judges will rank a dog far lower than a different judge—based on the same exact written standard.

“No matter how good you think you are, there’s always going to be somebody who doesn’t think of you that way, no matter [what] you do,” she said.

This reliance on subjective opinion can be difficult to deal with for competitors, including Backos.

“I really [take] people’s opinions, [to] heart,” she said. “When somebody says they don’t like me or they don’t like a certain thing that I do, it can make things very difficult for me because I’d like to please people [no] matter what. And you know, when somebody says that I just wasn’t good enough that day that can really be difficult.”

Backos said that she experiences fluctuation in confidence levels for shows, even before she gets to the airport.

“I’ll always have some form of anxiety about it,” she said. “Even though I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s still something that I’m always [on] the tips of my toes about. [You] never know how good you really are.”

She explained that this can be difficult for her to handle, because competitors need to be confident to show well.

Despite these difficulties, Backos and Boozer are still one of the best junior teams in the country.

Backos walking Boozer at a show. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

This success comes with its fair share of problems, though, especially regarding teenage development.

“It can get really stressful because sometimes [I] just want to be a regular kid and not have to do something every single day, every single weekend,” Backos said.

She expressed that it is difficult to make plans and keep up with her friends when she is frequently hundreds of miles away on the weekends.

Contrarily, she shared that showing has taught her how to “talk to adults that can impact [her] life.”

Perhaps more important than difficulty making plans with friends, Backos has also had trouble with extracurriculars and schoolwork.

“It makes doing other activities very difficult,” she said. “It’s very much [like] a full-time job. So, musical season gets very difficult [and] sports get very difficult. [It] makes me really have [to] pick and choose what I’m doing.”

She explained that while showing is a lot of work, she benefits from it. She is able to make connections that will help her in the future in addition to scholarships as prizes that add up quickly. The prize for the Westminster show, a large one, is a $10,000 scholarship for the winning junior, who will then tour with others who placed first in their respective categories.

These scholarships are immensely beneficial, especially for students like her, who have big plans for education.

Backos is a straight A student enrolled in several Honors and Advanced Placement courses. She genuinely enjoys learning and puts extra effort into work when she is absent for shows.

“On the way to the dog shows, I’ll do my homework at the hotels,” she said. “[Anytime] I’m just sitting around, I’ll be doing some work. So, it’s always a balance.”

In the past, her teachers have worked with her before and after shows to ensure she understands and completes the necessary material.

One of these teachers is Ms. Kristen Solomon, English and Mock Trial teacher.

Ms. Solomon said that Backos was given extensions when she was absent, and that she “always turned in her work” and that it “didn’t seem to affect her grade” in the class—Pre-AP English I.

Trigonometry teacher Ms. Christina Burkhart expressed much of the same sentiment regarding Backos’ work ethic.

“She’ll get all the work done before she goes, and if she has questions, she’ll come and ask,” Ms. Burkhart said. “[Sometimes] she’ll just make it up when she gets back. She’s very responsible.”

Burkhart explained that she works with Backos in advisory and after school when she needs help with a topic she missed in class.

Due to understanding teachers and a determination to learn, Backos has succeeded in balancing school, showing and her extracurriculars fairly well.

She urged other students to participate in extracurricular activities if they can and to “get involved with your school and community.”

A concern for many is that it will be difficult to balance activities with schoolwork and other obligations, but high school is the time to get involved and find things that make students happy.

“I would encourage [students] to participate in extracurriculars and not be too nervous about balancing schoolwork,” Solomon said. “I’d say utilize a calendar and plan to know what you’re missing.”

This is one of the strategies Backos uses that helps her keep everything in check.

Backos kneeling beside Boozer during a show. Photo Courtesy: Natalia Backos.

It is because of her will and dedication that Backos has gained her way into the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club dog show, and many around her are proud of her efforts. She exhibits the aspects of a true golden lion.

As Backos prepares for Westminster and heads to several other shows in the meantime, Solomon wished her luck.

“I think it’s really exciting that she’s involved in something so unique and I’m proud of her,” Solomon said.

Other teachers shared the same sentiment of pride.

“It does not surprise me that she got into this because she’s very determined and willing to work hard for what she wants,” Burkhart said. “So, this is, you know, a fabulous experience for her. And I wish her all the luck and all the best.”