Student Activism at AHS

 

By Ellie Crowley

Since the presidential election of Donald Trump in 2016, the nation has been fraught with vast political division. This division has ignited a flame within the majority of citizens to exercise their right to freedom of speech in both support and protest of actions taken by the president. However, the controversial policies have also inspired a large majority of America’s youth to take a stand and make their adolescent voices heard. This past year, the AHS student body has embodied this rise of youth protest and created a new culture of student activism in the school’s community.

At the beginning of the school year, the community participated in the Unity Project. Drama teacher Michael Byrne first discovered the project on Facebook and proposed that the school implement its own version. The Unity Project was initially created by two women in an attempt to combat the division in their community as a result of the election. Byrne, along with math teacher Joanna Begin, applied for a grant from the Arlington Education Foundation and received funding for the project by the Dawn Moses Memorial Grant.

The project consisted of 32 PVC pipes circled around one central pipe located on the front lawn. Each of the outer poles had an identifier on it, and students were invited to wrap pink yarn from the center pole around each pole that they identified with, with the end result being a woven ceiling around the circle, representing the unity of the AHS community and a celebration of diversity.

If students felt an identifier relevant to their lives was missing, they were invited to add it to a board on the side of the installation. The board was quickly filled, and students began to write their identifiers on the pavement in chalk. Throughout the week, teachers chose to take  their classes out to the project. Students visited it during their free periods, after school, and during advisories.

The installation was also used as a setting to hold events that further unified the AHS community. During the week, the Do Something club held a bake sale to raise money for hurricane relief after the then recent devastation in Puerto Rico. At the end of the week, a rainstorm caused the structure to collapse, but that did not stop the community from appreciating its message. The next day, the Madrigal Singers used the project as a stage for an after-school performance, and on the weekend the Arlington community showed its support for the installation by holding yoga and CrossFit classes next to the fallen project.

The Unity Project set a precedent of acceptance and support for the diversity of the AHS community. This environment provided students with the support they needed to exercise their voice in protests later in the year.

Since the death of 17 students in the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, there has been a national uproar calling for gun control. That the majority of protests are student-led reveals the effect this tragedy has had on America’s youth.

The AHS student body was no different and participated in a protest on March 7th for gun control. The protest was organized by the Young Democrats and took place at schools in neighboring towns as well. Students who chose to participate left their first period classes at 8:17 am and gathered on the front lawn of the high school. Griffin Gould, president of the Young Democrats, led a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting.

Following the moment of silence was a speech by senior Ian Miller, who read the lyrics to “You’re Missing” by Bruce Springsteen. The song outlines how it feels to lose a loved one, as the friends and families of the 17 students in Parkland have. Gould then invited the protesters to join the Young Democrats and participate in a state-wide protest outside of the state house on March 14th.

Despite the snow day on the date of the state house visit, 26 AHS students still gathered outside to rally for advocacy training and stronger gun control laws. Specifically, students were lobbying for the passing of bill H.3610 and the repeal of the Dickey Amendment. Bill H.3610 proposes temporarily preventing access to firearms for extremely dangerous or suicidal individuals. The Dickey Amendment, passed in 1996, states that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Students gathered outside of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul and began their march to the state house, participating in chants for gun control along the way. When students were settled in the state house, state representatives each spoke and expressed their stance on both bill H.3610 and the Dickey Amendment. Following the speeches, students were invited to meet with their representatives and ask for their support and votes in passing bill H.3610 and the repealment of the Dickey Amendment. The state house visit provided Massachusetts youth with a direct means of communication with their representatives and the opportunity to make their voices heard.

Following the shooting at their high school, the Parkland students created the movement dubbed #NeverAgain and organized a national walkout for gun control to take place at 10:00 am on March 14th. The AHS student body, having participated in their own walkout on March 7th, wanted to participate in the national walkout as well. The AHS Student Council met on February 27th with principal Dr. Janger to ensure that students who participated in the walkout would not receive disciplinary actions and to begin planning the logistics of the protest, as they anticipated a much larger group than that on March 7th.

So as not to interfere with the school’s Inclusion Day, Dr. Janger scheduled a free block at the time of the walkout so that students would not have to choose between their workshops and the walkout. As the date of the walkout approached, students began to prepare by making posters and signs in the art classroom after school, the largest of which was an orange sign that read “#NeverAgain” in large black lettering and was hung right outside of the front doors of the school on March 14th.

Unfortunately, due to the snow day the walkout was rescheduled for March 15th. Because the walkout was no longer scheduled for Inclusion Day, students now walked out of class instead of a free block. At 10:00 am on March 15th, AHS students filed out of class and gathered at the front of the school, as they had done the week before. The protest was composed of chants, speeches by various AHS students and faculty, and a moment of silence for the victims of the Parkland shooting. As the seventeen minutes came to a close, students returned to their classes and continued with their school day.

The AHS community held a diverse range of views about the walkout. Junior Harjot Singh stated, “The walkout is a complete waste of time, and I agree that some things need to change but having a bunch of kids walk out of school is not going to bring this change.”

History teacher Scott Matson agreed with Singh’s opinion, saying “I do not think [the walkouts] are going to be very effective. In my opinion, a majority of the students around the country don’t even realize what they are doing… they are just following what social media is telling them to do.” History teacher Glen Fant made sure that his students recognized the significance of their actions by giving those who walked out lower participation grades for an in-class assignment that day. Fant explained that “I told the class that I was doing so because I didn’t want to cheapen an act of civil disobedience by making it completely free from consequence.” He continued to reflect on acts of civil disobedience by Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry David Thoreau, explaining that their peaceful protests were condemned but that it gave their purpose more strength and meaning. Still, many AHS students and faculty did choose to participate in the walkout. Junior Isa Dray, an organizer of the walkout on March 15th, explains that “I think it is really important that we have stricter background checks, raise the legal age for gun purchase to 21 and repeal the Dickey Amendment.” Freshman Milo Kiely-Song explained that he “decided to walk out because [he] absolutely believe[s] that stricter gun regulations are necessary to make our country and our schools safer.” Though not all of AHS participated in the walkout, those who chose to not partake in the event still respected those who did—yet another representation of the inclusive and unified environment at the high school. Participating students proved to the nation that their voices deserved to be heard and that they will not rest until stronger gun control is enacted.

More recently, students at AHS have responded to a major incident of vandalism at the school. On the night of Tuesday May 2nd, a group of young males broke into the school and shattered windows, smashed art display cases, discharged fire extinguishers, destroyed cafeteria tables, and smeared various condiments around school property. Additionally, the intruders spray-painted three messages of hate on the outside wall of the school, consisting of two homophobic slurs and a swastika on a trash barrel.

Many students were surprised that such hate was present in a community they thought was safe and welcoming. The school first responded to the incident by holding an assembly organized by the Junior Class Council, in which all student leaders stood as a unified wall in front of the rest of the student body. Dr. Janger, as well as junior class officers, condemned the acts of vandalism but inspired the student body to stand up for the school, to foster what the community wants: a culture of positivity and inclusivity. Following the assembly, students were invited to write positive messages in chalk on the front of the school, such as “Hate has no home here” and “You are loved.”

Members of the senior class, which the majority of vandals belonged to, were disappointed with the actions that would now shape their legacy at the school, and wanted to give back to the community. Senior Olivia Weiss organized a GoFundMe page to raise money to restore the damage inflicted by the vandalism. Dr. Janger, in a recent email, explained that he will be meeting with members of the senior class to discuss the best use for the funds in order to “repair the harm to our community and restore our sense of safety and unity.” Additionally, senior Ian Miller spoke on behalf of the senior class at the school-wide assembly about vandalism, and expressed their disapproval of the event and disappointment in those who vandalized. The unified backlash by nearly all AHS students against the vandalism exemplifies the activist voice that students have found in the past year.

The inclusive and united environment that the school has worked to establish this year has made students comfortable with expressing their political views and has created an activist culture in the student body.

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Arlington’s Fourth Scoopermania: AHS Students Scoop for a Cure!

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Photo by Wicked Local

By Connor Rempe

The members of Arlington High School’s Scoops Club are planning this years’ annual Scoopermania event. Scoopermania is a nationwide fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund, an organization that supports research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Hosted on the lawn of the Cyrus E. Dallin Museum in Arlington Center, Scoopermania brings the community together over a sweet treat: ice cream! For just five dollars, customers get unlimited ice cream with toppings. This year, for the first time, local bands will even be performing. In the past three years, the event has seen huge success, raising over $10,000 towards cancer research. The organizers of the event are AHS students who reach out to the community for all aspects of the fundraiser. Local ice cream stores provide all of the ice cream, and many other businesses donate materials, as well as monetary support, for renting equipment.

The president of the club, Sagar Rastogi, sums up Scoopermania as “a great event for families and friends that brings the community together over a few scoops of ice cream, while also raising money for a great cause.” This year’s Scoopermania will be hosted on Saturday, May 19th from 1 to 5 PM. It’s a great opportunity to eat some ice cream, listen to music, and, most importantly, fight against cancer.

 

16 Year-Olds are Ready to Vote…So Why are We Waiting?

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By Connor Rempe

On March 15th, much of the student population walked out of Arlington High School and stood in front of the main doors to protest our country’s current gun control regulations. Student leaders made speeches and presented statistics in an attempt to grab the attention of politicians across the country. However, there was one speech in particular that stood out. Freshman Genevieve Baldwin used her time at the podium to warn this country’s leaders that our time is coming. Soon we will be able to vote and it is clear that our generation has a strong and powerful voice. She said that we had always been told by our parents that “someday you’ll be old enough” and that now our “someday was coming.” While this message might be inspiring, I could only think one thing while listening to it: “Why wait for someday? Why can’t someday be now?” We were told “someday” as kids, but if there is one thing I am certain of it is that the people on the steps of the high school that day were not children in the traditional sense. We were engaged in the democratic process more than most adults and ready to make a change. The leadership of youth in today’s America has proven that teens shouldn’t be considered apathetic children but rather a driving force in shaping the future. Furthermore, in order to allow teens to influence the laws and lawmakers that very much influence them, the legal voting age ought to be lowered to 16 years old.

The debate over voting age has pervaded U.S. history as early as 1942 and most notably during the Vietnam War.  During WWII, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt lowered the minimum draft age from 21 to 18, and while at the time voting ages were decided by states, across the board the legal age to vote was 21. 18-year-olds were conscripted without any say in the process of their government. “Old enough to fight, Old enough to Vote” became a slogan for the fight for voting rights and in 1942 Georgia lowered the minimum age to vote in state and local elections to 18. Many states followed suit. Congress, however, did not until similar circumstances arose in the Vietnam war and moved them to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today, the situation is similar; a group of empowered, young people want a say in the important decisions that affect their lives.

Those who oppose lowering the minimum voting age often question why 16-year-olds deserve to be given the vote. David Davenport of Forbes feels that until 16-year-olds pay taxes or can be asked to participate in the military, they should not be able to dictate the actions of those who do. Additionally, Davenport says, support for lowering the age in the government by senators such as Nancy Pelosi is purely partisan. He says that until teens have to pay taxes, they are more frequently liberal-leaning. Ultimately, Davenport claims, until we have “evidence that we need or even want 16-year olds voting,” there is no reason to make a change.

While these concerns are valid, they rely on misconceptions about the motivations of teenagers. People, let alone teenagers, don’t vote for only themselves. Studies by the American Psychological Association show that by the age of 16 teens can gather and process information, as well as weigh pros and cons in low-pressure situations, such as voting. Teens think about many different angles when making decisions, so the fact that they themselves don’t pay taxes doesn’t disqualify them from being able to vote based on what they think is best for the country and their families. Secondly, we want 16-year-olds voting because they have unique and educated opinions, which are always necessary for a good democracy. In order for that voice to be heard to its fullest extent, the voting age ought to be lowered.

Today’s youth have demonstrated that they are ready and willing to participate in the democratic process. In order for their voice to not only be heard but also affect real change, they need to be given the most powerful tool in our government today: the ability to vote.

 

 

Works Cited

Davenport, David. “No, We Shouldn’t Lower The Voting Age To 16.” Forbes, 25 May 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/05/25/no-we-shouldnt-lower-the-voting-age-to-16/#7e382a55531e. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.

History.com Staff. “The 26th Amendment.” History.com, A+E Networks, 2010, http://www.history.com/topics/the-26th-amendment. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.

Steinberg, Laurence. “Why We Should Lower the Voting Age to 16.” The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/opinion/sunday/voting-age-school-shootings.html. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.

Model Congress Competes In Philadelphia

By Isaiah Donovan

On Thursday, March 22nd, club members from Arlington High School boarded a train to Philadelphia. The Model Congress convened with other chapters nationwide at the University of Pennsylvania, where schools from across the country were invited to participate in a model of the legislative process. There, students proposed bills of their own and debated for support in committees, before rolling the propositions out to full floor debates.

Most weeks, Model Congress meets in Room 306 during X Blocks on Tuesdays. In this time, they propose bills and practice their argumentative skills. These sessions are often held as preparation for the Philadelphia convention, but some members come every week just to debate. The club’s meetings were put to a much larger scale during their trip to UPenn. On arrival, participants were assigned into various committees, where they voted on which bills to move forward with. After multiple committee sessions in a day, a full session was held to decide on which bills to pass.

Model Congress members had previously prepared bills to suggest to their confederates. Zach Garrigus, a Model Congress member of three years “proposed a bill that would extend the presidential term limits from two terms to three terms.” Zach not only likes proposing his own bills, but also seeing the bills of others take shape. “There was a bill that made it easy for non-convicted criminals to serve in the military, which I thought was very cool.”

At face value, debating for hours may seem dull. However, the reality is much different.. “In all honesty, I started Model Congress because it would look good on my college resume, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.” says Patrick Gallagher, a junior who went on the trip. “It’s a rewarding experience, and you really get some insight into the legislative process. Plus, the campus is very fun to explore at UPenn.” Though the majority of those in attendance were from the Northeast, many students enjoy the chance to see like-minded peers from different parts of the country. Gallagher notes that he “had a great time discussing with the other committee members, even when arguing.”

Gallagher encourages all students who are interested in Congress, the government or debating in general to come by the Model Congress during one of their meetings. “It never hurts to try something new out,” says Gallagher, “and many people may find an affinity for it.”

Stewart Competes on National Frisbee Team

 

By Chloe Jackson

Arlington High senior Clara Stewart has recently been offered a position on the USA National Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team. She has played ultimate frisbee since seventh grade, where she joined a pick-up game at Thorndike Field in Arlington. As she grew to love the sport, Stewart joined the Ocelots in eighth grade at Ottoson Middle School, and carried on the legacy of the team into her years at high school. Stewart assisted in founding a co-ed ultimate frisbee team at Arlington High, and captained it for her tenth and eleventh grade seasons. She now has coordinated and founded a successful all women’s ultimate frisbee team for this coming spring sports season.

Stewart has played ultimate frisbee in a range of settings, whether it is pick up games, youth leagues, high school clubs, women’s regional club teams, or even the prestiged USA National Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team. To tryout for the National team, Stewart underwent a rigorous application process, which entails a preliminary application and tryout of fifty young women in North Carolina. A tryout on the East Coast and the West Coast was held, each of fifty young women, to determine the National team roster of twenty four players. Stewart, in addition to her friend Tessa Johnson of Lexington, Massachusetts, earned a position on the roster of this highly selective team.

Until the World Championship game and other tournaments, Stewart and her teammates are expected to maintain their shape and skills, and they will attend several multi-day or week long training sessions to prepare for games. Stewart will attend the the WJUC (World Juniors Ultimate Championships) in late August in Toronto, Canada with her team of twenty four young women. After over five years of pursuing ultimate frisbee and gaining the impressive title of National Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team Member, Stewart will continue her ultimate frisbee career as she begins college in the fall.

Stewart plays ultimate frisbee because of the “tight knit community, especially in Boston” where everyone is “supportive and helping each other.” These past few years have been only the beginning to Stewart’s successful career in the “fast-paced, difficult” (Stewart) sport of ultimate frisbee.

Arlington High School Students Walk Out for Comprehensive Gun Laws

By Anoushka Oke and Katherine Richardson

 

Since seventeen people were killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, there has been nationwide uproar about the United States’ gun laws. Students from all over the country have come together in protest against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and in support of common-sense gun laws by walking out of school.

The movement was created by survivors of the Parkland shooting, and word of it spread all over the nation through the news and social media. The protest was set to nationally take place at 10:00 a.m. on March 14, 2018, and to last seventeen minutes.

Bringing the Walkout to AHS

Upon hearing about the walkout, AHS students took it upon themselves to ensure that it would happen at the high school. Students reached out to AHS principal, Matthew Janger, who, in response, called a meeting with interested students on February 27.

The meeting on February 27 was headed by the AHS Student Council, with the purpose of obtaining Dr. Janger’s permission to participate in the walkout with a guarantee of no punishment, and to begin planning the logistics for the protest. Various ideas were discussed, including suggestions for a lobby display, an outdoor memorial, a banner, and posters to hang up around the school. Because the walkout was to take place on Inclusion Day, Dr. Janger scheduled an X-block so that students would not have to choose between their Inclusion Day workshops and the walkout.

A few days later, on March 2, the Student Council held a second meeting to discuss the logistics of the protest. Ideas from the previous meeting were revisited, and students volunteered for projects that had been suggested at the previous meeting.

The March 7th Walkout

Prior to the national walkout, some AHS students also participated in a separate walkout on Wednesday, March 7. This walkout was organized by the Young Democrats and took place at schools in neighboring towns as well.

Participating students filed out of their first period classes at exactly 8:17 a.m., gathering on the front lawn. Sophomore Griffin Gould, leader of the Young Democrats, first led a moment of silence. This was followed by a speech from senior Ian Miller, in which he read the lyrics of the song “You’re Missing” by Bruce Springsteen. The lyrics of the song outline how it feels to lose someone important, as the friends and family of gun violence victims have. “Children are asking if it’s alright,” Miller read, “will you be in our arms tonight?”

Gould then informed students of the Young Democrats’ plan to take a trip to a protest in front of the state house directly after the March 14 walkout, and invited all of the assembled students to join them.

Preparations for the Walkout

As the date of the national walkout approached, students began working to prepare for the protest.

Some of the students who wanted to create signs for the walkout met in an art classroom on Monday, March 12.  The art department provided students with materials to create compelling signs.

Simultaneously, a small committee of students created a large, orange banner that read “#neveragain” in black text. This banner was hung outside of AHS on the morning of the walkout.

On the other side of the room, another small group of students worked on painting pieces of a memorial, taking breaks in between coats to make signs. The memorial was painted in the art room by freshmen Genevieve Baldwin, Anoushka Oke, and Sierra Curro.

The memorial consists of three gates, one five-feet tall, one six-feet tall, and one seven-feet tall. From the top of each gate, there are nine blue strings and eight white strings alternating, adding up to seventeen strings on each gate– the number of people who were killed in the Parkland shooting. On each white string, there are twenty-eight bingo chips of varying colors to represent the twenty-eight people who died in the Sandy Hook shooting five years ago. The varying colors of the bingo chips on the white strings represent the youth and childishness of the elementary-age children who were killed. On each black string, there are seventeen red bingo chips, which, like the amount of strings in each gate, represent the number of deaths in the Parkland shooting. The red bingo chips represent the blood that was shed in the shooting. This memorial is not yet up.

The State House Visit

On March 14, almost every American school had the walkout, excluding schools in the Greater Boston area who had school cancelled that day. Despite school closures and the two feet of snow on the ground, twenty-six AHS students joined students from all over Massachusetts at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul to rally for advocacy training and a state house visit in the interest of stronger gun control laws.

The students were lobbying for the passing of bill H.3610 and the repeal of the Dickey Amendment. Bill H.3610 proposes temporarily preventing firearm access for extremely dangerous or suicidal individuals. The Dickey Amendment, passed in 1996, states that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Students gathered at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. Soon after arrival, two state representatives and some students gave quick introductory speeches, and then the huge gathering marched to the state house. Students held signs and chanted phrases such as “Not in our streets! (Not in our schools!) No justice? (No peace!),” “Show me what democracy looks like! (This is what democracy looks like!),” and “State house? (Our house!).”

When the students got inside and were seated, some student representatives spoke briefly. Then each representative introduced themselves, stated the districts of Massachusetts they represented, and expressed whether or not they would support the bill H.3610 and vote to repeal the Dickey Amendment.

After the speeches, students lobbied their representatives by going around room to room, asking for their support and votes. Finally, students made their way back to the Cathedral Church of St. Paul for free pizza and closing speeches.

The Delayed National Walkout

Even though the national walkout was scheduled to take place on March 14, Tuesday’s nor’easter and Wednesday’s snow day meant that most students in or around Greater Boston were forced to move their school’s walkouts. AHS’ walkout was moved to Thursday, March 15, the day following the national walkout date. Because the walkout would no longer be taking place on Inclusion Day, students would now be walking out of class rather than a free period.

Speakers and key organizers of the event left class ten minutes early in order to set up and prepare for the wave of students that would shortly emerge from the school. At 10:00, participating students began heading to the front of the school, while students not participating went to their next class.

Outside of the school, students began to fill the front sidewalk and some of the parking area. Once most of the participating students had filed out, freshman Nate Pokress used a megaphone to lead the crowd in chanting “What do we want? (Gun control!) When do we want it? (Now!)” for about a minute.

After the chanting had died out, Student Council President, senior Laura Kirchner, stepped up to the podium to give a few opening remarks. In her speech, she emphasised the importance of students taking action. Kirchner stated, “some may dismiss us, some may ignore us, some may say we’re just children, but as we stand here today… we are making our voices heard, even though many of us cannot vote.”

Following Kirchner’s remarks, Junior Class Vice President Lucy Voges took Kirchner’s place at the podium. Voges announced the Student Government’s support of the walkout, and also described what they were advocating for: “stricter background checks, a higher legal age for gun purchase, and the repeal of the Dickey Amendment.”

Once Voges had stepped away from the podium, Student Council Secretary Isa Dray held a moment of silence for everyone who has died as a result of gun violence.

A minute later, Student Council Treasurer, senior Sophie Plotkin stepped up to conclude the moment of silence. She then read an open letter to U.S. Senators, prompting them to take action about gun violence, rather than simply sending their “thoughts and prayers” after every shooting as they accept money from the NRA. “…I am one of the 74.6 million students who have been let down by the system that is supposed to protect us,” she read, “…we will no longer stay silent while you sell our souls for seats in the Senate!”

Once Plotkin finished reading the letter, sophomore Sky Milstein stepped up to give a speech, explaining their experience living in a country where mass shootings are the norm; AHS English teacher Rebecca Walsh-Bradley told the assembled students about her experience with gun violence during her first year of teaching, when a student came into the school with a gun; and Freshman Livia Freeman then spoke of the fear caused by gun violence. Freshman Elizabeth Gromfin, Oke, sophomore Darcy Coleman, and Freeman each read a statistic relating to gun violence, outlining the scale and severity of the gun violence problem. Then, Baldwin came up to the podium to give the final speech of the morning, focusing on the power of students taking action. “Maybe most of us don’t have the adult power to vote quite yet,” Baldwin said, “but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have any power at all.”

Student Council Vice President Gayatri Sundar-Rajan then gave closing remarks, reminding students that “[this walkout] is only the start of the fight for gun control.” She emphasised that student action would keep the fight going. “Let [today] be the end of students sitting on the sidelines,” she said.

As the seventeen minutes came to a close, students began to file back into the school.

What Comes Next?

Like many of the student speakers said, the walkout was only the start of student action and protest for gun control.

A group of students have begun working on a lobby display, and plan to put it up soon. Likewise, Baldwin, Oke, and Curro are looking to install their memorial outside the school as soon as enough of the snow melts.

On Saturday, March 24, the March for Our Lives will be taking place throughout the entire United States. In Massachusetts, it will be in front of the state house. This protest will be another opportunity for students to publicly demand an end to gun violence.

Arlington High School presents Wonderful Town the Musical

By Isabella Scopetski

 

 

“Despite the snow, the show must go on” was the motto of this years Arlington High School musical Wonderful Town directed by AHS drama teacher Michael Byrne. Although three snow days and an unusually early show date leaves the cast pressed for time, Wonderful Town  is to be performed March 23rd, 24th, 25th. Tickets are to be sold at all three lunches, online (by cast members, and at the door).

Currently students are entering tech week of the show, somedays spending more than nine hours in the auditorium fine tuning their production and making art. The students patiently and cooperatively collaborate with each other and their director, Michael Byrne, to raise the show to its fullest potential.

The show takes place in Greenwich village, New York City during the 1930s. Wonderful Town is about two sisters who come to the city to follow their dreams, the girls originally hailing from Ohio. Byrne chose to direct Wonderful Town this spring because the music is by Lenard Bernstein, who would be celebrating his 100th birthday this year. Lenard Bernstein wrote West Side Story; a famous show which most people are familiar with. Byrne “like[s] the energy of the music” as it is similar to that of West Side Story and successfully “propels the story along”. Byrne mentions that “it is also a show that is driven by two interesting, strong women who don’t define themselves by a love interest”. Byrne seeks to introduce high school students to a show were woman (specifically Ruth and Eileen Sherwood) are able to define their worth by “who they are in the world and how they contribute to the world” rather than their worth being defined by a man.

For Byrne, the most rewarding part of any show is “having the privilege of asking students to step out of their comfort zones”. As a drama teacher at heart, Byrne enjoys watching his students succeed and thrive in the new situations they are put in. And it is the journey for Byrne, which makes directing worthwhile as he is able to, “see the transformation in these young people”.

Although Byrne has worked with adults and college students, it is the “enthusiasm” about high school students which has led him to continue teaching at the high school level. “ The energy that a high school student brings in is different than any other population [he’s] worked with”.

Undoubtedly, the most difficult part of the show for Byrne has been the snow, which robbed the cast of nearly three full days of rehearsals leading up to the show. However, he also added that he thought the difficult music presented it’s own challenge for the cast, on top of the time crunch, making the cast work doubly hard to be performance ready.

Despite the organic obstacles and setbacks directors and actors faced in the process, all would agree that it is their fellow cast members and colleagues which make such hard work worth it for them.

Junior Devin Wright, starring in the lead female role Eileen Sherwood, says the most rewarding part of the process was “to be able to work with actors like Olivia [as Ruth Sherwood] and Ben [as Bob Baker]”. Wright noted her co stars having lead roles since she was a freshman at AHS, and “being able to perform with them, singing songs with them [and] talking with them” has reassured Wright of her part in the show and that she worked hard to be a lead.

 

New Talent

 

For freshman Franco D’Agostino and Junior John Fitzgerald, Wonderful Town is serving as their high school musical theater debut. Both D’Agostino and Fitzgerald act in a number of roles in the show depending on the scene, each having to make multiple costume changes between numbers such as the switch from Tour Guide to Police Officer, or Navy Seal Cadet to village ballet dancer.

Looking back on the process, as tech week commences, D’Agostino finds “being able to work with different people that [he] might not have known” has been the most rewarding part of the experience.

In an interview, Fitzgerald confessed that the show was easier to join, socially, than he had expected; being a junior in high school and new to performing. He appreciates how “everyone gets along very well” and how fun the show has been for him. Although he is not a lead, Fitzgerald enjoys the company and the many personas he is able to take on in each scene.

Admittedly, Fitzgerald’s confidence levels in past years had prevented him from auditioning, despite his inner passion for the theater. However, Fitzgerald currently finds the show to be rewarding in the sense that he was able to “learn a whole show” and “have it all come together” in the end.

And as many others struggle with, singing and dancing at the same time, as well as learning counts for dance numbers, has been one of the most challenging aspects of performing for Fitzgerald. A main takeaway of the show for Fitzgerald was “to be happy with who you are… [and] enjoy what you are doing”. For Fitzgerald, “it’s all about having fun”.

 

The Mechanics of a Well-Oiled Machine

 

The Arlington High School productions wouldn’t be the professional grade performances that many community members, parents, teachers, and fans have compared them to each year, without the dedicated students behind each aspect of the show. Wonderful Town relies heavily on its knowledgeable and well equipped team of student stage managers in order to run smoothly and seamlessly. Being stagehand for two years now has given Michael Graham-Greene increasing leadership opportunity and growth in his role. Stage managers attend every rehearsal of the entire process, seeing the show through from start to finish, sometimes spending longer hours with director Byrne than the cast, doing clerical work, managing props and the set. “Seeing the actors having fun on stage”, says Graham-Greene, “makes the harder days less difficult”.

And what would a Byrne production be without some dance? Since Wonderful Town includes large, dance heavy numbers such as “Swing”, “Conga”, and “Ballet at the Village Vortex”, Byrne was met with the challenge of choreographing. As a director, he chose to collaborate with student dancers Annie Schoonmaker, Aubrie-Mei Rubel, Megan Hall, and Katherine Hurley. Each dancer takes classes at their own studios and together they bring a wide range of knowledge to the process and each other. Choreographing the show was no small task, each number taking many rehearsals to teach and refine the dances. As a team, the girls found it helpful to be able to “bounce ideas off of eachother for different scenes”, as mentioned by Schoonmaker. The team agreed that being able to see their work performed by their peers and come to life was the most rewarding part of the process.

The students and adults involved in the show encourage the Arlington community to come out and support them this coming weekend and see the pay off from months of hard work!

 

Students Compete Against Teachers in Basketball Game

By Ellie Crowley

On Thursday, March 15th Arlington High School hosted the student teacher basketball game. The game was the second of its kind, with the first game being in November. Teacher James Barry says that following the first game “there was a lot of interest among students and faculty to do it again.” Director of the Foreign Exchange program, Mary Villano, had the idea for the game, and all proceeds are donated to an Arlington family in need. This particular game earned the students a victory, but despite losing, Barry says that “it was a lot of fun.” Be sure to catch the next game for some student teacher rivalry and the chance to support your community!

AHS Students Attend Semester Schools

By Claire Kitzmiller

Every year, juniors at Arlington High School have the option to spend half the year at a semester school. A semester school is a high school where a small group of students from all over the country come to study for one semester. Few students take advantage of the unique opportunity, but those who do find the experience unforgettable.

There are eleven schools that students can apply to all across the country. Some examples  include CITYterm in New York City, The Mountain School in Vermont, Chewonki on the coast of Maine, and The Island School in The Bahamas.

Students apply during January through March the year before they plan to attend and find out whether or not they have been selected at the end of March. The application process includes questions about students’ educational interests, personal interests, and reasons why they want to attend the school.

Several students at AHS attended different semester schools across the country during the fall of 2017. Maya Pockrose attended Chewonki on the Maine Coast, Clara Tully attended CITYterm in New York City, and Jessie Cali attended The High Mountain Institute in Colorado.

 

Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki

 

The Chewonki school is located in Wiscasset, Maine, on the coast. The school focuses on science, sustainability, and farm life. Students live in cabins heated by wood stoves with seven other people; each cabin does two weeks of farm chores, starting at 6:30 am each morning. Students also take part in work programs, field trips, wilderness trips, and cooking.

For field trips, students visit different environments while answering prompts in field journals. Twice a week, students also engage in work programs, which include helping the maintenance crew, working on the farm, writing for the blog, working in the kitchen, and pulling out invasive species on campus.

AHS junior Maya Pockrose attended Chewonki during the fall of 2017. Pockrose was able to take many classes that corresponded to AHS classes such as Pre-Calculus, Spanish, and A.P U.S. History, but Pockrose also got to take classes unique to Chewonki. For science she studied “Natural History of the Maine Coast.” For the course, Pockrose learned about species and ecosystems local to the Maine Coast with the opportunity to visit the unique environments on field trips.

During the weekends, Pockrose spent her time going on walks, playing music, spending time with friends, and sometimes cooking dinner. She also went on special trips including a five-day wilderness trip, 2-night solo, and an outdoor leadership weekend.

Pockrose decided to apply to Chewonki because “the community, setting, and academics really appealed to [her].” Pockrose says, “the experience was truly life-changing and it’s a great opportunity.”

 

The High Mountain Institute

 

The High Mountain Institute is located in the Rocky Mountains in Leadville, Colorado. Students focus on leadership and sustainability while being immersed in the unique cultures around them. Students lived in cabins, chopping their own wood for heat while engaging in hands-on learning. The students also go on two eighteen-day backpacking trips while continuing their classes on the canyons and mountain peaks.

AHS junior Jessie Cali studied at the High Mountain Institute in the fall of 2017. Cali took classes such as AP U.S. History and Pre-Calculus, but she also got to take unique classes including “Ethics of the Natural World.”

Cali was drawn to the school because of the time outdoors, backpacking trips and location. Through the program Cali states that “I learned how to advocate for myself and develop closer relationships with teachers, and [how to] become comfortable and confident being my true self,” giving her, “control over my academic, social, and emotional success.”

 

CITYterm

CITYterm is located in New York City, held at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, forty minutes from Grand Central Station. Students spend every other day in New York City, applying in-class learning to the diverse, urban setting. Students study an interdisciplinary curriculum, including classes about the Urban Environments of New York City. During classes, students design projects and address complex problems related to the city.

AHS junior Clara Tully attended CITYterm during the fall of 2017. Tully was drawn to the school because she has always been “fascinated by New York City” and heard incredible reviews about it. At the school, Tully learned how “to ask really great questions…[and] how to be an effective group member.” Tully’s favorite part of the experience was “the amazing friendships [she] formed with not only [her] peers but also the teachers.”

 

To find out more about semester schools, go to the website https://www.semesterschools.net/

Students Travel Abroad For February Vacation

By Isabella Scopetski, Chloe Jackson and Claire Kitzmiller

The week of Feb. 18, Arlington High School students traveled overseas to take part in school organized trips meant to connect exploration and enjoyment with education and hands-on learning experiences.

AHS sent students to northern Italy, Switzerland and South Africa and many of the participants came back enthused and passionate about their experiences. Each trip involved more than a year’s planning and fundraising by the adult organizers, chaperones and parents.

Musical Italy Trip

Students in honors level Jazz Band, Honors Orchestra or Madrigal Singers traveled to Europe for 11 days to tour northern Italy and part of Switzerland. The three groups performed six concerts while abroad and prefaced the trip with a “farewell concert” performed at Arlington High the week before their departure.

Sabatino D’Agastino, conductor of the Jazz Band and Honors Orchestra, and Madaline Kitchen, conductor of the Madrigal Singers, collaborated in planning the trip to Italy over a year in advance. Preceding the trip, the conductors worked closely with the parents of the students going on the trip to plan nearly a dozen fundraising events.

Students performed in venues including a Roman Catholic church, a Swiss conservatory and an Italian music-specific high school. Between concerts, the groups toured the cities and regions of Milan, Varese, Lugano, Verona, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore.

The groups were accompanied by tour guides Guiseppe and Lorenzo Tarzia, two brothers based out of southern Italy who are knowledgeable about Italian culture, history, food and geography.

D’Agastino found the most rewarding part of the experience was “witnessing [his] students being so happy on and off stage.” He sees the trip as “a great opportunity to learn about other cultures…to perform with other musicians all from over the world…to socialize… [and] to learn how to be on their own.”

“Traveling is one of the biggest favors we can do for ourselves in terms of gaining experience, becoming more understanding, and growing love for our fellow humankind,” Kitchen said. “Performing in unfamiliar circumstances always helps improve musicianship.

Jazz Band members Joanie Cha and Nico Riley called the trip a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” and reiterated it was “a great bonding experience for everyone involved.”

One concert on the tour was held at an Italian high school of music. Each student attending the school must study two instruments throughout high school, along with their core classes. Arlington High musicians had the opportunity to talk to the Italian students who attended their concert, as well as sing with them on stage in an encore of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“We were with kids who didn’t speak the same language, [yet] we were able to connect through music,” said Cha, a Jazz Band saxophonist. For them, the most rewarding part of the experience was when everyone was on stage together and “there was a universal respect for each other as musicians.”

Not only was the music fulfilling for Cha, but simply having the privilege to “learn so much about people who [they] didn’t even know went to [their] school” was truly a gift.

While performing in new venues each concert and touring European cities were major aspects of the trip, senior Caroline Dressler’s favorite part about the trip was “getting to know everyone better,” a sentiment shared by the many students who participated.

South Africa Trip

A group of 46 students, 37 from Arlington and nine from Ashland, travel around 20 hours to South Africa. After a minor hiccup because of a delayed flight out of Boston, the group was able to spend a day exploring Paris as well as South Africa.

The students spent time working with kids at Elkanah, a private high school with grades 7-12, Atlantis, an after school program similar to a Boys and Girls Club, Table View Primary School, grades 4-7 and Ysterplaat Junior Primary School, kindergarten to third grade.

Junior Izzy Manion valued “being able to play with the kids and showing that you made an impact on their lives,” while junior Ellen Gerberick loved when she first walked in to her sixth-grade class and “all the kids’ faces just brightened.”

In addition to assisting classes in several South African schools, Arlington students visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, botanical gardens and penguins on the beach. They hiked Table Mountain and Lion’s Head and also set up a street store to donate their own personal clothing to the South African homeless.

Gerberick and Manion are eager to travel to Cape Town again and established lasting bonds with the teachers and children they worked with in Cape Town. Gerberick added “it’s good to experience a new culture and to step into someone else’s shoes, even if it’s a little uncomfortable and emotional.”

Latin Italy trip

Eight Latin language students and two teachers traveled to Italy to enrich the learning they’ve done in class . The group landed in Milan and traveled to Florence for three days before driving to Rome for another two. Latin teachers Cassandra Mea and Veronica Quinn began planning the trip with their students a year before they left.

In Florence the students traveled with a tour group, comprised of students from other schools. The group visited historical landmarks including the Birth of Jesus, The Statue of David, El Duomo and The Church of Christ. In Rome, the students traveled to the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps.

Sophomore Alevia Doyle decided to go on the trip because she loves Latin and was interested in seeing all of the places she had been learning about. Doyle’s favorite part of the trip was “getting to know different people [she] would not have talked to at school.”