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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Students and Teachers Respond to AHS Walkout

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photo by Isabella Scopetski
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photo by Isabella Scopetski

On March 14th, students around the nation walked out of their schools for 17 minutes to honor the victims of school shootings, specifically the recent shooting where 17 young lives were tragically lost at Parkland High School in Florida, and to call for gun control reform. Due to the snowstorm, however, many New England schools closed on the 14th, so those schools walked out at 10am the following day. 

Arlington High School students and faculty members each made an individual decision about whether or not to walk out. Some chose to remain inside while others organized the events, and still others participated in the walkout by leaving their classes and listening to their peers give speeches in front of the high school.

As the number of school shootings around the nation increases each day, students and teachers alike think about the best solution to a problem currently plaguing America. There are varying arguments regarding gun control and the justification of the second amendment. This article represents a sampling of student and teacher opinions regarding the effectiveness of the walkouts, as well as gun laws in America. This article is meant to expose the many layers of arguments which discuss the best ways to keep people safe.

Isa Dray

Ponder Page: What was your role in organizing the walkout?

Isa Dray: “I organized the AHS #NeverAgain walkout in collaboration with Laura Kirchner, Sophie Plotkin, and Gayatri Sundar Rajan.”

PP: What change do you hope to see in gun control laws?

ID: “Nationwide 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, which prevents federal funds awarded to the Center for Disease Control from being used to advocate or promote gun control via studies of any sorts. This is a huge deal because it means that no comprehensive studies can be performed to assess the United States’ gun violence and gun culture. In Massachusetts, we need to continue to lead the way in gun reform by passing the Extreme Risk Protective Order, which would allow a judge to order a temporary removal of guns from someone ruled to be a danger to themselves or others. With many shootings that take place, family members or friends had prior knowledge or had seen signs of intent. Passing this bill is essential to making us safer and ensuring that guns only stay in the hands of those fit to carry them.”

PP: How do you feel about how the walkout went, reflecting from a week later?

ID: “I was really happy with how the walkout went! Seeing it all come together after two and a half weeks of hard work was very fulfilling. The event also went really smoothly thanks to the large support system we had and our comprehensive planning. I loved hearing the speakers; they all had really powerful messages and it was great to hear a variety of students speak. Having elected officials Sean Garballey, Dave Rogers, and Joe Curro, their listening to us and supporting us along with our community meant so much to me. It was really awesome to see AHS students come together for the second week in a row to show that this matters to us and to confront the reality that this could happen to us too, which is why we need to take action!”

PP: Further thoughts? Main takeaway?

ID: “I think it’s super important that people stay engaged. The national walkout to call for gun reform is not a one and done thing. We need to continue the momentum, keep this conversation in the headlines and continuously work towards comprehensive gun laws. Change doesn’t happen overnight and I encourage everyone to not let the walkout be the only thing you do. The biggest danger to this movement is the potential for it to die out if people do not stay engaged. Attend the March for Our Lives Saturday March 24th in Boston, attend the Young Dems workshops that are focused around contacting reps and making change, continue meaningful conversation with those around you, and pay attention for more walkouts scheduled for the coming weeks. Students are pushing for the Extreme Risk Protective order to be passed in Massachusetts by mid-April and we need to really work towards this by contacting our reps and demonstrating our frustration and commitment.”

Harjot Singh

“I just feel like the walkout isn’t really going to accomplish anything. 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 the school is not going to bring this change. Most of the kids that I talked to said that they were just walking out just to miss class and a lot of others don’t know what they are protesting against. For why I didn’t walkout, that’s because I don’t believe in what this movement is about. I was inside and I had my 17 minutes of silence to pay respects to the 17 people that had died, but I don’t think that the banning of semi-automatic rifles and other firearms is going to help. I know that this is not what the main goal is behind the walkout, but that’s what it is becoming. People that I have talked to, that support the walkout, have said that this is what they are trying to accomplish. I believe that if all guns in general disappeared we would be in a good place, but that is unrealistic. With the ban of assault rifles, the only thing that would happen is that law abiding citizens would turn in their guns, and criminals would not, and then there would be a large group of armed criminals that have an advantage over unarmed law abiding citizens that use their guns for good. But onto the third question: I definitely did feel supported by the teachers in the school. In both classes, the teachers engaged in conversations with me and there was no judging except by a few other students but that doesn’t matter.”

Laura Kirchner

PP: Why did you decide to become involved with the walkout?

LK: “The National Walkout started being planned, and we noticed a lot of posts for other schools that were participating, but we noticed that there were no posts for Arlington High School, so we figured it would be better to have an organized event where we were all walking out with a purpose and we had a plan for what we would do with those 17 minutes rather than people aimlessly walking out, because it’s more powerful if we actually know what we’re doing and what we’re walking out for.”

PP: Were there any challenges you faced as an organizer?

LK: “We did have some trouble communicating with the administration, especially with the snow day, because instead of walking out with schools across the country we walked out with schools across New England. We all knew that we wanted to make it as soon as possible after the snow day, and we essentially said to the administration, ‘we will be walking out at 10 o’clock’ and we just had to organize with them; they of course wanted students to be safe during the walkout so we just had to figure stuff out with the police to make sure there was some separation between the community and the students, but then again we didn’t want the community to be excluded because it’s affecting the community as well every time there’s an event like this.”

Mr. Fant (history dept)

Last Wednesday, March 7th during A block I addressed my AP Governments students concerning the walkout. I told them that I was not personally offended if they chose to participate in the walkout and that I support them exercising their right to free speech;however, if they chose to walk out of the graded moot court assessment scheduled for that period, it would affect their participation grade for that assignment. I also 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.

Here is my reasoning.

When Henry David Thoreau wrote about his decision to not pay his taxes as a way to protest the war with Mexico in the 1840s he knew he would be arrested for breaking the law. In fact, when he was bailed out of jail by a relative within 24 hours, he was angry that he could not stay in jail longer because he believed that suffering a consequence for his act of civil disobedience gave it more strength and meaning. This is why Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi engaged in direct action and civil disobedience and suffered the consequences of fines and jail time for their causes.

Additionally, students have a constitutional right to disruptive protest in schools as seen in the Supreme Court Case Tinker v. Des Moines. When Mary Beth Tinker and her friends wore black armbands to school to protest the war in Vietnam, they intended to disrupt the regular educational activities of the school day. That’s the point of protest, not just to signal virtues, but to cause conversation hopefully change through disruption.

Rescheduling assessments (such as the moot court) or excusing absences to accommodate the walkout creates two problems. The first is that doing so would undermine the protest itself by separating civil disobedience from consequence, however small it is in this case. The protest would be less disruptive of the regular school day and therefore less effective.

I support the aims of this walkout and this student-led movement to make our schools safer by demanding more gun control. I am inspired by Arlington High School students and their willingness to demand action and take part in protest movements like this one. Furthermore, I am looking forward to participating in the scheduled rally on Inclusion Day and I imagine I will see a lot of AHS students at the March For Our Lives rally on March 24th when I exercise my own First Amendment right concerning the issue of gun violence.

My support for this walkout brings me to the second problem inherent in accommodating it in my class. Doing so in this case, because I support the movement, would set a precedent that all future walkouts will be sanctioned as well, regardless of what those walkouts are protesting. Public school teachers should be hesitant to punish or sanction speech no matter how popular or unpopular. Therefore, I plan on applying the same policy to future walkouts and protests which cause students to miss all or part of a scheduled assessment.

Mr. Matson (history dept)

PP: Do you believe in penalizing students for participating in the walkouts? (such as a lower participation grade)

Scott Matson: “As far as the penalties are concerned, I didn’t do any penalties, but I think it’s up to the individual teacher.”

PP: How effective do you think the walk outs are going to be in the near future, or long term?

SM: “I do not think they 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 the social media is telling them to do.”

PP: Why do you think students are targeting the ‘wrong people’?

SM: “They are targeting people who are NRA members, who I know a lot of, and they have nothing to do with [gun laws in America].” Additionally, Matson thinks,“there are other issues that should be more focused on, like the whole social media issue” rather than the issue of gun control.

Milo Kiely-Song

Milo chose to participate in both AHS walkouts.

PP: What do you think about having a penalty on the walkout?

Milo Kiely-Song:“Here’s my thinking: it’s a walkout, if you are going to participate, you shouldn’t expect the full support of the administration … it’s not a school sanctioned event.”

PP: Why did you decide to walk out?

MK-S: “I decided to walk out because I absolutely believe that stricter gun regulations are necessary to make our country and our schools safer.”

PP: In what way do you think the walkouts will move things forward?

MK-S: “I think the walkouts will serve a twofold purpose: first of all to simply demonstrate the discontent in our country at the moment, especially among our generation … the generation moving into the position of being able to vote. Secondly … it’s a launching point, it spreads the word, it gets people involved and interested in the process of making change.”

PP: In what way do you find your own views to be different from other students at AHS?

MK-S: “I am a Libertarian. And Libertarianism is the belief in one’s own freedoms … property rights, land rights, etc. And in terms of gun laws for me, that means I do not believe in banning the distribution of guns in this market. I don’t think the government should have that much control over business and what they chose to sell. However, since guns are very dangerous, especially semi-automatic weapons, I believe that it us necessary for us to impose stricter regulations on the purchase of such guns. A lot of people talk about putting a ban on semi-automatic weapons being sold, and, personally, I do not think that is necessarily the best idea for us. Everyone wants to preserve their liberties, [and] nobody’s against that. And in this time of social and political turmoil, I think it is important to retain those liberties. And if we do implement stricter background checks and more comprehensive systems towards buying a gun, I don’t think we need to actually ban semi-automatic weapons to get the same result.”

PP: Why were you uncertain that your opinion would be valued or “fit” in my article?

MK-S: “I think I can have a lot of great conversations [here at AHS] with people who respect my opinions, but this is Massachusetts… which tends to mean that there are less people with more conservative outlooks and similar opinions to mine.”

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!

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.”

 

AHS Hosts Prom Dress Drive

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By Jessie Cali

Arlington High School’s Student Council is holding its second Prom Dress Drive on Thursday, February 15th in Old Hall from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM.

With spring approaching, many Arlington High School students have started searching for dresses to wear on prom night. Facebook pages where students can post pictures of their dresses have become filled with gowns and rompers varying in size and shape. But prom apparel, particularly dresses, can be pricey; many new dresses cost upwards of $300.

In order to help students save money while still finding the perfect dress, the Student Council created the Prom Dress Drive. A variety of new and gently used dresses have been donated to the event, mainly by AHS alumni and upperclassmen.

Devin Wright, junior class vice president and key organizer in the event, stated “We want to give people a local, cheap event for prom dresses,” and, referring to the difficulty and expense of dress shopping, said “It saves time and money for everyone.”

The event took place for the first time last year, but Wright believes that “this year it will be an even bigger success,” because it is a more established event, and the student council has made an intense effort to advertise the event, posting details on flyers around the school and utilizing social media (particularly Facebook) to spread the word.

Dress prices range from $15 to $70. Proceeds from the event go to the student council budget. This money is then used to fund student government events and trips.

The event may take place again if it is successful. “March 6th is a possible second date depending on how this first one goes,” says Laura Kirchner, Student Council President.  

Junior Prom takes place on Friday, April 27th, and Senior Prom takes place on Thursday, May 24th.

Arlington Students Represented in Lexington Art Exhibit

 

 

By Chloe Jackson

From January 13th to January 28th, the Lexington Arts & Crafts Society hosted the 22nd Annual Regional High School Artist Show. The exhibit was comprised of students from Burlington, Lexington, Bedford, Waltham, Winchester, Lexington Christian Academy, Concord-Carlisle, Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical, and Arlington high schools. The exhibit was full of  impressive pieces  displayed with pride to the public. With free admission and parking for the Parsons Gallery on Waltham Street in Lexington, the exhibit attracted parents, students, and many Massachusetts patrons.

Around fifty handpicked artists from Arlington High School were represented in the art show, accompanying pieces from neighboring school districts. Among many of the talented artists selected by Arlington High staff to have their work represented, was Eliza McKissick, a Junior in Mixed Media and Sculpture taught Ms. Rebola-Thompson. McKissick appreciated the opportunity to have her work displayed in a formal setting, and when visiting the show enjoyed the dozens of other “really fantastic pieces” on display.

A well-attended reception commemorating the hard work of these young artists was held on January 28th, the final day the exhibit was open, from 2pm to 4pm. Arlington High School art teachers Ms. Rebola-Thompson, Ms. McCulloch, and Mr. Moore worked to construct as well as deconstruct the display at Parsons Gallery before the opening of the show on January 13th. On January 28th, the reception took place to celebrate an end to the creative and thoughtful exhibit, contributed to by students and faculty.

Arlington High art teacher Ms. Rebola-Thompson continues to look forward to the annual event, where her students are recognized for their effort and talent. Rebola tells how she gleans much from the experience, affirming that “the art teachers get to connect with a bunch of different art teachers from around the local area and see what other people are doing in their classrooms.” Not only do the art teachers retain skills and information from the Regional High School Artist Show, but students also gain a positive inspirational experience, according to Ms. Rebola. Along with numerous members of the Arlington artistic student body, Rebola believes that, with an “eclectic and diverse” array of pieces, it was “wonderful to have students work out in the community and share their work with a greater audience.”

February Italy/Switzerland Trip Nears

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By Lauren Bain

From Thursday, February 15th to Saturday, February 24th, members of the Arlington High School Madrigal Singers, Honors Orchestra, and Jazz Band will embark on a performing trip to Italy and Switzerland. There, they will tour major cities throughout Italy and Switzerland, as well as their local churches, schools, and museums. Beyond venturing internationally as high schoolers, students will perform at the Teatro Santuccio in Varese, Italy, Tradate High School in Tradate, Italy, the San Giovanni Battista Basilica in Milan, Italy, and attend a three day workshop followed by a performance with Lugano’s Conservatory members in Lugano, Switzerland.

A large trip such as this takes time, organization, and money. The provided travel agency is organizing flights, hotels, meals, buses, sightseeing expenses, performances, and other critical details. Part of each student’s payment will go into covering these expenses.

Expenses will also be subsidized by fundraisers that the performing arts department are hosting throughout the school year leading up to the trip. Fundraisers include car washes, yard sales, spaghetti night, a Barnes & Noble performance, the Jazz Band concert, the Madrigals concert, and the sale of raffle tickets at concerts. This Friday, February 9th in AHS’ Lowe Auditorium at 7:00pm, a Farewell Concert will be hosted in celebration of this trip. The students have already completed many fundraisers and still have more planned.

The trip’s popularity took off under the leadership of Sabato D’Agostino and Performing Arts’ prior department head, Pasquale Tassone. D’Agostino, a Salerno, Italy native, is AHS’ instrumental director, who leads band and orchestra. Through the trip, D’Agostino and Tassone have deepened the ties between AHS students and international music education. To this day, global citizenship and education serves as a foundation of the Arlington Public Schools. Arlington World Languages department hosts the Global Competence Program, providing graduates with the ability to contribute internationally and employ a broad-minded mindset throughout their lives.

When asked about the benefits of performing abroad, Madalyn Kitchena, a choir teacher at AHS since 2014 and head of The Madrigals, replied, “Instead of just performing for our own community, you are among strangers and a very different culture. The students are representing their school, but also their state and country for others outside it, which brings its own pressures and personal expectations.” On the importance of a strong foundation of education in the performing arts, Kitchen notes, “Students brains are used in different ways than in other things, and that tends to enhance their abilities in other areas of school and life. It enriches their experiences, and since music has such a strong connection to emotions, I believe that participating in music creates or contributes to a more healthy mind and emotional state.”

If you are a student at AHS interested in the prominent Performing Arts program featured at the school, both Mr. D’Agostino and Mrs. Kitchen advocate for everyone to join. D’Agostino deems the program’s environment, “very relaxed, passionate and welcoming,” while Kitchen highlights how important music is to all parts of your life.
Fundraisers will continue to be held for this trip until February Vacation and will be broadcasted on the morning announcements. For more information about how you can help, email mkitchen@arlington.k12.ma.us or sdagostino@arlington.k12.ma.us.

AHS Students Compete in Battle of the Bands

By Grace Walters

On Saturday, Jan. 27, Arlington High School’s S.T.A.N.D club hosted the 12th annual Battle of The Bands at the Regent Theatre in Arlington.

Stereolith, Over Easy, Error 404 and Loudstreet battled it out for a title and cash prize. Each group rocked the house with hit songs like “24k Magic by Bruno Mars, played by Error 404, and “Today” by The Smashing Pumpkins, played by Over Easy.

The event lasted for roughly two hours, ending with a performance by a group of Arlington High School teachers, Social Studies teacher Glen Fant, English teacher Lianna Bessette, English teacher Justin Bourassa, English teacher Paul McKnight and English teacher Tim Martin, known as The Educated Guests.

Thanks to ACMi, every performance was video-recorded from various angles and by numerous camerapeople.

 

Getting to the battle

 

S.T.A.N.D club advisor Mr. McKnight held a meeting in early November of last year in which students inquired about the audition and selection process for bands who wished to compete in the event. Each band was required to send a demo tape featuring three songs no later than Nov. 18.

The band Over Easy described a demanding process for preparing for the show. Practice hours conflicted with the band members’ school schedules and the availability of a practice location was not always guaranteed.

“It’s tough, but it’s worth it,” says Over Easy’s guitarist and lead vocalist, Junior Cole Fanning.

“We’re not trying to win, we’re just trying to have fun,” Fanning added.

 

Fundraising for a cause

 

Juniors Devin Wright and Neil Tracey emceed the event. They introduced each band, adding a mixture of humor and witty banter between acts. Proceeds from the event were donated to Save the Children, a foundation whose goal is to aid children across the globe in areas such as education, hunger and the accessibility of resources.

Additionally, raffle tickets offered up prizes from restaurants and local businesses such as Menotomy Grill & Tavern and a variety of assorted baskets with themes like “Date Night” and “Treat Yourself.”  

A title and cash prize were awarded to two groups: the Judges’ Choice, who received $50, and the Audience Choice, who received $100.

The judging panel consisted of the five members of The Educated Guests who deliberated while the remaining attendees were able to cast digital votes.

 

And the winner is…

 

Each band played a maximum of eight songs, most of which were covers. However, band Error 404 surprised the audience with an original song entitled “Don’t Mess Around.”

As the show progressed, an increasing number of audience members gathered at the edge of the stage where they chanted, danced, waved cellphone lights in the air, and sang along.

The crowd was especially fervent when the band of teachers, The Educated Guests, performed “All Star” by Smash Mouth and “Shut Up And Dance” by Walk The Moon.

Junior Ben Clossey, the band’s drummer, said the atmosphere of the show was “very inclusive; it’s more about the music and less about who wins.”

At the end of the show, Wright and Tracey announced that the band Error 404—consisting of Juniors Sam Goldstein, Julian Carpenter, Quinn Connell, Joey Dalton, and Olivia Carpenter—won both titles.