AHS Garden Club Works to Beautify the School

By: Halle Snell

On a drizzly day in May, junior Molly Hankinson and the rest of the AHS Garden Club met outside Arlington High School with a box of flowers. Their mission? To replant the centerpieces that were used for junior prom.

Hankinson is the sole leader of the AHS Garden Club, which was founded last spring. Hankinson and her psych class were cleaning the courtyards during their final block when her teacher, Mr. Sandler, expressed his wish for a garden club. Inspired by the idea, Hankinson and made it her mission to start one. The club now has about ten regular members.

Their most recent project took place after junior prom, when junior class president Lauren Murphy donated the centerpieces. Hankinson initially hoped to plant them in the courtyard outside the lunchroom, but the custodial staff at AHS convinced her to start at the front of the school. Club members “just did whatever [they] wanted with them… it was cool that everyone got [to be creative.”] They planted red and yellow daffodils under trees, next to benches, and around the four memorials in front of the school. One of the AHS janitors who helped Hankinson with the project plans to buy tulips and sunflowers in order to continue planting.

Hankinson emphasized the fact that “[nobody really] likes going to school, so it’s nicer to see pretty flowers at the beginning of the school day, instead of nothing.” Students do not tend to take advantage of the front yard, so she figured that they “might as well make it look good so people want to be out there more.” Most AHS students are unaware that there are four memorials on the lawn. The club placed the flowers around the memorials to emphasize their existence and add an extra touch.

Next year, the AHS Garden Club hopes to work in both the back courtyards and the courtyard next to the lunch room. Deweeding them would be Hankinson’s first step, and she then hopes to plant more flowers. She realizes that “there’s not much we can do long term, because the school’s getting knocked down, so we try to plant what we can.”

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Class Of 2019 Graduates

By: Riley McKenna

On Saturday, June 1, the 153rd annual Arlington High School graduation took place for the Class of 2019. Flowers were set up next to the podium where students and staff delivered speeches. The graduates’ seats were facing the bike path, where curious passersby stopped to watch.

The first couple of hours started out warm but ended with heavy wind. Excited family members and friends gathered on the bleachers, balloons and flowers in hand.  As people arrived, the Arlington High School Band (directed by Sabatino D’Agostino) played music until 3:00, when the event started.

The graduates began walking onto the turf after Paul McKnight, the Master of Ceremonies and dean of the Collomb house, welcomed everyone. The graduates were dressed in maroon caps and gowns and walked in pairs. They were led by Bagpiper Hamish Blackman. Once they sat down, the Arlington Police Department Honor Guard performed the presentation of Colors. Raising the American and Massachusetts flags high in the air, they walked down the aisle.

Before leaving, the band performed the National Anthem. McKnight then thanked the graduation coordinator Joanna Begin and volunteers who helped out with the event. He also wished all of the Arlington graduates a future full of “success and happiness.” McKnight then introduced the Principal of Arlington High, Dr. Matthew Janger. Janger thanked all of the students, families, administrators, volunteers, and teachers who had helped out with the ceremony. He talked about the important and valuable “knowledge, memories, and relationships” that he hopes the graduates took away from their time at AHS.

Class secretary Julia Alesse presented the elementary and middle school appreciation awards. She thanked them and added, “We couldn’t have done it without you.” Alyssa Frank from Bishop School, Colleen Gorman from Brackett School, Adriane DiPasquale form Dallin School, Laurie Johnstone from Hardy School, Christina Perkoski from Pierce School, Janet Satlak-Mott from Stratton School, Siobhan Foley from Thompson School, and Nanta Hardesty from Ottoson Middle School were all awarded.

Leonard Kardon, chair of the Arlington school committee, then gave a speech congratulating the graduates, telling them, “Arlington is very proud of you.” Dr. Kathleen Bodie, superintendent of schools, stepped up to the podium to acknowledge the school’s staff and recognize the accomplishments and contributions the class of 2019 gave to AHS.

The speeches then took a pause as the AHS Madrigal singers and Rhythm Section stepped up to perform “When Your Mind Is Made Up”, arranged by graduate Ben Horsburgh. After the concluding applause, Class President Neil Tracey took the podium. He talked about his memories of the Jason Russell House bullet holes and how the town of Arlington is made up of revolutionaries because of how much we’ve learned. He said that the class of 2019 is “not a passive community” because of all of the revolutionaries who are part of it.

Lucia Voges, President of the Student Council, came up after Tracey, stating that she “realized how similar adults living in Arlington were to kids” after spending time on the Arlington List, a Facebook page for the people of Arlington. Both generations had similar disagreements, problems, questions, and reactions, mainly involving politics that concern her about what future life will be like outside of Arlington. She left the podium declaring, “there are things in life that do not involve politics” and she hopes we can remember that.

Next, Faculty speaker Timothy Marten, introduced by Isabella Dray, commenced his speech with a story about his first day teaching at AHS. He related the nervous feelings he had to all of the students’ nervous feelings from when they started high school as freshmen. He talked about perseverance and getting through difficult times by comparing a bike ride in a blizzard to high school for the graduates. With great applause, he ended his speech by announcing, “don’t make your lives small to avoid these feelings- step right into their path.”

The first honors speaker was graduate Maggie Horgan. She discussed the frequently asked questions concerning the new AHS that will be built in the upcoming years. She also defined “our” AHS as the school with the flooded bathrooms, broken computers, and stinky hallways.  She also explained how the new building will never be “ours” because of all the special experiences that occurred in the current school. The second honors speaker was Joey Dalton who gave a speech describing the accomplishments of the Class of 2019, what he and the other graduates will miss, and his thoughts about moving on. He also asked the audience to “remember to be positive, show grace, and stay kind.”

After an introduction by McKnight, Janger and Kardon handed out the diplomas. AHS dean Veronica Tivnan and William McCarthy read off the names. After the diplomas had been handed out to each of the graduates, Tracey presented the class gift and farewell. He stated that the class of 2019’s gift will be a fund to help build the new AHS and to “create a depiction and commemoration of the current high school.” Tracey then invited all of the graduates to move their tassels to the left side of their caps.  The graduates then excitedly threw their caps in the air.

After the ceremony concluded, family, friends, and graduates crowded together on the turf to celebrate. Hats and sashes lay on the ground and on chairs, pictures were taken and hugs were given. The ceremony was described by a friend of one of the graduates as “an all-around good graduation” and “really inspiring.”

AHS Tries Composting

By Grace Walters

During the fall of her junior year, senior Maya Pockrose attended the Maine Coast Chewonki semester school, a private institution centered around community and environmental justice.  There, Pockrose participated in the school’s composting program, which prompted her to “want to make a change at AHS” and pursue a similar endeavor at Arlington High School.

Upon returning from Chewonki, Pockrose wrote a proposal to the school administration and began working with the school’s sustainability coordinator, Rachel Oliveri.  She then met with the administration and negotiated a compost “pilot,” by which a simple system of composting would be used in the cafeteria one day a week. Pockrose says, “we only did it once a week because we were testing it out […] this year, we were able to have [the system run] every day because we figured out funding and a good system with the custodians.”

Compost is made possible at AHS by Black Earth Compost, a local company that collects and composts organic waste in Massachusetts.  “They basically take away our food waste and they process it at their facility because [AHS] doesn’t have space or the resources to have a fully-functioning processing system,” says Pockrose.  

How Composting Works

The composting initiative has been in effect since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.  However, many students are still confused as to how it works. Most plastics, such as wrappers and bottles, are either recycled or thrown into the regular trash bin, and organic materials—namely, food scraps, lunch trays, and organic napkins, wrappers, and food boats—are thrown into the compost bin.  

Encouraging Students

In an attempt to increase the normality of composting, Pockrose “tried to incentivize [composting]” by holding a raffle in which every person who composted would be in the running to receive a Dunkin Donuts gift card.  Pockrose adds, “We decided not to do [a raffle] this year because people just need to get used to [composting] of their own volition.”

The Benefits of Composting

Once it is finally processed, compost can be added to soil and used for agricultural purposes.  Pockrose says, “It adds a lot of nutrients to the soil […] the reason you don’t want to put compost in a landfill is because it is not going to be properly aerated […] you might think it will break down by itself in the same amount of time, but it would take so much longer if you put a banana peel in a landfill than in a compost bin because it’s smothered by plastics and it’s just not gonna work out […] It’s good for the earth because you get those nutrients back into the cycle.”  

Transgender Students in AHS

 

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By Lucy Spangler

In the Massachusetts midterm elections, three ballot questions were voted on. Question 3 ended up passing; however had it not, the consequences could have been dire for the Massachusetts transgender community. Question 3 is a gender identity discrimination referendum dealing with Senate Bill 2470, also known as the bill that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public places. A “yes” vote would support the bill and a “no” vote would repeal the bill.

I first heard about this bill while attending Boston pride last June. I was curious, so in the weeks leading up to the midterms I was able to interview the leaders of Arlington High School’s GSA, Joanie Cha, Henry Walters, and Morgan Curley. I was hoping to gain some insight through the GSA into what it is like for transgender students at AHS.

I started out by asking them if, in a state that traditionally votes democratically, did they find it odd that a bill like this was being proposed in the first place.The general consensus from the three of them was that it was shocking that a bill such as this was being disputed in the first place. Next we talked about AHS as a community, specifically whether or not AHS provides adequate support for trans students. Cha and Curley brought up how one of the main day-to-day problems is the lack of gender neutral bathrooms, a struggle that not a lot of students may realize, simply because it does not affect them. “There are only two gender neutral bathrooms in the school” Cha said “[and only one] gender neutral locker room.”

Another issue is the inconsistency within the school community when it comes to support and education. “I feel like the school is very supportive in specific ways and provides resources but it is not consistent in the community,” Cha mentioned, illustrating how, while the administration might be supportive, there is a slight lack of support and understanding within the general student body.

While we were talking, the topic of the vandalism last year came up, when homophobic graffiti was found spray painted on the outside of the school. On the day after the vandalism, an assembly was held where Dr. Janger and some of the senior officers all spoke out against the vandalism and about how it did not reflect the AHS community. One would think that the GSA would have been the first ones to know about this assembly, but as it turns out, they were not even notified. Walters expressed that “it alienated a lot of people”. According to Walters, he also explained how, when they tried to reach out to Dr Janger about organizing something with the GSA and the student council, they were more or less shot down. This type of response from the administration was disappointing to members of the GSA and is an example of the disconnect between the administration and the people actually affected by issues with homophobia and transphobia within the school.

Despite these issues, they all agreed that, whatever the outcome of the midterms, the environment in AHS would not change; however, Curley and Cha both expressed their worries about the results. Curley stated that they felt that it could “embolden transphobic and homophobic people”, while Cha expressed that they “would feel less safe”.

When asked if any of them had any suggestions for how the school could improve the environment for transgender people, suggestions such as including more gender neutral bathrooms and locker rooms, as well as including questions about each student’s pronouns in student questionnaires and giving teachers basic gender diversity training were all brought up. Also suggested was, including gender diversity in sex ed classes and having the GSA work alongside the school to educate students. Overall, the changes proposed by Cha, Walters, and Curley are very simple changes; they would not be too difficult to implement, and would make life at school much easier for transgender, gender neutral, genderqueer, gender fluid, and non binary students at AHS.

The mention of such changes made me wonder how much training teachers actually receive and what protocols are in place for the protection of transgender students. When interviewing Mr. DiLoreto, his response to the question was that, “It’s a two part answer: our superintendent and school committee have taken on an initiative to support diversity in the Arlington schools, as a result our teachers have been a part of multiple programs and developments to support our students over the past few years”. He also added that the topic of gender diversity “is very broad. It would be very helpful for our staff to be trained better on how to support our transgender students in the issues they face on a daily basis, [issues like] name changes and identity changes have all been discussed”.

In the end, question 3 passed, which shows that there is support out there for transgender students. The fact that these issues are currently being discussed among the administration shows willingness to provide support however, the concerns from the students are also very real and there is a definite need for them to be addressed. The changes they are asking for would not cause too much disruption among the general student body, and in the end the act of acceptance and tolerance is free. The issue appears to not necessarily be a lack of support, but is a lack of comprehension and communication within the school community.

Glenn Doyle Flips His Way Through the Circus Smirkus

 

By Claire Kitzmiller

Most high school student’s extracurriculars consist of  a varsity sport, or student-organized club, an instrument, or musical theater, but, freshman Glenn Doyle spent the summer creating and traveling with the Circus Smirkus as an acrobat.

Doyle got his start while living in the Netherlands in 2013, participating in competitive acrobatics. During his first year in competition, he won the Dutch national competition, becoming a national champion at age 9.

The next year, Doyle was unable to compete so he turned to Circus. He found a love for Circus and wanted to continue after moving to Arlington in 2015.

During the summer of 2018, Doyle joined the Circus Smirkus, working and living with the group for ten weeks.

For the first three weeks, the performers put together the show.  Doyle described the creation of the show as a collaboration with the other performers, like “a coloring sheet: they have the lines and you just fill it in.”

For the next seven weeks, they toured around New England and New York performing their show, many of which were sold out. Doyle performed as a clown as well as doing some acrobatics.

Doyle said his favorite things was, “spending time with my friends and performing and just having a blast!”

Doyle encourages everyone to check out the Circus as he believes “it will change their view of the circus and clowns because if you see me as a clown, you’ll think, he’s not that scary.”

While Doyle currently competes on the Arlington High School Varsity Wrestling team, he still has a love for gymnastics and plan to continue working with the Circus in the future and possibly as a career.

 

AHS Cracks Down on JUULS

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By Lulu Eddy

This past summer, administration increased the consequences of being caught with a JUUL in Arlington High School from being treated under the tobacco policy, to being treated as drug paraphernalia. A JUUL is a type of e-cigarette that uses nicotine salts for its key ingredients.

The school board talked to administrators from surrounding schools to compare the level of severity with which they handled vaping on school grounds. “Most other schools handled the offense with more severity last year than did Arlington High School,” said Paul McKnight, dean of Arlington High School’s Collumb house.

McKnight said that last year, vaping “became a sudden phenomenon,” so administration was not quite sure how to go about handling the issue. Last year, the tobacco policy was a fee of $100 for students caught smoking or in possession of tobacco. However, most students avoided the fee by attending tobacco education and screening for addiction.

Many reports of JUULs being used in classrooms were brought to the dean’s offices. This is an issue that Mr. McKnight personally dealt with regularly.

A student from Arlington High School said, “there should be rules about [vaping] and then some education about nicotine, but calling JUUling drug paraphernalia is over the top. Calling it drug paraphernalia isn’t gonna make people stop. Just ramping up the consequences isn’t going to cause any real shift in kids’ behavior. If kids are JUULing, they’re gonna JUUL.”  

Another Arlington High School student feels “offended” when they see students vaping in school. They said, “I don’t want that here”. In response to the increased punishment surrounding vaping, “I feel like rules and restrictions aren’t what we need. I feel like we need the school to educate people about it”. This student also agrees that, “kids are going to do what they want… I feel like rules and restrictions aren’t what we need I feel like we need the school to educate people”. As vaping is new phenomenon, the effects it has have not been fully uncovered.

When McKnight responded to the idea that increasing punishment would decrease general use, he stated,“I don’t know if discouraging it in school would necessarily change out of school behavior…I guess we would hope so.”

One major concern with vaping in the school is the variability in what students fill their devices with. “There is a gray area in terms of determining what exactly students are vaping,” said McKnight. “What we’ve learned is that there is a method by which those pods can be filled with THC oil.” He points out that marijuana creates a disruption in classroom learning, and it can be “psychologically addictive.”

In comparison to other schools, Arlington High School faced a higher instance of kids JUULing in class. From surrounding towns, Arlington High School was seen as a place where students could openly vape in class according to Mr. McKnight. He responded to this with the following fear: “Well, what does that project as an image? The climate of the school? That’s why we take [vaping] very seriously.” Having high numbers of students vaping in school creates a bad reputation for Arlington High School. These concerns for the appearance of the school to bordering towns was a major reason for why the level of punishment increased so dramatically over the summer.

McKnight ends with a warning: “Is the benefit of engaging in it worth losing the privilege of being able to go to dances, prom, or [to] be able to go these kinds of things? Because we just don’t want it in the building.”

This year so far, reported instances of vaping in class have decreased with the new rule. While the students have mixed feelings about this rule, it has proved effective. JUULing transcends academic performance, demographics, age, gender, and social standing so it is a heavy threat. Student health and running the school day without constant disruption is still a priority to administration. While students will find a way to use substances one way or another, the in-school use is being successfully monitored.  

AHS English Department Increases Diversity in the Curriculum

By Maya Pockrose

AHS English teachers piled into the classroom of Matthew Cincotta (a fellow AHS English teacher) after school one unseasonably warm October afternoon for one of their regular meetings to discuss classes and curricula. Chocolate-covered almonds circulated around the table as everybody got settled, talking and laughing, before Deborah Perry, the district English director, began the meeting.

As a goal, the Arlington Public Schools district strives to achieve cultural competency. According to the National Education Association, cultural competence is “the ability to successfully teach students who come from a culture or cultures different than our own” (NEA). Perry says that a goal of the English department at AHS is to “put an increased emphasis on voice and perspective” as well as to “help kids find their own voices, and see other people’s voices.”

At AHS, there is an emphasis on a “living curriculum” that is “always changing and morphing to the times,” in the words of Cincotta. Justin Bourassa feels that “it can always be better,” but the department is “getting much better representation in terms of protagonists [and] much better representation in terms of the authors and their identities, across all spectrums and all factors of identities.” But teachers also want students to feel included and seen even if the books do not feature characters who exactly match their own identities: Megan Miller says focusing on students’ voices provides “an opportunity for students to take their own unique perspective” and think about “what their voice can contribute, just like the character or the authors contributing a voice.”

The English Department is working hard to emphasize perspective. Bourassa clarifies that the department is not embracing different perspectives “simply to check boxes,” but rather they are choosing “good, powerful pieces of literature” that also stem from different origins. One course that particularly emphasizes these choices is the Missing Voices 12th grade course. In the curriculum for that course, teachers have been “broadening” the texts they use and have and “knocked walls down,” according to Bourassa. Perry notes how “in the last four years or so [the department has] consciously changed the senior Missing Voices course” to introduce new and different voices and texts.

Accessibility is also key to diversity in an English curriculum. Perry says that “even adding a graphic novel is another way to add diversity” and telling a story through visuals “is a whole other way of seeing.” And approach plays a key role, as well. “Even if it is an older piece of literature, the lens might be different dependent on the times,” explains Lauren Geiger. She adds that “your parents didn’t read Fahrenheit 451 the same way we are reading it now,” which is why older texts still hold value and have merit even today.

Though the English department is making great strides in adding different types of diversity, it is certainly a group effort that takes time and thought. Erin Bradley, emphasizes that she and other English teachers “all need to and … want to put in that effort to keep [the] curriculum fresh and keep it reflecting the society we see around us.” Bourassa brings up “the idea of ‘updating,’” and notes that “there are a lot of very contemporary texts that are also very good, teachable, powerful, meaningful texts.”

The AHS English curriculum is constantly evolving, and the department has not stopped examining their curriculum and making changes as everyone sees fit. This aligns with the National Education Association’s assertion that “educators become culturally competent over time” and not “as a result of a single day of training, or reading a book, or taking a course.” And the teachers at AHS are certainly putting in that time and effort. The district as a whole is very supportive of this initiative as well; Geiger feels that “the great thing about Arlington is that we’re, as professionals, really afforded the creative space and time to focus on what we teach and how we approach it.” And none of these changes are made arbitrarily or artificially; as Bourassa says, the department is not “doing anything for the sake of doing it.”

Macbeth Takes AHS

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By Connor Rempe

Mr. Michael Byrne, AHS’s very own drama teacher, flinches whenever the word Macbeth is uttered in his theater. Afterall, theater superstition dictates that unless you are performing or rehearsing Macbeth, the word is taboo. Most people would think that this would present an interesting challenge to those trying to perform the show. Mr. Byrne is not most people.

The Arlington High School production of Macbeth wrapped up after its final show on November 17th. When selecting a fall show Byrne has a cycle to go by: Classic American, Contemporary American, Shakespeare and finally Non-English Classic. This year was a Shakespeare year. In the past Mr. Byrne has stuck to comedies, however, this year he went the other way. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and bloodiest tragedies and presented some interesting challenges for Byrne and his cast.

The process of putting on the show begins in the spring. Byrne picked Macbeth thinking it would resonate with today’s audience. He thought that Macbeth “would be interesting in our current … environment to look at a play that is in many ways about politics and power and who does and doesn’t have power.”

rom there the next step was to look into what was going on in Shakespeare’s world while Macbeth was being written. Perhaps the most notable event of the time was the failing of the Gunpowder Plot, a plan by English Catholic to overthrow King James I, in 1605. Byrne found that Shakespeare’s work was emblematic of that event. “ In 1616 [Shakespeare] wrote [Macbeth], Othello and Lear… all three of which are pretty agressive and ask what does it mean to be a good person and what do you do when bad things happen?”

The next part of the process for  Byrne was to cut down the play from its original form. While this may seem surprising to many, Byrne finds that times have changed since Shakespeare’s day that it is necessary to cut down many of his works. In fact in the case of Macbeth, “I ended up cutting more than I kept,” said Byrne, “ I wanted it to have this forward movement of inevitably.” The show ended up running about 90 minutes with no intermission. An uncut version of Macbeth would probably run about two and half hours.

Auditions for the show took place around the second week of school. Students who wanted to audition had to recite a memorized Shakespeare monologue. Although they are welcome to, Byrne prefers that prospective cast members do not choose a monologue from the play they are auditioning for. He says “If you do the piece in a way that is far away from my understanding of the character, then that puts you further away from the world of the play.” Byrne also appreciates when students do research to pick monologues that fit the play they are auditioning for.  He says it shows imagination. This year’s audition process brought in more freshman than any other class which has Byrne excited for the future of the drama program.

Most high school students see Shakespeare as a dirty word that they want to avoid at all costs. However, Mr. Byrne finds that after the first few weeks of rehearsal his cast realized, “Oh this language isn’t intimidating,”. Once that happens, Byrne thinks that high schoolers, “sink their teeth into it, in a way that someone who is trying to get it right or is precious about the language might not.” By the end of the play, says Byrne, “ I think every actor on stage spoke Shakespeare and fully understood what they and the other people on stage were saying.”

After months of preparation, Byrne and his cast performed the show which was certainly thought provoking and fun to watch. The audience got to watch as Macbeth, portrayed by senior Miles Shapiro, slowly descended into madness and corruption. The show reached its climactic conclusion in an epic fight sequence that involved nearly the entire cast jumping off the stage and running into the audience. It is safe to say Byrne certainly achieved his goal of a 90 minute thrill ride.

At the end of it all Mr. Byrne found himself seeing the characters differently than he had before. “Despite the killing, I think McB could’ve been a good leader, ” says Byrne, “When I started I thought that this was a play about a killer but also I learned it is a play about the arbitrary nature of who has power in the world.” That is the reason  Byrne keeps on doing Shakespeare, it seems to change every time it is performed. “ I think the brilliance of Shakespeare is that over the past 400 years…the lense of society at the time of the production allows you to see things in a different way”. While AHS’s production in Macbeth may just be another in a long line of productions, given the lense of today’s society, it certainly was an poignant and important experience for audience members and the cast alike.

Anxiety Management at Arlington High School

By Grace Walters

Stress-ridden students, as well as the school administration, are faced with a big question: How can students manage their anxiety? Although there is no simple answer to this question, students and staff have shared various methods that they believe will help diminish stress.

Most Arlington High School students experience moderate- to- high levels of stress due to their overwhelming schedules, many of which consist of advanced classes, homework, sports, clubs, jobs, college applications, and other time-consuming activities. “[Anxiety] is such a trapping feeling,” says an anonymous AHS student. “Sometimes I feel like the whole world will come collapsing down on me if I can’t figure out how to balance everything.”

Reducing The Workload

Many students would agree that school work, combined with other commitments, is the epicenter of their anxiety. According to sophomore Anouska Oke, “Exams and tests are particularly stressful—especially when the teacher doesn’t give us sufficient warning or ‘prep’ time.”

Furthermore, Oke believes that teachers could help reduce students’ stress by “giving more supplemental resources” to students prior to an exam and “communicating and listening to students” more effectively. Oke also believes that the weekend is “a time for students to power-down” and de-stress. Therefore, teachers should minimize the amount of homework they assign on the weekends.

David Conneely, an Honors Biology and Physiology teacher, believes that the amount of work he assigns his students is reasonable and manageable.

When asked the question: ‘What might you suggest to stress-ridden students who feel inundated by the amount of work they are assigned?”, Conneely responded in a statement:

I think time management is a big issue for all people (young people and adults). For example, when I am grading a project I often give myself a time frame for each project (e.g., five minutes). I start a timer when I start grading the next project so I can track how efficient I am being with my time. It is easy for anyone to spend too much time on a project or assignment or to get distracted. By timing myself, it forces me to be efficient and to get my work done more quickly. I think students could use a similar approach. Distractions are a big problem for people today. A parent recently told me their son asked for their parents to hold on to their phone in the evenings so they would not get distracted while doing homework at night. Such an approach (or a similar approach involving removing distractions) can be helpful for students to get work done quickly, so they can rest and get enough sleep.

Learning How to Relax

Among the numerous Physical Education electives AHS has to offer, one in particular stands out. The Relaxation elective—taught by Kimberly Visco and Lauren Geiger—is a unique course that is widely appreciated by students. The students enrolled in Relaxation spend two classes each week on any relaxation practice such as restorative breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga.

The students who take Relaxation also look at nature theory for body healing, mindful eating, and using hobbies as a means to relax. “Basically, everything comes down to the idea that the mind and the body are inextricably linked,” says Geiger.  “If we can focus both of those things at the same time, then hopefully, in moments of crisis, we can better contain ourselves and relax.”

According to Geiger, it is ideal that the students leave Relaxation feeling unruffled. However, she explains that “sometimes that doesn’t happen because skills and practices can be involved and hard. However, the ultimate goal is that [the students] leave at least with an option for something they can fall back on when they do get stressed out.”

So far, the student feedback for the elective—which was introduced to students for the first time this year—has been overwhelmingly positive. Many of the students signed up for the course were unaware of the enriching experience it had to offer. “I honestly signed up for [Relaxation] because I thought it would be easy, and I would just get to do nothing […] It’s actually really centering,” says an anonymous student.

For sophomore Anouska Oke, sometimes the most effective way to de-stress is to take a break. “In the middle of a project, I try to take a break and do things I enjoy, like reading, playing guitar, or going on my phone,” says Oke.

Oke also says that sports and athleticism are an outlet for relaxation. She describes track and soccer as “an escape where you don’t have to think about school and other pressures.” That being said, Oke admits that some aspects of sports can be stressful, too, saying, “you’re worried about your skill level compared to other people and whether you’ll be able to make varsity. I know a lot of people worry about being cut, too.” Many student-athletes agree that the benefits and joy of playing a sport outweigh the occasional stress it generates.

Relax with Technology

In this new era of advanced technology, most high school students own smartphones. By downloading meditation apps like ‘Calm’ and ‘Headspace’, breathing techniques, meditation practices, and audible sleep-aids are readily available to most mobile phone users.

“Teenagers, being attached to their phones, can surely benefit from this,” says Geiger.

Wellness Day

On December 12, 2018, Arlington High School will hold its second annual Wellness Day, an all-day interactive conference designed to educate students about emotional and physical wellness. Wellness Day offers a diverse selection of educational workshops such as Coloring for Relaxation, Mindfulness for Everyone, and Cooperative Board Games.

In addition to just discussing how to manage school stress, many of the workshops tackle more sensitive topics such as dating violence, grief and loss, teen mental health, stigma, the dangers of social media, and depression. Administrators agree that these topics are important and prevalent in the lives of teenagers; as such, it is important that the conference addresses them.

Taking the Time

Most mental health professionals recommend that people, particularly teenagers, devote a part of their day to relaxation and self-reflection. “That’s something we talk a lot about in [Relaxation],” says Geiger. “But the students feel like they have no time, or that they’ll only have the time if they take the Relaxation course.” Geiger believes that “taking the time to decompress is invaluable,” and that stressed students should look to relaxation techniques to help them manage their anxiety.

 

Laramie in Arlington

 

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By Nicole Rivera

Lightbulbs hung above the space, a chair for each cast member in its place, five microphones near the edge of the stage. The lights go down in the theater and come flooding onto the stage. Hundreds of audience members wait in their seats, then start to applaud when the actors crowd the stage to present a story about a community and the horrific event that impacted it.

In 1998, in the town of Laramie Wyoming, Matthew Shepard, a young man in college, had become comatose after being brutally assaulted and beaten by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. After being tied to a split rail fence and left to die in the cold of the night, Shepard was found by a biker passing by early the next morning. He died just a few days later on October 12th, 1998. His tragic and gruesome death was one of the worst anti-gay crimes in American history and led to a major media outbreak.

Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Group traveled to Laramie Wyoming and conducted over 200 interviews with the citizens of the small town a month after the murder. These interviews were turned into monologues for The Laramie Project, first presented by the Tectonic Theater Group in 2000. The play has since been performed at venues across the nation including colleges, community theaters, and at our very own Arlington High School.

The play was directed by Michael Byrne, the head of the drama department. He had directed The Laramie Project once before ten years ago around the ten year anniversary of Shepherd’s passing. Byrne said “I thought I would never direct it because it’s such a difficult subject but I realized it’s not the Matthew Shepard project It’s The Laramie Project, and being in a school like Arlington meant there was tons of support from the community. When I realized Matthew Shepard was murdered twenty years ago I saw it as an opportunity to honor his life, and the work that his parents have done over the past twenty years.”

Since his passing, Matthew’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, have been political activists, establishing The Matthew Shepard Foundation in 1998 and contributing to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. His mother Judy Shepard wrote The Meaning of Matthew, a beautiful memoir about Matthew’s life and what came after.

Mr. Byrne’s previous production of The Laramie Project had been a school play performed by students, however, this year’s production consisted of not only students but alumni and teachers as well. “It was really powerful to be a part of,” Lianna Bessette said of her experience acting in Laramie. “The moment when the audience joined in singing Amazing Grace, I was not expecting it, and I almost started crying on stage.”

Alumni dating back twenty years returned to their roots at Arlington High to act in this play. “I was a mess,” Mr. Byrne describes his emotion upon seeing everyone in the auditorium: “I was fixing something in the tech booth and I looked up and everyone was here.”

Nathan Mallin, an AHS alumnus and a member of the cast, spoke about his thoughts on the production: “It was really special to have all those people from different generations come together for one day, not worrying about perfection, but to make sure those words get heard.” The Laramie Project brought not only the people of Laramie close together as a community, but revealed that Arlington has the potential to come together in a very similar way.