The Warrior Weekly

The student newspaper of Andover High School

Archives by Author

Kathleen McGinty

2011

New Recycling Program Off to Solid Start

By Kathleen McGinty and Marina Renton

As the five-minute warning bell pierces the AHS cafeteria, students flock to the new waste stations to deposit their trash. Paper lunch bags are crumpled up and composted, plastic water bottles are emptied and recycled, and trays and leftovers are tossed into a trash barrel. This is a new and dramatic step to make AHS “greener” and less wasteful.

The people behind the new waste disposal program in the AHS cafeteria are pleased with the students’ initial response.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” said 2011 graduate Hannah Krieger, who developed the project as part of her Senior Exhibition. “I love how receptive people have been to [the new system]. Maybe five percent are intentionally choosing not to do it, but the other 95 percent are.”

“We have been pleasantly surprised by how many students are willingly participating,” said Ms. Cutler, science teacher and head of the Environmental Club, who has been actively involved in this process. “We have had a few obstacles, like the fact that the trash bins are filling up quickly and sometimes people are putting brown paper bags in the compost bin that still have plastic bags inside of them. But we are working on solutions to those problems. For example, we are asking volunteers and students to push down the trash when it gets too full. Also, this year the Environmental Club plans to launch a Zero Waste Lunch campaign, which will encourage students to bring less waste into school.”

Members of the custodial staff are also satisfied with the program. “I think it is a step in a positive direction. It seems as though the faculty and students have taken to it and I think it will be a success,” said Senior Custodian Mr. Cataldo.

After they finish their lunches, students must sort their waste into four categories: liquids, recyclable plastics and aluminum, compostable materials (brown paper bags, fruits, and vegetables), and all other items, which must be thrown away. Every waste station in the cafeteria has receptacles for each type of waste, and someone is always on hand to supervise and help anyone who needs it.

As sudden as the change seemed when students entered the cafeteria on the first day of school and found out that the trash barrels had undergone a makeover, it has been long in coming.

“We started out with the waste audit,” Krieger said, referring to an examination of AHS’ trash that took place last spring. “We wanted to raise awareness…and to collect data.” After the waste audit, it was revealed that 60 percent of the waste from the cafeteria was able to be recycled or composted. Six compost buckets were filled just with paper lunch bags, and three trash bags were filled with Styrofoam plates and trays. Students were informed of these findings at the end of last year, and were again reminded of them at the beginning of this year. Since school has started, it is estimated that the amount of waste has been reduced by 50 percent.

“[It is important] to know how much time and effort has been put into this project by all parties involved,” said Mr. Cataldo “Thanks should be given to the D.P.W. [Department of Public Works] for the purchase of the disposal stations; Ed Ataide, superintendent of Plant and Facilities; Melanie Cutler, AHS teacher; the Environmental Club; and everyone else who had a role in this.”

“We hope that this program will be a permanent change for AHS,” said Ms. Cutler regarding the new system’s future. “The volunteers will continue to weigh the trash a few times a month to track how much waste we are producing and saving from the incinerator. Some of the ideas that Environmental Club members have come up with to reduce the amount of trash we are currently throwing away are to promote Zero Waste Lunches (where everything is brought in reusable containers that are brought home) and to look into alternatives to the Styrofoam trays, which make up a large percentage of the trash volume.”

AHS students are encouraged to keep up the good work, and to remember that Blue + Gold = Green!

Out With the Old, In With the New!

By Kathleen McGinty

As backpacks become lighter, classroom walls bare, and the anticipation of summer tangible, summer is quickly closing in on the 2010-2011 school year. Yet as students depart for their vacations, an air of change will be present at AHS this summer.

Whether students realize it or not, the first change of the 2011-2012 school year will take effect at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 21. Although students will be relieved of the burden of daily homework, the 2011 Summer Reading Program will launch. This year, changes have been made in the reading selection. Rather than having each English class or elective read a separate book, selections have been made for each grade with the exception of students enrolled in Dominant Ideas or A.P. English.

“I don’t know what the book is,” said sophomore Geoffrey Segal. “Summer isn’t a time for reading.”

Although summer is a time of rest and relaxation for students, all students at AHS are required to participate in the summer reading assignment. For more information, visit http://www.aps1.net/ahs.

Upon turning in their summer reading assignments and notes during the first week of school, students will be faced with another change. A new principal will preside at AHS, serving as the fourth principal for next year’s seniors.

“We need a more stable feeling,” said Erika Spinale, a junior who will be one of these seniors next year.

Drama teacher Ms. Choquette agreed with Spinale.

It is “frustrating” and “less than ideal,” she said. “We need someone who can lead us to greatness.”

A principal for AHS during the 2011-2012 school year has yet to be found.

As the decision regarding next year’s principal still looms, it is uncertain whether ideas started this year will continue to be pursued in the fall. Whether fact or fiction, there has been talk at AHS about new and innovative technology. Will Edline be a tool of the past and iPads a new way of learning in class? Some students hope otherwise.

“X2 was complicated,” said junior Stephen Richards of the newly proposed website for posting homework and grades. “I’d rather stick to Edline.”

When it comes to iPads, Richards also seemed skeptical as to how the idea will be carried out and whether it is even possible.

“iPads are kind of a waste,” he said. “They’re firing teachers, but buying iPads.”

With change there comes a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety of the future, but students need not worry over the summer vacation. Rest, relax, and rejuvenate for the upcoming school year.

From the Warrior Weekly staff, enjoy your summer and see you next September!

The Seniors Have Left the Building…Now What?

By Kathleen McGinty

Sporting bathing suits and carrying beach chairs, seniors brought the beach to school on their last day of classes.

Friday, May 27, marked the end of the seniors’ high school careers at AHS. Usually known as a day of chaos, underclassmen prepared for the worst.

“I had to tell my friends to beware of flying objects,” said junior Maggie Berthiaume.

However, contrary to popular belief, the seniors’ efforts to create a beach environment proved to be fun for all students at AHS.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” recalled Brianna Fogden, a junior. “It was happy, it was beautiful outside, everyone was really excited and teachers were being chill. It was just a really great day.”

After taking a victory lap around the school on Friday afternoon, seniors returned to AHS the following week for the festivities of Senior Week that lay ahead. Stops included Six Flags, the Sea Crest Resort, and the clam bake. Yet the excitement and fun did not stop there.

“Senior Safari was one of the best experiences of my life,” said Kerryn McNamee, a senior who attended the all-night celebration held in the field house after graduation.

Although the seniors’ journey at AHS ended as of Monday night, their words of wisdom will serve to be true for current and incoming classes.

“High school was the best and worst years of my life. I really did love it,” said senior Jess Park.

Classmate Elon Beasley agreed.

“Keep it real,” she advised. “Do what makes you happy and enjoy these four years.”

Sustainable Garden Keeps on Giving

By Kathleen McGinty

As the growing season comes to a close, with a few green tomatoes soaking up the waning sun’s rays, the sustainable garden at Andover High School will become dormant in the winter months that lie ahead.  The remaining plants will die in the cold weather, the sun will set earlier, and the courtyard, where the garden is located, will soon be covered with snow.  However, the impact that the sustainable garden has made at Andover High School will continue to live on.

The idea of having a sustainable garden at AHS began to flourish back in 2008.With the help of the 1420 Foundation, a nonprofit organization that connects schools internationally, AHS students were able to contact students at the Colegio Miramar School in Costa Rica.  Coelgio Miramar students are also working to maintain a sustainable garden at their school.  The 1420 Foundation will allow students to communicate and share the data they have collected.

At AHS, the ideal sustainable garden would be one that allows us to use “the same land over and over to produce food,” said Mrs. Cutler, a science teacher at the high school who oversees the garden.  To ensure that the land and soil in the courtyard can be used again in the future, students and teachers who tended to the garden have eliminated the use of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers.

While teaching students that gardening and food production can be environmentally sustainable, it has also taught them that it can be economically sustainable.

“It should save energy, it should save on the cost…it reduces the amount of money,” said Cutler about growing food at AHS.  Some of the produce that has been harvested from the garden is in fact saving energy and money.  Rather than arriving on a truck to the cafeteria, fruits and vegetables have been hand-delivered to cafeteria workers, who have incorporated the nutritious produce into our school lunches.

Aside from environmental and economic benefits, the sustainable garden has educated the AHS community about where their food comes from and how they can live sustainably.  This past summer, twenty-seven student volunteers tended to the garden.

“Every day we had somebody in here, tending to the garden,” Cutler proudly stated.  In addition, student volunteers attended the Andover Farmer’s Market held each Saturday at the Andover Historical Society to sell some of their produces.  Top sellers included lettuce, basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans.

Emma Sonberg, a sophomore at AHS, was an active participant in maintaining the sustainable garden this summer.  Sonberg and the other twenty-six volunteers worked with dedication and patience to make the garden a success.

Sonberg recalls, “We weeded a lot.  We watered the plants!  We planted the plants!”  She listed other numerous tasks they performed, such as thinning out plants, controlling the pests, and harvesting.

The goal to educate students through the sustainable garden was not lost on Sonberg.

“I learned how to recognize a lot of plants,” said Sonberg.  Going into the summer, Sonberg could easily identify a basil plant, but wasn’t sure what the others were.  After spending time in the garden over the summer, she was able to recognize each of the types of plants growing in the garden.

Despite its first year at AHS, the sustainable garden has found success in educating our community about sustainable food production.  We can only imagine what it will bring to the AHS community in the future.

Veggie Car Rules the Roads in Andover

By Kathleen McGinty

Vegetable oil-powered cars may seem like an innovation of the future, but for AHS senior Alyssa Solomon, they have become a reality.  As a Senior Exhibition project, Solomon has set out create and drive her own “veggie car.”

“Every senior has the opportunity to propose a project,” said Solomon.  “I decided I wanted to buy a car and convert it to run on vegetable oil.”

Solomon’s curiosity in recycling natural resources and conserving fossil fuels began to evolve five years ago.  As a seventh grader at Wood Hill Middle School, Solomon was captivated by a presentation given by Mike Parziale.  Owner of the company Grease Not Gas, Parziale told of his adventures across the country in his grease-powered van and his efforts to convert cars and buses from diesel fuel to vegetable oil.

“It was really inspirational, and it was so cool,” Solomon recalled.  The impact Parziale had on Solomon was not lost, influencing her to create her own vegetable oil-powered car.

“Senior Ex gave me a good opportunity to do it,” Solomon said.  Throughout this past school year, she has worked both in and out of school to make her veggie car a success.  Solomon bought a 1986 Mercedes Benz 300 SDL earlier this year, and with the help of Green Grease Monkeys in Boston, a company that converts vehicles to run on vegetable oil, she was able to make her dreams a reality.

“It’s definitely successful, but the upkeep of the car…I’ve definitely had to put a lot of work into it!” she said of her 25-year-old car.  Despite its age, Solomon’s veggie car has enabled her to cut down on her use of fossil fuels and allowed her to rely on the renewable resource of vegetable oil.

Solomon is currently in the process of scheduling visits to local schools to show students her veggie car, hoping to inspire Andover student in the same way that Parziale inspired her just five years ago.

“I want to keep the cycle going!” Solomon said.

The veggie car will be put to the test as Solomon and her friend travel across the country this summer, stopping at restaurants along the way to collect grease.  To follow her veggie car adventures, visit http://www.veggiecaradventures.blogspot.com.

Change in Course Selection Process

By Kathleen McGinty

The changes made to this year’s course selection process have fostered an eruption of mixed emotions amongst students and teacher at Andover High.  Rather than physically filling out course selection forms and meeting with teachers, the course selection experience will be solely online this year.

“My feeling was that we lost so many snow days that it was a loss of instructional time,” said Principal Dr. Sharkey of the decision to forgo face-to-face student teacher meetings this year.  Instead of returning to first semester classes to discuss prospective courses and levels for next year, students can find their course recommendations when they log onto the x2 website.

As for choosing courses online, after choosing an option from a pull-down menu, it only takes the click of a button for students and teachers.

“We’ve reached the point where everybody can [register online] now,” Dr. Sharkey stated.  “It comes directly from you, and there’s no middleman.  It’s so quick and so easy, but it still has the same personalization.”

Yet some teachers and students may feel otherwise.

“I didn’t like it,” history teacher Ms. Wagner emphatically declared.  “It was totally impersonal.  I felt that kids didn’t get a clear picture as to what electives were offered.”

Students have also been contemplating the benefits and downfalls of this year’s course selection process.

“I think it was easier when we were able to talk to teachers one-on-one,” said Alexis Latsey, a junior.  “It’s more personal.”

However, junior Alex Camilo liked the idea of registering for courses online.

“I think it’s easier online because you just click on [the courses],” Camilo said.

Despite the mixed bag of emotions running throughout the school, next year’s course selection process may look more hopeful to students and teachers alike.  Students will have the ability to discuss courses and levels with their teachers on a designated day during first semester.  Dr. Sharkey is projecting that these meetings will occur on the last class of the semester or during time after final exams.

As for right now, “I’m encouraging everybody to see their teacher if they need an explanation or disagree,” added Dr. Sharkey.

Yet controversies over the course selection process will have to be put aside as the deadlines approach nearer.  We can’t change the present situation, but we can blame it on all that snow.

DECA

By Kathleen McGinty

DECA.  It’s the four letter acronym for the Distributive Education Clubs of America, but it just doesn’t suffice in representing the success that the organization has had here at Andover High.

“If I had to culminate DECA, this is the best!” enthused Mr. Spanos, the DECA advisor at AHS.  “It forces kids to get offline and get into social networking.”

Students who participate in DECA get a glimpse into the business world through competing in conferences of various levels.  After choosing a specific topic of interest, the students prepare for competitions by completing book work and practicing spontaneous role-playing.  Topics range from accounting, hotel and lodging management, sports and entertainment marketing, and even restaurant and food service management.  That’s only to name a few!

In the State Conference, held March 10-12, 2011 at the Marriott Copley Place in Boston, students put their knowledge to the test.  After taking a 100-question, multiple-choice, comprehensive exam, they engaged in the role-playing portion of the competition.  Students were given a written scenario to review, in which they were allowed 10 minutes to prepare and make notes to develop a professional approach to solving the problem.  Afterwards, they discussed their plan with a judge, who then evaluated them.

“For the kids, it’s 20% work, 80% fun,” said Mr. Spanos.

For Matt Dorros, Andrew Newcomb, Ned Deane, Tom Dempsey, Henry Tian, Joe Dalton, Jared Rosen, and Mitch Slovin, this fun will carry them all the way to Disney World.  These eight students qualified at last week’s State Conference, and they will be moving on to the International Conference in Orlando, Florida, which will be held May 1 through May 5, 2011.

“This year we’re right in Disney World, with Mickey Mouse and company!” Mr. Spanos said excitedly.  DECA competitors will be traveling from across the globe, from the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam, Canada, the Virgin Islands, and Germany, to compete against our own AHS entrepreneurs.

AHS has had an unprecedented thirty consecutive years of students qualifying and competing at the International Conference.  Despite its short four-letter acronym, DECA will continue to transform students’ lives and provide them with skills and knowledge essential for marketing careers, allow them to build self-esteem, and enable them to experience leadership.

“It’s busy,” Mr. Spanos said, “but what fun!”

Invisible Children Day of Silence and Benefit Concert

By Kathleen McGinty

Imagine being abducted from your house, given a machine gun, and being forced to pull the trigger on kids exactly like you. Joseph Kony, one of the worst war criminals in Africa, and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have been recruiting children to fight in their war against the Ugandan government. Kids from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and southern Sudan have been stripped of their lives and made into weapons. The LRA has been killing, mutilating, and abducting children for 25 years. These victims are known as the Invisible Children.

The lives of the Invisible Children seem unreal and unfathomable for Andover High Students Mike McGovern, Andy Ladd, Taylor Richardson, Robbie Hillson, Adam Ladd, and Brianna Fogden.  Spearheading multiple events to raise awareness about the Invisible Children Foundation, these six students have been touched by the visit Invisible Children made to Andover High this year.

“We’re just a bunch of good guys,” Robbie Hillson said, laughing with his friends, about their efforts to help Invisible Children.  Yet Hillson is not too far off.

“We watched the rough cut [of the video] in Contemporary World Issues, and that made us really interested,” said Mike McGovern.  “What we saw in the video was horrific.”

That was when they decided it was time to promote Break the Silence and the Make Noise for Those Who Can’t benefit concert.

“It all kind of culminated together,” said McGovern.

On April 25, people throughout the world will “Break the Silence” for the Invisible Children. For 25 hours, starting Easter Sunday night and going until 8:00 pm on Monday, April 25th, participants of Break the Silence will remain completely silent and construct a massive statement about the suffering children of central Africa. Each contributor must raise at least $25.00, which will go into a protection fund to save lives and build a rehabilitation center for the people who have been forced to live without peace for their entire live, but signing up for the event is completely free. In the United States, there are 18 cities participating.  Andover is one of them.

Andover has gone above and beyond the Invisible Children’s Break the Silence event, organizing its own Make Noise for Those Who Can’t benefit concert at the Old Town Hall on Friday, April 29.   Featuring Stay, Dear Zim, Davis Layman, One Step Away, the Blue Pages, and the Upstate Affair, this benefit concert will speak out far louder than the Invisible Children can.

Stop by the kiosk in the cafeteria Monday, April 11 through Friday, April 15 to sign up for either of the endeavors to help relieve the Invisible Children of the burdens they have faced for the past 25 years. T-shirts are being sold for $10 as well as bracelets for $2 that you can wear to show your support.  Tickets for the concert can be purchased for $10, but the 300 available spots are filling up quickly.  Stop by today so that you can speak out and make noise for the those who can’t.

Prom Decision Still Pending

By Kathleen McGinty

Although the Junior Board congregated this past Tuesday morning with the intention of voting on the future of prom, a final decision still remains to be made.

“The Junior Board has spent the last couple of weeks talking about the future of prom,” said Mrs. Chachus, one of the Junior Board advisors.  “We’re still talking to Dr. Sharkey, and we’re hoping to have a decision in the next couple of weeks.”

Conflicting opinions have hindered a decision from being agreed on, but the Junior Board has been making progress.  What seems to be the general consensus?

“To keep it together,” said Elizabeth Pugliese, a member of the Junior Board.  “Some people think it would be nice to split it up, but it’s hard because as juniors you want it to keep it [combined] and seniors want to separate it.”

Within the next few weeks, the Junior Board plans to present all of the information they have gathered to Dr. Sharkey with hopes of putting the ambiguous fate of next year’s prom to rest.

Prom Preview 2011

By Kathleen McGinty

Long, trailing lines composed of juniors and seniors wrapped around the third floor corridor during the week preceding April vacation.  Increasing in size each day, the line topped about 150 students by Friday afternoon.  This can only mean one thing at AHS…It’s prom season!

“Sales were very good this year,” said Mrs. Gaudiano, one of the advisors of both the Junior Board and Prom Committee that were responsible for selling prom tickets this year.  “I think [they were] a little better than last year.  They certainly didn’t drop.”  When all students and faculty gather on Saturday, May 7 at the Crowne Plaza, Boston, North Shore in Danvers, the crowd is expected to reach 600 attendees.

What’s in store for this year’s Prom-goers?

“We’re going to have a buffet,” said Mrs. Gaudiano.  “Usually, we have a sit down dinner.”  The Prom Committee voted to make change to the dining experience from previous years, and students will be able to make their own choices from a selection of dishes such as pasta or chicken.

As for the decorations and favors, they will remain a secret until Saturday night!

“We do have a color scheme,” hinted Mrs. Gaudiano.  “And there are favors that were made by a graduate of AHS.”

The anticipation of Prom is certainly building for AHS juniors and seniors.

Even though Prom will end at midnight on Saturday evening, planning for Prom will certainly not cease.

“Seniors like the idea of separating the Prom,” said Mrs. Gaudiano.  “The juniors said ‘We think we’d like to keep it the way it is.’”

In the weeks following Prom, members of the Junior Board and the Prom Committee will vote on whether to keep the Prom combined or to hold a Junior Prom separate from a Senior Prom in the coming years.  Juniors felt that it was best that they experience the combined Prom for themselves before they make any decisions.  Once the votes are cast, a final decision on the fate of Prom will be decided.

2010

The Season of Giving

By Kathleen McGinty

Walking into the high school a few weeks ago, it felt like any ordinary time during the school year.  The air might have been a little colder and there may have been several new signs hanging up on the walls, but the school had an indistinguishable order.  However, a noticeable change occurred in early December.  Bins that were empty and bare, waiting to be filled, are now overflowing with books, toys, and coats that were donated for the Toy and Coat Drive and the Book Drive.  Andover High is in the midst of the Season of Giving.

The toys, coats, and books piled up in the lobby will not be there for long.  Over the next few weeks, the donations will be given to those who need them the most.

Project TeamWork, advised by Mrs. Brady, has been collecting toys and coats to give to a transitional home for women and their children.

“About 8 years ago, the students in [Project TeamWork] wanted to find a cause to support,” said Mrs. Brady.  After hearing about a program for battered women in Boston, the group did some research.  The Oasis House in Lawrence, Massachusetts, is a transitional home where abused women can go back to school and are provided with free child and legal care as long as they pay rent in return.

“The goal is to have them start a new life and be participants in a community,” said Mrs. Brady.

Mrs. Brady recalled, “In years past, we held a holiday party for the children.”  Despite scheduling conflicts for the party over the previous two years, Project TeamWork has still been able to give the donations to the Oasis House.  “We bring the toys and coats over, and they distribute the toys to the children,” she said.

In keeping with the idea of helping others, Mr. Carey, his Contemporary World Issues classes, and his T.A. Kevin Sharrio have been organizing the Book Drive.

“This grew out of the visit last year by Invisible Children to AHS and seeing the many opportunities they provide to get involved and help make a difference with the very serious issue of children being abducted and forced to fight in the conflicts taking place in Sudan and Northern Uganda,” Mr. Carey stated.  Invisible Children is an organization that helps to improve the education of children and teenagers living in Uganda and Sudan.

Fiction and non-fiction books that are in reasonable condition can be dropped off in several boxes located throughout the school for the rest of this week.  However, comic books, magazines, and textbooks should not be put in the boxes.

“The books will end up in schools in Uganda and Sudan for students to use and some will be sold to help raise money for other things needed in these schools,” said Mr. Carey.  “It’s a great program that helps a lot of people gain access to material to read in order to further their education.

Mrs. Brady saw monumental benefits in the Toy and Coat Drive, similar to Mr. Carey’s thoughts on the Book Drive.

“It’s important that the residents of the community and the school see the dire need, especially in these economic times,” she emphasized.  “Just one coat or just one gently used present goes a long way.”

Will SADD Be Back?

By Kathleen McGinty

Students Against Destructive Decisions, also known as SADD, has faced a major setback this year.  The grant that has funded SADD for the past 15 to 20 years has run out of the money that has supported the group’s efforts of promoting safe behavior for students at AHS.

In the past, SADD has been composed of 60 to 80 students, including a board of directors who plan monthly meetings.  At these meetings, students have learned about the effects of destructive decisions and discussed ways to campaign against risky behaviors.

“We often have speakers.  We’ve had EMT drivers come in,” said Mrs. McVeigh, SADD’s advisor, as well as relatives of victims killed in drunk driving accidents.  Students learn from these real-life instances of destructive decisions to promote their message of safety.

“Every year we put on the pre-prom assembly,” said McVeigh, in which a mock crash is shown to juniors and seniors with hopes of discouraging driving under the influence.  Last year, “we made posters to remind people not to text while driving” that were held by SADD members at the entrance of the school, McVeigh recalled.

On the last day of August this year, McVeigh learned about the lack of funding SADD would have in the 2010-2011 school year.

“I didn’t know until then that it wasn’t funded,” said McVeigh.  “The grant it was funded through dissolved.”

With budget cuts affecting many aspects of education at AHS, the Andover High PAC began to support advisors and clubs that were not funded by grants.  However, since it was under the assumption that there was still money left in SADD’s grant, PAC did not provide any funding to support the group.

“SADD’s been in place for so long.  It’s an important group for the kids,” McVeigh emphatically stated.

Meredith Lawler, a junior who has been a part of SADD for a year, confirmed how much this group means to students who participate.

“I thought it was really great to work with kids who have the same values as you,” said Lawler.  “You can spread what you think.”

SADD will know by November 1, 2010 if they will be funded by another grant.  Until then, McVeigh encourages the AHS community to get the word out.  Send an email or write a letter to the school committee, and make sure they realize the importance of SADD at AHS.

Lawler strongly believes that SADD is an essential to AHS.  “It’s vital to talk about in a high school community.”

Devika Ranjan

2011

The Year in Review: Arts and Entertainment

By Devika Ranjan

Although last year wasn’t the best on the economy front, we can certainly see that the arts and entertainment industries certainly didn’t suffer. 2010 brought bigger movies, huge moments in pop culture, insane gadgets, and waves of music that took the country by storm. Last year’s monumental milestones are sure to have us holding the bar high for the products of 2011.

Last year in pop culture brought out the best and worst of some of America’s biggest celebrities. We met Snooki and the other fist-pumpers of Jersey Shore, the New Jersey based reality show that had AHS talking for months. Tiger Woods’ clean image was destroyed as his scandals surfaced when he revealed his mistresses to his wife and the world. Lindsey Lohan was put into and dragged out of rehab countless times. There was even the shock of Miley Cyrus’ video where the young pop star was seen smoking a bong—completely legal, of course, as it was filled with salvia and not pot.

It’s also been a huge year for Broadway, in a much less scandalous way. Despite huge closings, new hit musicals have still been popping up on the great White Way. Jersey Boys, Rain, A Little Night Music, and Million Dollar Quartet have brought back music and scripts from the past in revivals and new musicals. Historical stories seemed to be a recurring theme last year, as two of the biggest musicals to hit the stage, Promises, Promises and Memphis, both featured plots set in the past.

The music scene has also blossomed as the year progressed. iTunes’ prices for music stayed at $.69, $.99, or $1.29, much to listeners’ dismay. However, The Beatles albums finally made it onto iTunes after years of legal battles. Lady GaGa emerged to entertain and shock the nation on a nearly-daily basis. She finally won over the world with her top single, Bad Romance, which took the top spot on Kiss 108’s Top 40 Songs of 2010. Justin Beiber emerged, both winning hearts and earning severe criticism. However, he and opinionated Ke$ha both made their ways onto the top of the charts.

Last year’s gadgets have ranged from the fashionable to the functionable, but most importantly craved by the country. We saw the arrival of Apple’s long-awaited iPad, which people stood in line for hours just to get a reservation for. Google released their series of Droids and Androids, now making their appearance in Andover High. In gaming systems, PS and XBOX have excelled with their new programs that don’t require (or use very minimal) controllers to create a hugely realistic gaming experience.

Finally, we have to notice the thousands of movie blockbusters that are certain to go down in filmmaking history. The hot flicks of last year included films from all across the board. These included The Social Network, revealing the scandalous story of Facebook’s creator, Inception, the movie of dreams within dreams within dreams that had everyone talking, Avatar: The Last Airbender , renowned for its special effects but not the portrayal of the beloved animation, Toy Story 3, the last of our childhood classic films, and Despicable Me, the lovable cartoon comedy.

Sophomores: The Forgotten Class?

By Devika Ranjan

Every year of high school has a reputation. The freshmen are new, and receive the most attention. They, as well as the rest of the school, are hyped up on the negative freshmen stereotype. They’re regarded as the “little children” of AHS. Despite the teasing, most freshmen are excited to be at the high school, and relish the unbinding freedom after middle school.

Juniors are usually looked up to as hugely important to the school. They get the spotlight because they’re taking the SAT’s and racking up as many brownie points as they can for upcoming college applications. They’re also labeled as crazy stressed because of their AP classes and SAT cramming.

Finally, the seniors are the ones with power. After four years, most seniors are completely ready to take off, finalizing last-minute grades and recommendations for college, and imposing terror on any passerby who happens to be walking past the senior lot at 2:10.

Us? We’re just sophomores. Not new, not old– the Limbo of Andover High. Sophomores are still underclassmen, even though we’ve been here long enough to settle down. We don’t belong to the elite club of juniors and seniors, but we try to distance ourselves as far as possible from the first-year stereotype.

“We’re not freshmen, but we’re not upperclassmen yet. It’s almost like being the middle child,” says Emma Sonberg, an Andover High student, class of 2013. “I guess we don’t mind being kind of in the background,” includes Kylie Moynihan, grateful to be out of freshmen year.

Sophomore Jake Muhlfelder shared the same view. “It’s better to be ignored than disliked,” he quoted.

The excitement of being new to high school has slowly faded away, and college isn’t close enough to scare us into success. Our motivation roughly translates to “get good grades”. By December, most of us are stuck in a rut of school, sports, homework, sleep. It gets monotonous.

Luckily, we don’t have a huge jump in increased workload this year. Adjusting to sophomore year is so much easier than trying to find the way around Andover High for the first time, and we can take it easy because we know the way around.

Family and role models tell us to start thinking about what we want to do when we grow up and think about colleges, but we don’t know what or how to do it. SAT prep is something no one wants to think about, especially as a sophomore. We’re constantly being reminded to think about our future, but it’s difficult when there’s nowhere to start.

Although classes aren’t a big step up from freshmen year, we are expected to produce higher-quality work by teachers and parents. We’re not the babies anymore, and teachers assume we know what we’re doing. Classes move at a faster pace, and speed as well as accuracy are skills we are required to develop. It’s really a sink-or-swim year, where we’re forced to make it or fall behind.

Sophomore year is mostly a preparation for the punches that are thrown at us as juniors and seniors. We’re getting ready for AP’s and SAT’s that will come. The entire curriculum seems to be based around the phrase, “you’ll need to know this for next year”. However, the year keeps us on our toes. The expectation for us is raised and we’re expected to meet it, which is a huge advantage in preparing us for junior year.

Mentally, sophomore year is a rollercoaster. We’re still trying to figure where our strengths lie and what we want to do for the rest of our lives. Some of our confidence has decreased because of the increasing workflow and competition we face every day in school and sports.

However, we often find motivation in our circle of friends, which has grown since we were shy and naïve freshmen. We’re creating an impression on the school by our ideas and gearing up to take the reins in two years. Every high schooler is required to go through the forgotten sophomore year, no matter how dull it can get. We’ll always remember the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Senior year, here we come…

And The Winner Is…

At the beginning of the each year, the television is ruled by ceremonies commemorating artistic achievements performed the previous year. The Golden Globes, the People’s Choice Awards, and the Grammys are all are award shows commanding our attention. However, the cherry on top of all of these events is the Academy Awards, or the Oscars.

It is every actor’s dream to take home the famous golden statuette of a knight holding a sword and standing upon a reel of film. Standing 13 ½ inches tall but weighing a massive 8 ½ pounds, this trophy is a hefty one, and it places an actor in an elite class.

But why the Oscars? What makes this ceremony the most exciting and anticipated of all the celebrations of achievements in film?

Perhaps it is the history–the Academy Awards predate other film awards, debuting in 1929. It has been a tradition that has surpassed all cinema awards to date. The first Golden Globes ceremony was in 1944, and the People’s Choice Awards premiered in 1975. The recipients of the various awards commemorating achievements in all areas of film, from acting to editing, are chosen by the Academy, a group of approximately 6,000 of “the most accomplished motion picture artists and professionals,” according to the website of the Academy Awards.

Perhaps, however, it is the spectacle of the event. Viewers tune in hours before the event commences to watch their favorite stars walk the red carpet and to admire their hairstyles and shockingly expensive designer dresses, suits, and accessories. Of course, there is also the suspense as the seal on the envelopes containing the winners’ names is broken for the first time.

Watching the Oscars is like seeing another movie, perhaps even a movie worthy of its own Academy Award. All the invitees wear big smiles on their faces, even when they don’t receive an award. Being master actors, this comes as no surprise. However, it is still quite interesting to see movie actors socializing with their fellow dramatics instead of playing roles written for them.

The Oscars take on an exciting role in the film industry every year as millions watch and cheer for their favorite movies and actors of the season. Movie buffs place bets on their picks while others simply try to defy bedtimes in order to see which movie wins ‘Best Picture of the Year.’ Also, over the year, viewers become emotionally vested in the films that they enjoyed, and have fun rooting for the actors they think are most deserving of an Oscar. The ceremony also provides recommendations that fans are likely to order on Netflix the following day.

The Oscars ensure a spot in the history books for a certain actor and movie every year, a coveted title by many. Award recipients sometimes make sentimental and often amusing speeches, creating many embarrassing moments forever remembered and replayed.

For years, families have gathered around to see their favorite celebrities gather together to commemorate the year in cinema. The Oscars create a fun and glamorous environment that showcases the best in the industry, and is the highest aspiration of all actors, directors, and screenwriters, young or old.

New England Drama Festival

By Devika Ranjan

Recently, over 600 theatrical high school students from all over New England poured into the Collins Center for the most dramatic three days of their lives. This was the event that AHS Drama Guild had been preparing for since last year—the 70th annual New England Drama Festival.

Drama Festival, lovingly called Fest, has been a competition our school has been involved in for years. Every participating high school in New England enters a 40 minute show, which is pitted against other schools in small competitions by region, showcasing about eight shows each. In every competition, two shows are selected to move onto the next level. In Massachusetts, these levels go from preliminaries to semi-finals, and finally to New Englands.

New Englands is a non-competitive celebration of the best high school theater from all over the east coast. As always, performers feel pressure to create a memorable show. However, the nerves of being in competition are gone. Every student is looking to put on the best show they can for their peers.

A total of twelve schools from six New England states arrived at the Collins Center on Saturday morning, April 16. Although some had been up since 4 that morning, the energy that poured out of rows of buses was unmistakable. The enthusiasm carried through the day, as they amused themselves between shows by singing songs and playing improvised games with whatever they could find.

As the shows began, the excitement in the Collins Center was contagious. Every actor and “techie” knew that their school was at New Englands because they were the best from their state, and everyone carried their shows with pride. Comedies were mixed in with tear-jerkers, and every actor was fully committed to the characterization of the show.

Every show received a wide reception from the audience, and was then discussed in small groups afterwards. These organized discussions, or Forums, allowed students to ask questions and comment on other shows. They were also able to mingle with other schools at lunch and dinnertimes, during which many new friendships were formed.

Every school brought a little home pride with them. Each represented their own town and state, and carried tons of spirit to Andover for the weekend. Many wore their show shirts or dressed up. Some even brought other schools from their areas to support them.

Students could also attend workshops, which varied from “International Stage Dialects” to “Stagefighting” to “Lighting on a Budget”. In these, actors and techies learned tips from theatre pros and were able to apply them to their own high school programs.

The friendliness and huge energy of New Englands makes it one of the biggest and most fun events that the Drama Department is able to partake in. Within three days, participants watched twelve shows, promoted school spirit, and created long-lasting friendships.

DramaFest

By Devika Ranjan

Spring has always been a time for celebrations. Flowers blossom, the clouds finally part, and the endless snow will (hopefully!!) melt. For the Andover High Drama Guild, spring is a time for festivals, too—DramaFest, that is.

New England Drama Festival is an interschool and interstate competition that pits high school Drama Guilds against each other in the ultimate theater competition. Each school enters a non-musical play that must be under 40 minutes. Competitions are hosted by participating schools for preliminary, semi-final, and state levels.

From then on, it’s a knockout competition. In each round, two shows are chosen by a panel of judges to continue onwards in hopes of becoming the performers of the top Festival show in New England.

During the competitions themselves, students and competitors are allowed to watch other performances and give encouragement to other schools. A lot of them forge friendships with other young actors from across the East Coast. On one tournament day, they participate in discussion and critique groups, attend a dance, and receive awards for their achievements such as acting, set designing, and usage or props. Each high school has the option to choose a play that is serious to controversial to childish to just plain otherworldly.

This year, Andover High school’s Festival entry is a fairly new and highly controversial show entitled The Laramie Project. It tells the true story of a boy who was bullied to death because of his sexual orientation. The show was faced with a lot of criticism and some protests when it was done by Framingham High School last year.

Despite the criticism, many AHS actors are excited to do The Laramie Project. Actor Michaela Olson agreed. “The Laramie Project, for me, is an important statement to make. I’ve always hated prejudice against gays, and I think that this play is an important statement that shows the horrors that prejudice can cause. This play shows both the light side and the dark side of humanity and really can open up your eyes.”

AHS plans to the New England Festival competition this year, as well. If you’re interested in helping out, contact the Drama Department soon!

AHS Senior In New England Tennis Top Ten

By Devika Ranjan

Most AHS students have their hands full balancing schoolwork, hanging out with their friends, and sports. On top of her academic and social life, senior Olivia Spagnuolo has taken commitment to the next level. Spagnuolo currently holds a top-ten spot in the New England USTA Junior Tennis Tournament, a title coveted by many tennis players across the north-east. This isn’t the first time she’s been in the top-ten for tennis, either. “I have been [in a top spot] since I was really young.”  She explained that the titles come with a lot of hard work on and off the court.

Spagnuolo started playing tennis when she was five years old, getting into the sport because of her dad. “He stopped being able to beat me a lot time ago,” she jokes. She found opponents in her sisters, who also play but aren’t competitive. Her passion for the game was a huge key to work up to the top, as well as her drive and natural abilities.  “I can really use my athleticism to my advantage and my game is tailor made for it. I have an all-court game, meaning I mix up my shots. I use a lot of spin, slice, pace, and I love coming up to the net.”

Even though she makes it sound simple, Spagnuolo’s top spot didn’t come easy. She goes to the gym regularly to build up strength and stamina in addition to playing for several hours each day. “I definitely get nervous during tournaments because every match I play goes on a record where college coaches can see results. Sometimes I forget that I play for my own enjoyment and get caught up with results and college coaches,” she adds. Between weekend tournaments and working out, Spagnuolo rarely takes a day off. “Sometimes it gets tiring, but I have to keep pushing through it.”

In the end, her hard work and dedication pays off. Along with the titles, Spagnuolo has been approached by many colleges to play tennis for them. “Thanks to tennis, I will be receiving athletic scholarship to whichever school I choose.” She’s excited to play for a college team next fall.

Her advice for success? “To be good at something, it takes love and dedication. Nothing comes easily, and you get what you put in.”

2010

Rent, Encore! The Production from the Point of View of Its Directors

By Devika Ranjan and Marina Renton

RENT is often said to be a musical that pushes the envelope, especially in a high school production. It brings the ideas of AIDS, IV/drug use, and prostitution right into the open, and thus has become a very controversial show. From onstage during rehearsals, students can be heard singing “…to homos, lesbians, cross-dressers too…”, song lyrics from the popular song La Vie Boheme. Many members of the Andover community are shocked by this, but the directors believe that viewers should not be put off by the themes in the show. They believe that there are messages in it  that everyone can take to heart.

“For me, the story of Rent isn’t about what people tend to think of at first- that is- HIV positive characters, characters in non-traditional relationships and gender roles, IV drug use,” said Ms. Susan Choquette, the director of the production.“What I think about when I think about Rent is how a group of friends stick together through thick and thin during a particularly challenging time in their personal histories as well as our nation’s history. It’s about staying true to your ideals and not selling out. It’s about how the disenfranchised members of our society need our care and support.”

“It depicts the struggle within each of us to survive the best that we can – through our connections with other people – even in difficult times,”added Ms. Jen D’Onofrio, the vocal director.

Both of the directors are excited to do this show. “I’ve always wanted to do RENT  and have been waiting for the right time,” Choquette said. “Whenever we choose a show, we try to determine whether or not we have the pieces of the puzzle in place, like the vocal requirements, a capable tech crew, pit orchestra etc. You never really know but this year seemed like the right year.”

She also believes that the students are mature enough to handle the adult material. “I think our student body here at Andover High School is an advanced group. I feel very confident that our actors and tech crew know how to handle mature material. I don’t think we should shy away from subject matter just because it might be difficult to talk about or present. On the other hand, I always say “Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something.” RENT is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winning musical that is a benchmark in theatre. RENT drew a line in the sand of theatre history for so many reasons. It bridged the gap between the musicals of the past and the musicals of the future. When something is that important, it deserves our attention—especially from an educational standpoint. There is nothing in RENT that isn’t discussed somewhere else in our school curriculum, whether the subject is health, social studies, science and of course theatre.”

“The characters of Rent live in a very different culture from ours in Andover, MA,” added D’Onofrio.  “I was thoroughly impressed at the Call Backs.  Every single student took on the roles with honesty and sensitivity.  Perhaps it is due to the fact that the characters from Rent are now so entrenched in our musical culture.  Or, perhaps, it is because the themes discussed in the show are so universal: life, death, love, alienation, struggle to find a community.  Almost fifteen years have passed since the musical debuted in 1996 and so much has happened in our society since then.  We have much more dialogue about these issues now.”

Since the rights have come out recently, many schools in the eastern area are looking forward to trying this musical. Choquette mentioned at a rehearsal that she has received several emails, both from principals and students in the area who hope that their schools will be able to put on RENT: School Edition as well. They were interested in receiving creative advice, as well as consultation on how to spin the idea for the administration.

“I have always been given the freedom to select the dramatic literature that we perform here at AHS and for that I am grateful. In the case of RENT School Edition, I thought it was wise to pass the idea by Mr. Harris so that we could talk about any potential concerns,” Choquette said. “[He] was completely supportive. [He made the] suggestion that we gather a group of people from different parts of the school community and have a discussion about any concerns.”

Everyone involved in the show is aware of how challenging it is, especially vocally. All cast members were given a “Vocal Survival Guide” at the beginning of the rehearsals with tips on how to keep from straining their voices. Some of the advice included was to warm up daily, keep breathing, begin a daily cardio routine (to improve stamina), stay hydrated, and try not to overwork the voice. They were also advised to stay away from drinks like milk and carbonated beverages, and avoid spicy, fried, or acidic foods before singing.

“It is a very challenging show musically and it has been years since we have attempted a sung-through musical (continuous music with very little dialogue) at AHS,” said D’Onofrio. “…The technique for the rock-pop style of singing required throughout the show is different from vocal technique one would use for, say, The Sound of Music.  The demands on the singers can be greater.  In addition, singing with a live rock band on stage is a different challenge from singing with an orchestra.”

That being said, AHS’ production of RENT promises to leave a lasting impression on its audiences.

“The intensity of the score speaks to the audience and I believe that everyone can relate to some aspect of RENT,” said D’Onofrio. “It depicts the struggle within each of us to survive the best that we can – through our connections with other people – even in difficult times.”

Choquette added, “Everyone has a story–you just need to dig deep enough to discover it. So often we judge people on first impressions and by outward appearances. I hope that audiences will take away this important message. We must embrace our differences.”
*NOTE: the co-vocal director, Mark Mercer, was not able to be reached by our deadline.

Can We Get a YAWP?

By Devika Ranjan and Marina Renton

Once a month in the heart of Boston, there is a place where aspiring teenage writers can go to learn how to better their craft and share their work with others.

Grub Street, according to its website, is “a non-profit creative writing center dedicated to nurturing writers and connecting readers with the wealth of writing talent in the Boston area.” It aims to “[bring] the transformative power of creative writing to underserved populations–specifically teens and seniors.”

One Saturday a month, Grub Street hosts a writing program specifically for young adults called the Young Adult Writers Program, or YAWP for short. It is entirely free, and participants are given notebooks and pens. All that is expected of the participants is that they come “ready to participate, think creatively, and work hard.” Teens who attend the program can choose to take classes in a variety of genres: fiction and poetry are always offered; the third choice varies from session to session, but options can include memoir, graphic novel, or screen writing.

The Grub Street headquarters are in an apartment building on Boylston Street. Upon entering the building, one could easily be put off by the lobby– it is dark anddingy, and mu sty smell permeates it. The elevator ride is also questionable, but, upon arriving on the fourth floor, you find yourself in a very big, open apartment, decorated with light wood and many windows. Quotes are painted on the walls, and there is large kitchen that all the teenagers participating in the program are comfortable enough to enter and help themselves to anything. We found that it had a close resemblance to the AYS house on Pearson St. in Andover.

Nearly everyone there was a returning participant who seemed very happy and comfortable with themselves and each other. We took it as a good sign that the workshops would be informative and entertaining, and the atmosphere welcoming. The director of the program, Chip Cheek, pointed us towards a large, open room with a wooden table seating about fifteen.

We participated in the fiction class, in which writers were taught that every person has three different personas: how they view themselves, how others view them, and how they really are. We were told to try to show each facet of a character when writing. Also, we were taught to come up with an animal similar to the character we wrote about and compare the character to the animal throughout the story. Then, we were given 40 minutes to write on one out of several prompts that we were given, using characters and comparing them to animals. After the 40 minutes were up, everyone had to share his or her work. However, if the author was shy, he or she was not required to read the whole thing. The leader of the class would then critique the writing in front of the group.

In general, the program was a lot of fun. It was educational, but the setting was relaxed. We were able to learn a lot in a short period of time. Even though we enjoyed the workshop, we felt that there were some things that could have been improved on.

The first was the amount of time. There are two sessions  on the workshop day, one from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and the second from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. We didn’t find that the amount of time was sufficient to be fully instructed, especially if we were only given 40 minutes to write. We also were not fond of the harshness with which we were critiqued. As much as we appreciate constructive criticism, we also appreciate the blow being softened with some positive feedback, which we noticed to be lacking. Since everyone had been there before, it seemed as if they expected us to know what we were doing.

Overall, the YAWP program is worth a visit if you have a spare Saturday. Its mission is truly honorable, and worth our support. The program is great and lots of fun if you’re into any kind of writing. Feel free to check out its website: http://www.grubstreet.org/index.php?id=22 .

AHS Tackles PG-13 Musical

By Devika Ranjan and Marina Renton

The musical ‘RENT’ was a Broadway phenomenon. Loosely based on Puccini’s opera, ‘La Boheme,’ the story follows a group of friends trying to make a living in New York City at the height of the AIDS crisis. Andover High announced its upcoming production of RENT: School Edition last July, and received mixed reactions all across the board.
Although it has been a teenage favorite for years, RENT is not the first choice for many of the adults in the district as it contains drug references, sensuality, and vulgar language. Some parents feel that high schoolers shouldn’t be taking on such risqué roles, as some of the lead characters are homosexual, drug addicts, or prostitutes.
“This is not a show to which I would take elementary or middle-school children,” said a parent of one of the actors.

AHS has elected to put on Rent: School Edition, in which bad language and one explicit song have been eliminated. However, the show will still contain themes of the original Broadway show.

Junior Bobby Hawes has the role of Tom Collins, a homosexual man suffering from AIDS. When asked if he was comfortable in playing such a role, he responded, “Yeah, not quite yet. I hope by the time the show goes up I’ll be comfortable, though.” Although his parents are fine with the content in the show,  he is aware some might get upset about the material.

Other parents are upset by the strain that the show puts on kids’ voices. The show, being written for more mature voices, requires some “belting,” which can be damaging to young voices.The songs feature complicated chord progressions and harmonies that are difficult for teenage ranges, as well. “…The large range that Collins has will be difficult for me,” said Hawes.

Junior Samantha Marton takes on the role of Mimi Marquez, an exotic dancer who also suffers from AIDS. She too, finds the show vocally challenging, saying “This music is very difficult to sing. It’s not the typical musical theater style that most of the cast is used to; it’s really rock music! Also, the fact taht the whole show is sung through adds a whole new layer to the difficulty level because the cast doesn’t have any time to take a break and give themselves a rest vocally.”

In terms of the content and themes in RENT, Marton said she and her family were perfectly comfortable with it, in fact, she enjoys playing such a risque role! “It definitely gives me a new challenge because it’s a role I’ve never played before and it gives me the freedom to try something different.I like the fact that i can step out of my everyday life for a few hours and just transform into a totally different person. It helps me relax and take a break from my hectic life as a junior in high school and just have fun. Also, as i said before, I have complete faith in Mrs. Choquette [the director of the show] to make sure everything is done respectfully and is well thought out.”

The actors have already learned practically all the music in the show, and have been rehearsing daily for the past two weeks. With RENT being a rock opera, it is imperative to learn the songs, which take up the vast majority of the show, before staging it.  The cast ran a marathon rehearsal, where they plowed through all the songs in the show. Although it is a difficult show, both musically and approval-wise, many people have high hopes and expectations for such a well-known show.

“I just want people to keep an open mind. Even the most skeptical people should come see the show because i think their minds will be changed after seeing the production. I encourage all high schoolers and adults to come see it because rent offers really inspirational messages. The messages of love, learning to live your life to the fullest, and finding joy in everyday situations are topics that everyone can relate to.” Marton said in closing. “Anyone who can should definitely come see the show. It’s November 18-21,” added Hawes.
For the full interviews with Bobby Hawes and Samantha Marton, see the additional article.

 

Marina Renton

2011

New Recycling Program Off to Solid Start

By Kathleen McGinty and Marina Renton

As the five-minute warning bell pierces the AHS cafeteria, students flock to the new waste stations to deposit their trash. Paper lunch bags are crumpled up and composted, plastic water bottles are emptied and recycled, and trays and leftovers are tossed into a trash barrel. This is a new and dramatic step to make AHS “greener” and less wasteful.

The people behind the new waste disposal program in the AHS cafeteria are pleased with the students’ initial response.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” said 2011 graduate Hannah Krieger, who developed the project as part of her Senior Exhibition. “I love how receptive people have been to [the new system]. Maybe five percent are intentionally choosing not to do it, but the other 95 percent are.”

“We have been pleasantly surprised by how many students are willingly participating,” said Ms. Cutler, science teacher and head of the Environmental Club, who has been actively involved in this process. “We have had a few obstacles, like the fact that the trash bins are filling up quickly and sometimes people are putting brown paper bags in the compost bin that still have plastic bags inside of them. But we are working on solutions to those problems. For example, we are asking volunteers and students to push down the trash when it gets too full. Also, this year the Environmental Club plans to launch a Zero Waste Lunch campaign, which will encourage students to bring less waste into school.”

Members of the custodial staff are also satisfied with the program. “I think it is a step in a positive direction. It seems as though the faculty and students have taken to it and I think it will be a success,” said Senior Custodian Mr. Cataldo.

After they finish their lunches, students must sort their waste into four categories: liquids, recyclable plastics and aluminum, compostable materials (brown paper bags, fruits, and vegetables), and all other items, which must be thrown away. Every waste station in the cafeteria has receptacles for each type of waste, and someone is always on hand to supervise and help anyone who needs it.

As sudden as the change seemed when students entered the cafeteria on the first day of school and found out that the trash barrels had undergone a makeover, it has been long in coming.

“We started out with the waste audit,” Krieger said, referring to an examination of AHS’ trash that took place last spring. “We wanted to raise awareness…and to collect data.” After the waste audit, it was revealed that 60 percent of the waste from the cafeteria was able to be recycled or composted. Six compost buckets were filled just with paper lunch bags, and three trash bags were filled with Styrofoam plates and trays. Students were informed of these findings at the end of last year, and were again reminded of them at the beginning of this year. Since school has started, it is estimated that the amount of waste has been reduced by 50 percent.

“[It is important] to know how much time and effort has been put into this project by all parties involved,” said Mr. Cataldo “Thanks should be given to the D.P.W. [Department of Public Works] for the purchase of the disposal stations; Ed Ataide, superintendent of Plant and Facilities; Melanie Cutler, AHS teacher; the Environmental Club; and everyone else who had a role in this.”

“We hope that this program will be a permanent change for AHS,” said Ms. Cutler regarding the new system’s future. “The volunteers will continue to weigh the trash a few times a month to track how much waste we are producing and saving from the incinerator. Some of the ideas that Environmental Club members have come up with to reduce the amount of trash we are currently throwing away are to promote Zero Waste Lunches (where everything is brought in reusable containers that are brought home) and to look into alternatives to the Styrofoam trays, which make up a large percentage of the trash volume.”

AHS students are encouraged to keep up the good work, and to remember that Blue + Gold = Green!

Search Committee Elects to Hire Another Interim Principal for the Coming Year

By Marina Renton

For the third year in a row, Andover High School will welcome a new principal. The current interim principal, Dr. Sharkey, will not be returning next year, and a new interim principal will take his place. After an extensive search for a new principal, the search committee concluded that none of the candidates were adequate to fill the position.

A source within the town’s Human Resources department said that the new interim principal would be announced at an unspecified future date. Such information will be shared with the community at large as soon as it is known.

According to Superintendent Dr. Marinel McGrath, “The search committee, from their review of the applications and interviews, believed that the candidates they interviewed did not have the experiences, knowledge, and skills Andover was looking for in its next principal.”

Added Dr. McGrath, “[The search committee] did a great job, even though they recommended an interim again for the next year.”

Eighteen people applied for the permanent position, and four candidates made it to the interview process.

When asked if any students had been involved in the search process, Dr. McGrath responded, “Had the team identified candidates for me to consider, students would have been involved in the next phase.” Students would have been offered the opportunity to meet with the candidates, ask them questions, and provide feedback.

Dr. McGrath herself was closely involved in the search process. “I was very involved and met with the team of teachers, principals, parents, and central office staff involved in the search. We discussed the needs of the high school students, faculty, and school in general. I met with the team to discuss their recommendation. I also met with the [AHS] faculty to get their views on the situation.” Apparently, the decision to choose another interim principal was unanimous.

“[A good high school principal] must genuinely like and respect young adults…have strong interpersonal and leadership skills, be able to structure, implement, and manage a wide range of school and business projects, be visionaries with organizational and analytical skills…, develop leadership among the teacher corps, develop a strong client orientation in all school staff, analyze problems [and] identify alternative solutions…, prepare and administer [the school’s] budget…[and] communicate effectively,” explained Dr. McGrath.

This decision means that the current sophomore class will see four different principals in four years: Mr. Harris last year, Dr. Sharkey as interim principal this year, another interim principal next year, and finally still another principal. The current junior class will also know four principals: Mr. Anderson, Mr. Harris, Dr. Sharkey, and next year’s interim.

According to Dr. McGrath, this situation has happened before: “Ten years ago before Mr. Anderson was hired…each person who came to be the principal connected with the students for the time he was here.”

The search for a permanent principal will begin again shortly after next Thanksgiving. It is hoped that a new principal will be appointed by February 2012 and begin work in July 2012. According to Dr. McGrath, the recent experience with Mr. Harris did not affect the search process in any way.

“Almost, Maine” Sure to be a Success

The time has come again for the AHS Drama Guild’s spring play.  This year, dedicated thespians have been rehearsing to perform Almost, Maine, opening this Wednesday, May 4.

The play showcases a series of short scenes about love and its ups and downs. The vast majority of the scenes are performed with only two actors on stage.

“The scenes deal with love – all happening around the same time on a Friday night in the imaginary northern town of Almost, Maine. The resolution to each scene is brilliantly written, and the metaphors and character dynamics are really what make this piece amazing,” said Nick Solimini, a junior who plays the part of Steve, a character who suffers from Congenital Analgesia, meaning that he is unable to feel pain.

“I saw this play over a year ago and completely fell in love with it. It is charming , heartwarming, and bittersweet and a great acting exercise for our actors,” said Ms. Susan Choquette, the director of the production. “We’ve done a lot of serious pieces this year – RENT and the Laramie Project. This play is a great way to end the school year– it is funny and warm and simply uplifting.  Each scene is like opening a present – there is a surprise waiting inside…I can guarantee that you will have a great time,” she added.

“My experience with this play has been amazing,” said junior Erika Spinale, who has involved with the Drama Guild since her freshman year, performing in both the musicals and the plays, and who takes on the role of Marvalyn. “It’s such a charming little show that really has a great story to tell…Each scene is its own story of the triumph of heartbreak of love…[The show leaves us with] a great message: love is never easy!”

Senior Nora Huntley, who plays the part of Rhonda, is performing in the spring play for the first time, and is thrilled with her decision: “…Up until this year, I used to play lacrosse in the spring and only did the fall musicals at the high school. I came to realize this year that my heart was in theater and made the really tough decision to…audition for the spring play [instead]…I definitely made the right decision for myself.” Of the show, she said, “[Almost, Maine] is relatively simple in its structure and components. [It] derives a lot of its brilliance in situational comedy and several delicately placed puns…It is a show that you can sit down in your seat and just relax and be entertained.”

Almost, Maine opens on a Wednesday night, and continues through the school week, as opposed to its typical opening night, on a Friday. When asked why this change occurred, Ms. Choquette responded, “There is a conflict with prom. We always have our spring play on Mother’s Day weekend…It didn’t seem fair to ask my actors to choose between the play and prom…A Saturday matinee was out because of SATs [and] prom preparations. A Sunday matinee was also not an option because of Mother’s Day…We couldn’t choose another weekend because the Collins Center is booked a year in advance…So…we decided to do a weeknight run.”

In closing, Almost, Maine promises to be heartwarming, witty, quirky, and enjoyable, worthy of seeing, even on a school night. To audience members, Nora Huntley advises,  “Pay attention to the words. The author, John Cariani, has many [cleverly] worded lines that are critical to the plot, so be sure you don’t miss them. Also, take a moment at some point in the show to appreciate all of the “behind the scenes” work. Andover has a great tech crew and costume committee who add so much to all our shows. Make sure to absorb all the aspects of this production that lead you to believe the stage in front of you is actually the town of Almost, Maine.”

Almost, Maine will be performed at the Collins Center May 4, 5, and 6, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.

Hitting a High Note

The AHS Music Department has been busily preparing for next year, spurred on by the good news that its director, Mr. Mercer, will be returning. Mr. Mercer’s position for AHS was on the line, but partially thanks to the support from his passionate students, Mr. Mercer will be coming back, and the AHS Music Department has big plans for next year.

“We will be racking it up in the performance area of things [next year],” said Katya Sorterup-Kaminsky, sophomore and a president of the AHS show choir, From Start To Finish. For the show choir in particular, next year promises to be even more dynamic than its debut year. “…We will be traveling more and performing in unknown territory. Also, the choir and the marching band are going to have a collaboration day at a home football game, … it’s going to be an epic halftime show!”

To compensate for increasing numbers (“Right now, we have around 100 sign-ups…last year we had around 60”), the show choir is adding what was initially called a Junior Varsity choir, but now, according to Kaminsky, has been changed to “an all women’s show choir and a mixed show choir. We added the women’s show choir because we just have so many kids that want to do show choir! Also, we have more guys coming in and wanting to do show choir, which is great, but it means that all the girls that were in show choir this year may not have gotten in next year if we didn’t add an all women’s show choir.”

After weeks of attending School Committee meetings, making posters and pins, and encouraging drivers to “Honk for Music,” the AHS Music Department’s efforts were rewarded: Mr. Mercer will be returning to AHS next year. The reaction to the news that Mr. Mercer will remain at AHS was overwhelmingly positive. “I felt an immediate sense of relief and happiness,” said Kaminsky. “…We all jumped for joy…and felt like a big powerful family…Also, aside from all the immediate happiness and joy, a couple of days after hearing the news it just hit me. He really was going to be here next year and the choral program really was going to bigger and better heights.”

Not only two show choirs, From Start to Finish and Nothing But Treble, but also the AHS chamber choir, Spotlight, are holding auditions this week. Next year, under Mr. Mercer’s continued direction, promises to be a grand year for the AHS Music Department!

Final Curtain for MJT

As the curtain came down on last Sunday’s production of Merrimack Junior Theatre’s Annie, although the cast members had put on perhaps their best show yet, there were tears in the eyes of many, as the beloved establishment had just put on its final performance.

Merrimack Junior Theatre has been a beloved institution for 23 years, teaching children singing and acting skills, as well as life skills and confidence that they will take with them the rest of their lives. Several AHS students who have starred in Drama Guild productions honed their skills through MJT and, when they were too old to be involved in the production, came back to help out with the younger children.

Mrs. Josie Walker, director of all MJT shows, was honored for her decades of humorous and heartwarming performances on Sunday with a surprise tribute. Unbeknownst to her, all MJT alumni that could be rounded up came onstage after the cast of Annie’s final bows, and sang her a song (“For Good,” from the Broadway musical Wicked).

As sad as the ending of MJT is, their production of Annie sent the audiences away with feelings of hope and optimism.

And the Winner Is…

By Devika Ranjan and Marina Renton

At the beginning of the each year, the television is ruled by ceremonies commemorating artistic achievements performed the previous year. The Golden Globes, the People’s Choice Awards, and the Grammys are all are award shows commanding our attention. However, the cherry on top of all of these events is the Academy Awards, or the Oscars.

It is every actor’s dream to take home the famous golden statuette of a knight holding a sword and standing upon a reel of film. Standing 13 ½ inches tall but weighing a massive 8 ½ pounds, this trophy is a hefty one, and it places an actor in an elite class.

But why the Oscars? What makes this ceremony the most exciting and anticipated of all the celebrations of achievements in film?

Perhaps it is the history–the Academy Awards predate other film awards, debuting in 1929. It has been a tradition that has surpassed all cinema awards to date. The first Golden Globes ceremony was in 1944, and the People’s Choice Awards premiered in 1975. The recipients of the various awards commemorating achievements in all areas of film, from acting to editing, are chosen by the Academy, a group of approximately 6,000 of “the most accomplished motion picture artists and professionals,” according to the website of the Academy Awards.

Perhaps, however, it is the spectacle of the event. Viewers tune in hours before the event commences to watch their favorite stars walk the red carpet and to admire their hairstyles and shockingly expensive designer dresses, suits, and accessories. Of course, there is also the suspense as the seal on the envelopes containing the winners’ names is broken for the first time.

Watching the Oscars is like seeing another movie, perhaps even a movie worthy of its own Academy Award. All the invitees wear big smiles on their faces, even when they don’t receive an award. Being master actors, this comes as no surprise. However, it is still quite interesting to see movie actors socializing with their fellow dramatics instead of playing roles written for them.

The Oscars take on an exciting role in the film industry every year as millions watch and cheer for their favorite movies and actors of the season. Movie buffs place bets on their picks while others simply try to defy bedtimes in order to see which movie wins ‘Best Picture of the Year.’ Also, over the year, viewers become emotionally vested in the films that they enjoyed, and have fun rooting for the actors they think are most deserving of an Oscar. The ceremony also provides recommendations that fans are likely to order on Netflix the following day.

The Oscars ensure a spot in the history books for a certain actor and movie every year, a coveted title by many. Award recipients sometimes make sentimental and often amusing speeches, creating many embarrassing moments forever remembered and replayed.

For years, families have gathered around to see their favorite celebrities gather together to commemorate the year in cinema. The Oscars create a fun and glamorous environment that showcases the best in the industry, and is the highest aspiration of all actors, directors, and screenwriters, young or old.

This year’s Academy Awards were hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, young hosts to appeal to a younger audience. Even so, ratings fell from last year, according to a New York Times article.

The film ‘The King’s Speech’ won the most awards, including the award for Best Picture, which was not a surprise. Colin Firth, the star of the film, picked up an Oscar for Best Actor, and the director, Tom Hooper, was awarded the Oscar for Best Director. ‘The King’s Speech’ also won for Best Original Screenplay.

‘The Social Network,’ another hit film of the season, won the awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing.

Another movie favorite of Andover High Schoolers this year was ‘Toy Story 3,’ which received the award for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song, entitled “We Belong Together.”

Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ took the Oscars for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design.

‘Inception’ won four Oscars, half of the awards that it was nominated for. It took the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Cinematography.

Both the awards for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ and ‘Best Supporting Actress’ went to cast members Melissa Leo and Christian Bale for their performances in ‘The Fighter.’ Melissa Leo’s acceptance speech will go down in Oscar history because of unpredicted profanity on national television.

Natalie Portman won the award for Best Actress, based on her performance in the movie ‘Black Swan.’

Save Mercer, Save Music!

By Marina Renton

The girls’ basketball team just won a championship. Congratulations! I’m sure the coach does not see a threat of losing his job. However, the AHS Show Choir just won a championship as well. And now the job of its director is on the line. Due to budget cuts, Mr. Mercer may lose his job, news that has shocked and appalled many, including myself.

In such a sports-centric town, it is upsetting that the town is considering eliminating part of its—already small in comparison—arts program. So much money is spent on sports each year, and sports are so much more widely-recognized for achievements, that members of the music program at AHS have every right to protest. It seems that nearly every year, a chorus teacher loses his or her position.

State standards are not the only yardstick by which to measure a successful high school education. A town as affluent as Andover should be sufficiently culturally aware as to appreciate the importance of a musical education.

Music strikes the core of the educational mission, which is to elevate the mind and spirit above our basic instincts. If we were talking about the football team, instead of music, people would not doubt its importance, because sports build character, they encourage teamwork, and they provide a sense of accomplishment. Music provides the same things, and more, because it appeals to a higher form of expression, as opposed to mere physical competition. It is a universal form of communication that has been refined through the ages.

In addition, music is part of the zeitgeist, choruses and choirs are becoming increasingly popular, and reflect well upon the high school, in the local community and beyond, showcasing a well-rounded student population.

Music is an important part of our high school, and should not be disregarded because Chorus is not a graduation requirement. These requirements represent the least common denominator; surely we can aspire to more.

Time To Trade Back

By Marina Renton

During the first semester of this year, Mr. Steve Sanborn, an AHS science teacher, exchanged places with Ms. Sreeja Rajan, a teacher at a school in Kerala, a state in southern India, via a Fulbright teacher exchange program.

As this semester draws to a close, Ms. Rajan, who taught three biology classes this semester, is getting ready to go back home. Although she has enjoyed herself greatly and learned a lot, Ms. Rajan is looking forward to seeing her family and friends. I asked her a few questions about her experience at AHS, and how she feels about returning.

I was also able to contact Mr. Sanborn, who taught at the Trivandrum International School in Kerala.

Q: Have you enjoyed your time in the United States/India?

Ms. Rajan: I have enjoyed my time here in the United States a great deal. Most of the time, of course, has been occupied by my commitments here at school where I had a three-block schedule. The long teaching hours and number of students, though initially daunting, proved a very positive challenge and has been a satisfying and fulfilling experience. I have also managed to travel to Washington, New York, Virginia Beach, Niagara Falls, and of course, Boston, the White Mountains, and Maine, during weekends and breaks thanks to my husband having been here and planning the trips.

Mr. Sanborn: My family and I have had a very memorable and enjoyable experience living, teaching, learning, and traveling in India. It has been a growth-filled experience for all of us.

Q: Are you looking forward to going back home to India/the US?

Ms. Rajan: I am really looking forward to returning home to India. My school is a great place and I am looking forward to slipping back into my routine and responsibilities on my return. My students are due to sit for their Cambridge A levels later in May this year and I need to ensure they are adequately prepared. My daughter is in University of New Delhi and I have missed two of her breaks this year. I miss her and am looking forward to seeing her when she visits Kerala thesoon after I get back…It must be a familiar feeling [for everyone who has traveled]…after a bit it is ‘Let’s go home!’

Mr. Sanborn: Now just days away from my departure, my family and I are eager to be in our own home again, to reconnect with our family and friends (and our dog!), and return to the lifestyle with which we are most familiar. At the same time, as we prepare to depart India, we will miss interacting with the new friends we’ve made as well as feeling sorry that we have to say goodbye to the warm, wonderful, tropical weather we’ve enjoyed in this very beautiful part of India.

Q: What were the most surprising cultural differences you realized this semester?

Ms. Rajan: I don’t know if it’s because I came prepared for a lot of cultural differences, and because the United States has a very tangible presence back home because of the movies, music, and even television (Oprah, Desperate Housewives, Bones, How I Met Your Mother…), every program, new and old…There really were not too many surprises…though of course television is not really life. Actually, what was most surprising for me was how very few the actual underlying differences were…especially how tradition-bound and conservative a lot of people are, as opposed to a ‘do as you will any old time’ culture I half expected.

Mr. Sanborn: Part of living in a different culture is that it offers the opportunity to view one’s own culture through a different lens and to explore new ways of approaching things. In general, Indian people seem much more patient and tolerant when things don’t go according to plan, which is quite often. It’s been my experience here that many things happen at the last minute and are not always well thought out, but it’s the way people operate so they deal with it well. One place where Indian patience is hardly ever displayed is on the roads – the drivers are unbelievably impatient, honk horns continuously, and pass other vehicles virtually anywhere on the road.

Q: What are the biggest differences between American students and Indian students?

Ms. Rajan: I have…found that kids are uncannily alike, even if they are from two sides of the planet. In [an Indian high school,] students are preparing for public board examinations, which makes them push themselves a little harder to learn the material because they are being tested AND graded by an outside person/persons. All internal quizzes, tests, and term exams are diagnostic and learning aids. Here I have found bright and intelligent kids who are very focused despite no immediate ‘outside’ exam, but the atmosphere is much more relaxed and casual although the internal grade matters, probably because improving your performance (through retests, etc.) is possible through the classroom teacher.

Mr. Sanborn: I taught at the Trivandrum International School, which is an elite private school in the state of Kerala and not at all typical of schools in India. For this reason, I didn’t experience the kinds of difference that I would have had I taught at a government or [public] school. One major difference is the pressure the Indian students experience as a result [of] major tests they must take at the end of their course that have a great bearing on their future plans. It seemed like the primary focus of their academic life was to prepare for the board exams. Otherwise, I found a lot of similarities with the students at this school and my students at AHS

Q: What was your favorite part of your experience as an exchange teacher?

Ms. Rajan: My favorite part as an exchange teacher in this country has been without question the teaching time I have spent in the classrooms with the students.

Mr. Sanborn: That’s difficult because there are so many aspects of the experience that I enjoyed. I like meeting people with ways of viewing the world that are very different from mine. Practicing my teaching profession in a different setting forces me to reflect on how and why I go about my teaching the way that I do. I enjoy traveling and seeing unusual places, trying new foods, and meeting new and unusual people. Finally, I enjoy my role as a kind of ambassador for sharing our American culture, sometimes dispelling myths and misinformation, and frequently exchanging ideas in ways that promote a better understanding of each other. Ultimately, that’s what the Fulbright Exchange Program is all about.

An Exhilarating Walk ‘Into the Woods’

By Marina Renton

For months now, actors and actresses of all ages have been rehearsing, getting ready to perform Into the Woods, a musical written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

“The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales and follows them further to explore the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests,” according to ACT Andover’s web site.  “When a Baker and his Wife learn they’ve been cursed with childlessness by the witch next door, they embark on a quest for the special objects required to break the spell, lying to and stealing from Cinderella, Little Red [Riding Hood], Rapunzel, and Jack….” The musical teaches a lesson about “community responsibility and the stories we tell our children.”

The actors in this production are all high-school age and up, and three members of Andover High School are performing in it. Freshman Emily Lin and sophomore Devika Ranjan are members of the Into the Woods ensemble, and junior Michelle Lin takes on the role of Sleeping Beauty.

ACT Andover is a fairly new theater company; founded in 2008 by Charles and Mark Gracy, who have both spent time on the stage and backstage.

“Our goal is to provide quality live theater to the Andovers and surrounding communities. We are a non-profit theater company striving to provide an outlet for seasoned performers and new talent,” states the website.

“The ACT-ors are a really friendly, warm group of people,” says Devika Ranjan. “They welcome anyone new who comes in. They’re not critical; They just want you to do your best. We’re not just friends during rehearsals, we usually go out afterwards and hangout when we’re not in shows, too. Everyone in the group is really talented, and I really enjoy working with people who I can learn a lot from.”

Into the Woods will be performed January 21, 22, and 23, 2011 at the Rogers Center for the Arts. Tickets are $17 for students, and $20 for adults, and are on sale now!

ACT Andover’s next production will be Guys and Dolls, which is holding auditions on January 24 and 25. Anyone is welcome to audition or work behind the scenes. For more information on ACT Andover and its upcoming productions, feel free to visit its website, www.actandover.com.

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