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Predictions for the 2021 School Year

By Julia Rowland

May 27, 2020

As the 2020 school year came to an abrupt end, leaving high school seniors mourning the unsatisfying end to their 12-year journey, underclassmen have begun to wonder what the future holds for the year 2021. Will there be more online school? Will rising seniors be able to walk across a stage? Will students participate in the activities that they have been invested in for so long? While no one has all of the answers yet, read on to hear some predictions for the 2021 school year.

While the future cannot be known, the fact remains that students will be returning to vastly different circumstances around the world whenever schools reopen. In fact, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made an announcement stating that state education officials will be partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in an effort to "revolutionize" and "reimagine" education from grades K-12 whenever schools reopen. They hope to incorporate more technology, in order to make learning more effective. A more extreme example can be seen with the replacement of teachers with an education software program in a school just outside of Detroit. With educators now relying more heavily on technology, one has to wonder what will come next for education in all schools.

Setting aside questions about technology and new policies regarding the education system, there have been many students feverishly waiting for news on what schools will look like when they do finally open again. Though not much information has been released yet, it can be assumed that numerous changes will be made in school budgets, seeing how they rely on state and local revenue. Due to the economic issues prevalent in the world today, there will likely be far less money put in schools. The lack of money in the budget coupled with continued social distancing could potentially lead to fewer extracurricular activities such as art, music, and physical education as part of the school day. The time may instead be dedicated to academic core subjects. As of right now, no one can say for sure. Still, students should prepare for changes.

More speculations have been flying regarding what school will actually be like. Will there be social distancing in classrooms and cafeterias? How many times a day will students and teachers wash their hands? State Board of Education chairman Eric Davis believes that students will be experiencing many changes. "We're going to be doing a lot of hand washing," Davis said at a virtual town hall meeting. "We're going to be really focused on hygiene. We probably will not be gathering in large groups. We may be eating lunch in our classrooms." There may not be as many, if any, extracurricular activities, and there could be rotating classes or teachers using technology to teach their classes.

Although many of the potential changes to the coming year have not been made clear, there will be positives to the situation all students have been put in. Colleges around the world sympathize with students and have been making changes to accommodate these circumstances. Juniors who have yet to take an SAT may not have to. Colleges worldwide have begun dropping the requirement for SAT scores for 2020 and 2021 students. In fact, some have been considering dropping them permanently. While not all schools have embraced the policy, around 51 schools announced over the past month that they will "drop the requirement of SAT or ACT score for admissions next year, including Colgate University, Vassar College, Williams College, and Boston University, among others." Colleges do not plan on making this experience more difficult. In fact, many have been putting a good amount of effort into taking pressure off of students so that they can succeed.

All of the numerous changes that will be occurring in the 2021 school year cannot be completely predicted; however, until it arrives, students can still speculate and wonder what the future of education holds. No one can really change the circumstances of the next year, so the best that students can do is change how they view them. After all, these next few years will be history in the making, so we might as well make it good.


How The Theater Department Got Their Show

By Daniela Paris | Photos by Abby Robisch

When Athena Reaves, the AFHS theater department head, heard of the possibility that the spring production of Cinderella would have to be canceled due to COVID-19, she immediately began brainstorming ideas with Mr. Whitley, the AFHS tech theater teacher, and Mrs. Brooks, the AFHS dance teacher, to make sure the hardworking cast and crew still got to experience the show.

School musical productions often take months to plan. For Cinderella, a musical that involves an array of time-specific costumes and sets, planning began months in advance, Reaves said. The musical overall took about five months of planning with the production staff and three months of working with students. In October of 2019, discussions began for designs, casting, and costumes, and Reaves applied for the show's rights and royalties. By December, the cast began meeting for rehearsals, and by January, a team of student designers had started working with Whitley to develop the set.

By March 12th, news had begun spreading of the Coronavirus and possible school closings-Reaves, Whitley, and Brooks, discussed this one Thursday morning, and Reaves suggested inviting parents to the next day's tech rehearsal. Whitley and Brooks loved the idea, so after running it past Mr. Kasapidis and Mr. Wight, Reaves and Kasapidis drafted a formal letter inviting the cast, crew, and orchestra's parents to the dress rehearsal. At that day's rehearsal, she informed the entire cast, crew, and pit how Friday's tech rehearsal would go.

That night, however, problems arose when Governor Cooper called for the cancellation of all gatherings of more than 100 people. "I was scared we weren't even going to get our tech rehearsal that day," Reaves said. She got up early the next day to meet Mr. Wight at the school, who confirmed that the tech rehearsal would continue-the Governor's order wouldn't go into effect until the following day. "I hugged him with tears in my eyes. I couldn't speak. All I wanted at that point was for these kids to perform for their parents," Reaves said.

"The performance itself was beyond words," Whitley said, adding, "While it was still a rehearsal and we ran into bad transitions, costume malfunctions, missed cues, and the like, the students realized that this was their one chance to lay it all out and they did...While not ideal circumstances, I believe that performance was the best possible scenario and for what it was, it was perfect."

Reaves agreed, saying, "This was one of the best experiences and memories of my life... It was brilliant to watch the kids in character, diving in, just putting all of their hard work into this one production. The parents loved this performance. They were clapping and cheering them on. They loved it. I loved it. It was such a memorable moment. The kids were so grateful, the parents were so grateful and I was so proud."

Marysa Gavankar, a senior who worked as the stage manager for Cinderella, said the tech show became especially memorable as the last day of her senior year, even though some minor mishaps occurred. "None of us expected that it was going to be our only performance, so it was quite a shock when we found out. I spent most of the day trying to write cues and get everything ready. I even remember crying in the tech booth an hour before [the show] opened because I didn't have black clothes to wear. Yet despite everything, it all came together beautifully. I'll never forget that show and I truly believe it was the best production our school has ever done... Cinderella made my last day of high school absolutely magical, and I wouldn't change it for the world," she said.

All in all, though Reaves managed to get some money back from rented costumes, backdrops, and lighting instruments, the theater department lost around six thousand dollars, Whitley and Reaves said, mostly from rentals, royalties, and construction costs. The loss will have a large impact on how the department will run in the future, and will bring some cutbacks. Reaves and Whitley anticipate reusing the Cinderella set for next year to save money, and possibly producing more modern shows in order to cut costs on costumes and props. "We do what we can to keep going," Reaves said.

Regardless, the experience came with some positives. "I was absolutely astounded by everyone's ability to overcome the awful situation and put on one of the most amazing and truthful performances I have ever seen," Whitley said, adding that the situation stressed for him the importance of giving back to his community and supporting those around him. "​This whole COVID experience has been difficult... We all have had events canceled because of it," Reaves said. She continued, "My heart goes out to all of the students who aren't going to get their last musical performance, their last prom, their graduation. I've learned so many things-we can do anything. But most importantly-I relearned how much I love my community at AFHS."


How Does AFHS Feel About Online Learning?

By Julia Rowland | Graphs by Julia Rowland 

Remote learning. These two words have the capability to make students either smile or gag. The first few weeks of online learning have come and gone, making days blend together. The many pros and cons remain extensive, and most students have had time to form a concrete opinion about whether or not they like online learning so far. In a survey given to AFHS students, mixed results show that teens have varying reactions and emotions about learning from home. Read on to see the results of the survey and learn how AFHS students have reacted to online learning.


What To Do While Stuck Inside

By Julia Rowland | Photo by Julia Rowland

With the words "social distancing" becoming more infamous with each passing day in quarantine, many people have begun to feel the effects of the current state-wide lockdown. The importance of social distancing cannot be overstated, as it has the potential to "flatten the curve" and stop hospitals from being overloaded. Although all residents of North Carolina have been vigorously encouraged to remain indoors, this does not mean that mass boredom must derive from these most unfavorable circumstances. Read on for a list of activities to alleviate boredom while stuck inside for quarantine.

Virtually Explore The World

The magic of the internet can provide a multitude of opportunities for entertainment during quarantine for restless travel-lovers who feel confined by their four walls. By visiting websites such as vjv.com, anyone can be virtually transported to numerous famous locations from the Taj Mahal to Venice, Italy. Another place to virtually visit could be the Smithsonian National Zoo. The Smithsonian holds many exhibits that contain live cameras, so visitors can see the animals in their habitats from the comfort of their own homes. Though cabin fever will likely get worse before it gets better, with the expansive world wide web so accessible, others can get away from their mundane surroundings and explore the world virtually from home.

Attend a Live-Streamed Concert

Ever wonder what it would be like to see multiple famous musicians perform live? Wonder no longer, because due to the current worldwide quarantine, performers have begun to live-stream their music for their fans to enjoy from a screen. #PayItForwardLIVE, a weekly live stream starring the biggest names in entertainment, will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8PM ET/5PM PT. Be a part of this musical movement and witness an unforgettable concert via the internet by visiting #PayItForwardLIVE.

Forget Fandango and Stream From Home

Break out the popcorn and find the remote, because new movies will now be available for streaming. Though it can be boring to sit at home all day, finding fun ways to pass the time can be the key to maintaining one's sanity during these uneventful days, and no better cure for boredom exists than movie night. Platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ offer a wide variety of movies and TV shows to enjoy while stuck in the house, and other movies recently filmed have begun to be released to the public to rent. Instead of paying for movie tickets and overpriced theater snacks, gather up the family and binge whatever show looks intriguing that day. Not only will it be a great way to bond and spend some free time, but there also won't be any loud movie-goers to shush.

Keep a Journal or Write a Blog

The year 2020 will always be remembered, written about in history books and taught to children and grandchildren long after the crisis subsides. Due to the historical significance of this time, a few moments a day could be spent writing a journal, or a blog for those who prefer typing, recording impressions and thoughts about this chapter of history. If not for oneself, perhaps journaling could benefit historians in the future. "As historians, we rely on those daily reports to figure out what actually happened on the ground," said Victoria Cain, an associate professor of history at Northeastern University, adding, "It really offers us insight into how society and culture worked at a time of tragedy, or crisis, or just chaos."

Catch Up On Sleep

The importance of getting enough sleep can be fairly self-explanatory, especially to those who must wake up at the crack of dawn each morning, and although sleep has often been a luxury that many teens cannot afford due to a lack of flexibility with morning schedules, now that online learning has started being implemented, students can finally sleep in more and get the rest that they need. According to The Department of Health and Human Services, "deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults." With the newfound free time that teens will be experiencing indefinitely, catching up on years of improper rest can end up making an impactful difference.

Finding ways to pass the time may not seem like a priority with everything going on in the world; however, underestimating the importance of keeping spirits high and maintaining positivity could lead to poor mental health. Try watching a movie or virtually visiting the zoo whenever boredom creeps up in order to seize each and every day while staying home.


COVID-19 Disproportionately Affects Those With Lower Incomes

By Daniela Paris | Photo by Daniela Paris 

The disastrous COVID-19 has impacted daily life for most U.S. citizens, whether it be through closing schools and summer programs, forcing some to work from home and others out of their jobs altogether, or keeping people from seeing their friends and loved ones as they stay locked inside homes. However, new reports have surfaced, painting a picture that some might call ironic: A virus spread by the affluent, taking planes from country to country, seems to disproportionately affect those of lower incomes.

The virus itself can infect anyone. The World Health Organization categorized COVID-19 as a pandemic in March of this year due to its "affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population." According to the Center For Disease Control, those age 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions have the highest risk of developing a serious illness as a result of the virus, though the risk of contracting the virus remains around the same for anyone. The virus's toll on those of lower socioeconomic status has become apparent in other ways.

The New York Times reported on one effect of the virus: a loss of space and privacy for those who lack reliable shelter, or those who have been forced to move in with many others in the wake of many states' stay-at-home orders. Several generations in one home, many comings-and-goings as tenants go to retail and fast-food jobs, crowded bedrooms and shared bathrooms-these situations appear commonly among the poor, The New York Times wrote. In a pandemic, this becomes increasingly dangerous. "Living in crowded conditions not only increases the risk of infection but can also impose serious emotional and mental health costs," Stefanie DeLuca, a professor at John Hopkins University, said, adding, "The ability to retreat into one's own space is a way to cope with conflict, tension and anxiety."

Aside from living conditions, the virus also has affected jobs. Those with higher incomes, while still suffering from job insecurity, can work from home at higher rates than those with lower incomes: according to Gallup, " 71 percent of people making more than $180,000 can work from home during the pandemic, compared with just 41 percent of those making less than $24,000." This group of people working essential, low-paying jobs-fast-food workers, grocery store cashiers and stockers, delivery people-have been put at a higher risk of contracting the virus, as The Atlantic reported, writing, "reports began to trickle in of grocery-store workers coming down with COVID-19."

Finally, schools have faced a unique situation as they struggle to maintain learning conditions for students, something they find difficult, as disparities have shown up among children and teachers lacking access to technology or a reliable internet connection. After schools shut down in Wake County, North Carolina, the county made decisions to delay online learning until plans could be made to avoid leaving behind those without access to technology, a Wake County Public School System newsletter said. Children in the public school system lost several weeks of schooling, as ABC11 reported. Distance learning finally began on April 13th, another newsletter from WCPSS said, though many students still had not received laptops necessary for completing assignments and learning new material. Wake County continues plans to distribute laptops to students in need, The News & Observer reported.

In comparison, students in private schools faced no gap in learning. St. Mary Magdalene, for example, a Catholic elementary and middle school less than ten minutes away from Apex Friendship High School, managed to jump right into online learning without missing a single school day. The students-and teachers-all possessed the technology and internet connectivity necessary for distance learning.

In North Carolina, several hundred new cases continue to appear every day, as ncdhhs.gov, a government website for all COVID-19 information, reports. However, cases have been predicted to peak around April 15th, The Charlotte Business Journal found in a recent article. Whether this peak will push the return to normality for many working, low-income families remains to be seen.


A Step Towards Sustainability

By Daniela Paris | Photos by Daniela Paris

Ms. Pollack has been working on an idea to create a composting program at the school and use the compost for the school's garden.
Ms. Pollack has been working on an idea to create a composting program at the school and use the compost for the school's garden.

AFHS's own art teacher, Ms. Pollack, has undertaken the project of making the school more sustainable by creating a new composting program. The program, several months in the making, will finally come to fruition in late March, when Ms. Pollack hopes to open composting to students. Students will be given the option of taking a step towards sustainability through the ability to place food waste, compostable plastics and napkins, and several other types of waste into compost bins around the school. This student-provided waste will then be used to create compost: a composition of decomposed waste, nutrient-rich and perfect for gardens-of which AFHS has two, courtesy of the Environmental Club.

Ms. Pollack first conceived the idea while on lunch duty, observing students throwing away compostable cafeteria trays. "I felt like that kind of was avoiding the fact that we had compostable trays. And that along with feeling like my students didn't necessarily have the option of doing something more sustainable, because the only things provided for them were trash and recycling. And yes, recycling is amazing and I'm really glad that we have that program, but there are so many other ways that we can start to educate about other ways to get rid of your waste." Ms. Pollack began to form the beginnings of an idea to create a composting program at the school, and use the compost for the school's garden.

The idea took work to establish, Ms. Pollack acknowledged. "I wrote a large grant that included a budget and a timeline and how I was planning on doing it, how I could make it a reality, essentially, and who was getting involved," she said. Eventually, NC Beautiful, a private non-profit with aims of preserving North Carolina's environment, approved the grant in February and gave a contribution of $1000 to the newly-formed composting program. Now, Ms. Pollack and several students in the art program will work hard to put the funding to use and create AFHS's first-ever composting program.

Quinn Allred, a junior and president of the Environmental Club, helped in garnering student interest for the project. Other students formed a leadership committee in early March to better handle organization and volunteers for the program. Catalina Cabrera, a senior on the committee, spoke on the importance of giving students a greener option, saying, "I want to become more sustainable at least, so I think others would, too, if they had the choice. There just is no choice."

Catalina Cabrera, a senior on the committee, spoke on the importance of giving students a greener option.
Catalina Cabrera, a senior on the committee, spoke on the importance of giving students a greener option.

The group has made steady progress building compost bins and gathering supplies for classrooms. Pollack even found a unique way to involve her art students: she assigned her Art 3 students a print ad campaign to put up around the school and educate high schoolers on the components of composting. However, Ms. Pollack and the group continue to wrestle with some key issues. "We haven't yet mastered how we are going to get the compost to the classroom, get it weighed, get it put into the compost bin...There's still other elements that we're going to probably have hiccups on, and we're going to try to figure out the best we can before we put out the program," Pollack said.

Once the composting program goes live, several other teachers have volunteered to help. Mr. O'Shea and Ms. March, who teach AP Environmental Science, plan to attain compost samples and have students analyze pH levels as part of the lab portion of their classes. Ms. Jones, the AP Statistics teacher, will incorporate real world data into her class and have students analyze results from the composting as part of her classes' final projects. "I am hoping that my students will have a real world, hands-on experience of conducting a survey," Jones said, adding, "the ultimate hope is for my students to use these results to change their behaviors."

Ms. Pollack spoke passionately on her hopes for the project, saying, "It's really about education, in my mind...It's the little choices that every person makes that can build up, and that's specifically what I want to educate students on, and what I want this program to educate students on, is that they have the power to change their own environmental impacts, and to try to become more aware of where they can make those decisions without truly affecting their lives too much." With the program set to start before the end of the school year, it appears that, with the help of a determined art teacher and some dedicated students, AFHS will take one important step towards sustainability.


AFHS Celebrates Women's History Month

By Julia Rowland | Photos by Julia Rowland

Throughout history, the contributions that women have made around the world have often gone underappreciated. Women have been granted less opportunities to make a difference, yet the differences that they have made have changed history in countless ways. From Abigail Adams' warning to "remember the ladies" to current women's marches and attempts to attain gender equality, the imperative impact that women have made on U.S. history has led to the celebration of Women's History Month.

A week in March first became known as "National Women's History Month" after Jimmy Carter's presidential proclamation in 1980, coinciding with International Women's Day on March 8th. In 1987, at the request of the National Women's History Project, Congress expanded the week to a month, and the U.S. Congress issued a resolution every year since then, with wide support, for Women's History Month. The amazing accomplishments made by women throughout history do not simply stay in the past.

Teachers at AFHS, for example, can be impactful role models for female students in high school. Teachers such as Mrs. Eckstein, English teacher at AFHS. When asked to describe some obstacles that she has faced and overcome being a woman, she responded, "I think it's hard to balance career, self and family--and that's the primary obstacle I've faced... I think this is true for many women: that personal time gets sacrificed. I have to remind myself that it's okay to have time each day just for me--even if it means that a task will have to be done later."

Mrs. Cave, art teacher at AFHS. gives advice to young women in high school, saying "stand firm. You have great ideas and you have great qualities and I would ask you to be respectful of yourself at all times, put yourself first, and when that happens then other people that choose to be around someone who respects themselves will always respect you." National Women's History Month may just be another month to some people; however, this month gives others an opportunity to learn about and be inspired by the sacrifices and achievements that women have made in history to impact the future. 

Play a Game, Feed the World

By Daniela Paris | Photo by Daniela Paris

Two motivated students at Apex Friendship have started an initiative, called "Rice For Lives." In hopes of reducing hunger in poverty-stricken countries, they have employed the use of freerice.com, a website that donates grains of rice for every question answered right on its education-based trivia games. Zoe Shipley and Caitlin Smith, both seniors, developed the idea for the project in their fourth period Holocaust and Genocide class and largely orchestrated the campaign by themselves. Now, just a couple weeks in, the project has managed to donate over 200,000 grains of rice.

According to digitaltrends.com, John Breen, a computer programmer, created the site and its concept in 2007 to help his son with SAT words. Soon after, however, he donated the site to the UK's World Food Program, who revamped the site into one that uses ad income to donate the monetary equivalent of ten grains of rice to countries in need. Players can pick from a variety of categories, including math, vocabulary, world geography, and several languages.

Shipley and Smith's project involves creating a group for AFHS and encouraging teachers to introduce their classes to the site and group function. Smith came up with the idea of creating a group on the site and encouraging school-wide use after watching a video on TikTok, a video-sharing social media app popular with teens. Initially, the prospect of questions translating to real world donations to countries in need seemed too good to be true, but some in-depth research proved freerice.com's validity. "I found out that the advertisements are what generates the money, and I was like, this is really cool," Smith said.

Much of the work the seniors did before approaching faculty with the project included making calculations. "We kind of undershot how many students were in our school to get an overview," Smith said, adding, "if we did ten minutes every day for a week, and 2500 students, it was like 12 million grains of rice...I would say that's not what we've met because those are high standards, but you can see how much that we can meet." Down to its basics, their project revolved around encouraging teachers to show their students the site, ask each student to make an account and add themselves to the school-wide group, then implement ten minutes of trivia on the site a day or two per week in class time. 

After making a plan, Shipley and Smith moved on to perhaps the most important (and challenging) aspect of the projection: introducing it to the school. "We wrote up a plan and we talked to Scanlon just for reference, and then we took it to Mr. Wight, and got a meeting scheduled with Mr. Wight and...he gave us the go-ahead," Shipley said. The school implementation process took time-the girls attended a staff meeting in December to introduce the idea, then sent emails to much of the faculty in January to reinforce their plan. In addition, Shipley and Smith often made rounds of the school to talk to teachers individually and encourage them to introduce the site to their students.

So far, the AFHS group has donated a total of more than 260,000 grains of rice, just a few weeks in. Shipley and Smith hope to donate far more, however. If activity on the site continues as it has been, Shipley says she would like to see the donations break a million grains of rice within a month or two. Smith added that in the future, she would like to see the initiative implemented in classrooms across Wake County, adding, "Anything is better than nothing for me because it's still making an impact."

To contribute to the Rice for Lives project and help end world hunger, head to freerice.com, make an account, and input the code BD524WMP. Every little bit counts.

Valentine's Day Interviews

By Julia Rowland | Photos by Julia Rowland

Widely known as the most loving day of the year, February 14th comes with many traditions and ways to celebrate Valentine's Day; often with a significant other, friends and family, or independently. Students at AFHS answered questions about their thoughts on Valentine's Day and how they celebrate each year.

"I don't really do much but there were some times in the past where I did like hang out with some friends."

-Eduardo Garcia Sanabria (9)

"I buy all my friends flowers and chocolates because I know that I'm probably the only one that thinks about them on that day and it sucks because that's not fair...that's literally what I want to celebrate on Valentine's day: that I love people." 

-Victoria Stebila (12)

"I usually give my mom chocolates or chocolate roses and if I am with somebody, I'll probably give them chocolates."

-Jada Rogers (12)

"Being the single guy I am, I usually give gifts to my mom or I get sushi for two and then I just eat the sushi."

-Jeremiah Reid (11)

Art Murals

By Daniela Paris

Starting this year, AFHS's art students, National Art Honor Society, have begun the process of livening up the school's environment with inspiring art murals on the bathroom entrances. Students first noticed the project as they returned to school at the beginning of the year, and saw a mural in progress of climate change activist Greta Thunberg and Solli Raphael, the youngest winner of the National Australian Slam Poetry Contest, at the entrance of the bathroom near the lobby. NAHS has  since continued the project with two other murals on the first floor near the classroom hallways, featuring Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and well-known TV artist Bob Ross, among other figures.

The initiative began with Mrs. Freed, one of the school's assistant principals. "I saw a picture on Twitter of another school, a middle school, painting positive messages on the school bathroom doors to inspire young girls. I thought it would be a great initiative to start here and support our school improvement goals," Mrs.Freed said. She sent the picture to Ms. Cave, one of the art teachers, who loved the idea and  proposed it to her NAHS students. The initial all- junior board of students included Ellis Mullenburger, TJ Abernathy, Logan Medina, and Zoe Meyers, the NAHS co-president. The students soon encountered a problem, however: "Turns out the stalls are graffiti proof!" Zoe said. Eventually the group found an alternative for painting on the stalls and decided to paint on the bathroom entrances, then created a presentation and presented the idea to Mr. Wight, Mrs. Freed, and Ms. Wooten, who gave them permission to begin. They named the project "Unity Within Diversity," according to the NAHS newsletter. 

The group met in the mornings and carefully planned the inspirational figures and words for each bathroom, often creating sketches. "A lot of the time it's kind of like me and Ms. Cave brainstorming. We just put Grace Vanderwaal up on the wall, and we were thinking, 'Well, we want a musician, and we need it to be young,' so we do a quick Google search and make sure there's no controversies," Meyers said. For the newer bathrooms, the board even took students' opinions into account. "We have polls online; we just did one about this last bathroom...We run it through our students...They pick. It's their decision, because it's their school," Meyers added.

Logan Medina, a junior and the NAHS secretary, also helped create the concepts for the bathroom mural designs. "I just thought painting in the bathrooms, and getting Bob Ross on a wall in our school would be amazing," he said. After creating the designs and getting approval from the administration, the students quickly turned their ideas into reality, using an app to create images of inspirational figures, which involves turning the original image of each figure into a values scale. Finally, students turned the value scales into acetate sheets, projected them and sketched them onto the bathroom entrances, and created a paint by number system for adding color.

NAHS began the project with Freshman Orientation this year, and encouraged several clubs, including Key Club, to send members to help complete the first mural on the first floor bathroom by the lobby. The organization boasts two more murals on the first floor near the art and fashion classrooms, including figures such as Bob Ross and Frida Kahlo, and in the future hopes to complete murals on every floor, enlisting help from clubs whose interests relate to the themes of each mural. "We want to have the people from the clubs involved in that, to come out and help beautify their school," Meyers said. 

"The main goal of our project is to get kids to be able to see younger people doing things now. It's the fact that you do not have to wait... If we have a positive environment where minds can grow and evolve and do things that they like, even with art, if you see these figures on the wall and you're like, they did something, why can't I do it too?" Meyers said. Similarly, Mrs. Freed added, "The concept of the murals is to empower students and inspire them. I hope that is the end result. Seeing the variety of males and females throughout history of all races and ages will hopefully inspire our students to follow their passions and dreams."

2020 Vision: Heading Into the Future

By Shelby Salisbury

Whether or not one believes that going into 2020 marks the end of the decade, for many students this indicates the end of childhood and the beginning of starting college in the fall. Every new year, people create resolutions for change and to better a person's life. 2020 may be the year for moving on and revamping. When asked "What do you want to leave behind in 2019?" and "What do you want to improve on going into 2020?", students at Apex Friendship had numerous responses.

"Leave behind my immaturity. Going into the next year I want to grow up because I have to look into college..."

Nathon Tadeo (11)

"I would say [get rid of] toxic relationships, just with people in general. I want to actually stick to my resolutions, getting fitter."

Ellie Jackson (12)

"Like stop bad relationships with friends. Getting healthier, working out, and hanging out with better people."

Lauren Crawford (9)

"I want to stop acting so childish and start reading more."

Noah Briggs (10)

Committing To 2020 Resolutions

By Madison Stone

By shifting a goal into a positive wording, it becomes easier to follow through on new year's resolutions.
By shifting a goal into a positive wording, it becomes easier to follow through on new year's resolutions.

As the end of each year approaches, many people find themselves reflecting back on earlier goals in disappointment. Whether they wanted to lose weight, reach a new career goal, or exercise more, these aspirations quickly become forgotten within a few months. In fact, according to the U.S. News & World Report, 80% of New Year's resolutions fail by February. Why does this happen? A few culprits lead to this lack of follow through. Psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert told Business Insider three of the biggest reasons why New Year's resolutions fail: "People often don't make their resolutions specific enough, they're worded too negatively, and they're not relevant to the individual."

Many New Year's resolutions can appear vague and nonspecific. There exists no quantifiable proof of progress for the goal to exercise more if people do not set benchmarks for themselves. Alpert says to ask three questions: "Do you know where your goals came from? Why are they important to you? And how would achieving these goals influence your life?" By clarifying these goals, one will leave less room for confusion and more room for motivation. Instead, create specific goals, like training for a 5k or losing a set number of pounds by a set date.

Another discouraging factor appears to be the expectation of immediate results. Unrealistic expectations can often lead people to quickly lose motivation and give up because results don't come quickly enough. Setting periodic benchmarks can let people know if they achieve progress towards a goal. Also, make sure to keep expectations reasonable. Realistically, a person will not develop a six-pack overnight, or ascend to CEO in a week.

Believe it or not, even the words used to set goals can influence whether one succeeds or fails. When people resolve to stop wasting money or stop eating junk food, for example, it often backfires because it makes them think about the very thing they attempt to avoid. By shifting a goal into a positive wording, it becomes easier to promote the desired behavior and not even think about the negative behavior. "We need to feed ourselves positive self-talk," Alpert says. "Instead of telling ourselves 'Don't eat junk food,' we should be telling us the behavior we desire, like 'Eat carrots and peanut butter as a healthy snack."

Favorite Holiday Memories

By Carlyn Calayan

The holiday season has long been the source of memorable moments in life for many people. Many associate this time of the year with spending time with loved ones, gift-giving, and vacations, among other things. Now that the holidays have arrived, students at Apex Friendship High School share some of their fondest holiday memories.

Abigail Perkins, 9
Abigail Perkins, 9

"Two winters ago, I spent Christmas with my family and some of them are family members I haven't seen in a while too. We spent our holiday together at a waterpark!"

Ethan Gawron, 10
Ethan Gawron, 10

"Going to Georgia for the first time to see my cousins for Christmas. I was very young, and it was the first Christmas I spent away from home."

Harrison Gill, 11
Harrison Gill, 11

"Waking up on Christmas when I was maybe five years old. I went out, and I saw our new dog in the yard. He was my Christmas present!"

Morgan Bader, 12
Morgan Bader, 12

"My family went to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. The entire night, my dad kept saying we need to get gas for no reason! He swears he doesn't remember anything from that night from his medication. It still makes me laugh!" 

Top 5 NC Places To See Over Break

By Julia Rowland

The magic of Christmas can often be infectious, not only to people, but to places as well. Several locations in North Carolina get into the holiday spirit during December, and many may be worth visiting during the upcoming Christmas break.

McAdenville

This NC town rightfully earned the title of "Christmas Town USA" in 2011 by Yahoo! due to its undeniable Christmas spirit on every street. According to onlyinyourstate.com, "McAdenville rings in 60 years of beloved holiday tradition. The streets fill with cheerful tunes, millions of twinkling lights greet your eyes and fill the senses with Christmas magic." Not only does the town look visually appealing, there will be holiday events as well, including a vote for the best public lights display, an annual Nutcracker Ballet, and a tree lighting ceremony. By the time the holiday rolls around, many will flock to this joyful town, approximately two and a half hours from Apex, to be greeted with an abundance of Christmas cheer.

The Biltmore House

The town of Asheville may be best known, during the Christmas season, at least for the Biltmore House: a Châteauesque-style mansion built for George Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. Currently, this house hosts one of the most exquisite Christmas displays in the nation. For those looking to spend time enjoying the holidays this year, checking out this festive location would certainly do the trick. Look for tickets online at www.biltmore.com/visit/tickets-pricing/. This trip would take around three and a half hours from Apex to Asheville.

Winston-Salem

If a more modern take on Christmas does not sound too appealing, it could be worthwhile to visit Winston-Salem during holiday break to appreciate history along with festivities. A walk through the Old Salem-covered bridge will leave many enchanted. Don't forget to catch UNC School Of Art's annual, professional performance of The Nutcracker at The Stevens Center. This captivating and historic location may be the ideal place to visit during the holiday break, and the drive from Apex would only take an hour and a half.

Belmont Botanical Garden

The Christmas season transforms the already breathtaking Botanical Garden in Belmont into an even more magnificent sight. According to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden website, "Delight in a stroll through the shimmering Mile of a Million Lights this holiday season. Along your journey, discover the colorful lights of the topiaries dancing to merry tunes, waves of color glittering in the Piedmont Prairie, enchanting fairy villages and model trains flourishing in the Orchid Conservatory, and so much more." Take time during winter break to visit and enjoy this unforgettable location, filled with crackling fires, towering orchid trees, live holiday music, shopping in The Garden Store, and enjoying every moment of this festive annual tradition. After a two and a half hour drive, visitors can enjoy the beautiful garden opening nightly, November 29, 2019 - January 5, 2020 from 5 to 9 p.m.

Wilmington / Wrightsville Beach

If a Christmas by the water sounds even more appealing, Wrightsville Beach will be the place to go. Although the annual Holiday Flotilla, the Southern coastal nighttime version of a holiday parade on water, has passed, throughout December, many will still be able to catch a glimpse of lights adorning boats. It will take about two hours to drive from Apex to the beach, and then visitors can enjoy a candlelight walk through Bellamy Mansion, one of North Carolina's architectural gems. Whoever said that Christmas had to be celebrated on land?

The joyous and festive holiday season can be celebrated in a variety of ways, and taking time during the upcoming well-deserved holiday break from school to visit and enjoy these merry locations can certainly help to improve anyone's Christmas spirit. 

Local Holiday Events

By Madison Stone

The AFHS Band marches in the Apex Christmas Parade.
The AFHS Band marches in the Apex Christmas Parade.

The surrounding areas in Apex appear to be no stranger to winter festivities. Every year, residents young and old gather to revel in holiday cheer, all while enjoying these many events hosted by the town of Apex and local groups.

Hanukkah Celebrations

The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh will be holding Pop-Up Art: Festival of Lights on December 8th at noon. View the Hanukkah lights and create a lantern to take home. Throughout the month of December, the Chabad of Cary will be hosting many events celebrating Hanukkah. On December 22nd from 3-5pm, Downtown Apex will be holding their annual Hanukkah Festival, with music, food, and activities for the whole family. For more information visit www.chabadofcary.org.

Christmas on Salem Street

On Friday, December 6th, Salem Street in Downtown Apex will hold their annual Christmas celebration that provides fun for the whole family. Admission costs nothing, but there will be an optional carriage ride for those who wish for a fun way to peruse the festive decorations around town. This event will also include a tree lighting ceremony and a visit from Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at 5:30. At 5:00, visitors can go to the Chamber of Commerce building for Christmas Carols at the Depot, and the UMC Handbell Ringers will be holding performances throughout the afternoon. To find out more, visit the Downtown Apex Facebook page.

Infinity Ballet Presents The Nutcracker

On December 6th, from 8pm to 9pm at the Halle Cultural Arts Center, the Infinity Ballet will perform the classic Christmas tale, The Nutcracker. For those unfamiliar, the story follows a young girl who befriends a nutcracker, ending with an exciting finale and final confrontation against the evil Mouse King. Tickets cost $8 and can be purchased at thehalle.org. The Nutcracker will be sure to entertain the whole family, and will get people in the Christmas spirit.

Apex Christmas Parade

On December 7th, from 5pm to 9pm, the town of Apex will be holding the annual Christmas parade. This parade allows local groups a chance to show their Christmas spirit. The parade will begin at 5:00pm at the intersection of Ambergate Station and The Peakway, heading down Salem Street and ending at the Apex Public Works buildings on Upchurch Street. All proceeds from the event will go to benefit the Western Wake Crisis Ministry. For more information, visit apexrotary.org.

The Halle Cultural Arts Center

The Halle Cultural Arts Center will be holding periodic holiday performances throughout December. On December 13th from 7:30pm to 9:00pm, they will be holding a series of short plays and musicals celebrating the Christmas season. The first musical, "The Animals' Christmas Tree" appears to be about a community of animals who find their pine tree missing, only to discover it displayed in a nearby town just as the annual tree lighting begins. The next show titled, "Twas the Opening Night Before Christmas", advertises a humorous show about a church pageant gone hilariously wrong. The final show, "Presents on Parade" shows a group of kids on their mission to join a festive holiday parade. Tickets cost $8-$12 per person and can be purchased at apexnc.org.

Cary Kwanzaa Celebration

On Friday, December 27th, the Cary Arts Center will host its 25th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration. This celebration will feature events throughout the day, beginning at 11:00 a.m. and ending at 3:30 p.m. The day will include performances featuring traditional African dance, information on African heritage, and a talk by Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of the pan-African cultural holiday and the Nguzo Saba or seven principles that established the holiday. For more information, and the full schedule, visit www.townofcary.org. 

School Safety

By Shelby Salisbury

School safety has become a growing concern for students, staff, and parents. Not all schools have been set up the same when it comes to school safety. This lack of continuity creates questions about how a school sets up safety measures.

There have been a range of incidents involving school violence over the past 20 years from elementary schools to colleges. These events have resulted in injury and death, making the need for school safety more prevalent. Some schools have set sensors on doors so only students can get into buildings. At AFHS, this security measure tends to appear in staff ID cards, as only teachers have cards that access the entire building.

AFHS students have been told not to allow strangers into the building. The only access point after the start of the day would be through the front door, which can only be opened by the front office secretary. Other schools in bigger cities have sensors similar to airports, as gang violence tends to be more common in cities.

AFHS has set precautions and created plans in case of emergencies and dangerous situations. The school practices fire drills once a month, lock down drills at least once during the school year, and tornado drills once in the spring. When asked about lockdown drills, Officer Stone responded: "So we have a lockdown procedure in place and that's why we do that twice a year to make sure everyone knows where they are supposed to go. So the reason why we kind of do preventative training is so if something happens everyone knows what the expectations are." . They have been created for all situations that could occur.

Officer Stone would be a great resource if a threat needs to be reported.
Officer Stone would be a great resource if a threat needs to be reported.

"Anytime there is a threat where we believe it is not credible or we do believe it is critical it is always handled as it is extremely serious."

Schools continue to create more safety measures around the country to keep students feeling secure at school. If students have any safety concerns or they hear about an event that could be a potential threat, they should bring it to the attention of an adult such as a teacher, counselor, or administrator. Another adult to contact would be Mr. Sapienza or a school resource officer.