Dear Jagwire Judy…

“I’m a graduating senior and I’ve always despised having to write in yearbooks at the end of the year.“HAGS” is not my thing, and long letters are forced and time consuming. What should I write in my peers’ yearbooks? Should I reveal the truth about how little or much I love them? Or should I just sign my name in hopes that my autograph will eventually hold more value than a rushed sentimental message?”

– “Sentimental” Senior

Dear “Sentimental,”

Dumplin,’ don’t feel guilty for not writing something that doesn’t mirror how you really feel. You’ve known your classmates for four years now, maybe even longer! More than likely, they’ll be able to tell if you write something forced without true, emotional meaning. 

However, I know I wouldn’t be the happiest gal on the block if I saw a simple signature in my yearbook. The key is to find your balance; don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, but don’t forget to make that last impression a good one. If they’re truly just an acquaintance whom you see as a grain of sand on the beach, a simple, “I hope you have an amazing next four years!” should suffice. 

Don’t stress too much, darlin;’ the year is coming to an end, and you have a whole new chapter of your life unfolding before you!

Enjoy yourself, sweetie,

Jagwire Judy

 

“I’m about to start junior year next year and all anyone talks about is how junior year is the hardest year of high school. I want to enjoy being an upperclassman, but I can’t help but be super nervous. If I don’t do well now, am I going to get into a good college? How do I balance grades, standardized testing and my sanity? Am I thinking into this too much?”

– Scared Sophomore

Dear Scared, 

Pumpkin, you need to relax. Do what I do: When you feel overwhelmed, sit back, turn on some music, get yourself a cup of tea and take a deep breath. Don’t make any rash decisions or scare yourself before the year even starts! 

Discuss your concerns with your friends, your guidance counselor or any- one else you think can help. Give yourself the time to research and think about what colleges you hope to apply to. Set goals for SAT/ACT scores and what you hope to establish by the end of the year. 

However, most importantly, know that it’s not wrong to let yourself go every now and then to just lie down and take a nap. As life gets hectic and the world seems to never stop spinning, the best thing to do is to find ways to ground yourself, hon. It’s okay to feel stressed out, because I can assure you that every Junior before you has felt the same way. However, enjoy your newfound seniority, and don’t let school bring you down, darlin’: you decide how next year plays out, not anyone else.

Good luck, honey,

Jagwire Judy

Coffee the Documentary: an interview with Diamond Blue, creator of Coffee

Below is an interview with junior Diamond Blue. The JagWire has edited the interview for content and brevity. 

JagWire: What inspired you to make Coffee?

Diamond Blue: Well, to be honest when I was 13 years old Trayvon Martin was killed. That impacted me really tremendously because I have cousins who are black males and I have people in my family that are black males that I care about a lot. And, that was like the first event that took place and I was like, “I gotta really make something that’ll show people that there are too many unjust things going on.” To be honest, that is what really inspired me to start this documentary, or not even just the documentary but just to start something that’ll stick with people. I’m the only person in my family, or I’m the first person in my family, to really get involved in activism and the first person in my family to be ‘woke.’ My mom, obviously, she knew it’s not right, the things the black community has been experiencing for hundreds of years, and minorities in general. But I was the first person in my family to get heavily involved in activism and pro-minority rights, and I would say that Trayvon Martin’s death is what inspired me to get into it.

JW: What started Coffee?

DB: My freshman year, I wanted to write a book about what it’s like to be a black student in high school or what it’s like to go to a middle school and all that as a black girl, and the things that I’ve experienced. I was like, “If I, as a 16 year old girl, wrote a book, it’s only going to target a certain audience.” There’s not going to be a 40 year old white man who’s going to be like “I’m going to read this book” about this experience. That’s what I thought; I didn’t think it would get out there so I turned to the idea of making a documentary. And at first, it was a little bogus like where would I get the resources to do this? I don’t have the equipment, the money. I don’t have the investments to do it, so what I did was I went to Walmart and I spent $14 on 12 notebooks and a pack of pens and said, “okay, I’m just going to start writing.” So the entire summer, going into sophomore year, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, and I talked to people, and it was like low-key interviews. I talked to people, and they thought it was just casual conversation. Some people were like, “why are you asking all these questions,” but I was really trying to broaden my horizons. Me wanting to write a book when I was in ninth grade turned into a documentary because I know that a documentary that’s not revolving around myself and showcases the life of so many other people could definitely capture the attention of not just one specific group. That’s where Coffee came from.

JW: Whom are you working with?

DB: I have a lot of people in high school who I’m working with. I’ve also started working with students form UNC. I’ve interviewed former student athletes from Duke, but I recently met Tim Tyson, who is the author book, The Blood of Emmett Till. He gave me truth and put his input in on it and exchanged emails. I’m currently working with the filmmaking program at Duke University and exchanging emails with the assistant of the head of the program. I’ve been working really hard in getting in touch with J Cole’s manager, but I think it’s safe to say I’m a lot closer than when I was before to getting his songs approved for use because they are copyrighted.

JW: Why the name Coffee?

DB: Coffee is a substance that can be changed or adjusted to someone’s liking. You can take coffee, and you can add cream, add sugar, add milk—anything you want to, creating a totally different beverage or drink anyway you want to. A lot of people have the misconception that you can adjust a person or a person’s culture to your liking. What I’m trying to showcase is that the American school system tries to get this unrealistic image and unrealistic expectation out of students, particularly of color, and that needs to stop. There needs to be an end put to that. Also, the things that have become normal in so many of our schools are almost disgusting. Some of the words that have been a normal thing to say, that’s an issue. My overview would be, my ‘thesis,’ would be that although everyone is different, adjusting someone, particularly students of color, to fit your liking and unrealistic expectations or your perfect image of a model student is inappropriate.

JW: What audience are you trying to reach?

DB: Everyone. I don’t want this to be something that just the Hispanic and Latino community, or just the Asian community, or just the black or white community can see. This is for everyone because I feel like there’s something that we all can do to fix this. There’s something that our country was built off on that it’s really in the soil, because really we’re all just a tree. This country is really just a tree, but the soil and dirt that we use has so many things that we don’t need. The curriculum is ridiculous, history classes are whitewashed, which is a term I use very loosely because people don’t realize the significance of it anymore. Kids not knowing about their culture, and if you go to a history class in our school you don’t really hear anything positive about black leaders other than MLK, Rosa Parks, you know? Positive things about Latino, Asian, Hispanic, or Caribbean leaders—there hasn’t been a time where we really talk about the Carib- bean other than Haiti and Christopher Columbus. But there’s so many things that we just don’t talk about that impacts us tremendously and plays a major role.

JW: What is your end goal for this project?

DB: I do want as many as people as possible worldwide to be impacted by this. When I do showcase this, and people who know me know I’m not the type of person to just scratch the surface. It’s us experiencing the life of others everyday and we don’t know they experience these things. But my end goal is for the documentary to be seen by so many people and not because it’s my work, or my project, but because I feel like this could really change someone’s life. This could really impact someone in a positive way.

 

Sorry, you can’t be what you want

The unintentional shaming of a person’s career choice is subtle. The frozen stares, the fake smile and the slow nod that so obviously wants to criticize you but refrains from saying a word.

These are the familiar expressions of those who don’t know how to react when I tell them I want to write for a living. These are the shared looks of judgement that most people who want to be elementary school teachers or truck drivers are oh-so familiar with.

It has become a societal norm to shake our heads when a person chooses not to pursue a job that doesn’t follow a highly ambitious path or the standard nine-to-five routine. And this condescension isn’t even just isolated to careers in the arts.

A bias has grown within us through the influence of mass media, that looks down on people who want to drive a dumpster truck, work in the public service industry or become a
stay at home parent. Why should a person’s career choice be up for any criticism?

But why don’t you want to do something more…safe? Like a doctor? Engineer? Lawyer?”

I thought about how I wanted to justify my choice to pursue screenwriting for a very long time. I thought about how I wanted to prove to people that I wouldn’t be in debt after college ― a lie; the average student loan debt is $30,000 regardless of major. I thought about how I would convince myself that this would be the right choice.

Should I switch to an economically stable career where I know I won’t have to bus tables or take up odd jobs to pay off my tuition? Should I ditch pen and paper and pursue a career where I still get to tell stories, argue and write, such as a lawyer, but get paid much more?

Illustration by Katy Strong

I want to write for SNL. I want to work on television and movie sets with a script in my hand and a pen behind my ear. Just because someone wants to write, or work with their hands and build cars from scratch, doesn’t make them any less educated or happy than someone who chooses to become a neurosurgeon.

You should not base your decisions off the opinions of others because, at the end of the day, you’re the one who is doing the work; you decide what you want to do in your life. Yes, I will be starting from the lowest tier of the industry, and no, I won’t have a six figure salary, but who is to say this is what truly matters?

There is no “right path” for me to take because I don’t know where my career will take me, and I don’t know why someone’s career choice should determine their worth.

But there’s one thing I do know: whether you choose an obscure art major or a law degree, you should do what you can see yourself loving twenty from now. And even if you don’t what direction to head in, move towards something that will pay you not only in fortune, but in fulfillment.

 

Soccer in the courtyard: a CHS community

Students duck as a soccer ball flies overhead and soars through the air, hitting the courtyard wall with a thud. Friendly faces run forth to grab the ball and continue their game as they sprint across the field in a friendly competition built on a tradition only founded a few years prior. But from the outside looking in, the average student wouldn’t see the sense of camaraderie among the teammates.

Senior Jefferson Castaneda has been playing soccer since age four and is a founding member of the group that has grown to become a staple of Carrboro’s lunchtime. According to Castenada, he and a group of friends started the tradition his freshman year.

“We were bored,” said Castaneda. “We can interact with more people while playing soccer, and it’s fun. I came from a different school, so this helped me make new friends. We love soccer.”

In addition to pursuing an athletic interest, cultivating friendships seems to be a key reason behind a student’s choice to regularly participate in games. According to junior Raul Salazar, playing soccer has allowed most of the students’ social circles to expand as a result of meeting the other players.

“You start out with a couple of friends,” said Salazar. “But then, as you meet everyone else, you just become one big group of friends.”

Salazar has been part of the group of players since his freshman year at CHS, and with the guidance of some close friends, was quickly accepted into the group and began playing everyday.

“This is for everybody,” said Castaneda, expressing the openness towards anyone with an interest.

At CHS, a school with championship titles for soccer and a plethora of student athletes from around the community, many choose not to participate; some eat their lunches from afar while others take part in different sports.

Students gather in the courtyard to play soccer. Photo by Levi Hencke

“I haven’t [played with them] just because I don’t wear the right clothes,” said freshman Brynn Holt-Ling when asked if she ever plays. “If I weren’t lazy, [I would].”

Frae Day Moo, a junior, expressed similar concerns. He and his friends would prefer not to dirty their clothes before class, and Moo feels that there are already enough participants. But the courtyard players don’t seem to care; as Salazar sees it, people want to be with their friends.

Whether or not they join in the games, Carrboro students and staff are accustomed to seeing the players in the courtyard the moment the lunch bell rings. As students rush to claim lunch tables, the players rush onto the grass fields, immediately setting up goals with backpacks and jackets. Custodian Cliff Copeland, who often spends lunchtime outside, sees the games every day.

“It could be raining, and they’re kicking the ball because that’s what they like,” said Copeland.

It is hard for spectators like Copeland to imagine the group straying far from the soccer ball, and it is similarly hard for many of the players. Many current participants, including Salazar and many underclassmen, joined the group within their first days at school and have found a home.

“I started playing with them since the start of school, but now I don’t play that much with them because I think they’re aggressive, and they kick hard,” said freshman Joshua Molina. “But if someone wants to play, they can just get in and that’s it.”

For many students like Castaneda, Molina and Salazar, playing every day is more than a means of pursuing a hobby; it is an outlet from school. Soccer has become a new source of stress relief from tests, homework and even a way to avoid the cold temperatures in the building. Above all, soccer is a source of human connection, joy and friendship.

Teachers outside the class: the arts

Here at the JagWire, we focus on the student arts a lot, but for this issue we decided it was time that we shed light on the artistic talents and hobbies of some of CHS’ favorite teachers.

Ms. Rubenstein, craftmaking

What marked the beginning of your hobby? And why did you decide on this particular hobby?

When I was little, I used to do origami. I had books on origami, and I could figure out how to make things out of origami without being able to read the instructions. So, as I got older, I was always making things with my hands. It’s what I like to do, and it’s very easy for me to do. I’ve made all kinds of jewelry, but this kind in particular I learned online.

Do you take requests? What’s the weirdest request you’ve received?

People would describe certain colors, or come look at my beads, then pick the colors they liked. Then I would make what they wanted. I don’t have a weird request, but the weirdest behavior was someone who needed to come and touch the beads to figure out which beads she wanted me to use. She sat for about an hour and a half with all of my beads until she knew which beads she wanted me to use.

Between teaching and your hobby – if you had the opportunity to invest in your hobby full time, would you? Why or why not?

No, because teaching is my profession, and teaching is the only thing I want to do; jewelry is what I want to do when I’m not teaching. When I’m no longer teaching, I would definitely continue making jewelry. attend craft fairs.

If your students asked you to make something for them, would you be willing to?

It depends on how much money they offered me. I make earrings and I make bracelets—earrings cost about $25 to $35, bracelets cost about $50, and then necklaces cost about $70. These beads all came from Europe, because I was living in Europe at the time. I order them from Rome and Paris. I use Czechoslovakian crystals and Swarovski crystals, and then the beads come from Japan.

Ms. Moorehead, Paperhand Puppet

What marked the beginning of your hobby? And why did you decide on this particular hobby?

I grew up in a very artistic family. My mom and dad are both performers; they met in orchestra and my dad still plays as a brass musician, in pits for a lot for shows. My mom is really into sewing, so she started costuming. My brother is an engineer, and he was really interested in lights, so he started doing lights. I am ten years younger than my eldest sibling, so as the youngest sibling I was dragged along to everything, and I became everybody’s assistant for everything. I think I was dragged around so much that I started picking up bits of skills here and there, and a little bit of everybody, and found my own little niche.

Do you take requests? What’s the weirdest request you’ve received?

Paperhand does really quirky things and that’s why I really liked them. Paperhand is different from any other creative program you’ll ever work with because it doesn’t come with a script. It comes with Donovan and Jan’s crazy ideas, and we sit down and have coffee and they start talking about creatures that they see in their heads. One of my favorites is the bag beast, where we took hundreds and hundreds of plastic bags and hand sewed them pants and a tunic, and made this head piece where when you moved its arms it would move and below. It was crazy. It was one of the most bizarre things I’ve spent a day doing, sorting plastic bags and making a giant slime creature out of felt.

Between teaching and your hobby – if you had the opportunity to invest in your hobby full time, would you? Why or why not?

I don’t know because I enjoy the act of sparking other people’s imaginations. There are a lot of times where we’re working on shows where I have an idea, but I like to give a little wiggle room to see where other people’s imaginations goes. That’s the most fun for me, when you’re working with someone and you can collaborate, then something starts out as this little idea and it’s grown into all these images drawn out into these sketches. Then, you’re all excited about it coming to life. I love being part of a collaborative build crew, whether it’s peer to peer, or peer to student, or teacher to student. That the joy of dreaming something up and making it come to life is just awesome.

CHS community shares equity struggles

The Jagwire spoke to various students and teachers to ask for their opinions on how CHS deals with the issue of racism. From personal experiences to insight as a seasoned edu- cator at Carrboro High School, each individual shed light on their views of how discrimination has affected education in 2016. Here is what they have to say:

“It’s the little stuff that the kids don’t realize, no matter your race. It can be intentional or hidden stuff. And that’s the stuff a lot of other students don’t see, like not getting something, people trying not to sit next to one another, and it’s not all verbal. Not everyone who has a Confederate flag is a racist. You just gotta trust people and give everybody the chance, but you still got to have your radar on.” – Melvin Griffin

“I can’t speak for all black people in general; I can literally only speak for myself. But I’ve been told [by people at CHS] that I ‘shouldn’t just try to be in class with my friends,’ even though I had in fact applied several times to be in higher level classes… This sends the message that I don’t have any white friends, and I focus my academic career on social life, not excelling. There have been multiple occur- rences of having to prove myself as a black woman.” – Cameron Farrar

“I do think it is important to be more explicit with talking about race. I think often times the students have this perspective that we, the teach- ers, don’t know there’s a problem. But that’s just not true. One thing I really want to stress is that it does take a lot of willingness to be open and honest about the problems that we have. We all have to recognize that every single one of us in the building has in some way contributed to it.” – Jamie Schendt

“Microaggression is a really big problem and I think people do it so unintentionally that they don’t realize, and one thing is like, ‘Oh, you speak so well.’ Or a lot of teachers will ask, ‘Do you live with your mom?’ And those are just things I think that a lot of people of color deal with on a daily basis… I don’t want to say that we’re not socially accepted, but there are these automatic assumptions that a lot of people have in the back of their minds.” – Diamond Blue

Budget Cuts Challenge CHCCS

Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools is no stranger to budget cuts. Over the course of seven years the Board of Education has made as much as $10 million in reductions. On July 21st, CHCCS was presented with a new task for the 2016-2017 school year: create an operational plan for all 21 schools in the district with $1.5 million.

The original budget request presented to the Board of Orange County Commissioners — which totalled $4.46 million — was intended to attract new hires and offer an increased supplement for teacher income in the district. These efforts were intended to overcome new state mandates that would otherwise leave a further gap in educational funding. The biggest competition wasn’t just the waiting game that followed, but the increase in teacher pay across neighbouring school districts.

The deal with this is that in order to be competitive with Wake County, the school board here made the decision to raise teacher pay to keep and attract highly qualified teachers to this community,” said Melissa Zemon, CHS teacher. “They did this before the budget was approved. While there were a number of meetings to try to get the County Commissioners to fully fund the budget with the increase, this did not happen.”

Teacher turnover rates have reached 18 percent in the CHCCS district, and the ability to hire exceptional teachers primarily in the math and science departments is increasingly difficult. Twenty three local positions were terminated in coalition to boost CHCCS’ teacher salary for remaining positions, creating a new assistant-to-teacher program with less teachers overseeing a population of 12,000 students, thus causing drastic changes in the classroom. CHS departments, particularly the math department, have found themselves with the task of managing overpopulated class sizes. Additionally, with increased demand for AP online courses but a lack of funding, classes are maxed out to the point where many students don’t know where else to turn.

Many people in Chapel Hill-Carrboro choose to live here and pay higher taxes because of the schools,” said Zemon. “ It doesn’t seem right to give teachers a pay increase and then force a situation that makes the job even harder than it already is.”

Students in an AP United States History class. Photo by Mireille Leone