First CHS student Accepted into SDAP

This fall, Keiron Dyck, senior, will be one of only five students in the Scholars with Diverse Abilities Pro- gram (SDAP) at Appalachian State University, a two-year program for intellectually disabled students.

“The program prepares students for a vocational career and for advanced life skills,” said Lorrie Marro, the CHS Transition Facilitator who helped Dyck apply to the program.

Dyck, who is the first person in the CHCCS district to get into the pro- gram, had a rigorous application pro- cess involving video presentations, interviews and essays.

“I had a long application plus an interview to get into SDAP,” said Dyck.

Other qualifications for SDAP included work in the community.

“They are really looking for students who are capable of persevering, that have done a lot of work in the community, and have done a lot of independent functioning in the community,” said Marro.

“I volunteered at UNC Hospitals, Weaver Street Market, with the softball team and at my church,” said Dyck when asked what works he’s done in the community.

Dyck also worked at Stratford Assisted Living to create a music program with the residents.

When looking for his next step after high school, Dyck knew he wanted to take an academic route.

“Keiron has always been one of our students who really loves school, studying and learning,” said Marro. “This is a really rigorous program.”

Dyck added that he liked the length of the program and that he could study courses of interest and courses about life skills. At App State, he hopes to continue his love of history, specifically learning about U.S History and the First Crusades.

“I think with his love of reading and academics and leading an independent lifestyle, Keiron is going to do great,” said John Faircloth, Occupational Course of Study teacher.

Overall, Dyck is excited about attending App State in the fall but will be sad to leave Chapel Hill.

“I am looking forward to having the experience of being a college student,” added Dyck.

When News Stories are Forgotten

Puerto Rico, the opioid crisis, Flint: all big headlines from months ago that spread across social media.

Google Trends uses numbers to represent search interest over time, with 100 representing peak popularity. In September of 2017, the term “Puerto Rico” was at 100, and, by only a month later, the term had dropped to 32.

More than four months have passed since Hurricane Maria plowed through Puerto Rico, leaving the island devastated and desperate for help. When the incident first happened, social media sites were filled with thoughts and prayers and fundraisers to help citizens in need after the devastation.

Four months later, about one-fourth of the population in Puerto Rico is still without electrical power according to The New York Times. The island’s leaders have announced they will not be able to pay any of their more than $70 million debt for the next five years due to the damage caused by Maria.

Despite Puerto Rico’s ongoing struggle, its social media ranking has dropped precipitously.

So what does this say about people? Do people just not care about news stories for an extended period of time? Or are the news stories not being reported? What is the cause of this 68-point drop?

Part of the cause could be where people get their news from. In the past three months, The New York Times has reported on some aspect of the crisis in Puerto Rico over 20 times. Yet, when you log onto social media, there is nothing about Puerto Rico. Articles are not being shared to the same extent they were months ago, and figures with large followings are not posting about the news. The problem remains that the information is not regularly broadcast to users. Instead, one must actively search for stories on Puerto Rico or Flint,  Michigan because they aren’t in the headlines when someone turns on the news.

In Flint, Michigan, there are still 12,000 homes that need pipe replacements. Stories like Flint are far from over, and it’s hard to help alleviate the devastation when you don’t know what’s happening.

While social media can be good for speedy facts, it is not good if you’d like an in depth story on an issue. To fill in any gaps of knowledge, it is best to use both social media and direct sources such as to ensure you are up to date.

Black Panther: A Look Back at the Year’s Impressive Movies

Black Panther breaks the boundaries of a typical comic book movie to become a seminal entry in the Marvel universe. The movie takes place in Wakanda, a country that brands itself as third world but is actually technologically advanced compared to other nations due to its possession of vibranium — the strongest metal on Earth — which helps to power their city and technology. After his father dies, his son, T’Challa, returns back to Wakanda to serve as the country’s new leader. However, two factions within the country challenge the throne and T’Challa must team up with some unlikely allies to save Wakanda from entering a world war.

Wakanda has survived all these years under the appearance of being a poor country, but many characters, such as Na- kia, believe the country “is strong enough to help others and protect itself.”

In fact, this viewpoint is one of the main arguments of the villain, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, played by Michael B. Jordan. After a difficult childhood — one of the most heartbreaking moments in the movie — Killmonger believes Wakanda should share its weapons with those suffering in the world so they can overthrow their repressive governments and invert the existing racial order. Killmonger is one of my favorite villains in recent Marvel movies. His motives, while vicious, are understandable especially once you know his backstory.

Not only does Black Panther have a mostly Black cast, but most of the film’s central characters are female. T’Challa is surrounded by various women including  his mother, who’s a guiding presence; his ex-lover Nakia, who brings out his heart; his sister, who is a tech genius and adds to the comedy of the movie; and finally his bodyguard, a striking character with crazy fighting skills.

Lastly, Black Panther is thought-provoking. It questions what it means to have pride in one’s country, especially if it is being ruled by someone destructive. In addition, it addresses current foreign policy concerns as some countries shift toward isolationism rather than globalism. Black Panther, while still packed with traditional action scenes, places emphasis on Black freedom and creativity and helps breaks the absence of Black actors in American movies. It is a powerful, vibrant movie that shines not only as an action film but as a significant one.

Dance Marathon 2018: dancing for the kids

For six hours every year, the CHCCS district holds a mini-marathon supported by Carolina For The Kids. This year, the marathon will be on February 17 at East Chapel Hill High School.

The mission of these dance marathons is to “unite the university, community and state in fostering emotional and financial support that improves the quality of life for the patients and families of N.C. Children’s Hospital.”

The first dance marathon at UNC took place in February 1999, with around 75 participants who raised $40,000 for the North Carolina Children’s Hospital. It has since raised $3.3 million for the hospital.

Connie Mendoza and Claire Murashima, students from East Chapel Hill High School, presented the idea of a mini-marathon to student government three years ago. Mendoza participated in dance marathons at her old school and was interested in bringing the idea to the CHCCS district.

Three years later, the connection between the district and Carolina For The Kids still stands strong.

The third dance marathon includes some new additions to the six-hour night. It will include a moment called “Pause for the Cause” where children from UNC Children’s Hospital talk to students for a few minutes.

“It’s just a way to keep people encouraged and stay on message because the whole point of the night is to show solidarity with those kids at the hospital,” said Eleanor Murray, current East Chapel Hill High School President.

Another addition includes applications for morale captains: students elected to keep others spirits up throughout the night. In previous years, morale captains were chosen by SGA. This year, 43 students applied to be morale captains of whom 16 received spots.

To raise money for the night, SGA contacts local businesses for any donations such as food or raffle prizes. This year, Freddy’s is donating a custard bar for free because 36 years ago, the current owner met his wife at a dance marathon. It’s moments like these that unite the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community and keep the message of Carolina For The Kids going strong.

Dance Marathon will be on February 17 at East Chapel Hill High School. Doors open at 5:00. Tickets are currently 35 dollars and can be purchased at your school.

Photo courtesy Vincent Chen

New Orange County Library in Carrboro

In a few years, Carrboro residents will have access to a new library in the parking lot next to Open Eye and Glasshalfull. The Orange County Public Library and the town of Carrboro will share the library with Town of Carrboro employees. There is also the potential for the Arts Center to move some of its programming into the new space.

Currently, the Orange County Public library has two locations in Carrboro: the Cybrary on North Greensboro Street and a branch at McDougle Middle School. However, the library wants to expand to a location that better serves the needs of Carrboro residents.

“In our current spaces in Carrboro, we do not have adequate event space. We also don’t have any meeting space and many people like to use libraries for meetings,” said Libbie Hough, Communications Specialist for the Orange County Public Library. “We want to provide another place where folks can meet, can learn and feel welcome and free to explore new interests.”

Hough added that Carrboro lacks a space with access to public computers―something that the library would add to the town.

“A library makes a downtown vibrant, and it’s a huge attraction. The library of today is now a gathering space, a place for meetups, and you have art displays and books and tapes,” said Lydia Lavelle, Mayor of Carrboro. “It’s a place for the community, and it’ll be a great addition to downtown.”

Plans for the library are still in the beginning phases, with the Town of Carrboro and the Orange County Government deciding on a designer this month. For the last year, both parties worked on a development agreement to discuss how to divide up the costs of the building.

“There’s a timeline and a process outlined and everyone seems to be on board,” said Hough. “If everything goes to plan, [the library] will open in the fall of 2019.”

The library will replace an 88-space parking lot, raising concerns from both residents and businesses owners.

“The construction phase itself has the potential to have the most potentially deleterious effect on businesses in proximity, on many levels,” said Scott Conary, owner of Open Eye, in an email interview. “It could be as simple as restricting access, but can also be as complicated as affecting utilities that are needed to stay in business, and keep care of our very delicate equipment. Other concerns are noise, parking in that time frame, and the potential loss of current parking/street access.”

The main concern stems from the lack of parking during construction.

“We’re in the process of looking at the lots around the space to see if we can purchase or lease some parking space for what we anticipate will be needed and will definitely be needed during construction,” said Lavelle. “In the long term, we might put a modest deck on some place around the lot to have some extra parking― not too imposing but something to give more parking.”

Conary explained that businesses will face aesthetic and function issues such as having the view blocked, but he added that once construction is completed, the library could have a positive impact on the town.

“There is the potential for this to have a positive long term impact for bringing folks from the county and beyond into the downtown, especially if parking for the public is maintained for easy access to the town and businesses,” said Conary.

Since its incorporation in 1911, the Town of Carrboro has only built one new building ― Fire Station Number
Two ― because most buildings are repurposed. Now Town of Carrboro is also planning to fix up the area around the library.

“Part of what we’ll do is be improving Roberson,” said Lavelle, referring to the road behind Armadillo Grill and Tyler’s. “We’re going to put in bike lanes and a sidewide…to make it much more user friendly for bikers and walkers.”

With a completion date set for fall of 2019, the Town of Carrboro and the Orange County Government continue to search for a design that fits the needs and concerns of the community.

Photo Courtesy Indy Week.

ACT/SAT scores should be optional

Most students have spent countless hours, mental space and money—for registration and sometimes a tutor—preparing for the ACT/SAT just to get back a score that doesn’t reflect what we know. Sure, there are hundreds of people who do well on the ACT, but what does a single score say about what a student will bring to a college? The answer: absolutely nothing.

A test score shows how well a student can take a test, not who they are as a person (or even their intelligence). The truth is, some of us are just bad test takers. We’ve all studied for months, gone to tutoring, taken practice exams every week and learned every shortcut and technique. All to do well on an exam we’re told will determine our future school.

In my practice exams for the ACT reading section, I scored very well—only missing a question or two—but when I was testing, my nerves got in the way, and I started to panic in the middle of the exam.

Another time, I got a nosebleed and started to bleed all over my test while simultaneously trying to convince the proctor not to take my test away and to let me finish. Sure, I did have the chance to retake the exam, and in turn hope for a better score, but every time I retook the ACT, the pressure of doing better kept building up until the word “ACT” filled me with dread.

I spent countless nights over the past year stressing over the ACT while balancing an already-stressful school workload. In turn, I wasn’t able to spend as much time on the things that really define who I am, like journalism and Model UN.

Having spent several months doing ACT tutoring, there is one message I’ve learned: the ACT and SAT are designed to trick you. For example, the science portion of the ACT requires no knowledge of any science—even though it has the word “science” in the title—but instead tests your ability to read a passage and pick out valuable information. So, how does a 36 on the science section relate to a student’s knowledge about science and whether or not they’d succeed in a science field? It doesn’t.

I’m not proposing that we get rid of the ACT/SAT, but it should hold less importance in the college application process. I get that colleges need to have some way to compare students equally because some schools have different GPA scales, and some don’t have AP courses, but I wish test scores didn’t carry as much weight as they do. Schools claim that they don’t have a cut off test score, but it’s obvious that it’s hard to get into a school if you’re below a certain score.

I suggest schools join the 850—and growing—test-optional colleges in the U.S, and let students choose if they want to submit their ACT/ SAT scores. Schools should focus more on a student’s essays, GPA and extracurriculars because they are better indicators if a student is right for a school, not one number from one day.

Heterogeneous classes for CHS

This fall, Carrboro High School introduced heterogeneous grouping—combining standard and honors courses—into ninth grade English and World History classes. The initiative, intended to help incoming students make informed decisions about their enrollment, may also help reduce the achievement gap.

Within the first nine weeks of the school year, students are able to switch their enrollment between standard and honors. Teachers of these classes define what constitutes honors work and standard work, therefore allowing students to have a better understanding of the level of rigor they want. For example, in English 9, students received a sheet detailing what signified honors level work and how they would earn honors credit.

Within heterogeneous classes, students can help one another. English teacher Anthony Swaringen commented on the change in classroom culture.

“I’ve noticed that students are reinforcing positive behaviors in each other more than what I’ve ever seen in the past,” said Swaringen. “When you don’t have students who are modeling good student behavior—such as how to study, how to effectively read, or how to hold a class discussion—it’s hard to get that going in a classroom.”

World History and Psychology teacher Jacqueline Cerda-Smith added her perspective on blended classes.

“I really enjoy the class climate more this year,” said Smith. “I feel like everybody is more focused, and I’m seeing way less behavioral problems in class overall.”

Blended classes may also help close academic, social and other gaps between students.

“Everyone needs equal opportunities to be successful and not have their opportunities artificially limited by systems,” said Swaringen.

There are also students who want to take honors-level work but don’t see students that look like them and, as a result, find those classes less welcoming.

“A lot of students register for classes based on where their friends and family are registering,” said Swaringen. “I think that’s another place where we see those patterns of segregation, both racial and economic.”

The teachers involved in heterogeneous classes put careful thought into its implementation.

“You can have everybody together in a class and do a pretty terrible job of it,” said history teacher Matt Cone. “People have been pretty thoughtful about what are the different strategies we might use to have success.” He added that simply grouping students by enrollment would be ineffective.

Cameron Ferguson, a history teacher, added how he differentiates work for students.

“For me the difference is how independent students have to work,” said Ferguson. “I will give both students an honors level reading and the honors kids will be responsible for doing it on their own, and I will sit there and help the standard kid.”

Ferguson assured that all students are exposed to honors level instruction within heterogeneous classrooms.

Teachers of heterogeneous classes are also piloting Actively Learn, an online platform where teachers can give students the same reading with different questions or supports. Additionally, students can take separate tests in blended classes.

No concrete plan exists for implementing blended classes in other grades.

“Right now we have the hard research about the transition from eighth the ninth grade, but there’s not a lot of research about heterogenous grouping in upper grades,” said Swaringen. “We kind of have to produce our own case study to show this is something we think would work.”

CHS faces changes to administration

Big changes are coming to the Carrboro High School (CHS) administration this year.

Principal LaVerne Mattocks will become Executive Director of Secondary Schools and Students Services of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, and Assistant Principal James Hopkins will take a principal position at Lakewood Elementary School in Durham.

“I will be able to support middle and high schools in all their curriculum and programming with a special emphasis on student services to include discipline and things related to official student records and student code of conduct,” said Mattocks on her new position. “This is the plausible next step to my career that’s dedicated to public education.”

Compared to her current job at CHS, Mattocks will support all principals in the CHCCS district as well as carry out the superintendent’s vision.

Mattocks believes that principals are central to the success of school and district initiatives, and she hopes to provide structures to support their work in her new position.

While Mattocks is excited for this new step in her public education career, she is also thankful for her time at CHS.

“I will really miss the closeness to students on a daily basis,” said Mattocks. “I think I’ve grown to understand our students and create a culture where students feel empowered and at ease to teach me.”

According to Mattocks, staff changes will proceed without disruption.

“It is normal to be anxious about change, but I would encourage people to know that the district is committed to CHS and they will get someone who is great for the school and who will continue to support and provide a safety net,” said Mattocks. “The heart of the school is in the people who are here…and if CHS has been this great place [for you], now it will be up to you to help protect it with all the change.”

As for Assistant Principal Hopkins, he is excited for his new leadership position at Lakewood Elementary in Durham.

“I’m looking forward to being back in there,” said Hopkins, who spent most of his professional career in Durham. “I think Durham is often overlooked when it comes to school districts that possess those systems and programs that are designed to improve student achievement.”

Hopkins hopes to bring about various changes to Lakewood.   

“I think that the students of Durham believe what their friends outside of Durham say about Durham. I want to help change that narrative in a way that all Durham students are proud to be educated in Durham,” said Hopkins. “Contrary to perceptions about the challenges in Durham, it is one of the most honest, forward thinking, eclectic and promising cities in the United States.”

“Most importantly I’m looking forward to working with the elementary school kids and inspiring confidence in their short term dreams,” said Hopkins about his new leadership position. “And [I’m looking forward to] making sure they are valued and are worth more than circumstances would otherwise tell them.”

While the transition to a new job can be bittersweet, both Mattocks and Hopkins are hopeful for the future and thankful for their time at CHS.

“I will miss the students. I’ll miss interacting with the students. I’ll miss asking them questions about life,” said Hopkins, reflecting on both his and Mattock’s admiration for the school. “And I’ll miss witnessing the school spirit that is ever so present.”

Ernest Appiah’s graduation is bittersweet

Ernest Appiah, known affectionately as the “Mayor of Carrboro,” will be graduating from CHS this year.

Appiah’s nickname stems from his compassionate personality.

“He is one of the few individuals in life that truly brings happiness wherever he goes,” said System Level teacher Melissa Barry. “And it makes you smile.”

When Appiah first started at CHS he was unable to speak.

“I have in my notes the day that he spoke three words and the day that he spoke four words,” said Barry. “We had cards with topics of conversation to try to get him to communicate. He can now springboard his own topics of communication.”

Appiah, who turned 21 this year, has aged out of his free public education and will start working at OE Enterprises this summer. OE is a supported work environment where Appiah will perform contracted work such as delivering mail and packaging soil kits.

“I’m excited,” said Appiah “But I’m going to miss my teachers.”

Barry and Appiah began their Carrboro careers on the same day six years ago. And, over the years, Barry and others have seen Appiah grow tremendously.

“When he first started communicating, he would only communicate within the classroom,” said Barry. “It has been one of the most miraculous things to see his community grow, to see his confidence grow and now we refer to him as the ‘Mayor of Carrboro.’’’

Many CHS students share fond memories with Appiah.

“This one time I walked around with Ernie to deliver cupcakes to the faculty, and he walked so fast I could not keep up with him,” said junior Millie McGuire. “It was so funny. He was on a mission to deliver those cupcakes!”

The hardest part of Appiah’s transition will be leaving his Carrboro family behind.

“Leaving is never a pretty thing,” said Barry. “It is an emotional process that the students go through for months.”

Barry described her students as family.

“When someone graduates, it’s really hard for the rest of us,” she said. “We feel it for a whole year afterwards, at least.”

For the next month, in preparation for Appiah’s new job, Barry and her colleagues will be working with Appiah to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“I do social stories with him so he can see what’s going to happen,” said Barry.

On June 7, students and staff will hold a graduation party and ceremony for all students graduating from Ms.Barry’s class.

“I’m going to bring my graduation cake with my name on it,” said Appiah. “And my mom’s going to make chicken wings and fried rice.”

Even though Appiah will be graduating, he will leave a lasting impression on faculty and students.

“Ernest is my ray of sunshine,” said Barry. “When he smiles I can’t help but smile, and I think that is an incredible gift.”

Ernest Appiah with his teacher, Melissa Barry. Photo by Mireille Leone

Jags take paths less traveled

In August, some CHS students will leave Carrboro for more unconventional programs, including United World Colleges (UWC) and Global Citizen.

Bella Larsen, junior, is one of those students. Starting this fall, Larsen will join the United World Colleges in New Mexico for a program spanning two years.

UWC consists of schools and colleges in 17 countries, with one school in the U.S comprised of 75 percent international students.

When asked why she applied to UWC Larsen said “as an American, I sort of feel ignorant of other cultures unintentionally, so I want to broaden my scope. I also want to grow as a person and be more prepared for going into college and past college.”

According to Larsen, UWC students described every day as culture shock because they met several people from different backgrounds.

The curriculum for 16 to 19 year olds is based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme. Students choose to study one of the six following courses: language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics or the arts.

“From what I’ve heard, [the curriculum] is still as vigorous [as CHS] but it’s different,” said Larsen. “There’s less homework intensity but more intensity of what you’re learning and taking it to a real life level.”

Other CHS students will travel outside the U.S through a program called Global Citizen.

Global Citizen, which functions as a gap year program, spans over nine months. Applicants rank their preference of the four countries offered by the program: Senegal, India, Ecuador and Brazil.

Senior Leo Salvatore will spend his nine months in Brazil, and hopes to be influenced by its musical culture.

“My ultimate goal is to use music as a way to teach people about different social issues,” said Salvatore “[I want to] use music as the bridge between different groups of people.”

Within the first month of arriving in their country, participants will take part in apprenticeships within the community.

“You can work at a local business, school, farm, or clinic depending on your strengths,” said senior Yessi Martinez. “You can have multiple apprenticeships [during your time].”

Aside from the experience participants hope to gain, other important factors included cost.

“I wouldn’t have gone if I didn’t get financial aid,” said Martinez. “It costs around a year of college tuition.”

Luckily, UWC offers blind need for all students applying, and everyone receives a scholarship. And under Global Citizen over 80 percent of participants receive financial aid.

For more information on Global Citizen, visit their website at https://www.globalcitizenyear.org, and learn more about UWC at https://www.uwc.org.