BluePrints Magazine, Vol XXI Issue 2, February 2023

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Melanie Frick and Megan Wise

Managing Editor

Tory Ratajczak

Copy Editors

Aiden Dowling and Tory Ratajczak

News Editor

Ikeoluwa Ojo

Features Editor

Ruby Calkin

Viewpoints Editor

Marcus Welch

Variety Editor

Emma McElhannon

Sports Editor

Megan Wise

Art Directors

Ava Maddox and Eva Lucero

Layout/Design Directors

Aiden Dowling and Ellie Crane

Web Editors

Ellie Crane and Kira Law

Photography Coordinators

Isabella Morgan and Delia McElhannon

Staff Writers

Aliyah Adams, Sabriyu Adams, Luz Bazarte, Genevieve Bielli, Noe Ventura Castillo, Nolan Dennison, Ellis Garrett, Maggie Gillan, Ethan Greene, Freddrell Green, Gabriel Holcomb, Mallory Huntsman, Tumelo Johnson, Mia La, Sophie-Claire Meile, Samantha Mifflin, Isaiah Moore, London Moore, Landon Neace, Aiden Poe, Aissatou Sarr, Mattlee Scott, Chloe Smith, Kylie Toney, Alyssa Weiszer, Jason Zhang


Marc Ginsberg

BluePrints Magazine

Cedar Shoals High School

1300 Cedar Shoals Drive

Athens, GA 30605

Phone: (706) 546-5375, Ext. 21314


BluePrints is the official magazine of Cedar Shoals High School. Published opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone other than the staff and individual writers.

BluePrints is a student-led newsmagazine published for the Cedar Shoals community to enjoy as well as to educate student journalists. Each issue is an open public forum for student expression under the guidance of a faculty adviser.

The BluePrints staff is committed to reflect the mission statement set forth by CSHS. The staff’s goals are to provide fair, accurate news and commentaries, as well as to serve the interests of the school and Athens community.

Advertising must conform to the guidelines set forth for editorials. Publication of advertisements does not indicate an endorsement by CSHS or by BluePrints.

Students pictured in advertisements are not given monetary compensation. All advertising rates are available upon request from any BluePrints staff member.

BluePrints is a member of the Georgia Scholastic Press Association and the Southern Interscholastic Press Association. Corrections of errors and omissions will appear in the next issue. Submit letters to the editor to: | 3


Both sides of the ball

As a teammate of Toby Bolton I can see that he was more dedicated to the game than a lot of different people on our team. Toby never gave up on a play. Even at practice we may not be going full speed, but you better bet Toby was going to always be the first person down field. I would say to myself “dang bro we’re not going full speed,” but now I get it. This game means a lot to him. Me personally, I look up to Toby. He’s someone that you would follow for his athleticism. You would go a long long way just by being consistent no matter what for short (straining your gut). That is something that Toby was always consistent at doing. Just from learning and seeing the things that he can do, I’m going work harder. One last thing that I can say about Toby is he has always been a team player. Things like communication or pushing us to go harder on the field and in the weight room, he was just always there. Thanks to Toby and my coaches, I will always go hard at everything that I do.

Managing a mixed mindset

It’s been so long since I’ve heard another biracial student talk about issues we all face being biracial. I myself have been told that I was too white to be Black and too Black to be white. I let these comments by peers get to me still, even after having to deal with them for so long because I feel like in whatever group I’m in I’m overlooked. There have been countless times where I would change my style or change who I am deep down to try to fit in their social groups. I remember a case in school where a group of people shut down my opinion because of me being half-white. On an everyday basis, it feels like I get questioned about my ethnic background, which distracts me throughout the day. If I speak or say something too improperly, I am told by peers what I am and what I’m not.

Chainsaw Man

Ifirst watched “Chainsaw Man” and it was great. I was glad when I saw “Chainsaw Man” in BluePrints. I didn’t know that “Chainsaw Man” put up such hype. I didn’t read the manga and I’ve only seen the anime. I was pleased to find out that “Chainsaw Man” was made by the same studio as “Attack On Titan” and “Jujutsu Kaisen.” MAPPA studios is a good one for any anime that involves fighting and transformations. “Chainsaw Man” is also a good anime to recommend to new people to watch anime instead of “Naruto” or “Dragon Ball.” “Chainsaw Man” is full of surprises and funny characters like Power. She basically mooches off you just for a place to stay. There are a lot of funny moments in the show. It keeps the show going with balancing out action, fighting, romance (somewhat) and comedy. The two year hype was worth it and since the anime is adapted from the manga I just know that the second season will be another hype.

Just like us

To Dr. Tolbert, I see I’ve misunderstood you. I used to think that you were stuck up and just a jerk in middle school, but after getting to know more about you I would like to apologize. And for my reason of thinking, as I got older I started to realize that everyone has a back story and you worked your way up the ladder and I think you’re doing amazing for where you are right now.

As for your childhood everyone deserves a mother who’s there for them no matter the case. With that I’ve never lived in the projects so I don’t know what it’s like but the important thing is people have your back. The best thing is that you never gave up.

- Alex Garcia Munoz, sophomore

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We want to hear from you! Submit your letter to the editor to to be considered for our next edition. BLUEPRINTS VOLUME XXI ISSUE 1 NOVEMBER 2022 CEDARBLUEPRINTS.COM @CEDARBLUEPRINTS RAIDERS REIGN P. 16 HOUSING CRISIS P. 31 HAIR BUSINESSES P. 42 | 5 TABLE OF CONTENTS Viewpoints spoRts VARIetY FeAtURes news
36 20 30 Girls’ basketball 12 Keppner Boxing 14 Sports stars 16
Cover photo by Isabella Morgan | 5 Reviews 18 Fusion food 20 News briefs 22 Sampson 5k 23 Student loans 24 Robotics 26 Jag Shop 28 Daniel Choi 30 Cynthia Hoover 32 Test optional 34 Flores returns 36 Learning loss 38 Pronouns 42 Film Industry 6 Title IX 7 Validation 8 ChatGPT 10 Kanye West 11 12 26
Photos by Isabella Morgan, Emma McElhannon, Austin Chang and Delia McElhannon

he film industry is in a precarious spot. In an age of remakes and sequels, one conversation keeps coming up: actors are being cast to satisfy the viewers and not to properly portray the character.

REPRESENTING IN THE RIGHT WAY: The issues with misrepresentation in the film industry

than no representation.

In the brand new remake of your favorite live action or animated film or show, the writers and producers have already decided to change a character’s race or sexuality. While there’s nothing wrong with this pattern, it’s not the right way to go about representing minorities in shows and movies. Instead of altering old stories and characters to represent minorities, we should be producing new stories with minority characters and minority people involved in the writing and production process.

On paper, changing a character’s race or sexuality sounds harmless because it’s just a fictional show. While that’s true to an extent, it does just as much bad as it does good if the character doesn’t accurately portray the people they represent. Poor representation is no better

One recent example of poor representation is HBO’s new show “Velma,” a spinoff of “Scooby-Doo” centered around a new Velma Dinkley who is now of Indian descent and voiced by Mindy Kaling. Aside from my other personal gripes with the show, there’s a glaring issue in the second episode where Velma calls another character “A rich white man with a tiny dong.” What’s the point in changing Velma’s race if it’s just going to be weaponized in order to set up an unfunny one-liner?

Interestingly enough, HBO is also responsible for “The Last of Us” which includes some of the best and most well written queer representation for characters important to the show’s narrative seen in recent shows or films. HBO achieved this by focusing more on the story writing and development of its characters rather than taking the easy way out with stereotypical and poorly written characters. For days following the release of episode three of “The Last of Us” which follows the story of Bill and Frank, two gay lovers who found each other after the downfall of humanity, all the buzz online was about how good the episode was and how much the audience loved Bill and Frank’s story.

Representation is not changing a character’s race just to pit them against another character.

Thoughtless attacks like this only further skew the perception of the groups these characters represent. If you’re going to “represent” minorities in film, do it right. Avoid the stereotypes, break the mold of “typical” struggles, make new and unique characters and for the sake of the viewers, please get a diverse team of people involved in writing and production.

It’s also important to note that representation is not just a character with a certain race, gender or sexuality. Just because a show or film has different people in it doesn’t mean that they’re being represented. The purpose of representing different types of characters is to make them relatable for your audience by writing them as a character that’s more than just the demographic(s) they fall into. Shows don’t need 10 seasons with 12 episodes that flush out every single detail of every character’s life, but it’s not too much to ask that writers and producers go the extra step. Get away from old characters and remakes, and make new stories and characters that feel full of life and emotion that are also relatable for everyone watching.

I am by no means a screen writer or producer nor do I work as a public relations agent for a massive multimedia company, but I don’t need to be any of those to see the current representation issues in the film industry. Something needs to change.

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ACTION: An actress stands in front of a camera casting a disfigured shadow on to the wall behind her. The actress’ misshapped shadow symbolizes the representation minority groups face in the film industry. Art by Eva Lucero. Design by Ellie Crane.

How women’s sports have evolved but still need improvement

une 23, 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of Title IX, and throughout the year women’s sports have seen a sharp increase in attendance, ticket sales and overall interest on a global scale. But, it didn’t start out this way.

In 1972, Congress passed an amendment called Title IX, a law that would change the world of women’s sports entirely. It was created in response to educational inequalities that women faced before the 1970s. Title IX gives female athletes the right to equal opportunities in sports from federally funded education programs.

Since Title IX was passed, there has been a substantial increase in the participation of women in sports throughout all stages of school. High school girls’ participation in sports increased from just over 300,000 in 1972, to now over 3.2 million in 2021-22.

In addition to more participation, 2022 has shown a drastic increase in interest overall, including watching and attending games.

During the 2022 season, the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League attendance record was smashed when San Diego Wave FC hosted its first game at the newly built SnapDragon stadium (built for the San Diego State Football team). The California rivalry game drew 32,000 fans and broke the previous record set by the Portland Thorns in 2019, with a crowd of 25,218.

Outside of the U.S., crowds have reached an even higher level. Just this March, the world record attendance for a women’s soccer match was broken in Barcelona, Spain at a Champions League Match. Barcelona played Real Madrid, and the Spanish rivalry amassed a record crowd of 91,553. That eclipsed the 90,185 record set at the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final at the Pasadena Rose Bowl.

While soccer seems to draw in the biggest

Jcrowds, other sports have also broken down attendance barriers during 2022.

At the U.S. Open, the largest attendance ever was recorded for an evening session at Arthur Ashe Stadium for what was expected to be the start of Serena Williams’ last U.S. Open run, and if she was unlucky, potentially one of the last tennis matches of her career. As she began slicing and dicing through to the next round of the tournament, 29,402 fans roared right alongside her with every point.

Collegiately, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament had more people attend the first and second-round games than ever before, with 216,890 spectators across 32 games.

Also in 2022, data has shown that there has been record viewership of women’s sports on television.

The NWSL Championship final was played on Oct. 29, 2022, and 915,000 people tuned into CBS to watch. It was the most viewed match in NWSL history.

The NCAA Women’s Championship final scored 4.85 million viewers, making it the mostwatched title game since 2004.

Internationally, England’s EURO 2022 final victory over Germany amassed 17.4 million viewers, and it was the most-watched program in the UK in 2022 overall.

All of these records go to show how much has improved over the years in terms of interest in the women’s game, but there are other aspects that still need improvements. These improvements have to do with pay and working condition issues that commonly occur.

U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team striker Alex Morgan makes around $450,000 a year and is one of the highest paid players in the game. However, the average salary in the NWSL is only around $35,000-$54,000. This means that after they retire, they’ll more than likely need to pursue another career.

In contrast, the highest paid male player, Kylian Mbappé, makes $128 million a year. The average salary for Premier League players is $3.1 million.

Even though the world isn’t quite there in terms of equality, there certainly have been improvements. The USWNT and the U.S. Soccer Confederation have recently settled an equal pay lawsuit for $24 million, and both the men’s and women’s national teams have agreed to receive equal pay. In India, equal pay was reached between the men’s and women’s national teams for cricket, and in England, men’s and women’s football national team members get paid the same amount per game.

While money definitely needs to be a top priority, so do the working conditions and athletic grounds.

In soccer, nearly every professional men’s team has its own stadium and training facility. At clubs where the women’s team is also a big priority, the teams may share a training facility or stadium with the men’s team. However, most women’s professional club teams play at underwhelming facilities. As of right now, there are no specific stadiums for a women’s team but one is in progress in Kansas City. Most teams have to play at an academy team ground or at a facility where the conditions aren’t ideal.

At the NCAA basketball tournament in 2021, there was controversy around the women’s tournament as the men had well-stocked workout complexes in the COVID bubble, and the women only had hand weights. There were also differences in the food they were receiving, as the men were getting lobster mac and cheese and the women were getting soggy broccoli and mystery meat.

Although the NCAA has since apologized for its actions, there is still a concern about just how unequal the conditions were. It isn’t from a lack of interest in the women’s game, but a lack of support and investment from larger corporations.

The 50th anniversary of Title IX brings cheers of celebration on how far women’s sports has come, but there still needs to be more improvement to call it an equal playing field. | 7
Design by Megan Wise

who AM I doing it FoR?

My computer stares at me as I decide what classes to choose for the next semester, anticipating not what I want to take but what will look good. What will look good to my mom, to colleges, to my friends? I push back things I enjoy to complete an assignment that will bring my grade up by a point. The 80 isn’t enough, not to me and most importantly not to my mom.

I remember sitting in the car after every middle school parent conference. Holding back tears as some random song played, drowning out my mom’s complaints about how it might have gone. I always hated parent teacher conferences. Most of the time I had good grades: nothing jaw dropping, but nothing bad. I was always a good student too. I participated in class and extracurriculars. But I was constantly afraid that my mom would take something a teacher said the wrong way and I’d be punished for it. Even when my conference went fine, she’d pinpoint the smallest things and make a problem out of it. As I grew older I realized that she did this because even the smallest mistakes can ruin opportunities, even if those mistakes are not yours.

My mom grew up in the Mexican state of Michoacán. With fourteen siblings, she always had to help out around her home. The primary school she attended had two rooms and three teachers. One room included the kindergarten and first-to-third grade teachers and the other the fourthto-sixth grade.

Each morning, instead of waking up and getting ready for school, my mom tended to her family’s cows and goats. Afterwards, she got ready as quick as she could but would end up arriving late anyways. After dismissal, once again, she went straight to work. Work always came first, not because she wanted it to, but because it had to.

My mother’s parents and grandparents wanted her and her siblings to finish primary school so they would at least know how to read and write. Like every parent, they wanted to provide their children with the opportunities they never had. Knowing that affording school past primary grades was out of the question, she was never upset with her parents for denying her the chance to go to secondary school.

“Desde que tenía cinco años estaba trabajando. Luego empeze a ir a la escuela, saliendo de la escuela en lugar de llegar a la casa y hacer mi tarea o comer, nos quedamos trabajando hasta las seis o siete

de la noche,” my mom said to me.

“Ever since I was five years old I was working, then I began to go to school. After school instead of going home to do my school work or eat we worked until six or seven at night.”

Because of the nature of how my mother was raised, she always pushes my sisters and I to do well in school, telling us about how she never got the chances and opportunities we have. She always wants us to take advantage of anything that will move us forward, not wanting us to constantly work just to make ends meet, but to continue on our own path and do what we want to do.

The obsession with my grades continues as I grow older. Being pushed to do better in school, I began relying on my grades and the classes I took to be noticed by my mother and others. With the constant pressure of wanting my school life to look good to my mom, I began beating myself up over my grades and comparing myself to my friends and peers, forcing myself to do better each and every day to hear my mom say she was proud of me.

Her critique of my grades and inspiration to do better lets me know that she cares, that she knows this is good for me. I know she is proud of me. She just doesn’t say it, and sometimes it hurts. It can feel as though my hard work is for nothing, but at the end of the day, I know that my hard work is not wasted. One day I will be able to give her a life where she no longer has to put work first because she always pushed me to do my best.

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Luz Bazarte De La Luz Staff Writer STRINGS ATTACHED: A female student sits with a controlling parent above her as she’s surrounded by graded papers. From a young age Luz Bazarte was pressed by her mother to get good grades, which caused stress. Art by Luz Bazarte. | 9 Burritos • Bowls • Tacos • Salads • Nachos Visit to order catering for you next event. Everything good Rolled into One. VOTED ATHENS’ BEST BURRITO FREE QUESO WHEN YOU Download Our App and BECOME A REWARDS MEMBER. Plus earn great rewards just by enjoying Barberitos.

ChatGPT: revolutionary chatbot could have detrimental impacts on education

ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer), developed by OpenAI, is a cutting-edge language model that utilizes transformer architecture and is trained on a massive dataset of conversational text. This allows it to generate human-like text with impressive fluency and coherence.

Don’t believe me? That previous statement was written by the chatbot when asked to explain itself. Thorough and articulate, ChatGPT can respond to almost any question thrown at it.

Interacting with ChatGPT is as simple as opening the website, signing up with a phone number and asking a question. In response, the bot scours the web, formulating an intelligent and thorough response. The bot is capable of translating texts, writing research papers (with citations) or even writing fictional narratives.

I have spent hours playing with ChatGPT, attempting to test the limits and shortcomings of the revolutionary technology. While amazed by the capabilities of the program, occasionally when given a prompt, the bot demonstrates problems. When presented with a narrative prompt about a rock climber, the bot would respond with a paragraph dedicated entirely to a definition of rock climbing as a sport. The bot tends to get hung up on small details, giving Wikipedia-like definitions of terms that have little to do with the prompt given, and sometimes will give answers that are plain wrong. While humans have learned that the internet is full of false information, it seems the chatbot is still struggling to do so. Also for legal and

moral reasons, there are some topics the chatbot refuses to add insight on at all, such as traumatic events like the Holocaust, the stock market and relationships.

The implications of ChatGPT are vast, but when it comes to education, the negatives of the chatbot become evident. California High School English Teacher Daniel Herman regards ChatGPT as, “The end of high school English.” When presented with almost any essay prompt, the bot will return with a complete paper, with adjustable word counts. Regardless of the occasional shortcomings in writing, the essays written by the AI are generally pretty solid, presenting a new ethical dilemma in schools. These AI written papers are undetectable by plagiarism software, leaving teachers struggling to determine whether it was written by a student or a computer.

While AI plagiarism does present a problem, a solution has quickly been introduced. Pioneered by a college student Edward Tian, GPT zero is a detection software designed to give users a percent chance that a given passage was composed by AI. While helpful, this software is not foolproof, and when passages are slightly edited it falls short. This could leave instructors with essays composed almost entirely by AI to grade, creating a real issue when it comes to academic integrity.

When presented with the next step of technological advancement, people are quick to lose it. Think about when basic AI was first introduced, people thought robots were only years away from taking over the world. I believe that the negative reactions to

ChatGPT were inevitable, but over-reactive. ChatGPT is truly a technological feat, but has a long way to go in its development. As of right now, it provides everyone with a way to quickly summarize and understand information across the internet in one place, but more and more uses are coming into light daily. The bot is able to scan lines of code to detect errors, and it even provides complex translations with much better results than you could get with Google translate.

While the software has its negative consequences, the possibilities that ChatGPT’s capabilities present to students and educators are limitless. While it could be used for plagiarism and cheating, ChatGPT also presents students with a baseline for essays when lost, and it may help point to relevant information to discuss when the time comes to write their own essay. Answers to questions that could take hours to answer through the internet pop up in seconds, and the bot can even provide useful insight when it comes to large decisions such as which college to attend or information on a financial endeavor.

While ChatGPT has its developmental problems, the bot still offers limitless possibilities, both positive and negative. Only months after release, the software is already playing a pivotal role in education. As the chatbot continues to improve, the flaws in the software itself — when it comes to information inaccuracy — will slowly dwindle, leaving teachers and students in a unique situation, inevitably changing the shape of high school, and possibly the world forever.

ChatGPT is a variant of OpenAI’s GPT language model. GPT-3, the largest version of GPT, was released in 2020 and uses Transformer architecture, first introduced in 2017. Trained on 45 terabytes of text data, GPT-3 generates human-like responses and is one of the most advanced language models available. OpenAI continues to develop the GPT series to improve its language generation capabilities.

Give me a brief history of ChatGPT’s development in 50 words.

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Design by Aiden Dowling



In the last few months Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has made incredibly antisemitic statements, appearing in a plethora of interviews and digging himself deeper into the hole he’s already in.

I’m disappointed and sad regarding what has happened involving Ye. From the intense, emotional downward spiral to the antisemitic rants, it has been sickening to watch it all unfold.

I first discovered Ye when I heard his album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Its electrical and almost new sound changed my music taste drastically, and I’ve become an avid fan for about five years.

Ye has always been outspoken, such as after Hurricane Katrina occurred when he went on live television and stated that “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” due to Bush’s handling of the tragic event.

Another instance of controversy includes him storming on stage drunk while Taylor Swift was receiving an award at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, stealing the microphone and stating “Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.”

With his ego shining through, he decided to get politically involved in 2016 by supporting President Donald Trump openly during his campaign and time in office.

He continued his support for Trump in 2020 all while making the bold decision to run for president himself. This effort proved fruitless when Ye only obtained a minuscule amount of votes, accumulating only 60,000 out of the total of 160 million votes running independently. When he made this decision to run for president, I took it

as a joke. Unfortunately, it was very serious to Ye.

After this all transpired, Ye’s former wife Kim Kardashian filed for divorce before getting into a relationship with comedian Pete Davidson.

Ye’s reaction to this news brought a hate mob toward Davidson. Ye went as far as producing a claymation music video showing himself kidnapping and burying Davidson alive in collaboration with The Game.

Ye also claimed that Kardashian withheld contact with their four children because of his outbursts.

In November Ye announced he would run for president again in 2024, almost immediately followed by his antisemitic out-

bursts on Twitter and Instagram.

These posts feel like career suicide for Ye. I was really disappointed in his decisions because he has a massive influence and created a cult-like fanbase that defends his actions. It’s now clear that he has a toxic fanbase who are still willing to defend him even after the indefensible. I can’t deny that Ye has had a significant impact on my taste in music, but I can no longer call myself a fan after his recent behavior.

Just when I thought that it couldn’t get any worse, Ye was seen with white supremacist Nick Fuentes, a political commentator and streamer. Ye made these appearances in the midst of his non-apology “apology tour” where he attempted to sway the public to his side. He then appeared on “Info Wars” with Alex Jones where he made an outlandish remark essentially praising Hitler.

“Every human being has brought something of value, especially Hitler,” Ye said on the show.

During this interview on “Info Wars,” Ye openly called himself a Nazi in front of Jones, somehow making Jones, of all people, seem reasonable. Keep in mind Jones paid upwards of $1.4 billion to Sandy Hook victims’ families for claiming that what transpired was just a “hoax.”

Ye craves attention, and the influence others have had on him, his bipolar disorder, his mother’s passing and his divorce from Kardashian have all boiled into his downward mental spiral.

Ye’s choices and behaviors have ruined his legacy and maybe his career. His downfall has been an unfortunate sight to see because many young impressionable fans will still blindly follow him. What do they think about what he has said and what he claims to support now? | 11
Design by Aiden Dowling
Art by Mia La



After four seasons, over 100 games and three playoff appearances, six senior Lady Jags varsity basketball team members are playing their last high school season.

Seniors Ramyia Adams, Ashley Lester, Chat Lunceford, Jane Michael, Amber Williams and Ray Williams compiled a 10-15 win-loss record with a 6-7 region record in 2022-23. Lunceford leads the team in overall rebounds and Ray Williams leads the team in steals and deflections.

“It feels really weird. Ever since I started playing basketball it’s just been a huge part of my life because over the summer we have practice and then it starts early in the fall and goes throughout the beginning of the spring,” Michael said. “It’s so much that I’ve dedicated myself to and it’s just not going to be there anymore.”

Spending four years of hard work and practice with a team and coach means hav ing complicated feelings about leaving.

“I don’t know how to explain it, it’s a good and bad thing,” Ray Williams said. “I’m happy I got to play all four years of high school and I’m sad to let it go, but I’m ready to take the next step and move on to college.”

Head coach T. Wall has watched these seniors grow throughout the last four years. Her guidance on and off the court has led to noticeable improvement.

“They are a lot more vocal and trying to lead by example, holding the young group accountable but also holding themselves accountable,” Wall said. “Just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean you don’t have the same

sit together for their senior

The Lady Jags have played their last season of high school basketball and look forward to going off to college. “Ashley has been getting some looks from schools. She is definitely one who wants to play at the next level.

Ramyia and Ray are showing some interest of wanting to play as well,” head coach T. Wall said.


The 2022-23 season came with its challenges, but that hasn’t changed the goal and outlook of the team. The Region 8-4A expansion that will continue into the 2024 season from eight to 11 schools has added in many competitive teams like Walnut Grove and East Forsyth.

“There have been ups and downs, just like any season. You don’t know how a season is going to go until you get in it. Just building that chemistry and things like that. We started off a little rough but were turning things around,” Wall said. “The expectation is to always do well in the region and definitely make it to the playoffs and it’s not easy. We have one of the hardest regions.”

Reaching the Final Four in the 2020-21 season and making it to the playoffs every

dealing with adversity,”

Ray Williams said. “I think we can do it, I think we can make it pretty far. I believe in my team.”

The community that the Cedar team has built is one every team looks for. Supporting one another on and off the court as well as celebrating individual improvements has helped the team build its culture.

“It’s a team sport and every individual

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SENIOR SQUAD: Seniors (left to right) Ashley Lester, Chat Lunceford, Jane Michael, Ray Williams, Amber Williams and Ramyia Adams photo. Photo by Kylie Toney.

always go out to eat before the Clarke Central game and spend time together which is fun. It’s just our little tradition.”

Whether it’s playing Division I or club, the love of basketball will follow many of the Lady Jags into college. Lester has gotten offers from Florida Southwestern State College and Antelope Valley University.

“Something about seeing the ball go through the hoop and playing the game, I just love it,” Lester said. “I am undecided right now for college but I’m going on a couple of visits and I’m going to make a decision soon.”

Joining the basketball team helped Ray Williams find her place, and she looks to find that community in college as well.

“Nobody really knew who I was when I came to high school and I felt like I was overlooked as a player, but now being a starter I feel like I really am making a footprint at Cedar,” Ray Williams said. “I am going to try to get on the team at Georgia Southern.”

Losing six seniors means that filling those shoes for next season will be a priority. After losing point guard Deshauna Foote last year and trying to fill her spot, Wall had to teach the girls how to adjust around major holes and will have to do so again next year.

“It’s hard to replace someone who’s been with you for four years. That’s kind of our biggest weakness right now,” Wall said. “Right now we have one junior, some sophomores and freshman, so next season is going to be another year where we’re trying to fill gaps. So we’ll make adjustments over the summer and off season.”

Wall is thankful for the time she was able to spend with the current group of seniors and looks forward to working with the next group of players.

“Hopefully the younger ones see what the seniors are doing and see what it’s gonna take,” Wall said. “One of our slogans is ‘always earned, never given,’ so if you want to earn it you have to work for it.”

IN PLAY: Senior Ray Williams runs with the ball down the court at the North Hall game on Dec. 13, 2022. Ray Williams has been playing basketball since seventh grade and has been with the Lady Jags all four years of high school. “My favorite memory would be this season when we played East Hall and I got this chase down block from a girl,” Ray Williams said. “Me being short I didn’t think I could, but it was really cool.” Photo by Kylie Toney.


Walking into Keppner Boxing

on the East side of Athens, one might expect blaring music, booming coach’s drills, or the thundering punches of boxers pummeling their fists into punching bags. And visitors will confirm such an environment. But within that activity exists a binding community. Coach Dean Agnew stopping at an exhausted boxer’s spot on the mat and encouraging them to finish their rep. Coach Logan Hembree waving goodbye to members as they depart past the studio’s reception desk. Keppner boxer Kurtland (Kurt) Carey yelling “I love y’all” to Josh McMillian as he walked out the studio’s doors on his last day coaching. It doesn’t take one long to realize that they are welcome.

“I’m here almost 24/7. The only days I’m not here are Saturdays and Sundays. But otherwise, I’m here every day when I can. Putting everything I got into the gym. Just trying to put me in that position of life where I want to be,” Carey, Cedar Shoals class of 2022, said.

Although Carey is surrounded by a variety of ages in the various classes he attends,

he notes that the boxing studio is especially formative for youth like himself.

“We live in Athens, Georgia, where a lot of troubles and problems happen if you end up with the wrong people in the wrong situations. This keeps you out of that,” Carey said. “I could easily not have done boxing after high school and I probably would have been out here doing something I’m not supposed to. But I chose to do this, and I’m happy, getting money, doing whatever I want to do. But not falling into that standard of life that people expect me to be, especially being a Black man in this area.”

For Agnew, who has been fighting and coaching at Keppner for the past two years, the studio creates a community where participants improve their self-confidence and mental health.

“You never know what somebody’s going through. This could be their getaway. Maybe it’s a financial thing. Maybe it’s a bullying thing. People come here to get away from it for reasons, so you have to be on your ‘A’ game all the time because this could be the last straw. You got to make

sure you’re positively impacting everybody, making everybody feel welcome and also just making sure everybody is having a good time,” Agnew said.

Sophomore Flor Bazarte, the only female who spars inside Keppner’s boxing ring, has put in the training hours after her traditional boxing classes to fight against others. Bazarte has performed so well sparring that she has been invited a handful of times to travel with Keppner’s team to spar against opponents from other boxing facilities.

“There’s usually not any other girls for me to spar. Last time I traveled, there was supposed to be a girl for me to spar, but she didn’t end up showing so I had to spar a boy,” Bazarte said.

Used to flying solo as the sole female in her age division, Bazarte hopes to box professionally one day and realizes she needs to put in the work. But she wishes her male opponents would try harder.

“Whenever I spar the other boys, they usually go easy on me. They just feel bad, and I think if they actually tried on me, it would be better for me so that I could get

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SEEKING STABILITY: Keppner boxers (left to right) Anthony Castro Soto and Harold Avelar spar against each other. Boxers like Kurtland Carey feel that Keppner provides them a safe space to release stress that accumulates day to day. “It provides stability or an outlet,” Carey said. “If you’re going through a life crisis, girlfriend breaks with you, somebody passes away, you come here. That’s what I do.” Photo by Isabella Morgan.

better,” Bazarte said. “The girls give me more trouble because they actually try.”

Both Bazarte and Carey recently participated in a fundraising event that Keppner hosted for Heart Music on Nov. 12 to raise money for music programs in Athens schools. Both Keppner’s Athens and Loganville facilities supplied fighters for the night. Agnew noted how for many members, this event was their first time sparring in front of an audience.

“Even just getting up in front of a crowd, especially if it’s your first time sparring, you’re just gonna be proud because of different nerves,” Agnew said. “Kurt, it was his first time in front of a crowd. He did very well.”

Carey reflected on how he did not want to let down his peers during his fight that night.

“At first it was kind of nerve wracking because it’s not just like random people, it’s people that I know, people that are going to see me after. I‘ve got to hold myself to a certain expectation,” Carey said. “I’ve

seen some things that I could have done better that day, but there’s always room for improvement.”

Agnew makes a point of stopping fighters when they are sparring and grow frustrated with their performance so he can give them pointers on how to improve and what to look out for.

“One of the things I love about Keppner is that this is more of a family than anything. The way Kurt actually started was he saw my Instagram and saw that I box and now he’s living with me next year. So we’re all moving in together. Then on top of that, I’ve had a bunch of clients come in, just text me off hours like ‘Hey, I’m going through X,Y, or Z,’” Agnew said.

On top of everything else, Keppner prides itself on affordability for the Athens community. First sessions are 100% free, and those like Carey who attend sessions nearly everyday only pay $23 per week. Both general fitness boxing and self defense classes are offered.

“Keppner offers a place for discipline and just for self growth in general. You can get anxiety, this helps you deal with that. Just being a teenager, you experience a lot of those things, so having something like this to just kind of have a crutch on, it keeps you grounded,” coach Logan Hembree said. After fighting at Keppner for the past five years, Hembree began coaching the summer before his senior year at Clarke Central High School and is still going strong a year later.

While playing football for Cedar Shoals, Carey had no idea that he would be boxing after graduation with the intent of becoming a professional.

“Since a kid, I’ve been wanting to box, but eventually I had no time for it because I took football very seriously. I thought that’s what I was

going to do after high school and all the rest of my life. Obviously, that didn’t go as I thought it would, so I decided to come to Keppner and try to pursue what I had wanted as a kid, and it’s been working out for me really good,” Carey said.

Carey knows he can rely on Keppner to make his dreams a reality and recognizes what it has done for both his mental and physical health.

“What it provides for the youth, it keeps them out of trouble. It gives them stability,” Carey said. “Before I got here, I had very bad temper issues. I used to be a little hot headed when I was younger. But, when I came in here, it taught me how to be more disciplined and self-accountable.” | 15
I could easily not have done boxing after high school and I probably would have been out here doing something I’m not supposed to. But I chose to do this, and I’m happy.
- Kurtland Carey “
OPENING UP: Keppner member Kurtland Carey stands in the boxing ring at Keppner Boxing, getting ready to spar. Carey credits his coaches at Keppner for helping him learn to confide in others. “Before, I didn’t really talk to anybody. But hanging around them, they’ve been able to open me up,” Carey said. “If I have something going on in my life, I can talk to them and get wisdom.” Photo by Isabella Morgan.



vs. Madison County Feb. 3

• 14 Points

• 4 Rebounds

• 2 Assists


“I use basketball as a life tool to stay on track, it helps with being disciplined.”





• 14-7 record

• Ranked 5th in Region 8-4A


“My role model is Curtis Barnett. He’s not in wrestling, but he’s the current owner of Barnett Taekwondo Academy. He’s pretty much seen me grow up, I’ve gone to his gym since I was in second grade.”


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First Edition Cedar
Edition Cedar BluePrints Trading Cards
BluePrints Trading Cards
Photo by Kylie Toney Photo by Austin Chang Compiled by Megan Wise Design by Aiden Dowling




• 15 points per game

• 8 rebounds per game

• 3 steals per game

• Season-high 26 points


“I’ve been playing basketball since I was four. I started playing because I saw my older cousins playing and it seemed interesting. It’s the only sport I have played.”


• 500 Freestyle - 4:42.41

• 100 Breaststroke - 1:00.86

• 200 Freestyle - 1:48.40


“The competitions help me stay motivated because I want to beat other people and improve my times.”

First Edition Cedar BluePrints Trading Cards First Edition Cedar BluePrints Trading Cards Photo by Isabella Morgan Photo by Kylie Toney

whAt ’s hot?

Smashing the box office again, James Cameron’s sequel to the 2009 “Avatar” film “Avatar: The Way of Water” is a massive success. With impressive visuals and sound design, there are just a few things that take away from the experience.

The biggest deterrent for “The Way of Water” is its lengthy runtime. At a whopping three hours and 12 minutes, just dedicating the time to go see the film is a hassle in itself. Aside from its impressive visuals, “The Way of Water” has similar flaws to its predecessor. The story is nothing new and the themes and elements have been conveyed in a hundred different stories before: foreign invaders arrive on new land and force out its native people. “The Way of Water” follows this same stale blueprint on a smaller scale which is disappointing for such a highly anticipated movie.

The combination of high quality animation and amazing voice actors transforms the animated characters into something very lifelike and human, adding to the unique world of Pandora. Intricate background audio adds to the experience by immersing viewers into Pandora. All of the underwater and jungle scenes layer on the calls of various animals and weather effects to communicate that there is more going on than the characters on screen.

Looking to the future with “Avatar” three and four set to release in the coming years, hopefully the production teams can find a way to patch up the places where the first two films fall short. “The Way of Water” is a step in the right direction for the franchise, building on the strong features of the first “Avatar” film. “The Way of Water” leaves little to be desired but warrants the praise it has received.

Released in 2013 to the Playstation 3, “The Last of Us” has stood as one of the greatest narrative video games of all time with over 200 Game of The Year awards. Ten years after the release, the classic title is getting a TV adaptation on HBO Max. While Pedro Pascal’s casting of Joel was positively received, Bella Ramsey’s casting of Ellie was initially criticized due to their lack of likeness to the original character. Considering fans had a decade to speculate the casting, the choice of Ramsey initially upset many fans. While Pascal resembles Joel in the original video game, Ramsey doesn’t. However, after seeing the first episode and their character’s interacting, Ramsey is a great fit for Ellie’s character.

The first episode opens up with a prelude following Joel and his daughter Jane. As we get an eerie view of a zombie apocalypse unfolding through Jane’s eyes, tragedy quickly unfolds. After a timehop, the story follows Joel and Ellie’s journey in a post-apocalyptic world. With Joel being reintroduced while burning the corpse of a small child, the inhumaneness of their world pulls the viewer into the harsh reality quickly. As tensions rise between the government and revolutionary organizations like the Fireflies, Joel and Ellie depart into the dangerous outdoors. However, witnessing terrorism, death and abuse throughout the episode, the contrast of the main characters shines. Joel lives as an adult experiencing his new reality and Ellie is a child desensitized to the world she’s been born into.

Throughout the episode, the show stays true to its source material, with a majority of the script, story and even camera angles coming straight from the game. While it may not assist in building out the world the game laid down, the choice of respecting the original plot of the game results in a beautiful new look of a story so highly received.

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Art by Eva Lucero Design and graphics by Aiden Dowling
4/5 3/5 2/5 1/5 4/5 5/5
- Marcus Welch
Aiden Dowling

The Pale Blue Eye

Most of us are familiar with Edgar Allen-Poe the writer, but what happens when he tries to help solve a murder mystery?

“The Pale Blue Eye” follows detective Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) as he investigates the mysterious murders of young cadets in the United States Military Academy with the help of soon to be world renowned poet Edgar Allan-Poe (Harry Melling). When Landor can’t figure out the context of a ripped up note found at one of the crime scenes, he asks Poe to decipher it, leading them to become unofficial partners. The movie investigates the mysterious hanging of LeRoy Fry, followed by two other cadets. After each murder, satanic practices occur to the bodies of the victims.

The director’s choice to make Poe seem pretentious comes off as cliche and cringe-worthy. His character spends the majority of his time writing or speaking poetically, but the writing just makes him seem like a try-hard. Poe’s personality causes the other cadets to bully and ridicule him, making Landor and the coroner’s daughter, Lea Marquis (Lucy Boynton), the only ones to enjoy his company. At some points it becomes confusing as to whether Poe is guilty or just extremely interested in the murders. This addition feels intentional, and the entire time, Landor defends Poe, even when he doesn’t know if he is innocent or not.

The plot is intriguing, but at some points the movie drags on. Around the middle it focuses more on Poe’s relationship with Lea instead of the investigation. On top of that, there is a lack of investigative thinking left for the audience. The film lacks the mysterious aspect of a typical murder mystery. The writers slowly eliminate suspects for the audience except for the actual perpetrator, which leaves no room for the audience to discover it for themselves. While Poe was a suspect, Landor voices every thought he had on the matter, so it becomes quite obvious that Poe is not responsible.

While the entire movie is just barely interesting enough to hold the audience’s attention, the thrilling plot twist at the end almost makes up for the numerous boring moments. As Poe explains his discoveries to Landor, the audience finds out more about Landor’s backstory and excellent character development.

The characters are interesting and well portrayed, and the acting is nothing short of fantastic. An emotional moment toward the end stands out, where Poe struggles to get his words out. The contrast, despite being a poet skilled with words, makes the scene that much more powerful. The cinematography and soundtrack are excellent, but the plot is nothing new.


Trippie Redd’s newest album “MANSION MUSIK” is a creative, versatile piece of work that breaks him out of the mold that he’s been stuck in since he came up in 2017. With the two year wait between his last album “Trip at Knight” and “MANSION MUSIK,” the wait was worth it. The only problem is that excessive features on most of the songs make it feel like it’s not actually Redd’s own album.

“MANSION MUSIK” features many ups and downs, showing his range as an artist. One complaint many fans have with the album is the number of features. Only two out of 25 of the tracks lack a feature, which drowns Trippie Redd out and sometimes makes the album feel less like Redd’s and more like a massive collaboration.

That said, the features on the album are the best part, with artists such as Chief Keef, LUCKI, Juice WRLD, and many other prominent artists stealing the spotlight from Redd with their verses on the songs. Juice WRLD’s verse and chorus on “KNIGHT CRAWLER” overshine Redd’s by taking up a majority of the run time and including better mastering and vocal range over Trippie’s verse.

Redd’s voice on the album is overshadowed by his fellow artists despite his versatility being clearly present. The title track “MANSION MUSIK” is a great example of what Redd can do when he is actually given room to breathe, providing a unique beat coupled with rythmn and flow that matches almost perfectly with the song’s lyrics.

Still, it’s relatively weak in comparison. Most of the rage-heavy beats take inspiration from his close friend PlayBoi Carti’s latest album “Whole Lotta Red,” which leaves the album feeling unoriginal and almost like a textbook SoundCloud artist ripoff.

Regardless of these issues, the album breaks Redd out of the mold that he was stuck in and proves his capability as an artist in this new era, despite the few solo performances on the album. This new sound places him in a new category with artists under the Opium Label such as Playboi Carti as well as Ken Carson and Destroy Lonely.

From the mind of James Wan, the creator of the Conjuring universe and Blumhouse Productions founder Jason Blum comes a new kind of horror movie “M3GAN.” After the tragic loss of her parents, Cady (Violet McGraw) is given a creepy lifelike robot called M3GAN (Amie Donald/ Jenna Davis) to cope with the trauma. M3GAN (Model 3 Generative Android) was developed by Cady’s aunt and now guardian, Gemma (Allison Williams) as a lifelong toy who learns from interaction with their bonded child. M3GAN does in fact help Cady, fulfilling her promise to protect her, but she takes it too far, turning to murder.

“M3GAN” takes a unique approach to the “scary doll” movie trope. M3GAN presents intelligence like Chucky but is able to inconspicuously be amongst others like Annabelle. Unlike in other doll horror movies, M3GAN is her own person. She has not been possessed by a person or demon, giving her the ability to have a complete personality and storyline.

The movie also does not take itself too seriously. In a way, it becomes a comedy with M3GAN having humorous out of pocket one liners leaving the audience unsure if they should even laugh. While consuming the entirety of the internet with a preteen girl, M3GAN gets introduced to TikTok allowing for the best scene in the movie — M3GAN goes on a murderous rampage with a papercutter’s blade welding it like a sword all while doing TikTok dances. With a storyline reflecting a soon to be AI dominated dystopian world, solid acting and brilliant cinematog raphy “M3GAN” is a good movie for a laugh and a little existential crisis. | 19 3/5
2/5 - Emma McElhannon - Ellie Crane -Aiden Poe

Fusion food can be traced back to the beginning of culinary history. When cultures blended so did their foods, and from that, came fusions: blends of cultures and their cuisines that have been passed down through the ages. In the ‘80s, fusion foods rose in popularity with chefs like Roy Yamaguchi and Wolfgang Puck, creating dishes that fused together different cultures. The recent surge of fusion cuisine in Athens brings us quality restaurants like Taqueria Tsunami, PONKO Chicken, New Red Bowl, and Cali N Tito’s.

Quatro,” which includes the choice of three tacos from their list of 14 options along with a side. “The Quatro” allows for the chance to explore the menu widely for the reasonable price of $14.

Expect an extensive menu, fair prices, friendly service and a welcoming environment from Taqueria Tsunami.

Atlanta favorite” with their “secret” being their use of rice bran oil to fry their chicken. The architecture matches their food’s Japanese American style, with minimalist accents and sleek wood.

With locations downtown and in the Epps Bridge shopping center, Taqueria Tsunami has become a fusion favorite. Serving a delightful blend of Latin and Asian foods, Taqueria Tsunami has hardy portions consisting of bowls, tacos, quesadillas and more. Their range of food consists of both experimental food items and safer options, which creates a menu where anyone can find a satisfactory meal.

Along with the food, Taqueria Tsunami has an extensive drink menu with both alcoholic and nonalcoholic options, including one of the best pink lemonades in town. Most items at Taqueria Tsunami contain fresh produce that brings color and flavor to their food, while never tasting bland or artificial. The bright food and drinks match the environment of the establishment. With the slick wood interiors and their signature bright green accents, the foods’ fusion blend translates to the architecture of the restaurant.

Whether you are a rookie or a regular, a solid go-to option would be the “The

A new addition to the Athens food scene is the new chain PONKO Chicken. Starting as a catering business in Chamblee, Georgia, PONKO expanded to Atlanta the next year. They have now amassed 10 locations throughout Georgia and Alabama as well as a food truck. The Japanese

PONKO’s menu is short with few options to decide between, most meals consisting of chicken and a choice of side. A surprise when eating at PONKO is when you get your chicken or rice, it comes with sauce, but not on the side. Rather, it is already incorporated in your food. While this gives a fun unexpected flavor to your meal, it leaves you without any dipping sauce, which leaves the chicken tasting slightly dry. The breading on the chicken is unique with a thin batter that still packs a crunch all while being healthier from the rice bran oil.

A fancy fast food chicken and rice joint that is still at the level of a more upscale catering business, PONKO does have unique flavors. Still, it fails to set them apart from other competing chicken spots around town, especially when Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers is just a few doors down, a genuinely deserving Athens favorite.

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MIXING IT UP: PONKO offers a short menu with a few options to choose from. Most meals consist of chicken and a side choice. The meal (left) is chicken, fries, and rice mixed with the PONKO sauce. Emma McElhannon Design by Kira Law
3/5 4/5
Photos by Emma McElhannon

Cali N Tito’s has been serving up a blend of Latin American food at their West side location since 2006 and the East side La Puerta Del Sol restaurant since 2014. With a fast and vibrant environment, Cali N Tito’s can accommodate any type of gathering. Various plants and a water fountain fill the inside of the East side restaurant, with picnic table seating both inside and outside. Screens play old films and loud music, making Cali N Tito’s the place to go any day of the week, except Monday when they are closed.

Along with the environment, the food reflects the aesthetics. Their menu has a vast selection of foods reflecting cuisine throughout Latin America. Rather than just offering food from different countries, they blend it all together in a delicious way. All of the portions are very generous at Cali N Tito’s, especially considering the low prices.

A favorite at Cali N Tito’s is the “Sandwich Cubano” with your choice of protein between grilled steak, grilled chicken, pork, or chorizo along with egg, lettuce, grilled onions, cheese, jalapenos and mayo. Its the best Cuban sandwich in Athens.

Cali N Tito’s is a true Athens landmark where patrons pay reasonable prices for an excellent environment and adventurous flavors.

Hidden in the Green Acres Shopping Center between AutoZone and Mutta Financial Services is New Red Bowl. With an array of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Sushi and Hibachi dishes, New Red Bowl has served the East Side since 2017. While the bland storefront is like most of the others in the shopping center, the inside opens visitors up to a slack wood interior and flat screen TVs showcasing sports and news. The extensive menu supports a spread of both more Americanized Asian food such as Sesame Chicken as well as more authentic meals like Shredded Pork Soup and Wonton in Chili Sauce. Huge portions accompany any selection, and their Bento boxes include a roll, starter and choice of rice and protein. New Red Bowl also has a huge selection of both raw and cooked rolls and sushi and some of the best egg and spring rolls in town. Whether you’re in the mood for top tier Lo Mein noodles, white, brown, or fried rice to go with their selection of protein, New Red Bowl has it. All food is served by the kindest wait staff in town who never fail to put a smile on your face or give a suggestion on what to eat.

With such an expansive menu New Red Bowl truly has something for anyone who likes hardy servings of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Sushi or Hibachi food.

4/5 | 21
SAVORY SANDWICH: The Latin American restaurant offers a wide variety of options. One is the Sandwich Cubano, which includes a choice of meat and is served with classic Cali N Tito’s crispy fries. TSUNAMI STEAL: The Tsunami Quatro is a bargain of three tacos and a side for only $14. The Aloha, Thai Chicken, and Chipotle Lime Chicken tacos, with a side of tater tots and Jalapeño Queso (right). The Taqueria Tsunami bar (below) provides customers with a place to socialize and enjoy the welcoming environment.



After struggling to find somewhere to fit in at the beginning of high school, senior Christian Posadas Palma decided to take matters into his own hands. Using spare time he had during his third period piano class last semester, Posadas Palma began going to the library, working alongside Cedar Shoals librarian Kerry Hogan to create a resource that will direct students to information about various clubs and sports to get involved with.

“I’m trying to make a Linktree and it would link the two presentations for sports and clubs and Ms. Partridge’s senior site. It would be an updated list of what new events are upcoming, what clubs are doing, what club is meeting this day,” Posadas Palma said.

Posadas Palma participates in a variety of Cedar clubs and sports teams including tennis, Chess Club, Minority Excellence (M.E.) Club, Beta Club, HoPe, Math Club and the Local School Governance Team.

“When I first came to Cedar, I thought there were only a limited number of clubs and sports I could join. I remember going on to the Cedar page and the club descriptions weren’t so interesting,” Posadas Palma said. “I wasn’t motivated to join and then when I started joining more clubs and sports, I realized that it was pretty fun. I was like ‘All of my classmates are missing out.’”

Hogan has helped Posadas Palma with the more technical aspects of producing the Linktree and posters with a QR code that will direct students to the Linktree. Receptionist Arnulfo Flores helped with getting Posadas Palma connected to administration to relay his idea and science teacher Matthew Baker helped with ideas like creating the Linktree.

“Whenever I have anything done, I go to her (Hogan) for advice because a lot of adults don’t really give me the time,” Posadas Palma said. “I’ll ask a question and they won’t really want to answer. That ends up making me waste time doing extra stuff.”

Posadas Palma knows that students missed chances to get involved because of the pandemic or might not have the confidence to try something new.

“If you’re too shy, or you feel like you wouldn’t fit in in one of these clubs, definitely try it out,” Posadas Palma said. “You’ll never know what you’ll get to like, you can meet new friends. Also, by joining a club or a sport, you become more responsible because you have to show up at a certain time every day. It’s gonna benefit you in one way or another.”

Be on the lookout for posters around the school that Posadas Palmas is creating that will have a QR code to direct students to the Linktree he is making!


On Nov. 2, Cedar Shoals seniors boarded a school bus taking them to vote for the first time in the 2022 midterm election. Civics and Government teacher Jesse Evans took the group downtown to the Board of Elections office to cast their votes.

Able to fulfill their constitutional right and obligation, the seniors voted alongside other faculty members, teachers, as well as the bus driver.

Evans is excited to get seniors involved in the voting process and show them that their vote matters.

“The trend is that young people are less politically engaged, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to teach government and civics, to do trips like this to help increase youth voter turnout and engagement,” Evans said.

This year’s ballot featured many political offices such as the Senate, House of Representative seats, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State. Voters also weighed input on legislation.

Due to the pandemic, the last time the voting field trip was held was in 2018. While on the bus, Evans provided students with various resources such as sample ballots, websites with information on candidates and links to videos talking about elections to help inform their vote.

Pamela Long, an election assistant at the Athens Clarke County Board of Elections Office, was excited for Cedar to come to the polling station and place their votes.

“Voting is very important. That’s the way your voice can be heard on whatever issues that you’re concerned about with your community,” Long said. “The turnout this year has been really great, We’ve seen a lot of young people, a wide range of races and a lot of elderly and disabled people. It’s been a good mixture of people in the community.”

Long describes the process for registering and voting as being fairly simple, with only a handful of steps and requirements you must go through to complete the process.

“To be honest, the process was super easy, especially for such a big thing that is occurring. It only took me five minutes at most just to get myself registered for voting. I recommend it to anybody who is of age and qualifies to be a voter,” senior Alan Barton said. “Voting is very important, it’s something that I have been waiting for so long. I’ve kept up with all of the different elections and candidates recently and it’s something hugely important. I think it’s something that everybody should do if you are of age.”

The runoff election was held on Dec. 6 between Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker. As neither candidate’s votes exceeded 50%, the runoff determined winner.

After voting, Warnock secured the seat in the Senate over Walker, sitting at 51.4% of the vote while Walker took home 48.6%.

The voting field trip provided the opportunity for seniors to gain more involvement in the country’s decisions.

“I was definitely ready to finally have my voice heard and share my input,” senior Destiny Stewart said.

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Design by Aiden Dowling ONE VOTE: Cedar teacher Jesse Evans takes a group of seniors to vote at the Board of Elections Office downtown in the 2022 midterm elections on Nov. 2. Students were given the opportunity to place their votes, “I feel ecstatic voting for the first time,” senior Isaac Mullen said. Photo by Chloe Smith.


In remembrance of a former friend, runner and teacher, Cedar Shoals High School hosted a memorial 5k for Joshua Sampson on Feb. 4.

Starting bright and early at 8 a.m., 202 people gathered to run and walk down Cedar Shoals Drive and back. Many conversations and stories about Joshua Sampson were told and shared throughout the morning.

“One of the things I thought was really core to Josh as a human was that he would be in the background just sort of quietly doing things,” Joshua Sampson’s wife Stacy Sampson said. “He would show up if somebody needed his help moving, or using the gradebook, or with technology. One time he even fixed the toilet at Cedar.”

Joshua Sampson was an avid runner, a member of the Black Bag Race Series and a helper in the Cedar and Athens community.

“Josh was my running partner. I always said ‘find somebody who gets you during a run, who can push you and drive you and when you want to stop they will make you go faster,’” Cleveland Miller said. “I had that, it was Josh. We trained for a ton of races together, we probably put well over 1,000 miles on the ground together.”

The creation of the race was a product of an ongoing joke that Joshua Sampson and Miller had.

“When Josh and I were running there was this one hill in Athens on River Drive and we’d run up it and I always used to joke that if one of us were to meet an untimely death that the other would have to create memorial 5k that the hill had to be a part of,” Miller said. “When Josh died I called Dustin and said ‘we have to do this, we have to do a 5k.’”

Although the original plan was to do the 5k on the hill, it was decided that a better place would be Cedar Shoals.

“Josh loved running and he loved Cedar Shoals and this was a good way to bring the two together,” Dustin Shinholser, race director and owner of FleetFeet Athens said.

The race is not a fundraiser. The price was kept low at $20 to ensure that there wasn’t a huge barrier for people to enter. There was also an option to run the race virtually from anywhere in the world, which 30 people took part in.

“This is essentially a zero fund race, if there is anything over the cost, 50% of the proceeds will go to Project Safe,” Miller said. “Josh was huge with Project Safe.”

The other half of the proceeds will go to the Cedar general fund. The hope is that the 5k becomes an annual thing at Cedar.

“It’s a legacy and a celebration of his life where we all can come together,” Cedar teacher and race particpant Beth Mendenhall

said. “It’s bittersweet because we’re thinking a lot about him but it’ll be an enduring legacy to run this race again and again.”

Joshua Sampson left many great marks on all those around him. The memorial race is a way for those stories and memories to be shared with everyone.

“He was a super quiet guy, not really one to toot his own horn. But I don’t think a lot of people realize how involved he was with things and how helpful he was and just how kind and honestly funny he was if you got to talk to him,” Shinholser said. “This is a way to preserve his memory and to make sure people don’t forget what a great guy he was.” | 23
Design by Megan Wise A RUN TO REMEMBER: A table is set out with some of Joshua Sampson’s old race shirts, books and pictures. The choice to organize a race was a way to bring people together and do something Joshua Sampson always enjoyed. “I thought the race was an amazing idea. Josh was very passionate about running,” Stacy Samspon said. “He didn’t start running till he was in his 30s but he would always invite people to run or he would try to coach people that were new.”
Jesse whatever
Photo by Megan Wise.


Breaking down the cost of college

In the past 20 years, the average in-state tuition and fees at American public universities increased 175%. Out-of-state tuition is not far behind with an increase of 141% since 2003. This exorbitant cost of higher education has pushed almost 43 million students to take out loans just to finish a degree. These loans hang over them for decades.

“Everyone who has debt either is working on a degree or has a degree already, and it’s so hard to pay for just the degree on top of the interest that comes with it. It feels like the right time to at least forgive some people’s debt,” Garrett Walker, social studies department. said.

President Joe Biden announced a plan to forgive up to $10,000 of federal student loan debt and up to $20,000 to people with student debt that qualifies for a Pell Grant. Federal Pell Grants are awarded to students with financial need. Students apply for Pell Grants by filling out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and since Pell Grants are not loans they do not need to be paid back.

On Nov. 11, the loan forgiveness program stopped taking applications when it was considered unlawful by a federal judge in Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court will now hear the case starting Feb. 28. Currently no loans have been forgiven but as soon as the Supreme Court reaches a decision the plan will either be reenacted or terminated.

“What our student loan team has been working on right now has been making sure that we’re able to get this forgiveness accessible to everybody, making sure that the courts allow this to go through, and then when it does go through that we’re ready with a solid implementation plan,” Jaylon Herbin, Director of Federal Campaigns for the Center of Responsible Lending, said.

A report from LendingTree found that 30.2% of Black families, 20.0% of white and 14.3% of Hispanic families hold student loan

debt. Aug. 31 monthly payments will resume for all borrowers after being paused since 2020. Without these payments, many families would have more expendable income, which would especially help people of color.

“We want to bridge the racial wealth gap. We know that by canceling student debt that will allow communities of color to be able to have a little bit more financial stability, being able to purchase homes, start families or start a business,” Herbin said.

University of Georgia graduate Samantha Badeau applied for the debt relief program and hopes it will be approved to assist low income Amer icans.

“I’m coming from a low-income household, my parents together made only $24,000 a year, if not less, because my mom now doesn’t work. So it was huge to me when they said people who qualify for Pell Grant will have up to this amount ($20,000 in relief). I feel like they were very strategic with that because people who already are classified as low income who already cannot afford college really need that boost, which is what it should be for,” Badeau said.

Of course, the plan has faced opposition. Republican Senator Mike Braun from Indiana addressed the plan in a speech to the Senate expressing his concern about where the money will come from.

“President Biden’s student loan debt transfer does not cancel or forgive anything. These debts will still be paid, it’s not like they go away. What does it say about the whole idea that when you take on an obligation and you

24 |
Design by Tory Ratajczak

people across the country that would want to be in on that gambit as well,” Braun said. “He has simply shifted the costs of repayment onto everyone, including the 65% of American workers who chose not to get a college degree.”

The debt relief program’s income threshold was $125,000 or less for single-income households and $250,000 or less for dual-income families in either 2020 or 2021. This threshold helps a majority of borrowers qualify for some relief.

“Most people who have student loan debt, there’s a reason why they haven’t paid it off yet. Because they don’t have the money to pay it off or it takes them 15 or 20 years to pay it off. I felt like most people were eligible, and the income threshold was high enough and fair,” Walker said.

As of October 2022, the Educated Data Initiative reported that student loan borrow-

ers in the U.S. owe a collective $1.617 trillion in federal loans. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that $430 billion of that debt could be canceled by the program.

“Because it’s such a crisis and it affects so many people and families, some kind of forgiveness is good. Whether it’s the $10,000 or the $20,000,” Walker said.

The estimated tuition for four years at the University of Georgia is $48,870 for Georgia residents and $126,202 for out-of-state students. Fourth year UGA history major Maggie Sutherland transfered to UGA from Gordon State College when her major program there was dissolved. The increase in tuition cost shocked Sutherland.

“It was a major drawback because it’s so much more expensive. I was at Gordon because of proximity to my house and how affordable it was, and then the jump to UGA, tuition was just insane,” Sutherland said. “It’s a shock because you get done with tuition and then you get hit with fees, then after fees you get hit with rent and rent and Athens is insane.”

UGA’s immense cost is often buffered by scholarship offers, but these scholarships don’t always cover everything.

“I went into college with $0. I got accepted to UGA and got what I thought was a spam email. I was like, ‘this looks suspicious,’ but looks like I could get a mentorship, so I applied. Next thing I know I got a letter saying ‘hey, you got approved to join this program. On top of that, we see that you are financially in need, so here’s $20,000 for you,’” Badeau said. “I did have to take out loans here and there due to some circumstances (with the scholarship), but luckily I only have around $19,000 in loans. The scholarship was really huge for me and I’m so grateful that UGA gave me that opportunity, but the debt relief program would be life-altering for me.”

Sutherland and Badeau both recieved HOPE scholarship and received Pell Grants. To avoid student loans Sutherland works at a restaurant in Woodbury every weekend, around a twoand-a-half-hour drive from Athens.

“It’s much more stressful because I have to go home every single weekend and have to be in Woodbury at 4 p.m. but I don’t get out of class here until 12:20 p.m.,” Sutherland said. “I can’t take classes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday that go after 12:20 so I can be home to work.”

Badeau also had jobs while in school, working through Federal Work-Study for two years. Federal Work-Study is a program that offers part-time jobs to college students with financial need allowing them to work on or off campus at participating schools to earn money for expenses.

“I worked in the library at minimum wage my freshman year and then in the financial aid office. It was a couple hours (a day) until the office closed. But that’s the last job I did (in college) because it hardened me mentally,” Badeau said. “It was so debilitating to see the financial situation and people begging about how they can go to UGA. This is where they want to be, but they’re struggling. It broke my heart because I was in that same position too. When I got my acceptance letter to UGA I was happy, but I was worried about ‘how can I afford it?’”

Financial decisions can seem overwhelming for students considering higher education after high school, but Herbin thinks research is vital to making these decisions.

“Do your due diligence, do your research, understand what loans you’re taking and understand what your family budget can be. (Understand) what their investment into your future can be, and what your plans are in life,” Herbin said. “Then weigh the options between a community college, a four-year institution, private college or public college, but also instate or out-of-state tuition.”

While the cost of college is a major drawback, the gratification of graduating provides redemption, says Badeau.

“That victory moment when I turned my tassel, I literally broke down on the ground crying. It was hard, but it was a nice feeling to know that I did not give up. Do not give up no matter what the adversary is because when you’ve crossed that finish line it feels like a huge weight is lifted,” Badeau said.

It’s a shock because you get done with tuition then you get hit with fees and then after fees, you get hit with rent and rent in Athens is insane.
UGA student
Maggie Sutherland
“ “
Infographic by Tory Ratajczak | 25
Photo by Tory Ratajczak

back in gear:


Three feet forward. Turn to the left. Avoid obstacles. Stay in line. Grasp the object. Win. In the past, students on the Cedar Shoals robotics team have intricately designed and programmed robots to give them life, participating in competitions where the goal is to guide their robot through obstacles and move it in particular sequences. Recruitment has proven difficult in the past few years, but teachers at Cedar Shoals are ready to revive the team.

“There’s a chance to still get involved this year. I would love to (restart the program) even if we don’t compete officially,” club sponsor and auto mechanics teacher Dave Darden said.

In a typical robotics competition, two drivers control their creation on the 12x12 “challenge field.” They move the robot to specific areas and gain points by completing certain tasks like grabbing objects with the mechanical arm. Separately, other team members present their build process to judges with detailed posterboards.

“You meet all these other schools, you see the quality of (their) robots, and it pushes you to want to improve your robot, which means you have to learn more,” Jackie Elder, science department, said.

Naturally, before the competition comes the building. In years past, teacher sponsors Darden and Elder have supervised and learned alongside students about the processes of robot construction and block programming.

“We were all helping each other and we finally figured it out,” Elder said. “It was almost like the blind leading the blind because I didn’t know any of the programming.”

Sponsor of the SkillsUSA, Hot Rodders, and Robotics clubs, Darden is no stranger to the inner workings of machines and group organization. His work with the robotics team goes back eight years, almost as long as his 13 year career at Cedar Shoals.

“No one was running the robotics team to my knowledge before I started,” Darden said.

While Darden helped assemble the physical structures of the robots, Elder assisted with the science and programming behind them. Her physics background played a key role in the design of the machine, as well as her open mindset to learning the programming.

“Miss Elder or I would be the coach and there’s one driver with the controller driving the robot. The other student is basically the co-pilot,” Darden said.

After Elder began teaching a physics class, she wanted to build a learning community that could work together, so when Darden reached out to teachers asking for help with the team, she thought that the bond between physics and robotics could attract students towards her class.

“It (the robotics team) has been a growing thing, and to connect that with physics would be very advantageous for Cedar,” Elder said. Unfortunately, Elder has taken on more in her work schedule this year, including biology, which has forced her to take a break from the robotics club. Luckily, after Darden reached out, one teacher was eager to take on the role.

Computer science teacher, event planner, cosmetologist and entrepreneur Pamela Upson has quite the resume; thankfully, she is willing to add one more item to the list. She has experience in computer technology including credit card fraud analysis and her self-made “Wizard Academy” where she teaches people how to use computers.

Upson is also no stranger to robotics; Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School—where she previously worked — was equipped with two robots. On top of it all, Upson is currently working on her doctorate in cybersecurity through Regent University.

“I’ve done a lot of training in many different areas, but I think teaching is what I really enjoy,” Upson said.

Upson has a more modern approach to the team. She wants to take advantage of the new single board computer, the Raspberry Pi. She hopes to incorporate mobile devices more frequently and to practice with drones as well.

“I want to be able to use the phones to engage students and to also make it fun because you can actually download the app on your phone that goes

with them (the drones),” Upson said.

In order for Upson’s efforts to be fruitful, the robotics club needs more members. Darden attributes low participation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s (COVID-19) really damaged them more than I think they realize,” Darden said.

Elder accredits the club’s limited involvement to their lack of promotion. She advocates for recruiting and incentivizing, confident that starting early will better their chances for increased participation. Her commitment to recruiting underclassmen stems from issues that the robotics club had in the past with all of the members graduating.

“We recruited a little bit and no one else joined so we just stayed happy with that. Then everybody graduated, so we’ve got to get out there and try to find great people again,” Elder said.

Upson also sponsors the Girls Who Code Club which provides an outlet for young girls at Cedar to learn coding. She thinks her connection to both clubs could increase participation levels.

The program leaders have high hopes that the rejuvenated team will bring the knowledge they gain from robotics into their futures.

“I want robotics and physics to come together as one and deepen our understanding of that whole world, where students are really strong in these areas before they go to college,” Elder said.

Law Design by Ellie Crane Art by Mia La BEAMING BOT: The Makeblock mBot smiles for the camera. Upson uses the Raspberry Pi computers to program the robots. “This (the Raspberry Pi) allows you to create things, and it’s the size of a wallet,” Pamela Upson said. Photo by Isabella Morgan.


With a flickering LED ‘open’ sign displayed in the window every Wednesday and Friday afternoon, the Jag Shop welcomes customers ranging from students to staff during lunches. A stock of hoodies and t-shirts fill the gaps in the windows, advertising the student designed merchandise that occupies the store.

The Jag Shop is a student-run business located at Cedar Shoals, selling school merchandise. Items such as bumper stickers, shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, lanyards and tumblers cover the walls and shelves, helping to motivate school spirit.

Helping to teach and prepare students for real life situations, this shop provides a unique opportunity for students interested in starting their own business. The marketing class

students working for the shop gain skills that can benefit students in any job in the future, such as time management and decision making.

“A lot of kids here at Cedar show interest in one day owning their own business, or just are interested in business in general. It’s really great that there’s this opportunity to have this retail store that matches real life,” Amy Manley, supervisor and marketing class teacher, said.

Manley plays a unique role in this student-run enterprise, supervising operations, instructing students and coordinating with vendors. This includes managing and assisting student interns Joshua Daniel and Andrew Nava-Marcial.

“She (Manley) makes sure that she gets the best out of both of us on a day to day basis and she makes sure that she does her part as well, because it’s all a team effort,” Daniel said.

Manley also teaches the marketing class, where she instructs students on how to tailor merchandise towards the target audience. A typical class is full of discussion and exchange of ideas, guided by Manley as the students make plans to adjust or enhance the shop.

The Cedar Distributive Education Clubs of America program is also involved in

Design by Megan Wise Art by Eva Lucero JAG EXCHANGE: Student intern Joshua Daniel (left) exchanges Jag Shop merchandise with student Brandon Rucker (right). Students in the class focus on marketing items toward audiences of all varieties, helping to design products that benefit the community. “We have to think about what kind of products we’d want to carry for our student population here. We get a lot of customers that are parents or alumni too, so we also have to think about customers beyond just the school itself,” marketing teacher Amy Manley said. Photo by Chloe Smith.

running the shop. A school club open to anyone with interest in business, DECA participants’ interests range from management to fashion. The club prepares students for marketing careers outside of the classroom setting. Students in the club may have more flexibility in the store, but they still share tasks with the students in the class.

“There’s a lot of different opportunities to go beyond what you learned in school and get some real great hands-on experience, even compete with other kids in our region, state or even nationally,” Manley said.

Students decide the stock based on their target audience, which isn’t just limited to students. While the shop is open during school hours, selling items during lunch on Wednesday, merchandise is often available during football games or after school events such as Safe Trick-or-Treat.

“We had some kids that go to elementary schools come to the shop, and they were really excited. They were like ‘we love to wear Cedar gear.’ So, even incorporating items that aren’t necessarily for high school students, but are for the greater community,” Manley said, “I think everyone thinks it’s unique and exciting.”

The wide market these products are available on also help bring together our school community. According to Nava-Marcial, the shop helps provide a unique environment to Cedar, helping the school feel more open and unified.

“You don’t want it to just feel like a normal school. You want it to feel like a place where you can buy stuff, like the Jag Cafe, where you can buy food that’s normally not in the cafeteria or help students who want merchandise to support the school,” Nava-Marcial said.

This is Manley’s first year teaching at Cedar and overall. Overseeing the shop has let her put her own unique spin on its functions.

“Ms. Manley came in and just really wanted something different for the environment or how she sees the store because she ran a business of her own. She really implemented that into the Jag Shop and made it a different type of

It’s not the same as it used to be,” Daniel said.

After spending several years as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Georgia and managing a boutique before that, Manely’s business experience ensures that she knows what the shop’s next steps should be.

“I hope that it’s a well oiled machine. I’d love to incorporate some better analytical components, easily run reports on purchasing and buying behavior, and essentially be able to truly mock the real life retail experience. Changing the layout and implementing things like visual merchandising techniques is going to help a lot,” Manley said.

Students can stop by AB100 during Wednesday or Friday lunch periods and can check out the Cedar merch produced by marketing students and DECA. | 29
STUDENT SOLD: Cedar merchandise lines the walls of the Jag Shop, available for sale to students during lunch. Students, staff and alumni alike are able to support and represent their school, helping to unite the school community. “I think it’s a major support, especially wearing it (merchandise) during games. Which we mostly do want people to do, wear the stuff to the games, and support the school like outside the school area,” Jag Shop student intern Andrew Nava-Marcial said. Photo by Chloe Smith. feel.
It’s really great that there’s this opportunity to have this retail store that matches real life.
- Amy Manley ”

arting to artmouth

Decked out in Dartmouth merch, senior Daniel Choi huddles around his computer, preparing to open the email of a lifetime. Thrilled, he reads the congratulatory message and races to tell his father he’s been accepted to his dream school.

“The only person in the house was my dad at the time. I went to my dad and he was in a meeting. So he quietly came to the door and gave me a big hug and went back to the meeting. I was like screaming,” Choi said.

Choi, who has wanted to attend Dartmouth since his freshman year, was motivated throughout the grueling application process and his entire high school career by his dream of calling the campus home.

“The essays were such a pain. I procrastinated a lot, and my Common App personal statement took me about two months, just getting it perfect. And then for the supplementals, I had to write three more essays. They were very broad, so I just stuck to my gut and wrote,” Choi said. “Being accepted feels wonderful. It’s been over a month, but I still can’t believe it.”

When Choi visited Dartmouth, he felt that the college’s tight knit community fit him, with class sizes of about 1,000. Hearing about the school from his sister,

who graduated from Dartmouth in 2020, also fueled his dream.

“My sister would come home talking about her college experience and I wanted that for myself. Now I actually do,” Choi said. “I feel really happy about getting to experience the same things she did.”

Choi doesn’t want to go to Dartmouth just because it’s an Ivy League school, he is hoping to benefit from the connections that can be gained at such a prestigious institution.

“You could probably get a similar education somewhere like Georgia Tech. But the connections are going to be way different,” Choi said.“I will be going to a school with people from an elite society, so I’ll be getting to know them and their backgrounds. That’s what I really want.”

Among other things, Choi co-founded the Cedar Shoals Science Energy and Education Team, which won best in the state and nation in June 2022 at the National Energy Education Development Youth Energy Conference and Awards. The team’s sponsor, English teach er Brittany Blumenstock, appreciates Choi’s humor and dedication.

“What he brought to the

team I’d say was his personality, like being charismatic, having goal focus and experience, I think he knows a lot about energy conservation,” Blumenstock said.

Another addition to Choi’s application was his work co-founding Cedar’s Minority Excellence (M.E.) Club, which aims to foster a stronger sense of community among Cedar’s minority students and promote their academic advancements.

Senior Marlon Castro Bojorquez, who is chair of the club’s education committee, enjoys the meetings, as they give him an opportunity to socialize and work with others.

“It gives students get a chance to exercise their leadership skills and collab orate,” Castro Bojorquez said. “I get to

30 |
ACCEPTED APPLICATION: Daniel Choi poses wearing a Dartmouth sweatshirt in the library. To make his application stand out, he focused on writing a unique essay. “I didn’t follow a certain formula,” Choi said. “If you go online you see all these ways to write these essays. Do not believe any of that. Just go with your gut when you’re answering essay prompts.” Photo by Delia McElhannon.

meet new people and improve my leadership skills having this position.”

While helping to manage these organizations, Choi has also been a member of Cedar’s swim team, the Aqua Jags. This being his sixth year swimming for the team, he anticipates missing the team’s community and is considering swimming club at Dartmouth.

“I’m going to miss it a lot, and the community it has. Suffering together through practice, going to meets and cheering each other on,” Choi said.

Head swim coach Makayla Powell describes Choi as an important source of team spirit and peppy energy. She’s excited to see what his future holds.

“He already has shown such amazing leadership qualities in starting all these other clubs. That is a crazy thing for any high school students to take on. So I think as long as he maintains that level of involvement, he can do so much good in the world,” Powell said.

Choi’s extracurriculars don’t stop there. He’s involved in Cedar’s orchestra as an All-State violist and served as Vice

Class of 2027 Early Decision Acceptance

• The acceptance rate was a record low of 19%, with 3,009 applying.

• 17% of the accepted ED applicants were from low income families.

• 41% of the ED’s admitted were people of color.

Dartmouth application and enrollment

• Fall 2021 undergraduate enrollment was 4,556 making Dartmouth the smallest Ivy League.

• Dartmouth’s Class of 2026 acceptance rate was 6.4%, accepting 1,808 of 28,336.

• 56% of the Class of 2026 attended a public high school and 18% were from the South.

• Average need-based grant for the Class of 2026 was $67,127, with $34.4 million in scholarships.

• Dartmouth was test optional for Class of 2027 applicants.

President of Beta Club. Dual enrollment at the University of Georgia also keeps him busy.

“To be honest, I would sacrifice sleep. I would have a two hour practice every day after school. In the time between school and swim practice, I think I could have done a lot more work if I didn’t procrastinate so much,” Choi said.

Though he applied as an environmental studies major, Choi isn’t sure what he

wants to study or pursue after college. But he’s excited to be challenged by the transition from a southern public high school to an Ivy League in secluded New Hampshire.

“I’m ready for a challenge and a new experience, so I’m really excited about it,” Choi said. “But it’s definitely going to be a huge change.” | 31
POSITIVE PLACEMENT: Daniel Choi smiles next to senior Zaya Roberson on the football field after being crowned homecoming king. Head swim coach Makayla Powell appreciates his good attitude and cheerful personality on the swim team. “He really is like a light. If you ever need a pick me up, you can go talk to Daniel and he makes everyone laugh. He can always put a smile on your face,” Powell said. Photo by Kylie Toney.
578 2431



Cynthia Hoover, math department, is a jack of all trades and a master of every one of them. Her toolbox is full of math, science, writing, foreign language and remarkably, opera. Multi talented encompasses Hoover’s nature, and each skill connects to one another in ways that one might not expect.

Prior to 2001, Hoover put her opera theater degree to work at the Alhambra Dinner Theater in Jacksonville, Florida. She later became a business analyst, and as a testament to her broad range of skills, she doubled as a choir director. Her previous experience tutoring her peers in high school paved the way for her time as a substitute teacher, and she now teaches on-level and honors geometry.

“I think that if you’re a teacher, you will find that you were teaching all along,” Hoover said.

“I ended up tutoring kids in math even when I was getting my music degree. That’s where I found the connection between math and music; usually people who are good with music and music theory are also very good at math.”

In her youth, Hoover’s talent for quickly comprehending languages allowed her to grasp French, Italian and German, three of the most popular languages in opera. Hoover favors French and Italian, but with composers such as Wagner and Motzart, German is unavoidable. Though she is not fluent today, she says she can typically understand basic communication in these languages.

Hoover’s knowledge of foreign language is not limited to speaking or singing it. She enjoys taking poetry from an aria (a solo vocal piece) and translating it to make it as expressive as the original.

“You do have to have a little bit of an

ear for them,” Hoover said. “Languages are easy for me.”

Hoover added “above-average hearing” to her resume when she participated in a study for her Psychology 1101 class to receive extra credit. For the test, she had to identify the differences in two sounds; she quickly discerned the slightly higher pitch at the end of the second recording. Her achievements shocked the scientists, and she was published in the abstract of the study.

attempt to test her expert ears.

In addition to proving that humans are capable of hearing on the same level as animals, Hoover also proved that having relative pitch has little to do with one’s hearing range. Both Hoover and her brother were born with the gift of relative pitch, but her level of hearing is unparalleled compared to his. Though she admits that being able to efficiently perceive sounds is helpful, she claims that “it doesn’t really have anything to do with my music.”

“Nobody believed I existed,” Hoover said.

Though Hoover’s hearing is incomparable to her college days, she still catches the occasional dog whistle when students

Hoover’s impossible skill-set becomes more imaginable when taking her family tree into account. As the daughter of a chemist and musical theater performer and the sister of a math, chemistry and music triple major, it makes sense that she would be equally versed.

“Trivial pursuit days were insane,”

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SKILLED SCHOLAR: Cynthia Hoover poses outside of the Cedar Shoals building. She believes that a performer has to truly transform into their role to take the audience to another place. “If you’re not transported yourself, you’ve got no chance of transporting anybody else,” Hoover said. Photo by Isabella Morgan.
I think that if you’re a teacher, you will find that you were teaching all along.
+ - (x) % = # 123
-Cynthia Hoover

Hoover said.

When she married a math geek and performer, no one was surprised. Hoover’s daughter, Rachel, continues the tradition of a broad skill-range, as she double-majored and received a certificate in musical theater.

Hoover herself delved into the ambitious musical career at just five years old. A choral audition proved her talent, and she continued to validate it as she consistently placed in ensemble contests with ease.

Despite her natural talent, Hoover’s journey in the performing arts was strenuous. As a freshman, Hoover delivered a substandard performance during a solo ensemble competition. A judge later wrote her a hurtful criticism: “singing is not your area.” The feedback was devastating.

“The guy just raked me over,” Hoover said. “Everything he could downgrade, he downgraded, and he actually wrote it in the card.”

“Dear Cynthia, everyone should be allowed to fall on their face at least once in their life,” an uplifting note from Hoover’s mother stated. She was adamant about Hoover’s skill and continuation in the arts. She encouraged her to push past the negativity, and Hoover’s thick skin allowed her to persist.

“You have to be able to take those negatives and you have to be able to take somebody saying you’re not good enough,” Hoover said.

Hoover went on to sing in the high acapella choir at her high school, and was even offered to study under a professional from the Metropolitan Opera. During her se-

nior year, she was set to sing the “piece of her dreams.” As Hoover was preparing to go on stage for a Class A state audition, she crumbled.

“The judge list comes out, and it’s the same guy I had in ninth grade,” Hoover said. “I walked out of the choir room.”

After being chased down, Hoover’s mentor Tony convinced her to prove the judge wrong and continue with the performance. Once she finished a stellar audition, she planned to confront the judge about his past criticism with the same card she had kept with her for so long.

“I gave him the card. He looks at me, his eyes are watering and he’s trying not to cry. ‘I’m so glad you didn’t listen to me, he says,’” Hoover said.

Hoover continued to shock judges in roles like Laurey from the musical “Oklahoma!” and Christine from “Phantom of the Opera”. Another favorite role of hers was Hodel from “Fiddler on the Roof,” the first show she and her husband were in together.

Hoover understands that these performances are bigger than herself. She performs for the audience, and most importantly, for the composer. One piece of advice that has stuck with Hoover is from a professor who said that one should imagine that the composer of the piece is listening to you. She learned to never let the songwriter down and that she needed to transport herself in order to transport the listeners.

“I’m never just me standing up and singing for you. I can’t,” Hoover said. “I have to become that person (the character) in order for you to go where you need to go.”

Hoover only sings in her church choir these days, but she occasionally performs solo pieces if they are requested. Hoover’s retreat from singing was not unfounded though. She had a choice.

“Is it New York and me, or is it family and stability? I chose a family and stability,” Hoover said. | 33
+ - (x) % = # 123
TALENTED TEACHER: Cynthia Hoover lectures in front of her class. She wanted to get a master’s degree in music when she moved to Athens, but having twins postponed her plans. Now she would like a degree in secondary education. “I became pregnant with twins and the master’s went ‘bye-bye.’ I was like ‘yeah, that’s not happening with two babies,” Hoover said. Photo by Mattlee Scott.

TEST OPTIONAL: What does it mean?


% of four-year colleges across the U.S. became test optional during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, most colleges that became test optional set a minimum GPA that students must meet in order to opt out of submitting an SAT or ACT score.

“For seniors this year, if you have a 3.0 or above in high school, then we do not require SAT or ACT test scores,” Luke Almond, Regional Recruiter at the University of North Georgia, said.

This development of test optional applications raises an important question for seniors: can submitting a test score hurt an applicant’s chances of admission?

“If you submit

your test scores, and let’s say they’re bad test scores, that doesn’t matter. We (UNG) will only look at your test scores if you want a scholarship that is tied to a test score, but it will not affect your admission one way or another,” Almond said.

ment so that those students get another opportunity to still get consideration,” GSU Admissions Counselor Donna Frazier said.

On the other hand, as an access institution, Middle Georgia State University (MGA) aims to provide an opportunity to a broader range of students, requiring a minimum GPA of 2.0 to be considered for admission.

Georgia State University has a similar policy.

“If students meet the GPA requirement (3.4 or above), that is pretty much all they need. The test scores are just to help those students who have below the GPA require-

“Since our inception, we have always been test optional,” Taylor Hudock, recruiter at MGA, said. “We are an access institution, granting access to a quality education.”

In contrast, there are still some schools that require students to submit a test score in order to apply.

“The University of Georgia currently re-

34 |
34 |
There is more to an applicant beyond a standardized test score. If an applicant is capable of impressing the admissions team without an SAT/ACT score, then that score should not stop them from being admitted.
- Senior, Jonathan Martinez-Lopez
“ “

quires SAT/ACT for admissions for first-year and dual enrollment students. We use a holistic approach in deciding a student’s admissions decision. However, the most important factors are a student’s academic (curriculum/ rigor, grades) profile throughout high school,” UGA Director of Admissions Barkley Barton II said in an email.

However, as with all universities within the University System of Georgia, the decision to become/remain test optional is not up to the college itself.

“The University System of Georgia determines whether or not we use [standardized] testing in the admissions process,” Barton said.

Out of the 26 institutions part of the USG, 24 of them have become test optional; UGA and Georgia Tech will continue to require test scores in their admissions.

James Xiao, a senior at Cedar Shoals, took the SAT three times in high school and once in seventh grade and included it in his college application. He was recently named Cedar’s 2022-23 STAR student for earning the highest SAT score in the senior class.

“I think it’s pretty important. My parents have drilled into me that I need to have good SAT/ACT scores to get into good colleges, and I still think that’s a pretty big deal. I would rather it stay around, but I don’t want it to be the only option to get into college,” Xiao said.

Likewise, senior Jonathan Martinez-Lopez also submitted his SAT score, but hopes that the test optional trend for colleges will continue.

“There is more to an applicant beyond a standardized test

score. If an applicant is capable of impressing the admissions team without an SAT/ACT score, then that score should not stop them from being admitted,” Martinez-Lopez said.

Cedar College Adviser Azariah Partridge says that ideally, students should take the SAT or ACT once in their junior year and no later than the first semester of their senior year to give themselves the best chance of getting admitted into their desired schools.

“I think every student should at least attempt the SAT/ACT, just to have a score in place, and then decide if they need to take it again. There are very hard deadlines for submitting an application; students can apply early, and usually those deadlines are early October or early November. Some colleges require the application and the test scores/ transcript to be sent along with that

deadline for early action,” Partridge said.

Partridge also urges students to take the SAT/ACT in order to qualify for certain scholarship opportunities. For example, the Zell Miller Scholarship requires an SAT score of 1200 or an ACT score of 26 as part of its requirements.

“I don’t think you can take the SAT or ACT too many times, especially if the student can be eligible for the Zell Miller scholarship which pays around 90% of tuition at colleges or universities here in Georgia,” Partridge said. | 35
STAR SHOOTER: Senior James Xiao stands next to his STAR teacher Greg Huberty. STAR recognizes a student at each CCSD high school with the highest SAT score, who is also in the top 10% of their class based on GPA. “It is both an honpr and a privlidge to be named STAR teacher,” Huberty said. “An honor becuase of all the phenomenal teachers at Chedar Shoals that I am honored to represent and a privilege becuase the greatest reward for a teacher is the acknowledgement that you made a meaningful contribution to the intellectual growth of a student.” Photo provided by Clarke County School District. Infographic by Ellie Crane

RETURNING TO THE JUNGLE: Arnulfo Flores rejoins the Cedar community

After graduating from Cedar Shoals in 2018, Arnulfo Flores returned in 2021 as a staff member. He currently works as Cedar’s receptionist, but Flores’ work life started when he was still a student at Cedar. Throughout high school, Flores worked with his dad on construction, as well

working for the school district as an interpreter, and I was going to leave the school district because I needed more money,” Flores said. “(Principal Antonio) Dericotte found out and he asked to talk to me because I knew him when I was a student at Cedar. That’s when he presented the job.’”

Dericotte was excited to be able to present a job to Flores because he knew that Flores had the abilities and spirit that

“He just shows how much he cares about Cedar. I continued to look at our job board for positions, and it just worked out. He was on board with us. He brings a wealth of knowledge and talents

As well as working, Flores juggles his college studies at Athens Technical College and hopes to one day obtain a degree that allows him to connect people and their cultural identities through his studies.

“This might be looking too far ahead in the future, but I’m hoping to open an organization that welcomes every community,” Flores said. “We’re entering that kind of era where being inclusive is a big thing.

I’m hoping to make something where we have people explain their own cultures, their own opinions, but I want it to be a safe space.”

In this vision of an organization, he hopes to connect multiple communities by learning to speak new languages, learning about new cultures and translating for those who want to understand each other.

“The goal now is to try and be a bridge between communities, between the English speaking community and the Spanish speaking community,” Flores said. “In English, the way we speak is very monotone most of the time, whenever we speak normally, there’s not that much emotion. In Spanish, almost everything they talk about, they put a lot of emotion behind. The speaking habits are very different.”

Flores also takes into account the differences in the Spanish speaking community’s own dialect, believing that he will one day be explaining these translational differences in his future work.

“Hispanic culture blankets different countries like El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Colombia, Paraguay and Guatemala,” Flores said. “Each of those countries have different customs and different things. ‘Straw’ in English is just one word. But, for Mexicans that’s a different word than for Salvadorians. The same words have different ways of being communicated for each different country. That’s what I want to communicate to each side.”

As for now, Flores helps the Cedar community daily by taking calls, talking to parents, students and more.

“I try to help out to the best of my

FAMILIAR FACE: Arnulfo Flores’ helpful nature and skills make him a reliable face at Cedar. Flores has had many past job experiences that helped him prepare for the work environment. “I enjoy working with people in general. Like, I like working with you guys as students, I like working with parents or families” Photo by Isabella Morgan Art by Megan Wise

ability with parents and students. I’m a good source of information if you need to know something and I’m also a good source for connecting people,” Flores said.

As a young staff member, Flores is a relatable and reliable face for many students.

“Mr. Flores is always really friendly to the students who come in. He’s always greeted me in such a kind way, and I’m normally late to school so I see him every morning,” junior Yahir Rivera-Gaona said.

Being a recent graduate, Flores is a dependable person for students to come to for advice on school situations and life outside of Cedar.

“They (students) will come and talk to me and visit me every once in a while and I’ll give them snacks,” Flores said. “There’s sort of moments I’m able to talk to students not as a grown adult, but letting them know another kind of view, giving them a little taste of what else is out there. I kind of serve as a bridge between them and being older.”

Both through his position as a receptionist and with his Hispanic background, Flores is able to effectively interact with and navigate student needs with the large Spanish speaking population at Cedar.

“I want to have a positive impact communication wise, trying to get info from one person to another or trying to get people to the right person that they need to talk to,” Flores said.

Flores’ optimistic attributes as a student carried over into his career as a staff member. English teacher Brent Andrews, Flores’ former teacher, says Flores was the type of student that you love to see every day.

“He was always smiling, always friend-

ly, always kind to other people and most importantly, he was just really curious about the world. He was interested in having conversations about issues and topics in society,” Andrews said.

Flores’ receptionist role is suited perfectly for his thoughtful personality.

“He is exactly the kind of person that

the Cedar community through his patience, kindness and bilingual skills. He has a positive impact on parents, students and teachers.

“It’s really powerful to have someone who can solve problems for people and the fact that he is bilingual is a huge asset for our school, our students and our families,” Andrews said. Through his language skills and hardworking nature, Flores hopes to help Jaguars and Hispanic families daily.

Cedar Shoals needs at the front desk. He is calm and friendly, and a good listener to everyone who comes to him for any reason,” Andrews said.

Flores makes a significant impact on

“I’m like a huge advocate for continuing education for students who don’t believe that they have a chance. There are immigrant students that don’t believe they have an opportunity after high school. But there are opportunities, they just need help looking or finding those opportunities. That is what I like to do: try to help out those students,” Flores said. | 37
There’s sort of moments I’m able to talk to students not as a grown adult, but letting them know another kind of view, giving them a little taste of what else is out there. I kind of serve as a bridge between them and being older.
- Arnulfo Flores
“ “
FRIENDLY FLORES: Arnulfo Flores takes a call behind the desk. He provides help daily by communicating and translating for people. “I want to have a positive impact communication wise, helping get info from one person to another and helping Hispanic families,” Flores said. Photo by Delia McElhannon.


CCSD shows signs of a national problem

On Sept. 1, The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released the 2022 scores for their long-term trend assessment test, which is administered biannually to 9-year-olds across the country. It found the greatest drop in average reading scores since 1990 and the first drop in average math scores since the testing began in the 1970s.

The damage caused by virtual learning between March 2020 and April 2021 can also be seen at the county level. Clarke County’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores from 2022 show decreases in their content mastery from 2019. Elementary schools decreased by 6.1 points, middle schools by 6.6 points and high schools by 1.8 points.

“It’s very difficult to learn in a virtual environment, (it’s) such a vacuum. Once everybody became a black box and no expression was being shown, life was difficult,” Cynthia Hoover, a Cedar math teacher of six years, said.

Emerging Math Deficits

The amount of Georgia third through eighth graders characterized as beginning learners by math Milestones testing increased from 33% in 2019 to 41.7% in 2022.

During virtual learning Hoover says the math department strategically altered their curriculum and communicated with each other about what their students would be missing in the future.

“If anything was cut, it was decided because they’re going to turn around and

reteach it next year. We felt that you could go a little lighter on those things,” Hoover said. “It was far less than I would have liked to have been able to get to, but I did feel at the end that we covered everything that was absolutely necessary to say you learned geometry this year.”

Jennifer Schmidt, math department teacher of 14 years at Cedar, estimates she covered about 85% of her Algebra l material. These condensed curriculums and the challenges of learning virtually have resulted in gaps in students’ math skills. But, as the math Milestones data suggests, Hoover and Schmidt are noticing these gaps less this year

in eight grade and says she feels an expectation to know math concepts she missed.

“One of my teachers always expects us to know things from the eighth grade. I was like, ‘I didn’t learn anything in eighth grade,’” Payne said.

A RAND Education and Labor study found that only 19% of teachers in a hybrid learning setting during the 2020-21 school year said they were able to cover all or nearly all of their curriculum.

Elementary school students may have missed more curriculum than older students due to the amount of guidance they need. Amanda Carrithers, a 5th grade teacher at Gaines Elementary School, thinks she covered about half of her math units because of lack of engagement and the confusing transitions between learning models.

compared to last. Milestones scores show the amount of students considered proficient or distinguished learners increased from 16.4% in 2021 to 26.8% in 2022. That said, their students are still missing more knowledge than usual.

“Some of the content that we show them (students) in ninth grade, we just assume they learned in middle school,” Schmidt said. “We realized that they don’t know this material because normally it’s covered in a grade they were home for.”

Sophomore Maria Payne learned virtually

“I honestly just thought that all but maybe two of my students should have moved on from fifth grade that year,” Carrithers said. “It was an overall knowledge gap in their curriculum, they just didn’t get it.”

Tracy Vandiver, a collaborative special education teacher who taught kindergarten at Barnett Shoals Elementary School during virtual learning, believes she and her co-teacher covered about 30% of what they typically would. Allison Still, who has been teaching kindergarten for 15 years at Whit Davis Elementary school, estimates a more a more generous 70%. Content missed from these curriculums could result in gaps in lower level math skills, which Hoover says

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“ “
They lost a lot of social-emotional stuff in that time. I have some really bright students that will walk out of the classroom when things get hard because when they were online they could just turn off their computer when things got difficult.
- Amanda Carrithers, 5th grade teacher

could create difficulty later on.

“We move out of concrete mathematics, which is all of elementary and middle school, and we start moving into abstract thoughts and processes. But then you have to apply that (basic skills). If you’re missing some of these basic skills, it’s going to make life a little difficult,” Hoover said.

Reading Difficulties

CCRPI data showed decreases in the literacy rate of CCSD students across age groups. Middle and elementary schools decreased by about seven points and high schools by around 10 points from 2019 to 2022.

Still guesses the kindergarteners she taught virtually are now struggling with reading. Vandiver notices this struggle, particularly when it comes to the basic skills of current fifth graders.

“Our biggest obstacle this year is comprehension — how to read something and then derive facts from it and how to speak and communicate clearly,” Vandiver said.

Bryan Moore, English department chair at Cedar, says his students are regaining the reading and writing stamina he thinks suffered during virtual learning.

“It’s always a struggle to keep some kids’ attention in class, but as we get further away from virtual instruction, kids get more used to being in class and responsibilities,” Moore said. “What is kind of the muscle memory of being in the classroom is taking a bit of time but I can see it coming back.”

Moore questions the level of damage virtual learning caused in high schoolers, but he emphasized the danger of reading learning loss in elementary school students and referenced studies on the matter. A 2012 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation concluded that children not proficient in reading by third grade were four times less likely to graduate on time.

“I think there’s a group of kids we have to keep an eye on that didn’t have that direct reading instruction at a time when it’s most critical,” Moore said. “I think that their gap may endure without some real enforcement in that area.”

Though the NAEP data found decreases in test scores, Georgia’s average 2022 math and reading scores did not significantly differ from their 2019 scores by NAEP criteria. Like this evaluation suggests, Vandiver doesn’t think learning loss will be necessarily detrimental for students, even young ones. Drawing from her own experience of missing fourth grade because of medical issues, she thinks the effects of learning loss will depend on a student’s situation.

“I don’t think it ruined my life. I went

to college and got four degrees. But I was also very driven as a learner. Just because I didn’t go to fourth grade didn’t mean I wasn’t still learning and reading. The kids who are having problems are the ones that don’t have access to learning and don’t have people to push them forward,” Vandiver said.

Increasing gaps

According to the NAEP data, historically disadvantaged students are most negatively affected by virtual learning. Gaps between higher and lower income students have widened as well as racial disparities. One explanation for this development is that Black and Hispanic students spent more time on average learning virtually than white students according to research from 2020 by McKinsey and Company. Increased time spent virtually was linked to lower test scores in 2022 by data from Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research.

Another explanation is that economically disadvantaged students and students of color already fared worse on standardized testing, so virtual learning only deepened an already existing problem. Hoover describes the pandemic as a catalyst revealing these preexisting gaps.

“Any student who comes into something like the pandemic with a lack of skills to begin with is going to struggle even more,” Hoover said. “Then you come back and everybody’s charging at a regular pace. And these kids are like, ‘Wait, I really don’t even know.’ Now you’ve got a bigger gap because they’re really challenged to keep up with the original pace of the curriculum.”

Though some students were less affected by learning virtually, NAEP data shows decreases in all performance percentiles. Carrithers has noticed this in her own classroom, attributing decreases to

developmental issues.

“They lost a lot of social-emotional stuff in that time. I have some really bright students that will walk out of the classroom when things get hard because they could turn off their computer when things got hard,” Carrithers said.

Social-emotional effects

A 2022 survey by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) found that over 80% of public schools agreed that the behavioral and socioemotional development of their students was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though Vandiver’s own class has minimal behavioral issues, she has noticed an increase in disruptive and emotionally stunted behavior among younger students.

“We see our little kids not able to play to-

- Students could earn $49,000 to $61,000 less over their lifetime due to the impact of school during virtual learning. This could amount to a $128 to $188 billion loss for the US economy every year.

- By the end of the 2020-2021 school year, students were an average of ve months behind in math and four months behind in reading, with students of color on average being further behind.

- 64% of public schools reported that the pandemic played a major role in students being behind grade level.

- CCSD graduation rates went from 81.4% in 2019 to 76.3% in 2022.

Information obtained from McKinsey and Company, the Institute of Education Sciences and Clarke County School District. Infographic by Ruby Calkin and Marcus Welch

gether nicely, not able to listen and talking back to teachers. I’m not saying this is everybody, but they’re having a really difficult time,” Vandiver said.

Vandiver thinks there should have been greater emphasis placed on helping students recover socially and emotionally when they returned to in-person school.

“We just jumped right back into the thick of things without really addressing the social emotional aspect,” Vandiver said. “Focusing on that and giving them a little bit more time to ease back in instead of just jumping into the academics would’ve helped with the meltdowns.”

Due to their age, Carrithers believes her students’ social-emotional skills were more damaged by virtual learning than their academic abilities.

“Coping skills are very difficult for kids. Stamina is very difficult for kids. They came into fifth grade but in many ways they are still third graders. Their development emotionally has been staggered and it is very noticeable,” Carrithers said.

Moore saw similar behavioral struggles in high schoolers, but he says there have been significant improvements this year compared to last. He attributes this progress to the maturity and past experience of high schoolers.

“Last year was a crap show in a lot of ways, but that was the transitory year,” Moore said. “I’ve seen a lot of difference this year as far as student adjustment to being back in school.”

Another effect of virtual learning has been an increased dependency on technology. Vandiver notices students have lower handwriting ability and fine motor skills. The IES survey found that 42% of public schools reported that prohibited electronic use had increased because of virtual learning’s influence.

“We’ve had a phone issue for years but not to the extent it is now,” Schmidt said. “I can’t speak for other subjects but Algebra I is very difficult to do when you’re sitting on your phone.”

Recovering from learning loss

With the federal government making the largest single investment in schools ever, $190 billion for student recovery, solutions to learning loss are a focus. CCSD received $78.78 million, with $1.6 million going to Cedar.

Madison Steen, English department, thinks closing learning gaps should start with intentional, well planned lessons followed up with programs like the Pathways to Success Program (PSP). At Cedar, PSP enables students to stay after school

Funding and solutions

- States received $189.5 billion in pandemic recovery funding. CCSD received $78.78 million ESSER funding (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund).

- By June 2022 CCSD spent 53% of this funding and Cedar received 1.6 million.

- 62% of US public schools are using after school learning or enrichment programs, such as pandemic related learning support. Of these schools 74% said it was extremely, very or moderately effective.

- 56% of schools implemented high dosage tutoring. Of these 88% said it was extremely, very or moderately effective.

three days a week for tutoring in two hour periods. Saturday school is also offered. These sessions involve mini-lessons that reinforce important concepts, individualized reteaching and focused time for completing assignments. Steen thinks the program is helpful in addressing learning gaps.

“I think it’s giving students an ability to believe in themselves that they can actually pass when you sit down one on one and help them,” Steen said.

In elementary schools, the Early Intervention Program (EIP) takes students out of their classes to work in smaller groups. Students in need of additional help are chosen based on test scores, completing the same activities as their peers but with more depth and personalization.

Vandiver thinks the program is beneficial but dislikes separating students.

“I think they (students) would rather stay in our class. They miss out on a lot of fun activities at times and they think it is unfair. I wish that our kids could all be together because it makes community, but I do think

it’s helping them,” Vandiver said.

Virtual learning has resulted in a student body with more varied skill sets than usual. As a result, Andrea Kahl, a teacher of seven years working at Hilsman Middle school, thinks breaking up students into small groups is an important solution to learning loss.

“Right now it’s really put on the teacher. You identify the kids in your class, you pull a small group, but you still need to manage everybody else. I think a more effective way would be to actually remove them into a smaller setting,” Kahl said.

Along with struggling with missed learning, some high school students, like juniors Jameria Wise and Layrn Cross, have failed classes from virtual learning on their transcripts. These classes lowered their GPA’s, limiting their future opportunities.

“That was probably the first time I failed a couple of classes. It was really hard and it messed up my GPA. So when we came back to in-person I was stuck trying to fix stuff,” Cross said. “But I feel like if none of that hap-

40 |
Infographic by Ruby Calkin and Marcus Welch

pened, I would have done all of my classes on time, even taken extra classes.”

To fix these grades Cross and Wise took advantage of credit recovery through Edgenuity. Though both benefited from the experience, Wise thinks more could be done to help students avoid the same traps from virtual learning.

“I finished before my classmates. It’s basically your pace, which isn’t good because there are still kids stuck in that class. I just think they should enforce things a little bit,” Wise said.

Carrithers expressed frustration over feeling that not enough was done to address the immediate and continued effects of virtual learning on children. She wishes holding more students back would have been explored more as a plausible option.

“I think everybody should have admitted we failed our kids that year and it wasn’t their fault. We just need to back it up now and do what we can so that they’re ready for their next step because they were not ready

coming into this year,” Carrithers said.

Vandiver feels there was a push to help students recover in the immediate aftermath of virtual learning, but that it sometimes involved the district buying new programs that put pressure on teachers to go to trainings

using it,” Hooker said in a press conference with BluePrints. “Some school systems bought various programs thinking that it’s going to help. But I don’t think programs help, I think good old fashioned teaching helps.”

Also acknowledging the shortcomings of relying on new programs, Carrithers thinks students ultimately just need room and support to recover.

without the district considering their feedback. CCSD Superintendent Robbie Hooker agrees that this isn’t the best approach.

“I think if you’re going to buy programs, you better monitor to see the effectiveness of it. Is it right for our kids? And if not stop

“If we really want to help our children, we need to take some lessons instead of trying to pretend that we can just plow forward and buy programs. Just let teachers teach and really get enough teachers and support staff in the building,” Carrithers said. “Help kids develop the way they need to, instead of just pushing and pushing them through.”

HERE OR THERE: Allison Still’s kindergartners take attendance during their morning announcements at Whit Davis. During virtual learning, she had difficulties getting them to log in consistently. She estimates that 60% of her students had a good support system while the rest were unmonitored by an adult, causing them to struggle with technical issues and distractions. The effects became apparent when students returned to in-person learning in winter of 2021. “Across the board there were gaps. The majority of the kids were just a lot lower because they didn’t understand what they were doing when they were virtual,” Still said. “That was halfway through the year. So we did not have enough time or support to get them academically where they needed to be by the end of the year.” Photo by Ruby Calkin.

We see our little kids not able to play together nicely, not able to listen and talking back to teachers. I’m not saying this is everybody, but they’re having a really difficult time.
“ “
- Tracy Vandiver

ver the past few years the number of transgender youth has doubled from prior estimates. 0.6% of youth over the age of 13 identified as trans as of 2020. Numerous different gender identities are now recognized, many of which fall under the nonbinary umbrella (which falls under the transgender umbrella), including gender fluid, demigirl/boy, gender queer, bi-gender, agender and many others.

The earliest use of the word “gender” was in the 1300s, and the use of the words “man” and “woman” started around 1474. One of the first records of someone identifying as what we would now call nonbinary was the Public

Universal Friend, or “the friend.” This idea came about when Jemima Wilkinson fell severely ill in 1776. After recovering, they claimed that they had died and been brought back to life as a genderless person. After this they only responded to gender neutral pronouns and changed their birth name.

Trans people often change their pronouns and name. When a trans person’s old pronouns are used it is called misgendering, and when their old name is used it is called deadnaming.

As gender fluidity becomes more publicly present, issues like misgendering and deadnaming are increasingly important to understand.

Senior Azorion Harper, a trans student who uses she/her pronouns, went through

a long process to get where she is now. Growing up, Harper did not always feel like she was in the right body.

“There was a stage where I was nonbinary and went by they/them,” Harper said. “As a kid I always liked girl products and I wanted to mess with girl stuff.”

Although Harper has now found an identity that feels right for her, she still gets misgendered.

“When someone calls me ‘he’ it’s like I don’t know who you’re talking about because I’m not that person,” Harper said.

Senior Ash Plaksin, who uses they/ them pronouns, has felt their assigned gender at birth did not represent them since they were very young. It wasn’t until they were a freshman in high school

SAFE SPACE: Two students stand present, one holding the transgender flag and the other wearing a non-binary pin. The newly formed Genders and Sexuality Alliance at Cedar Shoals provides a comforting environment for all students, including Senior Helen Martinez. “I love GSA because it’s a safe place for everyone. There are always new activities and things to learn about, and everyone is heard and respected.” Martinez said. Art by Eva Lucero. Design by Aiden Dowling

that they discovered the use of they/ them pronouns.

Plaksin understands that people might mistakenly misgender them, but they think it becomes an issue when someone isn’t making an effort to stop.

“An accident is an accident until it’s not,” Plaksin said. “If you repeatedly mess up and aren’t making an effort to actually try, it feels the same as not caring.”

Plaksin says that in their experience many teachers are good at recognizing student’s preferred names but struggle with pronouns, though some do try. For example, they had a teacher who sent out a Google form to ask for students’ preferred pronouns and names.

Tara Stuart (she/her), English department, uses a similar Google form query in her classes. She sponsors the Genders and Sexuality Alliance club and tries her best to ask people’s pronouns and not misgender them.

“You can see someone’s face light up when they realize that you’re acknowledging them like that,” Stuart said. “Being able to say it out loud and have someone acknowledge it and then repeat those pronouns to them is empowering.”

At other schools she has worked at, Stuart has felt the need to help teachers understand what it feels like to be misgendered or deadnamed. At Cedar she has seen teachers being respectful of students’ preferred names and pronouns.

“As far as I know, when teachers know that a kid goes by a different name or pronoun that they may not have assumed, they respect it,” Stuart said. Being able to use preferred names and pronouns in school is important for the mental health of trans youth. According to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, children and teens who are able to use their preferred name and pronouns in all areas of life have significantly less symptoms of depression (71% decrease), suicidal thoughts (34% decrease) and suicide attempts (65% decrease).

Dr. Shayne Abelkop has firsthand experience seeing the mental health issues that affect trans teens. She has been a licensed psychologist for 18 years and works with children and young adults ages 6-25. Working with people in this

age range means she has many patients who are either questioning or transitioning, as puberty is usually the time trans people begin questioning.

Abelkop’s experience working with clients has led her to the same conclusion as Stuart: that using correct names and desired pronouns can benefit trans students.

“One of the tangible ways that people can respect and affirm somebody is to use the name and pronouns that the person is asking them to,” Abelkop said. “We know from research, that when people are respected and affirmed for their gender identity, they have better mental health, their anxiety, depression scores are lower when they feel supported by their family and their school environments.”

Abelkop usually scans for depression and anxiety in her queer and trans patients, acknowledging that LGBTQ+ patients are at an increased risk for mental health issues due to societal standards.

“It’s important that we realize that a trans person walking around will feel stressed, like people are going to reject them,” Abelkop said.

It’s not this way for everyone, however. Abelkop acknowledges that many clients do not experience emotional trauma or anxiety.

“You know, there’s no one universal presentation. I see folks who have no emotional difficulties whatsoever. I have a good number of clients whose only concern is coming out and the process of coming out to their family

or school,” she said.

As it’s becoming more common for teens to question their gender identities, the topic becomes more familiar in conversation. But this doesn’t mean it’s always easy for trans students.

“It took a lot of crying and just going through my thoughts and emotions over and over again, but I’m glad I finally met a conclusion,” Harper said. | 43
Infographic by Aiden Dowling
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