The Ridellion June 2024

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Glean some wisdom from a seasoned senior

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Talented seniors reflect on the college recruiting process

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See which in-class distraction RD students love best

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The Ridellion

June 2024 Vol. LXVII, Issue 3

Chloe Lee, Class of 2024 Valedictorian

Chloe Lee, the valedictorian of the Class of 2024, is off to Amherst College next fall, majoring in Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought. She is “excited to meet new people in the tight-knit community” and looks forward to opportunities such as “studying abroad, open curriculum, meeting professors, and more.” Amherst College is known for its support to aspiring law students like Chloe. She is also considering going to law school. Go Mammoths!

Of course, her achievements aren’t without hard work and trial and error. Lee shares her strategy of keeping a planner to map out her daily tasks meticulously. “Everything counts towards something. Certain classes

may seem easier, certain assignments may not seem like that big of a deal, but it’s the things that we think are easy that can trip us up, since we don’t give those things much attention,” advises Lee. Her attitude towards the all assignments, big and small, was the key to her success in high school. While reflecting on how it feels to be a graduating senior about to go out into the world, Lee acknowledges the importance of her lessons and those of her peers here at River Dell. She initially had a rough start during freshman year due to online classes, causing a distinct disconnect between her and others during the pandemic. However, she credits this struggle for helping her bet-

ter navigate tough personal situations. She’s also gotten to know herself better since being a freshman – the ins and outs of things like her “mannerisms,” “thought process,” “triggers,” and “work ethic.” These experiences have helped shape her. Moreover, as a senior, Lee can reflect on the drastic difference between being a freshmen and a senior. Lee recalls this journey, reminiscing, “when I’m looking back, I can see a lot of how I’ve changed. There is a level of bittersweetness because I’m leaving a lot of amazing people and experiences, but I also feel ready to graduate from high school.” She also mentions the importance of savoring each moment. Lee adds her remarks about her gratitude for everything she has gone through and the people who supported her.

In addition to the lessons she’s learned from others, River Dell can learn many things from Lee’s experiences as well. For example, Lee encourages younger students to “make the most of their opportunities and learn how they operate as a person.” Underscoring the importance of developing important habits during high

A summer read recommendation for literature lovers

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school, Lee emphasizes the benefits of “learning things about yourself.”

Chloe Lee is also just as enthusiastic as she is serious about her studies. She enjoys reading, playing the piano, singing, listening to true crime podcasts, and mak-

Melissa Yee, Class of 2024 Salutatorian

she told me how the reality of leaving River Dell had not hit her yet. Next September, Melissa will be attending the

University of Texas at Austin studying statistics and data science. In the future, she is interested in studying computers and business. I asked her a few questions about her last four years, and here is what she said!

What do you do for fun? I like to hang out with my friends, eat out at different restaurants, watch TikTok, and hang out outside.

What’s your favorite sport?

Softball! I’ve played it since I was young, and I might play intramural in college.

What was one of the most difficult or rewarding classes you took in River Dell?

I would say APUSH because I challenged myself by taking it, and I don’t consider myself a history person. I feel like I worked 10 times harder, but I’m proud of the results I came up with.

Do you have a good luck charm?

I have a superstition--so every math test day, I have to wear sweatshirts from my favorite Ivy League School. One time I wore a sweatshirt

ing crafts such as birthday cards in her free time. Above all, she values quality time with her friends and family, whether it’s spent doing something lighthearted or “deep”.

Chloe, River Dell is proud of you. We wish you the best in your future endeavors!

from a different school, and I did poorly on a test, so it works.

Are you really competitive?

I am not outwardly competitive; I hate confrontation, and I hate being neck in neck with someone. So, in a physical sense I am not, but mentally I will work hard to compete with myself. I like to be really good at what I know I can do well at.

Most of us think of the salutatorian as tenacious. What was something you felt like giving up on but were determined to see till the end?

The title of salutatorian itself was a goal I had. I didn’t want to be so fixed on it that I

made myself distraught. For me, it symbolizes more than just my grades.

Do you have any advice for students who are struggling to get through the year?

What carried me through times when I was unmotivated was thinking of things retrospectively. I like to ask myself, “in the end, will this one assignment affect me in the long term? Probably not.” Your focus and the discipline you have will carry you through. As a junior and senior, putting things in perspective helped me be kinder to myself.

Thank you for your time, Melissa, and good luck!

NYT Games 11 Read the Classics Advice for All Sports Commits
I met up with Melissa at the library on one of the first bright days of spring. With graduation fast approaching, Source: by Noa Kizhnerman and Jiwon Jeong Source:

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What Does It Mean To Be Part Japanese?

Identity is sometimes—if not always—a hard thing to pin down. Of course, the Japanese-American identity is no exception. After all, the Japanese identity is always changing, and the experiences of Japanese Americans are very diverse. Still, one thing that many Japanese Americans share is a strong connection to their Japanese roots.

In December of last year, Ema Ryan Yamazaki wrote a guest essay in the New York Times called “There’s Not Just One Way to Be Japanese,” and, as a partJapanese person myself, it was one of the first articles I had read from a partJapanese writer. As part of her article, Yamazaki interviewed biracial people living in Japan, many of whom struggled with navigating a society where they were seen as “not quite Japanese.” In short, halfJapanese people often experience being “other-ized” or, on the other extreme, “idolized” in Japan’s more homogenous society. This left me wondering, however, how the half-Japanese experience in Japan compares to the half-Japanese experience in the U.S. Growing up part-Japanese, I consistently felt more pride than embarrassment to come from two different cultural backgrounds—Chinese from my dad’s side and Japanese from my mom’s side. Since I was young I have been surrounded by half-Japanese people through my mom’s friends and Japanese kindergarten. Non-Japanese people learning Japanese and biracial families were the norm. At least in my Japanese Saturday school, it was common to see other half-Japanese people.

However, I was never able to express the impact of being half-Japanese in words, and I had never discussed the implications of our shared identity with my half-Japanese friends. It was not until I read Himawari House, a graphic novel by Harmony Becker, that I realized how layered the half-Japanese American experience is. I found it interesting that both the New York Times essay and the book referenced an internal struggle to accept one’s identity, but losing touch with Japanese culture and language has been my biggest struggle in my personal life.

To see how other partJapanese Americans were affected by their identities in the local community, Noa and I interviewed other part-Japanese River Dell students (as well as ourselves!) both digitally and in person.

—Maya Sakai-Chen

(11th grade)

Maya Sakai-Chen (11th grade)

Q:What is your favorite Japanese food?

Kyle: Tonkatsu.

Noa: I have so many favorite Japanese foods -okonomiyaki, daifuku, fried rice, sashimi, tonkatsu.

Lucas: My favorite Japanese food is hiyashi ramen.

Leona: Dango.

B: Sushi is my favorite Japanese food.

Maya: My favorite Japanese foods are anything matcha-flavored, mochi, and sweet Japanese-style curry. Okonomiyaki is also so good! My mom makes it homemade.

Q: What do you identify as?

A: Asian American. I guess Blasian, too. I put “two or more races” a lot.

Kyle: Japanese-Filipino American.

Noa: American.

Lucas: I identify as mixed race.

Leona: I am Hafu.

Maya: I am Japanese Chinese American.

Q: What kind of culture did you grow up in?

A: I grew up mostly Japanese because my dad didn’t really expose me to Black culture unless it was centered around food, but I was with my mom most of the time as a kid. I grew up eating a lot of Japanese food and celebrating New Year’s and Christmas. We go to Japan to visit my grandparents, uncles, and cousins, so Japanese culture has always been there, but it is also always mixed with my African American side.

Kyle: My mom is full Japanese, and my dad is full Filipino. So, I grew up in an Asian household. I never learned Tagalog, but my mom would always speak Japanese. My dad is also fluent in Japanese because he lived in Japan. I’d say my house is mostly influenced by Japanese culture.

Noa: I grew up in the borough of Queens, which is really diverse, so I never really tried to label myself because there were so many different types of people around me. It’s the type of place where I was literally able to meet another Israeli-Japanese my age with the same name. To that extent, I feel lucky to have lived in such an environment because there was always someone like me, both culturally and lifestyle-wise. I am also culturally Jewish and celebrate Jewish holidays. Although I have no Japanese family in America, I have many Japanese family friends, so I would celebrate Christmas and Easter with them while attending Japanese festivals.


surrounded by Japanese culture a lot because of my Japanese schooling, frequent visits to Japan, and closeness to my Japanese grandparents. I also have a large extended family on my dad’s side and many Chinese family friends. Since I don’t speak Mandarin, I don’t feel as connected to my Chinese heritage. However, some Chinese cultural experiences I grew up in were celebrating Lunar New Year with friends and family and having large meals with family in Chinese restaurants.

Q: Can you speak/write Japanese? How did your parents raise you to learn the language? Have you ever gone to a Japanese school?

A: I don’t speak Japanese. When I was younger, I understood it, but I could only speak a little—I knew “dakko” (carry me) and “onnaka itai” (my stomach hurts). My mom didn’t want me to learn Japanese because she thought it would hurt my learning, and she didn’t want me to be unable to communicate with my English-speaking peers.

Kyle: I can listen and speak in Japanese, and I can read and write hiragana and katakana but not kanji. My mom said and only speaks in Japanese with my sister and me at home, but I’ve never attended Japanese school.

Noa: My parents raised me by speaking both in their native tongue, and I never actually started speaking English until I went to Pre-K. However, I lost many of those connections while growing up despite occasionally attending Hebrew and Japanese schools. Now, I can speak in somewhat broken Japanese, and I understand conversations kind of fluently. I also used to be able to read and write in basic hiragana, but it was only because my mother forced me to.

Lucas: Yes, I can speak and write Japanese. I used to go to a Japanese school on the weekends and attended school in the summer while in Japan.

Maya: My parents highlighted the importance of learning Japanese throughout my life. I don’t speak Japanese at home because we are all most comfortable speaking English, but I mostly speak Japanese with my grandparents. I attended Japanese Saturday school until 8th grade, and I maintained my Japanese knowledge by studying for the AP Japanese test and talking to family members in Japan.

Q: Do you get a lot of questions to ask about your race? How do you feel about it?

A: Most of the time, if someone talks to me about being Japanese – I don’t look visually Japanese –but most people don’t comment on how Black I am. People will ask, “oh, do you speak the language, is your mom or dad Asian, can you write it, can you read it?”

Most of my friends know I’m Japanese because I eat Japanese food daily for lunch, but most will never question me. Teachers will bring it up sometimes.

Kyle: Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of questions. People think I am Hispanic because of my last name, and I sometimes joke that I am. Usually, the questions are innocent, so I just answer them truthfully.

Noa: New people I meet have occasionally asked me about my background. I always feel kind of proud when I get to tell them my background because I feel like I’m representing my parents’ stories and my own unique blend of them.

Maya: Noa, every word you said rings true for me, too. I am fine with people asking respectfully and out of curiosity. In River Dell, most people ask because they are interested in what kind of culture I grew up in. But sometimes it can feel annoying if people ask, “what are you?” to try to categorize me in their heads. Thankfully, though, most people ask because they are genuinely interested.

Lucas: I do not get a lot of questions asked about my race.

Advisor: Ms. Maczuga

Participants include:

Interviewee A (10th grade)

Kyle Morales (9th grade)

Noa Kizhnerman (11th grade)

Lucas Porter (9th grade)

Leona Musha-Rowe (9th grade)

Interviewee B

Lucas: I grew up with a Japanese, Jamaican, and American culture.

Leona: The Japanese and American culture.

B: I grew up in a culture where learning about my cultural background was emphasized.

Maya: I have been

Leona: I can speak and write Japanese, but I’m not so good at it. My mom taught me Japanese from a young age, which was my first language, according to her. I also went to a Japanese school from the age of 4.

B: I can both speak and write Japanese. I went to a Japanese Saturday school, which helped me learn how to read and write Japanese.

Leona: I have gotten a lot of questions about my race and people who have thought it was cool for me to be two different races.

B: I don’t get asked about my race very often, but I always feel comfortable answering questions about it.

Q: Describe a time you felt connected/disconnected with your cultural back-

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June 2024 Page 2
Published by the Students of RIVER DELL REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL 55 Pyle Street. Oradell, NJ 07649 (201) 599-7200
All members of the River Dell community are invited to respond to articles and editorials published in The Ridellion, as well as to any concern or event within the
or the world. Please sign your letters: names will be withheld on request. The publishers reserve the right to edit those comments chosen for publication.

What Does It Mean To Be Part Japanese?


A: I’ve felt disconnected from my culture. Often, if I want to meet a Japanese person, they all speak Japanese or need help understanding English. Right now, I work at a Japanese dentist’s office, and everyone there speaks in Japanese—the calls we receive, the customers, and all of the staff. I definitely feel a slight disconnect because of the language barrier.

Kyle: Rooting for all the Japanese stars rising to fame in the MLB makes me feel connected to my culture.

Noa: It was very recently, during Passover, and we were reading out of the Haggadah at the table. Suddenly, my aunt realized how many different cultures we had at the table, and we took turns reading a passage in the original Hebrew, then French, Spanish, and Japanese. That moment really helped define how multicultural my family is and how I can’t be defined by only one Israeli, Japanese, or American culture but a mix of them.

Lucas: I felt connected when celebrating holidays and events such as Oshyougatsu (New Year), Kodomonohi (Kid’s Day), and Tanabata (summer holiday).

Leona: I have not felt disconnected from my Japanese culture much. I am surrounded by lots of Japanese people in my life.

B: I spend time with my grandparents and extended family in Japan, which always helps me reconnect with my cultural background.

Maya: I felt more connected to my Japanese culture when I was younger. That was when I would have undoukai (Japanese field day) with my peers, and Japanese flowed more naturally between me and everyone else. As I’ve gotten older and lost a lot of Japanese, sometimes I regret not knowing enough. Especially when visiting Japan, I realized how much Japanese customs I didn’t understand. But mostly, I feel grateful for my extended family in Japan who make an effort to communicate through the language barrier.

Q: Has your background made you more understand-

ing of people from other backgrounds?

A: My mom is big on history -- she studied world history, I’m pretty sure. When we’re talking about history, she always says, “you have to consider other country’s perspectives because the American’s perspective is not the same as the Japanese, British, or German perspective.” With my mom, I can get a much broader perspective on how I see the world, which I carry with me when I look at other topics. I think about how other people might see it and how other countries might see it.

Kyle: Yes, 100%.

Noa: My background has definitely helped me understand and further appreciate people and other cultures while causing me to develop an open mindset. It’s not only my Japanese and Israeli background from my parents but also my cousins, aunts, and uncles from places like France, Morocco, and Argentina who have helped with that. I did a project in Mrs. Carney’s lang & comp class in which I compared the consumption and food-related habits of people from some of those cultures, and learning about food helped me understand how different cultures see the world. Other classes like history have also encouraged me to ask my parents about their experiences, which I found really valuable in developing my understanding of global history in the context of how it impacted my family. My own background has also impacted my only Japanese-speaking and traditional grandparents and little cousins who have never been exposed to lifestyles outside of Japan. For example, as a child, I never referred to water as “mizu” but “ma’im,” they grew accustomed to how I could use Hebrew words while speaking in Japanese. I also specifically refer to my Japanese grandmother in Hebrew, which I started doing unintentionally as a kid, so those are cool examples of how my own culture may have influenced others.

Lucas: Yes, it has.

Leona: Yes, I do.

Maya: My experiences visiting Japan have made me more open-minded to other cultures. Visiting Ja-

pan has humbled me; there is so much Japanese culture and language that I do not understand. I have learned to take these opportunities to ask questions, which has made me respect and learn about other cultures.

Q: Have you ever felt ashamed or proud of your culture?

A: I’ve mostly felt proud of my culture. It gives me culture; it gives me a way of seeing the world in a way that most people I know probably wouldn’t.

Kyle: I’ve never felt ashamed, only proud.

Noa: I’m mostly proud of my Japanese culture. This may be a niche, but I felt low-key proud when anime became mainstream during lockdown because it let others appreciate it. I am proud that my culture gives me a certain perspective I couldn’t otherwise have.

Leona: I feel proud.

B: I feel proud of my culture because it paved a big part of my identity and who I am today.

Maya: I am proud of being Japanese, and I am proud to be related to great Chinese military generals, Japanese Buddhist statue restorers, and innovative ancestors.

Have you ever felt like an outsider in your own culture?

Kyle: Yes, only a couple of times when I visited Japan. The one time I visited, I could speak Japanese fluently, so people knew I was Japanese. But I sometimes got a few weird stares, especially when I was just with my dad.

Noa: I’ve never felt like an outsider, but I have questioned to what extent I belong in the culture. My cousin once asked me if I ever felt weird being the only one who looked slightly Asian at a family gathering, and I remember not understanding why he would ask me that because I had never experienced such a thing. However, I never knew many half-Japanese Jews, and since then, small things like that have made me challenge myself in my validity of identifying as those things based on appearance.

Lucas: No, I have not felt like an outsider in my own culture.

Leona: Sometimes I do.

B: No, I feel like I have

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enough knowledge of my culture to feel included.

Maya: I have sometimes felt too American, especially when I went to a Japanese school in Japan for a couple of weeks. However, it was overall a positive experience, and I got to meet a lot of Japanese people my age. I have never been made to feel like an outsider because of my half-ness.

Q: Who is someone you have felt represented by?

A: I’m watching a 2010 show with a half-Japanese character, which I thought was cool. In sports, a few role models like Naomi Osaka are up-and-coming. When I first saw her on TV, I thought, “oh my god, she’s just like me!” I was really happy about it because I’d never seen another Black Japanese person. So seeing her was really uplifting.

Kyle: It felt represented by Ohtani Shohei and his success. Seeing him made me proud to be Japanese.

Noa: A random Japanese Bangladeshi actress named Rola because I’ve been told I look like her by two Japanese people.

Lucas: There isn’t anyone who I have felt inspired by.

Maya: Besides Harmony Becker’s graphic novel, Himawari House, I have felt represented by Asian American characters in movies like The Half of It and Everything Everywhere All At Once. Other half-Japanese icons I look up to include Conan Gray and Rina Sawayama.

Q: Have you ever gone to Japan? What was your experience like?

A: When I went to Japan, everyone could tell we were from the Western Hemisphere. I felt like nobody I met truly cared about that. I don’t feel singled out in rural Osaka with just grandmas and grandpas. Even my dad, who was a 6’1” Black man, did not feel singled out at a restaurant. I haven’t ever gotten a weird glance, but usually, I’m in a group of Japanese people.

Kyle: Yes, Japanese culture is one of the most beautiful in the world, and visiting my family is definitely something I look forward to all year.

Noa: I’ve been to Japan several times for a family vacation, and I love it. We sometimes go to the bigger cities, and Shizuoka because that’s where my mom is from. Rural Japan is so beautiful, and I always do my best to soak up the experience and eat as much food as possible. I also look forward to seeing my grandparents, cousins, and family friends.

Lucas: Yes, I have gone to Japan. I stayed in Hokkaido with my grandparents and liked how quiet it was.

Leona: I have gone to Japan. Nobody would really treat me differently. Usually, people would talk to me in Japanese, but sometimes some people won’t.

B: I have been to Japan many times. I always have

a good time spending time with my family, but I have also attended public schools in Japan, which helped me experience school life in other countries.

Maya: I have also been to Japan several times. My family always stays at our house in Minoo, Osaka, where my extended family on my mom’s side lives. Certain mannerisms and phrases my family uses fascinate me, so I’m constantly learning about their culture.

In my household, my family’s refrigerator always collects random leftovers throughout the week. When all the leftovers are assembled into one quick meal by the end of the week, their variety never fails to seem interestingly unexpected. Sometimes, I’ve paired Netcost Russian salads with samosas or gyoza and white rice with microwave-heated frozen pizza. Last week, we fried Japanese korokke alongside fish and chips and miso soup. Perhaps some things clash, but they might also highlight and complement each other’s distinctive qualities.

Much like a plate of leftovers, there is much to be unpacked from the culturally rich individuals at River Dell. Making attempts to understand our peers can further unearth unique or even shared flavors of our lives, regardless of our backgrounds. So, in answering the question, “What does it mean to be part Japanese?” it becomes clear that the answer is different for all of us…and not that easy to summarize briefly.

While these interviews were meant to celebrate and highlight the experiences of being part-Japanese, they also demonstrate how a shared Japanese identity can lead to both similar and contrasting experiences. Many of us, for instance, are still figuring out our identities within the context of our Japanese culture, while others are slightly more confident. Yet, the beauty of not only our Japanese cultures—but also the way we meshed it to become part of our multifaceted, complex identities—reverberated throughout the entire interview process.

However, with all the emphasis we place on our Japanese culture, we must remember that although our cultures distinguish us and are to be celebrated, we must ensure that they do not prevent us from opening up and learning from others. Hearing about others’ personal experiences helped further illustrate the importance of this sentiment. Part-Japanese or not, attempting to understand our peers can lead to beautiful and eye-opening changes. Our curiosity helped us listen to our peers’ experiences more deeply. In fact, we learned a lot by simply asking each other questions. So, why not try asking your own?

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Words Of Wisdom From Those Who Walked Before: Life Lessons Learned, Grade By Grade

This school year, while it felt long for many, is now coming to a close. Our four years of high school are formative ones, and each year along the way we learn such valuable lessons. As freshmen, we just begin to get a taste of high school, of adolescence, and of the responsibilities that come with this stage of our lives. As sophomores, we finally begin getting comfortable with high school, still navigating the ropes, and finding a balance between academics, extracurriculars, and our personal and social lives. Then, once junior year hits, the idea of life after high school becomes a bit more tangible, as we realize our GPA and how we spend our time has a lot of importance, especially this year, for college. And finally, senior year, the fall is as stressful as it gets, trying to manage college applications that will essentially dictate our futures, but also dedicating time to being with friends because those are the last moments and memories of high school you’ll get.

Each year has its own highs and lows, and each student will eventually go through it all. But like I said, this seemingly long school year is now coming to a close, and the lessons we have learned (all of us) are extremely valuable. So, after giving River Dell students the opportunity to give advice to the grade below them, here is what they said.

From outgoing freshmen to incoming freshmen: Freshman year will be a challenge, as is every tran-

sition in life. However, try your best to be nice to everyone, ask for help when you need it, start making bonds with the teachers you connect to, pay attention to deadlines and workload, join clubs but make sure not to spread yourself too thin, and time management is so important. At first, this advice and this school year will seem intimidating and overwhelming, as it does for everyone. But you will survive it, it gets so much better from here. Treat people the way you would like to be treated; yes, it’s cliché, but cliches must come from somewhere (they are so true!!). Make sure to study, do your homework, and establish good habits because the strategies you start to employ your freshmen year will stick with you. From outgoing sophomores to incoming sophomores: This year is when things get a bit smoother, because you start to understand what high school is like. You know what to expect from the workload, from teachers, from friends, etc. That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep working as hard as you can, manage your time, and take school seriously. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it; reach out to your teachers because they are there to help. Make sure to remember that at the end of your sophomore year, you will get the chance to apply for honors societies (only if you have a good enough grade), so keep your grades up and if you are given the opportunity to apply, definitely do it! But also, make sure to

spend time with friends and have fun. Sophomore year is such a special year, as all years of high school are, but this year in particular because you aren’t worried about college just yet. So, recognize that sophomore year is a “sweet spot” year, and have a good time.

From outgoing juniors to incoming juniors: Junior year is a tough one, there’s no denying that. Outgoing juniors recommend to really work hard this year, and although it can be stressful and tiring, keep working hard. Many take their SATs or ACTs this year, or AP classes for the first time. College is in mind, and work piles up. Just try to remember that everyone goes through junior year, and you can and will get through it. Keep in mind that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that there is a reason you are working hard: you are working for your future. Make sure to stay on top of your assignments, go to extra help, take notes even when you feel you don’t need to. Remember to ask for letters of recommendation in the spring for your college applications—so pick two teachers that you think know you well and ask them if they would write your letter of recommendation by no later than November of the following year. In addition, towards the end of the school year, start to brainstorm and draft your personal statement for college applications. The sooner you start that, the better. With that being said, it is equally important to make time for yourself and for spending time with family and friends. While entering junior year, you are also entering the second half of high school. The times you spend studying are not going to be what you remember, but instead the times spent laughing with friends, practicing with teammates, talking with classmates, and bonding with family are what define your high school years. So, I know, your work can seem like the most important thing sometimes,

and while it is extremely important, so are you. So, give yourself a moment to rest and enjoy yourself. From outgoing seniors to incoming seniors: While it is so cliché say this, it is so beyond true: your senior year goes by in a blink of an eye. The fall will be hard: balancing college applications, schoolwork, and your social life is no easy task. But it has been done before, and you can do it, too. Just power through the fall and I promise, once all your college applications are submitted, you will feel so much better. As after the submission of your applications (I know it is easier said than done), try not to worry about your college decisions, because you have done your absolute best and there’s nothing more you can do. Whatever you hear back from each college, whether that is an acceptance, deferral, waitlist, or rejection, everything will work out in the end. Also, later in the school year, make sure to apply for scholarships –look out for that email when it comes, and begin working on those as soon as possible. Outside of college applications, keep in mind that each day of your senior year is a “last,” whether it is the last Pep Rally you attend, the last math test you take, the last application you submit, or the last day of school.

So, make sure to soak in each moment. You hear all the time that your senior year and these endings that we experience in life are bittersweet, but it isn’t until you live through it that you truly understand. So, participate in every school event, go spend time with your friends, and have fun! To outgoing seniors: Unfortunately, there is no grade above the class of 2024 anymore to guide them. To guide us. We are about to leave the lives we’ve known and start anew, just as the classes below us will soon do. Of course it is exciting, but it’s also scary. Time is passing by, just as it always does, but it feels like it is moving faster. We have no control over that, but what we do have control over is the way we spend our time. Try to be present, to have an open mind. Enjoy each moment of this ending, and of the new beginnings we will soon face.

So, to the entire student body, try to keep some of this advice in mind. Who knows better about what you are about to go through next year than those who just lived through it? Endings can be bittersweet, so cherish each moment of the end of this school year but remember that next year will come with not only new challenges, but amazing, new memories too.

A New Era In Testing As AP Goes Digital

Did you know that nine AP (Advanced Placement) exams will go fully digital in May 2025? As the landscape of standardized testing continues to evolve, the College Board has announced the

significant transformation to the AP exam system. The digital AP exams mirror the structure and content of traditional paper exams. Only those students who have approved accommodations

for paper testing will be provided with the paper exams.

The nine subjects affected by this transition include: AP African American Studies; AP Computer Science Principles; AP English Language and Composition; AP English Literature and Composition; AP European History; AP Psychology; AP Seminar; AP United States History; and AP World History: Modern. Among these subjects, five (bolded ones) are offered at RDHS.

This transition promises several key benefits over traditional paper tests, enhancing the testing experience for students and administrators alike.

One notable advantage is the flexibility digital exams offer. Students will utilize the Bluebook™ testing app and take their tests remotely, whether from the comfort of their homes or within school premises. While AP coordinators and proctors

will administer exams using the Test Day Toolkit web application. This eliminates the hassle of organizing costly and time-consuming logistics associated with traditional testing centers, possibly reducing fees for students as well.

Moreover, digital exams introduce a realm of customization and adaptability. Features such as built-in timers, on-screen calculators, and accessibility tools for students with disabilities can now be seamlessly integrated into the testing platform. Additionally, instant scoring and feedback mechanisms ensure students receive timely results, aiding in their academic progress.

While the transition to digital exams marks a significant strategic shift towards modernization and efficiency in testing, it presents significant change for students, who have expressed mixed feelings to-

wards the change.

Many students are apprehensive about the possibility of computer malfunctions, such as dead battery, getting kicked out of the test, submissions problems, or wifi issues. In addition, using the testing software poses its own difficulties. Noa Kizhnerman, a junior, explains, “the transition will challenge me on the MCQ section simply because I like annotating the questions and marking up the text of passages or documents as I read them.”

Tenth grader, Annette Kim, agrees with this, noting that it would be timeconsuming to copy down questions that need annotations. Another struggle would be flipping through countless digital pages of questions by spam clicking a button, especially to access reference sheets, as

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A New Era In Testing

mentioned by senior Santino Cartelli. Other students just prefer having traditional tests over digital ones. A few students complained of staring at a screen for hours at a time, which can lead to eye strain, headaches, and diminished concentration.

However, some students are looking forward to the transition. The biggest advantage students perceive are easier FRQs. Nicholas Karpenko reports, “People can write quicker and it excludes handwriting as a factor in FRQ sections.”

In addition, it could be beneficial to not have to worry about pencils breaking or pens running out of ink.

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It also seems easier to edit answers with a digital test. “Rather than taking the time to erase a section of your FRQ you didn’t like, you can simply highlight all of that and delete it, not worrying about erasure marks,” eleventh grader Brady He furthers. This also applies to the MCQ section, as not erasing a bubble in answer completely could affect your score.

Finally, with the traditional tests taking a few months to get scores, students are hopeful for quicker grading with a digital AP exam. The MCQs can be automatically graded without needing to scan the papers, as well as the FRQs being

easier to read for the graders. Overall, students are confident in their ability to adapt to digital AP exams. As many have taken digital exams in the past in addition to having practiced with school during COVID lockdowns, almost all students, even those who prefer a pencil and paper medium, feel optimistic towards this change.

Looking ahead, the College Board plans to announce the exam subjects slated for digital administration in the 2026 academic year. Among the subjects expected to transition to digital exams in May 2026 are AP Art History, AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP Computer Science A, AP Human Geography, AP Latin, and AP United States Govern-

ment and Politics. An additional two will affect the RDHS community. By embracing digital technology, the College Board is taking a proactive approach to meet the changing needs of students and educators in an increasingly digital world. Sophomore Edward Dumitru says, “Everyone is now familiar with digital learning so why not test with it too?”


Interact’s Annual Senior Citizen Prom Delights Volunteers And Guests

This spring, senior citizens residing in River Edge & Oradell dressed up after hours and got their groove on for prom at RDHS! As a 20-year annual tradition sponsored by Interact Club, Ms. Sagalchik and Ms. Fontan worked tirelessly to assemble this luminous dinner dance for our community, giving senior citizens the opportunity to dance the night away to live music performed by AU Guys, a senior band that has performed for the senior citizens’ prom for years. The night was accompanied by a scrumptious entrée, refreshments, and dessert served throughout the night. There were several student volunteers prior and during the evening to help with preparation for the big night ahead, transforming our school’s cafeteria into a chic and tranquil space for everyone attending.

One may ask, how does Interact Club assemble this unforgettable night in merely a few hours after school, making seniors look forward to prom every year?

Interact Club is known for their events over the years and their unconditional service to our River Dell community. For 20 years, Interact has been sponsored

by the Oradell-Emerson Rotary that brings adults together to “…provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through [their] fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders” (Rotary International).

Students of Interact arrived at the cafeteria, ready to start moving on the décor for the night. Instructed by Ms. Fontan, students began blowing up balloons for the River Dell themed arc, that would be the backdrop for photo opportunities for both seniors and volunteers who wanted to get their pictures taken with friends. Volunteers also prepared tables by placing the pink flowered table centers on each, also placing gifts for the senior citizens, which were flashlights gifted by the River Dell Education Association. Students were also asked to fill up gift bags that were going to be distributed for their raffle, giving out gifts such as coloring books, wine, and more! Finally, volunteers set up lights around the cafeteria, as well as balloons to light up the atmosphere and welcome in senior citizens at 5:00 p.m.

During the event, food and dessert from students

and the River Dell Education Association was brought in, as well as the arrival of AU Guys getting set up to perform throughout the night. After getting everything done, time had already flown to 4:15 p.m., giving students a little break before any seniors arrived. Once it hit 4:45 p.m., however, everyone started to notice the cars pulling up, and soon enough, the prom was underway.

Seniors began to take their seats and talk amongst themselves, being provided with refreshments and jazz music to welcome their arrival. Volunteers distributed salads as an appetizer for the senior citizens, while some quickly ran to the dance floor with their partners, showing us how it’s done. During this time, a hired photographer was waiting alongside the balloon arc, allowing senior citizens and even volunteers to take photos, get them printed, and have them as a souvenir to remember the night.

Once all the tables were taken up, the caterers were ready for everyone to come up and pick out their entrees for the night, giving them the options of an Italian cuisine, offering mac & cheese, pasta, meatballs, eggplant parmesan, salad, and bread. Senior citizens were not hesitant in grabbing seconds, and Ms. Sagalchik brought out containers for anyone who wanted to bring food home as well.

After their scrumptious entrée, seniors began crowding the dance floor to the sound of trumpets, saxophones, drums, keyboards, and guitars played by AU Guys. Volunteers were conversing with seniors that were sitting, learning more about them and even getting them out of their shell.

Ms. Sagalchik stressed the importance of students volunteering for events like this, as she states, “This prom allows students to interact with senior citizens, it allows them to learn how to help others in the community; students become servers as they help clean, dance, and they just have fun. It’s nice to see students have smiles on their face while they’re helping because they’re learning something. They’re having fun and learning something at the same time.”

For the first time, Interact had an ice cream station along with their desserts, giving seniors and volunteers the opportunity to grab some ice cream to cool themselves down with a delicious treat, thanks to the River Dell Education

Association. “We’re trying something new this year” Ms. Sagalchik adds. “We’ll see how it goes, because senior citizens love food, and it’s gone on the spot!”

And by her prediction, the ice cream bar was a hit! Senior citizens quickly ran to get their choice of ice cream, and it ran out before cookies and cupcakes. Without a doubt, this year’s ice cream station will become part of the tradition for prom. By the end of the night, seniors were still dancing their hearts out, while volunteers were preparing to call out the winners of the raffle prizes. There were about 10-12 prizes to give out, and seniors were overjoyed to win their prizes! By 7:45 p.m., seniors began to depart the cafeteria, and volunteers began to clean up. It is safe to say that this year’s senior citizen prom was a hit. Thank you, Interact, for allowing River Dell to shine through service and shown care for our community! A special thank you as well to Ms. Fontan and Ms. Sagalchik for this year’s successful senior citizen prom, and hopefully, for many more years to come at RDHS!

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Center piece at Senior Citizen Prom table Dancers enjoy themselves at the Senior Citizen Prom

The Resiliency Of River Dell’s Robotics Team

River Dell’s very own Robotics Club has had a remarkable year, taking wins at the state and world level. As their season ends, let’s look at their journey and accomplishments this school year. Although the team has been very succesful this year, their journey was very rough in the beginning. David Suen, a junior, and a member of the club said that, “The main challenge that we faced was a lack of experience.” Jaden, the main builder previously, graduated and left the team struggling to build a robot that could perform as highly as they hoped. But that did not hold them back, because David and his friend Subham quickly learned how

to build and program the robot using the platform On Shape.

Moving forward, Suen mentions how their victories and title of one of the best robotics teams in the world came as a surprise. He explains how shaking off the previous year’s losses was difficult, especially when going up against very skilled teams. He also highlights how, “looking at videos of other teams’ robots and their complicated mechanisms, I could not even conceive of how to make our robots perform as well.”

However, their challenges didn’t stop them. They worked to develop their robot in a unique and simple way. In all, they were pleasantly surprised to take home

first place at the New Jersey State Championships.

As their season has come to an end, one of Suen’s goals for next year is to get more people interested in the Robotics Club. He explains how it relates to all interests. For example, he states, “you can learn many STEM related skills. Even if you are not interested in engineering/coding, you can still use art skills, for example, to design posters, or marketing skills for fundraising.” He also recommends taking the Robotics elective if anyone would like to understand the basics of robot building.

Overall, the River Dell Robotics team has had a great season, with many more accomplishments to follow!

Dr. Jane Goodall Still Inspires At 90

Who says turning 90 means slowing down? Not Dr. Jane Goodall, who’s keeping up with chimpanzees and inspiring us all to go bananas for conservation. This spring, in honor of her 90th birthday, the renowned scientist and anthropologist with the mission to save chimpanzees from extinction, spoke at the Beacon Theatre in New York. There, she reflected on her life’s work of studying chimpanzees, her efforts to become the activist we know today, and the lessons she learned throughout her journey.

The moment Jane Goodall stepped on stage the audi-

ence greeted her with a rendition of “Happy Birthday!” She joked she felt as famous as Taylor Swift. However, instead of enchanting the audience with a song, she bejeweled the audience with her powerful story. She told of her experiences of studying alongside famous paleontologist Louis Leakey and living in the Gombe rainforest in Africa for more than a decade. It was during this time that she discovered that chimpanzees use tools just like humans and have personalities and emotions. She shared her struggles of growing up in a family that couldn’t afford to put her through proper schooling as well as the challenges she confronted of being a woman in the male-dominated science field. One of Dr. Goodall’s main takeaways was that to create change, we must look at how the problems we face are all interconnected. It is only through collabora-

tion, partnerships, and relationships will we be able to make a difference in the world. For example, she shared how many activists want to end deforestation. However, what differentiates Dr. Goodall from many of her contemporaries is that she acknowledges that the first step to this goal is alleviating poverty and improving the human rights of those who live in those environments. Without access to education and economic stability, people are forced to destroy the forest, not because they want to, but because it is the only resource available to them. Therefore, to address a change like deforestation, we must grasp the larger human rights issues instead of isolating our issues in silos.

After her talk she answered questions from Ira Flatow, a radio and television journalist who hosts “Science Friday” on WNYC, and the audience. On a

RD Athletes Commit To Their Colleges

As the 2024 school year is winding down, the seniors have some big decisions to make about their future. College? Trade School? Straight to work? For some students however, it’s more than just the idea of academics they are considering; it’s also sports. This year, around 15 seniors have committed to various colleges for sports ranging from track to wrestling.

We interviewed some of these students about their decisions that led them down this path. One of the questions we asked was, “Was playing a sport in college something you wanted to do, or was it unexpected?” Grace McQueeney (committed to Quinnipiac University for track & field), didn’t know she wanted to do track in college until the

end of her sophomore year, when she placed in the State Championships for long jump. On the other hand, Christina Allen (committed to the University of Cincinnati for Cross Country & Indoor/outdoor track & field) knew she wanted to run in college from the start.

Many underclassmen that dream of playing a sport in college aren’t fully aware of the recruiting process. Whether it is soccer, basketball, softball or track, the approach can be difficult for all. Often, it is very complicated and involves many visits with coaches, multiple highlight videos and showcasing your talent at various camps. Grace McQueeney said the process of getting re-


cruited to Quinnipiac University for track was very stressful. She started her process at the end of sophomore year and concluded it this fall when she signed.

Although the process may be stressful for some, having good support always makes it better. Christina Allen had Coach Urso helping her the entire time. He even introduced Allen to the Cincinnati program.

For students looking to play a sport in college, here is some advice: “Start early,

lighter note, we learned that dogs are her favorite animal. On a more serious note, we learned that sometimes the best way to address those who challenge our beliefs is to tell stories because people can argue with facts not experiences. To close the talk, Dr. Goodall urged the audience to continue the work she started. Her foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute, partners with 160 communities and has restored over 3.4 million acres of forests. Although she has hope for the future, she is concerned that while we have the tools, we might as a society not have the will. So, she had the entire audience stand and repeat her Foundation’s motto: We can, we will, and we must. To learn more about Dr. Goodall and her work you can follow her on Instagram at @janegoodallinst or go to her website at

stay on top of it, and keep up with your grades” says McQueeney. Another piece of advice is to make sure the coach is right for you. Christina Allen said, “Some coaches can be a pain, and some don’t seem to care about the athletes they are recruiting so find a coach that does.” Whatever coach that you pick will be a huge part of your life for your collegiate years, so make sure you find someone you’re comfortable with and someone that has your best interests in mind. We wish all of these students congratulations and good luck in their future years; we know you’re going to shine bright!

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Christina Allen at a meet
Robotics team competing Grace McQueeney in action

House Music Resurges, Again

House music is a genre of music that came from 1970s disco and was very popular in the 90’s. It can only be described as a combination of just about everything: electronic, funk, pop, synth, soul, and more. You may have heard it on the radio, on tv, or just in passing. But now, House music is back, and hopefully it’s here to stay.

Obviously, for those who have been long-term fans, this is nothing new. Yet, new fans can attribute this newfound love for House to Drake’s “Honestly, Nevermind” album and Beyonce’s “Renaissance,” which brought House back into the limelight. Thanks to these

two artists, other musicians have followed suit and started putting out House songs that have fueled this comeback of House music. Songs like “Take It Off” by FISHER, “Where You Are” by John Summit, and “(It Goes Like) Nanana” by Peggy Gou were all released in 2023 and made their way to mainstream music. Other songs like “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” by Modjo, “The Weekend” by Michael Gray, and “Be My Lover” by La Bouche were all released 20 or more years ago, yet they’ve returned as fan favorites, attracting listeners of all ages to House music.

House music has tech-


nically been around this whole time, as classic House songs have been sampled in popular songs throughout the 2000’s and 2010’s. For example, “Fade” by Kanye West sampled “Deep Inside” by Hardrive, “Hotel Room Service” by Pitbull sampled “Push the Feeling On” by The Nightcrawlers, and “Break My Soul” by Beyonce sampled “Show Me Love” by Robin S. So, although House music hasn’t been directly in the forefront of music lately, it hasn’t left mainstream music completely. The only difference now is that DJ’s and artists like John Summit and FISHER are bringing House music back with no sampling, just the music.

There’s no real way to pinpoint exactly what caused this resurgence, because House music hasn’t necessarily changed, and old fans can agree when we say House has always been good. Instead of questioning it though, let’s just enjoy the music. It has a feel-good sound and rhythm that is appealing to all, and you don’t need to be a devout House music listener to admit that it’s catchy, memorable, and easy to dance to.

For new listeners, here are some recommendations that will ease you into the world of House: 1. “World, Hold On”


(feat. Steve Edwards) (FISHER remix) by Bob Sinclair 2. “La Danza” by John Summit 3. “Massive” by Drake 4. “Coroção” (feat. Jaqueline) by Jerry Ropero, Denis the Menace & Sabor 5. “Show Me Love” (feat. Robin S) (Radio Edit) by Laidback Luke & Steve Angello

If you want to revisit some old classics: 1. “Push the Feeling On” (The Dub of Doom) by Nightcrawlers 2. “Music Sounds Better with You” by Stardust 3. “Satisfaction” (Ben-

Book Spotlight: Pride and Prejudice

Looking for a 19th century read based on marriage and love, mixed in with feelings of pride and prejudice? Then this classic novel written by the infamous Jane Austen is the book to read this summer! Through the first few pages of the book, it takes readers to a different time and place in the world as we know it- England in the 19th century, a time when marrying well was a woman’s only way to assure a secure and well-furnished future. Pride and Prejudice has been around for quite some time, and the title has been tossed around for two centuries to readers and non-readers, so one may ask, what’s all the fuss about? Well, the novel portrays several identities of characters, but mainly the outward personalities of the Bennet sisters: Jane, who is 22 years old; Elizabeth (often referred to as Lizzy), who is 20 years old; Mary, who is


18; Catherine (often referred to as Kitty), is 17; and Lydia, the youngest sister at 15 years old. Their mother and father, Mr. And Mrs. Bennet, are growing old, and with that, comes the expectation to marry as soon as possible for the eldest sisters.

The story is told through

Elizabeth Bennet’s perspective, the female protagonist, who is a very outspoken and lively character, even against the odds of the expectations their society dictates of women and their purpose. She is then met by a handsome young man, Fitzwilliam Darcy, the male protagonist, who owns a country estate in Derbyshire. During the early stages of their friendship, Mr. Darcy comes off as a prideful and haughty man, who Ms. Bennet could not stand in the slightest, and she isn’t afraid of saying what’s on her mind about it. Along with seeing his arrogant character, word is spread to Elizabeth of his mean-spirited actions toward George Wickham, a soldier who charms Elizabeth during their first encounter.

However, even with the rocky start of their friendship, Elizabeth notices Mr. Darcy not in the heinous being he is illustrated to be


nior Jack 5. “Around the World” by Daft Punk

And if you are already a House fan, here are some “deeper cuts”: 1. “Pasilda” (Knee Deep Mix) by Afro Medusa 2. “Voy Subiendo” by Andruss & Dmitri Saidi 3. “Rainfall” (Praise You) by Tom Santa 4. “Vente” by Nic Fanciulli & Calussa 5. “Take U” by Jengi

Source: during his first visit to Hertfordshire, as certain circumstances occur throughout the novel that may change Elizabeth’s perspective on her prospects for marriage and her seeking true love. This is a more challenging read for most, but luckily, there are several published versions of Pride and Prejudice. From this perspective, however, I read the version from Signature Classics, which wasn’t impossible to finish. With any time to spare, I was able to complete the book with full understanding in early May, having started in December 2023. Jane Austen has published several other notable books, such as Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, and many more that are classics to this day. Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s second novel, was published anonymously in 1813 in three volumes. If you’re looking for a classic read and have plenty of time on your hands, then I would strongly suggest Pride and Prejudice for avid readers. If you’re still pondering after or before you read, watch the 2005 film directed by Joe Wright. You won’t be sorry!

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ny Benassi Presents The Biz) by Benny Benassi & The Biz “My Feeling” (Daddy’s Prime Time Edit) by Ju-

New York Times Games: The New Fad At RD And Beyond

Do you enjoy playing New York Times games? Recently, participation in games such as: Wordle, Connections, Strands, Crosswords, and several others have skyrocketed. 151 RD students responded to a survey, displaying exciting statistics. 57% (85 students) reported to have played such games daily, while only 9% (14 students) reported to have never played such games.

Let’s find River Dell’s most played games. Based on the recent statistics, around 43% (65 students) selected “Connections” as their favorite, while Digits was ranked the least popular out of all the options, resulting in no votes. On the NYT website, “Wordle” was officially

ranked as the most played. Why exactly are these games suddenly so popular? During the pandemic, such games became an easy way to stay competitive with limited social interactions. With constant need to beat their record, students were able to expand their vocabulary through Wordle, and learn new synonyms due to games such as Connections. Because the school limits access to games and wifi, NYT gives a great chance to fill up our extra time and take a break from schoolwork.

Several teachers around the school shared similar experiences with The New York Times when interviewd. Although they believed it was an amazing opportunity to


stretch an individual’s vocabulary and use their critical thinking skills, it still causes a huge distraction and takes away class time; however, they also feel it is a way to keep oneself focused without falling asleep, or zoning out in class, especially since it serves as an educational experience.

Launched in 1942, the NYT Crossword became a massive hit with the public, as they were an easy distraction from the ongoing crisis of

the war. The latest game is Strands which gives individuals the ability to find words based off a given topic from a jumble of letters. Increasingly popular, Strands gives students an undeniable challenge when thinking of possible answers. It is without a doubt that River Dell High School’s students are intrigued by such competitive yet amusing games.


Torture Or Treat?: The Tortured Poets Department Reviewed

Taylor Swift, superstar and global phenomenon, announced her new album, The Tortured Poets Department at the 2023 Grammy’s, and all hell broke loose. In the last four years, Taylor has put out eight albums (four new and four rerecords). This new album stood out with its black and white album cover and long title, so of course we need to talk about it. As a certified Swiftie since 1989, I feel I am best equipped to give my thoughts. My Swifitie qualifications include owning every single album on vinyl, seeing her “Reputation” Stadium Tour at Met Life Stadium, and adoring everything she does. Here are my thoughts on the first ten tracks. Kanye fans beware… it’s about to get wild. The first track on the album, “Fortnight,” caught fans’ attention immediately. It’s Taylor’s first track that includes a featured artist. Post Malone’s harmonies on the song are melodic and sweet. After their adorable interaction at the 2019 American Music Awards, where Taylor ran to hug him after beating him for the award, fans noticed a friendship. Since 2018, both artists have been nothing but complimentary of each other and their music. Malone appears in the music video for “Fortnight” and is playing the part of Joe Alwyn. This song is catchy yet heartbreaking, as Swift reminisces on what could’ve been with her long-lost London lover. A line that stood out to me and showcases Taylor’s talent in her lyricism is, “All my mornings are stuck in an endless February.” Her ability to take a feeling as bland as “my mornings suck” into a complicated metaphor will always amaze me. Many


fans have speculated Taylor Swift might become a “skin” in the popular video game Fortnite (I hope!)

The second track on the album is the title track, “The Tortured Poets Department.” While fans speculate the song is about ex-flame Matty Healy (ew) the title is a knock at Joe Alwyn and his

group chat with star-studded friend Paul Mescal called The Tortured Man Club. (You’re a rich, white B-list Actor in Hollywood, how tortured can you be?) The song is full of pop culture references. Taylor shouts out to singer and songwriter Charlie Puth who she declares “should be a bigger artist.” Taylor also al-

ludes to Dylan Thomas and Patti Smith, two successful literary legends, to say Matty Healy isn’t that talented, and I’ve got to agree.

The third track on the album is called “My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys.”

When asked about this track Swift had this to say, “My Boy Only Breaks His Favor-

ite Toys” is a song I wrote alone, and it’s a metaphor of…being somebody’s favorite toy, until they break you, and then don’t want to play with you anymore, which is how a lot of us are in relationships, where we are so valued by a person in the beginning, and then all of a sudden, they break us, or they devalue us in their mind, and we’re still clinging onto, “No, no, no, you should’ve seen them the first time they saw me. They’ll come back to that.” Well, if that isn’t heartbreaking, I don’t know what is. Hearing this for the first time at midnight on April 19th, I bawled my eyes out. Take what you will from that information.

The fourth track on the album, and a personal underrated favorite of mine, “Down Bad” explores alien abduction. It’s an interesting metaphor for what Taylor calls “love bombing” which she describes as lots of affection from a partner right before they completely and utterly abandon you. She hints at her song midnights and her quick fling with Matty Healy. The lyrics, “I loved your hostile takeovers, encounters closer and closer, all your indecent exposures, how dare you say that it’s –I’ll build you a fort on some planet.” Is a dig at Matty’s constant gyrating and inappropriate dancing at his concerts with the indie band 1975. I’m not sure why I love this song so much (I have a deep fear of “love bombing.”)

The fifth song in The Tortured Poets Department is “So Long, London,” arguably the most heartbreaking song from Taylor’s entire discography. Taylor’s track fives are known for being her most vulnerable songs, and this one delivers. The song

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June 2024 Page 8 entertainment

The Tortured Poets Department Album Review

is a direct parallel to her song “London Boy” about Joe Alwyn from her album Lover. The song explores the end of their seven-yearlong relationship that, let’s be real, we all thought was endgame (pun intended). Whether it was fear of going to the altar, struggles with mental health, or a potential miscarriage, this relationship wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. Taylor grabbed my heart from my chest and ripped it in two with the lyrics, “So how much sad did you think I had? Did you think I had in me?”

Her sixth song from this album titled, “But Daddy, I Love Him,” alludes to Princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Taylor shows she is tired of nitpicking and unwanted opinions from the media on her personal life. After facing constant scrutiny about her body and the never-ending pregnancy rumors, Taylor pulls a fast one on us with the lyric, “I’m having’ his baby, no, I’m not, but you should see your faces.” When I heard the first part I audibly gasped. Swifties have begun sharing their reactions to their first listens to the lyrics on social media, and it is priceless.

Track number seven is called “Fresh Out the Slammer.” Slammer, slang for jail, is a metaphor for getting out of a toxic relationship. Whether she’s talking

about Joe, Matty, or, both, we’ll never know. I think she’s talking about Joe since she referenced him in her song “Bejeweled” which makes it seem like he dims her sparkle. This song is a must-listen if you are trying to put together the pieces of this breakup mystery. “Florida!!!” the eighth track in the Tortured Poets Department, is the other track featuring another artist. Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine, who’s most known for her song “Dog Days Are Over,” who adds devastatingly beautiful artistry to the song. Welch’s deep voice is in stark contrast to Taylor’s sweet, euphonious sound. Swift’s “Eras” tour shows in Tampa, was when the breakup rumors between her and Joe went global. This song represents Taylor’s fresh start.

“Guilty as Sin?” is a Matty Healy “diss track.” After getting called out on the internet for racist behavior and mocking Taylor’s good friend Ice Spice, Matty’s name was dragged through the mud. Taylor joins in on the roasting with the line, “Oh, Carolina knows why for years they’ve said, that I was guilty as sin and sleep in a liar’s bed.” That lyric also references Taylor’s song “Carolina” which is featured in the book adaptation film of Where the Crawdads Sing

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(a must-watch movie). Track ten, “Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?” mocks the dumb and frankly misogynistic rumors that are made up about Taylor Swift in the media. This song has a similar sound to some of her tracks from Reputation which Swifties (me included) hope will be her next re-recorded album. Some Swifties have assumed there is a connection to the

1962 play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf which is about a failed marriage. The other tracks on the first part of The Tortured Poets Department include “I Can Fix Him (No Really, I Can),” “loml,” “I Can Do It with A Broken Heart,” “The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived,” “The Alchemy,” and “Clara Bow.” There is a whole other half to this album called “The Anthology”

that is a must-listen. I have enjoyed listening to this album on repeat these last couple of weeks. I like how Taylor didn’t strive to make chart toppers, but instead made real songs about real heartbreak that real people can relate to. Her ability to bare her soul in 31 songs will forever astonish me. I can’t wait to see what’s next for her.

Luca Guadagino’s Challengers Serves, Balls and All

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagino has done it once again after stunning fans with his recent film, Challengers, which follows a decade long journey of three talented tennis players: two childhood best friends and one insanely ambitious woman. Though Guadagino’s lush style of cinema is prevalent in this film, there are other important names to be aware of: screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes, who is married to Korean director Celine Song and composers Reznor and Ross, who are credited with composing for popular films like, The Social Network and Gone Girl. Additionally, the actors, Mike Faist (Art Donaldson), Josh O’Connor (Patrick Zweig), and Zendaya (Tashi Duncan) captivate the audience with their intense chemistry, while also portraying the depth of their own characters. Watching their relationship with ten-

nis on and off the court and how it sparked change in their relationships with each other is riveting.

The core of the film is essentially revealed through Zendaya’s character’s bold statement that tennis is not just a game, but a relationship. This line lingers in audience members’ minds throughout the rest of the movie, whether that is in match sequences or intimate moments between characters. Lines like these highlight how terrific the script is, thanks to Kuritzkes. The sharp dialogue between all three characters made the storyline that much better.

The cinematography was fantastic, which is no surprise coming from a Guadagino film. From exciting scenes where the audience is watching the final match from the point of view of the tennis ball, to intense moments where the camera

moves back and forth between the three characters, this movie was visually phenomenal.

Zendaya undoubtedly embraced this role completely, and it is so exciting to watch her personify such a complex and ruthless character, as this is only the second piece of work that she has appeared in where she does not portray a teenager. There is no denying that Tashi Duncan is the most commanding of the three, yet that did not stop Faist and O’Connor from doing their part. Both male leads complemented Zendaya’s character so well, bringing out parts of Tashi that we would not have seen otherwise. Their dynamic reflects the game of tennis, so tense and intimate, and consequently, the relationship needed to fuel it.

It is anxiety inducing to watch this decade-long game

Source: they play with each other. Thanks to Reznor and Ross’ upbeat, techno score featured in the film, it seems like everyone was at the edge of their seat. From rhythmic EDM tracks to a children’s choir piece, the Challengers soundtrack covers all bases and is so well done. Quite honestly, we can not recommend this film enough. It is fun, entertaining, wild,

and dramatic…to say the least. When the credits rolled, we wanted to watch it all over again, right then and there.

So, you can take what we said with a grain of salt but go watch the film yourself to take your own stance on the story and the characters!

June 2024 Page 9 entertaiment

In Memory Of

Debbie Hoock

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