Roll With It

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BY AND FOR THE YOUTH OF LOUISVILLE • FALL/WINTER 2023-24 David Armstrong Extreme Park darkens at curfew. We shine a light on the community’s response. p. 30
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7 12 18 24 30 38 44 50 Out With the New Our City’s Sanctuary Grounds for Growth

We highlight sustainability in a world of fast fashion.

Get a look behind the curtain on Louisville’s LGBTQ youth support group.

Do you know where your favorite Louisville park’s funding comes from?

Larger than Louisville

Two study abroad students, two unique perspectives.

New Skate of Mind

Cruise through the story behind Louisville’s most renowned skatepark and its new hours.

It’s a Woman’s World

Louisville women are fighting violence — one flip at a time.

Ruling Out Race

A new Supreme Court ruling makes colleges admissions a complexity.

Turning Pointe

The Louisville Ballet is raising the funding barre.


ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 3


On The Record 2023-2024

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 4
Iris Apple photographer Jackson Barnes assignment editor Claire Dixon designer Emma Johnson photographer Julia May managing editor Maanya Sunkara marketing assistant Lucy Vanderhoff assignment editor Sydney Webb assignment editor Jeremy Young designer Noa Yussman designer Silas Mays designer Uyen Nguyen designer Maya O’Dell reporter Keller Mobley web managing editor Amelia Jones creative director Emerson Jones content director Grace Kirby designer Joanna Lee reporter Frances Fendig marketing assistant Erica Fields photo editor Kendall Geller copy editor Sadie Eichenberger photographer Luke Boggs reporter Cameron Breier marketing director Mali Bucher promotional coordinator



is a magazine by and for the youth of Louisville. In 2015, our publication transitioned from duPont Manual High School’s tabloid-size school newspaper, the Crimson Record, to a magazine that focuses on long form in-depth storytelling for a Louisville-wide audience. Using our training as writers, photographers, and designers, our mission is to create quality local journalism for youth that includes the crucial but often overlooked youth perspective. Each issue’s content is determined and produced by youth.


On the Record is a member of the National Scholastic Press Association, the Columbia High School Press Association, and the Kentucky High School Journalism Association. Previous accolades include NSPA Pacemakers and CSPA Gold Crowns. Individual stories have earned multiple NSPA Story of the Year placements, CSPA Gold Circles, and the Brasler Prize.


On the Record is distributed to youth-friendly businesses in the Louisville area, as well as to teachers who request class sets.

If you wish to share this magazine with your students or in your business, please contact us.

By subscribing to On the Record, you can receive both editions of our magazine. Subscriptions require sponsorship. More information about sponsorships can be found on page 58.

Additional and past content can be found at Social media content can be found on Instagram: @ontherecordmag.


On the Record would love to hear from you! Our magazine is published by the students of the Journalism and Communications Magnet at duPont Manual High School, 120 W. Lee St., Louisville, KY 40208. Leave us feedback at or email us at

You may also contact the faculty adviser, Liz Palmer at

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 5
Sophy Zhao multimedia Dea Rexhepi marketing assistant Nora Ruscoe reporter Liz Palmer adviser Blake Sinclair multimedia Acacia Lopez HR coordinator Addison Lowry multimedia Jazmine Martinez design editor Sammie Haden assignment editor Zoe Huguley reporter Emma Gonzalez multimedia Anna Burzynski assignment editor Lily Cashman editor-in-chief Terra Dempsey designer

letter from the EDITOR

Dear Readers,

When I decided to apply to the Journalism and Communications magnet at duPont Manual High School over four years ago, I didn’t know what it would have in store for me. I was a young teenager who knew very little about myself besides the fact that I enjoyed sitting in English class more than math.

What started as nothing more than words on a page quickly became a way for me to connect with myself, my classmates, and my community at large. Journalism has unlocked a sense of purpose within me that seems to burst out in everything I do. I love watching a story unfold, each layer stacking on top of eachother haphazardly until it eventually reveals itself. I have learned to find joy in the chaos of the newsroom, surrounded by this staff, who all have their own reasons for being here, but share in the same love for this magazine.

With that in mind, our cover story for this issue was created by a team of solely first year staffers, who demonstrated the passion and persistence needed to produce an OTR article. Their story, “New Skate of Mind,” looks into the ever vibrant skateboarding scene in Louisville and the recent changes to the David Armstrong Extreme Park’s hours. While the skaters can’t reverse the violence that occurred nearby, nor the new curfew that followed, their community still stands strong.

So in this magazine we bring you “Roll With It.” A reminder that some things in life are out of our control,

and that while we may not be able to change what happened, we can still find agency in our responses.

As you read, you will encounter stories that follow a similar theme, such as how a Louisville support group for LGBTQ youth responded to recent senate bills targeting them, or how admissions officers and students alike are still learning how to respond to the complex ruling over affirmative action. This wasn’t an intentional connection, but one that seemed to fall into plain sight. Perhaps, it’s a sign for us all to think about how we respond to situations in which we feel powerless.

This edition of OTR features a variety of other stories, such as the study abroad experience for college students, and a look into a popular youth-run upcycling business in Louisville. You will learn about funding for both the Louisville Ballet and the city’s vast parks system. Plus, a story centered around various forms of women empowerment — a topic that we all found great importance in as an all-girl Editorial Board.

Now it’s your turn to delve in. As you “roll” through these stories I hope you find something that resonates with you, something that inspires you, and something you’re curious to learn more about.

Talk again soon,

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 6

Out WithThe

Pins and Needles • Charlotte Butler, 17, sorts sewing pins in the Janky Clothes workspace, Oct. 17. Butler and her business partner, Lilia Zamanian, 17, upcycle and sell clothes online. Photo by Erica Fields.
The art of upcycling has transformed the fashion industry. One small business has used this sustainable practice to create an array of unique pieces.

unched over my desk, I could feel the strain in my back and the ache in my fingers from cutting fabric. As the ruined T-shirts began to pile onto my floor, what began as a carefree afternoon activity soon turned into a strenuous, mindnumbing, all-nighter project. I was going for an off-the-shoulder cropped T-shirt, but my progress was stagnant. I threw my pair of scissors to the ground alongside the pile of strings that once resembled a shirt.

Fuschia and flannel littered the floor all in vain; I still hadn’t made the shirt that I had originally hoped for. I curled

up on my bed, pulled out my phone and logged into my Brandy Melville account. With three simple clicks, I added the shirt that I had envisioned into my cart.

My package arrived a few days later, and I had long since picked up the messy fabric and strings. Although I ripped open the box eagerly, I still felt guilty forfeiting my ingenuity and turning to fast fashion.

Fast fashion, the duplication of expensive looks using cheaper materials, often from exploitative companies, has caused an insatiable hunger within our nation. Consumers like me are obsessed with its quickness.

Microtrends have run rampant, promoting styles that are chic one month and dull the next. This desire to partake in the latest fad has caused buyers to turn away from quality, longlasting pieces, to pieces that are cheap, new, and quick to come by. With closets filled with outof-style trends, where’s the room for personal creativity?

A solution some have found to reduce wasting unwanted clothes is altering the clothes themselves — through upcycling. In fashion, upcycling is the changing and reuse of clothes to make something new with a greater value. As someone who

Fabric Monster • Lilia Zamanian gives a tour of the Janky Clothes workspace operated out of her attic, showing the fabrics she is waiting to upcycle, Oct. 17. Photo by Erica Fields.

lacks artistic ability, upcycling was daunting and frustrating at first. But it was like any other hobby, taking practice and time. I started by transforming old T-shirts into halter tops, slicing the fabric and weaving simple stitches. However, some people take it to another level, using their talents to create complex designs and even selling their work.

Lilia Zamanian, 17, a senior at the Francis Parker School and creator of the brand Janky Clothes, took the basics of the craft and went above and beyond.

“I started getting back into sewing a few years ago,” Zamanian said. “Just going to Goodwill and recycling things into new things for me to wear, personally, was just fun, so I wanted to do it for other people.”

I met Zamanian while walking through a clothing market just across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The Value Market, held in September, was bustling with creators and customers. The last days of summer sun were shining down on stands stocked with everything from eccentric designs to essential oils. As I perused the market, I came across the Janky Clothes tent, full of clothing and accessories. Zamanian and her business partner, Charlotte Butler, 17, a senior at the Louisville Collegiate School, stood out front welcoming people into their booth. I went in, and was immediately intrigued by their unique craftsmanship, especially their bestselling belt, which was made out of a seatbelt and embellished with bottle caps.

Zamanian’s stylistic inspiration came from her family — her grandfather had a similar belt to the ones Janky Clothes had for sale. He passed it down to her mom, and after years of seeing her mom wear it, Zamanian wanted to recreate the hand-me-down accessory.

So she and Butler went on the hunt for materials. They traveled to Louisville junk yards to strip old Ford vehicles of their seatbelts, and found the bottle caps around their houses and workplaces.

“Sustainable fashion and upcycling and recycling clothes, at the end of the day, is a really good thing to be doing with our time,” Butler said.

Zamanian has spent years dedicating her time to upcycling. In middle school, she’d go around her classes before the school bell rang, asking for people’s wrappers. She would then go home and combine the recyclables with duct tape to create unique wallets.

“It’s one of my favorite stories about her,” Butler said. “It just goes to show how much this has been woven into her personality from day one. She’s always been someone that’s like, ‘I’m gonna take this and make it something else.’”

This love for sustainability led Zamanian to a passion that remains today: thrifting. She found joy in upcycling the items she picked up while perusing flea markets, spending hours at Goodwill, and going to yard sales.

After she began upcycling, she expanded her craft from merely creating accessories to restructuring larger pieces. Sewing jeans and jackets, Zamanian spent her free time hunched over in her room creating clothes for herself. She hand sewed as a beginner, which was tedious, but to Zamanian, it was worth it. Her upcycling projects allowed her to channel her craftiness into her overall passion for sustainability.

With this passion, a few months of practice, and frequenting flea markets to sell her works, Janky Clothes was born in August 2022. Zamanian started Janky Clothes with another friend, but her current business

“Sustainable fashion and upcycling and recycling clothes, at the end of the day, is a really good thing to be doing with our time.”
- Charlotte Butler, 17, Janky Clothes Partner

partner, Butler, has always had an influence. Butler started out as a graffiti artist and Zamanian got the name for the business from Butler’s graffiti tag, “Janky.”

While their business is profitable now, it started as a passion project.

“When I first began, I didn’t go into it expecting to make a lot of money,” Zamanian said. “I simply started because I thought it would be fun, and I loved to sew.”

At first, Zamanian did all of her work out of her bedroom, but as Janky Clothes grew, Zamanian’s room started to look more like a workshop. What started as a pile of needles and thread had grown into a fabric monster occupying every inch of her personal space.

“Her whole room was covered in clothes, so she kind of had to go somewhere else,” Butler said.

An opportunity to relocate presented itself when Zamanian’s older brother moved out of the house and she took his room as a workspace for herself.

With this new workspace, things kicked into overdrive. Butler started seriously working with Zamanian and they became business partners. After more

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 9

Goodwill trips and workdays in their attic of apparel, their business grew.

About a month after initially meeting the duo at the Value Market, I reconnected with Zamanian and Butler and they showed me around their workspace.

Walking in, I saw thermal fabrics and half-created sweaters lining the pool table that was once used for Zamanian’s brother’s game nights. Vintage beer taps were tucked neatly in a corner, huge lamps that resembled stage lights stood on tall rods, and a collage made of 1950s-esque Playboy posters was hung on the wall. Four sewing machines, large fabric slices, and needles and pins littered otherwise open spaces. But even with all of this, it didn’t seem particularly lavish. As I walked through the workspace, it became clear that Zamanian’s work with upcycling was humbler than I had assumed.

Now, the duo tries to find time in their busy lives to continue creating for Janky Clothes. They spread their mission of sustainability at popup shops around the community and on their website.

“You can find good quality stuff and it’s worth it and it’s good for the environment,” Butler said. “And it’s secondhand, meaning it’s not first-time use and you’re not throwing another thing in a dumpster.”

After listening to Zamanian’s story and seeing her workspace, I realized these sustainable fashion efforts didn’t have to start big or become large enterprises to still be respectable. I had this idea that the only way you could ever create any form of fashion was to have thousands of dollars for supplies, but Zamanian started like me — someone looking for a project with a few tools lying around.

This new knowledge inspired me. In the beginning, I wanted to upcycle for the purpose of elevating my own creativity by making something new for my closet out of clothes that hadn’t been touched since they’d been bought. I wanted to do something for myself instead of turning to the apps and “oneclick-buy.” However, I gained much more during my deep dive into the art of upcycling — a new motivation to find happiness with what I already have and an appreciation for sustainability. I stayed up for hours that night after touring Zamanian and Butler’s workspace, taking their advice on how best to go about the craft. I even managed to make a fitted tube top for my party plans that weekend — all with a pair of scissors and a needle and thread from my mom’s drawer. •

Sew What? • In the Janky Clothes workspace, four sewing machines of various sizes, colors, and styles sit on different work tables spread across the room, Oct. 17. Photo by Erica Fields.
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Since the 1990s, queer youth have come together in a support group that encourages important conversation and provides a space to connect with LGBTQ peers.

Across a room full of vibrant colors, a purple curtain at the back of the room stood out. Behind it was a walkin closet — so large it could be a small thrift shop. But unlike a thrift store, there were no price tags on the clothes or frantic shoppers in the aisles.

The closet, named the Beyond Labels Resource Closet, was packed with clothes for queer youth to try on and take home — free of charge.

Since the start of 2021, Em Joy, director of the Louisville Youth Group (LYG), has watched queer youth pick out genderaffirming clothes before the beginning of group meetings. Some members wear the clothes during meetings alongside their friends at LYG, whom they feel comfortable with, and some choose to take them home. These clothes make up only a fraction of the support LYG has given queer youth for years.

LYG is a nonprofit support group for LGBTQ youth in Louisville and surrounding communities. Established in 1990, the group has acted as a safe haven for young people ages 5-24 for decades.

Group meetings are held at LYG’s central location — First Lutheran Church on East Broadway. From the outside, “Louisville Youth Group” sounds like a Christian youth group. Joy said that the name and location of the group were no coincidence.

“We were founded in 1990, so we wanted to fly under the radar and be more secretive to protect the folks who weren’t out to their families or who weren’t out to

their communities yet,” Joy said. “And so we still have that name. And with that name, and our history, it carries a lot of weight.”

Although LYG’s name has stayed the same for over 30 years, the organization and its members have changed over time. Kyle Gaddis, father of a current LYG member and a former member himself, noted the changes he observed since his time at LYG.

“There definitely are a lot more live talks about being trans, being non-binary,” Gaddis said.

Since Gaddis’ departure from LYG in 2006, the LGBTQ community has taken major steps nationwide — namely the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage and removal of discriminatory laws. Although these changes were made at the national level, Gaddis felt that they translated locally — all the way down to LYG kids’ interactions. Gaddis returned to LYG with his own 8-year-old child, Rose, who identifies as non-binary — a discovery they made through their time at LYG. Gaddis noted that, compared to his fellow alumni, kids in current group meetings seemed not only more confident in themselves, but more comfortable talking about their identity with the people around them. Gaddis hoped that Rose could benefit from the outspoken community, and they did.

“We read a book, like a storybook, about gender identity,” Gaddis said. “And, the moment we were done, they were like, ‘That’s me.’”

Although Rose felt supported by LYG, coming out can still be

a scary, monumental moment in a young person’s life. The passing of Kentucky Senate bills limiting LGBTQ discourse and opportunities has only exacerbated this anxiety. Such legislation has been a major talking point in recent news.

In the past few years, legislatures in states across the U.S. have introduced over 500 controversial bills limiting LGBTQ rights. The American Civil Liberties Union reported in a continually updated infographic that, as of December, the Kentucky legislature proposed 11 of these bills — most notably SB150 and SB145, which have both been passed into law.

SB145, which Gov. Andy Beshear signed into law in March, outlined eligibility rules for interscholastic athletes. It’s controversial because of its section ensuring that athletes are grouped with their biological sex. This impacts Kentucky’s trans athletes, who aren’t able to play

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 13
First Lutheran Church, where Louisville Youth Group members meet.

with or compete against peers of their preferred gender.

SB150 was also signed into law in March after the Kentucky General Assembly overrode Gov. Beshear’s veto on the bill. SB150 limits the discussion of LGBTQ issues in school, denoting it as one of the “don’t say gay’’ bills that were introduced in several states. Florida passed the original “don’t say gay’’ bill in July 2022. The passing of SB150 caused an uproar in the commonwealth — specifically in local high schools, where students at schools such as Atherton High School and the J. Graham Brown School organized protests and walkouts.

The Trevor Project, an organization providing crisis services for queer youth, reported that in a 2023 survey of 28,000 queer youth, nearly two in three respondents said hearing about these potential state or local laws censoring LGBTQ topics made their mental health “a lot worse.”

For many young people, school was the place where they could exercise personal expression freely and safely among like-minded peers. This included queer expression. SB150 encroached on this expressive outlet by censoring queer discourse and removing privacy protections of LGBTQ students.

“We have always created safe spaces for our community, and we’ll continue doing so,” Joy said. “Regardless of what the government says, it’s what the organization was built on.”

LYG is led by a full time staff, volunteers, and youth leaders who hold multiple group meetings per month. These groups include the Junior Group, which serves children ages 5-12, the Teen Group, ages 13-19, the LYG Rising group, ages 18-24, and more.

Clover Gossman, 21, began attending LYG meetings in the summer of 2019, when he was beginning to accept himself as a trans man. Navigating one’s identity can be difficult, but Gossman’s friends at LYG accepted him for exactly who he was — nothing more, nothing less.

“During my first meeting there, I told a few people that I’m trans and they were like, ‘What? You’re trans? I thought you were cis,’” Gossman said. “That really reassured me because I was always super worried about whether or not I passed as a man.”

Even after aging out of the Teen Group, Gossman attended the LYG Rising group meetings and planned to continue.

Gossman said. “When tax season comes around, we’re going to hold a meeting on how to do taxes.”

As of October, the LYG Rising group was a fairly new addition to the organization, one that Joy themself implemented.

“One of the reasons why I created the young adults group, the LYG Rising group, is because we had so many teens aging out of our Teen Group, and they had no other place to go,” Joy said.

The LYG staff knew that there were other kids out there desperate for a support system — especially at the height of COVID-19, when in-person meetings weren’t possible.

So they started a virtual group that gave LYG members a way to communicate with their peers in a time of isolation. Among the kids attending these virtual groups were young queer kids at Maryhurst, an inpatient mental and behavioral health facility in Louisville. Even before COVID-19, queer kids at Maryhurst weren’t allowed to leave the facility often enough to attend group meetings. While the virtual group was discontinued after COVID-19, LYG refused to leave behind the young people at Maryhurst.

However, Joy believes that LYG provides a safe space for members to express their queerness and have conversations surrounding gender and sexual identity that they can no longer

“I grew more comfortable in my identity because of LYG and how accepting they are,” Gossman said. “I very much cherish all my friends I’ve made there for that.”

LYG Rising prepares young adults to thrive as a marginalized group after they leave LYG.

“We talk about how to apply for jobs and things like that,”

“Instead of meeting them virtually, we actually started a group at Maryhurst to be able to meet those kids and build community and support for them at that facility,” Joy said.

Joy and LYG still aspire to reach out to even more queer

“I grew more comfortable in my identity because of LYG and how accepting they are.”
- Clover Gossman, 21, LYG Rising Group Member

group. While the organization is too small to offer more locations, other communities across Kentucky have formed their own local support groups for LGBTQ youth after witnessing LYG’s positive impact.

“LYG is also working with community members in some rural areas who want to start their own version of LYG,” Joy said. “Because we have paid staff and access to national resources, we collaborate with those folks to try to get them organized, get them off the ground.”

LYG holds a variety of events every year — most notably their Pride Prom in the spring and Youth Empowerment Camp in the fall. The camp provides an opportunity for members to bond while learning about LGBTQ history.

At the 2022 camp, they held a discussion on sapphic, or lesbian, history, alongside a weaving project, combining typical camp crafts with LGBTQ history.

This year’s September camp was a weekend without phones, and consisted of activities like a talent show hosted by drag queens and hikes around the campsite.

This past summer’s pool party was another bonding activity utilized to spend time with fellow LYG members and friends alike. But similar to the camp, the party’s activities were still informative.

“We held a mental health awareness session where, essentially, we gave people chalk and allowed them to respond to a prompt that was, ‘What does mental health mean to you?’” Gossman said.

Along with their major events, LYG tries to make attending meetings as accessible as possible by putting a calendar with times for each meeting on their website. There are no

requirements to attend the group — anyone is allowed to come, whether it’s just once or for an extended period of time. Evelyn, 8, attended LYG for the first time in October and they fit in right beside the other kids in LYG’s Junior Group.

“I don’t really know many people like me,” Evelyn said, “and it’s really exciting.”

Evelyn is non-binary and struggled to find other nonbinary kids their own age, so their

mom recommended that they go to an LYG meeting. After that first meeting, Evelyn planned to attend more monthly meetings and LYG events.

• • As a nonprofit organization, LYG relies heavily on donations. For meetings, they use space donated by First Lutheran Church. The Beyond Labels Resource Closet also operates out of First Lutheran Church, thanks to donations from clothing drives.

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 15
• •
Art Project • Rose, 8, in attendance with their father, works on arts and crafts at Louisville Youth Group’s bi-weekly Junior Group meeting, Oct. 25. Photo by Iris Apple. Program Director • Em Joy shows the photographic history book, We Are Everywhere, at Louisville Youth Group, Nov. 6. Photo by Iris Apple.

LYG holds the drives to ensure the closet is always stocked for use by its members. The clothes are sorted into various bins and hung on one of several racks.

A special part of LYG’s closet is its collection of chest binders, a piece of clothing used to flatten one’s chest.

Some of Joy’s fondest LYG memories are offering chest binders to group members for the first time.

“The minute they put on a chest binder or a gender affirming item their whole body language changes,” Joy said with a smile. “They stand up taller, their faces just lit up with excitement and enjoyment and euphoria. To be able to see that kind of change, just by providing a simple piece of clothing — it’s huge.”

The clothes in LYG’s closet are also used to create more lighthearted memories, such as the Junior Group’s fashion show.

“It was really fun because we got to dress up in things from the donations closet and we would be able to walk down the carpet and just have a blast,” said Vic, a 9-yearold participant in the show.

• • •

While Joy thought that LYG has made improvements in its 30 plus years serving LGBTQ youth, they believed there was still room for growth — starting with making LYG more accessible to the community.

In order to get to LYG’s meeting space, members have to climb a steep staircase — one that isn’t currently wheelchair accessible. While Joy and the organization have cultivated a close relationship with the church, they dream of a future where wheelchair-using members can be more involved.

Joy also wants to reach more rural kids who aren’t able to travel to group meetings. However, LYG’s nonprofit business

“LYG will always exist. We’re not going anywhere.”

model and lack of funding has proved that a new location is not in the cards for LYG in the near future. Nevertheless, Joy keeps their hopes high.

“We definitely have plans to do more outreach,” Joy said, “and exist in other areas outside of the greater Louisville area.”

Still, LYG continues to reach out locally. The Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Network is a national organization focused on educating young LGBTQ people in youth-led groups on issues happening around them. LYG is part of the GSA Network, which entails working with JCPS counselors and therapists in the community.

In 2022, LYG served around 500 kids locally. Joy estimated that, since then, the Junior Group has either doubled or tripled in size. As LYG’s groups grow, they continue to be sanctuaries for members to discuss pressing topics — especially since, as of December, only one semester of school had passed since the Kentucky legislature signed SB150 into law, and even less time had passed since districts such as JCPS adopted policies to implement the bill. For LYG members and other queer students, the long-term effects of SB150 are largely uncertain, and as a result, so is their future.

“When those bills got passed, our kids came into the group and they were completely depressed,”

Joy said. “They felt hopeless and they felt like there was absolutely nothing that they could do to change anything.”

Still, their despair did not deter them from spurring into action. After the kids in the Teen Group worked through their feelings on the passage of SB150, they knew more could be done.

They spent the remainder of the meeting learning about how to get involved in activism — for now and for when they grow up and become alumni of the organization.

“Even when you’re feeling hopeless, there are things you can do to make change,” Joy said, “and there are things that you can do to lift yourself up and lift other people up.”

Joy took a step toward the LYG mural painted in their main room — the room that has given LGBTQ youth a home for over three decades, the room they were able to work their dream job in, and the room in which they have seen other trans kids step into their true selves. As Joy stared into the mural with large, rainbow-colored block letters reading “LYG,” they smiled and hugged themself.

“Even when the laws are against us, we still have our community and we still have this space,” Joy said. “And LYG will always exist. We’re not going anywhere.” •

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 17
• • •
Energetic Adventures • A young boy runs to the “pop-up” nature play amenity at Russell Lee Park, Oct. 21.
Louisville’s expansive park system bears a complicated past full of uneven funding, but a new plan may lead to more equitable solutions.

Istepped onto the short path through William Harrison Park, located in the Taylor Berry neighborhood of west Louisville. It was a sunny, cloudless October day, and I couldn’t help but notice how different it was from the parks I grew up going to, which were predominantly wellfunded and in the East End, where property values are generally higher. It was much smaller, with the bare pavilion just mere feet from the defunct splash pad, only a few steps from the playground. Taking up the left half of the park, though, was one of the nicest public turf fields I’d ever seen.

This field was a recent project of the Parks Alliance of Louisville, a nonprofit that aims to bring equitable investment and access to parks across the city. Before this, there had been no public turf fields in south Louisville.

But as I approached the field, installed just over four years ago, I couldn’t help but notice the rundown nature of the park. There were overgrown weeds at the base of the bleachers next to the pristine turf, cracks on the small basketball court, and weeds growing up the park fence.

I expected to find a similar

lack of upkeep in some of the other smaller, city-funded parks I visited, but I was pleasantly surprised. At Breslin Park in the eastern Irish Hill neighborhood, a young man was weeding the plant bed next to the Parks Alliance-funded skatepark. At Russell Lee Park in the Park DuValle neighborhood in the West End, large paths sat free of litter and weeds alongside the Parks Alliance’s “pop-up” nature play amenity, an installation for kids to play with and discover nature through logs, rocks, and stumps.

I’m not the only one who noticed that a divide has opened between parks across the city.

Brooke Pardue, president and CEO of Parks Alliance of Louisville, noticed this gap widening, especially during COVID-19.

“We realized that there was no way that we were going to ‘Whac-A-Mole’ our way out of decades of systemic disinvestment in our public parks,” Pardue said.

So she took inspiration from outside of Louisville’s limits and looked to peer cities, or cities with a similar population.

“I had been to a conference in November of 2019, talking

about work that had been done in Minneapolis and Pittsburgh around park equity and doing a thorough analysis,” Pardue said.

She decided a similar project could be the way to jumpstart Louisville’s shift toward equitable parks.

“We worked at raising the money, getting everything lined up, and we launched the Parks for All initiative in August of 2021,” Pardue said.

Parks for All is a comprehensive analysis of every aspect of parks: investment, health in the area, what residents want, and much more. The Parks for All initiative published its final report in January 2023. Pardue was not surprised by the disinvestment, but rather the extent of it.

“I think the level to which we have not been serving our underserved communities, the level to which we have not invested in low-income community parks and low-income communities of color where the benefits of quality parks are most needed was still shocking to me,” Pardue said.

These disparities became even more evident when examining the source and distribution of funding.

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 19

The Louisville Parks and Recreation department manages 120 parks. Along with city funding, 17 of these parks receive additional money through the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit founded to preserve and maintain the parks, which were designed by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Another nonprofit, Wilderness Louisville, supports natural areas such as forests and swamps and provides additional funding for 13 more parks. Two parks, Shawnee and Chickasaw, receive supplementary funding from both organizations.

“We provide an extra layer of care for our parks,” said Layla

George, president and CEO of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

The funding from the Olmsted Parks Conservancy and Wilderness Louisville assists with upkeep, events, and preservation, but only a fraction of Louisville’s parks benefit from this kind of extra support.

While these organizations help with the upkeep of these parks, the limited funding distribution creates a greater imbalance in the quality of parks across Louisville. This is what the Parks Alliance of Louisville aims to fix, but it hasn’t always been their focus.

The Parks Alliance of Louisville started as the Louisville Parks

Foundation, tasked with acquiring land for Jefferson Memorial Forest. Over time, the organization was rebranded with a wider mission to increase investment in all parks across the city.

Despite extra help from three of these different nonprofits, Louisville faces a citywide lack of funding for parks. Parks Alliance of Louisville found that, in 2019, the Louisville Metro Government spent just $43 per resident on parks, while peer cities spent an average of $118 per resident. This brings down the quality of parks across Louisville and is why nonprofits like Olmsted Parks Conservancy and Wilderness Louisville exist in the first place.

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 20
Grand Opening • Brooke Pardue, president and CEO of the Parks Alliance of Louisville, gives the opening speech during the grand opening of Alberta O. Jones Park, Nov. 18. As Pardue gave the speech, excited children laughed as they explored the new playground. Photo by Erica Fields.

The report also noted that, since 2004, 15 of the Olmstead Parks have received a total of $38.4 million in funding, while in the same period, 103 other Louisville parks have received just $42.1 million to split amongst them. In less than 20 years, those 15 parks received almost half of the total funding allocated to all Louisville parks.

To address the inequity in funding, the Parks Alliance is taking steps to provide resources and improve the poor conditions they identified in the report. Alongside their report, they published an action plan.

The plan identified four different areas of investment

for the city to focus on: maintenance, rehabilitation, capital improvements and recreational programming. In a survey conducted across Louisville households, 38 percent of residents said their main concern was rehabilitation, with maintenance coming in second at 33 percent. Therefore, Parks For All determined rehabilitation as their top priority.

The plan also called for more city funding, which the Louisville Metro Council and Mayor Craig Greenberg delivered on when they approved a 25 percent increase in the Louisville Parks and Recreation Department’s annual budget this past June.

“This mayor is committed to funding our public park system,” Pardue said.

Mayor Greenberg planned to draw these funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), a national plan working to provide financial stimulus following the COVID-19 pandemic. Louisville Metro received $388 million from ARP and identified six priority areas for the funds.

One of these priorities, “Healthy Louisville/Healthy Neighborhoods,” received a $63 million share of Louisville’s ARP funds. This money went toward projects to improve access to healthcare and childcare, along with the neighborhood

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 21
Master your Craft • Grace Gustafon, 7, learns to skateboard as her father, Alex Gustafon, watches at Breslin Park, Oct. 21. Photo by Emma Johnson.

environments for all residents. Mayor Greenberg wanted to include parks as part of the priority area, and on Nov. 18, he described this plan at a park opening sponsored by the Parks Alliance.

“I’ve asked my council colleagues on Metro Council to support my proposal to redistribute $14 million of American Rescue Plan funding to invest in much needed deferred maintenance consistent with the Parks for All plan across our city,” Mayor Greenberg said.

On Dec. 19, Mayor Greenberg announced that $10 million of ARP funds would be distributed to Louisville Parks and Recreation for projects across the city. While this wasn’t the full amount he asked for in his proposal, it would still aid in park renovation.

Aside from budgeting and funding plans, the Parks for All report identified which neighborhoods and parks should be prioritized in aid allocation. It not only looked at a park’s amenities and condition, but at the characteristics of the surrounding area. Historically less affluent neighborhoods, for example, would receive higher priority.

One site the Parks for All report recognized as a top priority was the California neighborhood, which is situated in west Louisville and is one of the lowest income areas in the city. In 2009, this area flooded and homes became uninhabitable. The Metropolitan Sewer District then received a grant which allowed them to bulldoze the homes as part of a flood mitigation effort. For much of this time, these 20 acres sat as nothing but a vacant lot.

That is, until, the Parks Alliance and community partners began revitalizing the land, transforming it into the Alberta O. Jones Park.

The park opened on Nov. 18 and welcomes visitors with its

Wheee! • A group of kids play on a swing at the grand opening of the Alberta O. Jones Park, Nov. 18. Photo by Erica Fields.
I feel like, if it was a little more updated and the facilities were a little more secure, people would feel better going there.
- Leni Logsdon, 18, Atherton senior

multiple walking paths, event spaces, and playground. To include the local community in the design of the park, the Parks Alliance surveyed residents on what kind of features they would like to see. Many respondents wanted a playground that reflected the musical interest of the community. So the playground boasts a climbing wall that resembles a musical scale, a bridge that looks like a xylophone, and giant chimes children can bang on. The park even hosts an outdoor classroom, one of the priorities identified by the community survey. Long-term plans include a large open field and a performance stage.

While one of the Parks For All initiative’s primary focuses is on solving the inequality in parks, Pardue also has passion for getting young people reconnected with nature. Park access is just as important as park equity.

“These children that are in these urban environments that don’t have access to quality time outdoors are paying the price in their mental, their physical, their emotional health,” Pardue said.

Pardue saw the importance of kids being outside, especially in a world that is so intertwined with technology.

“Child development requires children to be able to interact with one another, to work in a

cooperative play environment, and to be in the natural environment,” she said. “We have gotten so far away from that, in our schools, in our lives.”

Adults aren’t the only ones seeing the value in quality park access — teens across Louisville travel to nicer parks, some having to snub the parks right next to them because of quality or maintenance issues and safety concerns.

Leni Logsdon, 18, lives just a short walk from Shelby Park, which is just southeast of downtown. However, when she wants to go to a park, she often finds herself driving about 15 minutes east to Seneca Park.

“I feel like, if it was a little more updated and the facilities were a little more secure, people would feel better going there,” Logsdon said.

Lena Jazi, 17, took a more open approach.

“I like to explore different kinds of parks because they’re all very different,” Jazi said.

In her exploration, she has noticed a few inequities across the city’s parks. Because of this, she has developed her favorites and gravitates toward a few of the more well-funded parks like Seneca Park or Jefferson Memorial Forest, funded by the Olmsted Conservancy and Wilderness Louisville, respectively.

Pardue argues that investing in a park doesn’t just mean a fresher neighborhood playground or shiny tennis courts — it means a healthier and happier community. A new investment provides a new meeting spot, a place for exercise, and gleaming opportunities for all ages.

“Parks are not a ‘nice to have,’” Pardue said. “Like, ‘Oh, well, we have to have police and if we have any money left over then maybe we can throw it into our parks.’ It’s like, no, no, we need to be investing in our parks.”

Metro Louisville’s recent financial commitment to its parks shows that some city leaders share Pardue’s view. Moving ahead, the key will be to ensure they keep up the funding as politicians come and go, until Parks for All’s action plan is completely implemented.

“Time will tell if we actually get the right people in place, and if this can be sustained because it is a 15-year plan,” Pardue said. “We need to make sure one of our primary focuses is on continuing that momentum and basically holding people accountable to what they said.”

Perhaps, then, all of Louisville’s residents will have access to the knowledge, beauty, and power contained within parks.

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 23
Studying abroad is a defining experience for many college students, but its effects may stretch beyond education itself.

ith shaky hands, Harry Boyce, 20, carefully pulled the letter out of his pocket. Timidly taking the card out of the envelope, Boyce’s hands traced the crisp, navy blue paper and unfolded the card. The card originally read, “goodbye and good luck,” but the sender had replaced the word ‘luck’ with ‘riddance,’ making the storebought card her own. Boyce and his best friend both appreciated this type of humor, and the sentiment led his eyes to fill with tears. Those words, written on the scrappy-yet-heartfelt card, were a slice of his life in Ireland, which would be carried with him through his journey to Louisville.

Boyce, a junior in college studying business, is a study abroad student who began his journey in September at Bellarmine University. Boyce is from Donegal, Ireland, and when not studying in the U.S., attends Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. Although Boyce was thankful for the opportunity to study overseas, he also had times in which he felt bits of loneliness and entrapment.

“As an extrovert, I miss my friends, and it is weird to accept that life goes on when you’re away,” Boyce said.

Despite his doubts, he chose to embark on a completely new journey to pursue experiences in another country through a study abroad program.

These programs allow for unique experiences as students from all over the world immerse themselves in a culture and education outside of their home country. The University of Louisville (UofL) sends about 800 study abroad students around the world every year, and they decide to participate for a variety of reasons.

“For some it is to study a foreign language, for others it is to experience something germane to their field of study,” said Paul Hoffman, associate vice provost for international affairs at UofL. “Some students are heritage seekers, seeking out the cultural background of their ancestors. For others it is simply the sense of adventure.”

Studying abroad can also be a decent resume builder.

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 25
Not many people from Ireland go to Louisville, so I wanted to try something new that’s not New York or Boston.
- Harry Boyce, 20, Bellarmine University Student

“Students who have studied abroad are more attractive to potential employers, if for no other reason than they have demonstrated they are receptive to change,” Hoffman said.

According to Open Doors, a resource for international students in higher education, 188,753 students from the United States studied abroad in the 2021-2022 school year.

“Not many people from Ireland go to Louisville, so I wanted to try something new that’s not New York or Boston,” Boyce said.

Boyce’s study abroad program is called Study USA, which is sponsored by the British Council Northern Ireland and Department for the Economy. Study USA allows students in Northern Ireland to attend college in the United States, even awarding scholarships to make it more accessible. Boyce’s scholarship allows him to attend Bellarmine University for free.

The program works by matching a student in Northern Ireland with a location that is favorable to them. After the match, associates of Study USA pass on the student’s information to various colleges in their preferred location.

In Louisville, Study USA and similar programs have helped hundreds of study abroad students attend various institutions, including local colleges such as Bellarmine University and Spalding University.

Study USA helps students adjust quickly, as Boyce got involved in hobbies like mock trial and tennis, and enrolled in classes soon after he arrived in Louisville.

When study abroad students first arrive in their host city, they might experience homesickness or culture shock, which is the feeling of disorientation caused by being exposed to an unfamiliar environment or way of life. These feelings can make it difficult for students to integrate into their new community.

When coming to the United States, it was difficult for Boyce to adjust to no longer being able to do the things that he once could at home.

“I have felt trapped since I cannot drive in the U.S.,” Boyce said.

Back in Ireland, Boyce didn’t have to drive often as he walked just about everywhere, from school to pubs, with his friends. However, the lack of walkability and little emphasis on sidewalks adjacent to large streets in Louisville, made him rely more heavily on vehicles for transportation.

“Everything is so unwalkable here, and I do not like to have to keep asking people for lifts,” Boyce said.

As Boyce became more familiar with the ways of life in America, he observed some key differences between Louisville and his own city.

This is a common experience for many study abroad students, where they pick up on details and little contrasts between their host city and their city of origin. This exchange of differences is what study abroad is all about — experiencing a life unlike your own.

Accompanying some of the negatives Boyce noticed, he also recognized the valuable lessons that Louisville offers and intends to carry them back with him to Ireland.

“I like the whole teamwork aspect,” Boyce said. “I’m learning to be more humble and how you can have a good impact on other people.”

Boyce appreciated the one-onone connections he has with his teachers and friends. Specifically, he valued the spontaneity of his American friendships.

“You can just meet people and talk and study,” Boyce said. “You do not actually have to plan if you want to hang out with your friends.”

While foreign students like Boyce come to Louisville and bring their own unique perspectives to the city, there are also students from Louisville who embark on impactful education journeys away from the United States.

• • •

Upon entering his new dorm room, eight roommates greeted Arian Chopra, 20. After their first interaction, Chopra noted

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 26

that there were many conflicting personalities all gathered in the same, tight space. Chopra was used to living alone and sleeping by himself, so living with eight roommates was a difficult adjustment. New to Florence, Italy, Chopra had to get used to this lifestyle if he wanted to enjoy his experience as a study abroad student.

Chopra, a senior at UofL studying medicine, was enrolled in the International Studies Institute (ISI) in Florence during the 20222023 school year. While UofL has their own study abroad program, they did not have contact with the program that Chopra wanted in Florence. So an advisor at UofL contacted an advisor at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, a university with renowned study abroad programs and has direct contact with ISI Florence. Arcadia put Chopra into contact with ISI Florence, and he was able to begin his journey in Italy.

Similar to Boyce, when Chopra began his study abroad journey, he was faced with conflicting feelings of excitement and hesitation.

“It didn’t really feel real until I got on the plane to Paris, then I started second guessing myself. ‘Can I actually live by myself? Can I afford this?’” Chopra said.

For some study abroad students, these questions are unshakable in the process of moving. However, Chopra gradually shed his doubt, slowly becoming accustomed to the culture of Florence. Attending classes and exploring the new city with his fellow roommates, Chopra noticed things in Florence that were unique to the city.

“One big thing, like socially, is that people are a lot more likely to touch you — they’ll give you a hug, even if you don’t know them,” Chopra said. “In America, you would consider it

inappropriate, but in Italy, it’d be more friendly.”

This was one of the many Italian norms that he attributed to their laid-back environment.

“You feel a rush to get somewhere or be working in Louisville, but in Italy you could feel that everybody was content with chilling out and talking in the middle of the day,” Chopra said.

Typically, after class, Chopra would walk by himself or with his friends.

“In Florence, everything was like a 20-25 minute walk, which I miss,” Chopra said.

Instead of having to do something or go somewhere, Chopra would find himself sipping on a cup of coffee, gazing at the Florencians tending to their daily tasks, or lack thereof. This type of environment brought Chopra to some realizations.

“Going to Florence made me realize that everybody has their own life,” Chopra said. “Life isn’t

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Typing Away • Harry Boyce, 20, works in his dorm room at Bellarmine University, Oct. 9. Boyce, who is originally from Ireland, studies law abroad from Queen's University Belfast in Louisville. Photo by Emma Johnson.

about what you achieve; it’s about how you live it day-by-day.”

The relaxed mentality and social atmosphere of Florence contributed to Chopra’s mental wellness by removing the constant pressure of his fastpaced life in America.

“I was the healthiest I’ve ever been,” Chopra said.

Not only did the environment of Florence contribute to his improved mental health, but Chopra found that its emphasis on local, organic food bettered his physical health. He believed that if the U.S. shared Italy’s prioritization of locally sourced food, that it would be a much healthier country. Still, on occasion, he sought the comfort of burgers, fries, and store-bought chicken tenders.

“I would make sure to, once a week, have some sort of

American meal to kind of keep my homesickness away,” Chopra said.

Despite the changes in scenery, both Chopra and Boyce could appreciate Louisville’s big city yet suburban feel. They noted the significance of Louisville’s unique features compared to those of Ireland and Italy.

“I missed that local aspect of my hometown — the southern hospitality,” Chopra said.

While Chopra and Boyce have both positive and negative takeaways from studying abroad, they acknowledge it as an impactful experience. Both Chopra and Boyce have gone out of their comfort zones, forcing them to reflect on their upbringing, while appreciating the culture they immersed themselves in during their time away. Boyce picked up on aspects

of Louisville that a native would not have been able to recognize, while Chopra learned about a foreign city, and in doing so, gained a newfound appreciation for his own.

“The cultural significance of Florence is definitely better than Louisville, but I still love Louisville,” Chopra said. “It’s home.”

For Chopra and Boyce, it seemed like just yesterday that they received goodbye cards that would quickly turn into welcome home signs. Through their lessons and experiences, study abroad students will continue to strengthen the lives and cultures of both themselves and the people around them.

“I wish we lived in a world where everybody had to study abroad before they graduated,” Chopra said. •

Italian Village • Arian Chopra stands with his friend on an island in Cinque Terre, Oct. 6. Photo courtesy ofArian Chopra.
ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 29
On the Curve • Max Boudreaux skates down a ramp at David Armstrong Extreme Park, Oct. 14. Photo By Iris Apple.

Of Mind New Skate

Violence at and around David Armstrong Extreme Park forced Metro Parks to enact a curfew on the previously 24-hour attraction. The response to the curfew has varied among the Louisville skating community.

• design by

Oct. 21, 2023

First, Beetlejuice walked by. Then came a prisoner, a slice of pizza, and a cowgirl. Groups of people from all over the grounds pooled toward the center, where a 20-foot bowl housed the night’s entertainment.

Ghostface, Jason, and Chucky watched from under the railings that overlooked the spectacle, surrounded by others of all ages. Hundreds of legs dangled over the concrete ledge and bounced against the slope to the sharp beat as a man in green face paint shouted “No Comply three!” over and over into the mic.

Off to the side, costumed skaters glided across the flats and kicked over stairs and ramps, hooting as they landed. Small

groups dodged the skaters, laughing and shoving into one another as they angled their chins to eat the biggest bite of pizza they could.

Shoving deeper into the crowd, I hopped up onto one of the ramps and stood on the tips of my toes. Bobbing heads blocked my view, and I shifted from side to side, trying to get a glimpse of the sea of faces below.

The green-faced man handed off the mic to the first act of the night and the music intensified. Warbling, electronic sounds filled the air, and as they got louder, so did the cheers and laughter. Clusters of friends lazed on the grasses, balanced on railings, and posed for pictures.

It was the third annual No Comply concert at the David

Armstrong Extreme Park in downtown Louisville, with live music from a handful of bands, complete with a skate and costume contest. In the joyous atmosphere, it might’ve been easy for one to forget the park’s history, to ignore the everpresent undertone that veiled the place, and the fact that it only took a few to disrupt an over 20-year-old tradition.

On July 5, 2023, for the first time since its opening, the lights snapped off at 11 p.m.

But what could have caused this drastic shift?

June 17, 2023

Bullets zipped over the heads of the skaters.

It was around 2 in the morning at the Extreme Park

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Past Sunset • Keet Seigfreid skates on the ramps at David Armstrong Extreme Park at night, using the bright, artificial lights to see, Nov. 12. Photo By Iris Apple.

when the fighting broke out, and not long after, the first shots rang out into the night.

A small group of people pressed themselves under the concrete ledges as the gunfire came to a crescendo, some of them angling their phones just above to try and get a glimpse of what was happening. Yells echoed as motorcycles revved in the distance, leaving the skaters stunned and confused after the shooters left the scene.

Two small crowds of people had drawn guns and began shooting into the street and the park. Luckily no one was injured, but over 50 shots were fired in the exchange.

“People were ducking for cover and you could see ricochets, bullets hitting cars, the street, and around the park,”

said Matthew Sanders, media and public relations official for the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD).

And this wasn’t the end of the violence.

Later that day, a separate brawl broke out in the park.

“We had officers injured and also officers made an arrest on two kids that were carrying AR-15 style weapons in the park,” Sanders said.

Unfortunately, these acts of violence were not a one-time occurance. From concealed weapons to outright gunfire, the park was not spared.

“I don’t want to go down there anymore because I don’t want to get shot,” said Riley Jenkins, a 16-year-old sophomore at Ballard High School who frequented the park.

While overall violent crime in Louisville has decreased in recent years, the skatepark and surrounding neighborhoods have seen an uptick in violence.

“All summer long, LMPD responded to various issues at the Extreme Park,” Sanders said. “It includes people driving dirt bikes within the park, disrupting the skateboarders, fights, gunshots being shot, just overall madness.”

Fearing the violence would continue, officials at LMPD, Louisville Parks and Recreation, and the Louisville Mayor’s Office searched for solutions. Still, making changes at the park had been a long time coming.

“Those two incidents compiled with what happened during the summer at the park was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Sanders said.

The first step for LMPD was to head back to the park.

“The First Division, downtown area patrol, sent officers there to talk to the skateboarders,” Sanders said. “We wanted their input.”

In addition, the skaters were able to voice their opinions

again at numerous city council meetings. Noah Hulsman, the owner of Home Skate Shop, a skateboard shop on Bardstown Road, said that the meetings were filled to the brim with skaters, bikers, roller bladers, and other community members.

“There was no place to sit in there,” Hulsman said.

They discussed many solutions over the course of the next few weeks.

“There was some discussion about putting fencing up and turnstiles around the park, completely fencing it in,” Sanders said.

However, Louisville Parks and Recreation discarded this proposal due to the park being a public space, and they didn’t like the look of forcing everyone who comes into the park to go through a security check.

A more broad approach was to have 24-hour police presence in the area, but this would have put too much of a strain on the department. While they believed safety at the skatepark was important, it wasn’t feasible to have officers patrolling it at all hours of the day.

LMPD had been monitoring the park digitally using cameras installed in 2018 in an effort to keep watch over areas with a high concentration of 911 calls. Crime analysts from LMPD’s Real Time Crime Center were to notify LMPD to dispatch when violence occurred at the park, but they weren’t able to prevent violence before it occurred.

In the end, there was only one proposition that the city believed would fix this issue.

July 5, 2023 Darkness.

For the first time in over 20 years, the David Armstrong Extreme Park was bathed in shadows. The only light came

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 33

from the gloomy luminescence of the nearby streetlights.

From then on, the lights would be shut off from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., and no one would be allowed at the park during this time. While this was a major change, the new rule wasn’t actually new at all — Louisville Metro Ordinance 42.32 states that all Louisville parks must follow this time limit. However, the Extreme Park had been exempt for years.

Sanders explained that the city wanted to accommodate those who worked odd hours of the day and couldn’t make it to the park during the daylight hours.

Before violence became a pattern at the park, this exemption hadn’t caused problems.

“There were no issues there for several years up until recently,” Sanders said.

After the curfew started being enforced at the park, LMPD began following a few procedures to ensure that those issues didn’t continue.

They allowed for 15-20 minutes of leeway between the shutoff time, 11 p.m., and then patrolled the park periodically throughout the night. If, after the initial sweep, the crime analysts picked up anyone still at the park after hours, LMPD would dispatch once again.

“Most of the time we just remove them from the area, but if there’s other contributing factors, such as drugs or weapons, that

would influence an officer’s discretion,” Sanders said.

As of December, LMPD had arrested one person for criminal trespassing at the park after curfew.

Since the enactment of the curfew, the skatepark, local businesses, and random citizens have reportedly called 911 less than before to report violence.

“It’s just different now as new generations come in,” Hulsman said.

April 5, 2002

Voices layered on top of each other in a cacophony of blaring noise as David Armstrong Extreme Park became more packed by the second. R.J. McSorely, a 22-year-old skater, followed the crowd into the park. He’d brought his skateboard,

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 34
No Comply • Teenagers stand at the No Comply concert at David Armstrong Extreme Park, observing the scene at the skatepark, Oct. 21. Some wore costumes for the annual costume contest. Photo By Iris Apple.
I live in Louisville because of the Dave Armstrong Park.

but left it in his car, knowing good and well there would be no room to skate. He glanced over the heads of those around him, trying to picture the park as it had been a week before: empty. On that day, opening day for David Armstrong Extreme Park, the full pipe, half pipe, bowls, and gliding space crawled with people from all over.

“It was completely ridiculous,” McSorely said.

Only after the first few days did it calm down enough for him to use his board.

“Everyone started coming and visiting our park because it was so new and there was nothing like it in the world,” McSorely said.

Though it drew in people from all over, the park had a lasting impact on the residents of Louisville, and, for one boy, it became his future.

Spring 1998

The television glared, making the bikers on the screen appear grainy and pixelated. But that didn’t matter to the 8-year-old who sat before it, perched on the edge of his living room couch, holding onto every frame. The rest of the room disappeared around him — his only focus was on the phenomenon that he decided then and there would be his entire life.

Ever since he was little, Zach Newman had a fascination with

wheels. A cart built by his Cub Scout Troup, his Hot Wheels, and wagons — anything that rolled. Biking was just an extension of that fascination.

“Instantly, I needed a ramp of my own,” Newman said.

His parents enrolled him in camps and competitions all over the country to help him fulfill his dream of becoming a professional biker. They also drove Newman from Lexington, his hometown, to the David Armstrong Extreme Park in Louisville, any chance they could. He would bike there for over 10 hours while his dad skated and his mom longboarded.

“All three of us were on some form of wheel,” Newman said. It was times like these that gave him the skills to further his career. His first sponsor came when he was a senior in high school, and Newman began traveling all over to participate in competitions. It wasn’t until 2018, exactly 20 years after he decided he wanted to be a professional biker, that Newman earned bronze in the BMX Biking X Games, achieving his childhood dream.

“It was weirder afterwards in that I had achieved the goal I had focused most of my life towards and it was, ‘What do I do next?’” Newman said.

His first step? Returning to Louisville, the place that started it all.

“I live in Louisville because of the Dave Armstrong Skatepark,” Newman said firmly.

The Newman family wasn’t the only one to take advantage of the park — BMX teams from across the country mapped their trips throughout the East Coast, making a point to stop in Louisville.

“No matter whether they got ahead of schedule or behind schedule, they could always guarantee on the lights being on and being able to use the park,” Newman said.

There were times when Newman would be hours into biking and suddenly a professional would be skating alongside him — one of them being Pat Miller, a competitor from the first TV program Newman had seen of the sport, the very one that had hooked him.

The park fostered a community that allowed for a wide range of experiences. One could always find groups of friends cheering each other on as they perfected a new trick, a father-son duo bonding over a stunt, or pros skating the park’s ramps.

The friendships created in moments like those aren’t forgotten, even as the people in them grow older or move away. For one Louisville native, it’s those friendships that have persisted long into adulthood and beyond.

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 35


Noah Hulsman grew up surrounded by skateboards.

His grandma owned Skateboards Unlimited, a nowclosed skate shop on Preston Highway, so he had plenty of exposure, but it wasn’t until he was 11 that he realized his passion for skating.

Growing up beside Atherton High School in the Highlands, Hulsman had plenty of space to glide around with his friends, to “mob around,” as he put it.

David Armstrong Extreme Park opened during his sophomore year of high school, and he found that the park was a great place to work on skills he never would’ve been able to master if he only had access to the streets. It also introduced him to many people that he might never have interacted with.

“It brought so many different kids from so many different neighborhoods to one place,” Hulsman said.

The people he met and skated with at the park became his lifelong friends — his friend group grew up at the park, and sometimes they skated the whole day, sleeping there, and then waking up to another full day of skateboarding.

“I still skate and see friends of mine that I’ve met through that skate park,” Hulsman said.

But the connections formed at the park were far more than just friendships. For others, they were support groups, or people they could rely on to hype them up for their next challenge. Even if they didn’t always succeed, it was the random assortment of people that kept them going.

“These sports are like a family,” Newman said.

That family came from all over. It didn’t matter when they got off work, or how far away they lived. If they wanted to enjoy the park, they could — at any time of the day. That is, until the new hours were enacted.

Kelli Sulzle, a park regular, disagreed strongly with the curfew. She expressed that it can be hard to get a good amount of exercise when the summer hits.

When Sulzle was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, she looked to the skatepark to stay healthy and active. She hated going to the gym, and the park offered her the opportunity to do what she loved and get exercise.

While she understood where they were coming from, Sulzle

• • •
Night Tricks • AJ Brooks recovers from a ramp bike trick, Nov. 12. Photo by Iris Apple.

said that there’s more cons than pros. With the new curfew in place, her time at the park became severely limited.

“The only time you can really come up here and skate is as soon as the sun goes down, and then it’s like as soon as the sun goes down, the park is closing,” Sulzle said.

Concern about the suffocating heat of summer was consistent with many park-goers.

“You can’t skate during the day and we don’t have an indoor skatepark, so you can’t escape the sun,” Hulsman said.

However, it wasn’t the extreme heat that caused much of the protest over the new rule — it was the lack of flexibility.

“A lot of people have jobs and can’t necessarily be out here during daylight hours,” said West Boudreaux, a regular skateboarder at the park.

With the curfew, people were forced to choose between good working hours and free time at the skatepark, leaving some skaters with a choice they wished they didn’t have to make.

But not every parkgoer thought that the curfew was such a bad idea.

Many didn’t like being limited on when they could use the park, but they valued their safety more than their sense of freedom.

“You get people out past 11 and it might kind of be the people that don’t need to be around here, and that could be trouble,” said Michael Conway, a frequent visitor of the park.

Others echoed Conway’s thoughts, stating that they believed the curfew was a good idea, as long as those causing the disturbances stayed out of the park during its open hours as well. Although many didn’t like it, they believed it was the right move.

“It was just the quickest answer that the city could come up with to keep everyone safe,” Hulsman said.

When you kind of feel like you don’t have a place to fit in in life, this is the place to fit in and have people.
- Kelli Sulzle, Park Regular

Sanders agreed that it was the most effective way to deal with the problem.

“We’ve had a significant decrease in calls for service or reports of crime at the skatepark here,” Sanders said.

Even though LMPD has reported improvements, many don’t believe that the park will go back to the way it used to be.

“We have no plans to change the times,” said Jon Reiter, a Louisville Parks and Recreation administrator.

Despite the city’s intervention, the park community hasn’t let this new restriction change the ways they used the parks — anyone on a set of wheels still showed up to hang out and have a good time.

For Sulzle, the park is like her second home, and she spends 5-6 hours roller skating there daily.

“When you kind of feel like you don’t have a place to fit in in life, this is the place to fit in and have people,” Sulzle said.

Nov. 18, 2023

Sirens echoed in the distance, reverberating throughout the city. I leaned my forehead against the car window, eyes wandering to the trio of skaters who gathered

right at the entrance in an odd circle, each taking turns skating down into the full pipe.

It was 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, a time that might have once had David Armstrong Extreme Park swarming with skaters. Now, only a few people remained.

I kept my eyes glued to the park and felt my anticipation grow as the time ticked on — 10:45, 10:50, 10:55 p.m. As I waited for the final click, I thought back to when I first started learning about the park.

I remembered wondering how the community at the park could still thrive when their hours were cut short, but now, looking out over the skaters, bikers, and scooter riders that cruised across the half pipe, ramps, and flats, I realized that it wasn’t something that switched off with the lights.

As the time neared 11 p.m., people slowly began trickling out of the park, laughing and cracking jokes. Their safety took priority, but it didn’t kill their joy.

In the blink of an eye, the lights snapped off at David Armstrong Extreme Park. •

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 37
ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 38
Violence against women and girls won’t go away overnight, so we’ll fight — with our words and our fists.

alk with purpose. When is the sun setting? Stay away from that alley. Was that a shadow? Look over your shoulder.

Any time I’ve been alone and out of the house, regardless of when or where, these thoughts have rushed through my mind on a constant loop while my head has remained on a swivel. They are second nature, but I wish they weren’t. I wish that in response to a string of brutal robberies and assaults of women in southwest Louisville in late August, the Louisville Metro Police Department’s (LMPD) solution wasn’t to simply be vigilant. To travel in numbers. To eliminate distractions such as cell phones. I wish that I was startled by the fact that a woman had been followed home only two miles from my house. Instead, I felt numb.

Women feeling unsafe in Louisville should be an anomaly, but many girls have felt the need to equip themselves with pepper spray, self-defense keychains, and in cases like mine, a swiveling head from a young age. But where do we draw the line between caution and losing our personal freedom? Why is the solution in our hands and not those of the offenders?

It is time to change the conversation. Women and girls across Louisville have found safety in each other, coming together to foster a balance of both physical and mental empowerment. With strength in numbers, girls in Louisville are flipping the narrative.

Or, in some cases, getting flipped ourselves.

Laying flat on the floor, I wrapped my feet around my attacker’s back, squeezing my arm around their neck while using the other to block their attempted punches. I struggled to keep up with their expertise and speed, employing each defense tactic as quickly as I could recall it. When the attacker finally stood up, I locked my feet against their hips, distancing their punches. Soon enough, I let go, slamming them back down to the floor where I resumed wrapping my feet around them. I tightened my arm, ending the altercation. Then we high-fived.

• • •

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, a brand of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is a self-defense martial art and combative sport. In Kentucky, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Louisville is the only training center of its kind that is certified by Gracie

University, the overarching organization that directs Gracie Jiu-Jitsu education across the country. There, a group of instructors teach a variety of self-defense classes, ranging from Bullyproof, a class for young children, to Women Empowered, a class specifically focused on women’s self-defense. I attended Women Empowered on Nov. 6.

Earlier that day, Leeann Manganello, Women Empowered instructor and my soon-to-be “attacker,” walked me around the dojo in preparation for my shadowing, which would take place later that evening. There, I watched as her husband, Allan Manganello, the founder and head instructor at Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Louisville, coached a handful of men on the blue mat that extended across the entire room. I took note of everything I saw, eager to observe more later that night, but they were not going to let me simply stand back and watch. Regardless of the journalistic motivation behind my attendance, they insisted that rather than write about what I see, I write about what I do.

When I came back that evening, Allan and Leeann made good on their promise. The class wasn’t just a viewing, but rather

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 39
“We shouldn’t have to know how to defend ourselves in order to be safe. We should be safe regardless.”
- Josie York, 17, President of Girl Up Prospect

an immersion into the core principles of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and the culture enforced at their branch in Louisville.

At the beginning of the class, I sat down with Allan and the group of first-time attendees as he explained the importance of not only physical preparedness, but mental preparedness. There was a sense of urgency present throughout the entire conversation. He explained that most of the time, attacks on women are at the hands of someone they know rather than a “ski mask stranger.” With this in mind,

he said, it was important for women to set boundaries in their relationships with others.

“No one has the right to touch you without your permission,” Allan said.

Enforcing this assertion and setting boundaries were where Gracie Jiu-Jitsu came in. Allan and Leeann described Jiu-Jitsu as a superpower: something others can’t do that gives you a leg up. To employ this superpower, it is necessary to approach it as a means of escape rather than one of fighting. In this way, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu could be used to tire your opponent, maintain your energy, and, in the best situations, escape the scene.

The skill that I learned that afternoon was a punch block series. To practice with a real life opponent, students paired up and took turns being the “attacker.” However, the attacker was far from a bad guy. Instead, their role was to place a student in a realistic situation while also supporting them. Leeann, as well as the other attackers, coached their student through the moves and encouraged them during the fight. Still, the attackers were not expected to go easy on their opponents. In fact, Leeann emphasized that if your attacker was being too nice, you should taunt them and say, “My grandma hits harder than you.”

The supportive environment of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Louisville is what defines its culture, and it was present the entire time I was there. Even when Leeann and Allan were demonstrating moves, there existed a balance between necessity and fun, with most of the demonstrations ending in smiles and laughter. It was for this reason that I walked off the mat not only empowered by my progress in physical preparation, but in my understanding of the importance of a strong mindset. This shift in mentality was far from rare.

In fact, it occurred in Lena Mannarelli, 19, a freshman at Bradley University. Mannarelli started training in the Women Empowered program with her mom and sister when she was 14 years old at the encouragement of her aunt, an instructor at Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Louisville. A year and a half after joining the program, Mannarelli submitted a tape of her techniques to the Gracie University headquarters for review to earn her pink belt, showing her completion of Women Empowered. Manarelli’s aunt pointed out that young girls looked up to her achievement, which inspired her to continue her training and pursue instructor certification.

“Actually seeing how I affected other people’s confidence, that just made my day,” Mannarelli said.

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 40

After endless hours of hard work, she became the youngest certified Women Empowered instructor at 17 years old. But before training and eventually becoming certified, Mannarelli was a timid person.

“It’s not just that, ‘Oh, here’s moves to make you feel safe,’ but it overall brought up my mental confidence,” Mannarelli said.

In fact, Mannarelli thought that if she hadn’t joined when she was 14, she wouldn’t have been able to enter college with such confidence. After watching the infectious surety of the instructors translate into newcomers, including myself, I had no doubt that many other members shared her experience.

In addition, Mannarelli learned from the empathy with which Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Louisville approached assault, being

mindful of all experiences and possible triggers.

“Be more supportive of other people that you hear,” she said.

But how can we best support other people? How do we approach the subject of violence with consideration and sensitivity?

Hannah Nussbaum, program coordinator at the University of Louisville’s (UofL) Prevention Education and Advocacy on Campus and in the Community (PEACC) Center, said that it is what we do after we listen that matters.

UofL’s PEACC Center provides a safe place for students who have experiences with violence of any type. Nussbaum focuses on teaching students how to take action when violence occurs.

“It’s what can you as an individual do in an instance of violence to alleviate that violence,” Nussbaum said.

However, to be able to approach a violent situation, it’s crucial that bystanders be conscious of their strengths and weaknesses. This allows bystanders to intercede in a way that is safe for themselves and others.

“Let’s look at what works for you,” Nussbaum said. “What is your skillset?”

While prevention and advocacy look different from person to person, PEACC brings people together with a shared interest: safety. It does this by offering a combination of smallgroup activities, from traumainformed yoga groups to sushimaking nights, as well as large scale events. One of these large scale events was PEACC’s annual Take Back the Night march — the oldest global movement dedicated to advocating for women’s safety against sexual violence. Although

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 41 “
The Right Move • During the Women Empowered session at Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Louisville, two of the class’s instructors, Andrea Stites and Hiedi Elston, demonstrate self defense strategies to use against an attacker, Nov. 6. Photo by Sadie Eichenberger.

PEACC stopped hosting the event at UofL after COVID-19, Take Back the Night’s influence has extended across the world since its formation in the 1970s. Nussbaum, who organized the event for eight years, approached it with the same sense of care, caution, and urgency as Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Louisville approaches their teaching, making sure to act as trauma informed as possible.

Through her teaching, Nussbaum emphasized the importance of community support.

“You are 100 percent not alone,” Nussbaum said. “There are people who will listen to you.”

Louisville’s younger generation has the opportunity to break the stigma around violence simply by not being afraid to speak about it.

“A lot of people, younger people, today are willing to see things very out of the box,” Nussbaum said.

Members of Girl Up Prospect are doing just that.

Girl Up is an internationally recognized, youth-centered organization working to empower young girls with leadership and communication skills in the fight for gender equity and justice. The program has 6,500 clubs across 152 countries that carry out its mission.

Girl Up Prospect, based out of North Oldham High School (NOHS), is one of five high school branches in Louisville. It’s the largest club at NOHS with 120 total members and 70-80 consistent meeting attendees. They are often forced to limit attendance at their

biweekly meetings sheerly due to seating availability. At each of their meetings, they address the complexity of girlhood, analyzing the unwritten social norms placed on girls. They do so by balancing discussion with communitybuilding activities, such as the “Make Your Own Tote Bag” fundraiser they hosted in October. But some members said that the club was more than conversation and crafting — it was a safe haven.

“We’re all in Girl Up for one thing, and it’s to support each other and lift each other up,” said Mara Passmore, 17, senior at NOHS and secretary of Girl Up Prospect.

Girl Up Prospect serves as a place for girls to come together and bond over their shared lived experiences. It is not a place for

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 42
Girl Talk • Mara Passmore, 17, sits with members of North Oldham High School’s Girl Up in Blaze Pizza, Sept. 27. As secretary, she was excited to be a part of the club’s fundraiser. Photo by Sadie Eichenberger.

girls to tear each other down, but rather find common ground. As the societal pressures placed against women, regarding both safety and unaddressed stigmas, grow, it is increasingly crucial that girls have a place to find strength in each other. Girl Up makes this possible.

“Whoever you are, whoever you want to be, you are welcome here. We love you, we want you, and we will keep you safe in this environment,” Passmore said.

The members of Girl Up Prospect approach the idea of safety with an emphasis on mental empowerment. The foundation of the club is based on inviting anyone and everyone

to join a community and belong. By doing so, the club works against the harmful norms of society that cause feelings of unsafety in women.

“We shouldn’t have to know how to defend ourselves in order to be safe. We should be safe regardless,” said Josie York, 17, senior at NOHS and president of Girl Up Prospect.

So how do we put an end to this seemingly endless cycle?

“We are facing these challenges and we are facing these obstacles in life together,” York said.

As a unified force, girls and women have the power to create change. We can do this

by establishing boundaries and learning how to enforce them — on or off the mat. While physical preparation can add a level of comfort to unsafe situations, it is the confident and empowered mindset developed from collaboration with other women which holds immeasurable value.

It is time to bring safety into the conversation, and more importantly, listen to other people who do the same. As youth, we have the power to determine the culture of communication with which we approach safety and empowerment. It is a woman’s world, so let’s fight for it. •

Empowering Women in History

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 43
Frida Kahlo • First Mexican artist with a painting featured in the Louvre. Malala Yousafzai • Pakistani education activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 17. Althea Gibson • American tennis player and first Black athlete to win a Grand Slam tennis event. Greta Gerwig • American actress, writer, and highestgrossing female director.
ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 44
In June, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in higher education. Now what?
• design by UYEN NGUYEN

June 29: BREAKING NEWS. Bold graphic letters slid across my once black TV screen as I held the volume button, increasing the sound of the news. A brunette journalist standing at a clear news desk filled the frame.

“In a 6-3 decision, the justices ruled that Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violated the Constitution by considering race when deciding whether to admit someone to their school,” television journalist Norah O’Donnell said.

My mind was in a frenzy with lots of questions circling my brain. How is this going to change the college admissions process? What is going to happen to college diversity? What does this mean for me as a high school student?

My eyes then shifted to the young protesters projected across the TV screen. They stood outside the courtroom, chanting alongside each other. They gripped colorful signs with phrases in opposition to affirmative action. Some signs read, “Solidarity is power,” and others read, “We won’t go back!”

As O’Donnell continued, I pressed the red power button, removing the image from my screen as the blaring sound faded into the silence of the room.

• • •

While affirmative action was a concept I had heard of before,

this decision in June was the first time I stopped to think about what it truly meant. I quickly learned that its complexity was confusing to everyone involved, from college applicants to admissions officers. It seemed as though very few people were able to fully grasp the extent of the decision and its possible effects.

“A lot of people don't really understand affirmative action, the history behind it, why it was implemented,” said Joshua Williams, associate director of Strategic Enrollment Partnerships at Bellarmine University. “Trying to keep up with it is really hard.”

So let's break it down.

Affirmative action is a system used by institutions, such as colleges and workplaces, wherein minority groups are underrepresented. It allows those in charge to prioritize minority groups that have been historically disadvantaged.

Universities and institutes of higher education use affirmative action to help diversify their student bodies and campuses. Within this system, colleges consider demographic factors such as race, ethnicity, or gender when deciding to admit students.

In the early 1960s, higher education was limited for people of color, with exclusivity toward white students. However, with contributions during the Civil Rights Movement and activists

A lot of people don't really understand affirmative action, the history behind it, why it was implemented.

pushing for change, the need for more minority applicants, specifically Black applicants, became a priority.

As a result, many elite colleges began to adopt policies in order to expand the access of quality university and graduate education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, when institutions first enacted affirmative action policies in the 1960s, Black applicants increased by 83 percent. By the 1970s, Black enrollment in colleges and universities increased by 259 percent.

One way to think about how affirmative action was implemented prior to the most recent ruling in June is through this hypothetical situation: Student A is white and Student B is Black. They have similar GPAs, test scores, class rank, and extracurriculars.

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 45

In this case, the admissions team could then look at the applicant's race, and could, if they choose, admit Student B in order to better diversify the school.

This situation depicts race as a “plus factor,” which many colleges use in the admissions process. The plus factor system for admissions quantifies various elements of a student's application. Before June, this ranking system included race among several other factors. Disadvantaged students got an additional “plus” because of their race. White and Asian American students, who already make up a large percentage of college campuses and are less historically marginalized in educational environments, didn’t get this plus.

Affirmative action took into account what a student did with the opportunities they were given. Not every person has equal levels of privilege due to systemically oppressive factors such as race, wealth, gender, etc. Success looks different from person to person since access to resources and opportunities varies.

Because of decades of slavery, followed by almost 100 years of other legal discriminatory practices, wealth distribution in the U.S. has been historically uneven. It isn’t possible to write off the effects of these practices that have left some students, especially those descended from slaves, disproportionately on the side of lower socioeconomic status.

While the U.S. has a history of discriminatory policies that also target Asian Americans, they have been better represented in college populations. So minority groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education will be the most affected by the Supreme Court’s decision to ban affirmative action.

“The reason why people seem to think that affirmative action takes away from the merit of people who worked harder is because it’s built on the facade that students have equal access to all opportunities,” said Minhal Nazeer, 18, a Pakistani American senior at Kentucky Country Day School. “And that’s just not true.”

The cycle of students having less access to educational Semifinalist

• Minhal Nazeer, 18, a senior at Kentucky Country Day School, presents her semifinalist certificate and trophy from the Kentucky High School Speech League, March 11. Photo courtesy of Minhal Nazeer.
Diversity is a goal that stretches farther than just having this amount of people on paper as Black, white, Asian, Native American.

University of Louisville

resources still exists, but Nazeer said it's important to recognize that this doesn’t mean these kids don’t have the potential to flourish in college.

“It’s giving them a chance to succeed with the skills and potential that they had when they weren't given the resources to do so on their own,” Nazeer said.

• • •

The first major Supreme Court case to define the use of affirmative action in higher education was the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.

In 1978, Allan Bakke, a white, male student applied to the University of California (UC) Davis School of Medicine. He applied two years in a row, and even though his test scores and qualifications exceeded the criteria for admittance, admissions officers rejected him both times. At the time, the UC Davis School of Medicine had a racial quota, which reserved 16 spots for minority students. Bakke sued, arguing that, as a white man, he was denied admission solely because of his race. The case made its way up to the Capitol.

In Washington, the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action, but ruled in favor of Bakke and held that the school’s diversity quota violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which requires that all people be treated equally under the law, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964,

which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, and national origin. This decision paved the way for present-day affirmative action, where admissions officers could use race as a factor for admittance, but not through diversity quotas.

“Affirmative action helped diversify the campus, which has been proven to create more wellrounded students,” Williams said.

Williams believes that having a diverse campus has vastly positive impacts for students, noting that a student body from a multitude of backgrounds provides enriched learning experiences, global awareness, and increased tolerance and inclusivity.

“Diversity is a goal that stretches farther than just having this amount of people on paper as Black, white, Asian, Native American,” said Jayvon Rankin, 20, a Black student at the University of Louisville (UofL) majoring in political science.

Rankin believes that a diverse class unlocks student perspectives and gets people to look beyond their bubble. Without diversity in education, people would be less culturally adept.

“You're kind of in an echo chamber of the same people,” Rankin said. “You don't really see the real world.”

This is one argument against eliminating affirmative action in the admissions process — there is no longer a way to easily uphold diversity.

On June 29, the Supreme Court reversed a decades-long precedent of affirmative action policies. The court said that race, on its own, could no longer be considered in college admissions.

In two lower level circuit courts, a group called Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sued two universities over their race-based admissions systems. SFFA is a nonprofit group that was founded by Edward Blum, a 73-year-old white male and conservative legal strategist known for his activism against affirmative action. The Supreme Court sided with SFFA, ruling that affirmative action was unconstitutional, altering the way admissions officers review applications.

After reading the court decisions, the cases were still confusing to me and the rest of the On The Record staff, so we turned to our AP US Government and Politics teacher, Tim Holman.

“You basically have to look at the application in a ‘colorblind’ way, and that is something that the conservative majority of the court has been advocating for,” Holman said. “They believe that the Constitution is effectively colorblind, that you should not consider your race at all, whatsoever.”

The “colorblind” argument comes from an interpretation of the Constitution that is based on the idea that, in terms of race, the framers of the Fourteenth

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 47
• •

Amendment only had slavery in mind. Since slavery no longer exists in the U.S., some argue that the Constitution does not support leveling the playing field on the basis of race. Some see the prioritization of historically disadvantaged groups as unfair and unnecessary in this day and age. So the question becomes, was it too soon to get rid of affirmative action? Are we, as a society, able to be “colorblind”?

“People of color aren’t able to not think about their race or their ethnicity,” said Nazeer. “That’s sort of a privilege white people have over us.”

From the food they eat, the languages they speak, and the physical features they present, people of color are constantly reminded of who they are.

“There were all these different parts that are embedded in American society where race was considered,” Rankin said.

“And now 200 and nearly 50 years later, ‘Oh, we just magically can't use race anymore.’”

Many are frustrated over the ruling and its attempt to create a “colorblind” application process. However, there are still ways race can impact a student’s college application.

On students’ college applications, they can mention activities that allude to race, such as student unions or activist groups. In their essays, they can also speak about their personal experience with race, including obstacles they overcame because of racial barriers, or ways that race has affected their upbringing. So while the admissions officers can no longer consider race as an overall plus factor, they can look at its specific impact on an individual and how that impact might showcase qualities about an applicant that make them desirable. The Supreme Court essentially said that race affects everyone differently, and that as a whole, it is unconstitutional to give an advantage to an entire group of people because they are a minority.

“They wouldn't know that I was Pakistani, they wouldn't know if I was bilingual,” Nazeer said, reflecting on her own essays. “And that was just such a weird feeling to me because I'm like, ‘Wait, that's such an important piece of information that I'm not able to put anywhere.’”

While Nazeer chose not to make race a defining factor in her own essay, other minority students now have to make similar decisions. How much significance do they want race to hold in their application? Since essays are now one of the only ways students can convey their identities, they may box minority students in by making them feel like their essays must pertain to race-related issues.

“It’s super frustrating on our part,” Nazeer said, “but it’s also been kind of helpful for some schools that have been more intentional asking prompts that allow you to talk about those experiences, which has been nice.”

Aside from the “personal statement” essay college applicants write, some colleges also offer additional supplemental essays with varying prompts. With the absence of affirmative action, many schools have now added or altered prompts on their applications to give students the opportunity to talk about how race has impacted them. These prompts may include discussion of background, identity, or the importance of inclusivity.

• • •

To understand what this could potentially mean for college admissions, we can look to the nine states that had already banned race-conscious admissions at public colleges and universities prior to the June decision. One of these states was California.

In 1996, the passage of California’s Proposition 209 effectively banned the use of affirmative action within state governmental institutions, including public universities. So for nearly 30 years, the UC schools have been functioning without affirmative action.

In the immediate years after the removal of affirmative action in California, there was a 12 percent decline in underrepresented groups across the whole UC system. UC Berkeley and UCLA experienced the most extreme effects, with a 60 percent drop in Black, Latino, and Indigenous students, widely changing their student body demographics.

“One of the big problems that the California schools dealt with after they banned racebased admissions was that,

Talk About It • Jayvon Rankin, 20, a UofL sophomore, responds to the affirmative action ruling at the Belknap Academic Building, Dec. 9. Photo by Anna Burzynski.

increasingly, Black students sort of felt like they were on an island,” Holman said, “that they were always like the one or two or three Black kids in the class.”

However, the decline in diversity was a problem that the UC system, along with other colleges, recognized and decided to take measures to reverse.

“I think we have to find more innovative ways to recruit a more inclusive class without consideration of race,” Williams said.

One way schools are doing this is through targeted minority outreach. This involves going to schools in underserved communities, as well as sending letters and emails to minority students.

Some colleges have also started automatically admitting students if they are at the top of their high school’s graduating class. In 1997, Texas passed House Bill 588, more commonly referred to as the “Top 10 Percent Law.” It guarantees that Texas high school students who graduate at the top 10 percent of their class receive admission to all state-funded schools.

Since many high schools contain students of similar backgrounds, admitting students based on how they perform compared to peers in their own school, rather than schools elsewhere, is one way admissions officers are diversifying their student bodies.

The UC system currently has a similar method in place where they look for California residents who are in the top 9 percent of their graduating class. While students don’t receive automatic admission to the UC schools for being in this percentile, due to space reasons, it does give them a leg up.

These methods, among other efforts, have helped to reduce the diversity drop in the UC

We have to find more innovative ways to recruit a more inclusive class without consideration of race.

system over time, without using race-conscious admissions. In 2021, UCLA’s admitted first year class had similar, even slightly increased, diversity as compared to before Proposition 209. Black students made up 7.6 percent of the university's population in 2021, as compared to 7.3 percent in 1995. In addition, the Latino student population increased from 22.4 percent to 26 percent. However, these efforts come at a cost. Over the past 25 years, the UC system has spent over $500 million to help diversify their schools, and while they have had some success, not every institution has that level of funding. Whether or not all schools are able to, or even want to, put in similar levels of commitment, time, and money to diversify is up in the air.

• • •

The reality of the situation is that the ruling is primarily going to affect minority students applying to the most selective schools around the country. This is due to their extremely low acceptance rates that require near perfect test scores, grades, and a surplus of extracurricular activities to get in. The applications these schools are seeing are widely similar to one another in terms of quality, so without affirmative action, it is going to be much more difficult for historically disadvantaged students to get into these prestigious schools.

“Now we all know that those elite institutions are sort of the stairway to power,” Holman said.

He was right. An October report by Opportunity Insights found that Ivy League and Ivy+ students are nearly twice as likely to attend top graduate schools, and are 60 percent more likely to reach the top 1 percent of earners in the country.

With a smaller percentage of minority students attending those institutions, it’s possible to see the effects of this ruling bleed into society at large. •

While institutions are finding new, creative ways to push diversity, it is hard to say what exactly will come from this ruling. The current admissions cycle for students entering college in 2024 is the first since the court ruling in June.

For many students, the future is unpredictable and scary. As a sophomore in high school, I fear what college will look like when it is my turn to apply. That same uncertainty I felt the first time I heard of the ruling still rings true. For now, it’s important to stay educated and aware. In a generation that feels disconnected from government impacts, this ruling affects us.

“We're still learning how it might impact students of color in Kentucky,” Williams said.

And that response will reveal itself with time.

“We will see,” Williams said. “We will see.” •

ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 49
• •


ON THE RECORD Fall/Winter 2023 50
The Louisville Ballet has needed better funding for years, but in 2023, they reached a new low. They’re now turning to the community for support.

The overture: an orchestral piece at the beginning of an extended composition, used frequently to start a show.

When I was a little girl sitting in a velvet-lined seat in a cool theater, the moment the overture began was always so intriguing. The lights dimmed and all around, I heard the stir of people. Soft chatter emerged as the audience prepared for the dancers to take the stage. Then the curtains lifted, the overture ended, the crowd fell silent, and the dancers began. Pointe shoes glided across the floor and costumes shined in the light. I was immediately transported into another world — a world where enticing music was playing and a magical story was about to unfold.

• • •

I was raised in a household where ballet was important, and I trained in ballet for a number of years. Growing up, I watched memorable shows, specifically from the Louisville Ballet, and my love for the art remains today.

Founded in 1952, the Louisville Ballet is the fifth oldest professional ballet company in the country. It was in the headlines last fall, but not in the most positive light.

In August, I was sitting in school, scrolling aimlessly through Instagram when a post

from WDRB caught my eye. It read, “Louisville Ballet in need of $3 million.” I had to read that sentence over and over again. I was confused on how something I was so connected to could be in trouble without me knowing. In the days following, I saw similar posts saying the same thing.

Leslie Smart, CEO of the Louisville Ballet, set the record straight on all of the various headlines. She explained that the company had an annual contributed income goal to raise $3.1 million in 2023. This money will come from three places: individuals, foundations, and corporations.

“The ballet needs this money to sustain staff salaries, productions, and facility maintenance,” Smart said.

Smart also said that the company needs the money to pay off additional debts, such as the mortgage on their building and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan that they took out during COVID-19.

Smart also noted that this goal isn’t out of the ordinary for the ballet. The goal for 2022 was $2.5 million, but rose as a result of lower audience turnout, in part due to the cancellation of three sold-out performances of the Brown-Forman Nutcracker last year. Since the ballet’s main

source of income is ticket sales, this resulted in a lack of money coming into the organization. This phenomenon isn’t unique to Louisville. Ballets nationwide have taken a hit over recent years. Smart explained that 27 percent of audience attendees haven’t returned to theaters since COVID-19, which was a main contributor to the Louisville Ballet’s lower audience turnout.

However, ballet as an art form has been struggling since before the pandemic. Financially, the Louisville Ballet has always had its ups and downs, but the Louisville Ballet School, a youth training program run by the Louisville Ballet, has not been impacted by financial hardships.

• • • The interlude: A pause between changing music during a piece of composure.

I danced at the Louisville Ballet School for 11 years. I used to come home from school, rush to throw a snack in my bag, put on my leotard and tights, and slick my hair back into the tightest bun possible. Then I would go to the studio, trade in my sneakers for slippers, and go to class.

Similarly, Kirsten Sandford, 17, is a ballerina at the Louisville Ballet School and a junior at Floyd

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Central High School. Sandford has been training at the school for six years.

Before recitals, Sandford would listen for her cue backstage as audience members shuffled into their seats. Dressed head to toe in sparkles, pointe shoes tied, and stomach in knots, the overture began. The other dancers would start their preshow rituals, including various chants to get everyone excited. Anxiously awaiting the curtain pull, Sandford felt on top of the world. She and her best friends were about to go onstage to

perform a piece they’d been working on for months.

“The memories backstage are probably what I remember most,” Sandford said. “It’s like my family all around.”

Her dance teacher frequently said, “Right now you have two different jobs, two full time jobs right now: being a high school student and a ballet dancer.”

Sandford has made many sacrifices to pursue dance, including being homeschooled for a couple of years so she could stay at the ballet school. Before Sandford was homeschooled, ballet class

started at the same time her school was let out, so she would have to miss a whole academic class at least once a week.

Sandford now dances six days a week and dedicates multiple hours each weeknight to practice. On Saturdays she dances from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. On top of that, she goes to school full time, finding breaks in her schedule to squeeze in homework, and makes time to hang out with her friends. Despite her full plate, she sticks with ballet.

“Ballet, it’s like my whole life,” Sandford said. “It’s not for everyone. It’s a very huge commitment.”

This level of commitment comes at a cost — not just time sacrifices like Sandford has had to make, but the literal cost of tuition, ballet shoes, and costumes. However, the Louisville Ballet has programs that support dancers who might not be able to cover these costs, including various free workshops and camps in the summer that are put on in public spaces. The Louisville Ballet also runs a program called Ballet Bound, which grants students in need full or partial scholarships to the Louisville Ballet School. This program helps to cover the cost of tuition, uniforms, and any other fees.

“We have committed to these students from age seven up to seniors in high school to have a scholarship at our school,” Smart said.

When Sanford needs motivation to continue her dancing career, she always goes back to the community at the ballet. So being able to have programs that support kids of different socioeconomic backgrounds ensures that Sandford will continue to have peers to train alongside.

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In the Spotlight • Professional ballerina Natalia Ashikhmina performs a solo in “Giselle” at the Brown Theatre during a dress rehearsal for the performance, Nov. 9. Photo by Anna Burzynski.

“I think the people at ballet are like my family,” Sandford said. “We all have each other’s back.”

Even though Sandford’s passion has persisted throughout her life, it is common for young ballerinas to give up the art as a result of the expenses and time commitment, among other reasons. This, combined with the demanding schedule requirements, is why companies like the Louisville Ballet have been struggling. That’s not to say, “Join a ballet class tomorrow.” In fact, there are many ways to help support the ballet, with funding coming from a variety of sources.

“My approach has been to meet with donors,” Smart said.

Considering the amount the ballet is trying to raise, funding through donors is an efficient way to get larger sums of money. Recently, Smart has been asking for “major gifts,” which are donations of $10,000 and above. Back in August, Jack Harlow, a Louisville native and rapper, gave the ballet one of these major gifts, donating $50,000. Staff at the Louisville Ballet have reached out to 3,000 past donors to request additional funding. Money from these efforts helps make sure that the ballet can function without having to make cutbacks.

Another way to support the ballet is through ticket purchases. With a decrease in seasonal ticket holders, the previously steady flow of money into the company has dwindled.

“People tend to make that decision at the last minute whether or not they’re going to go to the theater or not, and that’s impacting a number of arts organizations around the country,” Smart said.

This knowledge has led the company to focus on what their subscription options look like. They have begun to offer a “create

Practice Makes Perfect • Kirsten Sandford, 17, demonstrates several ballet positions while on pointe at the Louisville Ballet studio, Nov. 29. Stanford is a pre-professional student at the Louisville Ballet School. Photo by Erica Fields.

your own” package so anyone can go on the website and select a few shows, rather than being obligated to hold season tickets to all of them. Not only does this make the subscriptions cheaper, it encourages people to attend more shows. The most widely attended show at the ballet is The Brown-Forman Nutcracker.

“‘The Nutcracker’ is the performance that sustains us throughout the year,” Smart said.

The energy at shows like The Brown-Forman Nutcracker was magical to me as a kid in the audience. There were people of all ages there to enjoy the production and everyone was excited to see the company’s rendition of the nostalgic story.

Aside from the professional company putting on The BrownForman Nutcracker in the winter, the ballet school does a different production every spring. The 2024 production will be “Hansel and Gretel.” The spring show is

always kid friendly, which sells more tickets and encourages even more people to come and support the arts.

To get involved, Smart suggested that Louisville youth start a teen board in support of the ballet. This board would include individuals who didn’t necessarily want to dance, but wanted to support the nonprofit through volunteerism, outreach, and fundraising efforts.

By creating a teen board, not only would youth get to see shows from behind the scenes, but they would get a chance to help a nonprofit in their community. If teens are interested in starting a board, Smart said the best way to do so would be by contacting the ballet through the website.

• • •

The fade-out: When the stage lights dim and the music drifts off into silence.

When a show ended, the house lights would come up and

infrequent whispers turned to incessant chatter. I was always left with a yearning for more — whether I was on stage or in the audience. This love is shared with other members of the arts community.

“I just think art enriches our lives in so many ways,” Smart said. The ballet has had a strong place in the Louisville community for many years — whether that is through extending the accessibility of the arts or continuing to bring magic into the lives of so many like it has done for me. Reaching their annual income goal will allow the Louisville Ballet to continue enhancing the experience of not only the audience, but the community of dancers impacted by its programs. After all, community efforts and contributions will ensure that when the lights fade out at the end of a performance, they will continue to come back on. •

Good Things Come In Three • Three ensemble dancers arabesque during their dress rehearsal for “Giselle” at the Brown Theatre, Nov. 9. Photo by Anna Burzynski.
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