rhstalon.org // January 2013 // Volume 68 // Issue 2 // Richardson HS // 1250 Beltline Road Richardson, TX 75080
me pinch im dipping photo by PATRICIA SUNDARA story by TALIA RICHMAN
yle Brown* was 13-years-old the first time he held a pinch of dip between his fingers and stuck it against his lower lip. As the tobacco juice filled his mouth and the nicotine entered his bloodstream, he felt dizzy and ready to puke. But Brown, who has played baseball since he was nine, and often watches famous baseball players throw dip on TV, felt something else too – cool. Now 16-years-old, Brown goes through a can of dip a day. The bulge in his lower lip is there on the way to school in the morning, after school and late at night when he’s watching sports on TV.
“I don’t even know why I like it so much,” he said. “When I started dipping, it made me feel cool and like a baseball player, but at this point, I’m just addicted to it.” “Dip” is smokeless tobacco that is processed into fine particles and pressed into round cans. Like its smoke-able counterpart, dip contains 28 cancer-causing agents and leads to nicotine addiction and dependence. According to the Center for Disease Control’s latest survey, 11 percent of high school males are smokeless tobacco users. Although it is illegal for anyone under 18, students can be spotted dipping
during lunch, on the baseball field, and at other athletic events. There are dippers on the baseball team, soccer team, and football team. Assistant Principal Josh Eason, who is principal over the athletic department, knows first-hand what these players find so appealing about dip – and how negatively it can affect their lives. For eight years, Eason dipped when he was driving alone in his car, mowing the lawn or hanging up Christmas lights. Like many students, he deceived his family while dipping. continued on page 3
TALON TIDBITS Swinging To Santa’s Bells
A quick look at some of the news and notes from around the school
All-State Choir After 12 hours of singing and waiting around, senior KJ Smith sat anxiously as the names of the 2013 All-State Choir were announced. Smith will join senior Ashley Moore, junior Mariah Williams-Roberts and junior Griffin Camacho in the All-State Choir this year. “It was quite possibly one of the most nerve-wracking, yet wonderful, experiences of my high school career,” Smith said. “Knowing that I achieved a goal that I’ve been working towards for over half a year is one of the best feelings ever.” Choir Director Lindy Perez was extremely proud of her students. “This is a tremendous accomplishment awarded to less than 500 students out of 16,000 who audition statewide,” Perez said. The All-State Choir will be performing on February 16.
Japanese Speech Contest This February, students will compete in the annual Japanese Speech Contest. The purpose of the competition is to promote Japanese language education and encourage students to learn Japanese as a second language. 2012 World champion Marlene Campos, who now attends SMU, was a graduate of RHS. She represented the United States at the International Competition in Japan. Freshman, and first year Japanese-speaker, Amy Nguyen plans to participate in the competition this year, and hopefully follow in Campos’ footsteps. “I want to take part in the competition because I’m in to Japanese, and if you feel passionate about something, you should do it,” Nguyen said.
Chuck and Oscar on The Mayan Apocalypse It’s pretty cool that the Mayans were wrong. I value my life.
What if we really died and we’re in heaven right now?
Top: Senior DeVante’ Branch dips his Desperados partner, Devinne Miller, during the team’s second song at the city of Richardson’s Santa’s Village. This performance is one of the ways that they are preparing for their annual RISD Dance Off in March. “Performing at Santa’s Village was really awesome. All of the kids and their parents’ cheering was great,” Branch said. photo by BESA SHALA Bottom: Senior captains Nicole Kennedy and Eric Johnson perform at Santa’s Village this holiday season. Kennedy and Johnson have been members of Desperados for three consecutive years. “It was really fun picking out cute holiday songs and performing,” Kennedy said. “It really got me into the holiday spirit.” vphoto by PATRICIA SUNDARA
Writers Peter Mikhael Garrett Alford Editor-in-Chief Kate Bagwell Katherine Ingram Talia Richman Daud Jamshaid Anabeth Kanon Design Editor Catherine Stack Demir Candas Sarah Oprysk Photo Editor Patricia Sundara Adviser Wade Kennedy
For more, visit www.rhstalon.org
Ultimate Frisbee Senior Captain Luke Adamson dives to catch the purple disc in the end zone of the Fretz Park playing field, securing a victory for the RHS Ultimate Frisbee Team. RHS Ultimate Frisbee is in its second year, and the players hold practice every Monday at Fretz Park Field. The goal of Ultimate, as the players call it, is to transport the Frisbee from one side of the field to the other. Although the players take practice seriously, senior Alex Vandruff said that Ultimate Frisbee is one of the best parts of his week. “I love Ultimate Frisbee because it is a perfect time to hang out with friends I might not see outside of school, while simultaneously getting a great workout,” Vandruff said.
STUDENTS! If you don’t have an I.D. you WILL receive a detention. That is all.
The Talon is a student-led publication that serves to inform and entertain the students of Richardson High School. The opinions of the writers do no reflect the views of the staff, the adviser or any of the staff and/ or administration of the RISD. The Talon is distributed six times a year and reaches over 3,000 readers.
Photographers Nate Beer Tea Cao Ashton Gunawan Angelica Fisher Haley Yates Will Crawford
continued from page 1
“I hid it because I was ashamed that I couldn’t control my habit – it wasn’t recreational, it was an addiction,” Eason said. “I didn’t want to be a disappointment to my wife and on top of that, I didn’t think she’d understand. Dipping is kind of a guy thing and a coach thing. But it’s not healthy to deceive people like I did whether it is your parents, your girlfriend, etc.” Before becoming an assistant principal, Eason coached football. At that point in his life, he and his fellow coaches dipped five to six times a day. Even though he himself was addicted, he warned his players about the dangers of tobacco anytime he caught them with a dip in. “I was in a difficult position because I was dipping, but I didn’t want them to dip,” Eason said. “I would call them into my office and tell them about how once you start it becomes more than just a habit. It’s addicting. The boys would tell me that they didn’t do it that often and it was no big deal, but because I was a user myself, I knew that even when you say you don’t do it that much, you probably do. Teenage guys think that they’re invincible.” Brown is proof of that. He’s seen the pictures of lip cancer, black-stained teeth, and rotted gums that are associated with dipping – he just doesn’t think it will happen to him. “I’m not worried about lip cancer or that stuff,” he said. “My dad has dipped for 30 years, my step-dad has dipped for 30 years, and my grandfather dipped for 60 years. Nothing bad happened to them.” But Eason knows that isn’t the case. He said because of dipping, he suffers from high blood pressure. “Teens aren’t invincible,” he said. “At some point, your body will break down. I know what they’re thinking – nothing bad will happen, I won’t get sick, it doesn’t matter – and it’s the same mentality teens have about driving drunk or texting while driving. They don’t realize how harmful it really is until something bad already happened.” Eason said quitting was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do. But once the tobacco began ruling his life, he knew had to stop. “My wife would go to bed and I’d stay up because
I knew if she was asleep I could dip,” Eason said. “Not going to bed with your wife just so you can use tobacco is not healthy. That’s when I realized this is not how it’s supposed to be.” Quitting dip leads to irritability, headaches, and stomach pain, but Eason was motivated by his health and his family. He has been dip-free for the past nine years. “I want to continue to be healthy, and I know the end-result of using tobacco is negative. Why would I choose that, especially now that I know I can do without it?” he said. “Plus, I realized I wasn’t just deceiving my wife anymore. My daughter was old enough to ask me what was in my mouth, and I didn’t want to have that conversation. I feel really good about my decision to quit. It’s nice to not feel captive to something. I’m not ruled by something that is as stupid as tobacco anymore.” Senior Lee Jones* hasn’t been as fortunate with his attempts to quit. When he googles dip and sees pictures of diseased tongues and decaying teeth, he promises himself he’ll stop. That promise lasts about 24 hours. “I get scared sometimes,” Jones said. “I’ll feel a bump on my lip and think ‘Oh God, it’s a tumor,’ but then I’ll end up dipping the next day. It’s the same cycle over and over. I guess that’s because I’m addicted.” Baseball coach Mike Tovar said that dipping has always been associated with baseball, but he tries to impress upon his players that not only is it a nasty habit, but it is banned by UIL. “Just like you can’t have alcohol on the school grounds, you can’t have chewing tobacco,” Tovar said. “If I know of a student dipping, I will personally put an end to it.” Senior Cody Strull has no desire to give the athlete stereotype any validity. “I’ve learned to look past it,” Strull, a baseball player, said. “So many athletes dip, but you can’t let it bother you. You just have to choose to not do it yourself.”
News BAD BREATH STAINED TEETH LOSS OF TASTE MOUTH SORES ORAL CANCER THROAT CANCER GUM DISEASE TOOTH LOSS
Jaw muscle and tendons are weakened, where cancer tissue later forms The tissue in the lips, cheek and tongue deteriorates until it is necessary for complete removal Teeth and gums become hypersensitive
*names have been changed to protect identities
Students Honored by Mavs Juniors serve as honorary co-captains for achievements in science
by TALIA RICHMAN Junior Gannon Williams has had food thrown at him. He’s been physically threatened. He’s been mercilessly teased about having Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism-spectrum disorder. But, on January 14, the echoing memories of hurtful taunts were drowned out by the screams of thousands of fans at the American Airlines Center. Because of Gannon’s academic prowess in math, science and technology, he was chosen as the symbolic co-captain of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team through the ExxonMobil Honorary Co-Captain program. He received two tickets to the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, shot-around during the pre-game, and stood with the players during team introductions. AP Physics teacher Dr. George Hademenos nominated Gannon for the program. Hademenos said Gannon is always at the top of his class and truly understands the material. “Gannon is an exceptional student and I wanted to see him recognized for his excellence in the course,” Hademenos said. The admiration is mutual. “Dr. H. has influenced me because he treats me with respect and helps me learn more and more about physics and how it works with our world,” Gannon said. Gannon’s mother, Lisa Williams, said Gannon has always been interested in the sciences. As a three-year-old, he told his mother that he would one day cure cancer. “His mind, and the way he thinks, is unlike any other I have known,” Mrs. Williams said. Gannon is a Duke TIP scholar, and is currently taking AP Computer Science in addition to AP Physics. He plans to study physics at the University of Texas at Dallas before getting his PhD. “I really enjoy learning how the universe ticks, and the way the world around us is always in motion,” Gannon said. “I feel that, because of my autism, I am able to take in a lot of information, and the science portion has always been very interesting to me.” Even without this honor, Mrs. Williams said she has many reasons to be proud of her son. “Gannon is someone who will stop and render aid should he see an accident or an animal hurt,” she said. “He only wants good in the world and believes everyone should be treated equally, and with respect. He has taught me strength, patience and courage. He is truly a gift from God.” At next week’s game, another Richardson student will serve as honorary co-captain. Junior Rachel Wilson was also nominated by Hademenos. He said that her artistic abilities set her apart. “In addition to her science aptitude, and her ability to catch on really quickly, she is an extraordinary
artist,” he said. “She is able to take her art and apply it to science and come up with some phenomenal medical illustrations.” After hearing about Gannon’s experience Rachel is excited, and nervous, for her turn as co-captain.
“I’m really short and awful at basketball, so they’re definitely going to make fun of me during the shoot-around part of the night,” Rachel said. “But it’s so cool that I get to go to a real basketball game.”
Junior Gannon Williams shoots around with Champ, the Dallas Mavericks’ mascot, on the floor of the American Airlines Center. Williams was chosen to be an honorary co-captain due to his math, science and technology achievements. “I was excited about being able to mingle with my favorite basketball team,” Williams said. photo by JACKSON DURBIN
Is College the Right Choice?
by PETER MIKHAEL
Eagles Predict the Oscars
hile college acceptances and rejections tear at most seniors’ emotions, some students wonder if the traditional college path is the right choice for them. Many want to begin their professional lives immediately after graduation, chasing careers in the arts or technology, while others have already decided what their ideal professions would look like, and guiding these different students into the same path is illogical. While the traditional four-year college is not the appropriate choice for all students, a post high school level of education is critical for everyone. With technological innovations dominating the last decade, more students are joining the community of college dropouts whose ideas and companies have generated millions of dollars, most notably, the community in Silicon Valley, California. Complementing the success is the free and fullof-risk lifestyle that these ex-students enjoy. We are all acquainted with stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and, most recently, Mark Zuckerberg. But what students should remember is that of the innovators who followed this path, only a fraction has actually been successful. Furthermore, the first employees of these suc-
cessful companies were young college graduates, recruited for their skills, their talents and, most importantly, their degrees. However, there are also many sought-after careers which have not been made into majors, or which require education, just not the four (now close to five) years of college. For example, a student might be interested in founding a music production company, or creating a new kind of business, and those majors do not exist. But every occupation requires some sort of skill, and colleges have courses to teach subjects like business management and commercial law, knowledge needed to run a business. Many students wish to directly dive into a career after high school. A recent survey by The Time/Carnegie Corporation showed that 41 percent of college leaders believe that the education students receive is not worth what they pay for it*, and many people agree. However, jobs are increasingly becoming dependent on more than just a high school education. In this economy, students who agree with the 41 percent of college leaders have a few options: attend a community college, or trade school, or take online courses.
Best Actor? Best Actress?
More educators (including college professors) are incorporating online videos into their classes. In these videos, teachers are applying new teaching methods, and students are reportedly learning and getting better grades. And historically, community college and vocational school graduates have been essential in pushing the economy forward. For students who still have to discover how they want to spend the rest of their lives, going to the usual four-year college might be the solution to their problem. In the time spent in college, students are exposed to a variety of majors and a large and diverse student body, an experience that helps many students discover what they want to do with their lives. So the conventional four-year college is definitely not the best choice for every student. Higher education is vital for success in the job market, but in the end, how much education someone needs depends on each individual’s needs and goals, and in many instances, vocational school or community college is the better choice. * TIME VOL. 180, NO. 18 | 2012, PAGE 40.
Senior Kelsey Lemon thinks...
Senior Nick Harkleroad thinks...
“Argo because it has won many of the big picture and director awards lately at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice.
“Django Unchained because I thought it captured the 1800s so well. It was just raw and funny.”
“Zero Dark Thirty because it was intense and dramatic. It was really cool to see how they caught Osama bin Laden.”
“Daniel Day Lewis because he portrayed Lincoln beautifully and eight out of the last nine Oscar winners in that category also won the Critic’s Choice, which he did.”
“Denzel Washington is my man. He has a really friendly, fatherly face.”
“Hugh Jackman because I was impressed with his singing. It was nothing like Wolverine.”
“Jessica Chastain because she was completely out of her normal character scheme and did it really well.”
“Jennifer Lawrence is beautiful. She deserves it just for that reason alone.”
“Jennifer Lawrence because she won the Hunger Games. She deserves an Oscar for that.”
Freshman Chase Karacostas thinks...
photos and story by TALIA RICHMAN
ost mothers fill up baby books with the dates of their child’s first crawl, first word and first step. Kelly Beller instead keeps a book full of her son’s hospitalization dates. Between muscle surgeries, spine surgeries and multiple rounds of pneumonia, she has scribbled down 24 different dates since 1993. Sam, now 20-years-old, will never have a first crawl, word or step for his mother to record. His severe form of Cerebral Palsy, combined with a mysterious disorder that doctors call “Degenerative Nerve Disease,” keeps him from walking, talking and moving on his own. But neither Sam’s wheelchair, nor his breathing tubes are his defining characteristic. His smile is. “Sam’s physical weakness has taught our family what true strength really is,” David Beller, Sam’s father, said. “He is the most joyful person you will ever meet despite all of the hard stuff he’s dealt with. Not only has he accepted his life, but he has fought for his life.” It’s 6 a.m. on a Thursday morning and the Beller household is dark and silent – except for the sound of Sam’s ventilator whirring in his room. Night-nurse Misty James wakes Sam up and does breathing treatments with him as he slowly blinks sleep from his eyes. Sam’s room is filled with Sponge-Bob decorations, stuffed frogs and a DVD collection featuring movies like “Happy Feet” and “Curious George.” But there’s also a hospital bed, a wheelchair and a bulky oxygen machine. As Sam lies in bed, his 80-pound frame swallowed by sheets and blankets, Nurse Misty goes about her morning routine. Earlier, she had placed Sam’s seven daily pills in water so they could completely dissolve before she administered them. Nurse Misty takes the liquid medicine, ranging in color from hot pink to muddy brown, and gives them to Sam through a tube in his stomach. Sam isn’t able to take in any food or drink through his mouth. At 7 a.m. there’s a changing of the guard as daynurse Yvonne Tambe takes over. She checks Sam’s vital signs and lets him fall back asleep. There have been nurses in the Beller’s home since 2000. In the past two years, Sam’s needs have intensified, and nurses are present 24/7. In addition to the three other Beller children (Tevah, 17, Jacob, 15, and Simone, 13), a rotation of six nurses are constantly coming and going. “It’s hard always having people in your house,” Tevah, a senior, said. “Sometimes I want to just walk around wearing pajamas, but if there is a male nurse w o r k i n g with Sam that day, I can’t do that. Sometimes I want some privacy, but I’ve gotten used to it and I don’t mind too much. The lack of privacy has forced us to be comfortable with who we are. It has made us very open to each other about our feelings, and it’s made us closer because we really can’t hide things from each other.” The Bellers said the nurses have become part of their extended family. When Nurse Yvonne got married, Sam was the best, man and Mr. Beller served as the officiating minister (he is an architect by trade, but studied at a seminary). Nurse Yvonne reaches under the covers to hold Sam’s hand
SMILING TO SU
Despite Sam Beller’s disabilities, his family has been strength while gently stroking his dark hair. It is 8 a.m. now and officially time to start Sam’s day. She smiles down at him before yelling, “Get your lazy butt up! It’s time for school!” Nurse Yvonne chatters away as she dresses Sam, telling him stories about her day, about her husband, about her pregnancy. She remembers what Mrs. Beller instructed her when she first started working for the family: “Talk to Sam like he understands you – because he does. You can find out things by asking him Yes/No questions and waiting for him to either smile or frown.” When asked Yes/No questions, Sam is able to make choices for himself. Nurse Yvonne holds up a brown and gray sweater and asks
Sam if he would like to we she goes back into the close “Better?” she asks. Sam smiles. Black shir Even though Sam ca that their son is in there – h right. “Sam has a really sharp me know that he’s there,” M out loud] at the right parts o ter when one of us falls over certain level of comprehens
While Sam understands a lot, he isn’t developmentally a 20-year-old. “David is always good at reminding me that Sam doesn’t have the same expectations as other kids do,” Mrs. Beller said. “He has a child’s view of life, and that protects him from getting down. He enjoys the sweet and simple things.” The Bellers have asked Sam whether he would change his situation. “When we asked him if he wanted his life to be different, he frowned,” Kelly said. “When we asked him if he was happy with his life, he smiled.” At 10 a.m., Nurse Yvonne and a DART employee take about 10 minutes loading Sam onto the DART para-transit taxi that will take them to Richland Community College. Sam takes an Assisted P.E. class there every Tuesday and Thursday. The class is a mixture of students with special needs and mainstream college students. While waiting for class to begin, Sam hangs out in the hallway with James Wooldridge and Rae’ven Riggins, two Richardson graduates with special needs. Rae’ven and James play-fight with imaginary guns and swords while making loud booming sounds. Sam watches from his wheelchair and smiles, making gentle cooing noises of approval. When Rae’ven grows tired of the game, she cheerfully walks over to Sam and wraps her arms around his shoulders. A man in the corner asks Rae’ven if Sam is her boyfriend. “Of course he’s my boyfriend!” Rae’ven squeals. When class begins at 11 a.m., the coach announces that today’s activity is balloon volleyball. Sam, of course, can’t spike the balloons on his own, so Nurse Yvonne lifts his hands for him. When a barrage of multi-colored balloons comes Sam’s way, Rae’ven steps in and protectively swats them away. After Sam was diagnosed, the Bellers were continually hit with painful realizations that their son’s life experiences would be different from that of other kids. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying to give Sam as normal a life as possible – he has his own Facebook page, goes to all the Eagle pep rallies, and stays connected with his friends through his class at Richland. “We want to protect his dignity as a person, and make sure he isn’t lost in all of his medical stuff,” Mrs. Beller said. In 2010, Tevah helped Sam ask Rae’ven to Homecoming during a football game. As Styx’s “Come Sail Away” played in the background, Tevah rolled Sam onto the football field along with a big life preserver that said: Come sail away to Homecoming. Sam and Rae’ven gave each other a boutonnière/corsage, took pictures with Tevah’s homecoming group and had a fancy dinner at Macaroni Grill. The Bellers chaperoned homecoming and noticed that Sam was looking progressively sweatier as the dance wore on, so they loosened his tie and took off his suit jacket. By the end of the night, they said he looked like all the other guys. “Watching Sam ask Rae’ven to Homecoming was one of the best moments of my life,” Tevah said. “It was so much fun experiencing a school dance with Sam because it was something I never thought he’d be able to do – it was awesome that he got to be like a normal boy for the night.”
A day in the life of Sam Beller
hened by his unbreakable spirit
ear this one today. When he doesn’t smile, et and pulls out a black, long-sleeved shirt.
rt it is. an’t fully express himself, his parents know he’s just trapped in a body that doesn’t work
p, almost dark, sense of humor which lets Mr. Beller said. “Sam laughs [although not of movies and will have full-on belly laughr or stubs our toe. You really have to have a sion to get a joke.”
continued on page 8
Top: Nurse Yvonne Tambe uses a ceiling lift system to move Sam Beller from his wheelchair to his bed. The lift snakes from Sam’s room, to the hallway and to the bathroom. “We’ve made a lot of modifications to our house because of Sam,” father David Beller said. photo by TALIA RICHMAN Middle: The Beller family poses for a picture at the Homecoming pep rally where sister Tevah Beller was honored as part of the Homecoming Court. courtesy photo. Bottom: Rae’ven Riggins and Sam Beller slow-dance at Homecoming. Sister Tevah Beller said it was great seeing Sam get to act like a normal boy for one night. courtesy photo.
continued from pg. 7 At noon, Sam heads from Richland to Richardson High School where he spends 5th period working with senior Katherine Wright, a peer tutor, in the Development Center. Today’s lesson is about Hanukkah. Katherine props up the informational packet on a wooden “slant board” so that Sam can follow along as she reads to him. After the reading, it’s time for a fill-in-the-blank worksheet: _____ are potato pancakes. “Is it ‘Family?’” Katherine asks. Sam is stone-faced. “Is it ‘Menorah?’” Nothing. “Is it ‘Latkes?’” Sam smiles. “Good job Sam, that’s right!” The bell rings signaling the end of 5th period. Once the halls have cleared, Yvonne begins rolling Sam through G-hall, the cafeteria, down the ramp in the Eagle’s Nest and finally into the art room. Credit-wise, Sam is a junior but he ceremoniously rolled across the graduation stage last year so that he could take part in the milestone event with his peers. He will take core classes and electives at Richardson until he is 22 through the RHS Transition Program for students with special needs. For the past two years, Sam has learned to express himself through art in a way he can’t do with words. Sam has some mobility left in his shoulders, so he uses a metal arm support when he paints that allows him to move a paintbrush back and forth. Art teacher Beth Grant-Field – who studied art therapy in college – encourages Sam’s use of arm supports. She wanted Sam to exercise his limited shoulder mobility and create his own work instead of doing “hand-over-hand art” where the nurse moves his hand and essentially paints for him. “I want to let Sam do his own movements,” Mrs. Grant-Field said. “I want his art to be his and no one else’s.” As she explains this, a new teacher’s aide reaches down to guide Sam’s hot-pink paint laden brush for him. “No,” Mrs. Grant-Field said. “Let him do it – I promise you that he can.” Mrs. Grant-Field said that Sam has been an inspiration to both her and the students in her art classes. “It really is fun to see what Sam creates,” she said. “Even though he’s just doing swish movements, each piece has a beautiful modern abstraction quality to it. There isn’t a day that goes by that Sam doesn’t make me smile.” When Sam arrives home from school, Nurse Yvonne gives him another breathing treatment. She rhythmically moves a thin, six-inch plastic tube in and out of Sam’s nose to suction out all of the gunk that has built up throughout the day. Soon, Mrs. Beller arrives home from her job as a software analyst. She comes into Sam’s room, gives him a kiss, and immediately starts asking him Yes/No questions about his day. When Mrs. Beller is done catching up with Sam, Nurse Yvonne preps him for his bath. In order to move Sam from his wheelchair, to the bed, to the bath, Nurse Yvonne uses the electronic lift-system that the Bellers installed in their ceiling. Sam’s body is strapped into a net that attaches to a track on the ceiling. The track snakes above Sam’s room, through the hallway, and into the bathroom. Sam is then lowered onto a table in the shower where
he is bathed by Yvonne. Once he’s clean and dressed, Sam and the family pile into their wheelchair accessible van to watch Simone perform in West Junior High’s annual winter concert. When the Bellers bought their home, they imagined that the cozy house would just be their “starter home.” Now, 15 years later, they’re still there. “If Sam was different we may have strived to have a bigger house and fancy vacations, but he has kept our priorities off material things and on important things like family,” Mr. Beller said. Because of Sam’s needs, the Bellers can’t go out to a movie on a moment’s notice – not if the nurse canceled that day. They can’t board airplanes and jet off to exotic destinations. They can’t go on family camping trips. But Mrs. Beller said that none of her kids have ever expressed resentment. “I may have not done all the things people with normal families have done, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Tevah said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today if Sam wasn’t my brother.” Like any sister, Tevah likes to tease her brother. Sam participated in “No Shave November” this year so she constantly joked with him about how he looked like a hairy animal with his patchy beard growing in. She also turns to him when she just needs to talk. Once, in 8th grade, she plopped herself on his bed and spilled her guts about how she had a boyfriend that Mom and Dad didn’t know about. “The times I spend with Sam, even just talking with him in his bed, are times I treasure,” Tevah said. “I can tell him things that I can’t tell anyone else, but I wish so
“Sam’s physical weakness has taught our family what true strength really is.” –David Beller badly that I could hear what he’s thinking in response.” Tevah aspires to be an occupational therapist, and a missionary in a developing country where children don’t get the care that they need – all as a result of seeing how therapists have helped her brother. Because Tevah is so close to Sam, the ogling stares and “retard” comments hit her especially hard. “I’ll hear someone make fun of a disabled kid in class, and it tugs on my heart every time,” she said. “It hurts me to know that when I’m not with Sam, this is what people are thinking. It’s rough having Sam be such a big part of my life and knowing that people say things like that about him too.” Nurse Yvonne said that the most incredible thing about the Beller family is that they haven’t let Sam’s disabilities define or destroy them. “Dealing with a child who is like Sam for almost 20 years brings a lot of stress to a family,” she said. “Most families fall apart because of that stress – I’ve seen it happen. But the Bellers made a vow to stay together and love Sam unconditionally. Having Sam has made them stronger instead of breaking them down.” At about 9 p.m., Mrs. Beller comes into to Sam’s room to say goodnight. She leans over the side of his bed and kisses his forehead before she starts to
20-year-old Sam Beller is living with cerebral palsy and a degenerative nerve disease. While he can’t talk, walk, or move on his own, his family says he is the most joyful person they know. photo by PATRICIA SUNDARA
pray. She moves down his body – praying for God to bless Sam’s lungs, his chest, his stomach. Then, to get a laugh, she asks God to bless Sam’s butt and his big toe. Before she walks out, she reminds her son: “God can hear everything that you want to talk to him about.” When Sam was first diagnosed, the Bellers felt like they were wandering alone and answerless through the darkness. That’s when they learned to rely on their faith more than ever before. “We just had to trust that everything would be okay and God would take care of us,” Mrs. Beller said. “Our faith was forged stronger through the fire.” The Bellers often face the question: Why do bad things happen to good people? “When the doctors don’t know the answers, or when my parents don’t know the answers, I’ve learned that God is always there,” Tevah said. “I’ve learned to trust Him that it’s going to be okay. Of course, there are times when I’m just infuriated that God won’t heal Sam. I tell Him that Sam is the most selfless person you could ever meet. But, I know that God would tell me to look at how many people Sam has blessed and given joy to just through him being such a joyful person himself. I think that a lot of people see God as a very distant creature that you can’t really converse with, but going through those times of anger with God has shown me that He will always meet me in my anger and build me up with His word.” Faith has helped the Bellers face the inevitable: Sam’s mortality. Doctors predicted that Sam would live to his early-to-mid teens. During Sam’s childhood, it didn’t look like he’d even make that long. In 2004, the Bellers purchased a cemetery plot for their son. Yet, on January 20, Sam turned 20-years-old. “We believe in heaven and that this life is not the end of the story,” Mrs. Beller said. “I know that my sadness in not knowing Sam fully now isn’t forever. I get to look forward to listening to him tell me what he was really thinking and feeling for all these years once we reach heaven. Sam’s life on Earth is just chapter one.”
Born to Play
Junior makes it to All-State Orchestra for the first time with help from parents by VICTORIA DENNIS photo by JONATHAN JAUREGUI
unior Alexis Shambley sat in front of the microphone ready to audition for All-State orchestra. Her hands shook as she lifted her 1817 Panormo violin to her shoulder – the same violin that her mother used 37 years ago to get into the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. She silently counted off the tempo in her head, curled her fingers over the fingerboard – and froze. Since she was three-years-old, Alexis’ mother, Xiao-Mei Pelletier, trained her on the violin, instilling in her a passion for music – all in preparation for this audition. “After the audition, I went home and cried because I thought I had done so badly,” Alexis said. “I was pleased when I found out that I was only one chair away, and more so now that I have made it.” Playing violin has always been a major part of Alexis’ life. Both parents are members of the DSO. From her mother singing her to sleep as a child to seeing symphonies and operas on the weekend, Alexis was immersed in music from the start. After begging her mom incessantly for two solid weeks, three-year-old Alexis was introduced to her mother’s violin. “The fact that both of my parents were professional musicians mainly influenced me,” Alexis said. “Since everyone else in my family played an instrument, I wanted one too.” Alexis continued her training by joining Hamilton Park’s orchestra in sixth grade, allowing her to take her training to the next level and develop her skills. “Playing violin teaches you that practice does make perfect… it teaches you to prioritize,” Alexis
said. “And being in orchestra teaches you leadership and teamwork.” Her experience in orchestra, combined with the influence of her parents, led Alexis to audition for All-State in high school. “All-Region I wasn’t worried about because I had already gotten in every other year,” Alexis said. “I was preoccupied with my audition for All-State. I started on the pieces slowly, and then would bring them to tempo, added musicality, made it sound mature. The metronome was my best friend.” Prior to her All-State audition, Alexis received help from both her teachers and parents. “I coached her on the music, helped her prepare fingerings and bowings, made musical suggestions to add to her performance,” Pelletier said. “As one of her teachers, I offer her as much positive and constructive guidance as I can. One reaches their full potential musically over a lifetime of learning, growing and experience.” Alexis worked on two etudes, solo pieces of music, and 12 separate excerpts, small pieces taken from etudes and other songs, since the summer of her sophomore year in preparation for her All-State audition. However, all that time wasn’t enough to calm her nerves during her audition. “There were 12 excerpts for All-State this year,” Alexis said. “I initially thought that would help me, because they would get to hear me more, but when I went to play the first excerpt, I just forgot how to play violin for a second. After that, I got it together and focused, but it was hard trying not to shake. It was very unnerving.” The All-State Orchestra accepts 112 out of over 300 violinists who audition. Alexis placed 113, mak-
ing her first alternate. “I was initially pissed off being one away,” Alexis said. “But all of the people I talked to kept telling me that out of 112 people, something was bound to happen to one of them. It was still a surprise when I found out. I wasn’t expecting it.” Assistant Director of RHS’ orchestra, Catherine Wiechmann, received an e-mail on December 4 informing her that there was a vacancy in the violin section allowing Alexis to move on to AllState. “I was elated,” Wiechmann said. “The first thing I wanted to do was go tell her.” This is the first time in over eight years that RHS has had an orchestra member make it to AllState. Wiechmann says that this is a huge honor for both Alexis and the school. “I’m happy that I get to represent RHS and I love that it gets orchestra more recognized by the school,” Alexis said. “But I’m mostly excited just to be there surrounded by people who love it all as much as I do.” Alexis will perform with the All-State Orchestra in February at the TMEA Conference in San Antonio. Until then, she practices up to three hours a day polishing the music before the performance. “Seeing how far I got this year when I didn’t even make it past the first round of judging last year gave me hope for next year,” Alexis said. “It was inspirational and bittersweet all at the same time. I just have to practice that much longer, that much harder. But for now, I’m going. And that’s all that matters.”
Swimming to the Future
Seniors prepare to leave swim team after four years by SARAH OPRYSK Humidity hangs in the air like a heavy blanket, and water slicks the floor. Each sound – from the cheers of the parents to the starting buzzer – is magnified by the walls enclosing the pool. The scene looks routine as far as swim meets go, but to the swimmers lined up behind the diving boards, tonight holds a special meaning. The Richardson High School swim team faced off against Garland on January 10 for the senior swim meet. Richardson placed first in the Girls 400 Meter Free Relay, Boys 400 Meter Free, and eight other events. In the end, Garland took the most points – 163 to 148. It was the last home meet for the 2012-2013 seniors, a bittersweet fact for many of them. Many
Richardson seniors took first place in their events. Head swim coach Regina Moss said she is confident that these graduating swimmers will do well in their future endeavors. “Hopefully, RHS has prepared them for college,” Moss said. She said she has enjoyed watching them grow and mature over their four years on the swim team. “Not to be mean, but when they came to me, they weren’t [competitive] swimmers. I got to influence and mold them. They are literally my babies, my creations,” Moss said. Moss said she will miss having a group of goofy, but close-knit, friends on her team leading the other swimmers. One graduating senior, Will Crawford, said the
Left: Senior Will Crawford swims freestyle at the senior meet against Garland High School. Crawford said that being on the swim team has taught him many lessons over the past four years. Right: Coach Regina Moss congratulates senior Eric Sullivan during the Senior Presentation portion of the meet. Sullivan has been a part of the swim team for three years. photos by TALIA RICHMAN
best part of his season was helping unify his team through events such as Swim for the Cure – a swima-thon for cancer research that raised close to four thousand dollars. His teammate, senior Justin Solis, said that his highlight was influencing new swimmers. “I will miss the whole experience of getting up at 6 a.m. and jumping into a cold pool of water, Solis said. It’s hard to get used to, but after four years, you kind of get attached to it.” Halfway through the meet, roses and orchids were given to the seniors by their coaches. The seniors shared plans for college and thanked their families, friends, Einstein Bros. Bagels and Coach Moss. “Once a swimmer, always a swimmer,” Moss said. **For full sports coverage, including the latest videos and pictures, visit rhstalon.org
Same Turf, New Sport Star football players try out, join varsity soccer team by CATHERINE STACK
During football season, senior quarterback Parker Smith scored 14 touchdowns, rushed for 711 yards and passed for 352 yards on the Eagle-Mustang Stadium’s field. Now that it’s soccer season, Smith is back on the same turf – only this time as one of the newest members of the varsity soccer team. Smith, along with senior safety Josue Kanzang, wanted to stay active once football season ended. Senior kicker Andrew Buckmeier, who has been a varsity soccer player for four years, encouraged his friends to join. “I tried out for soccer because I needed to keep in shape and I love the game as well,” Kanzang said. “It was really hard adjustment at first, but I’m an athlete, so that helped me out.” Even though “futbol” translates to “soccer,” Smith and Kanzang are learning that the workouts and conditioning are very different in soccer. “Soccer conditioning is very long sprints back to back, and you always have to be ready to run,” Smith said. “Football is short bursts of speed, and a lot more rest, so it’s hard to transition.” As a varsity soccer veteran, Buckmeier has been helping his friends make the adjustment. “Andrew helps me with skills that I haven’t mas-
tered, and it’s great to be on a team together with him and Josue for one last season,” Smith said. “I couldn’t be more excited.” Coach Robert Carmichael said he is glad to have Smith and Kanzang on his team. “Josue and Parker both bring something to the team we didn’t have before – size and speed,” Carmichael said. “They bring much excitement to the team.” Smith said he has no doubt that football prepared him well for soccer. “Football kept my strength and speed up so I was ready for the soccer season,” Smith said. “Football really helps with footwork too.” Although the season has just begun, Carmichael said he has already seen improvements in Smith and Kanzang. “Josue’s touch has gotten much better, and Parker has actually started to show up,” Carmichael said. Although the team lost their first game, and tied their second, Kanzang is confident that he will be revisiting the playoffs – this time as a soccer player. “Our soccer team is so awesome, and we have a great group of guys, and I know that we will make playoffs this year,” Kanzang said.
Ice Skating @ The Galleria
Free General Admission All Day @ the Dallas Museum of Art
Former Eagle starting quarterback Parker Smith and senior Lane Schattle fight for possession of the ball during second half action during a varsity tournament at Eagle-Mustang stadium. photo by JACKSON DURBIN **Full sports coverage, with the latest videos and pictures,at rhstalon.org
Wrestling @ RHS vs Newman Smith 6:00
Opening night of “Little Shop of Horrors” @ RHS Auditorium 7:00 Gymnastics meet @ 6:00
Rick Ross’ birthday
Dallas Stars vs St Louis Blues @ American Airlines Center 7:00
Girls BB game @ Davis Fresh/JV 6:00 & Varsity 7:30
Dallas Stars v Colorado Avalanche @ American Airlines Center 7:00
Augustana @ House of Blues 9:00
Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns @ American Airlines Center 6:30
Lady Gaga Concert @ American Airlines Center 7:00 String Fling Orchestra Concert @ RHS 5:00-7:00 rhstalon.org
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