Page 1



the student voice of Rock Canyon

NO MORE NINE TO FIVE As salaries in the district stay stagnant, many Rock Canyon teachers have been forced to take up second, even third jobs. 5810 McArthur Ranch Road. Highlands Ranch, CO 80124. 303-387-3000. Volume 10. Issue 1. October 9, 2013

CONTENTS 1ST QUARTER 2013-14 16 16.

the First Word Page 5... 10 Questions with Varsity Foot-

ball Coach Brian Lamb Coach Lamb has taken the helm of an inconsistent RC football program. Now, is he ready to revamp it?

the Focus Page 8... Living with the Ribbon

Teachers and students alike share their experiences with breast cancer and how it has affected their lives. Page 16... No More Nine to Five



As funding continues to get cut, and salaries stay dormant, many teachers and staff members have been forced to work multiple jobs in addition to their employment at Rock Canyon. Page 20... The Faces of Tessa Johnson

Whether it is via brush strokes or portraits, Tessa Johnson has become Rock Canyon’s most prolific artist.

the Last Word Page 28... Predicting the President

The next Presidential election is not for another 1135 days. Can we please wait at least a couple of years until we pick a frontrunner? Page 29... Kicking and Screaming

Has parent involvement at High School sporting events gone too far?



the student voice of Rock Canyon

Visit us at 2.

The goals of The Rock, the student newspaper of Rock Canyon High School, are to inform, educate, and entertain the readers as well as to provide an educational opportunity for the students who produce it. The first three copies of The Rock are free, additional copies are available for 50 cents each. The Rock invites your comments. Letters to the editor and commentary submissions are encouraged. You are also encouraged to submit coverage ideas, cartoons, photos or anything else you wish to see in the Rock. Opinions of the staff are presented as editorials. All editorials are at least the majority view of the editorial board. We also feature a number of columnists and commentary writers. Their opinions are their own. The Rock is a forum and welcomes content from our readers. Rock Canyon High School 5810 McArthur Ranch Road Highlands Ranch, CO 80124 Phone 303-387-3000/Fax 303-387-3001

• Need to de-stress? • Want to feel better in your body? • Spend lots of time sitting in front of your computer? Visit For $29.99, the Complete “Stretch, Align & Balance DVD package includes a small, inflatable ball and an extra-strength Flex Band


the First Word

We Got Spirit Despite the score, the varsity cheerleaders root on the football team against Castle View at the homecoming game, Sept. 20. The squad threw girls into the air in order to help pump up the crowd. “The homecoming game is one of the best games to cheer at,” Rachel Moote ‘15 said. “There are so many people that come out to support the team and the energy builds off of everyone throughout the night, making it a fun and exciting game. With so many people, everyone really gets into the cheers and shows their school spirit while still having a good time.”


Photo by Linnea Melbye


the First Word

10 Questions With: Head Fo The Rock sat down with Coach Lamb to discuss the How would you assess the overall play of the team thus far? Obviously if you look at our wins and losses, we’re not where we want to be, but there has been a lot of improvement and the boys never quit, which is always encouraging.

the community support has been great, but I also think they’re still looking for a great product to support and I think we are making strides at accomplishing that. From there then I would expect

How would you describe your coaching style? I’m someone who expects maximum effort from everyone and perfection on the offensive side of the ball since I call the plays. I’m not a yeller, but I get my point across. I would say I’m pretty even keel. What are your expectations moving forward with this program? We’re going to go out there trying to win every game, and there is still a chance we could make the playoffs. But we need to just keep competing and improve steadily. The lower levels have done very well this season, so we’re looking at how they can contribute in the years to come. How would you describe your experience as a coach and as a teacher at Rock canyon? It’s been great. Teaching has been great, the kids have been very respectful and appreciative which has been nice. They still say “thank you” which is always nice. Coaching wise, the kids always come out ready to work, which is good. How do you see the fans and community getting more invested in the program in the future? From the student body, we would love to see the students coming out and having fun not only just at the Ranch and Homecoming game, but all the games. Granted that’s partly our job, if we do a better job on the field then more people will want to come support us. I think 6.

to see some more sponsorships and fans hanging RC apparel out their windows showing support. What area of the team have you seen the most improvement in this year? I would say defensively we’ve improved in our tackling, which has been an issue in some of our

Football Coach Brian Lamb

the current team and the future of Canyon football games. Offensively, I think we have improved in understanding our schemes, because it’s completely different than what the team ran last year.

them to play a little more zone-coverage, versus the man coverage that they ran last year. How have you made the transition from assistant coach at Mountain Vista to Head Coach at Rock Canyon? You just have to make sure you oversee the entire program. It’s really important to me that the freshman are being coached well and being developed and all of the aspects of the program are well functioning. I’m also making sure that I build relationships with the staff, making sure that all my players are doing well in the classroom and getting them excited about football. What element of your coaching philosophy do you stress the most? The bottom line is that in anything they do, we want them to give maximum effort. Grades are very important, because the first thing a college recruiter will ask a player is “what’s your GPA?”. We also don’t want a bunch of kids who slack in the classroom. I want kids that are respected in the community, but are also tenacious because we need some more tenacity on this team.

What differences in scheme and style have been put in this year as opposed to last year? Our basic offense is more of a two-back offense with lead blockers and angles while in the past it was more of a one back set trying to spread the ball around. Defensively they used to be a three man front, now we are a four man front, asking

Where do you see the program going forward? Our overall goal is to be a top eight program in the state and make the state quarterfinals every year. That starts with wins and losses but also being recognized as a top program in the area. Academically, Rock Canyon is there; everyone knows that you can come here and get a great education and we want to use that to our advantage. We want support from the community and I’m looking to build a team around the kids we have. I’m not looking for any outside players. I think this is a great place to be and I think we have a great chance at being a top program in the state moving forward. 7.

Living with the Ribbon By Nikki Newman and Linnea Melbye

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women across the globe. For some people, cancer has the possibility to be deadly, but others have taken the initiative to prevent developing the disease. They may not have gotten the disease themselves, but know loved ones who have. Whether they have it or not, anyone who has a connection to breast cancer has a story.


Out of 1,979 students at Rock Canyon, 992 are females. Statistically, 124 of the female students at RC will be diagnosed with breast cancer sometime in their life. To avoid becoming a statistic, women are taking preventive measures in hopes of staying healthy. Early this year, Angelina Jolie was admired for her brave decision to get a mastectomy procedure. But long before Jolie was praised for her deci-

ing cancer and her daughter is at a smaller risk of development. Still, the doctors predicted that Fordham had a one in three chance of developing breast cancer, and for her, one in three was not a good enough risk factor. Fordham had always planned on getting a mastectomy surgery; to her, breasts were not worth dying for. But it was too expensive for her to pay for out of her own pocket. Fordham

“[I was] constantly fearful- constantly just waiting to get the cancer.” Shawndra Fordham sion, science teacher Shawndra Fordham learned that she was at a high risk for developing breast cancer and underwent the same procedure. “I hit about 35 when I started having a lot of breast lumps and they started looking abnormal,” Fordham said. “[I was] fearful every month that I was going to develop it.” Fordham first was tested for the BRCA mutation, which is a genetic mutation that elevates one’s chances of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Her mother, who had breast cancer, never was tested, and Fordham was relieved when her results were negative. Because she does not have the BRCA mutation, Fordham does not have to worry about her son develop-

always had a gut-feeling that she would develop cancer, and she thought it would be best to eliminate the possible causes of it rather than going through surgeries and battling cancer at the same time. When she found out insurance would cover the mastectomy, she knew the decision of whether or not to get it was a no-brainer. “It was never an ‘I wonder if...’ or ‘when I get cancer what will I do?’ It was always ‘when’. I was just so happy when I found out I could get the mastectomy without having to have the cancer first.” Now, years later, Fordham is in good health. She no longer needs to worry about ever developing breast cancer and can focus on her loved ones.

Leah Treffeisen volunteers at the Pedicab station at Race for the Cure. Pedicabs gave rides to survivors who couldn’t walk during the Race. “It was really cool to see the positive impact that a simple gesture can make in someone’s life,“ Treffeisen said.


For Fordham, a mastectomy procedure was the only option- she never considered anything else. She didn’t have to have cancer to justify the decision. Others feel differently, and go about preventing and handling cancer through chemotherapy and other treatments. Among this group of people is librarian Sharon Stevens. In 2011, Stevens was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Her treatments fell over the summer, which she felt was a blessing because she didn’t have to miss work at school. But treatment was far from easy: she underwent four sets of chemotherapy each three weeks apartmeaning 12 weeks of poor health. “You think that losing your hair is the worst part, but looking back, it’s not,” Stevens said. Like Fordham, she had members of her family who had cancer, which led her to believe that it could’ve been genetic. She was tested for the BRCA mutation, but the results came back negative. “I thought I’d beaten the odds because three other people I’d worked with had been diagnosed, but then I was, too,” Stevens said. When many people learn they have a life-threatening disease, they make a bucket list of things they want to be sure they accomplish. But Stevens felt differently: she wanted to spend the most time with the people she loved and to make the most of her time. Now that she is cured, she is always conscious of how


Men are predicted to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013

112 10.

Women die of breast cancer every day

she spends her free time and worries less about the “little things” in life. Breast cancer has not only affected adults at RC, but has had an impact on students as well. Beginning last year, the RC softball team has been proud in pink to raise awareness for people living with the ribbon. Coach Kay and Coach Sapienza are dedicated to making sure their players are well rounded people who help out in the community. The team has also supported orphans and foster children. “I know a mom of our team has breast cancer, and we really like to support her,” Caroline Thomas ‘16 said. Their homecoming parade float was decorated in the theme “Catch for the Cure.” Their theme gives students something else to think about besides homecoming and candy. Dressed in pink, the team aims to help students come back to realities of life during homecoming week. “We do a breast cancer float to raise awareness about breast cancer and support all the people out there that have it,” Thomas said. Starting last year, RC and Regis have created a tradition of playing for charity during the last softball game of their regular season. Last year, Sapienza got a tattoo of the breast cancer cross in honor of the event, which raised thousands of dollars. The game took place on Oct. 5 at Regis Jesuit High School.


Million cases are diagnosed world-wide yearly

1 in 8

Women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime


Women die of breast cancer every 15 minutes in the US


Number 1 most common cancer in women



A her fac wa “I wa ing cou Th She ma up un “I sta An D sta “ giv can T frie be rem cou “ bee thr nee


Surviving Together By Mallory Happ

A five-year-old little girl shouldn’t have to worry about one of her parents dying; but that is exactly what Lauren Sheperd ‘16 faced 10 years ago. At just 32, Becky Sheperd, Lauren’s mother, was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. “I didn’t know what was going on at first, but I knew that she was really sick and it bothered me,” Sheperd said. “I started going to counseling and freaking out. I didn’t talk to people and I couldn’t make friends.” This is not the life of a normal child. Some of the treatments Sheperd underwent included multiple surgeries and a double mastectomy to eliminate the cancer that had turned her world upside down. She also went through chemotherapy, with the unfortunate reality of hair loss. “I remember when she shaved her hair. I was walking down the stairs and she was coming up and I was thinking ‘who are you?’ And she said ‘it’s me, I’m your mom,’” Shepard said. Despite the circumstances, Sheperd explained that her mom stayed optimistic. “She kept saying ‘I’m gonna keep fighting. I’m not going to give up until the very last minute when there’s nothing else they can do.’” Through faith, love, and the home-cooked meals of family friends, the Sheperd family got through breast cancer. This will be Sheperd’s tenth October breast-cancer free. Lauren wants to remind people that even though her mom is a survivor, the story could’ve ended very differently. “She could have died, so if your mom or someone you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer, just help them stay positive through it and remind them why they’re there and why they need to fight, and pray for them,” Shepard said.

Courageous as a five-year-old can be, Lauren Sheperd and mom Becky stand proudly at Denver’s Race For The Cure. Smiles continue to dominate the Sheperd family after a decade without the disease. “My mom is the most courageous person I know,” Sheperd says, “I’m thankful she’s still here.”


From one star To Fifty


The Albert Dennis Story By Andrew Bohren

A bike and a ticket... Two completely unrelated objects that have shaped the life of SPED Assistant Albert Dennis. Just over two decades ago, a brutal Civil War broke out in Liberia, a small country on the western coast of Africa. Between 1989 and 2003, an estimated 400,000 Liberians lost their lives in a conflict over government control of the country. Prior to the war breaking out, mothers and fathers of Liberian families who were fortunate enough, left their children at a young age in search of opportunity in America in hopes of one day bringing the entire family over and starting a new life together. Like many young Liberians at the time, Dennis had to overcome intense hardships and difficult transitions during his escape from a nation in turmoil and his journey to the United States. The hard times began to transform into promising ones as life in America gave Dennis a college education, an opportunity to play Division 1 athletics, and a chance to teach less fortunate children. They may seem like two random objects, but a love for cycling and a lucky ticket have brought Dennis halfway around the world to RCHS.

...this is his story



n the far west coast of Africa lies the small country of Liberia. Though hardly ever mentioned in the media, the country shares more connections with the United States than any other African nation; Its flag is modeled after the American flag; its capital, Monrovia, is named after former president James Monroe, and the government was formed by freed slaves from the United States in the 1820’s. From around 1820 to 1980, the freed slaves and their ancestors governed the infant country with support of the United States government, until a coup d’etat Dennis and student George Waggett ‘16 share time before class starts to overthrew the existing governsit and talk. Waggett is one of the many students Dennis has taught and ment. The coup’s leader, Samuel guided through school. Doe was then accused of rigging the elections in 1985, causing a over, it was much like when the us.” revolutionary uprising that continEuropeans settled here. The first From Monrovia, Dennis’s family ued for 14 years. For almost the next few presidents were actually born moved out to a small African village two decades, Liberia was a country in places like Virginia and Maryland, where his family was originally torn by its own citizens, gunning and they ruled Liberia with an iron from. The village looks exactly like each other down. Amongst the fist. My family name is Gadhajo, it’s something you would see if you chaos were those fortunate enough an African name, but our family’s were studying Africa and its native to seek refuge in the United States, current name is Dennis. With the tribes; people hunt to survive and and those desperately seeking it. system the freed slaves put in live in shelters made out of anything Prior to the outbreak of war, place, in order to better yourselves they can find. Albert Dennis and his family lived economically you had to take on “I often tell people I’m a vegein the capital city of Monrovia, the these ‘civilized’ names like Albert tarian today because at the time only city in the country that had and Dennis. ” we did so much hunting, and just characteristics of western culture. The transition of Dennis’s life truly experiencing that, having to take “The life we lived in Monrovia began years before he was born. the life of an animal. It was a shock wasn’t all that different than what His great grandfather worked for a going from living in the city to the I’ve experienced here,” Dennis said, freed slave, and then changed the village but it was something that we “but once the war started we had family name from Gadhajo to Denhad to do. ” to flee to the village my family was nis to better himself and the family Once Dennis left the village in from.” for future generations. 1993 for the neighboring Ivory Like so many others had done Changing your name, which Coast, his transition to the United just before the war started, Dennis’s seems like a very small task, actuStates was set in motion, but relied mother departed Liberia when Denally played out tremendously for on one lucky ticket with his name nis was three years old, in order to Dennis’s mother and the rest of on it. There he spent years in a refuestablish a better life in the United his family. His uncle was a general gee camp run by the Ivory Coast for States so one day the entire family in the Liberian Army, giving them Liberians fleeing from the violence could also make the journey. This more security and financial backing, back home, and was able to register was the last time Dennis saw his which enabled his mother to begin for a resettlement program that was mother until seven years ago. a new life in the United States. put together by the United States Dennis’s name, also like many When war broke out in 1989, and the United Nations. The system other Liberians, relates to Liberia’s everything changed. is exactly like that of a lottery, and if connection to the United States. As “I remember I was at school when your name happened to be picked, the freed slaves came over from the my father came to get me and said, you would be on your way to the United States, they tried to imple‘We have to leave. The family has to United States. ment as much western culture as leave. ’ We knew what was going on After spending years in the Ivory possible, which also meant giving as far as the war goes, but we didn’t Coast, the program picked Dennis, its citizens English names. realize how close it was getting to his brother, sister, and grandmother “When the first Liberians came


for resettlement; however, there was a catch. Even though Dennis’s mother had came to the United States years before, the family could not live with her because she wasn’t technically a US citizen, giving her no say in where the rest of the family ended up. The lucky ticket did however give Dennis a new home in 2006, located in Providence, Rhode Island. Providence has the highest Liberian population than any other city in the country. At the time of the move, Dennis was only 19, stepping into a brand new country for the first time. After a year in Providence, Dennis moved to Worcester, Massachusetts where he attended one year of high school at the age of 20. In this one year, Dennis was able to graduate and earn a spot playing soccer for the University of Massachusetts. “I was still getting settled at the time because it had only been two years since I moved when I first started at UMass. It was a good experience, and it was also a shock going to such a big school. The soccer program there had a great network of people that helped me with the transition academically and socially.” College seemed to be the turning point for Dennis on his journey to RCHS. Originally, he went to school to play soccer and study economics, but he soon realized the importance of helping under-privileged children in the Springfield, Massachusetts area while trying to gain some income during the school year. During his junior year, he received a part-time job at a group home to save money to get his father to the US. At the group home, Dennis and his co-workers helped educate children who were victims of abuse and neglect. “Even though I was studying economics I really enjoyed working in that environment. They didn’t seem to have much hope, so our job was to mold them back together in a way and find find foster parents for them. I just felt like I was good at it, so I wanted to continue that route.” Right out of UMass, Dennis worked in a nearby school for students that couldn’t quite achieve much in a regular public school setting- students that just needed a second chance. During his college years, Dennis

met his current girlfriend and after four years teaching at the school, they both decided to look beyond Massachusetts. For Dennis, he was once again transitioning into another chapter of his life. A mutual love for each other and a mutual love for biking made Colorado the perfect location for the two. It’s fair to say that RCHS is nothing like the schools Dennis had been accustomed to working at, but to him he finds it as a worth-while change. “It’s been pleasant. The school that I worked in had constant arguments and fights. I used to tell my girlfriend, ‘I heard more swears in that school than I had my entire life.’ Even though I have been welcomed by the students and the staff here, sometimes I question whether I could be doing more. I could be giving back to Liberians. When I first got into this, I wanted to be in the city, but I’ve learned so much from this environment that if that opportunity opens up in the future then I can take all that I’ve learned here.” That’s just who Dennis is. It’s never been about him. He worked to

provide safety for his family, and now he works to help out those in need. A bike and a ticket. Two objects you would never put together, two objects that you would never think would go together. Together, they transformed a life that was full of twists and turns and provided hope and opportunity. Together, they sped up the process of growing up, and created a life dedicated to helping those who need it the most. Together, they saved a life.


No More Nine To Five Due to constrained budgets and low salaries. Rock Canyon teachers and staff members alike have been forced to work multiple jobs By MICHAEL SHAPIRO 16.


here’s a famous children’s book by authors Leatie and Ellen Weiss titled “My Teacher Sleeps at School”. The plot of the book surrounds a group of students in Mrs. Marsh’s class as they search for clues to prove their teacher sleeps in school. At the end of the book they learn that she does not in fact sleep at school when they find her in front of her nice white house with a blue door. In reality, teachers obviously do not sleep at school, and nowadays it seems amazing that they get any sleep at all. The standard American work week is 40 hours, nine AM to five PM, Monday through Friday. This standard has been established since the modern days of the American workforce and eventually has been accepted by workers of all vocations, whether it be lawyers, salesmen, or teachers. Despite this standard, the average teacher now works 60 hours a week, working from roughly 7:00 am to 5:00 pm every weeknight and oftentimes doing additional work on the weekends. This would be an incredibly heavy workload in itself, but for some teachers at Rock Canyon, this isn’t their only job. In fact, for many teachers and staff members, working at RC is one of the two, three, or even four jobs that they hold. This massive workload can create work weeks in excess of 100 hours, putting a strain on staff members and hampering their ability to work to their best of the abilities during the school day. It doesn’t take a genius to conceive why this is the case. In Douglas County -- one of the most affluent counties in the

nation -- the average starting salary for a new teacher is under $32,000, with many being offered starting salaries under $30,000 a year. The average salary for a teacher in the United States is $55,000 causing teachers in DCSD to earn only 54% of the salary for the average teacher currently in the U.S. These salary figures have resulted in 32 staff members leaving Rock Canyon over the course of one year. When asked for comments on these figures, DCSD school board members declined to comment. The low salaries earned by staff members at DCSD have not only affected the staffers themselves, but they affect students as well. For every hour a teacher spends at another job, that is an hour they can’t spend grading papers or creating lesson plans. “While I am able to keep my grading and planning in check, sometimes I regret not being able to stay after school or go to as many games and activities that I would like to,” first year Spanish teacher Hannah Klein said. Klein works part time as a tutor and hostess at a pizza restaurant in addition to teaching at Rock Canyon. Many trace the low salaries of staff members throughout the district to a seemingly ever shrinking budget; a budget that has been predicated on a salary freeze for existing teachers and a reduction in the average pay for new teachers and staff members. Beginning in the 2008-2009 school year, a pay freeze was instituted for all existing teachers in Douglas County. This pay freeze denied all teachers and staff members an increase in their salaries (regardless of their tenure) and allowed the district to save money in the process.

An Interview With: Principal Andy Abner The Rock: What measures can administration take to combat teachers’ loss of time for planning and grading due to their multiple jobs? Principal Abner: Well we are pretty limited with what we can do. However, what we have done here is while teachers at some schools have duties such as lunch and library supervision, we took all supervision duties away from teachers so all they have on their plate during the school day is teaching, lunch, and planning periods. The Rock: Do you believe that teachers are paid fairly, and if not, what do you think the school board should do to fairly compensate them? Principal Abner: I have a hard time addressing whether they are compensated fairly. You would have to break it down by hours worked, but I do think that there is a general misconception that for teachers summer vacation equals a true vacation and time off. Many of our teachers spend their summers going to professional development and preparing for the next school year. The Rock: Do you support the pay-for-performace program within the district? Principal Abner: I think it’s good to reward teachers who are going above and beyond. In the general scheme of things I support giving teachers who are going above and beyond more money for their efforts and what they are doing.


The freeze was lifted during the 20122013 school year; however, there was only an three percent increase in salaries on average over the past two years. Another key component of the salary issue is the pay-for-performance system currently instituted in Douglas County schools. Under the district’s pay-for-performance program, not all teachers are guaranteed a salary increase. The current system categorizes a teacher’s ability on a range from “highly effective” to “‘ineffective” and teachers rated ‘ineffective’ would not receive a salary increase. This system has become a large point of contention among teachers and staff members throughout DCSD, with detractors arguing that this system inadequately addresses what true success looks like in a classroom, while proponents of the system argue that the system holds teachers accountable for the work they do on a year to year basis. “I think it’s good to reward teachers who are going above and beyond,” Principal Andrew Abner said. “In the general scheme of things I support giving teachers who are going above and beyond more money for their efforts and what they are doing”. Several teachers have expressed frustration not just with their salaries, but with the general lack of funding throughout the district as a whole.

“It’s sad. We say we value education and go to good universities, but in reality education is not valued and we don’t give enough credit to people who work in education and therefore don’t fund education appropriately” Spanish teacher Chantal Pearson said. Pearson has one of the most daunting schedules of any staffer at Rock Canyon. Aside from teaching Spanish, Pearson tutors various students, teaches group fitness, pilates, and Zumba at 24 Hour Fitness, and works at Banana Republic two to three times a week from roughly 4:30-9:30pm after working a full day at school. The coming years will certainly bring changes to DCSD and the teachers and staff members that compose it. There are no definitive answers to the issues that have been raised, and no matter what solutions arise, there will never be a true consensus. However, for teachers and staffers at Rock Canyon they can agree on one thing: being Ms. Marsh doesn’t sound so bad.

For more information on budget issues and the November DCSD School Board elections, make sure to visit

Whether it’s a video production business or a curriculum writing company, teachers and staff members at RCHS work at a wide variety of places.

Douglas County Staffers: By the Numbers 23 $32,000 4 33 Teachers who left Rock Canyon between the 20122013 and 2013-2014 school year


Percent of 2012-2013 RCHS staff that is no longer employed by DCSD

Average starting salary for new DCSD High School teachers

Year pay freeze for DCSD staffers from 2008-2011. Freeze was lifted in 2012, yet staffers only saw a 3% pay increase on average

Diminishing salary numbers and increasing cost of living have caused many staff members to take additional jobs. 31 of the 141 staff members employed by Rock Canyon hold at least one extra job in addition to working at Rock Canyon.


The Many Faces of Tessa Johnson



Throughout high school, students begin their search for a niche. For Tessa Johnson ‘14, freshman year brought a new found passion and the opportunities of a lifetime. By Kaitlyn Darbe From playing around with colors and paints to becoming an award winning artist, Tessa Johnson ‘14 has made a name for herself. She may seem like just another student walking the halls, but with her walks remarkable talent. Freshman year was when everything changed for Johnson and she discovered her passion. She began to pursue art after receiving the first place award for her stippling painting of peonies, involving a plethora of dots, in the Douglas County Art show. 75 hours of painstaking time went into the single piece. Though the stippling peonies won her first place; painting portraits and capturing emotion has become her true passion. One of these breathtaking portraits is her piece of famous hip hop recording artist Dante Terrell Smith, or “Mos Def,” called “The Broken Society.” The emotion evoking painting portrays Mos Def making the gesture of shooting himself. Different words are interlaced throughout the piece to get an emotional reaction -- positive or negative-- from the audience or viewer. “I think of different messages that could be perceived, so when I was painting I painted different words on it. Some people, if they look at that strong of a gesture, would just assume that it is someone who is really sad, whereas other see different emotion behind the painting.” The meticulous brushstrokes and the numerous hours that Johnson put into the Mos Def portrait paid off when she won the Congressional Art Show - the largest show in the state. Many artists with impeccable talent created magnificent pieces that lined the walls, but Johnson’s portrait took first place. This work of art has been seen by influential leaders of the United States. “They sent it to Washington DC to be displayed for the House of Congress and the White House,” Johnson said. Simply walking past a stranger possessing the qualities that Johnson finds unique sparks the idea for a new piece. She is sure to capture every contour of their body, keeping true to their character. Though Johnson is not positive of what the future holds, Kansas Institute of Art looks promising and the possibilities seem endless. At the mere age of 17, the US congress knows her name, Johnson has broken molds and someday might be world renown.





4. 1. Using no paint brush and only a palette knife, Johnson captures the color and texture of this classic chevy truck. A light glaze was added over the dark areas to add vibrance to the overall piece.


2. The bright and colorful painting, “Emily” illustrates close detail of one of Johnson’s friends. The colors illuminate her talent and capture every curve. 3. The striking woman seen in this piece is gracefully disintegrating to the background. “Slowly Fading” is the name given to this portrait as part of her body floats away into the background.


4. Copper foil is the canvas underneath these vibrant brushstrokes. After painting on the colors Johnson cut the piece into strips and began copper weaving.



5. “The Broken Society” evokes strong emotion. This painting of Mos Def contains a controversial gesture. 6. Hard at work ,Johnson is putting the final touches on her copper piece. Each brushstroke has a specific intention. 7. Though no title is given to this mysterious piece the dark reds and blues contrast against the pale white skin of this alluring woman. 8. This oil painting captures Rock Canyon graduate Taylor Thomason. Her head turned to the side reveals the beautiful profile that Johnson illustrates perfectly. 9. With swift graceful movements Johnson spreads the color around canvas, only lifting the brush to apply more paint. 10. Johnson washes the previous colors from her brush. With each change of a color or paint the brush must be cleaned.







at the Top Of the

Stairs An INSIDE LOOK at this fall’s production


Bringing Light to “The Stairs” Behind the scenes of “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” By Liam Kelley


he theatre is cold and dark; the only lights are those cast upon the stage. As you walk in with your group you feel a nervous chill coursing through your body. You have spent hours (or even a few procrastinated minutes) preparing your material for your audition. This is your shot at a leading role; your shot at the limelight. You sit down with your group in the front row, and you wait and watch as your friends pour their hearts into their performance, hoping they don’t spill it all over the stage. It’s your turn; you walk up the steps and stand front and center, looking out over the empty seats. Mrs. Baker cues you, and you begin. Over fifty students turned up on August 20 and 21 from all grade levels to try their luck auditioning for the two fall plays, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and As You Like It. For many actors, auditions are the hardest part of the theatre experience. Nerves have a history of getting the better of people, but for Lela Smith ‘14 they can actually be beneficial. “If you can channel your nerves into emotions for your monologue that helps a lot” Smith says. The day after auditions finish the callbacks list is posted, inviting actors and actresses back for another opinion. This means going through the audition process again. On Thursday, August 22 the cast list for both shows was released, featuring Lela Smith, Nathan Patrick Nelson ‘14, Logan Schurr ‘15, Sam Hulsizer ‘16, Lindsey Koehn ‘15, Jens Johnson ‘15, Bethany Hopkins ‘14, Kalle Sorbo ‘15, and Max Orgill ‘16; thus beginning the 2013 Fall Season. The first play, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,


actors who are performing in the play



had shows on September 25, 26, and 27; being the first time a RCHS play ran Wednesday to Friday, with no Saturday show. After the read-through on August 22, tech work begins backstage. Students not in a tech theatre class volunteer their time after school, while students in a tech theatre class are required to come in for at least fifteen hours to get class credit. The Tech Director for Dark at the Top of the Stairs was Austin Cunningham ‘15, meaning that he was in charge of all that goes on backstage. “About thirty people came each day and that number varies based on how many people decide to show up,” said Cunningham. “It was probably one of the most fun shows I’ve done.” From 3:00 pm to 4:45 pm every day after school the cast rehearses everything from lines to blocking to character. Two weeks before the show, hours become longer and Saturday rehearsals begin. “It is so fun to work with so many of my close friends and start to find and slip into our characters and the world in which our characters live,” Smith says about rehearsing. After weeks of hard work, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs opened to a crowd of 62 people on the first night, 106 on the second, and 107 on the third. The lights went down, and two hours and fifteen minutes later the applause did not fall short as the cast came out for their final bow. After each night, the cast’s smiling faces filled the hall outside the theatre as they were congratulated by their friends and family. “It was wonderful and so much fun!” said Smith excitedly after opening night. “We had a great crowd and everyone did an amazing job!”

understudies and backstage personnel


nights the play will be shown

Q&A With Nathan Nelson Q: What is the play about? A: It’s essentially a snapshot of America in the 1920s and how the oil boom, affected so many of the Midwest families of the time. It changed many gender roles and initiated a questioning of societal ideals. Q: How would you describe your character? A: I like to think of my character as a man who is being pole-vaulted be his own world, with everything changing with the oil boom he really can’t keep up with himself. He is trying to keep his head above water while everything else seems to be pulling him down, like so many men of the time. Q: Were you pleased with the performance? A: Yes, very much so. We seemed to have more honest and ‘in the moment’ reactions, and overall it went great and people seemed to enjoy it. It was definitely one of the hardest roles I have ever done, but I think I grew as an actor overall.

Nathan Nelson ‘14 as Rubin Flood, the show’s leading man. “It was definietly one of the hardest roles I have ever done, but I think I grew as an actor overall,” Nelson said.

Setting the By Stephen Murphy

P Austin Cunningham ‘15 deconstructs a flight of stairs. “The biggest challenge is getting the stairs to remain stable while the actors walk on them,” Cunningham said.


after-school hours spent on the play

reparing and setting up what is necessary in time for the play is a very stressful part of tech theatre, the closer the play gets, the faster the tech crew has to work to ensure that everything gets done on time and nothing is missing or misplaced. To achieve this goal not only does the tech theater class work all through class, but even


after school and Saturdays. It is amazing how much effort all of tech theatre puts into creating the set. The most stressful part was trying to get all the flats up and painted in the correct place and upright. At some points they would stand up, but lean back, this would cause us to screw a new piece of wood into the back, to prevent the flat from leaning back. At some points the tech theatre class had to deal with some of the flats not being as high as

total attendance for all three shows

the other ones, causing them to get moldings quickly to even out the height, and make the set look more presentable. Overall the entire class is a very fun learning experience for everyone there, especially because of how many new things are learned, such as building and setting flats, getting lights to be a perfect tone and perfect place, and finding correct props to use.


students who auditioned for a role 25.

Unbreakable Persistence Cayla Mackey ‘16 skates over the competition as her profound dedication to ice dancing helps move her up in the competitive figure skating world


Spinning 1,080 degrees in three seconds on ice skates is not something most people would normally do at 7am. For Cayla Mackey ‘16, it’s an everyday occurrence. As a young girl growing up on the dance floor, Mackey recognized her aspiration of becoming a passionate, competitive figure skater after seeing ice dancers at the rink and realizing she too had the talent and the skills to accomplish such feats. No matter the injuries or the dedication of time, Mackey was determined to follow her passion. Her dream of skating started with something out of the ordinary. Thinking there were fish under the ice, Mackey wanted to go to the rink. “I thought there would be fish under the ice so I made my mom take me to a ice rink and I got recruited by a coach that day,” Mackey said. Now as a fifteen-year-old figure skater training at the World Arena Training Center in Colorado Springs, Mackey’s alarm goes off at the crack of dawn in order to skate for two and a half hours before school. As she steps onto the ice, she has the mind-set of skating until she can’t skate anymore. “I wake up at 4:30 every morning, make coffee or tea, grab some toast or something quick and run out the door. I only have about 20 minutes to get ready for school and skating,” Mackey said. Exhausted from hours of skating, her day has only just begun; now she has to go to school. Mackey’s dedication to skating that keeps her going back to the rink every morning. She knows the work is worth it and it will pay off in the


long run. While still skating at a junior level, Mackey has a long ways to go until the Olympics. Practicing long hours every day is the only way to make it. “If I ever have to eliminate anything, it’s my social life,” Mackey said. Figure skating isn’t cheap. When you combine ice time, coaching, competitions, skates, and uniforms, it adds up fast. She will pay top dollar in order to do what she loveseven if this means investing in a $1,000 dress. “It depends on what kind of ice skates you buy, but they can cost anywhere from $100 to $5,000. Dresses really depend as well but you can find used dresses off the rack for $20. If you want a special made one from a steam stress, dresses can cost thousands of dollars,” Mackey said. “The most expensive one I have owned was $3,000 because the lace we used was $100 a yard and it wasn’t even crystallized. My mom crystallized it for me.” Her determination to be an Olympic skater at such a young age can change in the blink of an eye. Injuries are inevitably going to happen, and Mackey has dealt with them before, especially on her knees. One day, things changed when Mackey fell on the ice and immediately she knew something was wrong. This injury took her out for ten days, a lengthy recover for such a competitive athlete.. With Mackey’s newest knee strain her doctor had no choice but to restrain Mackey from going to practice. “Even though I injured my knee, it’s nice to have a break sometimes. I won’t let this slow me down and will hopefully be back on the ice as soon as I can.” Mackey said.

Time and Money: Skating in Perspective Dresses


cost of the 5 dresses needed per season



hours of weekly practice



miles driven per week

Ice Time


cost per week for ice time


average cost of a competition dress


average lifetime cost of competition dresses


days of practice every week


hours of yearly practice


miles driven round trip to the rink


miles driven per year


cost per day for ice time

$3,900 cost per year for ice time 27.

the LastWord

And the Candidates Are...

The next Presidential election is not for another 1135 days. Can we please wait at least a couple of years until we pick a front-runner? By Michael shapiro

Amid this most recent government shutdown, many legitimate problems arose over the future of the United States government. Can the nation fund the Affordable Care Act, are the days of bipartisanship completely over, and how will this recent string of economic issues affect the United States’ foreign policy? Despite these extremely pertinent questions, if you turned on any cable news network within the past couple of weeks these issues have been dwarfed by non-stop speculation over what this shutdown has done for the candidates in the 2016 election. But here’s the problem, nobody has even announced their candidacy for the 2016 election. For pundits to analyze the prospective field this early is like teachers predicting the valedictorian for this year’s freshman class; sure it may be a bit fun and interesting, but ultimately it’s pointless. Whether it’s Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, or even the fictional Will Mcavoy on the HBO program “The Newsroom”, it seems that every windbag with a microphone has a strong opinion on the currently non-existent 2016 race. Within the past month Chris Matthews of MSNBC referred to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as “very presidential” and Greta Van Susteren of Fox News even went as far as to refer to House of Representatives member Ted Cruz as a “President in waiting”. Not only is this anointing premature because


these congressmen have not announced their candidacy, but because for the most part, the American people have never even heard of them. When looking at the history of our most recent Presidents, it becomes even more absurd to make predictions three years into the future regarding the Commander in Chief. In 2005, Barack Obama was a rookie Senator from Illinois, and George W. Bush was mainly known not for his job as Governor, but for his ownership of the Texas Rangers. Even one of the most revered Presidents of the 20th Century, Ronald Reagan, was more known, prior to his campaign, as a Hollywood Actor than anything else. These constant predictions signal a deeper problem in today’s culture. If we are always looking forward to the problems (and leaders) of tomorrow, we will never be able to solve the issues of today. Sure there might be a looming crisis in the coming years in the Balkans, but you where there are crises now; Syria, Iran, and Egypt. If media members want to not only maintain credibility, but also be responsible journalists, they will stop this nonsensical predicting, and go back to what they’re paid to do; report the news.

the LastWord

Kicking and Screaming High school sports: parental guidance strongly discouraged By Andrew Bohren Parents always say, “We are always proud of you as long as you do your best,” or “What matters is that you have fun.” Until you reach high school. Somewhere between middle school and high school lies the turning point for parents where a game suddenly begins to mean less about their own child, and more about the man with the striped shirt and the invisible target on his back. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing every parent, nor am I criticizing my own, considering that would be the equivalent of writing a letter to my parents asking them to ground me. But even so, it only takes a couple bad eggs to make a bad batch of cookies, so the fact that we still have this problem in high school athletics is nothing but a joke. Sports in high school are very competitive, and I get that it can be very easy to get involved when someone on the other team gets a little chippy or the referee makes a questionable call, but at some point a line needs to be drawn in the sand. In the past two years, I have personally witnessed physical altercations amongst parents, and planned physical altercations initiated by parents on referees which thankfully never got out of hand. But still, it’s the thought that counts. I guess no matter what I say, I won’t get any of the culprits to cool down their behavior, because if there’s one thing I’ve noticed above all, it’s that the ones who are caught are the ones who will never stop. It’s purely habitual. Back in the days of orange slices and participation tro-

phies, I remember playing basketball on a team that prided itself on playing the game the right way. We would scrimmage the other team that was part of our club on a regular basis to improve our skills. The scrimmage always went the same way; one parent on the other team coaching from the sidelines and another keeping score and keeping stats. This was third grade. It doesn’t take a brilliant individual to know that Coach K isn’t going to be calling up a second grader who just figured out how to shoot a lay-up. But this is what parents do, and it’s what they will always do until they’re taking stats on college tuition payments. Fast forward five years to eighth grade.That year we had a very promising team, and yes we had some parents that could have rivaled Alec Baldwin’s anger management skills, but nobody was completely outrageous. We went on to play the clear frontrunner of the league, a team that looked as if they had a BALCO distributer on their campus. Thirty minutes in and thirty points down the game was nearing the final buzzer when, with 8 seconds left and possession, their coach called timeout. After our coach went on a verbal rampage and refused to let us back on the court in protest, we could only hear the shouts from the other parents saying “Way to represent yourselves Rock Canyon,” and “Yeah, thats some real sportsmanship right there.” Today it’s still the same. Actually, it’s worse. There’s more on the line and the level of play is so much higher. That in no way gives any reason for a parent to call out another player, coach, or even a referee. Just once I want to throw a parent in a soccer referee jersey and let us yell at them. In a perfect world either everyone stays positive or adults get locked out of the stadium. Too bad that will never happen and for now we will have to resort to what all of us athletes are trained to do: focus on the task at hand. And to provide some closure- parents, do you ever wonder what we think when you go out of your way to obnoxiously defend us? We don’t care.


the LastWord

Disney Behind Bars

What is happening to our once beloved child stars? By Nikki Newman

It’s no secret that Disney Channel’s depiction of high school in High School Musical is more than far-fetched. There’s absolutely no way a jock like Troy Bolton could ever do anything more rebellious than betraying his basketball team and trying out for the school musical right? Wrong. This is real life and things happen. People make mistakes and they experiment. Unfortunately, our childhood heartthrob, singer and basketball star extraordinaire Zac Efron, has fallen from the positive influences of High School Musical and got hooked on something other than the status quo: cocaine. Cocaine, sex, alcohol, and fame are just a few of the many factors that are corrupting famous stars and transforming them from golden children to embarrassments. Among these starlets include Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Efron’s co-star Vanessa Hudgens. Probably the most recently corrupt starlet is the former Hannah Montana: the star who is soon releasing a new album entitled “Bangerz;” the one who has a music video of her lying in a pile of bread; the singer who had a less than classy performance at the VMAs; the girl who enjoys swinging on wrecking balls into well... nothing. The sad thing is that at one point Miley Cyrus had a positive influence on kids. I remember watching the very first episode of Hannah Montana. Instantly a fan, I watched the show until its end, as well as anything else that Miley Cyrus starred in. I ran around my house hoping that one day I could have the best of both worlds too. In each episode and song, there was a positive message for me to walk away with. But as Cyrus dug herself further and further into a painfully inescapable pit of doom, I became less of a fan.


Whether striving for attention or crying for help or just being who she is, Cyrus seems to still be pulling new tricks out of her pockets (or lack thereof ) and climbing higher on the crazy scale. Her latest stunt at the VMAs has gotten her up to about a “has she lost her mind?” on a scale ranging from “just a little loco” to “completely crazed.” Instead of throwing away our lives and reputations because we want to reach a goal that is virtually impossible to reach, we need to be happy with what we have. Instead of going to extremes to get attention, we should be grateful for our friends and family. Just because famous people are going bonkers doesn’t mean the rest of us need to as well. The difference between people like you and I and famous, young stars is this: people like you and I, who attend school and play on sports teams and are in clubs and do chores learn values and morals from our parents, teachers, coaches, and peers. But when a child star is thrown into the “real world” too soon, they never get to figure out their goals and values before they have to be living and accomplishing them. They never have the opportunity to experience a full childhood. We, on the other hand, have at least 18 years of education in morals before being thrown into the “real world” to use them. That being said, it is up to us to decide to not follow all examples from popular culture. Instead, learn from experience and apply what we have been taught for all of these years. There are other ways to capture success and happiness other than absurd stunts. And no matter how many times Miley sings “you wrecked me,” she chose to go against classical morals and wreck herself.

the LastWord

Heads or Fails

Head injuries have become a hot topic in the media and sports ever since their true effects have been studied, and while higher institutions have attempted to protect those at risks, their measures have made little difference in a growing epidemic that is taking the lives of professional and high school athletes By The rock staff

and how it knew it, and even the results of its own research was effectively locked away. The NFL didn’t settle to pay anyone’s hospital bills; they settled to buy silence. They settled in order to bury the evidence of how little they ever cared about the health of the people who compose it, and that’s truly a shame. Football in its essence is a brutal game- a violent game. That will never change no matter how many hits are made illegal and how many plays are eliminated. But what can change is the way the game is approached. Being hardheaded and ignorant is not the same thing as being tough. When dealing with head injuries, it’s just being stupid.

Damon Janes, a 16-year old student from Brocton Central High School in upstate New York died on Sep.17. Janes was involved in a head-to-head collision while playing in a local high school football game in the first quarter, and was subsequently knocked unconscious after a similar collision in the third quarter. He was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. Janes died not from a terminal illness, not from a car accident, but from football. He died from something as American as hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. In this past high school football season alone -- spanning from August to October -- there have been four other football related deaths, all of them involving head-to-head collisions. These deaths aren’t the fault of the game itself, nor is it the fault of the equipment, players, or rules. This is the fault of football culture; a culture that for years has referred to concussions as “getting dinged up” and legitimate injuries as nothing but “stingers”. There has been no larger proponent of this culture than the heralded National Football League. The NFL has recently attempted to reduce head injuries for its players by eliminating kickoffs and making head to head collisions illegal. These new rules have been highly touted as significant progress by pundits and the league themselves, however, there were 266 reported concussions in the 2012 season, and 270 concussions in 2009. It’s fair to say a reduction of only four concussions over four years isn’t exactly significant progress. Not only has the NFL done little to reduce head traumas on the field, they have consistently hid evidence of concussions off the field. This past September, the NFL settled with over a thousand former players in a lawsuit over their knowledge of head trauma via hits on the football field for a grand total of $765 million. This may sound like a lot, but to the NFL this is nothing more than a small dent in their unfathomable profits. As part of the settlement, all files about what the NFL knew,



In the first issue, TheRock reports on diminishing teacher salaries, profiles a teacher who made an incredible journey from Africa, and much...