wildcat ales plano senior high school
plano, tx 75025
A worthy cause:
august 21, 2012
PALs raise money for Wounded Warriors
To vote in Texas, you must be registered. Simply pick up a voter registration application, fill it out and mail it at least 30 days before the election date. Last day to register to vote for the November General Election is October 9, 2012. Register online at: www.sos.state.tx.us You can also register to vote at local libraries, post offices, the DPS and Collin College Campuses. Photos by Cristina Seanez
A banner is decorated and signed by students to be sent to Eric Zastoupil, who is currently recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland after stepping on an IED. He graduated from Plano in 2006. “The banner shows that the Wildcats are wishing him the best in his recovery,” senior PALs member Megan Rund said. “The community as a whole hasn’t forgotten about him and appreciates his service.” Story on page 7
A light in our world Student explains passion for helping others By Rachel Chen It was the first week of school. Posters and announcements were plastered across walls advertising the junior class president election. Junior Timothy Hughes was considering running because he had always been committed to helping others, but he was not sure if he had enough popular support to win. His friends encouraged him to run, and he eventually made his choice. A mere seven days before the actual election, Hughes became a candidate for junior class president. “I wasn’t surprised by the support I got,” Hughes said. “But I was surprised at the magnitude and the intensity of the support.” His vision for the school was to have an open, transparent system of leadership based on honor, diligence and insightfulness. Since childhood, caring for others had been integral in his life. “My parents have ingrained in my identity that I have a responsibility to help other people to the fullest I can,” Hughes said. “I think we can better ourselves and move to the next generation of excellence.” Throughout his life, Hughes, an active participant at his local church, has been on mission trips with his church to locations across the country and even to Asia. In addition to going on mission trips, he has also helped serve people meals on weekends in urban San Diego when he lived in California several years ago. “My personal beliefs have affected my principle,” Hughes said. “Every time I go on mission trips and serve other people, I realize the true nature of why I am here. I am here to serve others to the best of my ability and make this community a better place so I can be a light in this school.” Continued on Page 3
Stitched into the same fabric Muslim students reflect on 9/11 By Kimberly Mei
It only takes three or four minutes to put on each morning. Her favorite one is blue. When senior Khadeeja Miandara began wearing it, some wondered if she was a different person. It was the July before her junior year and she started off easy – just two hours a day in the mall at Sears, no big deal. She wore it while she learned about right-ofway and parallel parking. She wore it while she actually gave right of way and parallel parked. She was wearing her hijab when she graduated driver’s ed, and it’s been on ever since as a symbol of her Islamic faith. “It’s just a different piece of cloth on my head,” Miandara said. “My hair is still there, I’m still Khadeeja Miandara. I believe the same things, I say the same things. I make the same dumb jokes. The hijab to me is this legacy, like you’re handing a torch down. Sometimes people treat you differently – they think you’re oppressed, or you don’t get to choose if you wear the scarf or go out in public. That’s false.” Eleven years earlier, Miandara is 7. Her birthday is coming up on Sept.
21, but she won’t be having a party. “After 9/11 I cancelled my birthday party,” Miandara said. “I remember someone had a family member who was lost in the crash, and it was out of respect as a mourning period. I had my birthday in October. Some people in my class didn’t come. But a lot did come, and that’s what I focused on: who’s a good friend, and who maybe doesn’t know as much, or their parents didn’t know as much.” A week after 9/11, Miandara’s father, a consultant for a pharmaceutical company, lost his job. He was detained for three days in Canada, where he was on a business trip. “I don’t think his company did it out of discrimination,” Miandara said. “It was just they couldn’t have a Muslim flying in the air frequently at the time. It was very difficult with Homeland Security cracking down on so many families, and they weren’t always fair or right, but it was understandable. It was one of those sad things that had to happen.” At the time, Miandara’s mosque was under construction. Service was relocated to a smaller facility next to a vacuum store at a local
An unexpected turn
strip mall. However, after a brick was thrown through their window and their building was vandalized, Miandara and the rest of the children had their classes at a fellow mosque member’s house instead. Still, the members of the mosque wasted no time in working to raise funds for the victims of 9/11, and at school, Miandara donated in drives. “They did their best to try and raise a new image of Islam because immediately it became clear that this was going to be a problem for our community,” Miandara said. “It’s still a problem for some communities, not like Plano – Plano’s awesome in that respect. I remember donating teddy bears and feeling like, ‘Oh, this is something that affects me’ even though I was 7 and didn’t get it as much as maybe I could have. I felt like something had happened to hurt my country, and I wanted to make it feel better. We did a lot of things – we did canned drive, we did medical supplies, teddy bears. I saw my teddy bear on the news, I remember.” It was six months before Miandara’s father could find another job – this one in Continued on Page 6
Student battles CML leukemia By Hannah Kohn
Photo submitted by Kara O’Neil
It wasn’t until after volleyball practice in March 2011 that she first began to notice the change
in her health. “My body was feeling weak, but I thought it was because I stopped playing volleyball,” senior Kara O’Neil said. “I had surgery on my knee in October, so I was out of volleyball until it healed. I just blamed it on not playing volleyball and just not being as active as I was. I just couldn’t keep anything down and I was becoming very dehydrated.”
O’Neil dismissed the problem, trying to not overreact. But that night her health took a sudden turn for the worse. She was then quickly admitted to the Plano Medical Center and the doctors began administering the usual tests. “They checked all the normal stuff and said I had the flu,” O’Neil said. “They told me I had swine flu, but that was before they checked my blood count.” O’Neil’s white blood cell count was 2.5 million. The average is around 100,000. She was then admitted to Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, where doctors gave her a bone marrow biopsy. “When I was first diagnosed with CML leukemia, I had the
option of being homeschooled, but that was nothing I was interested in because I wanted to feel like everybody else,” O’Neil said. “To go to school and be able to do daily things that everyone else gets to do, which is something people take for granted.” She explained that having cancer has given her a new view of the world and gave her a greater understanding of all the things people take for granted every day. “People take health for granted so much because they don’t realize how easy they have it,” O’Neil said. “Even before I was diagnosed I used to feel completely Continued on Page 3
august 21, 2012
Student spends summer in China By Brooke Combs
Photo submitted by Molly Huser
Junior Molly Huser catches her breath as she treks the 5,500-mile-long Great Wall of China.
The flight to China was 14 hours long and she had never been out of the country before. Every year, thousands of students apply for a scholarship offered by the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, which allows them to travel internationally to learn a language. After completing a 20page application, submitting essays and going through an interview, only 60 students out of 3,000 received the scholarship. One of them was junior Molly Huser. Huser was assigned to a host family along with every other student. But Huser’s assignment was unique – she
had not one, but two families. One was a traditional Chinese one. The other one was Tibetan, part of a minority group in China. “I went to a minority village,” Huser said. “They had each of their cultures represented and you would look at their stuff and try on their clothes. I tried on Tibetan clothes because my mom wanted me to see what it was like to live in Tibet.” Not only were the Tibetan clothes different from the Chinese clothes, but their cuisine was as well. “One thing I remember the most is the Tibetan tea I drank every day,” Huser
Students live on their own By Joseph Diller
They go to work. They go to school. They socialize. They live seemingly average lives, but they do it all without parental guidance. After a conflict with her family, senior Gracious Harpole moved in to an apartment with two of her friends. “At first I had to move out on my own,” Harpole said. “I had family issues when I got kicked out, and needed to find a place quickly.” Senior Jaylyn Sanchez also decided to move out on her own to avoid family conflict. “My parents are divorced and every year was a big custody battle over who would get me,” Sanchez said. “Once I got old enough I didn’t have to do it anymore, and it was less stress for me.” Sanchez pays the bills by nannying. “It pays very well,” Sanchez said. “Even when I don’t work, the family pays me.” Sanchez found that others treated her differently once they found she lived on her own. “A lot more people tried to use me for parties,” Sanchez said. “I’d get calls from people I don’t really talk to.” Harpole lives with her boyfriend senior David Gambou and her friend senior Conner White. She has been living on her own since November 2011. Gambou and Harpole decided to move in with White after Gambou was
kicked out of his parent’s house as well. “David wasn’t kicked out until he was 18,” Harpole said. “His dad had the same ritual as his grandfather and wanted to kick him out when he was 18 so he could be a man.” For Harpole, her relationships kept her going in life. Sanchez’s relationships with her friends have evolved since she began living on her own. “I still have my friends over but it’s a different way we hang out,” Sanchez said. Sanchez discovered a new appreciation for those who were close to her and a pride in her new abode. She decorated her home and kept up with it to avoid being a stereotypical messy teenager. “When my friends walk into my house I want them to see that it actually is a really nice place and it actually looks like a home,” Sanchez said. Sanchez and Harpole both share similar views for students that want to follow in their footsteps. “Have a plan and know exactly what you are getting into,” Sanchez said. “Know your limits.” Harpole believes that financial responsibility and having organization is key to successfully living on her own. “Learn to manage money,” Harpole said. “You have to wake up and make sure everything is taken care of.”
Photo submitted by Molly Huser
Junior Molly Huser with her Chinese host family at a recreational park.
said. “It tasted different than any tea I’ve had here. It was sweet and sour; I’ve never had something like that.” In Huser’s host family, her sister was the only family member that knew English fluently. Her mother would attempt to speak the little English she could, but most of the time she spoke in Chinese. “My mom was so cute. She tried to say my English name and she called me ‘Money’,” Huser said. So Huser spoke to her sister the most. Her sister was curious about American culture. “She would ask me, ‘What singers
are popular in America?’” Huser said. “Her favorite singer was Taylor Swift. She had a lot of her songs on her iPod.” Huser said she realized that her Chinese host family knew more about her culture than she did about theirs. “I was in the store with my little brother and I had some American money in my wallet,” Huser said. “My brother said, ‘Look, it’s Abraham Lincoln!’ It made me realize just how much of an influence Americans are in the world and just how ignorant we are of other countries.”
An unexpected turn
Student battles CML leukemia
By Hannah Kohn different. You just don’t realize keeps me going,” O’Neil said. what you have until it’s taken “God is an everyday thing for away and nobody understands me. I go to him for everything.” how fast it can be taken away.” When the chemo really wears In only a week, O’Neil had to her body down, she just wants to adjust to living life with cancer. lie in bed for days. To help gain CML leukemia is not curable and she has to take chemo therapy by mouth twice a day; once in the morning and once at night. “It’s the little things about just being grateful for all the things I really have, that make me so much stronger in so many ways,” O’Neil said. “I realized that I have it a lot better than a lot of people, but I know that there are other people that have it better than me, too.” O’Neil draws a powerful view from her faithful relationship with Photo submitted by Kara O’Neil God. One of her favorite scriptures that give her strength is energy levels, she eats specific Phil 4:13 “I can do all things through foods. This consists of basically Christ who strengthens me.” eating more all-natural, nutritious “I have that all over the wall food to boost her energy. of my room. It’s the thing that “People get frustrated because
they think that I don’t want to be their friends or whatever just because I am lying in bed not wanting to do anything,” O’Neil said. “A lot of high school students like to go out and party and whatever, not that I would ever do that, but I don’t have the energy to do what everyone else wants to do. Taking chemo everyday really makes my body tired.” But when things get emotionally and physically tough she relies on her own faith for strength and optimism. “I am blessed to have what I have,” O’Neil said. “There are so many people that I wish wouldn’t have to go through what I have to go through. It is tough, but I try not to think about the fact that I have cancer. I try to go through my day knowing that I am just like everybody else.”
Staying strong Twins deal with loss of mother By Alexandria Oguntula You wouldn’t have noticed she was dying, because she had such an amazing attitude. Twins Logan and Jordan Freeman’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Over the course of two years, the cancer spread to her liver, lungs and finally her brain. Doctors gave her a week to two weeks to live. However, she passed away three days later. “We had a good amount of time with her to say goodbye,” Jordan said. “For those three days, she made it easy because she was so strong. She was not afraid. She showed us a lot.” Their mother’s attitude showed them strength and optimism in the midst of the disease. She attempted to hide the realities of her condition for the sake of her family. But they knew differently. They were given the news that the cancer had spread to her brain. And in that moment she became a rock for her family and gave them courage. “She made it like it was no big deal. We were all bawling and she was sitting there, like, ‘I don’t know why you guys are so upset, I’m not going anywhere’ kind-of attitude,” Logan said. “My family was kind of surprised that she left like a day after she got out of the hospital, because she didn’t
act like she was sick at all.” The Freemans were in denial and disbelief as their father planned a funeral for their mother. The realization weighed on the siblings as they dealt with the changes that came along with the loss of one of the most important people in their life. “My relationship with my mom was the best relationship I had,” Jordan said “What made it hard is the things I had to let go of, because of all the things we have been through together. Knowing that my whole life is going to be lived without her is just unfair, but I just got to try and get past it.” The passing of the Freemans’ mother brought the family closer together and allowed them to look at what is really important in life. The twins, their sister and their father now do everything together. Going to the grocery store. Getting gas for the tank. Everything is an opportunity to spend time with one another. The sisters now share a room and Logan has a better relationship with her father. “I used to always talk to my mom about everything; she was really close to me,” Logan said. “Now that she is gone I sort of lean on my dad more.” The best support system for the Freemans was their family and friends. Logan
relied on her best friend to help her through everything. “I would go over to her house and not feel like doing anything,” Logan said. “She said ‘Ok, we can just sit here and talk’. She was there every day when I was shopping for the service and when we were planning everything. Other friends were like ‘Well, I don’t know what to say or do.’” Jordan Freeman saw the opposite occur. His best friend was highly affected by the loss of their mother and was around less frequently while dealing with her passing himself. Jordan also saw those who he was not so close with surface in his life with condolences when the time for friendship had long passed. The loss of their mother taught them a lot about how they want to live their lives. “I learned not to take life for granted at all,” Logan said. “If you have something that’s bothering you, then just get over it because there are people that are worse off than you. Just to stay strong no matter what life throws at you, because you might not be here for very long.”
august 21, 2012
A light in our world
Student explains passion for helping others By Rachel Chen Hughes’ personal experiences have also affected his desire to help others. Early in life, he dealt with a growth hormone deficiency which caused issues with his pituitary gland. It stunted his growth and during middle school, he went through a body chemistry imbalance. This in turn caused Hughes to experience headaches, pain and sleep troubles. Being sick often affected his ability to thrive socially because he was too focused on getting better to socialize. Hughes also had a more difficult time fulfilling his goals. “There were times where I almost lost my belief and my purpose of why I am here, because I felt useless,” Hughes said. “I was exposed to many ideas saying I wasn’t of any use.” Hughes began recovering when his pituitary gland was repaired. With the support of his friends, he was able to feel normal again. As he started helping others again, he gained confidence in his beliefs and in his ability to be a better person. “It was a momentary thing. It was medical recovery, pain
and gradual processes,” Hughes said. “Ultimately, I think it actually strengthened my vision, strengthened my resolve to help other people going through hard times. I need to do the right thing. I need to do the principle thing. I need to do the utmost I can to create a better place.” Although his confidence increased in his own ideas, one of Hughes’ greatest fears during the election was whether or not the rest of the school would agree his plans would be the best. He was afraid that people would not support his vision. Though he did not win the election, Hughes remains dedicated to his longing for a community that does not rest until everyone’s interests are heard and met. “I’m a person whose personal hardships and personal experiences in life have taught me that I will always be faithful,” Hughes said. “I will always be faithful to you. And I will always be faithful to the school, no matter what happens.”
spor s Work hard to play hard
august 21, 2012
By Alexis Harris
One coach, one senior, one junior. These are the women who dreamed big. They are the ones who did not give up despite their struggles. Starting Sept. 1, the junior Lady Wildcats will be able to communicate with colleges they are interested in. They know that within a year, they may be committed to school – maybe even their dream school. They are the pieces of the winning team. Junior Haley Harrison did not show a hint of fear while her teammates buzzed about the recruitment process. The idea of not making it to college volleyball did not appear to phase her because she had a backup plan. “I would go where I want to go, because that’s what really matters,” Harrison said. Eventually, she wants to have a normal job, hopefully in education or physical therapy. But Harrison has a goal to reach before then. She wants to complete her volleyball journey by playing for a college team. Senior Maddie Morell is in the latter part of her journey. She has recently committed to the University of Nevada with a full five year ride. Having played since she was in second grade, she is totally devoted to the
“I love the competitiveness and the aspects of the game,” Morell said. “I’m a very competitive person; games are a lot more fun. You have to practice to get better, but games are what make it fun and interesting.” The University of Nevada is known for its nursing program, which will allow Maddie to not only achieve her dream of playing college volleyball but also earn her nursing degree. Four of Coach Lauren Moffett’s varsity players have now been recruited, including Morell. Moffett has seen how hard they have worked over the past years to get to where they are. “Now they can just relax and play,” Moffett said. No matter what age or what stage of their dream they are at, these three women and teens look forward to the goal. Morell talks about how she handles herself while being scouting by colleges. “You just need to be confident that you are good the way you are.” Morell said. “Just play the way you’d play every single day you go out on the court.”
Current Volleyball Statistics Varsity
Streak Won 3
Streak Won 2 Photo by Maddie Patton
Senior Madison Morrell serving the ball to the opposing team on Sept. 4.
Upcoming Volleyball Games Sept. 25 McKinney Boyd
Sept. 28 Plano East
Oct. 2 Plano West Oct. 9 Mckinney Oct. 12 Mckinney Boyd
august 21, 2012
Q&A with varsity football leaders By Laura Jones
Q: What do you do to get the football team pumped up? A: Before the game, we’re all just listening to our headphones, but in the locker room I like to say a few things – get them all excited. It’s kind of a football thing, but I don’t want to throw that all out there. We were all getting pumped up in the locker room before the game, screaming and shouting – you know how that is. Q: What’s the most challenging part of being a football captain?
A: No matter what you’re doing, people are looking at you. Everyone, whether they’re seniors, juniors or sophomores – everyone’s kind of looking at you to set the example. You can never really do anything wrong, you always have to be doing the right thing. Q: What made you want to be a football leader? A: I’ve been around the campus, been around the whole program for going on four years now. I feel like just being here for that long and being a senior now is like a leadership thing, a role that’s just kind of come into place for me.
Francis Mtuke Q: What is your most memorable football experience? A: My most memorable football experience would probably have to be the Allen game last year, even though we didn’t do so great throughout the game. Just walking in that stadium, there had to be at least over 10,000 people and it was just a great, crazy atmosphere coming out there.
Q: What made you want to be a captain? A: I like the leadership role, I feel like I naturally have a desire to lead. The fact that I’d be able to lead this team, I like that responsibility. I like being one of the guys I know my teammates know they can count on when it comes down to tough times.
Q: What made you want to play football? A: I guess growing up everybody wants to play, all the little kids want to play football. My dad played football in high school and college, so that made me want to play. Also, while growing up, just seeing and watching people on TV like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, all those guys. Seeing them play really makes you want to play.
Photo by Carson McCarthy
Q: What made you want to be a captain? A: Well, if you’re on the football team, you want to be the best you can be. To be the best you can be is to be a great leader, and to be a captain you obviously have to be a good leader. Your teammates have to respect you and you have to work hard. I wanted to be a captain because it’s a great honor.
Each of the football leaders gave a short speech outlining their expectations for the season at the Aug. 31 pep rally.
At football practice, senior Brian Hanks (above), senior Francis Mtuke (right) and senior Richard Lagow (below) lead their team while perfecting their plays. Photos by Alexis Sendejas
Q: How do you feel about Allen being the last game? A: It’s huge, there’s nothing like it. The last game is at their new stadium. A lot of people say East or West, but my opinion is that Allen is definitely the biggest rivalry. I just know the game is going to be crazy, there are going to be so many people; it’s going to be packed. Allen’s a great team. We’re really going to be able to see how good we really are right before the playoffs, so it’s great that we play Allen in the last game.
Q: What is your most memorable football experience? A: I would definitely say last year. We obviously didn’t have a very good season, but there was a bunch of really close games. Those are always the fun ones, not the ones that are blowouts. If I were to pick one, I would say the Flower Mound game from last year was my favorite experience. It was a fun game to play in because we had to score a lot of points, so we were throwing the ball a lot. It was a fun offensive game.
august 21, 2012
we believe’ because honestly, no one minds if you ask. It just shows that you want to know if that’s true or not, and that’s a good thing.” Today, Miandara sees Islam as more of a way of life than just a religion. When she speaks of her faith, she touches the tassels of her sapphire hijab that declares her faith to the world. Her own mother never forced her to wear the scarf, and after a pause, she decides she wouldn’t force her own daughter to either. “But I would teach her about it her whole life,” Miandara said. “Why I wear it, what it means to me. I would show her what the Qur’an says about modesty for
women. Basically the belief is that a girl’s beauty is her own. It’s like a gift, or a precious pearl. Not everyone should be able to see that, because not everyone has pure intentions. I mean, we’ve all been looked at. Plano is no exception. Guys can be creepy. There’s a thing of protecting your thoughts and protecting your body from bad thoughts. It’s not so much being covered up as giving yourself this extra layer of protection. And you do feel safer – maybe not physically, but I just don’t feel as exposed. I can be who I want to be, without people judging that based on my appearance.” If she has a prayer, she gets permission to take five
minutes before a passing period to pray quickly in a storage closet. She says the prayer, and then goes back to class. “That’s what Islam is really about – adapting, and maintaining your faith while still functioning in the real world as a contributing person,” Miandara said. “It doesn’t have to disturb you – you just have to make room around it.” 9/11, to Miandara, represents a chance for history to recognize a moment when the country pulled together. “It was a tragedy. We all lost something,” Miandara said. “We are still suffering from that loss. But if we look back on 9/11 the way we look back on Pearl
Harbor 70 or 80 years from now, and we think of it with a sense of memorial and respect and awe we will have come to a point in our history where we can separate the hate from the respect. We can look at it with optimism rather than just ‘This sucks, who did this to us? Let’s get them back’ – because you can’t live your life like that in real life, and a country can’t live that way. We’re on that path, and it’s amazing how many Americans have rebuilt lives afterwards. I think this is one of the biggest triumphs of American history, because so many people stepped up and became heroes within minutes.”
there but they’re better than they were,” Gaudsmith said. Junior Anastasia Miculka, whose brother is a sergeant in the Army, feels differently about the status of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. “Since we haven’t seen a change in the Afghan behavior towards us, I think it’s useless how we’re still over there,” Miculka said. Miculka’s brother is deployed in Basra, Afghanistan and has experienced the deaths of two friends. One was shot by enemy fire and the other committed suicide. Since the beginning of the War of Terror, soldier suicides have gone up 80 percent. “I think it’s sad,” Miculka said. “You would think the military would accommodate and would take them out of the situation.”
Miculka and her family have been able to communicate with her brother by using Facebook messaging and phone calls. “It’s helped me kind of cope with him being in a danger zone and being worried about him,” Miculka said. Since Miculka’s brother has been deployed, she feels like he has changed in some ways. “He started to take care of his business more and didn’t rely on my parents as much,” Miculka said. “He realized once he was in the Army that Mommy and Daddy can’t always be there to fix his problems. I feel proud of him going out and helping keep our country safe.”
Students reflect on 9/11 By Kaitlin Humphrey Most students were in their kindergarten and first grade classrooms that infamous day. Some watched on as their teachers whispered amongst themselves in the corner. Others were pulled out of class, only to go home and see horrific images on TV. The date would never be forgotten. Senior Claire Gaudsmith remembers 9/11 as a common day with a few oddities. “My mom came and picked me up like normal,” Gaudsmith said. “We usually went out and played at the playground with some of our friends. We went and my mom was talking with some of her friends. Something was up but we just didn’t know what.” When she got home she watched the news. She didn’t
understand why people were jumping off the towers. The event of 9/11 still affects Gaudsmith’s family through the War on Terror. Gaudsmith’s father is a colonel in the military and has been deployed twice, once to Iraq when she was in eighth grade and more recently to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, he aided in the reconstruction of the Afghan society and government. He worked with the local government of Ghazni, a city in centraleast Afghanistan, and also local businessmen to help rebuild after the Taliban’s reign of power. In addition, Gaudsmith’s father taught farmers of the Ghazni province how to plant crops and how to start their own businesses. “Things are still bad
PALs raise money for Wounded Warriors By Kaitlin Fischer
They all leave home in crisp, clean uniforms, ready to defend their country. But not all of them make it back in the same condition they leave. Founded in 2003, the Wounded Warriors Project started with the goal of empowering soldiers who fought in the War on Terror after Sept. 11 and have incurred either physical or psychological injuries. This organization is located all over America, but now the Peer Assistance and Leadership, or PALs, club has taken an active role in contributing to the cause. First Lieutenant Eric Zastoupil was injured and lost his leg by stepping on a hidden improved explosive device. He is now sponsored by the Wounded Warriors Project. After graduating from Plano in 2006, he went on to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Principal Sarah Watkins was the first to hear about the Wounded Warriors Project and Zastoupil’s injury. Thinking it would be perfect for PALs, she passed the idea on to English teacher Marsha Cawthon, who then gave it to senior Preston Kemp to lead. “Ms. Cawthon thought it would be a cool project for me,” Kemp said. “He had graduated from West Point, and I want to go into the Naval Academy.” To help Zastoupil, PALs are working through the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center based in Bethesda, Maryland. They plan to decorate a wing of the hospital and send care packages to Zastoupil to help him personally. They want to send care packages to Zastoupil continuously, but the only way that is possible is to raise more money than the $500 raised thus far.
After two surgeries in Afghanistan, Zastoupil was flown to Germany for additional medical treatment before he was flown to the U.S. “We’re going to be planning to talk to Eric’s mom and see what Eric needs and try to help,” Kemp said. PALs has been collecting money for two weeks during lunches, and is working to raise awareness about his situation. History teacher Matt Cone was also able to aid in PALs’ efforts by announcing the fundraiser at a pep rally. “There’s a lot more people, not dying in the
Photo by Cristina Seanez
battlefield, but who are coming back with traumatic injuries,” Cone said. “It’s designed to kind of help them figure out what they’re going to do next.”
By Kimberly Mei
Afraz Suteria’s father, an accountant, also lost his job. Suteria’s family had just moved to the United States in 2000, after his father earned his certified accountant degree in Pakistan. “When he came here, he got a job pretty soon,” Suteria said. “He got laid Photo submitted by Khadeeja Miandara off because I guess Senior Khadeeja Miandara and her mother wear their tradia lot of people were tional hijabs. worried because 9/11 just happened and Muslims were involved. So I guess they were just taking precautionary measures or s o m e t h i n g. Eventually my dad found a job.” After 9/11, Miandara’s mother Photo submitted by Khadeeja Miandara began wearing Senior Khadeeja Miandara’s father on a business trip in 1992, her hijab at age before his wedding in 1993. 31 – an action that inspired Miandara to later do the same. “She started because she realized if she didn’t claim what a Muslim is, if she didn’t set the example of what she wanted the world to know Islam was, and what the Muslim woman is like – she didn’t want somebody who is a terrorist on a television screen dictating that, because he’s not what the religion is really about,” Miandara said. “He’s about political fundamentalism and violence and hate, Photo by Kimberly Mei and that’s not what Senior Aisha Farooqi adjusts her hijab. Islam is about.” Delaware, across the country. According to the Her father worked for two Pew Research Center, the number weeks at a time and came home of Americans with favorable to Texas for two days on the views of Islam has declined from weekend. This continued until 41 percent in 2005 to 30 percent March 28, 2003, when he had in 2010. While Suteria has never a heart attack and passed away. had any serious racist comments “We were a very young family, so directed his way, he still remembers it was difficult for sure,” Miandara when friends in middle school said. “We were in Texas. We had teasingly called him a “terrorist”. just bought a new house and a new “The biggest misconception car, so we couldn’t move anywhere. is all Muslims are terrorists; we’re We were stuck. It was very stressful not, I’m just going to say that,” going across the country every Suteria said. “I tried to explain, two weeks and he was young. I ‘Hey, this isn’t me, this is only do think that because of 9/11 a certain extremist group of he lost his job. That changed my Muslims who follow Islam who family’s destiny for a long time.” are doing this.’ And middle school Miandara’s family wasn’t the kids are like ‘whatever’ because only one. A week after 9/11, senior they’re middle school kids, they
don’t really care. They don’t really get it. But I’ve always tried to be mature and explain what happened. That goes back to one group doing something, like less than half a percent of Muslims, that affects the entire religion.” Suteria has been in JROTC all four years of high school and now with the staff position of S-2, he is in charge of fundraising, security and inventory. Since freshman year, he’s been taught not to judge or hate – something he wishes people would apply to his faith. “I would try and tell them, you know, this is not who we are. We are a peaceful people,” Suteria said. “We didn’t spread by the sword, we spread by the pen. Back in the Crusades, people used to be like ‘Convert to this religion or I’ll kill you’ but Islam didn’t spread like that. It spread by scholars and teachings. I would explain to them, same thing as the scholars – this is our faith, this is what we do.” In eighth grade, senior Aisha Farooqi transferred to a public school from her pervious allMuslim private school. When she began wearing her hijab, a friend asked her if she wore it in the shower and laughed. Four years later, during the recent moment of silence across campus to honor 9/11, Farooqi felt uneasy. “They were like ‘A moment of silence for people who had died’. I felt like people were watching me for some reason even though I had nothing to do with it,” Farooqi said. “I just ignored the people. I asked my friend too, she does hijab and she’s in 10th grade, and she felt the same way. I get kind of angry when people look at me like that, especially on 9/11. I’d tell them that I’ve been born here, and I’ve lived here for 13 years, so I don’t have anything to do with this. If you want to blame someone, don’t blame me, because I don’t have anything to do with this.” Both Farooqi and Miandara believe that the media has played a major role in perpetuating the stereotype of all Muslims as extremists. “There are things that happen, like attack in countries, and automatically news will say ‘Islamic suspected terrorists’,” Miandara said. “That’s really indicative of whom the media is using as a scapegoat, that’s why Islam has gotten a bad name. Honestly the only representatives on TV, besides Fareed Zakaria, who is not even religious, is maybe Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein – these are the people mainstream Americans see as Muslims. It’s logical for them to think this is who we are; it’s not fair to Muslims. They don’t separate the Muslims in Iraq or Afghanistan from the
august 21, 2012
Muslims in America. They’re different people. They think we want the destruction of the West, or whatever that means. That’s just not good for anyone. That’s stupid. In our generation there are a lot of Muslims who see that, who get angry. There is no television show about Muslims that isn’t controversial, no Muslim character who isn’t a stereotype. Or he is not even a practicing Muslim, just a brown guy with a funny accent. I think that’s something that this generation wants to change, and that’s why they’re going into media and law and medicine – all these fields that will really bring a new light to Islam. I really want that to happen in my children’s lifetime, so they can feel the difference.” After her father died, Miandara said her mother worked hard to instill in her the knowledge that they were Muslim Americans. “American and Muslim, those are of equal importance,” Miandara said. “Yeah, maybe we’re a different color than most. Or we come from Pakistan, which maybe not a lot of people are from. But we are Americans first. When we watch the Olympics, we cheer for the team USA – Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. When we watch an American movie, like The Avengers, we all love it – you know, you feel really patriotic. Muslims have these feelings, and I think that’s what a lot of people don’t think. Muslims care about the United States. Well, we love this country. You have to remember, the generation who came to American in the 1980s and 1990s came from countries in which they were either just getting their independence, or there was a forced military takeover, or a dictator was being cruel and unspeakably inhumane to their people. Or they were oppressed, like in Afghanistan and Iraq – these were people who have escaped. So when they come to America, it’s freedom. Our families came here from home countries, leaving entire families, because America just seemed so inviting and amazing to them.” Miandara doesn’t see ignorance as anyone’s fault – just a lack of education, which she believes can be remedied by simply asking questions. “People will ask, and I love it when they ask, because it means they’re thinking ‘I want to know, therefore I will find out’. That’s positive thinking,” Miandara said. “If you have a question about Islam, and there’s a Muslim, ask. More than likely they won’t be offended. Worst case they won’t know, and they’ll ask for you – they’ll look it up in their phone and they’ll be like, ‘Okay, this is what
ne s Counting colleges
august 21, 2012
Step it up
By Tehreem Shahab
It was the perfect place for her. She knew it the moment she took that crucial summer program. It completely changed her future. “I have officially been accepted to the Savannah College of Art and Design,” senior MK Baird said. “I got my letter on the second day of school, which was very nice.” She attended two college classes in a matter of five weeks, and by maintaining a 4.0 GPA she was automatically accepted. She plans to apply to other colleges such as Baylor and the Maryland Institute of College and Art, but SCAD is her favorite school. “It is my top choice because I have already been accepted,” Baird said. “I’m also very close to my family and most art colleges are in California and the Northeast, and going that far seemed like a stretch.” The college location is very important to some college students. Senior Haley Chudej, who is going to UNT, had almost the same reasons to choose her college. “I liked it because it had communication designing,” Chudej said. “But I also liked it because it was much closer.” Baird said she would like to remain close to her family, because of the sustenance they have given her. “My parents, especially my grandparents, have been very supportive of my choice to go to art school,” Baird said. “Unlike some parents who freak out when they find out their child wants to go to an art school, they thought it was a great opportunity and they worked out a way to fund it too.” Senior Haley Chudej, on the other hand, was unsure of where she wanted to go at first, despite having supportive parents as well. “My parents went to UNT and they wanted me to go there too because they thought it was a good school,” Chudej said. “A few years ago, my dad used to say ‘when you go to UNT’ as opposed to ‘if you go to
UNT’ and that always bothered me, because it was as if he was telling me where to go.” It took Chudej some time to decide where she wanted to go, and after visiting the school a few times and thinking it over she realized that she really did like the school. “I also enjoyed the environment,” Chudej said. “It seemed like a place where I could fit in because everyone is very laid-back.” The school atmosphere also attracted Baird to her top choice. “Colleges in New York are very cutthroat and the professors don’t really care about you,” Baird said. “But at SCAD, you’re really close to your professors. I mean, I’m Facebook friends with my 70-yearold fashion professor and she likes my profile pictures. The teachers at SCAD care about you and they are very helpful.” To get into SCAD a lot of effort was given on Baird’s part, who believes that art school is not easy. “Some people think art is the easy way out and it is not,” Baird said. “This college focuses more on academics than other art schools. They look for your SAT and ACT scores and your artistic drive.” For Chudej, getting accepted to college is not only about certain SAT scores. “It is better to have good grades in general,” Chudej said. “It shows that you work hard all the time.” For these seniors, getting into college is more than just an acceptance letter. It is a step down the road to their future. “This college has a really solid foundation and they work with students to get jobs after they graduate,” Baird said. “So by going to SCAD I’m setting myself up to have a good career and be successful.”
Band takes spirit to whole new level
Photo by Cristina Seanez
Photo by Cristina Seanez
By Maddi Marshall Some band members and their officers are planning a flash mob that will be performed to the popular K-pop song “Gangnam Style” by Psy sometime next month. The band members have been practicing outside of school, anxiously waiting for the big day. “I wanted to be a part of this because I love being in band”, a band officer said. “I think it really shows off the band spirit. Being in band is something that has become a part of my life, and I am just so happy that we can leave a mark at this school together.” The band members and officers are looking for students in band who are interested and willing to join. Most officers and senior students will be a part of the flash mob. However, junior members are still welcome to join in. The mob is so secret that not even all the students in band know about it. When questioned, three junior band members said they never heard about the flash mob and if they did, it was only once or twice.
august 21, 2012
FCA members share faith By Leslie Parker
Rain or shine, they make it to the meeting every week. It is not just a club; it’s a place for friends to share their faith. Since Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been a part of the school, it has been made up of a variety of students all over the school. This year is no exception. All of the members are leaders in their own way as followers of Christ. “We want everyone who goes to be a leader because that’s mainly what it is, just being a leader in Christ,” senior Grant Sanders said. It is mostly student-led. However, among this union of leaders there are a few who step up and take the initiative to coordinate FCA, including Sanders and senior Stephen Ritz, who plays his own role in what goes on each Friday morning. This organization provides a place for all types of students to come together and learn with people that share their same beliefs. It’s a place where they don’t have to be afraid and can share their faith. Sharing their faith is one of the most important aspects of FCA. “Our goal is to spread the word of Christ and shine His light,” Ritz said. “Every year I’ve been in it there’s been a consistent
number of people that continue to come and pour into FCA.” The name of the organization makes it seem like all members must meet certain qualifications to participate: be a Christian and be an athlete. Ritz profusely denies this. “FCA is more of a name rather than a restriction,” Ritz said. “If you’re an athlete, if you’re not an athlete. If you’re a believer, if you’re not a believer. If you’re a boy or if you’re a girl. You are welcome to see what we’re all about. It’s an open thing.” Being a part of FCA promises that you will leave encouraged and rejuvenated, nonbelievers and believers alike. Ritz reflected on how difficult it can be getting caught up in worldly things as a believer in high school. He believes it is easy to stray away from your faith and get caught up in the wrong things. “I feel like school is one of the hardest places to pursue your relationship with Christ,” Ritz said. “You can’t really see or feel the love of Christ at school. It’s hard. There’s a lot of sin, there’s a lot of darkness and evil. But when you come together at FCA you just see everyone who loves Christ and everyone who’s pouring their heart out. It’s super encouraging.”
This encouragement is something Ritz has experienced since he was first involved in FCA as a middle school student. Since, it has played an important role in his life. “FCA has definitely brought me closer with God,” Ritz said. “Knowing that He’s working at school and that he’s working in my friends around school is awesome. It’s extremely heartwarming to know that more and more people are continuing to accept Christ and are continuing to pursue Christ at school.” One thing Ritz is passionate about as a leader this year is making sure everyone finds the encouragement they need to glorify God in all they do and be an inspiration to everyone at school. “You never know who is looking up to you and who’s watching you or every move that you make and every decision that you decide,” Ritz said. “It affects other people. You have to solely believe that you’re making a difference even by your actions or what you say about other people.” Ritz sees his friends and fellow classmates become more conscientious of this as they become involved with FCA. “I continue to see more and
more people accept Christ and develop in their relationship with Christ through FCA,” Ritz said. “Some people don’t necessarily have a church or have a solid church where they can come together with a group of fellow believers and open up about what they’re struggling with or something that is going on in their
lives. There’s truth in what we say. There’s truth in what we believe in. We’re not saying it because the Bible says it. We’re saying it because we’re living it out and because we’re experiencing it every day.”
Passing on tradition
Who’s Got Talent show handed down from NHS to AVID
By Jessica Allman
A spotlight hits the stage in the auditorium as the curtains slowly roll back to a crowd of eager Wildcats. Two emcees walk on stage and introduce the annual talent show as the performers anxiously wait for their cue backstage. To the audience nothing looks out of the norm. Who’s Got Talent has been a tradition for several years but this year the show is under new leadership. Advancement via Individual Determination has taken over from NHS. AVID is a college readiness class that helps prepare students for college by teaching them study skills, taking them through the college application process and going on college visits. “Last year’s NHS sponsor Mrs. Walsh had been running the talent show for years,” AVID teacher Jackie Dillon said. “She could probably put it all together in her sleep, but she moved away. She said the new sponsor didn’t necessarily care whether or not they continued with hosting the talent show, so they decided to hand the show over to us.” Dillon said that AVID needs money to pay for student’s college applications, SAT waivers, college visits and many other expenses. “I believe NHS decided to give the show over to AVID because
we definitely need the fundraising opportunity,” Dillon said. “We need thousands of dollars to be able to do all of this, whereas other clubs aren’t in need of as much money.” The AVID program was previously funded by the district, but their budget has been significantly cut over the past few years. The SAT prep program that AVID uses costs $1,000 per 30 students and the SAT itself is $50 times the number of AVID students. “It all adds up,” Dillon said. “We no longer have the money in our budget for these things, so we have to find ways to raise it ourselves. “ AVID is expecting to make $4,000 dollars off of the Who’s Got Talent fundraiser alone. “It really depends on if we increase the price of tickets or leave the price the same,” Dillon said. “But based on the price NHS sold tickets for last year we have an idea of what to expect. It’s a big undertaking, but I know we can do it.” Dillon said that AVID has already reserved the date in the theater for the show and the auditions. “We asked Mr. Arp and his tech crew to help out,” Dillon said. “We really couldn’t do the show without them. We also have a book that was passed down to us
from NHS with everything we need in it from the layout of the show to what we need to do each month.” AVID has recently elected senior Hunter White as Senior Chairman over the Who’s Got Talent show. White decided to run for chairman because he is also an NHS officer. “I helped out with the show last year,” White said. “I had to learn how to organize the show and what procedures to take while going through set-up and putting on the show entail.” The details are still being finalized by the Who’s Got Talent committee at this time, but things are expected to run very similarly to last year’s show. “AVID just laid down its foundation of officers, so we haven’t been able to set clear procedures of how things will be set up year,” White said. “But we plan to release for information later in the semester.” White says his advice to any student auditioning is to come prepared. “I’m looking forward to seeing all the unique talents that will be showcased,” White said. “We want our show to be the best it can be and showcase the best talent that Plano has to offer. Just be yourself and be proud of who you are.”
august 21, 2012
In the city
By Alyssa Matesic
Glancing down at words and symbols that seem almost indistinguishable and being more concerned with sensation and emotion than with the task at hand, students under the influence are in a different mental state than the rest of their c l a s s m a t e s. After sitting passively in all their classes and walking through a blur of people, these students go home unaware of what exactly happened during the school day. Rather than focusing during school, some make the decision to turn their attention to planning out when he or she is going to use a substance and how not to get caught. It’s no surprise that high school students are experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Statistics say that about 70 percent of U.S. teenagers have tried alcohol at least once and 40 percent have tried marijuana. At parties or other social events where substances are present, they can be obtained with little to no effort. But at school, students must go out of
their way to get drunk or high. Although only about five percent of students have had an alcoholic drink at school and an even smaller percentage have used another substance, we still wonder– what’s the point? At school, students are taught concepts that are expected to be retained and are essential for doing well on tests or future assignments, but when memories are distorted and attention is scattered the possibility of excelling is diminished. Not only does the decision to be mentally absent affect performance on that particular day, but their lack of understanding will affect their future. Those who could not care less about their grades should at least use the education system as a way to learn self-control and tolerance. Controlling the urge to be intoxicated in inappropriate situations is useful in the real world, where bosses will not tolerate their employees acting dazed or irrational. No one our age should be drinking or using any sort of recreational drugs at all, but on the weekends when students may have fewer responsibilities to worry about, this behavior is slightly easier to understand. School is a place to learn and create opportunities for the future, not somewhere to let loose and lose inhibitions. Not only is there the possibility of losing important opportunities due to these actions, but there is also the risk of more serious consequences. Underage drinking in Texas results in receiving a class C misdemeanor, fines, enrollment in alcohol awareness classes, mandatory community service and to top that all off, license suspension for 60 days. Even with legal consequences, the percentage of teenagers that repeatedly break the law seem to consider themselves invincible and truly believe it when they say “I won’t get caught” or “Nothing bad will happen”. The chances of getting in trouble or having a situation become dangerous are definitely reduced by not driving intoxicated or having a large group of people being wasted together, where things escalate with little to no effort. There are many adults present on campus, and any disruptive or strange behavior could be a red flag to a faculty member. If a problem or suspicion arises and it is confirmed that a student is under the influence, going to Special Programs or harsher consequences could result – not the bestcase scenario to have for the last stretch of public schooling. These consequences are an inconvenience that can easily be avoided by not using drugs or alcohol. Instead of just skimming by at school, acting on every whim and making questionable decisions, we hope that the entire student body will refrain from attending school under the influence. School is not the time or place for drinking or drugs. Students need to rekindle the pride associated with being a Wildcat and represent the school to the best of their ability. We hope this school year will be filled with cherish memories, not mistakes everyone would like to forget.
wildcat ales Alyssa Matesic Jp Salazar
Layout Editor Shezal Padani
Jessica Allman Rachel Chen Brooke Combs Joe Diller Kaitlin Fischer Priyanka Hardikar Alexis Harris Kaitlin Humphrey Laura Jones
pass the medical exam. In a room buzzing with foreign languages, a doctor gave him a “six-second physical”. Then he moved into the interrogation room. It was huge and completely packed with strangers. Large, arched windows took up most of the wall space, giving the immigrants a view of the city while they waited on wooden benches for hours. After verifying that he had correctly identified himself and that he was not a threat to the country, my great-grandfather bought himself a one-way train ticket to Universal, Pennsylvania. His name is one of the 700,000 engraved on the Wall of Honor at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. As I walked through the plaques, surrounded by names and families and histories, I was overwhelmed. I finally realized that not only was I standing in my great-grandfather’s shadow, but the shadows of so many others like him. Those who came to seek out a new beginning. Those who came to secure their future and the future of their families. Those who came for the chance to be a part of something bigger. Something significant. I walked to the edge of the island and watched the storm brew over Manhattan. Each person represented on the memorial saw that very same view. Some even fell in love with it, as I had. I was one of them – an immigrant looking to find a piece of herself in the city skyline. I glanced down into the water of the New York Harbor and saw my great-grandfather’s reflection, my reflection and the reflection of New York City – where I come from, where I am and where I will be. My past. My present. My future. And that was my real moment on Ellis Island. I pressed the shutter.
september 21, 2012 volume 57 issue ten Editors-in-Chief
Just as I was about to press the shutter, a raindrop fell on my lens. I lowered my camera and quickly wiped it off. I tried for the second time. Another drop. Then a third. The water kept coming, drop after drop after drop. Each one of them bleared my vision, making my picture impossible. I wasn’t concerned with getting wet – I just didn’t want to miss the moment. I held my hand flat over the edge of my lens, temporarily beating the storm. Everyone on the boat, umbrellas in hand, rushed over to the railing. The chatter escalated. Cameras began flashing. I knew it was coming. I focused on the Statue of Liberty and pressed the shutter. I had captured my moment. And then I captured the next. And the next. I must’ve taken a picture at every possible angle as we drifted past Liberty Island. The statue was almost out of sight by the time I realized I hadn’t experienced the moment. I let my camera hang from my neck and secured on my lens cap. I took a deep breath as I watched the statue slowly fade into the storm. Even in the haze, she stood tall. I arrived on Ellis Island the same way my great-grandfather had 103 years ago. Though our methods of transportation were different – he on a 2,519-passenger ocean liner for a week and myself on a ferry boat for 45 minutes – I gazed at the statue just as he had, knowing that, to him, she symbolized the future. That future depended on him arriving in New York City at the age of 25, settling in a rural town in Pennsylvania and earning a living. Only after establishing himself as Thomas Ambrose, his new American identity, could he marry a woman back in Romania. I traced back his first experiences in America during my time on the island. First, he had to
Myiah Jones Hannah Kohn Madeline Marshall Alexandria Oguntula Leslie Parker Maddie Patton Alexis Sendejas Tehreem Shahab
Wildcat Tales is a student produced publication that serves to educate, inform and entertain the student body in a professional manner which will provoke thought while upholding the principles of a free press. The publication is a forum for the students of Plano Senior High School. Any opinions expressed in Wildcat Tales is the opinion of the writer and of the writer only.
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Wildcat Tales is the official student publication of Plano Senior High School 2200 Independence Pkwy Plano, TX 75075 469.752.9300 Letters to the editor can be sent to room B208 or mailed to the Wildcat Tales Staff
august 21, 2012
The man on the bench
By Kaitlin Fishcher
There was a man sitting, head in his hands, still as a rock. He was alone in the center of a bench with three kids running around him. The first was a child of 5, arms flailing wildly, singing at the top of his lungs. The second, a 10-year-old, was jumping up and down and then doing cartwheels which orbited the bench that supported the man. The third was a child of only 3 years of age. She walked every which way, as if she were missing something and couldn’t seem to find it. Every minute or so she would walk up to a person standing nearby, mumble a few words and then walk off, dismissed by a shaking of their head. All of this commotion seemed to whirl around this one bench, with the man acting as the eye of the storm. He continued to sit, head in hands, silent and pensive. It was as if the children didn’t even exist to him, and, if they did, they didn’t seem to affect him. Not as they were affecting others in the near vicinity, anyway. People began glancing towards the sight at the bench, and soon the glances morphed into stares. Eventually, annoyed looks and grumblings were made towards the scene at the bench. “What is wrong with that man?” one woman commented. “Can he not control his own children?” Another made a remark about how children of that nature should
not be brought into public places. The more the group of people talked, the angrier they grew at the scene unfolding in front of them. They were angry at the children running amok, but, even more so, they were frustrated at the father who didn’t seem to care. One man finally decided that something should be done about this disturbance, so he made his way up to the bench and sat down. The man sitting on the bench did not even look up to acknowledge the new presence. Thinking about how rude this man on the bench seemed to be, the brave man began to talk of the complaints. “Excuse me, sir, but these are your children, yes?” The man on the bench looked up, confirming the question, so the brave man continued. “Well they seem to be running around quite a bit, and many people are beginning to get annoyed...” The brave man trailed off. The man on the bench continued to hold his head in heads, nothing more. Fed up, the brave man finally shouted, “Look man, you need to control your kids!” At this the man sitting on the bench slowly raised his head to look at the brave man. Tears filling the brims of his eyes, he replied, “I am truly sorry. We just returned from the hospital where we got the news that their mother had passed away. If you could forgive them, I
don’t think they know how to handle it yet.” The pastor stood, looking out towards his congregation as he recited the last few words of his story about the man on the bench. The church was solemn, meditative, connecting his words to their own life. In my mind, school beginning was most prominent, and the lesson to be learned from the story corresponded perfectly. At a school with such a large populace, getting annoyed by others is inevitable. With the crowded hallways, lack of sleep and the stress of school itself, tensions rise quickly. When I see something obnoxious in the hallways, the first thought to enter into my mind is not always the one that should be said aloud. In fact, sometimes it seems that it’s easier to judge others than to be sympathetic. So starting this year, I want to try to change my perspective. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I will think twice about what the person might be going through. If the person just lost their mother, or even if they’re just too stressed with school, a kind smile rather than a judgmental one is probably what the person needs that day. This year, I just want to sit next to a man on a bench with his head in his hands, so at least now the man knows that he doesn’t have to sit alone.
Paciugo’s gelato was all I ever needed to satisfy my cravings for frozen sweets. So I went in trying to think of something I could compare the food to, or anything else I could base my review off. It became clear to me as soon as I saw the store’s sign, “Ice-CustardHappiness,” that if Rita’s food could make me happy like it is described, then it could possibly become my preferred cold dessert eatery. The restaurant is set up like the majority of others like it, with a more open space at the entrance with a few tables and seats, and a counter where the Italian ices are displayed. An employee greeted me and asked if I wanted to sample anything, but I was too busy trying to process some of the flavors being offered, like root beer and Swedish fish. Suddenly, the manager and owner of the new Rita’s came out to help me understand the ways and history of the franchise. She talked about the traditional over-the-window service many Rita’s around the country offer, the 50-plus flavors Rita’s has, the Oreo-Custard cookies, milkshakes, Mistos, Blendinis and much more. She was enthusiastic and eager throughout my visit and interacted with many of the customers. She told me that mango was one of their classic flavors and, after sampling three other ice flavors (black berry cheesecake, Swedish fish and blue raspberry), I made my order. First was the classic mango Italian ice, the menu item I expected the most out of. I knew that this was going to be the best thing they had to offer so I slowly picked at it with
my spoon, examining the consistency of it and trying to predict how the mountain of ice would taste. I finally dove in, and all I remember was a smile forming across my face. I was in disbelief. This was the flavor of mango presented in the best way – it was tangy, sweet and exotic, but light and refreshing at the same time. I quickly indulged on the rest of my well-sized cup of ice. At two and a half bucks it was the best deal I had ever had at a dessert shop. Next, I had a mixed vanilla and chocolate custard. I was surprised to see what looked like ice cream on top of a waffle cone. I imagined a creamy liquidated treat, so I grabbed my tiny spoon and tried going through the same routine. After picking at it for a while, I came to the conclusion that this was meant to be eaten by mouth – the custard was too sturdy to be scooped up like ice cream. A few licks later, the similarities in appearance the custard had to ice cream meant nothing; the custard was a totally different beast. It was savory and structured. It wasn’t sweet. The vanilla and chocolate flavors were distinct and independent. I sampled the coffee custard to verify the conclusion I came to, and I could’ve sworn I could taste the coffee I had that morning. There are no flavor pretexts with custards at Rita’s, just pure whipped tastiness. Finally, I sampled their Blendini, one of the mixed specialties they offer. Each specialty is a blend, or assortment of layers of custard and Italian ice. The employee working there told me that a Blendini
By JP Salazar I can’t count the number of times I have been promised that a restaurant has “the best (pizza, seafood, sandwiches, barbeque, frozen yogurt, bubble tea or any other food item) in all of (city, state name or general geographical location like ‘The South’).” I’m not a skeptical naysayer that dismisses these statements. I mean, I’ll be the first one to see a billboard with one of these lies plastered on it and proceed to plead with the driver to stop the car. It’s just that once I’m seated and an unpalatable plate of food gets dropped on the table, I feel embarrassed knowing I brought my party down with me in this impulsive act of trust. In a world filled with these shoddy, stomach-churning traps, it’s nice knowing that there are still establishments like Rita’s that can deliver on their promises. Walking into the newly-opened on Aug. 15 Rita’s, I didn’t know what to expect. It was difficult to find, as the store was hidden behind the large Mooyah on Legacy and Independence, and I wasn’t expecting much from a frozen dessert place that I had never heard of. I had already established that Photos by JP Salazar
was the equivalent of a DQ Blizzard, so I ordered black berry cheesecake as my Italian ice flavor, one of the flavors with pieces of fruit in it, and Vanilla as my custard flavor. You’re allowed to choose a type of crushed candy to blend in with Blendinis, so I chose Reese’s Pieces. The individual components were all great, but the pinkish shake given to me wasn’t exactly what I expected. It was a bit runny and way too sweet for my taste. This is where Rita’s is weakest. There is so much to choose from that customization is a process of trial and error, and overall quality gets lost in translation. Rita’s is a much-needed and muchwelcomed addition to the cast of cold dessert shops found in Plano. It is rustic and has established roots to grow from, it doesn’t boast anything and its only goal is to make its customers happy, which is something I can vouch for. At a reasonable estimate of three bucks per item, everyone should go treat themselves to Rita’s inexpensive, cooling and luscious deserts at their grand opening Sept. 28.
Country Burger location
West Parker Rd.
2108 West Parker Road (972) 422-5092
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