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wildcat ales plano senior high school

plano, tx 75075

volume 67

issue 5

december 14, 2012

Once a queen, always a queen 93-year-old remembers high school experience

By Priyanka Hardikar Everyone went there – the rich kids and the poor kids. Some boys were forced to miss the whole first month of school because they picked cotton in West Texas for money. They had a friend who arrived to school barefoot. And yet they were all part of one clique, their common bond of school pride rising above all of their differences. This diverse but unified school was once Plano High; it later became Plano Senior. 93-year-old Elizabeth Thompson is a graduate of only 57 students in her class of 1937. She is the only person to have ever won homecoming queen two years in a row.

She continues to be a part of Plano Senior by attending every homecoming game. Elizabeth’s Plano High is in some ways nothing like Plano Senior. The school in the 1930s had a very small student population. Though it was economically diverse, with almost everyone from a doctor’s child to a poor farmer’s child attending the high school, it was not ethnically diverse. It was an all-white school, and there was a separate segregated black school. Back in the 1940s, people believed Dallas had more respected schools. Elizabeth’s daughters, Beth and Sue Lena Thompson, witnessed the change in opinion, when in the 1980s everyone made the transition from Dallas schools to Plano ones. Every year when the family visits the homecoming games, they said they are struck by the rich ethnic diversity and  the unjaded pride in the school. “What’s nice is that people really appreciated the school back then and I think they still do,” Sue said. “And we could see that at the football game. We could feel the sincerity.” Elizabeth’s story began in fourth grade in Miss Kate Holder’s class, when she met the 10-year-old of her dreams, Davis Thompson. According to Photo by Davis Thompson-Moss their two daughters, Davis Elizabeth Thompson proudly faces the crowd with her mum during a past

Photo by Davis Thompson-Moss

Elizabeth Thompson returns to walk through the halls of Plano, 74 years after she graduated.

remembered his fourth grade sweetheart as a girl with bangs and a short haircut. “She looked like a little girl peeping out of a window,” Davis said. “I fell in love with her and I never got over it.” Elizabeth grew up on a farm and would take a bus to Plano. Her mother, Lena, was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse that taught students from first grade through ninth grade. The Lena Bishop Pearson Early Childhood Center in Plano is named after her. She churned butter and sold it to pay for Elizabeth’s expression lessons, which were lessons to help with oral performances of poems or stories. They stressed enunciating words clearly and projecting the voice. Elizabeth said she looked forward to going to school every day and being with people. From a very young age, Elizabeth had a passion for writing and reading. She started the very first literary study group in

homecoming game.

Continued on page 5

By Kaitlin Humphrey


Photo submitted by Jacqueline Nguyen

Senior Jacqueline Nguyen stretches into a Bielmann spin.

high school, which eventually became the “Elizabeth Thompson Literary Club.” Her literary interests were nurtured at Plano High, and paved the way for her English degree from Baylor University and career as a book reviewer. Elizabeth was the student secretary to Dr. Armstrong, the head of the English department. She was a book reviewer for over 40 years. “Everything about life relates to narrative,” Sue said. “When you weave what you’re saying into a story, everyone automatically pays attention. And that was my mother’s style. She was a go-getter. She knew that experiences meant everything. She always seized the moment.” Elizabeth always considered herself as a storyteller. The first time she stepped up on stage to recite the poem “Little Orphan Annie” was an astounding experience for her.

he watched as the girl in the movie twirled and spun around the ice. The Disney movie “Ice Princess” encouraged junior Shelby Johnson to begin skating during the summer after fourth grade. “I’m really short,” Johnson said. “There was a character in the movie that was called ‘jumping shrimp’ and she was short and talented. I thought, ‘I’m short and I have energy like she does and that looks fun.’ It was because of her and because the whole idea of skating looked like fun. So I got my mom to sign me up for skating lessons for my birthday.” The layback spin and haircutter are among Johnson’s favorite spins to perform. The layback is when the skater leans backwards and his or her leg stays straight up while spinning. The haircutter is when the free leg is brought up to the skater’s head while they spin. “It’s not like any other feeling,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to describe. It’s almost like flying. It’s always cold and there is air blowing in your face while you’re skating and when you get faster you are barely even touching the ice. It’s just really cool.” Senior Jacqueline Nguyen tried skating when she was 6 after her mom encouraged her to try dance and gymnastics, both of which she disliked. “One day I had gone to the Galleria and I saw all the skaters and I thought, ‘I want to be like them and wear all the pretty little dresses’,” Nguyen said. “At first I didn’t really like skating because I kept falling

down. But my mom put me into classes and I started to get the hang of it. That’s when I first found that I really liked it.” Nguyen’s first competition from when she was 7 is a memory that particularly stands out for her. “I went out there even though I was nervous,” Nguyen said. “Getting out there for the first time – everyone is watching me and I’m out there alone with the music. I just was this little girl looking around, all intimidated. I did my whole program, though, and I got a trophy. I was just really happy. When I’m going through hard times I just think back to that moment and just remember that I’m able to do something that I love.” In the future Nguyen hopes to give this same memory to other kids by coaching ice skating during college and possibly after college. “Right now I’m getting into coaching,” Nguyen said. “I have started with smaller classes on Saturdays. I want to become a coach because it’s fun to teach others how to ice skate and I just like doing that. During college it could also become a part-time job so I could get some money and also experience so I can coach later on. When I get a full-time job, skating will probably be just a side job.” Nguyen currently plans on going to medical school after college. “Since it takes so many years of schooling I will probably coach throughout college,” Nguyen said. “I want to go into physiotherapy and be a physical therapist

Photo submitted by Shelby Johnson

Junior Shelby Johnson performs a haircutter during a competition.

because they are helpful to athletes. When I’m hurt that’s the first place I want to go and see my chiropractor or physical therapist. They help people and make them feel better and that’s what makes me want to do that.” Johnson wishes to pursue a career in coaching skaters. “I would like to keep skating but I don’t know how long I will be able to just because of the time and money it takes,” Johnson said. “I would like to be a coach but right now there aren’t any job openings at the rink because there are so many coaches already. Helping people when they are having difficulties is a good experience for me.” Continued on page 4


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december 14, 2012

Environmental organizations throw pond litter concerns into light

By Tehreem Shahab Plastic bags. Aluminum cans. Styrofoam trays. According to Outdoor Ed teacher Diane Davey, the pond, a main icon of the campus, needs to be taken care of. “The pond is one of the main sites on our campus and it is our responsibility to keep it clean,” Davey said. “I take some of the students in my classes to clean out the pond but we don’t do it often enough. I don’t give them extra credit for it because it is something about pride and they should want to take care of the pond.” Davey believes that people need to give the pond the concern it deserves. “I take some of the students in my classes to clean out the pond but we don’t do it often enough,” Davey said. “I don’t give them extra credit for it because this is something about pride and they should want to take care of the pond.” Davey believes outdoor education should be taught according to the principles of Leave No Trace, a non-profit organization which teaches camping ethics and conservation in the environment. “One of the things we teach in Outdoor Ed is leaving no signs of humans in natural environments,” Davey said. “The pond is an environmentally special place and everyone experiences it every day, so we should keep it pristine for them as well.” There are ducks and an assortment of fish in the pond including bass, catfish and Koi that could be harmed by littering. “Our Outdoor Ed class goes fishing in the pond and learns more about the environment,” Davey said. “The trash thrown out by some people can be unhealthy for the ducks and fish in case they eat it or get trapped in it.” Environmental Club is also determined to help in conserving the environment. “Our mission statement is to inform our community about the problems in the environment,” said senior Lindsey Garcia, club president. “We also want to encourage them to work to protect the environment on campus, in the community and on more of a global scale.” Garcia understands others’ concerns about the pond, but she is not sure what Environmental Club will be able to do about it. “I know that a lot of people have been telling us to clean the pond lately,” Garcia said. “It is kind of tricky to do so because we don’t have enough resources, such as nets. It would be good to clean it but it is not a direct environmental hazard.” However, to keep the campus clean, Environmental Club has campus clean-ups once every six weeks. “We go around picking up loose trash and maybe fishing stuff out of the pond, so ducks can’t eat or swallow it,” Garcia said. “We try to encourage taking care of the animals so part of our goal is looking after them.” Junior Dhara Patel, an Environmental Club officer, believes campus clean-ups are necessary.

Photo by Tehreem Shahab

The pond reflects the nature of the campus throughout the year.

“I see a lot of people cleaning up, using recycling bins and trying to separate their trash,” Patel said. “Yet there are still some people who are careless and leave their trash lying around.” Patel also believes that saving the environment can be made a lot easier if students stop using Styrofoam plates and cups from the cafeteria. “Those Styrofoam plates and cups are my pet peeve,” Patel said. “We could start using reusable trays and use something more biodegradable, because the wind sometimes blows these Styrofoam plates into the pond and Styrofoam never breaks down so it is pretty harmful.” A clean campus is one of Environmental Club’s top priorities. Patel believes that more people need to be educated about ecological problems. “Environmental Club really wants to gain the most attention because we just want to spread awareness about our environment,” Patel said. “I think a good way to do that would be maybe to make some announcements during pep rallies or put up posters. We have also started working on the construction of a garden and we’re working on getting funds and management for that, so it is something to look forward to.”


december 14, 2012

Finding a connection PISD introduces new academies

By Priyanka Hardikar It doesn’t look like a school. In fact, it used to be a call center for the Southwestern Bell Company. There are no classrooms, open spaces or a ceiling. It looks industrial, with metal rods scattered everywhere. “When I walked into the school for the first time, it was like a marriage proposal, and it sealed the deal for me,” said Renee Godi, principal of the Problem-Based Learning Academy, one of the three new academies. “It’s an inspiring building. It just has a feel of a creative space, and when I think about the work we’re about to do and the innovativethinking students we’re hoping to produce, I know it is the perfect environment for them to be in.” The new, tuition-free academies, opening Aug. 26, 2013, stemmed from parents’ desires to see more education options for their children. The idea was introduced during a parent discussion three years ago. The Board of Trustees pictured how magnet schools should look like and what their specialized focus areas should be. A group of 70 to 80 parents, students, teachers and business members formed the Academy Visioning Committee. It was created by the PISD Board of Trustees to study and advise the achievability of creating a four-year option that offers programs not currently available in junior and senior high schools. Their search for missing courses helped to create the PBL, or problem-based learning concept. It includes STEAM, which stands for science, technology, English, arts and math. STEAM is the context in which students learn. Godi associates problembased learning with the “how” piece in student education, and STEAM with the “what” piece. In the PBL academy, students will learn primarily through projects. They will be divided into groups and assigned realworld problems. The teachers, called facilitators, are to help guide them through that process. The students will create a product that connects to the Plano community, to a business or to some audience beyond the school walls. Students will gain a more global perspective with teachers who have a variety of expertise. Texas Instruments is a founding sponsor that is helping to develop the projects and will evaluate the students’ final presentations. They will occupy a space in the building to give kids the opportunity to approach them and talk to someone in a particular field. The second academy is the Health Science Academy, which will encourage interest in different health professions.

It is a unique opportunity because students can work with Collin College to obtain up to 54 college credits. The third academy, the IB, or International Baccalaureate World School, already exists at Plano East. However, at this school the IB schedule will begin at 9th grade instead of 11th to integrate 9th and 10th graders into the program more quickly. Compared to Plano senior high schools, the PISD academies are four-year programs. According to Godi, their main appeal is the large number of choices they offer. Godi is hoping her academy will help create a connection between students and a love of learning. “There are some outstanding, really robust and rich programs at the high schools that have helped a large majority of students to connect, but there are a small percentage of students that have yet to find that connection,” Godi said. “I’m hoping that students who come to these academies, specifically mine, will feel a sense of belonging, a connection that ‘this is what I was made to do’ and inspired to think, create and do in ways that they have never done before. We live in a world of choices. I think it is perfect to be able to have the freedom to showcase not only in the way that you would like but to give a sense of identity for each student. They can show their learning through their love for art, music or dance. We’ve created these arbitrary divisions among subject areas, but in actuality if we take apart those subject areas, there are connections among them. We have the opportunity in our school to showcase that.” Like Godi, Richard Matki, the superintendent of Plano schools, plays a vital role in the establishment of the academies. As superintendent, he is responsible for administering the policies of the school district, hiring personnel and providing the administrative leadership for the operation of schools. Matkin shares Godi’s positive views on the academies and the opportunities they offer. “It will be exactly what some students are looking for, while the other students will continue on with the education and traditional path of their normal school,” Matkin said. “It’s just another opportunity the district is offering to allow them to do their own thing. It’s about finding something that stimulates and makes the students successful. It’s a two-way street – we have to provide a vital program for them and they have to come in willing to do the things necessary to


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be successful. It is a partnership between the school and students.” Godi is a promoter of teaching life skills rather than just content. She believes there isn’t a particular pathway to career readiness, and said the reality is that there are plenty of students, fresh out of college, with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees who are struggling to find work because of the way the market is. “Other skills such as how to think outside the box, communicate effectively, take initiative and work in a team properly aren’t taught, but either learned by default or not learned at all,” Godi said. “These are what companies are looking for, innovative thinkers who will come up with ideas and are fearless in presenting those ideas. You put yourself in a vulnerable position and take chances. Right now what they are receiving is kids who can only think a certain way because they are stuck following a rubric. They can’t offer ideas. I would hope that senior high students are seeing that and thinking of ways to develop those skills. I hope when our students graduate, not only do they get into competitive four-year colleges, but they are ready to take that next step in life.” Continued on

t Wildcats on ice spor s

By Kaitlin Humphrey Continued from front page Ice skating is an off-campus sport that has morning practices. To get to practice on time, both Johnson and Nguyen adhere to schedules. Nguyen gets up around 6 in the morning to get to the ice rink by 7. Once at the rink, Nguyen stretches and jumps before skating for up to two and a half hours. “In the morning sometimes I feel like I would rather die than get up,” Nguyen said. “But once I get up and get in the car and I’m on the way to the rink I think, ‘This is okay, this isn’t so bad’. I know I have to stay motivated keep getting up early, even though I may go to bed at 11:30 or 12.” On the weekdays, when Nguyen gets home from school she has a set schedule to follow in order to keep up with her homework.

Photo submitted by Jacqueline Nguyen

Senior Jacqueline Nguyen glides across the ice in a layback spin.


“I don’t even know how my homework gets done sometimes,” Nguyen said. “It just seems to happen. I do a little at a time and it works. When I get home I eat dinner, do some homework and get ready for the next day and that’s just my nightly routine.” Nguyen’s favorite part of skating is getting to learn new choreography for routines. “I really like being able to go out and put my own style into skating,” Nguyen said. “But I don’t like the endurance so much because that’s just not fun. I like to perform because it’s fun to show people, after you have worked so hard, what you have built up to and your achievement.” Nguyen competes at the junior level of skating, where there are short and long routines that skaters are required to perform. “The long is definitely the harder of the two,” Nguyen said. “When you are out there for the long program you just keep moving and spinning and jumping. Each time you jump it’s really fast so you hold your breath for the jump and then spinning also, so it’s really hard. The short program is easier since its shorter and there are not as many elements in it.” Out-of-town competitions are one of Johnson’s favorite elements of competitions. “We go as a rink so we are all close friends,” Johnson said. “We stay at the hotel together and just hang out all weekend. We watch everyone skate and cheer them on. A few years ago we went to Denver for a competition over the summer and it was a lot of fun because everybody went. Sometimes not everyone goes to competitions and all our friends were there. It was a national competition so that was cool.” Skating is an independent sport, according to Johnson. Although they go to competitions as a rink they work and practice independently. “I think our rink has a nice balance because we have the independence,” Johnson said. “I like having that and not relying on anybody and not having anybody rely on me. But then there are always other people there to help you, so it’s like the best of both worlds.” Although skating can be difficult and time-consuming,

december 14, 2012

Photo submitted by Shelby Johnson

Junior Shelby Johnson throws herself into a haircutter during a routine.

Johnson remains faithful to the sport. “Skating is self-driven so when you accomplish something it makes it all the more meaningful,” Johnson said. “I go back every day because I love the feeling of accomplishment and knowing it’s all me. When I have a bad day and then I go to school, I feel motivated to go back the next day and make it better.”

december 14, 2012


Hoping for peace 93-year-old remembers Students with ties to Israel discuss Israeli-Palestine conflict

By Rachel Chen Although it is almost 7000 miles away from them, the recent IsraeliPalestine conflict in the Gaza Strip territory remains relevant to some Jewish students here. The effects of it go deeper for students with families and friends in the area. On Nov. 26, a ceasefire between the Israeli government and the Hamas group of Palestine was finally brokered with the help of Egypt and the United States. The fighting in the area began after Israel sent airstrikes to the area to stop Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. The missiles were fired by militant groups in Gaza like Hamas, a group that was legally elected by Palestinians but is still considered a terrorist group by several countries, including the United States. While the conflict does not directly affect them, students like junior Evan Katz still try to keep up with what is going on by watching the news. “I think I sort of have a bias towards Israel because I’m Jewish, but in my daily life, it hasn’t really affected me that much,” Katz said. “I think the problem with the media is that they don’t explain the history of the issue. They explain what is happening now, but they aren’t explaining the history that’s led up to what’s happened. That’s a problem because people lose that and that’s very important to the motives of why Israel is attacking.” For other students, the fighting in the Israeli-Palestine area is a personal conflict as they have loved ones who live nearby. Junior Avital Gurman lived in Israel until she was 5 and has family that lives near Tel Aviv, the location of a recent bus explosion. “They’re scared, especially since the rockets have been getting more high-tech and they’ve gotten further into central Israel,” Gurman said. “But they can’t really do anything and they can’t really go anywhere. It’s hard not to be mad when Hamas is signing an armistice and yet there are literally hundreds of rockets each day in Israel, but there’s nothing you can really do about it. I consider it an ongoing miracle that not that many people have died.” Senior Hannah Johns’ boyfriend Joseph Baghdadi, a recent graduate of Plano West, is currently enrolled in a yearlong program at a school in Jerusalem to learn more about his Jewish heritage and to earn college credit. While some of the boys in the program left after the bombing started, Baghdadi is still at the school. At one point, the bombing occurred a mere 10 miles from the school and the students had to go into underground tunnels for protection. Later, the school was put on lockdown, which prevented the boys from going off-campus without their teachers. “The news keeps telling him that he’s safe in Jerusalem because the terrorists are not going to destroy the Holy Land since that’s what the terrorists want,” Johns said. “But then there’s still missiles going right into Jerusalem on the outskirts so he’s not really safe. It worries me so much and it’s stressful. It’s stressful for him too and his parents.” Johns has tried to keep up with the conflict, but what she has read on the media varies with what her boyfriend has told her about what is going on. “What I look up is a lot more sugar-coated and the media is predicting things that the army people are telling him differently,” Johns said. “They’re telling him that the ceasefire is just so Iran will stop bombing them, but they’re probably going to go in and end it themselves. On the news they’re saying they pulled out all the people that were out on the grounds going into the terrorist camps, but he told me that they’re still going in there. The media is just telling what they want everyone to think.” Though Gurman has lived in Israel, she does not blame the conflict on all Palestinians citizens. “I feel like it’s not a majority of the Palestinians that are the problem, it’s the Hamas and the terrorists and the government,” Gurman said. “The government isn’t doing enough. I also feel like Israel is always under pressure from other countries to stop fighting but I don’t understand why, if the terrorist organization hasn’t stopped and is refusing to stop. They say they aren’t going to stop until Israel is gone. If they put down their fire, there’d be more likeliness of peace. If Israel put down its weapons, there would be no Israel.” While the students try to stay informed about the issues in the Israeli area, they feel that there isn’t much they can do about it. “The more I learn about it, it’s just more upsetting because I can’t do anything,” Johns said. “I can’t do anything with the knowledge. It drives me crazy; I hate not being in control.” When asked if she felt like Plano students should try to learn more about what is going on, Gurman was conflicted. “I feel like most people don’t care and I don’t know if they should care because it’s not related to them,” Gurman said. “Not many people have family there anymore. If you want to know what is going on, you shouldn’t trust the first thing you see on the media. Read several different sources, not all from the same place and the same people. Reading other countries’ newspapers is a really good perspective.” On Nov. 29, Palestine was declared an observer state by the United Nations. Which country will come out on top or if the conflict will be resolved by the UN’s action is unknown, but to Johns, neither of these is most important. “I just hope everything goes well in Israel,” Johns said. “I hope everyone stays safe.”


fea ure

high school experience Continued from front page By Priyanka Hardikar “I said ‘little orphan Annie’s come to my house to stay. To wash the cups and saucers up and brush

Elizabeth made lifelong friends at Plano, whom she remains in contact with. They had regular the crumbs away.’ And I was simply amazed. I looked reunions with their class. When Davis was dying  in out and people were listening,” Elizabeth said. “I was 1995, he received a visit or call every day from a just a little girl, running around there and nobody member of the class of 1937. Elizabeth’s best friend listened to me. And I just nearly fainted because I got from fourth grade, Evelyn Lynge Gay, had a heart attack recently, and one of the first things she said a response. I loved getting people to listen.”  Not a day went by when Elizabeth felt the burden was, “Please tell Elizabeth.”Despite the passing away of working. As a book reviewer, she condensed of most of Elizabeth’s Plano friends, many of their books into one-hour summaries which she would children came to her big 90th birthday bash at the then, wearing heels and a large hat, deliver by memory Dallas Arboretum. Although Elizabeth before a group. She cherishes the memory of reviewed classics like “The her old high school, her Scarlet Letter,” bestsellers, progressive nature allows biographies and plays. She her to embrace change. was a guest reviewer for She enjoys the opportunity some clubs in Texas, and to meet the young people she reviewed exclusively who now fill the walls of for others. The Plano her high school. Thompson book club “She is not the kind used to meet at the Gladys of person to bemoan that Harrington Library, but Plano has changed from the now meets at the First small farming community Christian Church, the of her youth. That is what church that Davis’ family gives her that special glow attended. on homecoming night,” Elizabeth and Davis Beth said. “I don’t know Photo by Davis Thompson-Moss were married in 1942, Elizabeth Thompson and the mascot keep up their school spirit. if it was the war or the five years after their high school graduation, and though they moved to Dallas, Depression or the egalitarian nature of the high school it was like they had never left Plano. Their best friends or just that we are so vulnerable when we are young, remained their Plano friends. Their janitor from high but those relationships mean the most and Plano school, Shorty Cox, was a favorite friend and now a Senior has remained a touchstone for my parents. We favorite memory. He carved a Wildcat head out of are all in awe of what it has become. People seem so wood for every football player in his senior year and genuinely happy. The students are so accomplished. painted them himself. Davis treasured his Wildcat Most 93-year-olds don’t get to feel part of something so radically new. I feel grateful that Plano Senior was and often spoke of Cox to his two daughters. “My sister and I romanticized about the old days my parents’ past and hopeful that it is the future for of Plano through my father’s fabulous stories. We so many. We were right to romanticize Plano all those loved how everyone had nicknames: Boney, Rosie, years: it really is the school of our dreams.”  Clods, Ducky, Red. My uncle was the football coach in the 1950s and we went to every game. My sister and I memorized all the right songs and the lineup of players – they were our imaginary boyfriends,” Beth said. “One day I overheard someone ask my husband where in Texas I was from. He immediately said, ‘Plano’. I smiled because I am 65 years old, have never lived in Plano, but still consider it my hometown.” The Thompson family visited Plano every Sunday and on holidays as their grandparents, aunts and uncles lived there. Both Davis’ mother and Elizabeth’s mother graduated from Plano High. Davis’ sister, Mary Sue Thompson, was editor-inchief of Plano’s newspaper, called “The Wildcat’s Tale”. Their family’s binding connection to Plano has helped their daughters form a similar one. Davis and Elizabeth never locked their doors while their kids were growing up. However, years later when the Thompson sisters were returning home for a visit, they found a house alarm ringing. The sisters didn’t know the code and waited for their parents’ arrival. Photo by David Thompson-Moss Their house code was their graduation year from Elizabeth Thompson catches up with principal Sarah Watkins. Plano High School – 1937.

Photo by Davis Thompson-Moss

Elizabeth Thompson and her daughter revisit their beloved school, enjoying the sunshine in the B2 hallway. From left: Sue Lena Thompson, Elizabeth Thompson.


december 14, 2012

Foreign exchange students spend holidays away from families By Alexis Sendejas

Last Dec. 24 they were celebrating Christmas

with their families. They were having their annual celebration, something they had done all of their lives. But for students involved in the foreign exchange program, a different family will be with them this year. They will experience their first American holiday season with their host families. “During the first few months that I was here I was very homesick and nothing could cure it,” said junior Suzan Muenninghoff, a native of Moenchengladbach, Germany. “I would talk to my family and friends back home and hear about all the things that they were doing without me. Then I started thinking about the holidays. I have never spent a Christmas away from my family. A part of me was so sad about not being home. Then I started to experience more American things like Thanksgiving and I realized that this is a once-in-alifetime opportunity. I will be able to return home and spend many days with my family, but right now I will spend my days here.” Now that she has overcome her homesickness, Muenninghoff said she enjoys her time in America. She described her first Thanksgiving as a crazy, new experience. “I met like 20 new people, all of which were members of my host family,” Muenninghoff said. “We did things like play Wii and board games, and eventually we ate turkey and stuffing, and many other types of food. It was really cool. My favorite food, though, was definitely the turkey.” In Germany, Muenninghoff and her family celebrate a holiday similar to Thanksgiving, called Erntedankfest. During Erntedankfest in October, Germans show their gratitude for farm goods such as wheat, and pray for a future year of good harvest. The holiday is Catholic and Protestant-based, and families give to the less fortunate in their country. Junior foreign exchange student Marianne Ersland, a native of southwestern Norway, also enjoyed celebrating her first Thanksgiving with her host family. “In Norway we do not celebrate Thanksgiving, so it was different to see all these people come together for this particular holiday that before was just another day for me,” Ersland said. “All of the parts of the family traveled to Virginia together and we went ice skating.” Now with Christmas weeks away, the foreign exchange students are starting to prepare for it with their host families.

Photo submitted by Marianne Ersland

In 2011, snow covers Ersland’s hometown in Norway.

“Here in America, we have these socks over the fireplace and then on the 24th Santa comes here,” Muenninghoff said. “In Germany it is just on the 24th. We go to church and in the evening we do our presents and our Christmas tree that night. Here, in America, it is so much more.” According to Ersland, people are more involved with Christmas in Norway than they are in Plano. In Norway they start celebrating by opening one small gift every day from a calendar for the month of December. “We have a Christmas tree and angels and Santa Clauses all over the house,” Ersland said. “On Christmas Eve we go to church, but I am not really religious. We are a Christian country that is not highly devoted, but on Christmas everyone goes to church and we dress up in our national dress. Then, Christmas morning, we eat a traditional Photo submitted by Marianne Ersland meal at eleven. It’s rice that you boil with milk, The Ersland family poses for their 2011 Christmas picture. From left: Inger Lill Ersland, Marianne Erslan sugar and butter; it is called Risengrynsgroet. From there we watch two traditional Christmas movies. One is a Russian Cinderella movie, but the sound is off and a guy dubs the voices and speaks Norwegian. Then we have another big meal in the evening. It is different for every family, but there is always meat, potatoes and dessert. Then we By Laura Jones open the presents and hang out hey wake up to find presents under their brightly-decorated tree with family and talk and just play Jun and stockings full of special treats. However, they are missing one thing around with our new presents.” th – their family being together for the holidays. In anticipation for her In sixth grade, junior Maddie Allen’s parents got divorced. She now first American Christmas, celebrates Christmas with her parents separately. Every other year she Muenninghoff has already begun stays with her mother or father. This year she will be going with her to envision how she will feel sister to celebrate Christmas with her father. being away from her family. “This Christmas we’re going to Wyoming to see my dad’s “On one hand I am really best friend, and going to Colorado to ski,” Allen said. “We’ll get excited and everything, but back some time during Christmas break and then I’ll celebrate then I also miss my family,” Christmas with my mom. So I’ll get to see them both, just Muenninghoff said. “My mom not at one time.” and I Skype and she tells me ‘I Even though she has spent many Christmases with want you to be here. I cannot her mother and father separately, Allen can still recall the celebrate Christmas without you.’ Christmases when they were together. And yes, it is very strange because “I was pretty young then, and we just celebrated usually this time of the year is it normally when they were together,” Allen said. really about the family, but now I “It was really fun because both of the sides of will enjoy what here has to offer.” the families came in usually, and we would have a big get-together. It was fun being with both my parents because we felt more together as a family. I always had a really good childhood because both of my parents were together.” When junior JD Kaufman was 14, his parents told him they were getting a divorce. Ever since, he has had to split up his Christmas celebrations between his mother and father. “I was very shocked and confused, and I didn’t know what was going to happen in the future,” Kaufman said. “It got better six to eight months later. I felt like I dealt with it more because my brother went off to college the next year so he kind of got to escape everything. Usually, I have to plan it out so I can spend time with both parents, and both sides of my family. It’s different not having a whole family there. We used to have family dinner at our house for Christmas, but we can’t do that anymore. Now we have dinner at someone else’s house. I miss it, but I’m getting used to it now.”

Divorced parents affect students’ Christma T

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nd, Marte Ersland, Anette Ersland, Roy Ersland.

as celebrations

However, some students’ divorced parents still come together for Christmas. nior Kelsey Donnell still spends Christmas with both of her parents, even though hey are divorced. “For Christmas my parents get along, and my mom comes over to my dad’s house so my brother and I can still have a normal Christmas like everyone else,” Donnell said. “We can still open presents like everyone else even though my parents are divorced.” Donnell remembers the holidays in second grade, when her parents were still married. “Usually everyone from both sides of the family came over to my house or we went to my grandparents’ house. The people from my dad’s side came over too,” Donnell said. “Now for Thanksgiving I have to go to my dad’s side of the family first and eat with them, and then my mom has to pick me up and I have to go to my other side of the family’s house. When I was little I didn’t like it, but now I realize that my parents are happier when they’re not together.” Allen’s family still continues with their holiday traditions despite their mother or father not being there to celebrate it together. “We always hide a pickle ornament in our tree,” Allen said. “One person each year hides it in the tree and whoever can find it gets a prize. Or we’ll go every Christmas Eve down to Highland Park, have hot chocolate, look at Christmas lights or do a horsedrawn carriage ride. It’s not like we don’t do it, it’s just my dad’s not there or my mom’s not there. I’m just with one of my parents.” Allen feels that the split affects her younger sister more than herself. But even a split Christmas can’t prevent Allen and her sister from being together for the holidays. “It was probably pretty hard for Bella, my sister,” Allen said. “She was just in first grade when it happened. She didn’t really understand what was going on. I grew up with both of my parents together so I’d say I had a pretty normal childhood, but Bella has never got to really experience what it was like to have parents that were together. My sister and I go together wherever we go for Christmas. We’re each other’s rock.”


“I wish for a new roof in the library,” librarian Sally Ray said. “When it rains, it leaks, and when it leaks it gets the books wet, particularly the ones in the E to Z section.”

“I wish to have actual restaurants like Wing Stop or Chick-fil-a in the cafeteria,” senior Shane Robertson said. “We wouldn’t have to go and drive everywhere.” “I wish for more windows in the classrooms,” senior Jasmine Kim said. “Sunlight helps us to concentrate more because we get vitamin D.” “I wish we could bring our pets to work,” counselor Nora Henson said. “Pets make everyone happier, and we are dog lovers up here in the counseling department.”

“I wish everybody wore pink every day,” counselor Keisha Howard said. “It’s my favorite color.”

“I wish for more enclosures between the buildings,” counselor Lance Davis said. “We are so scattered from building to building that there are things that get lost. There are things that happen, good or bad, that may present problems. We would have more of a sense of control.” “I wish for longer passing periods,” senior Rohan Kancharla said. “It would give us more time to socialize and relax, and just be ourselves.”

“I wish to have that wall in the clinic removed,” nurse Lisa Dexter said. “I want to be able to see my sick kids.”

“I wish for more hallway space,” senior Alessandra Morales said. “I am always getting hit in the halls by people and their bags.”

“I wish there were more parking spots,” senior Jaqueline Nguyen said. “Walking from D building to the end of B building and passing through the crowds is really stressful and takes more than five minutes.”

“I wish for a longer lunch time,” senior YoungBi Ahn said. “People need to digest their food longer and have more time to finish their food instead of eating and driving and then running to class after we just ate.”

“I wish we had more food options, like sushi,” senior Nikki Nguyen said. “We need betterquality food and healthier options.”

“I honestly wouldn’t change anything about this school,” senior Nataly Keomoungkhoun said. “If you change one thing, then you change everything and

this school would not be the way it is.



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Part II of Eric Zastoupil’s journey By Kimberly Mei That was always how he’d pictured himself: running around, kicking in doors and blowing stuff up when he was young. Once he was older, he’d go back to computers. When it came time for the West Point graduates to pick a fort to be stationed at and a branch of service, the highestranking students had the first choice. Once his turn came, Zastoupil knew what he wanted – Fort Lewis-McChord, Wash. and infantry. As the branch of soldiers who fight on foot, it was the most popular choice, as those in it would be able to serve as platoon leaders. For 12 weeks Zastoupil was in the backwoods of Columbus, Ga. receiving infantry schooling at Fort Benning. He gave orders while carrying a hundred pounds of ammunition on his back. He jumped out of planes in airborne school. Zastoupil was first deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in March 2012. However, all the infantryman positions were filled, so he was deployed as a signal officer, in charge of ensuring that radios, satellites and computers functioned properly. He struck a deal with his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Rutherford – if he could make sure all lines were working for a conference call the next night, he would get the next open platoon leader position. They shook on it. “That night I was calling people, making sure everything worked,” Zastoupil said. “The next day for the nightly meeting I showed up with all my gear on and bags packed. He looked at me and said, ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ I said, ‘Oh, everyone’s going to work tonight and I’m ready to go down to my platoon.’ It was just kind of funny. But it ended up actually working. I worked so hard and did so well that he recognized how hard I was working. I got to switch with the first platoon leader spot that opened up.” Zastoupil’s unit was in the district of Panjwai, an area the Taliban transports supplies through. The battalion mission is to disrupt the enemy in the area to prevent any attacks on nearby Kandahar City, where democratic government is being established. Three soldiers from a previous unit had already been hurt there when Zastoupil’s unit arrived.

“The Taliban, in their writings and speeches, have always said it’s kind of like their Alamo. ‘If we get beat, it’s the last thing we will ever give up; we will fight to the death for Panjwai,’” Zastoupil said. “This is a bad town. The unit that we were going to replace was very apprehensive and reluctant to go into these dangerous towns. When we showed up, they did a hand-over brief and said, ‘We don’t go into this town, and this town, because too many people get hurt.’ The enemy was used to being able to Photo submitted by Harriet Kelley walk right through the area. But we Eric Zastoupil takes a break with the soldiers of B Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment near a were hunting them down, we were military base in Zangabad, Afghanistan on May 18, 2012. disrupting them.” According to Zastoupil, his battalion, Taskforce Tomahawk, is well-known throughout Kandahar. Zastoupil’s specific company within the battalion, the Blackhawks, is especially skilled at finding intelligence on their targets – radios, data, phone numbers, SIM cards. Zastoupil created a plan for an ambush on one of the buildings in a town called Perozi. “We knew who they were and where they were,” Zastoupil said. “I put together this plan. It took me a long time, and it was a great plan.” It’s Wednesday, Aug. 22, the day of the ambush. The plan is briefed, and the soldiers are ready to go. The company commander wants to come too, because it’s a big mission. The sniper team misses their target in the trees. Photos submitted by Harriet Kelley Eric Zastoupil pauses during a Two javelin missiles, bazooka-like weapons that shoot Eric Zastoupil in his West Point volleyball match in Afghanistan. up and attack from the top, overheat. The soldier in cadet uniform. charge of the automatic grenade launcher does not know calmed him down.” which tree to shoot at. The bulldozer, which is supposed Zastoupil is rushed out of the town on a stretcher. While to scrape off a top layer of earth, push any improvised they are waiting for the helicopter to arrive, his medic hands explosive devices or IEDs out of the way and then punch him a Fentanyl lollipop, one that is morphine-based. But a hole through a wall, is spewing fluids everywhere. there’s so much sand, dirt and grit in his mouth that he can’t “The ambush is falling apart. Everything’s going wrong,” suck on it. Nobody gives him water when he yells for it, Zastoupil said. “All the other tools we were going to use to because it will dilute his blood and cause him to bleed faster. get into this village the safest way weren’t working.” The 15-minute helicopter ride takes him to the nearest large The commander makes a decision – “No, this is an army base in Afghanistan. important target; we need to get in there. We need to “So I’m pissed off,” Zastoupil said. “I take the lollipop disrupt the enemy.” and throw it across the helicopter. They bring me into the “Roger, Sir. We’ll do it.” hospital and I’m on my back looking up. I see all these The soldiers enter the town through known minefield Australian flags on the ceiling. I remember they were asking areas using mine detectors. The rule is: you don’t go me all these questions, checking my consciousness, and then anywhere the minesweeper hasn’t. They walk single-file they say they’re going to put me under. They put the mask past the tree the snipers were aiming for. A squad leader on me. I remember saying ‘it’s about time.’” enters a hut and finds a lamp cord that is used to trigger an IED from afar. The lamp cord goes straight to a point It’s 10:17 a.m. in Plano, 7,835 miles away. in the ground next to the tree – a point they all just walked Kelley is preparing for the coming day at Shepard over. Everyone in the platoon has just walked over an IED Elementary School, where she works as a counselor. The that was not turned on. phone rings. It’s the Army. She is told two things: that her The platoon notices a makeshift antenna that is son has suffered the highest degree of injury the Army broadcasting the enemy’s communication up in the tree categorizes, and that his prognosis is unknown. they walked past. They take it down and destroy it. Using Final part of Zastoupil’s story to be in next issue the IED that would have exploded underneath their feet, they blow a hole in the wall and emerge in a nearby orchard, looking for the other antenna. They spot it within the branches of another tree. Zastoupil steps next to it, a little bit off the path his minesweeper has created. “Boom, there it was,” Zastoupil said. “My ears are ringing. There’s sand in the air, dust everywhere. You can’t see your foot in front of you. It just happened instantly – next thing, I’m on my back. I rip my glasses off, I take my helmet off, and I keep trying to stand up. I didn’t know what happened, and I keep falling over. I know someone’s hurt. Well, the dust starts to settle and I look down and I’m missing the bottom half, shin-down, of my leg. And I notice it’s me that’s hurt.” Zastoupil is yelling for the medics to get over to help him. His medic, specialist Curt Di’Christina, puts two tourniquets on his legs to stop the bleeding. “I’m yelling because it’s so tight it hurts, which means he’s doing the right thing,” Zastoupil said. “He gets flustered really easily, but he does a great job. I’m starting to go in and out of consciousness. He’s like, ‘Sir, you’ve got to stay awake. What’s your full name?’ ‘I’m Thomas Eric Zastoupil.’ He says, ‘All right, Tom, we’re going to save you.’ I just looked at him and said, ‘Don’t ever call me by my first name’ – since I’m an officer and you’re supposed to call me ‘Sir’. He stops and looks at me and I’ve got this little smile on my face, and from then on I

Photo submitted by Harriet Kelley

Eric Zastoupil is reuinted with his lifesavers. From left: Trevor Sontz, Eric Zastoupil, Curt Di’Christina.


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Teachers balance work and family

By Leslie Parker Her classroom isn’t as clean as it used to be. As soon as her daughter goes to bed, she finishes grading papers, makes her baby food and cleans the house. She tries to get as much done as possible after her daughter is put down to bed. Career Preparation and Interior Design teacher Heidi Schubert usually wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to feed her 7-monthold baby Avenley Grace Schubert. Once she gets up, she showers and then proceeds to get everything ready for her and her baby. “I have to get up earlier than I ever did but at least I get to see her,” Schubert said. “When she’s still sleeping in the morning and when I have to leave before she wakes up, that’s when it’s the hardest because most days at least I get to see her for a few minutes before I leave. If I don’t, it makes the day go by really, really slow.” Occasionally there are nights where pre-school director Lindsay Placke gets little to no sleep because she must take care of her 6-month-old baby, Jenson. “Some nights babies just don’t sleep,” Placke said. “So I’ll come to school with two hours of sleep and I’ll be so tired. It’s just nice to have students that understand that. Just like you guys have nights where you work late and stay up late doing homework, I have a child I’m taking care of.” With the new responsibility of raising a child, Placke has had to put in extra effort to make sure she gets everything she needs to done and keeps her life organized. “I make sure that when my son goes down, I try to go to sleep soon after that,” Placke said. “I keep a calendar and a to-do-list to make sure I’m taking care of everything and that my planning for school is always taken care of in advance. When I can take my son with me to do things I do. For the pre-school here I have to go get groceries each week and so I take him to go do that with me when I can. I also let people help me. My husband and my mom are really good about helping me. For example, if I need something cut out for a lesson they’ll help me do it so I get it done faster.” With a 6-month-old baby girl, Avery, at home, algebra and pre-calculus teacher Alena Pierce also depends on her husband. When her mornings are hectic he’ll pack her lunch to make her morning easier before sending Avery off to day care each morning. “He’s my friend and he’s there to encourage me when things get hard,” Pierce said. “It’s very frustrating to not be able to sleep at night when you’re really tired and so we’ve kind of traded off. He’s working just as much, if not more than I am. I tend to do everything overnight but then during the day he picks up the slack when I’m just too tired. He’ll take care of the baby or just the small things like lunch and getting her bag ready.” Both Placke and Pierce have a new respect for mothers that juggle work and family. “I have learned that it’s really hard raising children so it’s helped me appreciate my own mom a lot more,” Pierce said.

Photo submitted by Heidi Schubert

Career Preparation and Interior Design teacher Heidi Schubert holds her daughter Avenley Grace close.

“I have also learned that there are some things that are important and some things that aren’t important. Perfectionism just has to go sometimes. If you’re trying to balance everything you can’t be perfect at everything. I have to be okay with things not being ideal all of the time.” Pierce has also learned more efficient ways to separate her life as a teacher and as a mother. “I don’t necessarily take as many grades as I used to so I’m not grading all the time at home,” Pierce said. “I also do a lot more group quizzes so I just have to grade one per three or four students. I try to just leave my work at work and my home at home so that way I put my time in here and put in my time at home. Photo submitted by Lindsay Placke The Placke family enjoys a day at a local park. From left: Evan Placke, Lindsay Placke, Jenson Placke. I try not to criss-cross them.” While Schubert is at work two tiny long-haired Chihuahuas. We’ll take her and she’ll during the day, a nanny cares for her daughter. According to watch all the dogs play and bark. That’s what’s really fun for Schubert, she got lucky finding the nanny that she did and her right now.” believes that her nanny is the next- most important person According to Pierce, one of the best parts of being in Avery’s life after her and her husband. However, one thing Avery’s mother is seeing her cheerful face in the morning Schubert struggles with is feeling like she’s missing out on and hearing her laugh. Her favorite thing is seeing his smile. things that her nanny gets to see and do with her daughter. “It doesn’t matter how much she cries at night,” Pierce Placke also misses out on spending time with her son said. “In the morning she’s always smiling and happy and during the day. While she teaches in the pre-school at Plano, laughing. We just started feeding her regular food, so her first her parents, who live across from the school, watch Jenson. food was avocado and yesterday was the first time that she Since Placke is watching the kids in the pre-school all day ever really ate it. She just loves it and it is so cute to watch her long, she does not have a lunch or an off period. Placke said smile and laugh with green all over her face.” working with the kids requires her constant attention and Placke loves having the responsibility of a child to take she doesn’t have time to call or check in. care of. “I think the hardest thing is the fact that when he wakes “I love knowing that he’s mine,” Placke said. “I have a up in the morning, that’s his happiest time of the day, and baby that I made and that I’m responsible for. It’s a huge at night is when he’s most fussy,” Placke said. “So, I’m away task but it’s so special. I’ve had a bond with him since the from him at his prime. When he’s with my mom he’s happy moment that I found out I was pregnant. I already loved him and has lots of energy and then when I pick him up he’s so much. The bond you have with him is so great, it’s a bond fussy and tired. So it’s hard because I want to play with him that you don’t really understand until you’re a mom.” too.” Pierce agrees that being a mother is something special Having grown up with a stay-at-home mom, Placke and great and she is happy to share the responsibility with wishes that she could give her son the same experience, but her husband, Ricky. at this point in her life it’s not possible for her to remain “The best part right now is just knowing that you’re home all day. Similarly, it is not a financial possibility for raising a person,” Pierce said. “That has been one of the Schubert to be a stay-at-home mom. But according to her, it most shocking things to me. Sometimes I still wake up and is something she would do short-term. I’m like, ‘Ricky, we’re raising a person. This is somebody “If I could be a stay-at-home mom I would, but I wouldn’t who is going to walk and talk and have their own life.’ I think want to do it forever,” Schubert said. “I have a really good recognizing the responsibility of that has been something job working at Plano. I love the team that I work with. If I that has been really important to me. For example, creating were to give it up just to be home with her for a year or two an environment where she’s happy and feels safe and learns I would never be able to get it back. It wouldn’t be worth it to trust. Those are things that I consider very, very important. because I’m never going to be able to find a situation like I The smiling and the laughing, those are the things that show have at Plano.” me that right now we’re being successful.” Pierce had a different outlook on not being able to spend the day with her daughter Avery. Though she dislikes missing out on parts of Avery’s everyday life too, she also sees positive sides to it. “What I might be missing out on she might be gaining in a sense,” Pierce said. “If I were at home with her all day she wouldn’t get the interaction that she gets. She’s learning to trust people who are not just her immediate family and she’s learning how to interact with other babies. Even at six months she’ll sit and touch other babies and put her hands on their faces. She’s getting a chance to start interacting and learning what social boundaries are. So I think that there are also benefits even though I do miss out on some of those things.” Because these mothers only get to spend quality time with their children in the evenings until they put them to bed around 7:00 p.m., they all take advantage of the weekends. “What my husband and I do is try to go out on a date at a later time so we can put him to bed and then go while he’s sleeping,” Placke said. “We have a park really close to our house and we will take him on walks and he’ll get in the little baby swing. I try to just enjoy all the time I do have with him.” Schubert makes sure she spends much of her free time on weekends with her daughter. Many weekends Schubert takes her daughter to the aquarium or the arboretum so she’s always experiencing new things. “She loves the aquarium because she loves the sea otters,” Schubert said. “The one thing that she really, really loves, Photo submitted by Alena Pierce Pre-calculus teacher Alena Pierce and her daughter Avery enjoy the though, is when we take her to the dog park because we have autumn weather.



opi ion

By Kaitlin Fischer We pull out the boxes at least a week before we need them. They crowd about half of the living room, but it doesn’t really bother anyone. I pass them every morning as I go to the kitchen to get my coffee. I step over them every evening as I head back to my bedroom for the night. The unopened boxes just sit, taking up space and taunting me when I walk by. Each day the excitement in the house grows greater; it is a family event, after all. My younger sister asks multiple times if we can begin early, but the answer continues to be the same, a firm no. My mother begins to have extra air under her step, as if the impending joy is the medicine she needs to relieve her stress. Through all of the questions and happiness, the boxes just take up space in the living room unaffected. There are 15 large boxes total, many of which have smaller boxes stored within. Eight of the large containers are blue tubs, seven are plain brown boxes, and one is a white box, much larger than the rest. Out of the many that are waiting to be opened, my favorite is the smallest one. The Styrofoam container is only the size of a textbook, but to me it holds the most joyous part of the occasion. The day we begin is always the day after Thanksgiving. Instead of fighting crowds on the dreaded shopping day,

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we put on Christmas music, pour glasses of eggnog and spend the day with family. We start with the largest white box – the Christmas tree. It takes the most time to set up, and three of the brown boxes are full of ornaments and ribbon – instruments my mother uses to make it elegant and magnificent each year. After an hour and a half of hanging ornaments, we start digging into other boxes. Half of the excitement is finding decorations we forgot about or remembering pieces given as gifts years before. I pull out a small glass bird, one I had bought for my mother when I was eight. I had fallen in love with it the minute I saw it, and I knew that my mother deserved something this beautiful for Christmas. I set it on the table by the front entry, so I can admire it every time I walk in. We manage to clear out five tubs before we find the one that holds my favorite small container. I lift the top carefully to reveal a nativity scene. I pull each fragile statue from their place, careful not to drop them. The set is at least 11 years old, and ever since I could touch things without breaking them, my mother allowed me to set them up. There are 10 pieces in total – Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the hay trough to hold him, two animals, an angel and the three wise men. I set them up in a small old barn that we have, and every year I

try to set them in a new position. But somehow I grow frustrated from my lack of creativity and place them in the same spots I had before. After I finish my work, I stand back to admire it. I look carefully at the Mary figurine with her paint rubbing off from age, the Joseph with his staff crooked from being broken and glued back together multiple times. I take a moment to commemorate the true reason of Christmas. In the 17 years of Christmas ruckus, it was setting up the manger scene that made me realize how special Christmas really is. It was the essence of my childhood Christmas. It represents simplicity – something that can make the season more meaningful in the midst of buying and receiving gifts, decorating the tree and cooking extravagant dinners. Ten simple figures made everything else seem minute. As I set up the Christmas tree this year and write my wish list, I want to remind myself that Christmas doesn’t have to be as complicated as it’s made out to be. In shopping and planning I want to remember that extravagance isn’t always necessary, and that at one point the anticipation of opening a small Styrofoam box was all that was necessary to make the occasion all it was meant to be.

By Alyssa Matesic

By Logan Crossley

Illustration by Tiffany Weng

I remember every snarky comment made to me at the bus stop in 10th grade. “Saw that picture you uploaded last night, you think you’re some kind of photographer?” “Photography isn’t art. Anyone can pick up a camera and point it somewhere.” “So, what’ll it be next week? Can’t wait.” I’d stare at them blankly, hold my tongue, sigh and turn away. The routine was the same every week. Monday through Friday: schoolwork. Saturday: relax and watch TV. Sunday: pick up my camera and continue my project. I found my passion in Washington, D.C. during the swine flu crisis at the end of eighth grade when school was cancelled. The Roman-inspired monuments around the city fascinated me, and I couldn’t take my finger off the shutter of my little pink camera. I experimented with how different angles changed the appearance of the columns at the Lincoln Memorial. I looked at the Capitol’s dome through the surrounding trees. I bent over backwards to try and get as much of the intricate ceiling in my shot as I could at the Library of Congress. On my birthday that September, I traded in my pink Fujitsu for a brand-new Canon Rebel XS. As far as professional cameras went, it was mediocre, but it quickly became my most prized possession. My photos and I matured simultaneously. They started out as naïve and obvious – that first day I shot my house and my pets. In the summer, I took countless 10-second timer photos with my best friend as we jumped and tried to get a picture of us in the air. Then the overlydramatic 9th-grade me is represented through under-exposed, over-contrasted self-portraits. That phase lasted a while, but the pictures improved as I acquired lenses, a new camera body and experience. At the beginning of 2011, I decided that I was ready to take on a challenge to push my creativity. I was to create a conceptual portrait – a photo that tells a story – every week for the whole year. I posted them in an album on Facebook to document my progress. And at first, I loved those Sundays. Saturday night I’d finalize my idea and sometimes draw a sketch of the end product. I’d lay an outfit down on the white chair in the corner of my room – usually a dress borrowed from my mom’s antique warehouse.

Then I’d wake up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. to beat the golfers to the golf course. Sometimes I’d run into a man mowing the fairway or morning joggers on the sidewalk, but no one ever questioned me. Not that I’d care, anyway. I was too exhilarated. But the best part of the day was always uploading my photos onto my laptop and editing. Most of the time I didn’t even bother taking off my makeup or changing out of my costume because I was so anxious. And in those times – sitting in my room with the door shut, soft music playing from my speakers – I felt like an artist. My mouse was my brush. Working in Photoshop was like painting on a canvas – adding green, darkening shadows, making composites, accentuating highlights, fixing imperfections. It was my art. There was a lot of trial and error. A lot of tripod breaking. A lot of deleting and starting over. A lot of insecurity when my parents asked what I was doing up so early. A lot of nervousness when I posted my final pictures online. But it was worth it. In the end, I was always proud of what I had created. I had the ability to turn an idea in my head into something tangible, something that others thought was beautiful. No high test grade, successful choir concert or finished chore could give me that same feeling of satisfaction. When it comes to personal projects, I hardly ever finish what I start. My half-empty corkboard, half-organized closet and half-eaten dinner can attest to that. I never made it through all 52 weeks of my photography challenge. But I still look back on the 24 images I created in 2011 with a little bit of embarrassment and a bit more pride. Though my camera, lenses, photography books and broken tripods are all gathering dust at the bottom of my bookshelf, I wouldn’t say I’ve abandoned my passion. I’ve just redefined it. It isn’t photography that gives me that feeling; it’s just creation. Seeing something physical that I put my soul into is the closest I can ever get to holding my heart in my hands. I need to feel the pulse that forces blood through my veins, the pulse that gives my existence purpose. Being that vulnerable and exposed is the only way I truly feel invigorated. This upcoming year marks the two-year anniversary of me finding what I need to do with my life. I’m not going to start another project. Rather, I’m going to live with that passion every day. I will pick up my camera. I will pick up my pencil. I will create despite any commentary at bus stops.


december 14, 2012

Incentives or intentions 25 Days of Christmas Staff Editorial New Mustang, check. New iPhone, check. Modern Warfare video game, check. This is the mentality with which wide-eyed consumers process the bounty of holiday special advertisements, making a mental wish list as they read. Volunteer point, check. Good grade, check. Raffle prize, check. This is the mentality with which students process the range of school drives and fundraisers that emerge during the holiday season. The phrase “we want it, and we want it now” comes to mind; it’s the perfect way to describe the people gawking at magazine images and incentives to donate. But it’s sad that students have to be offered rewards to participate in charities and can’t put aside their materialistic tendencies for a month or two. For example, National Honor Society held a sock drive, Sox in a Box, to help families in the metroplex keep their feet warm during winter. Over 120 students brought in $15 worth of socks, racking up a total of $1,800 in toasty toes. This is an impressive effort that will benefit many, but how truly charitable are the students if in return for a donation each received one project credit? Would they have donated without the added compensation? The drives held at our school this holiday season included a canned-food drive that the Planoettes participated in. The five squads averaged 700 cans each. For their donations, Planoettes were offered merit points, a pizza party and the chance to wear whatever they want during practice for the rest of the semester. Other school-driven fundraisers that are solely dependent on voluntary efforts and not incentives have not generated nearly the same amount of support. Habitat for Humanity has no requirements to maintain membership. They have held various fundraisers in the past two years where their members were asked to sell bracelets, participate in a cake walk at Stay Day and volunteer at a Sonic day, where tips went to the organization. Last year, NHS agreed to host a donation project to help Habitat for Humanity raise funds. That lone donation project trumped all other efforts of the club and garnered more money than the three other fundraisers combined – over $1,500. Their second most productive fundraiser, from the Sonic day, raised $400 and also required the aid of NHS members because of a lack of interest on the part of the club’s members. It seems that because Habitat for Humanity doesn’t require project points, there is less active volunteering and donating.

Habitat for Humanity isn’t the only club that faces difficulties. Key Club held a Plano Santa fundraiser. By comparison, Key Club raised a mere $151 in one week of fundraising in the cafeteria, a place open to the entire student body. The president stated that she felt that many of the people who donated only did so because they had the chance of entering a raffle to win a $20 Starbucks gift card. All of these charity efforts are noble causes and should generate enthusiasm without a physical Illustration by Tiffany Weng reward. Active volunteers talk about that “warm, fuzzy feeling” they get in return for their service, which is satisfying enough for them. But in reality, that feeling may be replaced with the need for a material reminder of a volunteer’s good deed. There is a blatant fault in the motives for why some students at our school are, or aren’t, donating. The tendency of students to not get involved in efforts to aid the community, unless provided an incentive, makes their work seem less genuine. The worst part is this disinterest becomes more apparent when the holiday season, a time of giving, rolls around. Teachers and clubs that do provide these rewards aren’t accountable for the behavior of the students. Something is better than nothing. If providing incentives is the only way to motivate the student body to donate, then no one can blame the people who have to offer these motivations. And the problem isn’t only in high school – even adults managing large corporations donate to receive large tax breaks. At the end of the day, the change these people have made in someone’s life is great, but the staff wishes that more charity work was done voluntarily – without material reward. Instead of “we want it, and we want it now”, remember that “they need it, and they need it now.” Brightening the holidays for someone in need is all the incentive anyone should require.

Letter to the editor

In your latest issue of the Wildcat Tales, an article entitled “FFA Members Discuss Raising Pigs” was published. My fellow Plano FFA officers and I wanted to correct inaccuracies in this article and shed more light on our organization. Firstly, information about the pig program was false. Pigs are not walked with a harness or leash, but with a walking baton that is used to gently tap the animal and guide it in a chosen direction. The pig is not led, but allowed to freely walk and given these touch cues to facilitate necessary movements in the show ring. Secondly, the selling of the pigs at the end of the season was entirely misrepresented. Further incorrect information was provided. The students do not have the “ultimate decision for the pigs’ fate”. All students with swine that are validated for Texas shows and then attend a terminal show (ones where they are sold) do not have the option of keeping their project. All projects must be terminated. Students know this when they begin their projects and keep that in mind as they work throughout the year. It can be hard for students to part with their animal because they become attached to


wildcat ales Alyssa Matesic JP Salazar

Layout Editor Shezal Padani

Copy Editor

Photo/Graphic Editor

Kimberly Mei

Cristina Seanez


Business Manager

Terry Quinn

Kathleen Shaffer

Jessica Allman Rachel Chen Brooke Combs Joe Diller Kaitlin Fischer Priyanka Hardikar Alexis Harris Kaitlin Humphrey

By Leslie Parker    The third house down on Rocky Mountain Drive doesn’t look like Christmas quite yet.  But open that forest-green door, slip your coat off as you come in, head down that wide hardwood-floor hallway and take a sharp right when you catch a glimpse of the fruit-themed wallpaper. That’s the Parker kitchen. On a counter to your left, deep in the corner, sits a tall mahogany box. In it holds the door to my first Christmas.     Most kids only have one day of Christmas. I have 25.      My eighth Christmas was the first time my parents gave me 25 days of Christmas. I knew it was coming; my dad had explained to me how it would work. But at 8 years old I didn’t need an explanation. All I knew was that I was going to wake up on the first day of December, not the 25th day, and have a present waiting for me.       Eight years ago on December 1, I opened that small door at the top of the box marked with a black number one in the middle. There were 24 doors that followed it, each one representing a day of December. Since that first Christmas, I have anxiously awaited the return of that box in my Christmas corner for 11 straight  months of every year. I have opened that door 200 times over the past eight years (actually probably about 300 times if you to count how many times I’ve cheated). That box is my childhood.       Yes, I have opened that door and found it stocked with my favorite candy, gum, jewelry, accessories or gift cards. Its contents have consisted of many materialistic items, but there were some days when they weren’t. There were days when I woke up to rocks in a sack courtesy of my dad, the prankster. Or even a half-eaten Butterfinger because my mom couldn’t resist. But none of the best gifts I’ve ever been given in that box were bought at a price.      The past few weeks have been very hard for me. Junior year has been kicking my butt. I haven’t had much

time for family. I haven’t spent quality dinners with them or had quality discussions with my parents. Life has been rocky. But this morning, I woke up, brushed my teeth, took my shower, dressed myself, ate my breakfast and finally opened my box following that old routine. Inside was a plain, torn half-sheet of computer paper. I unfolded it and in the middle was a red heart. To the bottom left side of the heart was a dash pointing to two words scrawled in black.      “My heart”.      It was from my mom. My gift for that day was her heart. Of course, I already knew I had my parent’s unconditional love, but it’s easy to take that for granted. This morning, my week made a 180 degree turn. That box took a minute of my time and turned my attitude around for every minute of the rest of the day. I was brought up from all my troubles by a simple but beautiful gift that served as a reminder of what’s truly important.      I have received reminders just like this one on many of my December mornings. I never appreciated them when I was younger. But now I go through my old gifts, like the wrinkled and withered pieces of paper that say, “You are loved”, or “You can do anything, be anything” or even the magnet I just received that reads, “Refuse to be average” and I’m no longer disappointed. Gifts like these are the most beautiful ones I’ve received. They bring me things other gifts can’t: hope, encouragement, love and comfort. They are eternal gifts that can’t be taken away. That’s why they’re the best gifts of all.      That tall, large, mahogany box, right in the corner, holds my childhood. It serves more meaning to me than any other inanimate object. I can’t say it’s the best part of Christmas. Being with my family is the best part of Christmas. But it is through that box that I receive daily reminders of the greatest gift I have been given. My family.

them. They are the primary caregivers of the pigs and grow to love them like a pet. However, it must be kept in mind that they are not pets. They are livestock that are raised for a specific purpose. We believe that the FFA was negatively reflected in this article. The students interviewed were too concerned with the termination part of the projects, when that is not a big part of our organization. FFA, no longer the Future Farmers of America, is about learning and growing. It’s about the friendships you make with your Career Development Team. It’s about the late nights at the barn cleaning your pen. It’s about the trips in the trucks to stock shows. It’s about the butterflies in your stomach when you walk in the ring or into your contest. It’s about premier leadership, personal growth and career success. In FFA, we learn to do, do to learn, earn to live and live to serve. Sincerely, Isabella Ostert, Mackenzi Dunn & Hannah Shaw Mission Statement:

december 14, 2012 volume 67 issue five Editors-in-Chief


opi ion

Staff Writers

Myiah Jones Maddi Marshall Alexandria Oguntula Leslie Parker Maddie Patton Alexis Sendejas Tehreem Shahab Laura Jones

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.


Students and faculty are encouraged to send in any questions, comments, concerns or criticisms to be published. Letters to the editors can be put in the envelope in room B208 or emailed to The Wildcat Tales at The staff reserves the right to edit a letter for grammatical errors and space issues. Any errors found in the publication will be rescinded in the following issue. Additional and daily updates can be found at our website Past issues can be viewed at Businesses wishing to advertise in Wildcat Tales can email us at We reserve the right to refuse any advertisements deemed to be inappropiate.

Wildcat Tales is the official student publication of Plano Senior High School 2200 Independence Pkwy Plano, TX 75075 469.752.9300

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Wildcat Tales Issue 5 Dec. 14  
Wildcat Tales Issue 5 Dec. 14  

Wildcat Tales Volume 67 Issue 5 December 14, 2012