Brown dreams big, thrives, overcomes

Being different is acceptable at A Place To Be, an organization that celebrates the gifts of people with disabilities and helps them face life’s challenges using music, dance, creative writing and the dramatic arts. Last June, sophomore Veronica Brown starred in The Little Mermaid at A Place to Be in Middleburg.

“I played Aerial, the lead part,” Brown said. “It was fun because you had to make the costumes, the lights, and help with the makeup. My favorite part was falling in love with Prince Eric in the boat.”

Brown was born with Down syndrome, caused by one extra chromosome, which affects the development of the body and brain. Though the severity of the symptoms varies, certain physical characteristics distinguish someone with Down syndrome, such as a crease on the hands.

“It’s different because there are patterns on the hands, like this one has a line,” Brown said. “There’s a difference. I was born with it when I was little. They didn’t know that I had Down syndrome, and my mom noticed it while I was really little.”

Brown struggles with articulation in her performances, but she memorized all her lines, sang, and danced.

“Generally it’s hard to understand kids with Down syndrome,” Brown’s mother, Maite Dougherty, said. “That’s her biggest challenge, one that she continues to work on, through speech therapy at school, and also at A Place To Be. The memorization? No problem. She doesn’t have stage fright; she loves being on stage, she loves performing.”

Brown is talented in many areas. She plays soccer and basketball, and she bowls in the Special Olympics. She also loves to sing and dance.

“I like writing my songs,” Brown said. “My sister and I wrote a song, and it was really good actually, and that is my dream. My dream is to sing in Times Square. Then I’ll be on live TV in New York, and I’ll be in a band.”

Because Down syndrome makes learning a greater challenge for Brown, she takes her academic courses in classes for students who need extra support. Special Education Department head Amanda Mallory knows Brown well and attended her performance. Mallory describes Brown as outgoing and a natural talent; she cautions against underestimating people with disabilities.

“She’s got the kind of personality where she’s good for anything,” Mallory said. “Veronica will come and chat my ear off, but she can also be very shy. Down syndrome has a lot of physical characteristics. People see those characteristics and are put off, but they really shouldn’t be. Socially for Veronica, it’s [difficult] because if nobody’s talking to you, you’re going to assume that they don’t like you.”

Teens with Down syndrome are known for being very friendly, kind, and easy to get along with.
“I think the stereotyping is going to be her hardest challenge,” Dougherty said. “She can’t hide how she looks. I think she is prejudged a little bit, before she’s been given a chance. [She is] a person who is very much a teenager, like the rest of you, but what’s stopping her from connecting with other people is that people shy away from her first because they don’t understand.”

Brown has been to A Place To Be for other activities, including music therapy, speech therapy, and theater improv, and she participated in last year’s play Aladdin. This year, the cast of Little Mermaid had nearly 40 people.

“The production is really great,” Dougherty said. “It’s very professional – the lighting, the stage set, the costumes – it’s quite elaborate. They take it very seriously.”

The show lasted three nights, with 150 people in the audience each night. Brown’s family came, and Mallory brought her family to see it. Brown signed autographs.

“The self confidence is incredible,” Dougherty said. “You know the feeling when you’ve done a good job; people are clapping, people are congratulating you. People are noticing that you exist. The kids get acceptance, exposure, confidence, a lot of clapping, and a lot of laughing. Everybody has something to offer, and they find it at A Place To Be. It’s brilliant.”

Brown will act in another play called Same Sky this fall.

“I was really brave because all of my family was there – my sisters, my dad, my mom, my stepdad, and my cousin,” Brown said. “You just have to memorize your lines and sing the lyrics of the songs, and just keep on practicing until you get it. Acting is one of my favorite things. I think it’s really good for me.”

~Jake Lunsford, staff reporter

EDITORIAL: New school year has fair share of hits, some misses

BYOD: Allowing for cell phones during school hours and encouraging educational use of devices is key to effective 21st century learning.
Taco Bell construction begins: After months of delays, the chain broke ground on their new structure in late August.
Natural light in classrooms: The wide windows and skylights provide for a more earth-friendly and open learning environment.
Football’s new jerseys: The varsity squad’s new game-day apparel makes the team look as fresh as they play.
A+ Days: An extra 40 minutes in the middle of the week is a lifesaver for busy students.
Connecting the 500 and 700 hallway: Student athletes and science students appreciate the new gateway between the wings.

No middle railing: The new building’s traffic flow would be more easily controlled, and students would not be as vulnerable to injury.
Covered walkway eliminated from construction plans: A covered walkway from the annex to the main building would be useful on rainy and snowy days.
Straight parking spaces: Teenagers are inexperienced drivers, and eliminating the slanted spaces results in crooked parking.
No paper towels in the bathroom: While the hand dryers are eco-friendly, they also require more time. With only six minutes to get to class, we’d prefer paper towels. They also come in handy for spills.

Superintendent Jeck delivers leadership, vision, strength, and a dose of humor

Superintendent David Jeck didn’t initially want to be an educator. He just wanted to play baseball. Specifically, he wanted to start for the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, as he often says, sometimes opportunities just find you. The roots of Jeck’s own calling came in the form of educational mediocrity.

“I was motivated by a teacher who wasn’t very good,” Jeck said. “I hated that class. I’d go in every day, and he taught in such a way I remember thinking, ‘I can do it better than you.’”

Jeck grew up in Whittier, California, playing baseball, basketball, and listening to old Beatles LPs. Led Zeppelin, The English Beat, The Clash, and The Talking Heads can all be found in his record collection. He still plays guitar and restores old jukeboxes in his free time. He also enjoys cooking, something he picked up from his mother.

“I still have every LP I ever had when I was growing up,” Jeck said. “Reflecting back, my parents were all about the sports and being the best, but I wish I had spent some of the time I put into sports on playing an instrument. That’s something I’ve tried to do with my own kids.

Family Life
Jeck began his career as a history teacher in Nyak, New York, after a brief stint with communications in college. Jeck also coached baseball and basketball for about eight years. He and his wife of 24 years have moved around, but have lived in Virginia for the last 19 years, the past five in Greene County. They met when they were teaching at the same school. 

“I was actually engaged to someone else when I met her,” Jeck said. “About two weeks after we met, I broke off my engagement. It was love at first sight for sure.”

The Jecks have two sons. One is a senior at William Monroe High School in Greene County and the older son is enrolled in culinary school in Vermont. Jeck’s experience as an educator influenced him to focus his parenting on “soft skills.”

“My wife and I have tried to exemplify characteristics like caring for other people, being generous, kind, polite, and learning to deal with adversity,” Jeck said. “They’re going to get the academic piece because they’re being raised by educators. We’ve really tried to encourage them to be courteous, respectful of people, and focus on others before focusing on themselves.”

Jeck sees these skills as a crucial ingredient in the establishing of a student’s future success and happiness.

“The reality is when you go out looking for a job after you’re done with school, those attributes are going to matter to your employer,” Jeck said. “There’s plenty of smart people out there in the world that can’t get a job. You need to have those soft skills to have the ability to communicate with people and be honest.”

Administrative Career
Jeck’s first administrative job was as a middle school assistant principal in Louisa County.
“When I taught and coached, I never had any inkling that I would become an administrator,” Jeck said. “I was happy teaching and coaching, but sometimes fate intervenes. I think sometimes leadership opportunities just find you.”

Next, Jeck’s career went from high school principal, to the director of a regional technical education center, followed by assistant superintendent, and then eventually superintendent in Greene County. Jeck tries to channel the passion he had for teaching through his role as an administrator.

“My experience in education has been that sometimes people aspire to be administrators because they don’t want to be in the classroom anymore, and I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing,” Jeck said. “I enjoy working with kids. It’s still the best part of the job, even as a superintendent. That’s the way it should be.”

Jeck says that interacting with students is one the biggest challenges that comes with an administrative position.

“Getting out to the schools gets harder and harder, and it’s harder still in Fauquier,” Jeck said. “In my last school division we had six schools and 3,000 students in the entire division, so it was relatively easy. It’s more difficult the more schools you have, but to me there’s nothing more enjoyable than spending time with the students.”

Leadership Policy
Jeck is confident in his ability to overcome the challenges of being a superintendent, despite the pressure and responsibility that comes with it, and is determined to make decisions for the right reasons.

“It’s a difficult job, but if you’re grounded in the philosophy that you’re making choices to benefit students, then you’ll find pleasure in the job,” Jeck said. “Sometimes that’s not in the best interest of the adults, and sometimes the adults don’t like that. But I think that’s the way it should be, because ultimately we’re here for the students.”

Rather than exerting his individual authority, Jeck prefers to take a communal approach in his leadership.

“I like to be collaborative,” Jeck said. “I believe in a circular leadership style, not top down. I believe in ‘we’ vision, not ‘me’ vision.”

Assistant Superintendent Frank Finn has been working with Jeck since early May.

“I’m enjoying getting to know him,” Finn said. “He’s good at listening, and you can see him taking things in and observing people, trying to process what people are saying about FCPS. I haven’t found him quick to act or draw conclusions.”

Finn appreciates the way Jeck functions in the workplace and interacts with his employees.

“He’s got a great sense of humor and he enjoys people,” Finn said. “While he’s serious, he thinks when you’re working it should also be a positive experience. He has strong leadership qualities, and he is very genuine. People can connect to him, and that’s going to be good for the school division overall.”

Vision for the Future
Jeck’s primary vision for Fauquier County involves the STEM initiative, short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“STEM is an important initiative, not because I have a science background but because in the next four or five years that’s where the jobs are going to be,” Jeck said. “There’ll be eight million new STEM-related jobs by 2017.”

Jeck emphasizes the importance of preparing students with the job skills they will need as adults, while pushing education in a direction that allows students to develop left-brain skills and creativity.

“The whole concept of 21st century teaching and learning involves teaching things other than SOL standards, teaching some soft skills, and teaching kids how to work together in groups and problem solve,” Jeck said. “Because of the emphasis we’ve placed on accountability and testing, we’ve moved away from those things and we need to come back to them. Teachers in the school system want to be freed up to be more creative in the classroom, teach collaboration and project-based learning where you’re actually producing something.”

As for FHS, Jeck plans to observe and evaluate the concerns of students and faculty, rather than rush into his own personal initiatives.

“FHS has had enough change, given the new principal and building,” Jeck said. “I want to get input from others. Important decisions about direction and vision have to be made collaboratively. My vision as a leader is important, but ultimately the direction we go should be our vision, not just mine.”

Despite the pressure and responsibility he faces as a new superintendent, Jeck is confident that he’s up to the task.

“Taking a job like this is kind of like getting married,” Jeck said. “You’re never really ready to get married, but you just do. It’s not daunting, it’s exciting. It’s a challenge, and there’s lots of opportunity. It’s got its roadblocks, but the thing I love about Fauquier thus far has been that people want more for their students. They want to give more, and they want more opportunities for them. I think that’s key, and you don’t see that in a lot of places, so we need to take advantage of that.”

~Patrick Duggan, editor-in-chief

PRO/CON: Should college athletes be paid?

College athletes deserve portion of profits they bring in

Most professional athletes make more money than the President; however, college athletes do not receive any (legal) forms of cold hard cash. The life of college athletes is completely unfair. They are scrutinized by the media and make news headlines. However, they will not receive any form of compensation for their play unless they make it into a professional sport.

For most college athletes, the sport consumes their time. In 2008, USA TODAY surveyed college athletes and found that two-thirds considered themselves athletes, not students. Division I football players claimed that they spend over 40 hours a week practicing or playing their sport, and less than 40 hours on academics. With such time commitments, sports and school, it is unreasonable to expect an athlete to have a job.

Playing a college sport doesn’t make money for the athletes, but it does make the colleges money. Every week these athletes show their stuff on national TV and the NCAA rakes in the dough. The NCAA reported that their projected revenue for 2012-2013 was $792 million. In 2008, Virginia Tech made $64 million off of college football alone. So since the NCAA makes that much money, why can’t they pay the people generating said revenue?

Many college athletes put their health at risk on a daily basis. Common injuries include concussions, torn muscles, and broken bones. Concussions leading to brain damage, not to mention painful migraines, are a major issue in many sports. The typical athlete in a contact sport has a 19 percent chance of getting a concussion each season according, to the University of Pittsburgh. The NFL reached a $765 million settlement this year with retired football players who sustained head injuries during their careers.

Concussions don’t just begin in the pros, and the side effects can linger well after an athlete’s college/pro career ends. It costs serious money to pay for the medical treatment of head-related injuries, money that many athletes will not make if they don’t make it to the professional level.

Many college athletes are glamorized by major media sources. They have become icons not only to high school and other amateur athletes, but also to the fans that watch them play. Their images are marketed and sold in the form of merchandise, like professional athletes. Major controversies have arisen over college athletes illegally profiting off merchandise. In 2011, five Ohio State players, were suspended for five games after they had sold some of their college merchandise to pay for such things as tattoos. None of this would have been a problem if these young and high-profile athletes were making a salary for their playing time.

As the main part of a multi-million dollar enterprise, college athletes need to get paid. Simply put, college athletes are exposed to too many risks to not share in the profits other organizations make from them. It is not fair, and it needs to change.

~Josh Henry, copy production editor

Paying players would end college sports, except most lucrative programs

The NCAA develops the rules, establishes postseason formats, and regulate just about every aspect of college sports. One of the most controversial regulations prevents college athletes from being paid. Many argue that the NCAA is swindling the athletes, using them to make millions of dollars while the athletes don’t get a penny of the profits. Last year alone, the NCAA made $871.6 million in revenue.

However, the people forget that the athletes are getting a free college education, something that only 0.3 percent of students at four-year institutions get, and they receive other advantages, such as expert coaching that could lead to a career in their respective sports. The athletes also get free access to some of the most high-tech training facilities in the world, including weight rooms and swimming pools that others have to pay expensive memberships fees to access.

Another common misconception is that the universities and colleges make bank off of college sports, specifically football. That is only true for a handful of schools, such as Notre Dame and University of Texas. Most schools can only pay what it takes to run the programs, and in some cases the schools lose money. In fact, a report by Dan Fulks of Transylvania University found that 106 of the 120 FBS (Division 1-A) either made no money or lost money in 2009.

Additionally, the 97 schools that do not have a football program in Division 1-A reported an estimated average loss of $3 million. Paying the athletes would put the schools even farther into the red, possibly even forcing schools to cut some sports. It is unfair to expect colleges to give these athletes a free education and then pay them money to play for them. The NCAA could not afford to pay the nearly 450,000 student athletes; they had to pay $800 million in expenses.

The entire culture of college football would be changed if the athletes were paid. College football is completely different from NFL football, and that’s a good thing. There is something special about the atmosphere of a college football game. The athletes still take pride in playing for their school. You don’t see the star player of the team that wins the national championship transfer schools after the season, but players leave a Super Bowl winning NFL team all the time, usually for a bigger paycheck. If you pay the players, then why even have the colleges sponsor the sports? Why not start a semipro league instead? If college athletes were to be paid, it would take away that sense of school pride. The college game would become nothing but a business, just like the NFL.

~Brady Burr, staff reporter


Military student uproots

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Sophomore Haeley Deeney moved to South Korea before school started this fall after her father, Lieutenant Colonel John Deeney, became a commander of the intelligence squadron on Osan Air Force Base, an hour from Seoul. Although Deeney doesn’t mind moving around, adjusting to a new culture can prove to be challenging.

“People [in South Korea] don’t have personal space. They touch my hair because I’m blonde,” Deeney said. “And they drive ridiculously fast.”

Deeney describes South Korean culture as polite, and although she was worried about making friends before she left, she’s settled in easily. Despite many changes, Deeney is enjoying her time there.

“I miss my family and friends like crazy,” Deeney said. “But I do love being able to walk around on base and having so many friendly people around.”

Before moving, Deeney expressed concerns about North Korea and its aggressive stance against South Korea and America.

“Being afraid of North Korea is always in the back of my mind,” Deeney said. “But you can’t do much about it.”

While at Fauquier, Deeney was a cheerleader and played on the varsity lacrosse team. The school Deeney now attends only has 185 students, most of whom are in the military families. Deeney is currently on the school’s volleyball team. Deeney will be returning to Virginia this summer and plans to spend her junior year at FHS.

“My best friends are there, and all of my animals are still in Fauquier,” Deeney said. “I miss being able to get up and see my horses right out my window. I also miss the football games and being part of the Zoo.”

Deeney has moved seven times in 14 years including Texas, South Carolina, Pennslvania, Okinawa Japan, Las Vegas, and Kansas. Her favorite place remains Fauquier.

“I have liked most of the places we have lived, except for Las Vegas,” Haeley said. “It was just too dang hot.”

For some young people, moving so often would be difficult, but not for Deeney.

“I feel like moving around so much has become the norm for me,” Deeney said. “I think staying in one place would freak me out more than moving again.”

~SaraRose Martin, features/arts director

Leif Heltzel rooted in three sports

As a returning three sport varsity athlete, senior Leif Heltzel starts on both of the varsity football and basketball teams, and then runs track in the spring. He has played football since freshman year and is a captain on this season’s squad.

“He leads by example,” head coach Jamie Carter said. “He has always been a leader, and the team looks up to him, especially after losses like [against Loudon County].”

Senior co-captain Marcus Smith says that Heltzel’s not only a leader, but also a producer.

“He is the one who gives the speeches and gets the team motivated,” Smith said. “He will definitely lead the team in receptions and yards too.”

Junior QB Louis Heisler will have Heltzel as his main target this year.

“Leif is awesome; he’s one of my favorites,” Heisler said. “He’s a playmaker. I know that when I get the ball to him, he’s going to do something with it.”

Heltzel has been an impact player on the football field since his sophomore year. Last year Heltzel was named to the second team all district, and he hopes to play football in college.

“I am being scouted more as a receiver,” Heltzel said. “Honestly, I will do anything they need me to do [on the football field] that will help me get into college for free.”

Carter says that Heltzel has the potential to go far and play Division 1 in college.

“He has all the right tools that coaches look for,” Carter said. “He has a huge upside, which is what college coaches say when they see a player with potential.”

Heltzel hopes to major in creative writing.

“You can do what you want [in creative writing],” Heltzel said. “Anything like a math field is structured. You have formulas and rules. [In creative writing] you can write about anything you want.”

Independence and originality is a theme in Heltzel’s favorite TV show, The Boondocks, which is about the life of two underprivileged urban
African American youths.
“They take real stuff, like real life situations and satirically murder them,” Heltzel said. “It is just sarcastically funny.”

In the winter, Heltzel is a starting forward on the basketball team.

“He does really well,” senior Jay-Jay Roberts said. “Going straight from football to basketball can be difficult but he does it well.”

Heltzel believes that this basketball season will be more successful than last year.

“I think that the other seniors who didn’t start last season are going to have the opportunity to play and make the team better,” Heltzel said. “There will also be a better team chemistry.”

According to Roberts, Heltzel will have a positive impact on the team’s morale.

“He contributes more size to the team,” Roberts said. “He executes well and will definitely be a leader on the team. If there is a guy on the team who isn’t playing well or having a good day, he keeps us up.”

~Caroline Liebel, advertising director

More ‘Faults’ than ‘Stars’

John Green’s 2012 novel, The Fault in our Stars, has been described by critics as edgy, genius, and luminous. Teenagers who were touched to tears by Green’s storytelling – and he does use lovely storytelling – hold the book on a pedestal. But that’s really all this book is: a shallow collection of pretty words.

The Fault in our Stars spins the tale of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old cancer patient who, after attending a support group meeting, meets Augustus Waters. Shenanigans ensue. The characters are really where the first problem falls – they’re just so terribly dislikable. Within the first few pages, Hazel proves to be an insufferable narrator. They just don’t sound like teenagers – they sound like John Green. Expect copious amounts of witty remarks, rants of malcontent, and non-sequitur metaphors in every chapter. For example, Augustus buys cigarettes but refuses to light them to show that the companies don’t control him.

Another point of annoyance is that this book is so emotionally manipulative. The reader feels like Green is hovering over one’s shoulder, whispering, “Hey, that part? Yeah, it’s sad, right?” Green says that you should cry. He says that Hazel and Augustus are in love. It’s hard to see this as anything but a thinly-veiled attempt at a tearjerker novel.

Previous readers of John Green have surely noticed a formula in his stories: awkward teenager meets manic pixie dream girl (or in this case, boy) who impresses with disaffected, smarter-than-thou speeches and who promises adventure. Compare The Fault in our Stars with his other novels, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. Green could have switched around the names of all his characters and it wouldn’t make a difference.

If one thing could be said in John Green’s favor, it’s that he’s consistent – consistently pretentious, consistently resurrecting the same boring characters, consistently trying to convince his young adult readers that he’s an intellectual. His books are geared towards teenagers because he realizes that anybody who can discern quality literature would call him out for being a pompous imbecile. The Fault in our Stars only proves to be overhyped.

~Lana Heltzel, staff reporter