Students experience Welsh life, culture

In June, seniors Elise Clonts, Emma Dixon, Alexandra Ferentinos and Javen Walsh travelled on a class trip with science teacher Jennifer Copperthite to London and Builth Wells, Wales, on a 16 day exchange trip.

The exchange program has been running since 1995, but Copperthite has been involved for seven years; this is her last year being the sponsor. The students spent their first two days in London and visited some of the famous attractions.

“We went to London with a personal guided tour, saw parts of Buckingham Palace, and the Royal Mews, which is a local horse-drawn carriage area,” Copperthite said. “We also got to go to the Tower of London and ate at a traditional pub.”

Ferentinos said that it was eye opening to explore the city and compare American cities to London.

“The city itself [is] a melting pot,” Ferentinos said. “Builth was just the old towns; it was nice and very different. [My host] said that their house is older than our entire country.”

After their stay in London the students took a coach to Builth Wells, Wales, where they spend the duration of the trip with their host families. Clonts had originally wanted to travel to Wales to experience a different way of life.

“I was lucky enough to stay with the same [student] who came over to my house, and we had an absolute blast,” Clonts said. “[My host family’s] mom travelled a whole lot, so I had a little bit of a different [family experience] from everyone else.”

The students had an opportunity to shadow their hosts during their classes and even participated in a field day. Clonts says that even though the Welsh schools don’t have a summer break, their regular breaks are longer than those of American schools.

“They still come in five days a week, and they’re able to leave for lunch, unlike us; things are a little more compact, so it works better for them,” Clonts said. “Teaching wise, it’s very much the same. They have smaller classes, but it’s also a smaller school.”

Welsh students can opt out of classes that don’t apply to their major, unlike the students here. This also means that students do not have to attend school every day.

“They have on and off days, like a college schedule; you can take [set curriculum] up to a certain point, and then you pick which [classes] will go with your major,” Ferentinos said. “It’s more oriented towards what your career will be, instead of taking them for no reason.”

Ferentinos and Walsh stayed with the same host family; Ferentinos said that she was surprised by how welcoming they were.

“I thought it would be way more awkward, but they were just normal people,” Ferentinos said. ”They were very humble and nice. I was very appreciative that they took us in; they were the nicest people ever.”

Going to Wales made Ferentinos more grounded and gave her a better grasp of how big the world is and what there is to see.

“We all have that ego [as Americans] that we know everything, but [when] you go somewhere else, you learn a lot,” Ferentinos said. “Everything is just so much older there, and it’s beautiful. You get to see a whole different culture; even though it’s not entirely different from America, it’s nice to see how people go about their lives. ”

~erica gudino, editor

Marching band depicts journey home

The marching band has adopted the theme of “Home” for their 2016 show, which depicts an outer-space adventure that follows the story of the homeward journey of a rocket ship. Band director Andrew Paul describes the show as an outer space adventure.

“We’re lost in space, far away from home, and [face] trials and tribulations along the way,” Paul said.

Senior drum major Hannah Savignac thinks this show is really fun for the audience to watch; she described the mood as very positive.

“[The first movement] is this rocket ship is going home, and something happens where a meteor hits it. All of a sudden, the rocket ship is broken,” Savignac said. “The second movement is the drum line trying to put the rocket ship back together and fixing it. The third movement is us finally going home. It’s kind of like an adventure movie.”

Senior Mason Hicks enjoys how challenging the show is.

“The show starts out very light-hearted, but then the big moment of the show hits, and it goes all dark and negative,” Hicks said. “In the end, it all turns out okay. The music is a lot harder and so is the drill.”

The band nearly doubled in size, with over 70 members, compared to about 40 students last year. Because of the increased size, the band moved up a class during competitions, but they are limited on uniforms. Their first performance was at the home football game on Aug. 26, and they did not wear uniforms because there were not enough for all members.

“It definitely takes a little more time to do stuff,” Savignac said. “But it’s also really interesting because, compared to last year, you can see a lot more people on the field, which is so cool. The field is almost filled up with kids.”

According to senior flutist Jasmine Brookins, the show features more visuals and is more complex than in previous years. She considers the number of new members to be net positive.

“It’s overwhelming a little bit, but at the same there are a lot of good freshman [who] are doing a really good job,” Brookins said. “[Having more people] adds to the beauty [of the show].”

Last year, the band was unable to travel to the national championships because of funding issues. This year, however, the band is returning to nationals, which will be held in East Rutherford, New Jersey, at MetLife Stadium, the official NFL stadium for the New York Giants and the New York Jets. Savignac’s goal is for the group to keep persevering and improving throughout the season.

“I’m hoping for improvement each week,” Savignac. “I hope we keep a positive attitude because the practices are long and the mood can get down. I expect a general, hardworking attitude from everyone.”

~emma dixon, copy production editor

Convention gives Amirato insight on politics, potential career

In an election year full of surprises and startling developments, senior Alex Amirato received a rare opportunity to attend the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which was held in Philadelphia from July 25-28, to experience the hype first hand. Amirato, who is considering majoring in political science, became interested in politics during the primaries.

“I was really excited, but at the same time I didn’t really know what to expect; I haven’t really watched any of the other conventions because I was too young,” Amirato said.
Amirato attended the final two days of the convention, and she watched major political leaders, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton, give speeches to the crowd of supporters.

“On Wednesday night I saw Obama, and that was my first night there. Obama is a really phenomenal speaker; he really means what he’s saying, and he’s a very intelligent person. His speech was really great,” Amirato said. “I’ve always watched his speeches on TV, and thought he was very talented at public speaking, so seeing him in person was really cool.”
Alex also heard Hillary Clinton speak and noted the differences between Clinton’s speech and Obama’s serious tone.

“They’re very different people,” Amirato said. “Obama’s speech was a lot more urgent and serious. He would talk about Trump and the crowd would boo; but he would say, ‘Don’t boo, go out and vote.’ Hillary was more positive, and she talked about the future and her agenda.”

Philadelphia has a strong political background, and Amirato has visited there before. However, this time she confronted anti-Clinton, pro-Bernie Sanders protesters who were angry about Clinton’s nomination.

“Philadelphia is a really cool city, but the protesters threw me off because the last time I was there, it was just a regular day. They really messed with Philadelphia’s vibe because it’s normally laid back,” Amirato said. “They had huge signs, and there was talk that they were going to pelt the buses with balloons filled with their pee. This mob was taking the usual protest characteristics up a notch.”

Inside the convention center, Amirato described the atmosphere as a bit overwhelming and very exciting.

“It was really loud because there was a lot of networking going on, people meeting other people and making deals. Everyone is kind of dressed up so that’s cool too, and you know everyone there has a purpose,” Amirato said. “The DNC is a major event, so plenty of news stations, reporters, and TV crews were present on each day.”

According to, Fauquier is currently about 57 percent Republican and 43 percent Democratic. Amirato enjoyed being in a less politically conservative environment.

“All of the people there, once you got outside of the city and inside the convention center, were just so kind because everyone there agrees with each other for the most part,” Amirato said. “It was really different, especially from Fauquier County ,because it’s a really conservative county, so it was different to be somewhere where pretty much everyone there has the same views and values as you do.”

Amirato is not among peers with similar political views while in her hometown. After returning from her trip, she received negative comments from some of her classmates.
“I just got a lot of backlash and texts about how I was ignorant for being a Democrat and how people were unhappy about me going to the DNC. I was upset at first but I guess that’s just politics,” Amirato said. “Everyone should be sure to respect others’ opinions and converse in civil ways about politics and disagreements.”

Amirato is currently a fall fellow with the campaign, so she spends her time at the phone banks and knocking on doors to register people to vote in the election. She spends about 15 hours a week volunteering at the Fauquier Democratic office in Warrenton.

“The convention really boosted my interest in politics; I was already interested in following the election before I watched all of the debates,” Amirato said. “Now, I’m involved in the county with the campaign.”

Many political analysts say that the ability of each party to get people out to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8, will be a deciding factor in which candidate is elected. Amirato believes that this is a big problem with this generation of new voters.

“I feel like everybody really needs to get out and register and vote,” Amirato said. “A lot of people think that their vote doesn’t matter, and it really does.”

Amirato learned a lot from her experience at the DNC, and it has shaped the field of study she wants to pursue in college.

“The experience was really mind- changing. I was really thankful just to get that experience,” Amirato said. “I got to see how everything works, and how all of the people’s jobs worked together to make it happen. To go behind the scenes was really cool.”

~nate thomason, staff reporter

Challenges broaden horizons, opportunity

For the last real summer before college changes my life forever, I decided to finally live in the moment and seek new experiences. In mid-July, I attended the Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC) at George Mason University to learn about a field I am interested in pursuing. But what I didn’t know was that the experience would spin my perception of myself and the world on its head. It would shape who I am today and who I hope to become.

The conference welcomes high school students from all over the country to participate as National Youth Correspondents and to engage in an innovative learning environment in the fields of communications, media research, and journalism. WJMC gives upcoming journalists a chance to learn “on-the-ground” information not usually available in a high school classroom. It also promised to deliver personal growth for each participant, which I originally dismissed as exaggeration; however, after the first two days I began to feel the change within myself.

I met Youth Correspondents my age from all across the country, from California to New Jersey and everywhere in between. Making personal connections with people from different social and physical environments widened my concept of the world; I came to realize that life is bigger than Virginia and that there is opportunity in every corner of the country.

I attended speeches by Hoda Kotb, the host of the Today Show, and Tina Rosenberg, one of the founders of the Solutions Journalism Network, who spoke about the importance of determination in the workplace. Both of these powerful women struggled to get to their current positions. Rosenberg was been determined to find effective ways of reporting the news, when she realized that, instead of reporting problems, the world needed to hear solutions. After her solutions journalism concept was rejected by The New York Times, Rosenberg broke off on her own and began the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) with two other founders. Three years after its birth in 2013, SJN now produces solutions journalism and trains journalists in 33 newsrooms.

Kotb also aspired to be a key influence in the world of journalism. However, it took her many years to advance from a position at a small-time news station to hosting a show on national television. She had the door shut in her face more times than she could count, but she never gave up. Together, these two women are influential role models who taught me to embrace who I am and what I aspire to become—a woman who will excel.

Before the conference I was terrified of failing if I branched out in an attempt to reach a goal; I was scared of how vulnerable one needs to be to become a cultured adult. You have to be willing to get hurt if you want to succeed; nothing comes easy. You need to be humbled by nonbelievers before you can prove to yourself that your ambition is justified. As Kotb said, “It’s not about the fall; it’s about what happens afterwards.”

With a new-found confidence in who I can become, I realize that the world is truly ours. We are the generation being groomed to take control. The world is open to us, to our dreams and goals, and it is up to us to claim it. During a seminar on politics, Brian Lamb, the founder and former CEO of C-SPAN, said that we are the generation that is going to control the world and we are being molded into adults who will soon mold the country.

What I learned was that along with the gift of inheriting America comes the responsibility of nurturing it. As young adults, it is our duty to engage our minds and energies in service to the community and to understand politics and how the world works. Instead of depending on Twitter for daily news, or some other form of social media, people should explore formal news sites. These sources offer in depth and reliable information that an instant media source cannot provide. No single news source will have the full story; to get an understanding of a shooting, a trend, or a political scandal, the reader needs to read multiple news sources and compare the information. We have to be devoted to learning the truth of the world around us in order to understand it.

WJMC has taught me that as young adults we are stronger than we think we are. At 17, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest recipient ever of a Nobel Prize. At 18 years old, Mary Shelley wrote the acclaimed novel, Frankenstein. At 19, Mark Zuckerberg commercialized Facebook. This is our prime age; don’t waste the opportunity.

Step out of your comfort zone and sign up for that internship or that challenging AP class. You can’t learn and grow if you do not push yourself and try new things. This world is bigger than high school; it is bigger than Fauquier County. Our youth shouldn’t be wasted; instead, this generation of students should be engaging in the world around us. Don’t forget what the real objective of high school is: to help us see beyond trivial concerns and to engage effectively with the world around us.

~nina quiles, managing director

School assignments with a side of summer

Summer is synonymous with relaxation, fun, and, of course, no school. However, this year, some honors and AP students were surprised by unexpected summer assignments that included books to read, and projects and online assignments to complete.

According to English teacher Cynthia Pryor, English classes previously had a tradition of summer work, and ninth and 10th grade English honors teachers decided to reinstate it. This summer, students were asked to read one book and respond to a quote from each chapter. They then had to complete a creative project that interpreted a theme or motif from the novel through an artistic medium, such as film, poetry, music, or painting.

“We decided to limit it to one book because we don’t want to overload students,” Pryor said. “We want to give them an enriching literary experience.”

AP history classes assigned work, as well; sophomores completed worksheets on European monarchies, nationalism, and the Industrial Revolution, while juniors completed an online assignment for AP U.S. History.

“This year I chose the OnBoard program from the textbook company because I thought it would be a good idea to introduce AP themes to students ahead of time, instead of after class started,” AP U.S. History teacher Liz Monseur said. “I thought that it might also give students some insight into what kind of assignments or topics to expect during the term.”

AP Environmental Studies teacher Jennifer Copperthite gave her pupils the option of completing work that would be assigned during the school year over the summer. Students could work on their map review, current events assignment, and make review cards for the AP test before school started to ease their workload.

“Some students kind of enjoy getting it out of the way, but for those who would rather enjoy the entire summer, they can do that instead,” Copperthite said. “This is stuff [they] could do ahead of time [and] get it out of the way so when the school year starts, there’s not as much to do at one time.”

For most underclassmen, this was the first time they’ve been asked to complete work over the summer.

“I’ve never had to do a project over summer before, coming from middle school, so that was definitely a new thing for me,” freshman Jessica Pain said. “I did learn a lot. It was a lot of work and a hard project, but I feel good about it now that it’s done.”

Parents were surprised, too. According to Larke Pain, Jessica Pain’s mother, summer assignments, like reading a book, can be a good way of keeping students educationally engaged, but too much work can take away from time spent with family.

“I think some work is a great idea, so it wasn’t totally negative. There was lots that she learned,” Larke Pain said. “[However] she had to give up family time in order to work on [the] homework, and that was hard. That was difficult to do.”

Upperclassmen who have taken AP and honors classes before were not surprised; it’s just a part of a challenging schedule.

“Honestly, I expected more because they were honors or AP classes,” junior Sophia Morales said. “I didn’t really mind it. It wasn’t that hard, just time consuming.”

Expected or not, students are not enthusiastic about summer work. Although most students said that summer work was manageable, they agreed that it caused stress, not only for the assignment, but for the school year ahead.

“I was definitely stressed out about it, and it got me worried about school and the workload I would be getting taking honors classes,” Pain said.

Multiple studies have shown that students tend to lose information and skills over the summer, up to two months in some cases, especially in math and reading. Many teachers value summer work not only as a way to combat summer learning loss, but also as a way to help students during the school year.

“[The] purpose is to ease the burden of the AP student’s workload during the regular school year, as three months simply isn’t enough time,” World History II AP teacher Charles Keith said. “But it is also intended to keep students’ minds active through critical thinking and creative output.”

Summer work can help students discover if honors and AP level work is something they really want to do.

“I think that it gives students an opportunity to get an idea of how much work will be involved in class and the nature of the work, as well,” Monseur said.

Pryor adds that summer work can give students an opportunity to formulate their own ideas of a text and work individually.

“Students sometimes underestimate their ability to explore and navigate new texts and ideas,” Pryor said. “They need more independent learning experiences.”

According to English Supervisor Steven Payne, teachers have a difficult balancing act to perform in deciding what work to assign and how much of it to give.

“They want to encourage a love for independent reading and learning, on the one hand,” Payne said. “On the other, they feel a need for student accountability through appropriately challenging and reasonable assignments.”

The lack of consistency in the rigor and difficulty of FHS’s summer work, as compared to the assignments at Kettle Run or Liberty, was somewhat controversial. According to Payne, ideally, representatives from the three high schools would collaborate on the required assignments, but, in reality, individual schools have the freedom to make site-based decisions.

“I think summer homework in a lot of cases is meant to introduce the subject, especially if you’re in an AP class,” junior Angelina Martella said. “It should be the responsibility of the teacher to get the students ready before the year starts so they’ll have some preparation.”

Payne plans to create a committee to analyze summer assignments before they are given out next summer.

“This fall, because schools have shown an interest in requiring, rather than suggesting, reading and assignments, I have decided to create a task force to study the issue well in advance of the end of the school year,” Payne said. “I envision including student and parent voices, as well as teacher voices in the conversation.”

~kate johnston, features/arts director

Growing numbers challenge staff

Enrollment at FHS increased by 100 students this year, and guidance is struggling to keep the class sizes low.

FHS currently has 1,320 students, with a max capacity of 1,400 students. In comparison, Liberty’s enrollment is in the low 1,200s and Kettle Run is hovering around 1,220. According to guidance department head Mark Bjorkman, the current population and the future growth is manageable, but challenging. This increase in the student population is the result of a large freshmen class of 370, compared to 310 last year, along with 60 transfer students, according to Bjorkman.

“It’s a culture shock to jump up that big of a number of students,” Bjorkman said. “We were surprised by the difference from last year. Going up by 100 students is a lot.”

In addition to balancing the enrollment for mandatory, advanced placement and elective classes, guidance faces the challenge of continuing to offer classes with low enrollment. When a class has low enrollment, guidance has to decide whether or not to cut the class, continue it, or attempt to combine two low enrollment classes together. When an AP class is overfilled, guidance splits it into two different periods; however, as students drop the class, the two separate classes may become too small, which complicates the process.
Classrooms were built for about 25 students; however, several classes have nearly 30 students. AP Government teacher David Smith is managing the increased class size; however, it does present challenges that would be helped with larger classrooms, like in the annex.

“It’s very difficult to have student interaction in such a large class,” Smith said. “They’re just not laid out for it. It doesn’t really bother me; I just wish I could do more with the students.”

The increased class size caused teachers to hunt for extra desks and chairs, while students struggled through the halls and stairwells or had difficulty grabbing a good seat in class. Spanish teacher Archer Gilliam has classes of around 26 students and said that it’s hard to give individual attention to students.

“However, here we’ve got A+ time that people can come for extra help,” Gilliam said. “That can kind of counteracts the negative effect of a large class size.”

Some transfer students elect to enroll at FHS and pay the tuition to attend in order to get a better curriculum with more electives. Junior Caleb Rogers transferred to FHS after previously attending public and private schools.

“I already had friends here, so it was easier,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot more people here and more classes you can take here than at prep school.”

Once the student’s application is accepted, the annual tuition to attend FHS as a transfer student who doesn’t live in Fauquier County is around $8,000. Junior Alice Maley transferred from Rappahannock County where she lives.

“[Fauquier] is a new opportunity, a new home,” Maley said. “It’s a new place to get started on the right foot.”

Junior Sarah Toothman transferred from Wakefield Country Day, and freshman Riley Oare transferred from Highland Middle School. Both live in Fauquier County and wanted to attend a larger school while experiencing new beginnings.

“[FHS] is much bigger but it’s really fun because I get to see the different types of people,” Oare said. “Everybody here is so nice; I don’t know a lot of people in my class, but it’s kind of cool because I’ll get to meet new people all throughout the year.”

~nina quiles, managing director

Football Frenzy: Falcons shine under the Friday night lights

featured image by emma dixon

After beating John Handley, 46-21, on Sep. 9, the Falcon football team stands at 2-1 and moves closer to achieving their goal of making the playoffs.

Junior Dakari Mullins contributed to the Falcons offensive effort against the Judges.

“We need to stay positive and have a good attitude about every day,” Mullins said. “We need to play together as a team, listen to coaches, and do our best on and off the field.”

After finishing with a record of 5-5 last year, the Falcons look to improve early in the season. However, in his second year as head coach, Joe Prince knows there’s room to grow as a team. Prince is working to recruit players and coaches because the number of participants is low.

“We’re not as tough as I want, but we’re working on that and we [have] a good group of guys,” Prince said. “Last year, one of the things I learned was that our numbers were down, so we went out and tried to get more kids to play. It’s hard to get coaches in the building. It’s a process of trying to get everything to work together. We have to improve our facilities, improve our coaching abilities, and improve our kids by getting more out, bigger, faster, and stronger.”

On Sep. 2 the Falcons fell to Heritage after allowing the Pride to come back from a score of 12-0 at halftime to win 21-12, giving the Falcons their first loss of the season. The first game of the year concluded in a 42-12 victory over Loudoun County.

The Falcons will be running a balanced offense, with senior Ryan Crabtree at quarterback taking the snaps. The Falcons will be shifting quickly to outnumber the opponent, with a strong backfield and receiving corps to make up the play style. Along with the offense, the Falcons will play a 3-4 attacking defensive set while trying not to give up any cheap plays.
According to Prince, goals for this year are simple: make the postseason and have a winning record. Junior Cole Anderson describes the team as a family and credits the Falcons on working together to be successful.

“One of the big goals is to beat Liberty and Kettle Run,” Anderson said. “We can do that by working hard in practice and playing well as a team.”

The team’s motto, “68 and breezy,” reflects the goal of remaining calm and moving on to the next play. As the season progresses, the Falcons look forward to the obstacles they will face down.

“Football’s a journey and a lot of things happen week to week,” Prince said. “I want us at the end of the year to say we played hard every game, we overcame the obstacles we could, we won the ones we should’ve, and we won some we were not supposed to. I’d like for us to go as far as we can, and I’d like to see the kids enjoy themselves along the way.”

~ by alex wright, sports director