After an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and its resulting tsunami devastated northern Japan in 2011, the United States and Japan banded together to form the Tomodachi Initiative, an organization that funds a series of exchange programs between Japanese students affected by the earthquake and American students.
“Tomodachi means ‘friendship,’” said chaperone Takeshi Hatakeyama. “Through the American Embassy, the Tomodachi program invited us to visit D.C. and other historical places.”
A group of 20 Japanese students was chosen from a pool of over 500 students based on how their lives were affected by the tsunami, their participation in relief efforts, English language abilities, and teacher recommendations, according to local coordinator René Brown.
“This program was designed to lift these kids up and get them looking forward to what can be in their life, not just what has happened,” Brown said. “They are encouraged to benefit from coming here, broadening their horizons by living with American families, seeing the many things America has to offer, and putting that to good civic use in Japan.”
The group arrived in Northern Virginia on March 25 to spent 14 days experiencing American culture, from malls to monuments to food, one of several culture shocks for 16-year-old Kokoro Sasaki.
“In Japan everyone uses chopsticks, but everyone uses forks, spoons, and knives in America,” Sasaki said. “America is hot, and we wear shoes differently in Japan. When you’re at home, your shoes come off, but here, they don’t. But everyone is kind here.”
Many of the students lost family members during the tsunami, and most lost their homes, living in temporary housing until homes were rebuilt. Yukari was at a park when the tsunami hit.
“I was very scared,” Yukari said. “I don’t practice any religion, but I prayed. When I went home, it was snowing, and my grandmother’s house was damaged. We couldn’t use water and had to use candles until our power was restored.”
On April 26, 35 students from Kettle Run and FHS competed in a robotics workshop, although the results were not known at press time.
Two groups from technology department head Harold Mullins’ Engineering and Design class were given three weeks to design and assemble an advanced unmanned ground vehicle. Supplied with a fictional contract from the Department of Defense, the teams became their own small engineering companies.
“Students can look at [robots] as a way to help ourselves, to help others, and to do things that may be hazardous to humans,” Mullins said. “[Robotics] is just one aspect of engineering, and being able to have communication, to work together as a team, and to engineer as a team, is important.”
Each of Kettle Run’s four teams and FHS’ two were led by a project manager, and supported by a financial manager and a systems engineer. Senior Brandon Keithley, one of the project managers, looks forward to seeing the fruits of his leadership and teamwork.
“It will be fun getting to see what the other teams have designed,” Keithley said. “It’s also fun getting to design something that you created yourself.”
Various elements of the robots were judged by representatives from the Defense Acquisition University, a training hub for the Department of Defense.
“The robots had to be able to detect hazardous materials, go over an incline of a minimum of 15 degrees, and complete a Lost Communication test,” Mullins said. “The LostCom test programs a robot so that it will turn itself around and go to a specific point if it loses communication technology while exploring a hazardous area.”
Senior Sam Eleazer valued the introduction the project gave him into what engineering would be like as a career. He also discovered that teamwork isn’t just a term.
“A project like this shows you that the work is really on you and your team,” Eleazer said. “You can’t try to do everything yourself. You and your team have to focus on working together and getting things done”
Senior Tom Piggott, who worked with Keithley as a co-program manager, appreciated the experience and what it brought out of his teammates.
“There’s a sense of competition between the students because we’ve put in weeks of hard work,” Piggott said. “A project like this brings out the team-work aspect in people, and it took a lot of work and time, but overall it was worth it.”
Students looking for a chance to mix it up a little and try something different got the opportunity on April 19 during lunch. The cafeteria was adorned with decorations and enlivened with music, and students were encouraged to step out of their comfort zones.
Assistant Principal Dr. Elaine Yuille, one of the key organizers of Mix-It-Up Day, said the event is dedicated to promoting interaction between social groups.
“The purpose of Mix-It-Up Day is to give students a chance to meet new people,” Yuille said. “One way that we try to do this is to arrange the lunch tables by the months of students’ birthdays. Students who are born in November, for example, would sit at the same table and socialize.”
Complications due to constructions prevented students from participating in the planning process, as they did last year.
Several students said that their experience was positive. Junior Ethan Pelino particularly enjoyed the format by which students were grouped together.
“I think we kind of need to do this once a year,” Pelino said. “It’s necessary because everything’s so technology-based that we’ve lost touch with each other.”
Senior Caity Ashley agreed that getting students to interact with people in different social groups was beneficial.
“I think that it’s a really good idea,” Ashley said. “It gives people an opportunity to talk to people that they wouldn’t normally talk to. This is important because people are usually more accepting than they think.”
Another result of Mix-It-Up Day, according to instructional technology and research teacher Gail Matthews, is that students learn effective communication skills.
“When most students go off to college, they will probably go to a college where they don’t know anybody,” Matthews said. “Therefore, it would be helpful for them to know how to deal with new social situations and apply social skills. It also helps add a sense of comfortability.”
Yuille emphasized that, in addition to building social skills, students can learn to accept and appreciate qualities that make people unique.
“The idea has always been the same: encouraging students to mingle and talk to students that they normally wouldn’t talk to, and relate to students that they wouldn’t normally relate to,” Yuille said. “Diversity isn’t just about race; it’s about everybody’s differences. There are people who have different views on life, and getting them to interact can open their eyes to the similarities that they have in common.”
It’s so easy. A stretch, a yawn, a sigh at just the right angle to see a neighbor’s paper. It’s so easy. Just click on SparkNotes; there’s no need to read the book at all. Scribbling down a friend’s physics answers in homeroom saves at least an hour of work at home. Cheating is so easy.
“A lot of kids are under academic pressure,” junior Daneel Patel said. “Parents want their kids to get good grades, and trying to keep up with work is difficult, especially if they’re in a lot of AP classes. Some kids do it because they want the good grade and don’t want to work for it. Some people do it because they can.”
Patel considers copying of tests and quizzes cheating, as well as taking ideas from books and the internet without citation. He does not believe copying or sharing homework to be cheating, however.
“Homework is assigned for you to learn the lesson,” Patel said. “So if you don’t want to learn the lesson, don’t do it. But if you steal work off the internet, I feel that’s cheating. And that’s the extent of my morals. Everything else is fair game.”
Types of cheating vary across subject; a student who cheats in English may not cheat the same way in a math class. English teacher Robin Frost sees very little deliberate cheating in her classes.
“It’s usually copying other people’s assignments,” Frost said. “Usually, they’ve fallen behind; maybe their schedule is too busy, and they’re not getting their work done. I don’t see it as a malicious thing. It’s usually a desperate thing. They’re trying not to lose points from their grade.”
Plagiarism, which Frost sees infrequently, not only involves the direct copying of a source’s words, but also the use of its ideas without proper citation.
“I don’t get blatant plagiarism,” Frost said. “It’s usually unintentional. If I have plagiarism in my early research papers, I don’t punish, I teach. Usually, the kids just don’t know. But I do like that the book is thrown at them if the plagiarism is blatant.”
As technology becomes more commonplace, it is easier for students to text answers to a test on devices like cell phones and iPods. Math teacher Sarah Singer is especially concerned with the ease of cheating with technology.
“There’s tons of ways you could have the answers,” Singer said. “That’s why I always make multiple versions of tests and quizzes to avoid it. One time, years ago, one kid had all the right answers…to the other version of the test. I wasn’t very happy with him.”
While Singer also catches cheating infrequently, she believes it occurs often under her radar, and gives immediate referrals to cheating students she is able to pinpoint.
“It’s just not cool,” Singer said. “I think there are groups of people who cheat, and groups who don’t. My concern is that those pockets of cheaters create a cheating culture where everybody does it, and it’s wrong. To be honest, in some respect, cheaters today are lazier. People used to break into teacher’s classrooms. But with Google, I guess you don’t have to.”
Assistant principal Kraig Kelican also says that technology is an important tool for cheaters.
“[I’m sure] there’s a lot more cheating that goes on that we don’t find,” Kelican said. “I think the teachers who are diligent and watch for all types of cheating find it, but there are other things that happen with cell phone use. I think that’s a becoming a major problem here, as well as in other states.”
While Frost encounters “desperate” cheating, senior Mattie Reynolds believes that cheating occurs because students don’t want to work; ironically, they may spend more of the time cheating than studying.
“They don’t feel they need to take the time to actually study,” Reynolds said. “It was a lot more blatant in freshman and sophomore year. I feel like now, in senior year, people just accept failure a little bit more.”
In four years of high school, the majority of cheating Reynolds has observed occurs during quizzes and tests.
“I remember Mrs. [Cora] Tolosa caught at least two people in my Spanish II class with cheat sheets hidden in their desks,” Reynolds said. “Then there’s the blatant asking of questions to someone else [during the quiz].”
How to discipline students caught cheating usually depends on the teacher’s discretion; on occasion, teachers forgo writing referrals because methods like “wandering eyes” can be difficult to prove. Reynolds deems the current anti-cheating policy too elastic.
“I don’t think in this situation, it’s taken seriously,” Reynolds said. “Maybe if the punishment were more severe, like in college, where you can be kicked out for plagiarism, we could ease the problem.”
When a student is caught cheating, a referral documents the act with his or her assistant principal, parents are contacted, and the student receives a zero on the assignment.
“If they get caught again, they fail the course,” Kelican said. “I’ve only seen that happen once, that I can remember. I have probably seen a total of three or four [cheating referrals] this year. They’re very blatant; it’s usually the young kids. Half of it is plagiarism, and half of it involves cheat sheets and other assistance on a test.”
Further education could help to reduce the level of cheating in school, according to Kelican. Students are aware that methods like test cheat sheets are dishonest, buy may be ignorant about other techniques.
“I’m not sure kids realize what plagiarism is,” Kelican said. “I think they feel if they change a word or two, it’s okay. I don’t know what kind of education they get at the middle school level, but [plagiarism] is something we need to look into.”
Frost believes that whatever the temptation, cheating puts students at a disadvantage.
“The bottom line is, you could cheat up a storm, but you didn’t learn anything and build the skills,” Frost said. “When you get the next level class, you don’t know anything. Students see it as a game.”
Eighth grade students from all five county middle schools visited the CTE Career Pathways fair hosted at FHS on Feb. 26. Students from Kettle Run, Fauquier and Liberty set up booths in the new gym for the twelve career classes offered at FHS.
“I think [the fair] is important because they don’t know a lot about high school,” senior Nicole Layton said. “It’s an introduction to classes, and they get to see how [high school students] interact with each other in the actual high school setting.” Layton gave students information about the Child Care program and urges students to sign up because of the good experiences she’s had working with the preschool students.
Kettle Run senior Austin Rodgers helped kids explore the opportunities marketing classes provide. As a part of DECA, Rodgers runs Kettle Run’s school store.
“It can help better them in their future with decision-making and marketing, and it helps them manage money,” Rodgers said.
The Health Occupations class was represented by the nursing students who travel to the Fauquier Health Rehabilitation Center to work with the patients, one of whom is CNA-certified senior Eva Velasco. Velasco gave students a lesson on the Heimlich maneuver for adults and babies, hoping to help them save a life.
“I think it might help them if someone is choking; it’s important to know,” Velasco said. “They got an inside look at what nursing is really like, if they are interested.”
One of the eighth grade students who visited was Taylor Middle School’s Amanda Maskell. Maskell went into the program knowing she was interested in taking agricultural classes, but found new interests.
“I really liked the culinary arts station,” Maskell said. “I think I will take it in high school.”
Scrolling through the average student’s Twitter feed, one finds that the majority of teenage tweeters seem to be talking to someone – but without any names.
Sometimes these tweets are directed to “#oomf,” which is an acronym for ‘one of my followers’ or ‘one of my friends.’ Other times, these tweets are vague jabs that offer no clue as to what or who they are about. In Twitter slang, the name for this type of tweet is a “subtweet,” and it is an indirect way of calling someone out without mentioning names. Although subtweets can be totally harmless, the trend is shifting to a more hurtful style – and can even be considered cyberbullying.
“Once this girl tweeted about getting in trouble for a party, and I tweeted something later on about how if something got you in trouble, you shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” senior Christie Brown said. “It was totally unrelated, but she and her friends blew up at me and subtweeted me, even though I wasn’t involved at all. Subtweeting is just unnecessary drama.”
The vagueness of subtweeting provides the perfect avenue for teens to say the mean things that they think about others, without fear of reciprocation.
“The consequences to the sender seem to be minimal,” ITRT teacher Gail Matthews said. “But the consequences to the person who is the subject of the posting can be irreparable damage. Once something negative is out in the world and in the minds of people, it is almost impossible to change it.”
So how often does the average student subtweet? Senior Nicole Layton says that many of the tweets she sees on her daily feed are tweets directed to specific people.
“I think about a third of the tweets that I see are subtweets, but a lot of them aren’t bad. They’re just things like, ‘one of my followers is gorgeous,’or things like that,” Layton said. “But the bad ones are an easy track to get pulled into. The drama of Twitter can be enticing.”
Senior Makenzie Reid admitted that, although most of the subtweets he sees or tweets himself are just inside jokes, a lot of negative tweets are posted daily, by both boys and girls.
“Gender doesn’t matter when it comes to subtweets, because everyone has problems that they want to vent about,” Reid said. “But I think the type of person that does it is usually afraid to confront other people in person, and they’re attention-getters. It’s just a passive-aggressive way of getting your point across.”
Unfortunately, the online forum makes it all too simple for this passive-aggressiveness to take place.
“Technological media makes it easier to be a bully because it’s more available, more immediate, and draws a wider audience,” Matthews said. “The sender doesn’t want to take a stand or deal with the backlash from his or her comments.”
Although some question how subtweeting can be considered cyberbullying, since no names are mentioned, the tweets are often designed to subtly indicate to whom they are directed.
“Most of the time it’s so obvious,” Brown said. “When two people are mad at each other, and they just post one tweet after the other, who else would it be about? You might as well just be having a conversation.”
Subtweets have become such a regular part of teens’ social media life that for some, they have no importance.
“I don’t take them seriously,” Layton said. “Half the time I’m not subtweeting about anyone in particular, and it’s funny to see people’s reactions when they try to figure out who I’m talking about.”
Layton conceded, however, that even though she might not personally see the harm in subtweets, a message can have a broader impact than originally intended.
“I don’t think we realize how many people we reach or how it affects them,” Layton said. “I think of it as venting to a friend, but it’s public. I post something and 300 people immediately see it and can form judgments from it. It’s hard to imagine that when I post something, and I know exactly who it’s about, that tons of other people might think that it’s about them. I hope that doesn’t happen.”
There is, however, a simple solution to the problem of subtweets, and that is to ignore them.
“Since the subtweet has no identifying information about who the message is meant for, it’s like a hook looking for a fish,” Matthews said. “Don’t take the bait.”
Senior Imogen Sherrit tied for first place in the Rotary Club’s annual speech contest on Feb. 21. The yearly competition invites high school students around the county to write, memorize, and perform a speech, generally about a community topic, to the Warrenton branch of the Rotary Club. Sherrit was more than surprised at her first-place tie.
“I was considering it an achievement if I even memorized the whole thing,” Sherrit said. “Especially since we didn’t hear the other contestant’s speeches, [the competition] was daunting.”
According to sponsor and English teacher Julie Duggan, Sherrit entered the contest to battle her phobia of public speaking. A presentation on her Scottish hometown in Duggan’s English class awakened Sherrit to her abilities in public speaking, and she was the only student to follow through when Duggan offered the Rotary Club’s prompt in class.
“She wrote it, and I just provided some editorial feedback with [student teacher] Jana Patterson,” Duggan said. “We went through several rounds of that, and I was pretty amazed because we were still making little changes when Imogen had entered the practice phase of memorizing her speech.”
Prompted by the theme of “peace through service,” Sherrit constructed the speech around her own experience and perspective.
“Even though there are people who are really, really dedicated to service to others, it’s just the small things that count,” Sherrit said. “Sometimes you don’t always have the time and money for service, and by chain reaction, those little things benefit a lot of people.”
Duggan was thrilled when Sherritt tied for first place.
“She just wasn’t expecting to win,” Duggan said. “Walking out of that room with a $250 check was just a gift. It fell out of the sky for her.”
Because contestants in both Fauquier and Orange Counties tied for first place, the four winners from the two counties are all participating in the area contest held on March 21. Sherrit feels more prepared for this second round of competition.
“I’m pretty comfortable now I know I can do it,” Sherrit said. “I think it helps that [the speech] is memorized – I don’t need to make anything up on the spot. I just need to deliver it calmly.”
~Sophie Byvik, editor-in-chief
Fauquier High School's student newspaper. By the students, for the students.