Boys basketball: Falcons fall to Liberty, 71-39, in first district game of season.

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The price to play: the cost of high school sports on the rise

Team jackets. County activity fee. Mandatory team field trip. New cleats. In a time of economic hardships, the cost of playing a high school sport is getting steeper every season. Equipment has gotten more expensive in the last decade, sports funding is being cut by the school and the Fauquier County activity fee has increased $10 in the last year, from $50 to $60. Sports teams can also require athletes to purchase mandatory apparel and equipment. However, while activities such as academic team and one-act theater competitions are regulated by the Virginia High School League (VHSL), participating students don’t have to pay a dime to participate. The graphic below shows the costs of playing different sports through the school, as well as marching band.

~Abby Seitz, sports director

CORRECTION: wrestling should be represented as “mandatory”, rather than optional

Volunteers coordinate relief efforts

Teenagers are always in transition, from this fad to that, from one exploration of personality to another. But teenagers are less often in transition physically—without a place that most people would call home. For the past three months, freshman Kaylee Orchuk has lived in between homes, inhabiting just one motel room with four other family members and a dog.

“We came here in the middle of August because my dad got a new job,” Orchuk said. “We thought that we had an apartment here set up, but something mixed up, and we had to find a long-term room at a hotel. We didn’t think we’d be in it this long.”

Although her family’s room is well equipped, containing a kitchenette, bedroom, living room, and bathroom, the pressures of living and working in one room can be oppressive.

“It’s still really small for how many people we have,” Orchuk said. “It took a toll on me for a while. At different times, it’s really stressful and I feel I can’t take it any more. If one person’s in a bad mood, it offsets the whole thing and something bad happens.”

Orchuk and her family were caught in the disruption caused by the economy as her father changed jobs, similar to many of the families and individuals struggling in Fauquier County, according to Lynn Ward.

“The thing that strikes me is how many people have fallen out of the middle class,” Ward said. “I think the bottom line is, there’s a lot of people that need a hand up, and sometimes it’s hard to get that hand up. Sometimes they’re just stuck.”

Ward spends considerable time volunteering and working to support the homeless and transient in Fauquier County. According to Ward, poverty has increased by half in the years since the recession began in 2007. Having lost significant amounts of federal aid, agencies from the Free Clinic to Social Services have found it increasingly difficult to provide help for the struggling.

“I know the federal monies have been cut off to the food bank and Vint Hill Housing, and the latter have had to cut back from four support staff to two,” Ward said. “We went to Vint Hill and said, ‘What do you need?’ and they gave us two pages of just needs, like 150 hours of painting and repair work.”

Ward believe this approach to volunteering—simply traveling to various agencies and asking for what the Haven Homeless Shelter or the Free Clinic requires—with be the “paradigm shift” in addressing the county’s lack of unified institutions to give aid.

“We’re working on a website where needs would come up, and outreach people across churches could look at that and see if they can help,” Ward said. There are some thigns going on, and I think there are a lot of people out there who care, but I think we need to see the picture better, and get a lot more organized.”

Families in transition are eligible for transitional housing if at least one member has a job and a vehicle. Orchuk and her family were able to acquire their room without county aid, but she experienced many of the same emotional effects as teens in transition housing, including pressure when doing schoolwork.

“I couldn’t really get away to do homework or study,” Orchuk said. “I’m surrounded by kids running around, and it’s really hard to concentrate. It’s not as much room to play in. I do have to walk the dog a lot because we can’t just let her out in the backyard.”

Guidance counselor Warren Hackney, a major proponent of giving aid to the community (he organizes food collection for the homeless in Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties), emphasizes the importance of education, because hard times can hit without warning.

“We just tell kids all the time that education is so important,” Hackney said. “You have to be marketable, you have to have skills. You have to be a lifelong learner.”

When the guidance department becomes aware of a student’s [plight?], the county’s social worker and a local shelter are contacted, and staff members generally pitch in to give the student short term financial aid. Hackney has seen an increase in pressure on students since the 2007 economic decline.

“I think what I’ve seen since the recession is more stress in students,” Hackney said. “[Financial struggle] is trickling down to the students, and more have to work to help the family.”

Orchuk has moved out of the motel and into a house, a change she was more than looking forward to.

“I’ve grown accustomed to being so crowded,” Orchuk said. “I think it’s going to be really awesome—I can invite friends over, and I don’t always have to go elsewhere. I always feel bad about invading their space.”

These three months have been a period of personal growth for Orchuk; the experience has given her a much broader perspective on hardship since before she came to Warrenton.

“When I lived in a house, I took for granted,” Orchuk said. “I think that’s what my problem was back in Iowa—I always wanted things even though I knew my parents were tight on money. Now I realize I might not have everything I wanted.”

~Sophie Byvik, editor-in-chief

“Red”: Fourth album sells Swiftly

“YES!! FINALLY!!” I screamed, when Taylor Swift’s new album, Red, hit stores on Oct 22. And, yes, the album is spectacular. T-Swift maintains the “I hate you, you loser!” aspect to her break-up songs, and it’s perfectly displayed in her hit single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” If you’ve been in a toxic relationship you just couldn’t escape, it’s the perfect song to blast from the radio with the windows down while screaming lyrics at the top of your lungs… but I digress.

However, the majority of the break-up songs on Red to posses a new quality that has not been seen before in T-Swift’s music: maturity. There is an element of somber acceptance in the tunes, including my personal favorite, “All Too Well,” which recounts particularly pleasant memories of a past relationship and how she remembers them… all too well. Yes, I was brought to tears.

Although the album has plenty of break-up anthems that will leave listeners crying and laughing (but mostly crying), there are also quite happy tunes to jam to. “Starlight,” was inspired by Ethel and Bobby Kennedy and describes a night back in ’45 when they snuck into a yacht party and had a blast. Dancing with the ones you love is a popular theme in Red; “22” is about a night Swift and friends went out for a night on the town.

Red is good because it displays a wide range of topics, which isn’t always seen in T-Swift’s albums. Usually her lyrics are about how she loves a boy or how she hates a boy- black and white. This time, however, Swift expresses the fragile vulnerability that comes with the pain of heartbreak in her lyrics, and in her vocals.

Swift writes her own music and often hides messages about other celebrities in her lyrics. When I listened to the album for the first time, I kept wondering who the songs were about.  Well, luckily Swift leaves a code in the album guide that helps fans make educated guesses as to who the songs are about. Speculation says some songs are about Love and Other Drugs actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who reportedly dated the singer for a few months. Others may be about Connor Kennedy, which makes sense considering she wrote a song for his grandmother. But unfortunately Swift keeps her songs on a “you know who you are” basis and leaves the rest of us wondering.

What is important, however, is that T-Swift’s songs are easy for teens to relate to. It feels good to hear a song that expresses a feeling you didn’t know how to put into words or that captures a situation you’ve experienced perfectly. Does Swift play it a little middle school when she calls out all of her exes in song? Sure. But that doesn’t make blasting her anthems in your room, or car, or headphones any less fun. I loved this album, and you should too.

~Maddie Lemelin, features/arts director

Playoff predictions pick Patriots

Heading into week 14 the playoff picture is beginning to take form. The Texans, Falcons, and Ravens are pulling ahead of the pack, while the Chiefs, Jets, and Panthers are competing to be the worst teams in the league.

In the wacky world of football the key for success is consistency, which has been lacking this season. Major blowouts in headline games such as the 49ers manhandling of the Bears or the Giants beating of the Packers, caused critics to question the power of the best teams in the NFL. At one point, the Belichick/Brady-led Patriots had a losing record, which is unheard of since the early 2000s. But all is falling back together now, right?

Wrong. The end of this season should prove to be explosive with emerging talent and playoff spoilers. The NFC, specifically, is so boggled up that six or more teams may fight for the last two playoff spots. Easy playoffs picks, such as the Falcons and Bears are obvious contenders, but what about Seattle and New Orleans? Those teams will be a thorn in the side of top contenders looking for home field advantage.

The Green Bay Packers are likely to have as hot a run into the playoffs as they did in their 2010 Super Bowl season. Aaron Rodgers returned to MVP form when he threw for six touchdowns and 342 yards against the Texans. Their huge test will come week 15 in Chicago. The Colts could end up being a surprising wild card team. Andrew Luck put up record setting rookie numbers while bringing the Colts from a two win team to a playoff contender. If the Colts make the playoffs as a wildcard, they may be destined for a matchup against Peyton Manning’s Broncos in the first round. If Luck, who replaced Manning, gets a shot at taking down the master, the television ratings would be huge.

In the end, the best team wins the big game. The New England Patriots will face the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Why, you ask? Because these teams are the best. The Patriots have the best offense in the league, averaging over 400 yards and 33 points per game. The 49ers have the best defense, ranking first in the NFL and giving up only 14 points per game. They are also top five against the pass and run. This is a matchup of superstars. Linebacker Patrick Willis against quarterback Tom Brady, it would be the most balanced clash of teams since the Colts and Bears matchup in 2007. Sophmore QB Colin Kaepernick will have his time to shine against the Patriots, but the pure firepower of the Patriots offense combined with a probable slip up from the 49ers young QB will turn into a 28-20 Patriots victory.

~Josh Henry, design editor

Fauquier High School's student newspaper. By the students, for the students.