What to read, watch, and listen to

What to Watch: “Something the Lord Made”

By Courtney Fraser

The hard-hitting film, “Something the Lord Made,” tells the true story of two medical pioneers, one celebrated and one overlooked, and their road to making medical history. Alfred Blalock, played by Alan Rickman, is chief surgeon at Johns Hopkins University during the 1930s when he meets the local carpenter Vivian Thomas, played by Mos Def, who expresses a strong passion for medicine. Despite facing harsh discrimination and the absence of enough money to afford college, Vivian works alongside Blalock as a lab assistant where they progressively develop a technique that allows them to correct a common congenital heart defect in children. The G-rated drama that was released in May of 2004 stresses the importance of determination and bravery as Vivian Thomas defies the norms in society by facing segregation head-on. The moving film strongly represents passion and drive as viewers watch Thomas refuse to accept defeat. Director Joseph Sargent powerfully highlights the struggles Vivian encounters and his charismatic character that evolves over time.


What to Listen to (Album): “Racine Carré”

By Courtney Fraser

Rising star Stromae is a Belgian vocalist, songwriter, and producer whose music intertwines hip-hop with the calm rhythms of house and several other variations of electronic music. In Aug. of 2010, Stromae’s popularity reached its peak when collaborations with Kanye West began with a remix to his popular song “Alors on Danse.” Released from his globally popular 2013 album “Racine Carré” was Stromae’s hit song “Papaoutai.” As the lead single from his second studio album, the song reached number one in Belgium and France following its release. The upbeat tune and steady beat keep listeners in tune as the song gradually explodes into a passionate and energetic rhythm. The French song speaks from the perspective of both a child and an adult as the child struggles to understand the responsibilities fathers have to their children.


What to Read: “Night Road” by Kristin Hannah

By Courtney Fraser

Night Road is an emotionally driven novel that draws readers to question their opinions on identity, love, and forgiveness. The brilliant, heartbreaking story discusses the impact the main character, Lexi Baill, a former foster child with a dark past, has on the Farraday family as she falls deeply in love with Zach Farraday, the family’s only son . One night, however, Lexi must make a decision that will change the course of her life and deeply affect those around her. In the years that follow Lexi’s decision, she struggles to face the extreme consequences of that one summer night and find a way to forget what happened. The novel drives home the pain of loss and the amazing power of hope as Lexi strives to find courage in facing her mistakes. Kristin Hannah does an amazing job luring readers into Lexi’s life, showing readers the strength of courage and resilience during hard times.


Science Department Removes Physics First

Twenty freshmen of the class of 2018 piloted the new science sequence arrangement, enrolling in biology as opposed to Physics First.

In 2008, the science department announced that all freshmen students should begin their high school careers taking Physics First to provide a solid introduction to basic physics.

Recently, however, the school staff expressed the idea that freshmen should enroll in biology as opposed to Physics First, essentially because Physics First isn’t considered a lab science by most top tier colleges.

High School Principal Patricia Puglisi reviewed the Course of Studies for students alongside several staff and faculty members prior to the 2014 school year.

“After surveying a variety of colleges, we found that most of the top tier schools require students to take three years of a lab science. Allowing our students to take biology freshman year provides most opportunity and greater offerings to students involved in science,” Puglisi said.

As eighth-grade students enter high school, they will be given the option of enrolling in biology or Foundations of Science and Engineering, a new class that was introduced in 2013.

Biology teacher Erica Everett expressed her opinion upon removing Physics First from the science department program.

“The advantage is that students would be able to gather their three lab sciences earlier on in their career, and they would have greater access to science electives,” she said.

Taking biology freshmen year would enable students to take the electives MERHS offers, which include anatomy, anthropology, robotics, ASR etc.

“This change isn’t tremendously dramatic. The Physics First program had its time at the high school. Kids are coming in more prepared from the middle school, and we need to keep up with their needs,” Puglisi said.

Freshman Chanel Bullock, one of the 20 students currently enrolled in biology, expressed her thoughts on taking the class a year in advance.

“I’m glad that I took the class earlier because I can fit more science classes into my schedule. When I grow up, I want to play a role in the medical field, so taking more science classes would be best for me,” Bullock said.


Band students perform in Atrium at Montreal

By Courtney Fraser

Fifty-nine members of the high school band departed for Montreal, Canada on March 20 for three days at the Hotel Gouveneur Place Dupris.

Accompanying the students and band director Joseph Sokol were six chaperones and the tour escort, Peggy Williamson.

On Friday morning at 6:30, students boarded the busses, for a six-hour long ride to Canada where they explored the city and performed at Atrium Le 1000.

Upon their arrival in Montreal, the band began the concert at Atrium playing the “Star Spangled Banner,” followed by “O’Canada,” and ending with “Great Movie Adventures.” In total,  the students performed eight songs for the audience.

“It’s nice to have the whole group together to perform because it’s a memory. To have an opportunity to leave Manchester and to leave the country and to tour with all of your friends is a great time,” Sokol said.

Many of the students treasured the trip especially because it was the final trip their director, Sokol, will be taking because he is retiring at the end of the year. The trip to Montreal was marked to be his 12th trip with the high school band.

“This trip was really exciting because it was such a great group of people going, and the activities we did, like going ice-skating, were pretty fun. Since it was Mr. Sokol’s last band trip, we all were determined to make it memorable,” junior Molly Lynch said.

While in Montreal, the students and chaperones went on a sightseeing city tour, which lasted roughly two and a half hours, and had the opportunity to go shopping in the Old Montreal area.

Students were divided into two groups on the 21st where one group departed to see the Museum of Contemporary Art and the other left to go ice-skating at Atrium.

“All in all, the trip to Montreal was a great trip. Performing in front of a new audience from a different country was a fun experience. I hope to attend the trip next year too,” junior Gillian Guerin said.

The last stop the band students made in Montreal was to the Biodome and to the Olympic Tower.



Tackling A healthy Lifestyle for 2015

By Courtney Fraser

Trends in health and fitness have been circulating through social media as people search for ways to tackle their New Year resolutions of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Whether it’s starting a new workout program, eating a healthier diet, or closing down the computer screen to get outside, everyone is beginning 2015 with a new, fresh start.

Rising in popularity, the MELT body workout foam roller has been capturing the attention of many who suffer from digestive problems, weight gain, stress, and aching joints.

“MELT now has 1,300 instructors nationwide and a following that includes the Olympic snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who used the method on her feet before winning gold in Sochi, Russia,” Julia Lawlor of the New York Times said.

Another popular workout that surfaced with the new year is the POUND Workout that combines cardio interval training with drumming to provide a challenging workout.

“The workout fuses cardio, Pilates, isometric movements, plyometrics and isometric poses into a 45-minute series. Burn between 400 and 900+ calories per hour and strengthen and sculpt infrequently used muscles,” the Poundfit website explained.

Physical workouts are always a nice way to relieve stress and stay healthy; however, 2015 has introduced new devices that can help maintain a healthy diet.

The Nutribullet System is one of the most popular, top-of-the-line juicers introduced early this year; the device can be purchased online on the Nutribullet website for $19.99.

The Nutribullet helps release vital nutrients found in fruits and vegetables to create a nutritious and healthful smoothie.

“This is possible by the cyclonic action of the system made possible by its powerful motor (600+ watts) and cyclonic blades. It does a pretty good job turning your fruits and vegetables into delicious smoothies,” the Juicing Diet Works website explained.

This device is not only easy to use but simple to clean up. Additionally, the Nutribullet juices the skin of fruits and vegetables, so all of the vitamins are included in the smoothie.


Katie Donnelly Competes in Mustang Competition

By Courtney Fraser

Through the Mustang Heritage Foundation and Bureau of Land Management, freshman Katie Donnelly will be participating in the Youth in Yearling Mustang Makeover at the Topsfield Fairgrounds.

Teenagers with granted applications for the competition will receive a horse between the ages of one and two. The pickup date for the mustang is Apr. 11, 2015.

The horses will be coming to Massachusetts from Montana in the spring.

Donnelly will have approximately 100 days to train the horse for the competition on Aug. 7 and 8.

“I’ve always been involved in various disciplines involving horses. I love being around them, and I’ve always wanted to make a difference and take it farther,” Donnelly said.

During training, Donnelly will work towards gaining the mustang’s trust. She will be teaching the horse to trail ride, jump over obstacles, and demonstrate showmanship.

Donnelly shares her riding experience with middle school student Drew Charlton. Together, the two have been riding for roughly six years.

“I think it’s really cool that they are bringing the mustangs from Montana to kids like Katie. She is a very outgoing, friendly person. This competition will be an amazing experience for her,” Charlton said.

At Candlewood Farm in Ipswich, Donnelly rides her current horse, Ransom, three to four times a week. In the summer, however, she is at the stable nearly every day.

Having heard about the competition through several conversations with Donnelly, middle school English teacher Vidula Plante applauded Donnelly’s ambition.

“I think Katie is very energetic and willing to take on any challenge with enthusiasm. I feel like the competition is an extension of who she is,” Plante said.

To prepare for the competition, Donnelly has been following through with days of online research about caring for a young horse.

“She will smilingly take on the challenge. I would be surprised if she doesn’t succeed,” Plante said.



Drama Club Performs at Dramafest

By Courtney Fraser

Members of the Drama Club progressed through to the Semi-Final competition of Dramafest after their qualifying performance of “Volpone” at the preliminary rounds.

Throughout the day on Feb. 28, eight schools from the North Shore came to Manchester-Essex to perform.

“Volpone,” meaning “fox” in Italian, is a play about a very rich man who tricks all of his friends into thinking they are going to get his money in his will.

The traditional commedia dell’arte has characters who mimic the behaviors of several animals such as the dove, crow, and vulture.

The performance is a Renaissance comedy that has been modified to fit the time frame of 40 minutes.

Auditions for “Volpone” were held in early December. Since then, actors and managers have been rehearsing four times a week after school.

Director Elizabeth Edgerton has been working with the Drama Club for roughly eight years. During her career as the director, she has led drama students to finals twice.

“It’s a great experience for our students to see different kinds of drama and different theatre departments. The competition pushes our students to do really well,” Edgerton said.

Assisting Edgerton in directing the play is junior Chelsea Rose, who has made the Drama Club a large part of her high school career.

“Drama Club is cool because I’ve been involved in both acting and directing. The experience is really fun but also overwhelming when it comes to competition,” Rose said.

Competing in Dramafest are 115 High Schools across New England who fight to be one of the 14 schools that perform at the finals in Boston.

“Dramafest is my favorite memory of my high school career. You make friends with almost everyone, and they’re all really friendly. One year, I was singing a song in the hallway, and within seconds, almost 20 kids were singing along with me,” senior and actor Courtney MacDougall said.

Makeup artists Rose, senior Devon Musgrave-Johnson, freshman Madison Palmer, and sophomore Maya Palmer received awards for excellence in makeup art for the play. Freshman A.J. Rhuda and junior Maddie Shaw won awards but for excellence in performance.

The Drama Club participated in the semi-finals on Mar. 14 at the Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School; however, the group didn’t move on to finals in Boston on Mar.  26-28.


Creating A Christmas wish list

By Courtney Fraser

Christmas is coming closer, and the wild quest for finding the perfect gift for a loved one, a friend, or someone in your family has begun.

Of all the new, trending products being released into the market, finding the ideal present may seem impossible.

One of the newest pieces of technology released this year was the Polaroid Instant Print Camera. For teenage girls, this would be a present worth waking up early to on Christmas.

The Polaroid Camera sells at a price of $92 and can be found at Urban Outfitters.

For guys, a popular item on their Christmas list may be a pair of Timberland Work Boots. These shoes are sold in various stores such as Macy’s and the Footlocker for $130.

In the subject area of footwear, many girls have shown interest in moccasin slippers found at L.L. Bean for a price of $69. Popular colors for the shoes include graphite or brown.

Stores that supply make-up, such as Sephora, are helpful in finding gifts for girls. A common item seen on many wish lists includes the NAKED Eye Shadow Palette by Urban Decay for $54.

Headphones have shown popularity in recent months among guys, too. At Best Buy, Beats Solo 2 headphones sell for $199.99 coming in a wide selection of colors.

A final present that may be ideal for most guys on Christmas morning is the Apple LifeProof iPhone case sold at Best Buy or online at Amazon.com for $79.99.

These cases are indestructible and protect not only your phone from cracking but also the money that could be spent trying to repair it.


Band, chorus members receive invitation to Senior Districts

By Courtney Fraser

Five out of nine students from band and chorus were accepted to perform at the 2015 Northeast Senior Districts Music Festival.

The Northeast Senior Districts were open to schools in Northeastern Massachusetts for students who have a strong passion for music on Nov. 15 according to Band Director Joseph Sokol.

“You are dealing with some of the finest singers and musicians who have the opportunity to represent their school districts,” Sokol said.

Junior and band member Alexi Goldsmith-Solomon was accepted as first chair snare drum player for the festival orchestra that will be held on Jan. 11 at Lowell High School.

Goldsmith-Solomon auditioned against 19 musicians at the Northeast Senior Districts. Of the 19 students, only seven were chosen to perform at the festival this winter.

Chorus members being represented at the Northeast Senior Districts include sophomore Jenny Duff, senior Tucker Evans, and juniors Sara Rhuda and Joshua Ward.

“I am tremendously proud of all the students and those who auditioned for Senior Districts and All-States because I know first-hand it’s a great accomplishment,” choral director Donna O’Neill said.

Rhuda achieved a perfect score at the audition. This coming year will be her third year attending the music festival.

“We get guest directors from colleges who know what they’re doing and have a passion for music. It’s a great opportunity to do complicated music with people that want to be there and know what they’re doing,” Rhuda said.

As her teacher, O’Neill said Rhuda has improved immensely in talent over the course of several years.

“I know, personally, how hard Sara works. She has tremendous talent, a pure voice, and puts much work into her passion for music,” O’Neill said.

Of the four chorus students, Rhuda and Evans received All-State recommendations and will be auditioning for the event in January in Shrewsbury.

Acceptance into All-States gives musicians the opportunity to spend three days in Boston at the Seaport Hotel, rehearse at the World Trade Center, and perform at Symphony Hall.

“It’s a great experience for the students, musically speaking. A lot of these musicians are thinking about pursuing a career in music and going to the Northeastern Senior Districts and All-States is highly beneficial,” Sokol said.