Group travels to France for week-long school trip

  Fourteen French speaking students and their three chaperones took a trip to France during April vacation.

  According to senior Allyson Conway, the group consisted of all French speaking students: four seniors, six juniors, and four sophomores.

  Chaperoning the trip were French teachers Erin Fortunato and Julia Gross, as well as Gross’s daughter, Adelaide, Conway said.   

  Despite the fact that it was rainy and the group was suffering from jet-lag, on the first day the students still managed to see Eiffel Tower and tour around Paris, junior Jeff Durkin said.

  “After staying in Paris for the first two days, we then went to the Loire Valley in Southern France and then north to the town of Bayeux in Normandy,” Durkin said. “My favorite part of the trip was staying in and touring around the cool town of Bayeux.”

  Conway said that some of the landmarks they visited included the Normandy Beaches, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Le Louve, and Leonardo De Vinci’s house. 

  French teacher and chaperone Erin Fortunato said that one of her favorite sights was Mount St. Michelle, which is a little island that, at high tide, can only be reached from a narrow path extending from shore.

  Conway said that she too enjoyed the both famous and historic sites that were toured on the trip, but she also just enjoyed the travelling and exploring new locations.

  “I really enjoyed walking around Paris, as it is so different from U.S. cities such as Boston and New York,” Conway said. “The culture is extremely rich, and there is always something to see or do; one day we watched a street performer do tricks with a soccer ball as he climbed a lamp post.”

  According to Fortunato, in addition to getting a fun and cultural experience, the students were also there to practice their French speaking skills.

  “We had one day where we spoke no English at all, and if a student did speak English he/she had to put 20 cents into a sock,” Fortunato said. “At the end of the day, all that sock money was distributed to people on the streets.”

  Conway said that overall the language barrier didn’t cause them to have any trouble getting around; in contrast, it became a little frustrating when the native speakers would switch over to English simply because it was obvious that the students were tourists.

  Fortunato said that she would like to try and continue this trip for students in future years, as she had such an amazing experience both travelling France itself and getting to know her students in a different way.

  “I thought it was awesome that we were able to implement what we are learning in the classroom to a ‘real world’ situation,” Durkin said.


Ski team works to achieve team, individual goals

By Carolyn Heslop

At the start of the season, the ski team’s goals included bringing both a girls’ and boys’ team to the state tournament, and the girls are well on their way to achieving this goal as they are currently dominating in individual standings, senior captain Megan Jones said.

  According to varsity coach Tim Wonson, Jones is currently ranked No.1 and has won every single giant slalom race that she entered. Juniors Alexandra Marshall and Lizzi White are not far behind Jones, as Marshall placed second in every race that she entered, and White consistently ranks somewhere in the top 10, he said.  

  “We have also been  surprised by freshman Megan Clark, who started racing only last year, but as of now she is going to the state tournament due to her 11th place ranking in one of the most competitive leagues in the state,” Wonson said.

  Sophomore Chris McAuliff said that although the girls’ team is not far from accomplishing their goals, the boys’ team has suffered some minor setbacks due to injuries on the team.

  These injuries include a severe knee injury that kept McAuliff from improving his ranking this season and a nasty fall in which sophomore William Kiley hooked a tip, was flung into the air, and then proceeded to slide down the mountain until he crashed into a gate, Wonson said.

  However, senior captain Brian McAuliff has managed to achieve top 10 in every race that he has entered in, giving him a very likely chance of making it to the state tournament,  Jones said.

  Chris McAuliff said the team has really been working to encourage each other, and everyone is improving on a day-to-day basis.

  “We have definitely come together as a team and are simply working towards both the personal and the team goals that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season,” Jones said.

  According to Wonson, the coaches are immensely proud of the effort and courage the team has shown thus far, as skiing can sometimes be intimidating and racing in particular, can be quite nerve-racking.

  “The team has battled through sickness, the freezing cold weather, the long bus rides, and the long hours of training on top of all their other responsibilities, and they are beginning to reap the rewards,” Wonson said.


Boys’ soccer aspires to make state tournament

Carolyn Heslop photo

By Carolyn Heslop

With a solid preseason under its belt, the soccer team starts the season off with a strong record off 3-2, according to varsity coach Robert Bilsbury.

  The team’s goals for the season include staying focused on the match at hand and working to get better by showing improvements as the season progresses, Bilsbury said.

  “Another major goal for our team this year is to make the state tournament because this hasn’t been done for about six years,” senior captain Chris Xavier said.

  Overall, the team has a nice balance between talented young players and older experienced players, according to Bilsbury.

  He also said that as opposed to having one star that rules the field, the players are all on the same page and are continuously working together as a team.

  Senior captain Alex Walder said the team is already exhibiting strong ball movement and better communication while on the field. The team finished last season 2-18, so the team is already off to a better start, he said.

  Although Bilsbury said that comparing seasons is not his favorite thing to do, he said that this year there have been fewer injuries than in the past. This means there are more players ready and able to play, he added.

  Xavier also said that some of the team’s strengths this year include a large number of players who really know how to put the ball in the net, as well as a strong defensive line.

  “We have really good talent and team chemistry that is really going to help us going forward in the season,” Bilsbury said.

  Bilsbury also said that along with the captains, seniors Liam Aldrich, Patrick Hagar, Walder, and Xavier, other key players include senior Will Nadai, junior Sean Gutierrez, and sophomore Lucas Firme, who serve as strong vocal leaders on the team.

  “We have gotten a really strong start to the season, and we are just hoping to play our best and improve as much as we can as the season progresses,” Walder said.


Athletic department focuses on concussions

Courtesy of Taylor Ketchum

By Carolyn Heslop

Within the past year, concussions have become a major topic of discussion, especially among high school students and administrators.

  According to high school nurse Cyndi Aldrich, there were 38 cases of sports-related concussions and 11 cases of non-school related concussions in just last year alone.

  Aldrich said that it is hard to judge the exact number of concussions because last year was the first year that the school concussion policy was enacted and the first time that any real attention was brought to the issue.

  Athletic director Kelly Porcaro said that it is now mandatory for students to complete certain forms and tests related to concussions before they are even able to begin a sport or certain extracurricular activities.

  Part of this process includes the mandatory ImPACT test in which students must take a baseline every two years, she said.

  According to Porcaro, this test is not academic based, but purely tests the student’s visual memory, speed, and reflexes, which are certain areas that would be affected if the student did acquire a concussion.

  If a student begins to experience symptoms such as retrograde amnesia, dizziness, nausea, headache, inability to focus, sensitivity to light, and blurry vision, he/she is advised to take the ImPACT test again, and his/her results are compared with those of the baseline, she said.

  “The severity of the concussion varies from person to person,” Porcaro said. “They are not really graded by grade one or grade two; it just really depends on the symptoms.”

  Junior Taylor Ketchum received a concussion last year on the second day of basketball tryouts when he hit his head against the wooden floor of the gymnasium. 

  According to Ketchum, his concussion not only meant that he was sidelined during the basketball season but also that school became increasingly difficult for him.

  “The concussion became a big issue for me mainly because I couldn’t do any school work for an entire month,” Ketchum said. “It was hard because I couldn’t focus on anything, and I couldn’t do any of the tests that I still had to makeup.”

  When the student is finally allowed to return to sports or school, it is at the discretion of the neurologist, physical trainer, and the student’s primary care physician, Porcaro said.

  She said that there is a specific and detailed five step re-entry plan that students in similar situations to Ketchum must follow upon their return to a sport.

  This plan involves the student continuously adding more levels of physical activity each day of practice, until he/she is back to playing games, Porcaro said.

  Aldrich also said that an interesting question regarding these concussion results is that although the numbers for concussions were high last year, there is deliberation as to whether the risk for concussions is increasing or if more cases are being caught simply due to the high level of attention on concussions.


New teacher joins special education department after working at Landmark

Carolyn Heslop photo

By Carolyn Heslop

Special education teacher David Veling hopes to bring some new knowledge to the special education department as one of the special ed liaisons and head of what is called the “transition program.”

“This program involves supporting the students who may need more help and direct instruction around skills that they might need to be successful transitioning from high school to college or work or whatever life hold after,” he said.

  Veling attended Dickinson College located in Carlisle PA, for undergraduate school and then went on to graduate school at Simmons College in Boston where he received his Master of Science in Education degree.

  After working at Landmark School for 11 years, Veling spent the past two years as the director of admissions and guidance at Clearway School in West Newton.

  According to Veling, he was not only a member of the educational staff at Landmark, but he also coached varsity baseball, as well as junior varsity soccer and basketball.

  “I came to Manchester-Essex because the school has a really good reputation and the chance to build a new program is a really interesting opportunity for me,” he said.

    According to Veling, his experience so far has been very positive in that the other teachers are all very friendly and supportive and the students are fantastic to work with.

  According to special education aide Jared Harvey, he and Veling had worked together at Landmark years ago and Veling still gives great advice when Harvey goes to him with questions.

  “It’s been wonderful working with my old mentor once again; I forgot how funny he is,” Harvey said.

  Veling said that it is very different to work here in that it is the first public school he has worked at, and as opposed to Landmark school, not all the teachers have special education experience.

  “I know Mr. Veling from fundraising activities, and he is a really nice guy who is always cheerful and seems very dedicated to his job,” senior Alex Walder said.

  Harvey said that Veling is a great asset to the special education department and that he has great experience, having worked various jobs in special education.


Music, fundraising combine at A Cappella Night

By Carolyn Heslop

Joining together to organize an A Cappella Night that will help to raise money for Senior Week and gain recognition for the Sound Waves, the senior class and high school a cappella group, the Sound Waves, have scheduled a concert for April 26,  senior group member Katerina Eichenberger said.

According to Sound Waves director Donna O’Neill, there has been a Sound Waves concert the past two years. At their past concert, the group raised around $1,000. However, this is the first year that the group has decided to invite other schools to perform at and attend the concert, O’Neill said.

O’Neill said that the Sound Waves will be performing as the headline group of the night, but they will also be joined by the Wellesley High School’s a cappella group, the Renegades, and the Spectrum Highlights from Pingree.

The goal of the event is for the peers and parents of the students from other schools to come as well, which will hopefully add to the fundraising effort, O’Neill said.

“It will be a fun way to make our a cappella group more well-known among other towns and allow us to share our passion for music with others who are just as passionate,” Eichenberger said.

Senior class adviser James Wallimann added that there will also be a bake sale during intermission that will be run by the senior class, with the hopes of gaining some extra money for Senior Week activities. The class wants to add a trip to an indoor laser tag/go kart center, as well as a trip to the restaurant Fire and Ice in Boston, he said.

“I think that this is a great idea; the students are showing an immense amount of enthusiasm and commitment, and the class officers are displaying their responsibility in planning this event,” O’Neill said.

For four years, the Sound Waves have been performing at various community events, according to O’Neill, and this concert event will give them the opportunity to perform with talented students of their same age.

Wallimann said that he and the senior class are really looking forward to this final fundraising event and hope that there will be another huge turnout this year.

In addition to benefitting the senior class, this concert will also serve as a way to recognize the Sound Waves a cappella group, Eichenberger said.

“Nine of the fifteen members of the Sound Waves are seniors, and over the years, they all have become a very close-knit group, creating a very special sound of their own,” O’Neill said. “This concert is a very exciting way to celebrate the seniors last year in the Sound Waves.”   



Swim team stays positive despite inconvenient practice times

Courtesy of Alex Walder

By Carolyn Heslop

Despite having to deal with inconsistent practice times, the swim team is well on its way to achieving the goals for the season, according to junior captain Dustin Ferzacca.

Junior captain Alex Walder said that the team currently has a record of 2-6 and has already qualified a relay team for Sectionals, as well as a diving team for States. Qualifying both a relay and diving team were two of the team’s main goals at the start of the season, he said.

The team’s practices are currently held at Gordon College, with pool times ranging from 5:45 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., according to varsity coach Katie Garvin.

Walder said that these practice times make practices interesting because they are never the same, but waking up early for before-school practices can be difficult.

However, the team members are generally very willing and accepting of these practice times and locations because they all have a genuine love for the sport, according to Ferzacca. If anything, these times force the swimmers to be much more dedicated to the sport, he said.   

“Because the practices and competitions are all off-site, there really isn’t that school spirit aspect that is present in many other high school sports, yet this is a team that has a great level of camaraderie, and the kids all feel very much a part of a team,” Garvin said.

According to Walder, transportation can sometimes be an issue for the swimmers because not everyone on the team can drive. This means that swimmers must somehow find a ride to the Gordon College pool each day, he said.

“The kids are all motivated by the actual sport because there is nothing really convenient about it, and it is a big commitment for both the swimmers, as well as their families,” Garvin said.

Even though the practice times are not ideal, the team is still hoping to finish the season off strong and build up a good base for future years, Garvin said.


New format provides incentive for students in Video Production Club

In hopes of continuing with their success, the Video Production Club has changed both its name and format this year, club adviser James Wallimann said.  

According to Wallimann, this year the club is doing three main documentaries, and the concept is for small teams of students within the club to come together to essentially be “hired help.” These documentaries include videos regarding the DECA program, the Green Team, and a senior class video yearbook, he said.

“This process simulates what it would be like for someone to work with an actual client regarding a video. The students must ask their client what they want for a video, and then they go and make the video, and sometimes have to make changes and compromises,” Wallimann said.

This new format gives students incentive to get the work done themselves, according to Wallimann, because there are multiple people relying on them to complete their part of the project.

Junior Ellie Mortillaro said she has learned that a lot more goes into making these films than originally meets the eye because there are so many different elements and people involved with the design process of each scene.

The Video Production Club is a fun way to brainstorm different techniques for making videos, as well as learn how to make different types of videos, Mortillaro said.

 Junior Tierney McTiernan has been part of the club since her freshman year. She said the club is not as big of a time commitment as other after school programs; however, students also have the responsibility of checking in with Wallimann after school.

Wallimann said that he is thrilled to get the club going this year and to use the new equipment that the club acquired to aid them with the film-making process.

McTiernan added that through the Video Production Club, she has learned that creating a movie is not only long and tedious, but it can also be very enjoyable and fun.


Golf team finishes season strongly


Courtesy Sophie Neligan


By Carolyn Heslop

Independent Staff

Despite lack of seniors, the golf team achieved a record of 11-5, the best record in school history, according to varsity coach Jane McConnell.

Junior captain Josh Christopher said the team went into the season with the goals of making it to States and doing better than last year’s 5th place finish.

 Freshman captain Ben Bichet added that another goal was to win the Cape Ann Classic, a tournament that the team has won the past two years.

“We met nearly every single goal, and we had set some pretty high goals, considering that we had lost five seniors last year,” varsity coach Jane McConnell said.

According to Christopher, the team won the Cape Ann Classic and qualified for the State tournament. The only goal that they didn’t quite accomplish was to make it to the final round at States.

“We had six players who played in every single match. In golf, there’s really no time-outs or substitutions, so if you’re put in, it’s up to you to play the entire time,” McConnell said.

According to McConnell, these six players included junior Josh Christopher, sophomores Miles Wood and Petey Morton, and freshmen Ben Bichet, Michael Fuca, and Will Burgess. They served as the heart and the anchor of the team, she said.

“I think it was a pretty good year. We have a lot of young guys for next year, and I’m looking forward to next season,” Christopher said.

According to Christopher, the team could possibly lose sophomore captain Miles Wood next year if he does end up changing schools, but they will still have their other three captains, sophomore Jeffrey Durkin, Bichet and Christopher.

“This year we will have no graduating players. We did well with young players this year, and we hope to do just as well next year,” Bichet said.


Direct Marketing Association International Conference provides new opportunity for students

Courtesy Tierney McTiernan

By Carolyn Heslop

Independent Staff

For the first time in MERHS DECA history, students attended the Direct Marketing Association International Conference that was held from October 2-5 at the Boston Convention Center.

According to DECA teacher Dean Martino, the DMA is the world’s largest association of professionals in direct marketing.

Martino said that the students had the privilege of attending 108 unique presentations, which included speakers such as Larry Kimmel, the director of DMA; Dan Kathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A; and  Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter.

“DMA provided the opportunity for Manchester-Essex students to sit in with business professionals of the world,” Martino said.

Senior Olivia Prentiss, who went on the trip, said that a main focus of the conference was the social media and how it is an important aspect of the business world.

“We were able to learn so many different things because the conference was on so many different aspects of business,” Prentiss said.

Last spring, Martino started a dialogue with DMA’s public relations department, suggesting that they would benefit from reaching down to American high schools and giving students the opportunity to integrate their curriculum into a real life event.

Martino said that because of this dialogue, he was able to get 10 tickets to the DMAs, each valuing approximately $3,600. Juniors Tierney McTiernan, Jackie Rose, Olivia Mastendino, Megan Jones and seniors Prentiss, Kelly Dodge, Jennifer Gallagher, Chloe Gothie, and Eliza Rohner attended the conference.

The trip was a good experience for the students because it involved real-life situations that will be beneficial in the DECA role plays, according to Mastendino.

Martino said that the trip was immeasurable as far as a learning opportunity and clearly rose to the level of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a high school student.