Eight times each year, the members of Kelly Hamburger and Carmen Pagan-Colon’s newspaper club at Beacon High School publish Breaking Beacon, the first student-run publication at the school in more than 30 years. Here, we share excerpts from the April and May issues.
Reporters: Rachel Thorne (editor), Nadeen Ahmed, Sophia Campagiorni, Jacob DiNoble, Rubio Castagna-Torres, Jonathan Echevarria, Evan Lombardi, Skhy Morris, Annabelle Notarthomas, Mikaela Sanchez, Kayla Selander
Teachers and their Hobbies
By Nadeen Ahmed
Mr. Burns claims to be boring and does not have any hobbies, however, he does like playing games on his computer.
Mr. Barone has taken an interest in birds. He says that he likes to bring a pair of binoculars with him on hikes to watch the birds. He also likes to garden and make things out of wood; sometimes they have a function, while other times he just makes them for fun. He also loves using his knowledge in science to do things like baking and cooking. Mr. Barone says that he enjoys taking care of his chickens, two cats and dog.
Mr. Steltz enjoys doing anything with his kids, including coaching sports teams.
Ms. Wright likes to cook and try new recipes, garden mostly flowers and some vegetables, do yoga every day, and hike. She enjoys riding tricycles and has sworn off bicycles after an incident in New York City during her 20s when she was hit by a cab while riding her bike and landed on her teeth.
Mr. Lyon likes to take photos of the little landscape between the highways on I-84. He takes a lot of exposure shots that take from 30 to 60 minutes to take. He and his wife also like to buy vintage furniture and objects.
Mr. Sansone plays guitar in a band. He is passionate about bicycle riding and has gone on two cross-country tours. He also likes riding his motorcycle and walking.
Ms. Mullins loves anything to do with the outdoors. This includes playing outside with her kids, going on walks on the rail trail, going to the beach, or hiking. She also enjoys reading and cleaning. She expresses how great cleaning makes her feel.
Mr. Dwyer claims to be just your average person who likes to spend his free time reading, watching sports and rooting for the Yankees.
Ms. Driscoll enjoys reading and writing poetry. She also likes to hike, walk, exercise and pick up trash from the side of the road. She says that she’s “the personal caretaker” of her road.
Banned Book Changes Lives
By Kayla Selander
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), on average there are 463,634 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the U.S. alone. Sexual assault is the most unreported violent crime because people are afraid to speak up. This is rooted in a long history of victim-blaming and victim-shaming.
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, is a compelling novel that conveys an empowering message about the incredible amount of courage it takes to find one’s voice after being victimized. For this reason, it is important that Speak is read, taught and thoroughly digested by young people.
Speak teaches young adults the importance of strength in character and how traumatic events can affect everything, from how people act to how they think. Speak addresses sexual assault in an unflinching manner; the author does not use euphemisms to skirt the seriousness of rape or its effect on the victim.
For this reason, Speak is now a commonly banned book. At the novel’s beginning, the main character, Melinda Sordino, has almost entirely run out of strength: physically, mentally and verbally. As the story progresses, we see that Melinda has lost all of her friends after calling the cops at a party where she was raped by a boy name Andy Evans.
She struggles with speaking up about her immense pain throughout the novel. As a result of this pain, her perspective is jaded. It is only when she digs deep into herself that she finds the strength to speak and heal.
While Melinda was lucky enough to find her voice again and begin to heal from her trauma, many others may not recover from such pain if we continue to ignore it. However, not all people think this way. An associate professor of management at Missouri State named Wesley Scroggins claims that Speak is “soft pornography.” But rape is not a sexual act; it is an act of violence. The fact that Scroggins sees it as anything else is very disturbing and frightening.
Ms. Hamburger, a Beacon High School English teacher, has been teaching for 18 years and agrees that Speak should not be banned: “Speak has been beneficial in many ways. Not only is it important for students to understand what date rape is, it is important for students to understand what it means to provide consent. It is not solely providing someone with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,’ but there is more to giving consent. For example, factors can include age and the state of mind of an individual.
“Speak also shows the impact that not facing your problems can have. These are just a few topics we discuss and these discussions can change someone’s life. I have seen it in my own classroom.”
Ms. Driscoll, who has been teaching for 14 years, says Speak is a book she would “personally ‘go to the mat’ for. Speak impacts all of my students, to one degree or another, because it opens up dialogue in an authentic manner. It facilitates exceptionally meaningful classroom conversations that might otherwise be difficult to broach. I feel strongly that Speak has an important place in our curriculum.”
Ms. Hansen has been teaching English for nine years. “I have had students in the past who have experienced trauma and have found their voice because of Melinda’s strength and ability to speak her truth,” she says.
Faces of Perseverance
By Annabelle Notarthomas and Sophia Campagiorni
Many of the students and staff members here at Beacon High School overcome great challenges on a daily basis. The following staff members agreed to share the inspiring stories of how they overcome these challenges every day.
BHS health teacher Diane Tanzi was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, in her adult years. Mrs. Tanzi overcomes ADHD by finding support from friends and family, identifying coping mechanisms that work for her, and keeping a daily routine.
BHS Principal Corey Dwyer has worn hearing aids from a young age. His disability creates barriers whenever he may not be able to read people’s lips to understand what they are saying. Mr. Dwyer overcomes this challenge by advocating for himself when his disability needs to be properly addressed.
Mr. Dwyer believes that his disability makes him a good fit for his job because he may better understand student struggles and frustrations from experience.
BHS social worker Veronica Acevedo was diagnosed with tall cell papillary thyroid cancer five years ago and continues to fight its effects. Papillary thyroid cancer is an aggressive, rare, but curable cancer. Ms. Acevedo explained how facing mortality comes with a deep sense of gratitude for things you may overlook in everyday life. She overcame the mental struggles of cancer by joining a mindfulness group as well as attending therapy regularly. She advocates focusing on the positives and practicing gratitude regularly.
Frank Haughie, a Beacon teacher of 22 years, has a condition known as Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) that affects the central nervous system and can also affect the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. In Mr. Haughie’s case, he goes through extreme periods of pain due to his multiple sclerosis (MS) flare-ups, which is then followed by recovery.
“Some days are harder than others,” Mr. Haughie says. His diagnosis came in 2010, when he went to the doctor with a slipped disk, and was informed after an MRI that it could be MS. Symptoms can include fatigue, poor eyesight, numb limbs, slow walking, and changing symptoms day by day depending on sleep and temperature. Multiple sclerosis is degenerative and will progress as he gets older.
Despite his challenges, Mr. Haughie plans to work as long as he can. He says that since his diagnosis, his views on others have changed as you never know what someone else is going through. He says he has maintained a positive attitude, worrying less about the small things and reminding himself that life is a gift.
School Inclusion for Muslim Holidays
By Nadeen Ahmed
Imagine it’s Christmas Day, and you wake up full of joy and excitement to continue the traditions that have been in your family for what seems like forever: To open presents in your cozy pajamas, spend the day with the family you haven’t seen in months or years, and to dine on the most delicious feast that you have been longing for since last Christmas.
Stop imagining. Muslims don’t get the luxury — scratch that — we don’t get the right to honor our holidays’ true intentions. Days that should be spent celebrating are instead being spent at school.
During the holidays of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, students are still expected to attend school. During Ramadan, Muslims don’t eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset with a few exceptions to break their fast; this holiday lasts a month. Eid al-Fitr is a day Muslims spend celebrating the end of the hard month of Ramadan; celebrating our devotion and perseverance through the hardships. Finally, Eid al-Adha is a day commemorating the willingness of our prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as an act of obedience to God’s command. None of these holidays are being given their rightful days off to be truly celebrated and honored in our school district.
Muslims already have to deal with their religion not being respected. People think our beliefs are fatuous and too often get called oppressed when that simply isn’t true. We realize we cannot change everyone’s opinions, but not even being recognized, that is our breaking point. Students in the Beacon City School District have gone back and forth with the superintendent and the president of the school board, but have made no progress in getting them to consider having the rightful days off for these significant Muslim holidays.
Sarahlynn Jaafar, a student at Beacon High School, has been in an ongoing discourse with the Board of Education for over two years, and has gotten many dismissive replies. One of the emails was responded to with, “We can make sure that students that celebrate this holiday have an excused day off.” Offering us an excused day off will cause more harm than it will benefit us. The day will be filled with stress about the work that we will have to make up as well as any final, regents, or AP exam review we might be missing, or even the test itself.
These holidays have been during that time of year for many years now. Another response read, “Our first read of our calendar was approved at the last meeting.” The calendar had not had its final approval, so why can’t it be considered? This is not a valid excuse for not taking our holidays into account since they’ve had constant reminders about it. They also replied with, “Eid al-Fitr is on a Saturday and Eid al-Adha is after school is out for the summer so I am not sure these holidays impact our calendar directly this year.”
It was said that for the 2022-23 school year, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha do not fall on school days. Not only is that not true, but it would only be justifiable for that one year. While Eid al-Adha is on a day during summer break, Eid al-Fitr does lie on a Friday. In recent years Eid al-Adha hasn’t been during the school year, but in upcoming years it will be.
They use these as reasons but in reality these are excuses. Muslim students in our schools have no other choice but to dread these days. Our school district has done nothing to recognize the importance of Muslim holidays. We understand that making a school calendar does happen after a lot of planning to meet the “necessary parameters,” but these days should be considered one of them.
When these days come we expect to be at home, not worrying about the schoolwork or test preparations we’ll be missing. It’s disappointing that while our district claims to be open-minded and all-inclusive, the people in charge are having so much trouble just trying to put two of the most important Muslim holidays on the calendar. We are hoping when developing the 2023-24 calendar, these holidays will be considered.