“It has to get better. The way we treat each other, and, look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.” -Clay Jenson, 13 Reasons Why protagonist.
On March 31st, 2017, the show “13 Reasons Why,” a new Netflix series based on the best-selling book of the same name by Jay Asher, premiered on Netflix. Both the series and novel convey the raw emotion that comes along with suicide, specifically teen suicide. The creators of “13 Reasons Why" hope to show viewers what suicide, rumors, and bullying, can do to an individual’s life and those around them. “13 Reasons Why” follows the story of teenager Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford, who leaves behind seven double-sided cassette tapes before committing suicide. Initially, Hannah’s high school peers seem normal, typical, fitting into general stereotypes that exist in high schools across the nation. However, once one rumor leaks out about Hannah, a snowball effect is created. Her peers were for the most part unaware as to how these unfortunate events would be detrimental to her life.
The shows’ creators sometimes pull from personal experience to portray their message; writer Nic Sheff, for instance, is no stranger to self-harm. A longtime crystal-meth user and the subject of his father’s best-selling memoir, Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction, Sheff himself once tried to take his own life. He brought that experience to his role as writer of Episode 6 of 13 Reasons Why, and to the op-ed below, in which Sheff shares why the series thought it was vital to show Hannah Baker’s entire journey—even its very upsetting end.
“When it comes to suicide, I believe the message should be exactly the same. Facing these issues head-on—talking about them, being open about them—will always be our best defense against losing another life. I’m proud to be a part of a television series that is forcing us to have these conversations, because silence really does equal death. We need to keep talking, keep sharing, and keep showing the realities of what teens in our society are dealing with every day. To do anything else would be not only irresponsible, but dangerous,” said Sheff.
Public assumptions based on the shows’ source as well as the involvement of pop singer Selena Gomez surprised critics as they discovered the depth of the series, which deals unflinchingly with sexual assault and teenage suicide. However, some viewers and mental health organizations have started to question whether “13 Reasons Why” glamorizes suicide—and if the series went too far in depicting the traumatic act on-screen.
The shows’ power and controversy reached Nantucket recently, when Nantucket High School principal Dr. Buckey sent out an email to the parents of students at NHS in order to direct awareness to parents whose students may have watched or are watching the show. The email suggested that parents discuss the show with their kids regarding the sensitive topics that are addressed in each episode.
He stated in the email, “I think it raises awareness of the high school experience for some students and encourages us all to be aware of the mental health challenges that face our society at large.”
Many critics across America, including psychologists and some who have struggled with depression, have claimed that the show mistakenly portrays suicide as a way to gain control and sends the wrong message that every life can be saved with kindness rather than with professional help.
“13 Reasons Why” has also drawn comments from high school students themselves; 18 year old Jaclyn Grimm remarked in an article against the series, “being kind isn’t a bad message, but in the context of the show it becomes complicated.”
Although many feel that the show inappropriately glamorizes suicide, others feel that the show effectively gains awareness and fosters accountability in the minds of viewers. As Dr. Buckey added, “I think the show has the potential to engage families in some conversations that can be difficult. I do believe it is creating awareness.”
The overall point of “13 Reasons Why” was intended to study how we treat one another, with special focus on the negative aspects of human behavior portrayed most strongly during adolescence. It analyzes the “small” aggressions people commit which in turn cause unthinkable pain to others, as well as the larger ones that become increasingly more painful when we are told we must “move on” from them.
The show is also a resolute, realistic perspective on challenging topics including sexual assault, depression and suicide. Controversy or not, the show has started conversations about these harder-to-hear topics everywhere. However, as it has been suggested by many psychologists, be cautious before watching this series.
For some, the overwhelming desire to succeed is what drives them. These are the few and select individuals who want to go that extra mile, who push to reach academic excellence, and who inspire others to do the same.
On Friday, April 27, ten senior exemplars of all these traits crowded into a room filled with adrenaline for their chance to win the 12th Annual Nantucket Golf Club Scholarship. The scholarship not only boasts a free four-year tuition to the school of the student’s choice, but also includes a plethora of high-end gifts for all ten finalists, including brand new Apple watches, Beats headphones, and a cashmere blanket. But just getting into this small, crowded room requires a significant amount of backtrack.
Each of the scholars had been working exceptionally hard and strategizing for years to get to where they stand today. It is fair to say that both Evan Borzilleri and Sophie Kuhl, the winners of the 2017 scholarship, have long-since been training for this moment. As Kuhl puts it, she’s always “been trying to work really hard in school, and just be involved in this community because it’s such a special place.”
Borzilleri also came off with a very modest disposition. He confessed that he has had no strategy in winning the scholarship, but simply following his own life choices has brought around his own success. When asked what advice he’d give to present and future Nantucket High School Students, he took a step back and responded carefully by explaining how if you find something you love you should “stick with it… my main thing was, ‘here’s this thing I really love, I’m going to just keep doing this, and hope that reflects in what I do.’”
Part of the selection process included two dinners with the Scholar Review Committee as well as group and individual interviews. After the ten finalists were narrowed down the process became a lot more “intimate”, as finalist Kristy Ringer puts it. The ten finalists were then subjected to even more interviews, group discussions, as well as a community panel.
The eight other contestants and finalists should not be undermined by any means, however. All of the finalists have achieved outstanding grades, on top of participating in a number of extra-curricular activities and sports. The eight other finalists include Fernando Young, Kristiana Ringer, Matthew Allen, K’sha Bloise, Isabel Beal, Kathleen Tornovish, Daniel Surprenant, and Lianna Harrington. Ringer reflects on the whole journey in a positive light, and inspires others to follow in the footsteps of her and her peers, by describing the process as “amazing.” Ringer added that she “learned so much about myself, and the people I go to school with, as well as the people that work in the school.”
Kuhl and Borzilleri did not make it alone, either. Borzilleri, planning to attend the University of California at Berkeley, where he will major in mechanical engineering, has one special person he’d like to thank: “He [Dr. Williams] is arguably the reason I am where I am right now and going the places I’m going, because of him.”
Kuhl, who will be attending Brown University, also insisted on thanking her parents and the opportunities that led her here, including tutoring elementary school students and participating in programs at the library. The whole scholarship would not be possible, however, without the generous donations and fundraising on part of the Annual Nantucket Golf Club Tournament. Tom Bressette, director of the Nantucket Golf Club for the eleventh year, also acknowledged and thanked the Scholar Review Committee, the Nantucket High School Board of Directors, staff, and personal contributors to the event.
Next April, the Nantucket High School Spanish Club and students enrolled in any Advanced Placement science class will have the opportunity to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
The trip to South America will replace the trip to Spain, where the Spanish Club has traveled nine times. The change occurred for a number of reasons, first being that Spanish Club advisor Jill Surprenaut, who has run the Spain trip all nine years, had opted to take a year off from organizing the trip. Secondly, the membership increase in the Spanish Club has made it more difficult for everyone to enjoy some of the most authentic hands-on activities of the trip. Although only 24 kids traveled to Spain this year, and about 40 students initially signed up.
“We couldn’t possibly have run the program with that many kids,” said Surprenaut. “Forty students would turn it into a bus tour and it's a very hands-on trip.”
Among the hands-on activities that students were able to participate in this year in Spain were “an eight-day cultural treasure hunt, a rare invite to see a local Casteller group actually allowed us to attend a rehearsal of their multi-generational human tower building (in which two students, juniors Brandon Menjivar and Ramon Partida, were invited to participate), and we were able to watch an archery practice in the grassy moat area of Montjuic Castle on our last day,” said Surprenaut. Because the school’s connection with Spain is so unique, Surprenaut said it is possible that they may return there at some point in the future. But, she added, “we are exploring new possibilities and looking towards the new world instead of the old.”
NHS Spanish teacher and the Coordinator of the Ecuador and Galapagos Islands trip, Kate Hickson, articulated that “it was never the intention of the club to only travel to Spain. It has been Barcelona for years. Senora Surprenaut took sabbatical and I spent a year abroad there so we both know the area well. Since Senora Surprenaut needed a break from Spain, I was in the process of researching different countries to visit. For me it came down to Peru and Colombia. When Mrs. MacDonald told me she was taking the AP Biology kids to Ecuador, I continued talking to her and we eventually decided to combine trips.”
The second reason for combining trips is a legalities one. School rules require one administrator per every six students on a trip, and since “Latin Club is planning a trip to Italy and Chinese Club is planning a trip to China, if we each had our own trip, it would require over four school administrators to leave school in the same week and that was too many,” said Hickson. When MacDonald began organizing the trip, she planned on taking only AP Biology students. However, when she talked to the AP Chemistry students about the trip, “they were interested and the travel company said 20-30 students was ideal, and that’s why I decided to open up the trip to all students in AP Science.”
Currently 22 students have already paid their deposits and are signed up for the trip.
“We had an information session on May 2, and we had quite a turnout,” said Hickson. “We’re going to have to cap it at 34 kids [plus six chaperones and a tour guide]. First come first serve.” MacDonald noted that of the 35 parents that came to the meeting, “most were wondering if we could take them on the trip.”
For MacDonald, a trip to the Galapagos Islands has been a dream in the works for a while.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the Galapagos,” she said. “We cover the topic of evolution in Honors and AP Biology classes, and I thought we should plan a trip. It would cement together everything we’ve learned about to be able to see it all first hand.”
Although the planning of the trip is still in the works, some of the hands on activities the students will participate in on the islands include, “visiting the Tortoise Breeding Center and Darwin Research Center, taking an excursion to a Pink Flamingo habitat, Snorkeling where you will see penguins, sea lions, flamingos and iguanas, and taking a Volcano Walk.”
The students will be staying in small eco-tourism hotels while on the Galapagos Islands. Before heading to the Islands, the students will spend the first two days of the weeklong trip in the Ecuadorian Capital of Quito where they will be learning about the different culture and visiting famous historical sites like Government Square and Independence Plaza.
The interdisciplinary aspect of this trip is a large part of what made it so appealing to the coordinators.
“It shouldn’t be just museums and cathedrals,” said Hickson. “It’s cross disciplinary. We will have a bilingual tour operator. Spanish Club can do it in Espanol.”
The students will be traveling with a tour company called EF Educational Tours. MacDonald explained that she chose EF Tours because “we get to travel to three different islands, Isabela, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal all in seven days.”
The tour price listed for the trip includes airfare as well as breakfast and dinner daily. Although students interested in going on the trip must pay the deposit out of pocket, the students plan to fundraise over the summer to cut down on the costs.
The school community has been very responsive to the Galapagos Island trip. It has generated excitement amongst students and Hickson said “we have received no pushback from administration about the new trip. They are very supportive.”
For MacDonald, the trip is a long-wished dream come true, which she summarized, saying, “I would hope we can do this every other year. The Galapagos Islands are history in the making in effect. If there’s interest, I would like to do this again.”
With summer well on its way, many students are configuring their schedules to ensure they have just the right balance of work, sleep, beachtime - and of course, time for their summer reading. For many NHS students, summer theater is also thrown into the mix. We are fortunate to live on an island with a wonderful theater community, one that presents young people with great opportunities. Summer theater on Nantucket has always been popular with visitors and residents alike, and this summer season will not disappoint. The island’s companies, including the Dreamland, Theatre Workshop of Nantucket (TWN), White Heron Theatre Company, and On The Isle, all have great programs lined up for this summer, and all have either cast or are in the process of casting students.
This summer, TWN is performing Barefoot in the Park, Fully Committed, Mamma Mia!, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? For younger players, Laura Gallagher Byrne, director of education (see article on page 7) is directing Goosebumps. On The Isle, a small but mighty theater company in Sconset, will perform the musical HAIR. And White Heron, the island’s newest company, will perform Seawife, Outsider Mulligan, and Romeo and Juliet. White Heron will also host several student workshops. Students who participate will work with professionals from New York City to strengthen skills and learn the essentials of nearly every aspect of theater - from costuming and set design, to dialect and musical direction.
Sophomore Jackie McGrath has participated in theater on Nantucket for several years and acknowledged the many opportunities during the summer. “I have done a ton of shows,” she said, noting Honk, Peter Pan, Dear Edwina, Alice in Wonderland, Oliver!, Once on this Island, The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, A Christmas Carol, Seussical, and Cinderella. “The Dreamland was more for fun and getting the chance to play a role despite your age and TWN focused more on being able to work with adults onstage.” This summer, McGrath will play the role of Jeannie in the musical HAIR, which will be her first production with On the Isle. She will also be participating in White Heron’s Theater & Dance Workshops.
McGrath spoke about the people she’s met through theater, adding that “many ...have taught [her] and influenced [her] choices as an actor. Each new person you meet through theater has a story and something to share with you that will stick with you forever. You make friends with adults that you would have never known if it weren't for theater. Every summer I find a way to get out there and help keep theater going on the island whether it's on or off stage. Once I outgrew the Dreamland’s [junior company], I joined their senior company and continue to help backstage with the junior company.”
In conclusion, McGrath said, “if you love either singing, acting, or dancing, then of course you should take part in theater. There are so many different chances to be in theater. You can try out - so why not try something new?”
Nantucket High School sophomores took the mathematics section of MCAS on May 16th and 17th.
Public schools throughout the Commonwealth use the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) as a way to test knowledge of core subjects: the purpose of the assessment is to “determine the progress individual students have made in acquiring the knowledge and skills as outlined in the Massachusetts Curriculum.” The system requires that students in set grades participate in the testing process. MCAS is used to test aptitude in English and Language Arts, Reading, Writing, Mathematics, and Science.
The Mathematics section of the MCAS includes two test sessions which are administered on consecutive days. Each test session consists of multiple-choice and open-response questions. Section 1 prohibits the use of calculators as it includes additional short-answer problems. Students were permitted to use their calculators for Section 2.
“The second part of the test was easier for me,” said sophomore Martha Saravia. “It was easier - not because we had calculators on hand - but the questions were more comprehensive.”
Saravia prepared for the test by reviewing her notes, going through her worksheets, and asking her teacher for help when she got stuck on a problem. “I was kind of nervous, even though I was well-prepared, as I had never taken a Math MCAS before and you never know what is going to be on the test,” she said. “However, I felt confident when I looked at the questions.”
NHS teachers covered many topics in preparation for the exam. Math teachers primarily followed the Common Core, exploring topics including polynomials, functions, linear equations, quadratic equations, geometry, data and probability.
The Mathematics MCAS tests students’ broad knowledge, covering not only what they have learned during sophomore year, but what they have been taught in prior years. “The MCAS is comprehensive, it goes back to 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade,” said math teacher Ms. Elissa Gilgen. “So, teachers reinforced skills that students learned in previous years to get ready for MCAS.”
Most students felt confident about the MCAS. “We, as teachers, talked and collaborated to make sure that students were confident and not nervous so they would walk in feeling ready,” said Gilgen.”And the students worked hard all year long.”
Results from recent years show that scores in Mathematics have been relatively constant for NHS students. According to the Massachusetts Department of Education:
In 2012: 55 students got advanced, 30 students got proficient, 6 students got needs improvement, and 9 students got warning/failing.
In 2013, 52 students got advanced, 31 students got proficient, 14 students got needs improvement, and 4 students got warning/failing.
In 2014, 41 students got advanced, 30 students got proficient, 18 students got needs improvement and 11 students got warning/failing.
In 2015, 40 students got advanced, 31 students got proficient, 16 students got needs improvement, 14 students got warning/failing.
In 2016, 39 students got advanced, 30 students got proficient, 20 students got needs improvement, and 11 students got warning/failing.
editor in chief
It’s that time of year again...when all Advanced Placement students sit down for the exams they’ve been preparing for all year. Nantucket High School offers a number of AP classes: AP Language and Composition, AP Literature, AP U.S. History, AP Calculus, AP Statistics, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Environmental, AP Spanish, AP Capstone Seminar and Research, and AP Studio Art.
Peter Panchy, who has been teaching AP U.S. History for 16 years, spoke to the difficulty of the test.
“The [AP US History] test is about thinking,” stressed Panchy. “It’s about both reading texts and other facts to gather content about U.S. History, but the test is very, very challenging and what it asks you to do is analyze and make connections.”
Mr. Panchy said he prepared his students “through discussion and essay prompts, as well as reading primary source documents.”
He also noted that each class seems to struggle with a different section of the exam - whether it be the multiple choice or the themes, for instance. This year, he found that many of his students struggled to master thesis construction and brainstorming.
“I found it especially challenging because I thought the class wasn’t picking up the process as fast as in previous years,” said Mr. Panchy. “so we kind of slowed down and did fewer writing of essays and more developing of thesis and facts to support the essay.”
Mr. Panchy emphasized that all AP classes are difficult, but he finds AP U.S. History to be especially hard, as one must master eight different time periods, seven different themes as well as have a handle on time management.
“I have a terrible bias because I teach U.S. History but I think it’s the most difficult exam,” he said. “[Students] have to master, in great detail, two years of content and, then, using designated historical skills such as compare and contrast, and causation, also employ eight emphasized themes….[all] while still maintaining very precise control over facts. I think it’s exceptionally daunting.”
Dr. Jed Williams, who has been teaching calculus for two years now, spoke to the fact that AP exams are college level courses, and can be extremely difficult under such time constraints.
“It [AP Calculus] is broken down into basically three units,” said Dr. Williams. “limits, derivatives, integrals and differential equations. But that’s three semesters of college calculus, so it’s a huge amount of mathematics to fit into less than one year.”
Dr. Williams put it simply: “it’s too much in too little time.”
However, the way Dr. Williams has structured the class allows for good review time, as they spend the first part of the year learning the calculus material, and then the second portion of the year is dedicated to “practicing in the context of the exam.” This essentially means answering questions from old exams as well as becoming familiar with what graders may expect from your answers. Luckily, the test has remained essentially the same and is relatively consistent throughout the years.
“The core of the material has stayed the same for decades,” said Dr. Williams. “Calculus, like many other subjects, isn’t really going to evolve. And I’m hesitant to say that because I always try to avoid giving the impression that mathematics is ‘solved already’ because mathematics is actually growing at a faster rate than it ever has before, there are new theorems and discoveries in mathematics all the time. However calculus, as we learn it in AP Calculus, is as developed as it’ll ever be.”
Despite the lack of time, many students performed very well on the mock exam, and Dr. Williams is confident the class performed well on the actual exam.
The science teachers are also confident that students performed well. Mr. Patrick Gregorich, who has been teaching AP Chemistry for two years, was grateful for the week of review time they had after covering the mass of content over the year.
“We had a solid week of review prior to the exam,” he said. “That week included going over previous years’ exams as well as a year-in-review powerpoint presentation on a Saturday that was put together by at least six other AP teachers across the state. And I think that proved to be very helpful.”
The four hour review period took place on a Saturday in late April, and many students felt it was extremely beneficial, as the sheer amount of content covered was overwhelming.
“Of course, coming in on a Saturday is a pain, but I was glad we did it,” said junior AP Chemistry student Natalie Gammons. “There was so much content that it would have been impossible to study by myself. Having Mr. Gregorich there to answer questions was very helpful.”
As to whether or not the students were adequately prepared for the rigorous exam, Gregorich said, “I think they were prepared, but I always think they could have been better prepared. AP Chemistry is equivalent to a year's worth of general chemistry in college, so students essentially just took two full semesters of lecture and two full semesters of lab in just under a year’s time. It’s a lot of content to master in such a short period of time.”
Though many teachers agreed that the tests were certainly tiring, NHS teachers are confident and hopeful for success. Next year even more AP classes will be added to the curriculum, including AP Physics and AP Computer Science Principles.