Hoofprints » The Interviews

The Interviews

Journalism students recently went out and interviewed interesting people in their lives. You'll find those interviews here.

I’ve always been proud to be Dominican. Dominican Republic is a country rich in culture, such as the food, dancing, and more. I’m grateful that so much of that culture has been brought to the United States. It couldn’t have been done without the brave journeys of immigrants like my mom. Modesta Bozzi’s story is not the usual story of an immigrant, but it is an important part to who I am. modesta bozzi

Modesta grew up in the capital of Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo. It was, “A city filled with family and friends. Everyone knew everyone”, she describes.  She lived in a small house with four siblings and didn't have much money, but still found joy in writing. However, her childhood became very difficult when her father began abusing her mother. Modesta used her struggles to empower her; she knew she would escape one day by being successful. 

Through her struggles, Modesta found comfort in writing. It’s something that always came easily to her. “I was very quiet and shy, so writing was my tool for communication,” responded Modesta when asked why she loved writing. Nobody wanted her to be a journalist. During that time, Modesta expresses, “People were killed for being journalists. It was seen as an act against the government. My best friend was killed for being a journalist. However, she was inspired by her father’s cousin, Juan Bosch, who was a Dominican politician, historian, writer, essayist, educator, and the first democratically elected president of the Dominican Republic for a brief time in 1963. Also, he created the Dominican Revolutionary Party, which is a traditionally a left-of-centre party and social democratic in nature. She never got to meet him, but before anything, he was a journalist, and she wanted to be just like him. She pushed through the danger, and at the age of twenty, she began working for Listín Diario, which is one of the leading newspapers in the Dominican Republic, and the oldest still being published.  

After years of success, Modesta was offered to write for an extension of Listín Diario in New York. In 1990, she signed her two-year contract, and was off to the U.S. She wrote about news in Dominican Republic for a section of the paper designated to Dominicans living in the U.S. During those years, she was one of twenty-five journalists from around the world asked to write for a project called Punto, which was run by the Warner Brothers. It was a magazine for people living in the U.S. that only spoke Spanish. She was head coordinator and got the opportunity to interview people like Rual Julia, who played Gomez Addams in the 1991 version of The Addams Family. She remembers him being, “kind and passionate, and it was sad to hear he passed away a few months after our interview.” 

Before she came to the U.S., Modesta expected everyone to act, “better than her, which is true, but the people were a lot less entitled than I thought.”  She explains the biggest difference to be how, “if you work hard in this country, you succeed, but you can work hard in Dominican Republic and get nowhere.” It was especially true in New York City. 

Once her contract expired, Modesta was ready to go back home until she received a message from her brother, Daniel. Daniel had been stationed in Alaska as a part of the U.S. Army. After winning an award, he was given the ability to request anything he wanted from the U.S. Government, so he asked them to bring his mother, America, to the U.S. Daniel knew bringing his mother to the U.S. would start a chain reaction in his family so that more people would come. In order to give America a place to stay, Daniel asked Modesta to stay in New York and take care of her. Since Modesta loved being in the U.S., she didn’t mind staying. She would’ve come sooner, but she stated, “My family wasn’t allowed to immigrate because of the high status of certain family members on my father’s side, but he died a few months before my contract expired. 

Modesta was broke and out of work, so she reached out to her friend, Nina, who recently left Dominican Republic to live in Atlantic City. Nina told her about all the work available in Atlantic City, so Modesta let her mother, America, stay in her New York apartment, while she found work in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Modesta illustrates Atlantic City back then as, “full of life, but not as much as New York City.” At first, she worked at Sands Casino as a cleaner then eventually became a hostess. She worked at the casinos for six years, and during all of it she started taking classes at ACCC and Stockton University. She learned English and began studying to be a teacher. 

Eventually, Modesta began working as a substitute teacher in Pleasantville. They asked her to work there as a Spanish teacher full time, but she would need to get her citizenship. Her process was a lot easier because she married a U.S. citizen, which helped her get her papers easily, but it was still a long process. It took a lot of time, money, and hard work. Modesta feels, “In the U.S., in order to be respected as a professional or human being as an immigrant, you need to be a citizen.” In 1997, she was able to get her citizenship. 

Since then, Modesta has been teaching all around Atlantic County. She currently teaches at Sovereign Avenue in Atlantic City and enjoys it, but still loves writing. She would’ve continued journalism in the U.S., but she learned quickly that, “The U.S. has a rank system. If you have an accent, you’re not going to make as much money as someone who doesn’t.” Regardless, Modesta is happy to be in the U.S. She never expected to immigrate, but she’s glad she did. Each immigrant's journey is different, but each journey is brave. 

As a senior at Mainland Regional, I’ve had my ups and downs in the mental health department all throughout high school, and even before then. With some losses that left me at rock bottom and some wins that have made me fly to Mars and back, I can assure you that mental health is a continuous struggle for many people, including me, who challenges and battles with the topic on the daily. Mental health can be affected in multiple ways like the people you surround yourself with and the environment you're in, but today I will specifically be talking about how mental health and the feeling of stress in school and how it’s affecting those in our very own Corral. 

To comment on their opinions and some of my questions on this topic, I’ve spoken to two seniors, April Walsh and Giovana Tornetta. Both students have different views on mental health and stress scenes, which I felt like could help other students see the different effects of the topic. 

One of the first questions I asked all the people I interviewed was how they were feeling mentally in general. I wanted to get to know people on a deeper level, as mental health and the feeling of stress is not an easy topic for some people. One response I got was from Gia, which was how she’s been feeling great now that she is back in school and surrounded by good teachers and great friends and not cooped up in her room for half of the day. On the other side of the spectrum, April commented on how she just hasn’t been feeling mentally good for a while, not just because of school. She then brought herself up in the summer, saying her mental health was a bit better than it was before, but in general, it just hasn’t been the best. cartoon brain with a stethascope

Following the responses, I then asked both April and Gia how they were feeling mentally now that we were back in-person and if there were any stressors in their lives. For me personally, I’m in the middle of liking being around people but hating social interaction in school and being petrified of what the future holds. April agrees, replying with “I’m way more anxious being in school. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t have an anxiety attack in class. This year especially, being a senior, I’m incredibly anxious about my future which causes me to be in a depressive episode constant.” I then questioned what some of the anxiety-causers were to her. “Adding on, I’ve definitely been more stressed this year than ever. I have more schoolwork and I’m still trying to figure out colleges and jobs.  

On the topic of stress and stressors, I asked a question about the stress levels in school and their opinions on them. Gia replied, saying she hadn’t seen anything psychical like the bouncing of people’s legs or anything like that, rather she’d just heard about it. April commented about how she felt that they were way too high and that they shouldn’t be as high as they are. I then asked Gia if she had ever skipped a class or school because of her stress levels and her mental health, which she replied with “I do sometimes take time off of school and classes because having mental health days are important, but you can’t just use your mental health as an excuse to not being held accountable for your academic responsibilities.” 

Wondering about the topic of school stress for April as she’s felt as if she was struggling with schoolwork, I asked her if she was learning the material being taught or just trying to pass, as that’s a topic I’ve heard that’s what some students were feeling. “A bit of both,” April responded. “For example, I took environmental science because it’s become an interesting thing for me. Despite this, the class is just about focusing on passing the AP exam. I wish I was learning but the pressure on the work and the test takes the joy out of it.” 

One of the last questions I asked was about Mainland, and the school system. I asked if they felt if Mainland was doing a good job with helping those with mental health issues and if they were offering those who needed help, help. “Mainland, from my perspective, is doing the best with the circumstances and resources provided. Obviously, there’s room for improvement, but now I feel as if we are at a good standstill. Gia replied, while April replied with “I think they are, but I don’t feel as if many students are reaching out. I’ve recently started talking with the Wellness Team and I feel like this could be helpful for those who are struggling.  

cartoon image depicting mental illnessAs a final question, I then asked the two if they were to change one thing about the system, not just Mainland, to benefit the students and reduce the negative mental health levels as well as stress, what would they change and choose. “You can’t change everything about the system, as everyone is different and has different needs, but if I could change one thing it would be for teachers to understand about mental health and just how severe it affects people.” April agreed with Gia’s response, but then also added on. “More understanding teachers that care about mental health,” April responded. “I feel like that would help alter the system just a bit.” 

Concluding the interview, I thanked both for their time and hoped that the stress they were under would soon pass. I hope by the end of this article I’ve done my best to shed some light on this topic and you learn about the effects of stress and mental health, as this is an ongoing topic of discussion. 

Here at Mainland, our education is built around preparing students to take the next leap to a greater education. For some of us, that transition is closer than it seems. As a freshman or sophomore, you don’t have too much to worry about as you’re still going through the motions and don’t feel the pressure to make those big decisions just yet. But once junior year hits, this process is put into full effect: SAT’s, picking a major, campus visits, applications, scholarships. These are all things most upperclassmen have to worry about before even getting accepted to a college. Because of all this extra stress put on getting in, nobody thinks what you have to do when you actually get there?  
Tara Brown
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Mainland alum Tara Brown, a 2021 graduate who now studies at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. When asked about how her college experience has been so far, she had this to say: “It’s been great so far. I’ve made some really amazing friends and have learned so much in all of my classes. My school is small, so I’ve been able to make strong relationships with my professors.” As a freshman in college, it can be hard to adjust from the two different levels of academics. Tara says that the differences are very clear, and at first it can be difficult to adapt. “One thing that sets college apart from high school is that you have so much more free time, so it’s important to manage your days productively. When you’re away from home that aspect can be difficult, but after doing it for some time I actually like it better. I find myself to be more engaged in my work since I’m in a different environment. When asked what some of the more exciting or fun parts of the high school to college transition were, Tara talked about getting involved in activities on campus. Extracurriculars have always been a part of Tara’s school experience, as she was a part of eight different sports or clubs here at Mainland, with Girls’ Soccer, Ambassador’s Club, National Honor Society, and Spanish Club as some of the highlights. Now at Gettysburg, she’s heavily involved in a leadership program, tutors children at a local elementary school, and starting this spring, will be playing for the Gettysburg girls’ soccer team.

The college workload is quite the pileup for young students trying to make it through. Tara felt this reality herself when she first went away, as do most college freshman. “Adjusting to the workload was not easy at first, especially after a high school senior year of mostly online classes. It was stressful at first to figure out the best possible way for me to study well and fully understand the information. I had a biology professor tell me I should be studying for 30 hours a week for the class.” The most important part of taking these types of classes is to build good study habits. Tara attributes her quality grades to mostly patience and above all, taking notes. “It’s all a learning experience so go into it with an open mind. Be willing to put yourself out there and talk to people. Use all of your resources and try to get to know your professors.”  


When asked for a final statement, Tara explains what she wishes she knew before leaving for college. 


“When you become a college student, remember to budget your money. Try not to spend it all on coffee or food or at Target like I did. Remember to study the material you’re given as soon as possible and take advantage of the campus opportunities. They put a lot of money into these schools and programs for a reason.” Tara finished off by stating the three best tips she could give to incoming freshman are: Work on building your resume, communal bathrooms are a humbling experience, and most importantly have fun. 

On the night of July 12th, 2015, Tiffany Valiante left her cousin’s graduation party, tragically she never returned. Tiffany was a bright girl, full of personality. She was somebody who you would never expect to take her own life. But according to the Galloway Township police, she killed herself by jumping into the side of an unscheduled train. Paul D’Amato, this case’s head attorney, denies that she took her own life. “I believe that the law enforcements version of what did happen, did in fact not happen, says Paul D’Amato in my interview with him and his wife 

Tiffany ValianteD’Amato believes that she was taken or abducted by multiple people, possibly brought to an isolated place, beaten up, then thrown into the side of the New Jersey transit train. “There had to be several people involved in order to have physically handled her,” D’Amato stated. She was a strong, 6’3, 18-year-old athlete. Pieces of her clothes were scattered along the way. She was wearing no shoes when she left, and her phone was left laying on her front lawn. Her house was four miles away from the train track, which is where her body was found by the New Jersey transit police department.   

With this information, the police believe she walked 4 miles to an unscheduled train and jumped into the side of it to kill herself. However, Tiffany’s feet were nothing but clean when they inspected the body. No one can walk bare feet 4 miles and not get their feet dirty or cut up. Therefore, D’Amato believes she was taken into a vehicle, to the trail tracks, against her will. The scattered ripped clothing can show that her clothes were torn off by someone else and thrown outside the window of a vehicle about a mile up the road. And maybe [whoever killed her] didn’t know what to do with this broken body that they had done things with, half of her clothes weren't on her, and they took her to this Galloway placeand heard the train... her body was thrown into the side of the train,”, tells Sandi D’Amato who works with Paul D’Amato. If you're going to kill yourself, jumping into the side of the train won’t work as well as the front of a train. In addition, you would also have to plan it out, this train was unscheduled and not meant to be on the tracks. How could she have heard the train from 4 miles away and happen to get to the tracks in time to commit suicide? Tiffany couldn’t possibly have known that the train was running.  

D’Amato didn’t come into this case lightly, he interviewed family members, friends, her volleyball coach, and teammates of Tiffany. In not one interview did somebody come forward and say something was emotionally off with her. Her one cousin, who was a corrections officer in the New Jersey Police System, was trained to recognize depression in inmates and said she wasn’t sad at all. “It has been so many years since she passed, if it was suicide, don’t you think one, two, or three people would have known about it and would have come forward to law enforcement or to the family,”, said Paul D’Amato, “It hasn’t happened”. D’Amato believes that there are some people who have some knowledge about what transpired that night and are too afraid to come forward. And the information that they have could be the missing puzzle piece to this case.  incident map

Law enforcement officials and investigators never did a full-body autopsy. When they found her, they merely inspected the outside of her body. Now it is years too late for them to do one, but D’Amato says they should have done a rape kit on her. If she was raped, they could have someone to link her death to. Not only – they also lost a piece of evidence on the crime scene. An axe was found near the body the next morning of her death. It was sent to a lab to get DNA samples but somehow was lost by the New Jersey transit police. That axe could have also led investigators to a subject.  

Want to know more about what might have happened to Tiffany and see visuals of the crime scene? From June to December of 2022 an episode of Unsolved Mysteries will come out on Netflix about this case, including more interviews with Paul D’Amato.  



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For a typical American student you graduate from high school with the hopes of getting into the college of your choice, moving away from your parents, and starting your own life. Initially my mom, Kelly Day, graduated from high school and went to school at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, which is now called University of the Sciences. She had a love for science and studying the human body. But, due to life circumstances, she ended up having to leave there and came back to South Jersey. She attended Atlantic Community College for paralegal studies. Becoming a paralegal allowed her to start working and supporting herself quicker. She then went on to work as a litigation paralegal for about 12 years. 

In 2020, Kelly Day, ended up deciding to go back to college to achieve her goal of getting her bachelor's degree and to learn more about her favorite studies. Before making this decision she ran in half marathons and loved to cook which guided her into an interest in nutrition. She also became a certified Precision Nutrition coach working in athlete nutrition (before college). Kelly states, “I wanted to learn more and so I decided to go back to school and get my degree.” She ended up choosing Rowan because they have excellent programs and she can take classes online and also commute to campus easily.  

Luckily for Kelly, Rowan accepted a lot of her credits from when she attended school in Philadelphia and at ACCC, so she didn’t have to start over completely. Some challenges that Kelly states she faced was learning to use the new technology and the pandemic starting right after she went back to school. But, she was able to get used to the technology and balance a schedule with her family. Rowan University Logo


Some of her concerns with going back to school was managing her time because her family is her first priority and she didn’t want to miss out on anything with her kids or cause too much stress in the house. Kelly states, “I also feel a little uncomfortable sometimes because I am so much older than everyone else that I am in school with, sometimes even my professors, so that can feel a little awkward. But, I have actually made “friends” and feel very accepted in my classes.”  

With being a parent in school Kelly has to be very organized and tries to get the majority of her work done while the kids are in school. She also tries to spend a couple hours each day on her assignments and studies so that she doesn’t fall behind. Kelly states, “It isn’t always easy especially at the end of each semester, when there are final exams, and a lot more assignments, I am handling it a little better. When I feel stressed, I remind myself to take it one assignment at a time and not to think too much ahead.” Kelly loves to help young athletes improve their nutrition, so she liked being able to apply what she learned in school to help her family have better nutrition. She applied a lot of what she learned to help me, Sofia Day, during my cross country season and felt great to be able to do that.  

Social media like Instagram and Facebook, also had a big impact in Kelly’s courses. Kelly states, “Social media has become a huge part of the workforce, especially if you are looking to do work in nutrition in a private practice. It’s a great way to share ideas and market your services.” She enjoys posting about recipes and facts that can help families and athletes with nutrition. Kelly feels good when people use information in her posts to help their families. Her main goal is to share her knowledge and be able to help others improve their health or their performance in sports with better nutrition.  

Kelly says that her favorite class so far was a class called “Macronutrients”. It was a biochemistry based course that studied protein, carbohydrates, and fat and how they are digested and absorbed in the body. She states, “It was really challenging, but also very interesting.” Kelly also describes Rowan as a beautiful campus that is growing and improving each year. She also highly recommends any high school student at Mainland to consider Rowan when making their college selection. The professors are great and care a lot about their students' success.  

Kelly will graduate from Rowan in May 2023. She states how she’s not totally sure which direction she’ll go once school is done, but her main passion is working with high school level athletes on improving their nutrition to support performance. Kelly Day is a hard working student at Rowan and a great mom. Kelly would tell parents who have concerns about going back to school as an adult that it’s never too late to learn something new or go after what you are passionate about.  


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The time passes by, and we still do not know a lot about how teenagers dealt with covid when it first started. Did they adapt? Did the lockdown benefit them? Did they change as the world changed? All of these and beyond we do not know. Everyone has a different experience, positive or negative. 

So, as I interviewed Dianna Reyna, a 14-year-old girl she responded with honest answers. During 2019-2020 she attended Northfield Community School and went virtual for the end of her 7th grade year. She expresses the whole situation as lonely. Being isolated for so long and not being able to connect with others like we once did was hard on her. And it really pushed her limits. Dianna missed being active in school and having the feeling of harmony. Although she loved creating a better bond with her mom and dad, she missed being social with her friends and having freedom. But on a positive note, she felt more connected with her dog as she went on walks with him in her free time. Dianna is happy some things are finally going back to normal. 

With different ages come different perspectives, so after I interviewed my sister, Gabby Dicristofaro. She is 19 years old now but at the time she was 17 years old attending Mainland group of people wearing surgical masksRegional High School as a junior. Gabby describes the lockdown as unreal and is surprised it has already been two years. Throughout her journey in lockdown her style changed the most. She started to wear what she liked without feeling judged. But she did have some downsides. Her mental health got worse, but she now knows what to do in certain situations. It was difficult at times, but she persevered through the obstacles. Gabby mainly explains covid benefitting her because it gave her time to do things she could never stay on top of. Which is cleaning, working out, and creating a tighter bond with family, etc.  

Mostly everyone is adapted at this point. It’s the new normal. Covid has been draining to many people, but mostly to people that have lost their loved ones. It's hard to say what covid has done to everyone, because everyone has a different situation. And still it's hurting the ones we love most.

There’s no doubt that social media can have a negative impact on us and our mental health/mindsets. Being online can be draining and tiring and sometimes a break is needed. For those who don’t want to take a long-extended break from socials to recharge and want to keep it in their daily lives, some balance is needed. I spoke with Mrs. Erika Paisley, one of the wellness counselors here at Mainland about social media and how to deal with it and its different stressors.  man in a field saying put down your phone

I asked Mrs. Paisley what tips she had to have a healthy relationship with social media were and she replied, “ If you notice that you're not typically doing hobbies that you used do, if you play an instrument or you draw or you skate or you like to take walks and your noticing that the number one thing that you are taking time to do is to make sure you're on your social media, that’s number one. Like, how often are you using it?” She also recommends setting time limits on social apps to help decrease your time spent on it. I second this and can vouch that taking small breaks, setting time limits, and getting into hobbies again are all things that help take some the pressures off social media and can bring you back in touch with world through your eyes, not a phone screen 

Another thing we discussed in your conversation was writing or journaling. Paisley said, “When we’re talking about writing things down, there’s sometimes a difference of rather than typing something, writing it because you're physically doing it.”  

“Yes,” I said.It’s like an emotional release” 

“Yes, absolutely.” Mrs. Paisley agreed. 

Journaling or writing things down, setting time limits, getting back into old hobbies (or getting into new ones) like reading, drawing, or playing an instrument, and taking short breaks from social media are all healthy ways to continue having it in your life, without letting it become your life. If you feel like you are slipping into an obsessive, destructive place (or are already in one) when it comes to social media, make a good and choice and try these tips to get out of your rut.

Imagine leaving your bike outside for a year and a half. Naturally, when you try to ride it after all that time has passed it will not function as well as it previously did. It will rust as time elapses, so long as it is deprived of the care and use required to maintain sufficient functionality. Before you get back on it, you must sand and repaint the rusted metal, inflate the tires, or even replace the tires, and clean and oil the chain. Once you have done all those things, it is imperative that you ride slowly and carefully. The same can be said for brains, though instead of inflating tires and applying a fresh layer of paint, they require patience and slowly working toward regaining that same energy your brain used to function with. 

Students are currently tackling this issue head-on; they are trying to ride a rusty bike. After a year and a half of virtual learning, readjusting to fully in-person instruction has been, in a word, difficult. Not only were our learning methods completely changed, but the pace at which we learned decreased. We got so far out of the norm that the “challenging times” just became the norm. When it was time to go back to the norm, we no longer recognized it. Ironically, normalcy has transformed into new challenging times. We find ourselves almost missing the old days, which consisted of the sound of sizzling bacon drowning out the glitchy audio of a lesson on chemical reactions, and our muted microphones concealing the sizzle  

Students are not alone in this battle; teachers and staff have been experiencing a similar struggle for stimulation. Professor of Communication and Marketing at Rowan University, Stockton University, and County College of Morris, Lisa Fagan, was asked if it has been difficult to match the pace society moved at prior to the pandemic, to which she responded, “I’m tired.” Fagan went on to point out how pre-Covid, we moved at a pace we were trying to kill ourselves before Covid.” The current fatigue is surprising to Professor Fagan, as I am sure it is to many. “I love being on campus, I love my office, and I love my students.” Professor Fagan stated. I no longer want to be there every day.” 

Professor Fagan said, “I don’t think enough has been done to focus on the staffs needs.” She feels that the staff was only provided resources to improve their virtual instruction, but not enough to satisfy the personal wellness of staff members. “If you were to ask teachers now, I think most teachers would say that we would like a hybrid option.” It is fair to say that students would likely be onboard with that plan, as well. Professor Fagan has noticed the lack of motivation in her students: “lots of absences and lots of illnesses.”  

Teachers seem to be in the same boat as us, and Professor Fagan encourages students to advocate for themselves. “How are we going to make change unless we are speaking up for ourselves?” Professor Fagan advises students to communicate mental health issues to teachers so they can provide students with the time and resources necessary to succeed.  college students at computers

From a student perspective, I have found Professor Fagan’s advice to be effective. My classmates and I have communicated to teachers that we need more time or additional explanations in order to complete our work to the best of our ability. I have found, for the most part, that teachers are willing to fulfill our requests. Staff members recognize our challenges, and after speaking with Professor Fagan, I recognize their challenges.  

Going to school each September should be just like riding a bike, but riding this bike feels like we’re doing it blindly with two broken legs – we don’t know how to get where we are going, and it is painful.  

What has been your biggest challenge navigating education in a post-Covid world? 

The Class of 2022 was comprised of sophomores in March of 2020, when the students and teachers at Mainland Regional High School, and in schools across the world, sat in desks and listened over the loudspeakers to the announcement of the “Novel Coronavirus,” and subsequent lockdowns and shifts to virtual education. Nearing two years later, and these very same students find themselves applying to college and wrapping up their high school careers. Now seniors, the Class of 2022 has become the class to endure a variety of changes -- traditions and expectations for their high school experience altered greatly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The end of their sophomore year remote, and a virtual and hybrid learning environment for their junior year, the seniors have now been conditioned to expect the unexpected.  

In the grand scheme of things, the Class of 2022 had no idea what their senior year would look like. A virtual option? Mask mandates? Social distancing? Having watched their crucial high school years be swept away, there was nothing they would not expect. Senior Matthew Kelley recounts his expectations, “With everyone discussing ‘the new normal,’” regarding the belief that masks and social distancing would become a staple to society, “I was hesitant to create any ideas with what our senior year would be like. I genuinely had no idea; I was just excited to be back in-person.” Similarly, for Senior Erin Merenich, she states, “I was nervous, because I had gotten used to doing class virtually and working independently. I knew that returning to school full-time would be a challenge, but I was also looking forward to being in class. MRHS mascot

One major event, or string of events, that the seniors were able to attend was the Mainland Football Games for the 2021 season. Providing one of the first opportunities to get a sense of normalcy, many seniors enjoyed going to the football games this season. For Senior Kaitlyn Boggs, she says, “it has been a lot of fun to be able to do some of the normal things we did before. Going to sports games and being able to cheer on your friends is such a fun part of going to school.”  

Another event that was able to comeback following liftings of Covid-19 safety protocols was the Homecoming Dance. In the fall of 2020, the annual Homecoming Dance at Mainland was cancelled due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic; students this year who chose to gow ere beyond elated to be attending a social event at school, something many have missed out on in the past two years. Student Council member and Senior Franchesca Bozzi states, “The Homecoming Dance was a lot of fun, especially because it was the first event at school I could attend since the beginning of my sophomore year.” While all attendants had to remain properly masked, those who attended the dance still made the best of their situation.  

“We only have a limited time together; our junior prom was cancelled too. At this point, any time where the school can come together is something special,” Bozzi added.  

Undoubtedly, it has been a turbulent past three years for Mainland’s current seniors, the Class of 2022, but on top of college applications, post-high school planning, and other arising obstacles, the seniors have made the best of their situation. 

On September 17, 2021, Netflix released a very well-known Koren series called “Squid Game,” and one viewer in particular is more than excited to share her thoughts and opinions on it. “Squid Game '' is a South Koren fictional series in which strangers who are in debt are given the chance to win a serious amount of money by playing children's games.  

 squid game cast

Today on Emily’s Interviewing show we welcome a “Squid Game” super fan (also known as my cousin) Jessica Sanchez! Jessica Sanchez not only enjoys baking, but also fluffy socks, and rainy days.  

We can all agree that seeing the players getting killed for the first time during the Red Light Green Light” game was very shocking, but we can also agree that many other parts throughout the series can also be described as traumatizing, some in which Jessica announces were very "eye opening.” 

 “I was very shocked after witnessing many of the players who couldn't complete the games getting shot and killed, but what I didn't expect was for the players and workers who cheated throughout the games to get hanged up for the rest of the players to see.” 

Jessica adds that although what the players and some of the workers did was in fact wrong and unfair to the rest of the players, them getting hanged for their punishment “was a bit too cruel even for what they did.” 


Many can also agree that “Stick to The Team” in “Squid Game” was an overall fantastic, but various parts throughout shows us how it may not all be great and amusing. 


“I liked everything in “Squid Games” until it came to one point where two of the many main characters started doing the deed inside one of the bathrooms, not only because it ruined the whole suspenseful mood, but also because it was very unnecessary to watch especially after it only being the 4th episode” explains Jessica.  


Whether we enjoyed watching “Squid Game” or not, we can all come to an agreement that the games the players were forced to play were incredibly challenging. But one game in particular Jessica says was the “most challenging game” out of the six, not only because “you have to depend on others to live, but also because you would have no idea which glass is the tempered glass, and which glass wasn't UNLESS you worked at a glass factory and could tell the difference between them both based on their light and sound reflection.”  


Jessica also added how "once the players started figuring out the correct glass to step on, “The Front Man '' then decided to shut off the lights, making it hardly impossible for the players to determine the correct glass to step on. 


"Squid Game” in conclusion is a series filled with not only suspense, but also intriguing, and heart-breaking episodes that leave you on the edge of your seat. If watching a series where many strangers come together and try earning a large amount of money (45.6 billion won) to pay off their dept is something you're interested in, then “Squid Game” is your way to go.  

The Linwood Panthers just won their first championship since 1969. They are the only team to go undefeated and win the championship in league history. Star Players include Quarterback Johnny Franchini, Wide Receiver, Fin Fiore who connected for a total of 5 touchdowns. Fiore also had 2 sacks. The team blew out most teams and was rarely ever down in the game. Everything clicked for the team, the offense, defense, the special teams. This led the panthers to an 8-0 season. 


Linwood Pathers QuarterbackToday we sat down with star wide receiver Fin Fiore. “Coming into the 2021 season what did you fear the most?” “I was really worried about taking too many hits to the head.” Fiore stated. “I suffered my real first injury this season, I was out for 3 weeks with a mild concision.” “What do you think your strengths as a player are?”  “Defiantly my hands, speed and height.” Fiore stated. Most of the passes johnny throws to me I catch,” This led Fiore to have over 5 touchdowns this season. “What do you see your biggest strength as a team is?” “Our coaching, Coach Barret made us work hard and it paid off in the end.”  Fiore claimed. “Okay that’s all the time we have, thank you for sitting down and talking with me.” “My pleasure.” 

The Linwood panthers have made back-to-back championships appearances after falling to Abescon last year 6-8. At last, the panther's championship comes to an end, and they are now the champions. They were led by a strong running back, great Quarterback, great Receivers. 

Most importantly they were led by great coaches. Head Coach Jim Barret, head coach John Franchi. Coach Blee and Coach Mike Bressel 

They are the only team to ever go undrafted and win a championship. 


They blew out every team and were never down at the start of the team. This is a much-needed victory for the Linwood Panthers. So, for one last time go Panthers go! 

On Friday evening, November 12th, 2021, Mainland students from all grade levels gathered to attend a homecoming dance organized by the Student Council. While there was a homecoming dance in the fall of 2019, there was no dance in 2020 due to Covid 19. Therefore, it was the first opportunity for both the Freshman and Sophomore class to attend a high school dance and a chance for upperclassman, who were unable to attend dances since the pandemic, to experience another or even their first high school dance. Tickets were priced at fifteen dollars per person, which covered dinner, pizza, mozzarella sticks, and more, as well as a DJ for music. 434 people purchased tickets either before or at the dance, and 404 people were in attendance (the most people in attendance in the past ten years). While the dance was initially planned for the cafeteria, the turnout was overwhelming, so the dance had to be moved to the gym. I attended the dance but decided to interview other attendees to get their take on the dance, as well as those who decided not to attend to ask why.  autumn decor

Khushi Thakkar, a senior at Mainland, was one of many who attended the dance.  When asked about her expectations for homecoming, Thakkar indicated that “I had a great time Sophomore year, so I was hoping for a similar experience.” Compared to the last homecoming dance, she thinks she “had more fun at the previous dance because there were more members of the class of 2022 there. I know for homecoming, a lot of seniors don’t come, but it was still fun.” Sophia Lin, also a senior at Mainland, expressed that she “had no expectations for the dance because I didn’t go my sophomore year.” In terms of the decorations, Thakkar thought they “were very nice. It was very festive and autumnal.” Lin liked “the twinkly lights in the gym. They made the night magical.” Thakkar also said she liked the food: “the pizza and mozzarella sticks were great.” What Thakkar will remember most out of the night is “having a fun time with my friends and dancing.” Lin will remember “the loud music and being surrounded by friends.” She further expressed that “because the senior class was unable to attend prom last year, I was thrilled to be able to go to homecoming.” Thakkar’s favorite song played was “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift. The dance floor was busy for the entire 3 hours. 

While many did choose to go homecoming, others decided to skip the event. For instance, Katherine Williams, a junior at Mainland, explained that she did not go to homecoming because, “It didn’t feel like an important dance like prom, and I thought I would have fun hanging out with my friends at dinner elsewhere.”  

The dance was an exciting event that many appreciated, especially after the 2020-2021 school year when large gatherings were impossible because of Covid safety restrictions. School-wide events like homecoming act to bind our community student body: this year’s homecoming did precisely that. Both Thakkar and Lin enthusiastically answered yes when asked about whether they would attend another homecoming dance. 

Recently, I sat down with my father who is a firefighter. Below is our conversation.


Why did you choose being a firefighter over any other job? 

“The reason I choose to become a firefighter is because I wanted to help people and make a difference in my community, my work as a firefighter has helped the community and has made life's better, for the people I have saved. 


What did you specifically do in the firehouse? 

“In the firehouse we would all rotate what food we cooked and what we ate, one night I would make food. The food there was also always good we were all basically chefs there and it was fun seeing what someone would make for the night.” clip art firefighter


What was your least favorite part of working? 

“I mostly enjoyed everything about the job except for the sleeping there and what New Jersey did to the firefighters, which forced me to retire.” 


Did you enjoy working? 

“Its work no one likes it, but I won't lie to you, I did have fun working. Everyone I worked with was funny and good at cooking. We all cracked jokes the entire time, and every once in a while, someone would pull a prank on someone and all of us would die laughing.” 


What did you do when someone dialed 911 for help? 

“When someone would call in, I would get into the truck and drive it, a reason why I'm such a good driver now is because of having to deal with how huge the fire truck was and driving in it. At first it was hard to get a handle of but then after some time I was able to drive it like a completely normal car. 


Did you enjoy driving the truck and why if you did? 

“I liked driving the truck because of how fast it actually went and how I was basically able to cruise through everything to get to a place quickly. The truck itself, like I said, was hard to drive at first but as time went on it got easier.”  


Did you ever have to put out any huge fires? 

“None of the fires I had to put out were that big, every once in a while, there would be a house fire but there was nothing really to major to deal with. Most fires were grease fires or false alarms and every fire I had to deal with was easily put out.” 


Did you ever fear for your life while working? 

“I have never had a moment where I was scared something awful or bad would happen to me, obviously it's in the back of my mind when I would get a call, but nothing bad like that ended up happening to me or my coworkers.” 


Do you think you should've chosen another career path? 

“No, I have 0 regrets when I think about it, being a firefighter was a fun job, and the friendships I made in it last a lifetime, even some of the kids in your grade I know their dad from working with them. The people I met and the time I spent were all worth it and I would never go back and change my career path.” 

Recently, some schools have been lifting mask mandates, but is that the right thing to do? Miami-Dade, the largest school district in Florida, recently announced that facial covering are no longer required in school. Fulton County schools and several other schools in Georgia have also set forth the option of wearing a mask. So could Mainland Regional High School possibly be next? I think not. Since the holiday season is here and people are going to be traveling to see their families, I think Mainland will uphold the mask mandate. Covid cases in New Jersey are not nearly as bad as they were, but they aren’t exactly good either. According to nj.com, more than 1,000 hospitalizations have been reported for seven days, that is the greatest number of people hospitalized since May. Also, according to Eyewitness News the first case of omicron has been detected in New Jersey.  sign that reads no more masks

With that being said, I was curious what my classmates thought about wearing masks in Mainland. I asked Heather Frambes and Ella Defazio, both sophomores at Mainland, if they think we should still be wearing masks. Heather replied, “Yes, Covid is still a serious issue and the numbers are still going up so there is no reason to not be wearing a mask.” She goes on to say we are wearing masks in school to keep us and our families safe. When I asked Ella the same question she answered, “I think we should still be wearing masks in school because Covid is still a thing and it could get worse.” When asked if Mainland is taking doing a good job enforcing the mask mandate, both girls agreed that they are doing the best they can. The staff can repeatedly tell students to wear their masks correctly but ultimately it is the students decision whether they wear it properly or not.  

Many people, especially young people, are impatient and eager to have the world go back to normal. Unfortunately, the world is not normal right now. I understand that facial coverings can be uncomfortable and they are not ideal to wear, but for now we should really wear them. We need to be patient and tolerate masks until it is safe to go back to our old ways.  


Websites consulted for this story:

New Jersey COVID Update: 1st case of omicron variant detected in NJ - ABC7 New York (abc7ny.com) 

Schools are dropping mask mandates, but some say not so fast - ABC News (go.com) 

N.J. reports 2,525 new COVID cases, 7 deaths. Hospitalizations top 1,200 patients for 1st time in 7 months. - nj.com 

Linda Poindexter once said, “One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test, and you didn’t fall.” Life is a gift. Every sixty seconds there are two hundred babies born around the world. The odds of being born is 1 in 102,685,000. I interviewed three people on the importance of their mental health, especially in 2020, during COVID-19. When we were all stuck in our houses, trapped with nothing to do. This put a major effect on the whole world, including everyone’s mental health. 

Mental health is a sensitive subject because many people have different perspectives on it. There are many uncommon conditions related to mental health that people don’t have enough information to understand what other people are going through. There are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders. That is just the bare minimum. People don’t really know what people are going through until they express how they are feeling. 

Mental health for many people impacts how we think, feel, and act. Our days depend on how our mind is. One day it could be good and other days it could be so bad that it is the worst feeling we have ever felt. Also, there are times where it could be good then go down or the opposite. I believe the environment people are in impacts their mental health. That is where COVID-19 comes into play. 

As many of you know, COVID-19 is an acute respiratory illness caused by humans related with the coronavirus. The symptoms are characterized with a fever, shortness of breath, and cough which with progress can be severe and deathly especially with older people who have health conditions.  

The three high school students I interviewed were Julia Sarraiocco, Molly Hieb, and Sara Reed. They struggled with their mental health’s during the pandemic and some of them are continuing to go through the battle. I wanted to figure out how COVID-19 was significant to other people’s mental health’s especially because during that time because I felt so alone with no help.  

Some of the questions I asked helped me get a deeper answer on how COVID-19 influenced many people. I asked, have you ever dealt with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.? Did you overcome it, if so, how? How did COVID-19 affect you? What was your escape from your mind? Describe how you felt during this time? There were many more questions that were asked, but the answers I got made me have so much sympathy for those people.  

The people I interviewed all have dealt with mental health which started during COVID-19. Julia Sarraiocco said, “I talked to my mom about it, and she gave me advice and now I’m fine.” Similar to Julia, Sara and Molly also talked to people and tried to think positively. Unlike the people I interviewed, I didn’t talk to people about my mental health, which wasn’t good because I dealt with it for so long especially when I was getting back to school. I felt so alone and thought that no one would understand what I was going through, which was not the case. When I was in hybrid learning there was nothing else to do in the day besides go to school and come home. That routine wasn’t good for me because I was doing nothing else in the day. There were no after school sports due to COVID. I was very upset by that because I was really excited to play field hockey. I had a great season the year before, so I was thrilled to play again. So, since I couldn’t play field hockey I started going to the gym. 

The gym was really good for me to work on myself. It made me feel productive and that I was doing something good for my body. It was definitely hard to motivate myself to wake up at 4 am and workout, but my sisters really helped me with that.  It was very therapeutic and was the best way I got out of my mental health journey. Going to the gym was my escape from my mind, Julia listened to music, Sara hung out with her friends, and Molly played sports.  

With all of the questions I asked, I got very similar answers which I was a little surprised about. I thought that every situation was different, but it really wasn’t. We all had related feelings of being misplaced or lonely. I have so much respect for everyone who went through some kind of mental illness because it is so easy to get into that place, but it is so hard to get out of it.  

Now after COVID, I check in on my friends and make sure they are okay because I don’t want to see any of my friends go through the things that many of us already went through. 

As you can see mental health and COVID-19 is a very tough subject, especially to talk to others about. It was a dark time in multiple people’s lives. So next time a friend wants to open up to you, let them, you will learn so much from them just by listening and being in their presence. Be that person that everyone goes to for advice. Be that person that is everyone’s shoulder to cry on. Be that person who makes a positive impact on others. Be the person who doesn’t judge people based on the situation they are in. You can make someone’s day just by saying hi or smiling and that can have a huge effect on their mental health. 




Article Credits: 

Photo Credits: The latest in NUS' COVID-19 research: Information & technology 

Information Credits: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents | Hub (jhu.edu) 

What Is Mental Health? | MentalHealth.gov 

In a day the average teen talk to people, eats, does schoolwork, and drinks water. These are just common things that people do every day right? For people who struggle with their mental health these normal things become a conflict. Imagine having simple tasks become a struggle when you already have other things going on. Mental health is a serious thing that many people struggle with. The National Institute of Mental Health states, “approximately 20 percent of all teens between the ages of 13 and 18 have or will have a serious mental illness. Many things can cause and effect it poorly.  

First, schoolwork can cause and effect teen’s mental health a lot. It is a priority and can become a big weight on your shoulders. I know it has for me. I interviewed four people for this article with questions. One of the questions I asked was what effects your mental health the most and Molly Hieb said that school effects it the most. The stress that builds up during school and when doing schoolwork is unbearable. At times it can be highly difficult to maintain your schoolwork with amount of stress it creates. 

Having to complete so much schoolwork and only in a certain amount of time tends to become draining to us teens. Deadlines are a huge factor in creating the amount of stress caused from not only having to get your schoolwork done to the best of your ability, but on time too. If students had more time to complete their work would their mental health improve? Time management is just one thing teens struggle with concerning schoolwork. The amount of schoolwork assigned is also extreme.  

In addition, participating in after school clubs and sports is a great way to get your mind off school or home, but it is difficult to manage that and schoolwork at the same time. Doing field hockey and just starting to get used to the workload was a huge struggle for me. Jaxson Carmichael participates in crew, and I asked him how crew effects his schoolwork. He said the get’s put all of this work for homework and then comes home after his activities and he feels he can’t relax. Having all this pressure on him and how it’s due by the end of the day.Therefore, there shouldn’t be a strict or a timeline at all on assignments and for teachers to not overload their students with an excessive amount of work.  

Finally, there are things that can be changed for the better in school. For example, Sara Reed said more talking involved in class is better than a quite classroom because she understands it more and it’s not just them giving work. Interacting with students and using different methods to really teach students instead of just assigning work is way more beneficial towards teens. Mental health disorders are very toxic and difficult to escape, but there are solutions. Figuring out what is causing it and start there. The best thing to do is try and talk to someone about it. There are many issues that can occur and effect your mental health, but anyone can get through it.       

After two halves, a full eighty minutes of play, the whistles are blown. The game is still tied at 0-0 and the Mainland Mustangs are going into overtime. This happened a total of five times throughout the girls’ soccer season and four of those games resulted in a win. Two overtime wins were Cedar Creek and Holy Spirit, another overtime win was with rivals Ocean City which broke the raiders streak of 45 games unbeaten. A goal scored by the mustangs referred to as a golden goal was put into the back of the net in the nighty ninth minute and fifty ninth second leading the mustangs to a statement win. The girls faced Ocean city again not even a week later in the Cape Atlantic league tournament finals and suffered a tough 2-0 lost. Another tough lost against Shawnee in the first round of the South Jersey Coaches tournament left Mainland hurting but the girls still held their heads high and won five straight games after that. One of those games where they played their rivals for the fourth time this season in the South Jersey group 3 semifinals. This game went into a scoreless overtime and ended in penalty kicks, a crucial win for the mustangs.  Finally, the girls face Lacey Township in the finals. Once again Mainland goes into a scoreless overtime and penalty kicks which led to a lost for the mustangs. The season fell short.  

Over the course of the 2021 season many accomplishments had been celebrated, one of them being the 11 shut outs for the defensive side of the team. The glue to the defense was sophomore goalie Genevieve Morrison who ended the season with 121 saves. Morrison has a total of 169 career saves throughout her two seasons playing with Mainland. None of the mustangs’ achievements were possible without Genevieve. “Going into the season, did you know this team would be as successful as it was?” she was asked, in which she responded without any hesitation, “I knew this team had talent, lots of it. There was no doubt in my mind that this team was going to make it far.With a huge group of competitive girls and a coaching staff who would do anything for the players, including head coach Chris Meade, Genevieve Morrison was sure this team was powerful. Anyone could tell by watching the Mustangs play that the girls on the team had a bond like no other and were also full of talent and energy.  

After a shortened 2020 season due to COVID and then jumping right back into a full season this year, starting in late June and not ending until almost mid-November the girls were left with many mental and physical challenges to deal with. “Mentally, I knew this season wasn’t going to be easy, I knew how many challenging games we would play in, and I knew the number of talented teams we would have to face, but no one is as deep and strong as us.” Morrison confidently answers when asked about the mental struggles this season. “What challenged you to work hard all the way from preseason up until the playoffs?” sophomore goalie was asked, “I wanted to be able to reach my own full potential, not just for myself but for my team. I love this team more than anything and I wasn’t going to stop working until we got what we deserved. I also knew the abilities of this team as a whole and could tell from the start we would have to work our hardest to make sure it showed in the outcome.”  

All the six seniors added to the success of this season and were an important part of every game.  “Whether it was the motivation before a game, picking each other up after a lost, celebrating together after a win these six girls never disappointed. The leaders on this team are confident and dependable people who are always there for me on and off the field. Their words of encouragement and advice will stay with me forever.” Genevieve replied when asked about the characteristics of a leader. “The girls on this team had the ability to be hardworking, bring so much energy to every game, and make practices full of laughter and improving on our skills. This team is so special to me because they are my best friends, and I can count of them with anything.” Morrison responded when asked about what made this 2021 team so special to her. 

“What challenges do you see coming up for the next season?” Genevieve was asked, “We are losing six girls who hold our team together, leadership wise and on the field. I know we have a solid group of juniors and sophomores who play there hearts out and a big group of freshmen with talent. It’s going to be a struggle to top how deep and close this season’s team was, and how well we all work together but with the upcoming girls joining, I am confident we’ll be able to do it.” For the 2022 season, there is already so much faith that the underclassmen are going to be able to step up and lead the team.In the beginning of the season there were many goals we had set as a team that we really wanted to accomplish. Beating rivals Ocean City, making it into the coaches and CAL tournament, and becoming CAL champs were some out of many of the goals we had set for ourselves. We were able to check many of these off the list, this team’s success was well deserved.” Morrison answered when she was questioned about the teams goals going into the season.MRHS Girls soccer celebrates victory  

Our mental strengths are the relationships this team has. Every single one of the girls on this team worked well together and communicated throughout the whole season. We all have each other backs, we look out for each other, we trust each other, and that’s what makes me so proud to be a part of this team. Mental strengths were never something this team lacked.” Sophomore goalie responded after being asked about the teams’ mentality. “Physically, the girls on this team are tough and aggressive athletes with endless protentional. They never let up a fight and their talent is top-notch. No one and nothing can get past these players.” Morrison is positive of this teams’ strengths and knows what they are capable of.  

The Mustangs ended the season with 16 wins, 4 loses, and 2 ties. Through the victories and achievements, and the ups and downs this 2021 team remained strong. With girls in the front who know how to put the ball in the net and players in the back who will do everything possible to hold their team together there was no way they were giving up. Genevieve Morrison was able to stand her ground every single game and be the key to such a successful season. She led her team to several important victories and held her team together. These girls had so much trust in me. Nothing will ever top the feeling of watching your hard work pay off, while doing the thing you love with the people who mean so much to you.”  

Mainland athletics have always been a large part of this school since the beginning. Old football pictures hang above the weight room, state titles sit in W hall, and the banners in the gym remind us of our successes and the future ones we can have. However, since Covid hit, sports have been a little different the past year. Seasons were shortened or cancelled, practice times were altered, and many teams did not get to compete at the level they know they are capable of. Despite the weird 2020 season, sports are back. That also means that the Mainland boys swim team has another shot at a state tital. I interviewed senior captain Ryan Brown about his expectations for this season, and how the stangs are ready to get back in the water.  

During the 2020 season, the boys swim team had a record of 5-3. The season was cut short when the playoffs were cancelled. This year, the Stangs have a chance to face rival Ocean City once again and hopefully obtain the win they have been working for. The team is diverse, with many swimmers ranging from freshman to seniors. The depth and talent is evident, and Ryan Brown has lofty expectations for how far this group will go.  MRHS boys swimmer in the pool

I asked the senior how it feels to have a larger role this year, and how does it feel to be a senior captain in general. Ryan says that “As an underclassman, you look up to the seniors but when you are actually in this position you don’t feel like you are at the level that they were. It is exciting though because we have a bigger role this year to fulfill.” Ryan also mentioned one of his co captions, Matt Geantonnio having an influential role in leadership as well. As far as expectations, Ryan also comments on the potential of the team even with swimmers such as Destin Lasco, and other talents graduating in years prior. Ryan said that “I am actually really excited about this season. It is exciting to prove that even with swimmers like Destin graduating we are still a respectable team.” I believe that the stangs have a chance to prove it this year and prove the talent that they still have.  

But, as we’ve learned through watching and playing sports, talent is not the only thing that makes a team great. Team chemistry, and the care that the athletes have for one another is what will really make a difference as the season goes on. I asked Ryan what traditions the team has, and how they show their care and commitment to the team. “Every home meet, the seniors will step on the benches in the boy's locker room and make a little speech to hype up the freshman. It’s a really fun tradition.” Ryan also commented on how before big meets, these speeches really make a difference. The team chemistry is clearly there, and it will be exciting to see how work ethic and dedication will propel the stangs as the season progresses.  

In the fall we had football season, in the spring we have lacrosse, winter we have basketball. The stands are packed with fans, and the sea of green is cheering for our players. However, swim meets are a different type of environment, and we are hoping to get more fans out there. Regarding this, Ryan states that “It would be really cool to have the Corral come to swim meets. That would be awesome. The energy would be there, and it would be nice to have the support.” So, Mainland, what do you say? Will the Corral come out this season and give the boys some recognition for all the work they have been doing? 

All in all, this season Is going to be one to remember. With playoffs cancelled last year, the anticipation has been building up for a long time now. I expect a lot from the stangs, and am excited to see how the talented Ryan Brown makes an impact on the season and how the depth of this team will get them to another state championship 

What kind of expression are artists allowed to show through their art? Is it through their own creativity and inspiration from the things around them, or should the expression come from purely from traditional standards of what art should be? Today I have one of Mainland’s art teachers with me, Mrs. Lori Vannini, to share her thoughts on self-expression through one's art. 

I first began asking her, do you believe that self-expression in one’s own art is important? According to Mrs. Vannini, she believes that it is important. She speaks about an old professor that she had back in her college days in her drawing class, he would always say that anyone can draw an apple if you sit down and draw it for a year and by the end of the year it would look like an apple, but how do you go about drawing the apple? How are we looking at the apple? Are we the inside of the apple looking out, are we above it looking down, is it sliced, or is it just the core of the apple left behind? All those choices can determine how you express the apple in your art. 

Proceeding onto the question of what are some ways that artists can express themselves, whether it be through their styles, the usage of colors, or the mediums they prefer to use. To this Mrs. Vannini responded by saying, “All of the above, all of those decisions. The way you choose to compose the work, the materials you use, and even the subject itself. Those are decisions that are made by the artist depending on what they’re trying to communicate visually. And to me when I think of self-expression I think of communication.” She further added in the use of techniques that artists use like crosshatching, smooth blending or considering the principles of design.  

Leading to the next question, I asked Mrs. Vannini in what ways she expresses herself through her own art. Are there any noticeable features that she expresses? She says that it was something that had evolved naturally based on the things she was personally interested in. In the beginning, she was much more focused on technique, as most artists are, but she further explained that it progressively got boring, and she was not very invested in what she was doing. Mrs. Vannini explains how she is always more into creating a mark and responding to it, “Sometimes I would give my daughter my sketchbook when she was 2, like put something in there and I would come to it and create something out of it.” Showing this art piece that she is currently working on and would like to emphasize that it is an experimental doodle that is still in progress, and it is a combination of different things that mean something to her. “I bought my daughter these 3D paper animals and there was a shape that was left behind. I took the stencil and placed it on a black sheet of paper, I sponged some paint on it and left a print of that shape.” She continues to explain that she adds more to the piece based on different things she can envision on it and adds more to it. And in the end when she stands back and sees it all and analyzes it all together and sees the free flow of it all coming together. 

drawing of a handI now ask Mrs. Vannini on her opinion of whether art is subjective or objective, while there are many people who have different values in this topic, Mrs. Vannini responds by saying, “I think it’s subjective, in all aspects of society today I think we’ve shattered that expectation that things need to be done a certain way. You do have some fundamental things that you need to be able to execute things when it comes to your art just so that you have those tools.” She speaks on traditional representational skills that have been developed through art during the renaissance period or from ancient Greece, like how you show depth or space when translating a 3-dimensional form on a flat sheet of paper. “Those are helpful standards that are then what I think meant to be built upon and interpreted in a subjective way.” 

As time passes there will continue to be more changes in art but what are those changes that can be made for the future? There is going to be more of a change going forward with digital art, she says how there could be more art experiences with VR though Mrs. Vannini and myself are more accustomed to using more traditional materials when it comes to creating art. She also states how there could be a pendulum swing in the opposite direction where it could be a lot more about materials and going back to that way of working. Ultimately seeing the way art is growing now it will move into a more virtual world and digital art itself can grow into diverse ways 

Thinking back on what led her to become an artist or an art teacher she explains how it was the curiosity that art had given her was. “I was drawn to art because it was challenging and I wanted to figure out how it worked, I’m still working on that in many areas for sure. Making it is so therapeutic almost, not to sound cliché, but I have to do it because it allows me to focus, and it allows me to be present with myself.” I strongly agree with Mrs. Vannini on this opinion, as would most artists as well. Art can always give a sense of comfort for artists because it can be a way to vent your emotions, if you can’t speak it out loud or write it down on paper then heck draw it out all you want. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but yourself in that aspect. 

When it comes to instructing students, which grade level of students have you seen have the most self-expression in art? “High school, at the age that you guys are you are developed more mentally and are more concerned with and exploring identity. In younger ages, they are using self-expression but it’s not in a very deliberate way as in adolescence.” I continue on to ask her which grades in high school specifically have more expression, “Upperclassman, like 11th and 12th graders because you know you’re more mature and you’re able to more eloquently express yourselves more. While 9th to 10th medieval style painting of man and womangraders tend to go for a more obvious/cliche kind of imagery that they have seen because they don’t have that confidence level yet.” To this I agree with what she says. When I started art classes in high school, I never felt like I had the liberty of creating exactly what I wanted and so I stuck with a more conformed way of making art. Though since I am now a senior and continue to take art classes I find it easier to be more open with my art. 

On the topic of teaching students art, what is it that is considered the most difficult to teach them about being more open with their art? As she contemplates on how she wants to phrase her answer she responds with, “Over the ten years that I’ve been here, there’s definitely been a shift in how the arts are assessed. There’s much more emphasis placed on using a rubric and making sure students are meeting expectations.” Mrs. Vannini continues to say how art was always that class that was different from all the other subjects because all you had to do was create stuff without worrying about taking notes and checking off boxes. “Rubrics I feel like it makes things so specific it limits self-expression and when I go to grade something it’s like this is a really great piece with a great idea but it’s not meeting any of the standards on the rubric but it’s so awesome.” Mrs. Vannini constantly finds herself bending the rules that she herself set when it comes to grading art pieces. When it comes to art it is that specific freedom that you get from it without needing to worry about meeting those standards and the risk-takers can go for that, but you then think about needing to check those boxes to get a good grade and it makes you shy away from that idea of taking those risks. 

When you think of old traditional famous paintings, would you ever think that artists from back then had their ways of expressing themselves in their art, would you think it is inspiring or odd? Absolutely, she says confidently, “If you look at classical artwork a lot of times, they’re depicting stories from the bible or some kind of historical event that happened and they all choose to portray that in different ways.” She referenced one artist by the name of, Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter whose work was considered most accomplished among artists in the seventeenth century. “She was offering a unique perspective to historical paintings where she would often paint it in a way where it was more sensitive to the experience of the woman in that story. Typically, it would be in the perspective of how a man might experience a certain situation.” I asked Mrs. Vannini if when she saw these forms of expression if she had found them inspiring or odd and she responded by saying that they were inspiring for her, and she considers Artemisia Gentileschi to be one of her favorite artists. I have included one of Artemisia’s paintings titled, Jael and Sisera, it is a painting that depicts the story of Sisera, a commander in the Canaanite army, who is then offered milk and shelter by Jael, a married woman of the Kenite tribe. When Sisera falls asleep Jael drives a tent peg through his skull.  

For the last question I asked Mrs. Vannini if she believed that if artists take their liberties for granted when it comes to creating art. Mrs. Vannini believes that it’s more of society that over generalizes what artists do, how society just says how “it’s only art, you can make anything” when artists themselves have their own standards when it comes to creating art. Restating what she said before, no artists themselves do not take it for granted but by the outsider who has a lack of appreciation and a lack of understanding of it.  

I ended off by thanking Mrs. Vannini for her time allowing me to get her thoughts on this subject. Every one of her answers were very descriptive and gave me a unique perspective on self-expression in art. Of course, there will still be many who have differing opinions on what self-expression is, but I believe this can give you an insight into someone else’s views on it. You can decide if you agree or disagree with it, but you can never argue that there is not a single artist that doesn’t somehow express themselves through their art.  


(Photo credit: the one titled “VanniniDoodle” was created and sent to me by Mrs. Lori Vannini and the other picture titled “Jael and Sisera” was an art piece created by the artist Artemisia Gentileschi) 

Ken Ludwig’s hilarious twist on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream came to Mainland Regional High School this fall. Midsummer/Jersey is a retelling of Shakespeare’s play set in modern-day New Jersey.  
Poster for midsummer/jersey

Many people were able to watch the play at some point, but what about the things they weren’t able to see? The audience only got to see the end result, not all the hard work that led up to it. Freshman Mason Naman, who played Lyle Fagioli, was able to give us a little insight about that. 

I got a chance to interview Mason about what it takes to put on a production like this. I first asked him about the type of relationships he built with the other cast members. 

This gave me a great introduction to a new group. I couldn’t be happier to have met all these new people, as they’re all my best friends now,” he said. These relationships were some of the best parts of preparing for the show.“ We all come together as a family before the show and prepare together. We hype each other up, focus on new things, and kinda just bond through new moments and experiences. 

Chemistry is important to have with anything involving a group of people, whether it’s a group project or a sports team or a production of a play. Even with a group of people who have great chemistry, everyone needs to do their individual part. I asked Mason how he dealt with that, specifically his nerves.  

“Simple answer: I don’t,” he answered honestly. “I stay silent and run through all of my lines and blocking in my head on repeat until it’s my time to head on stage. All in my head I guess.”  Going over the lines repeatedly is a good strategy. But how does he memorize them all? 

“I read them all over and over, then spoke them without reading over and over, and then repeated and refined the process until I had them down, and then I went back and did it all again.”  

It’s clear that a lot of unnoticed hard work and dedication goes into this. There’s still more. Mason listed some challenges he faced. 

I had to deal with going to football practice and games ever day rather than putting the play first, causing me to miss at least half of our practices, which involved a lot of catch up and self-work on my own time.” Nevertheless, Mason was able to have a lead role a put on a great performance. How did he do it? 

“I overcame those challenges by staying up late each night studying any notes I was given about what I missed, and then whenever I was in-person I spent as much of my time and focus working on my part. It was all I was able to do.” 

It’s clear that Mason worked hard to put on the best show possible. It’s safe to say that the rest of the cast did as well and we were all rewarded with the result of their dedication and hardwork.