DECEMBER 23, 2020
THE FEATURE MAGAZINE
MEET THE TEAM
EDITOR IN CHIEF -- ADRITA TALUKDER
BUSINESS MANAGER -- RACHEL FOSTER
GRAPHICS EDITOR -- MARISSA XU
FEATURES EDITOR -- RIJA SABEEH
OPINION EDITOR -- ELISA EDGAR
SPORTS EDITOR -- CORA BAINBRIDGE
NEWS EDITORIAL ASSISTANT -- ETHAN
STAFF WRITER -- NIRANJAN ANOOP
STAFF WRITER -- ELOISE DAYRAT
OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR -- GRACE JONES
STUDENT CONTRIBUTOR -- ISABELLA
FACULTY CONTRIBUTORS -- DIRK
GRISSINGER, JEFFREY KISSELL, JILL
CAMPBELL, DARLA HART, EUGENE
RUOCCHIO, TREVOR DIETZ
PUBLICATION ADVISORS -- SARAH RITO &
Lions’ Digest is a product of the Journalism classes of the Publications Department at
State College Area High School. Lions’ Digest aims to produce accurate and complete
content for its readership. Every effort is made to correct and clarify erroneous or
misleading material. Corrections, comments, questions, and all other communication
with Lions’ Digest should be directed to the Lions’ Digest newsroom.
We encourage all readers to send us feedback by emailing email@example.com.
SEND US YOUR WORK
Lions’ Digest encourages all readers to submit cartoons, guest columns, and letters/
emails to the editor. Writers must provide their full name, grade (if applicable), date, and
email address. Letters are limited to 250 words, and guest columns 600 words. Upon
submitting your work, it is subject to approval and editing for space and journalistic
style. Lions’ Digest reserves the right to reject letters.
LEARNING THROUGH LITERACY: THE SOCIAL JUSTICE
MORE THAN A TEACHER: LISA HARPSTER
Adrita Talukder & Marissa Xu
STATE HIGH TEACHERS TO THE RESCUE
A Q&A WITH THE BRASS RATS
WOMEN OF SPOON RIVER: A STATE HIGH (COVID)
Rija Sabeeh & Eloise Dayrat
SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER: HOW TO COPE
DURING A PANDEMIC
THE TOP TEN CHRISTMAS MOVIES TO WATCH THIS
FROM FACULTY TO YOU
Various faculty members
04 | WINTER 2020
LEARNING THROUGH LITERACY:
THE SOCIAL JUSTICE BOOK CLUB
BY ELISA EDGAR
After a critically intense year for social justice
sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement
this summer, two teenagers in State College took
it upon themselves to promote one of the most
important steps of activism: education. This past
fall, State High and
Delta students were
invited to participate
in a book club
and activism. Led
by junior Alanis
Walters and senior
Camilla Baumer, the
Social Justice Book
Club was created
as a community
where students could
come together and
After taking a
class rooted in
social justice in her
Walters was inspired
to host a book club
and take advocacy
into her own hands.
The class was Delta’s
taught by Virginia
Squier and Lorraine
McGarry, and it made a deep impact on Walters.
Students began the course by exploring the
history of racism in America, from slavery to
mass incarceration. After a field trip to Alabama,
students were assigned to create a community
project centered around social justice that would
later be presented at a fair open to the public.
Almost immediately, a book club seemed like an
affinity for books
as a teaching tool.
“I feel like that’s
one of the best
ways of informing
people and having
that inspire real
change rather than
posts. I really want
people to engage
with this kind of
topic and I feel
like books are one
of the best ways to
about the club
teachers, Dr. Seria
of Equity and
Inclusivity at SCASD, approached her and offered
to help put together another one, independent
from school. This new and now completely
05 | WINTER 2020
self-led club would be held during June for the
Peer Advocates Program. Over the summer, the
book club discussed Despite the Best Intentions:
How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by
Amanda Lewis and John Diamond. The club was
a success, and in August, Walters was approached
by Baumer for the first time, along with Dr.
Chatters and equity liaison Ashley Diaz, who
currently moderates the club. Baumer wanted to
expand the club to more of the school community.
“I really wanted to shed light on the issues within
our community and I thought a book club would
be a really great way to do that because it can
bring a lot of people who maybe aren’t already
participating in activism together,” Baumer said.
To prepare for meetings, Baumer and Walters
create discussion questions for each chapter
and during the meetings, they fill the role
of facilitating discussions. Since November,
the club has had two online meetings.
The book they’re discussing now, The New Jim
Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander, is what Baumer and Walters
both saw as a good segway into topics of racial
justice. The six part book is a winner of multiple
awards, has become a staple anti-racism piece to
read, and is highly renowned among many for its
acute social commentary. It introduces topics such
as “preservation through transformation,” a term
used to describe how racist structures are preserved
in society through renaming and rebranding.
The New Jim Crow details the transition from
slavery, to Jim Crow laws, and now to what is the
prison industrial complex. Walters explained how
the author skillfully personalized issues such as the
criminal justice system by including testimonies
of people whose lives had been ruined by it. It
forced readers to pay attention to the issue at hand.
“It’s not something you can just ignore. Books
help make it feel like a real problem that needs
to be encountered and dealt with,” Walters said.
“Again, that’s why book discussion is my favorite
way of inspiring that kind of stuff; engaging with
text is really one of the best ways to do that.”
Walters and Baumer recognized that with the
heavy topics that come with social justice, many
difficult conversations have to take place that
can be sensitive or personal. As co-facilitators,
Walters and Baumer devised certain ground
rules to keep the atmosphere secure for everyone
involved. At the first meeting, they encouraged
participants to add to their list of ‘norms.’
“The biggest ones are that, ‘we can share what is
learned here but not what is heard here.’ That means
that if people might share their personal stories,
we can talk about the gist of what we learned from
each other but we can’t share personal recounts or
anything,” Baumer explained. “We also just want to
make sure that when we’re saying what we’re saying
we recognize our own privilege and where we came
from, so as not to discredit anyone’s experiences
because we all have different backgrounds.”
The student leaders hope that the club can help
educate members about these types of issues
and relate them to their own community.
The experience of running the club has
been just as, if not more gratifying, for the
student leaders as it has been for participants.
“Watching these people be so passionate about
it and being able to experience a discussion
that is your doing is incredibly rewarding,”
Walters added. “That’s the best part.”
Being part of a group that strives to create positive
change in their community is meaningful to
everyone involved. Walters and Baumer have
provided an opportunity for students to engage
in important conversations that help develop
a safe and reflective school environment.
Caviar, Anyone? A painting by Lisa Harpster.
MORE THAN A TEACHER:
BY ADRITA TALUKDER & MARISSA XU
It can be hard to think of teachers as
anything more than “teachers.” In a
normal school year, we’re in and out of their
classrooms for 90 minutes every other day, and
for many, those 90 minutes are spent staring at
the clock, waiting for the minutes to pass by. If
they’re lucky, students get the chance to crack a
few jokes with their teachers here and there. For
the especially fortunate, they get to really talk
with their teachers. Students might share a part
of themselves, and in turn, get to know a bit
about their teacher outside of the classroom. For
those who partake in these conversations, one
thing is made clear: teachers lead as rich a life
outside the classroom as students do. This
certainly rings true for Lisa Harpster, an English
as a Second Language (ESL) teacher who, when
she’s not in school, is an avid artist and local
Even in high school, Harpster was
immersing herself in the worlds of art and ESL.
If she wasn’t painting, you’d probably find her
dancing, and when she had time, she would
volunteer in the ESL classroom for extra credit
for her World Cultures class. Her experiences in
the classroom were eye-opening.
“I just loved being around people from all
over the world, and I think I realized how
narrow my view was, and how small of a town I
was in when I started to meet more and more
people from all over the world and all different
cultures,” Harpster said.
Harpster carried her experiences from high
school with her, and when she realized she
wanted to go back to school after acting in New
York for a period of time, she had an idea of the
path she wanted to tread.
“I loved the ESL classroom and I knew I
loved art, so I knew I wanted to be either an art
teacher or an ESL teacher,” Harpster said.
Linda Barton, who had been Harpster’s
World Cultures teacher in high school,
introduced her to the Professional Development
School (PDS) intern program at Penn State. It
was Barton’s last year teaching, and after
Harpster finished the program, she filled the
position. She now teaches at State High, and
through her years of teaching, there have been a
few stand out moments that she’ll never forget.
“I got this long email from a student and it
went to me and it went to my colleague, Andy
Wilson, who teaches ESL Social Studies,”
08 | WINTER 2020
Harpster said. “He sent us a picture of the cool
food he made. He made this Mexican turkey
recipe, and he was so excited about it and proud
of it and talked about just what he learns in class
and perspectives that he’s gained from class.
When things like that happen, I know that I’m
in a pretty amazing job.”
In addition to these relationships she builds
with students, Harpster feels incredibly lucky to
see friendships form between students.
“Something else that’s actually really cool is
when I see in my classroom friendships that
form, whereas in their countries they never
would. Like their counties might be at war, or
they [practice] totally different religions that
don’t agree at all, and yet they are great friends.
And then ten years later I still see them having a
reunion together, they’ll, you know, send me a
picture on Facebook. Those I think are the big
moments that are super cool. Yeah, I feel pretty
lucky,” Harpster said.
Outside of teaching classes, the ESL
department focuses on supporting families.
Whether that’s family involvement—hosting
potlucks and game nights—or linking them with
community resources, the duties of the ESL
department extend far beyond the classroom.
“The role of an ESL teacher is kind of--you’re
definitely a language teacher but you kind of take
on almost like a cultural liaison role, with the
family often, because you’re the first ones that
they know. We often end up helping them find
an attorney, or maybe get healthcare, or find out
how to get to the dentist,” Harpster said.
When the pandemic hit, the work outside the
classroom continued. A number of the ESL
families have been disproportionately impacted
and further marginalized by the pandemic, and
the ESL department recognized the need to
support families heavily impacted by COVID-19.
Upon recognizing this need, faculty members set
out to raise money.
“We’ve raised, I mean I think we’re over
$50,000 now. We’ve been able to help with rents
and food and emergency bills and car repairs,”
The pandemic impacted the ESL department
in more ways than one. Typical communitybuilding
events made to bring students, families,
and teachers together have been put on hold.
“That’s one of the saddest things, actually, we
can’t have our big potlucks in the classroom this
year. We do that every year and everyone brings
in food from their country,” commented
Harpster on the lack of family involvement
events this year due to the pandemic.
These events outside the classroom don’t
only act as a way for families to get acquainted
09 | WINTER 2020
with one another--they’re valuable
learning experiences as well. For
Harpster personally, she learned to
love a million different kinds of food
that she wouldn’t have gotten the
chance to try otherwise. But more than
that, Harpster learns valuable life
lessons from her students.
“I learn different perspectives, I
learn different ways of being a human
that I think most of us in the United
States don’t see. [...] I think I gain an
appreciation for the world that I don’t
think would be possible unless I were
someone to really seek it out. I feel
really fortunate that it happens to be
in my daily life,” Harpster said.
Not many people get the chance to
widen their world view simply through
their career, but Harpster’s position as
an ESL teacher allows her to do just
that. On top of gaining a unique
perspective through her career, the way
in which Harpster views her role as a
teacher is a bit different than one
“I think of my role as--I hope--a
human they can look up to as being
more important than a teacher. [...] I
more hope that they can just think
that I’m a good human to be around
as opposed to a teacher,” Harpster
When asked about the most
gratifying part of her job, Harpster
confidently responded, “my students.”
“They (students) come in and tell
me a story, or there’s something going
on with their family that they come in
and share with me, or they tell me a
funny thing that happened. It’s also
really cool to get to see them, to watch
them [...] after they graduate,”
When talking about her students,
Harpster recalled a specific student of hers. She entered the
classroom never having before seen a computer, and has
since majored in international business and is currently
working in D.C.
“Yeah. I have pretty incredible students,” Harpster said.
In having worked so closely with the ESL students, there
are certain misconceptions that Harpster wishes to dispel.
“I think when a lot of people come into contact with
somebody who is from a different culture and speaks a
different language, there’s this automatic fear and therefore
they don’t communicate with them, they don’t talk to them,
they ignore them, they don’t try to have a conversation in
any way, shape, or form. That is one major misconception
that I wish I could broadcast, is that there’s so much
brilliance inside of these minds that it’s just communicated
in a different way. [...] Difference is something to be
questioned and discomfort is something that leads to
growth. Without being uncomfortable, we just stay in our
stagnant lives,” Harpster said.
And Harpster’s life is anything but stagnant. When she’s
not teaching or organizing fundraisers, you’ll probably find
her working on her latest art project or experimenting with
different flavors for her kombucha business, Moody Culture.
Moody Culture began a little over three years ago when
Harpster’s business partner started making kombucha
himself. Harpster became one of the kombucha tasters, “and
she eventually started experimenting with and creating
different flavors. The duo then started giving the kombucha
out to friends, and they eventually found themselves selling
their kombucha at Rothrock Cafe.
Harpster focuses on flavoring, new product launches, and
designs. When Moody Culture was at Arts Fest and Pop Up
10 | WINTER 2020
Ave, she created the design for the booth.
Harpster doesn’t actually create the kombucha,
though--in her own words, “the thing that I do
not do and do not trust myself with is the
actual brewing process.”
While Harpster gets an opportunity to
pursue her love for design with Moody Culture,
she also pursues art on her own terms. Art has
always been a part of her life, and she’s
constantly experimenting with different forms
“I would say I’ve probably been into art my
whole life,” Harpster said. “I remember going to
coffee shops when I was in high school with my
watercolors and my acrylics. I‘ve always done
some kind of art. I also danced throughout high
school, so I think whether or not it was
performing or actually making something, it’s
always been a part of me.”
Harpster’s latest project was born out of
“[SCOBY] is a colony of bacteria and yeast
and that is what eats the sugar in kombucha
which is what causes it to ferment. So when [we
were] done with it, we were putting it into the
compost bin, and I was like, ‘this is so cool, it
just seems like you should be able to do
something cool with this,’” Harpster said.
Harpster began to make masks with the
SCOBY, and she continued to experiment with
different mediums to create new pieces.
“So [Andy Merritt] brought a painting in,
maybe over a year ago, to my coworker Andy
Wilson, and he does the acrylic pours, and I was
like ‘that’s really cool, I wonder if I could do
that on the back of my masks,’” Harpster said.
After Harpster started working with acrylics,
commissions through her Instagram, @
rawunfilteredart, and the Moody Culture
website, moodyculture.com, started to pour in.
When reflecting upon her artwork, Harpster
noted that her students directly influence her
and her art on a regular basis.
“Art is so authentic in that it just comes
from you,” Harpster said. “I do feel that in my
teaching and I value that so much in my
students, when they get to a place, a comfort
level, when they can just be themselves and
there’s not this exterior of superficial
expectation. [...] Authenticity is definitely equal
in both worlds. I guess the constant inspiration,
too. My students are a constant inspiration as is
the world and anything that I look at that I
want to make something on.”
For Harpster, the seemingly unrelated worlds
of ESL and art converged and pushed her
forward. She continues to grow as both a teacher
and an artist, and if her past is anything to go
off of, the path ahead of her looks bright.
DON’T STOP PLAYING.
THERE ARE SO
TO DO, ENDLESS
EVERYTHING IS A
12 | WINTER 2020
STATE HIGH TEACHERS TO
BY NIRANJAN ANOOP
English teacher Jennifer Evans holding two of her four rescued kittens during a Google Meet interview.
It has become increasingly common in State
College to find stray cats outside. They may
be wandering around a neighborhood, hiding
underneath a shed or bench, or sleeping within
dense shrubbery. These animals are in serious
danger of starvation, disease, and other harsh
environmental conditions. While feral cats can
be brought to shelters like Centre County PAWS
for treatment and adoption, members of the
State College community have the ability to
help. That’s exactly what a group of teachers at
State High did.
English teacher Jennifer Evans was one of the
major players in rescuing these stray cats. She
and her boyfriend have already volunteered at
PAWS, so they have much experience in getting
stray and feral animals the care that they need.
She decided to do something about the recent
rise in the number of feral cats.
“In May, on the Facebook Greentree page,
someone posted: ‘Hey there’s a kitten wandering
outside my house. Does it belong to anyone?’”
Evans said. “So I texted Ms. Rito (English
teacher), and she said ‘I just saw, I was going to
walk down’ cause it’s only a few blocks from
her house. So, I got a box and some food and a
string, like a toy. I got in my Jeep, I had a mask
on, and I went to her house, and we went to the
area where the kitten was supposed to be.”
When they got to where the kitten was
supposed to be, they heard a faint meow coming
from a lilac bush in the surrounding area. Evans
and Rito managed to pluck out a black kitten
who Evans now owns and has named Bandy
From here, Evans and Rito found Bandy’s
13 | WINTER 2020
mother and her siblings hiding in a drainage
ditch, but they couldn’t reach them. Later on,
a different set of neighbors found the kittens
living underneath their sheds, and Evans helped
them to find care.
Recently, Evans heard from former Building
Construction teacher Chris Warren, that there
was a cat and her three kittens hiding near his
house. She managed to trap them after spending
nearly three hours. Learning Support teacher
Carolyn Fries took them in to foster until they
were ready for their next steps. Additionally,
Ms. Schunk has rescued a little black kitten and
Evans has taken it upon herself to pay for its
treatment. It has yet to be adopted.
Since May, this group of teachers succeeded
in getting ten cats off the street and into homes,
and Evans now owns four of them. Finding
the cats, purchasing supplies, trapping them,
getting them treated and then finally adopted
was quite the ordeal. Without Evans and several
other teachers, it wouldn’t have been possible to
rescue these cats off of the streets.
“It’s animals for the win!” said Evans as she
described why she does what she does. “They
completely give me joy throughout this whole
scenario. It’s kind of an escape, away from all of
Evans addressed how much of a struggle
living through the COVID-19 pandemic has
been for her. Rescuing these cats brought light
to her life, and doing such a task for the State
College community feels like a reward for her.
When asked about whether or not it ever felt
challenging to rescue these feral cats, Evans said
it did. However, that didn’t stop her from doing
the work that she felt needed to be done, and
she’s glad that she didn’t have to do it alone.
“The challenge is outweighed by, you know,
the purpose, your goals, and your hope to do
something good for the community and the
animals involved… It’s a lot of work and hoping
that other people will be so kind as to help you
because doing it alone is tricky.”
In the future, if one ever happens to spot a
Two rescued kittens ready to be brought to a vet for treatment.
(Photo courtesy of Jennifer Evans)
stray or feral animal in our community, Evans
expressed that she’d be ready and willing to
help. Her experience in rescuing animals has
prepared her for anything she may face.
“I feel like I’ve learned so much,” Evans said.
“I’ve learned a lot about what to do and what
not to do with capturing and setting traps,
about always having some place to take the
animal before you even set the trap, so having
a plan for when you catch something. There
[are] some things that you’ll need: you need a
small space, you need the litter box, the litter,
and the food, the finances to be able to take the
animal to the vet for worming treatment, how
to give them flea baths and flea treatment, how
to tame them down… I think that there are a lot
of things that are important, mostly space and
Community members who want to play a
role in rescuing local feral animals can follow
Evans’ example by trapping them and bringing
them to a vet for treatment. If possible, donate
to or volunteer at an animal shelter like PAWS
or Pets Come First. One could always foster
pets, especially with the pandemic limiting the
amount of pets that can stay at a shelter.
Evans and her fellow teachers have truly
worked hard to rescue all of these cats. Let their
work set an example for what the community
can do for State College.
14 | WINTER 2020
in the Jazz bands and extracurricular musical
activities so that’s kind of how we met—the reason
we became a band was—Mount Nittany has this
thing every March where students can make groups
to perform at the lobby when students are coming
in for the school day, so we decided to do that, and
we decided to become a band after that.
Joshua Carlson(JC): We also got the
opportunity to play at the beginning of the 7th
and 8th grade band concerts as well, so that just
helped to kickstart it.
Where did the name come from?
If you were walking downtown at Arts Festival
last summer, you might’ve had the chance to hear
the Brass Rats playing at the square by Beaver
Avenue. A brass band made up of one 8th grader
and five State High students, the young musicians
drew quite the crowd. Several weeks ago, I had
the chance to meet them over a Google Meet and
discuss their origins, rehearsals, performances, and
How did you guys meet and ultimately get
Adam Hallacher (AH): We were all in Mount
Nittany Middle school, and we all participated
JC: When we were doing Music in our Schools
Month at Mount Nittany, we said “oh shoot, we
need a name,” so I came up with “band rats” and
then I think it was Adam or Daniel who said “wait
no, we should be the Brass Rats.”
So outside of the school performances, where/
when else have you guys played?
BY ETHAN JONES
AH: Yeah, so one of our greatest influences
are the Lucky Chops, which is a brass band based
in New York City, and they go around busking,
which is playing outside and leaving out a hat
or case for people to drop money into, and
15 | WINTER 2020
we decided to do that, and it was surprisingly
successful the first time so we did it a few more
times and that’s basically our main source of
JC: The first time we went busking was during
Arts Fest, and it was honestly a perfect spot, we
were right across from the Target in that little
square, and everyone was walking by. It went great.
Elijah Snyder(ES): I had busked there by
myself before and that worked out really well
for me, and it wasn’t even during Arts Fest so I
thought it would go well, and it was pretty crazy.
Arlo Nicholas(AN): When we busk we don’t
just play music but also try to implement some
choreography as well, and because it’s a pretty
open space we have a lot of leeway to do whatever
AH: A plus to that is that it can get tiring
doing the same set over and over again, so that
freedom to move around can definitely make
things more interesting.
How many times have you guys performed in
JC: We’ve busked three times, plus we played
at the drama club cook off, the 7th and 8th grade
concerts, and at the High School, plus March
Music in our Schools Months, so that’s eight
performances in total.
How much has the pandemic impacted
Luca Snyder(LS): We’ve kind of paused
practices and performances for now. We ended up
doing a few socially distanced rehearsals before
school starting, but now that schools started and
cases are rising, we decided it would probably be
safer and easier if we took a pause on rehearsals
for now, but we’ll probably try to get back together
when COVID is on a pause.
If you guys were doing gigs right now would
you be playing covers, or do you have your own
stuff that you’re working on?
LS: We have some stuff that some members
have written that we work on occasionally, but the
most fun things to do are covers because they’re
songs we know, and we can jam to them while we
play them and it’s very fun. So we’ve mainly done
AH: Another thing that comes with playing
covers is that if you hear a cover of a song played
by a brass band it’s not exactly the same as it
would be if you were just listening to the original
recording, so I think covers definitely work for us
more than they would for a more standard layout
ES: So far we’ve only really performed coversin
one case, we performed a cover of another song,
so basically a cover of a cover.
JC: Like we said earlier, Lucky Chops is one
of our biggest influences and they perform a
lot of covers, so sometimes we pick a song that
worked well for them because we have very similar
instrumentation to them.
What are some more influences you guys have,
individually or as a whole?
AH: I think we’re all fans of Vulfpeck, a funk
group based in Michigan, so we like to bring a lot
of that rhythm stuff into our performances.
JC: Moon Hooch as well.
AH: That’s a trio who invented their own
genre called Cave Music which is basically blasting
into a saxophone as loud as you can.
JC: They once taped a traffic cone onto the
end of a bass saxophone to make it lower.
16 | WINTER 2020
AH: That kind of thing can be really exciting
when brought into street performances.
Do you guys include that element a lot?
ES: During rehearsals we often end up
messing around with those things. During our
performances it’s a bit more structured because we
know what we’re going to play.
Daniel Liu(DL): Sometimes when we’re
messing around we can discover how we want to
play something, like if something’s not quite right
we can tweak it and figure out how we want to
play it in the end.
JC: Adam has a loop pedal, so we’ve done a
live loop where you layer up chords and solo over
AH: When we first started out playing
we didn’t even use actual sheet music for the
arrangements—we just sort of told each other our
parts, because we mostly play pop songs so we
were able to coordinate our parts in real time. So
the messing around wasn’t always productive, but
there’s definitely benefits.
JC: It was often easier to, for example say
who’s gonna play the melody at this point, and
then assign chords to everyone, get on the piano
and figure out the key that we’re in.
Do you guys have any music out, any covers or
ES: The only music we’ve really “released”
has been on YouTube. Someone was filming
us while we were busking, and there’s also a
little homemade video, but there’s nothing on
streaming services yet.
How far do you guys see this going?
JC: We definitely want to keep rehearsing when
we can. I think there was maybe some talk of
recording something just before the pandemic, but
that kind of stopped everything.
ES: We’re just having fun. I think none of us
have really thought a lot about what we want to do
with it. It’s really fun to get together with friends
and play music for people, so we’ll just keep doing
that until it’s not fun anymore.
You can follow the Brass Rats on Instagram @
brass_rats and subscribe to them on YouTube @
WOMEN OF SPOON RIVER: A STATE
HIGH (COVID) PRODUCTION
BY RIJA SABEEH AND ELOISE DAYRAT
After months of auditions, Zoom
rehearsals, filming, and editing, the State
High Thespians are almost ready to release their
2020 fall/winter production. Unlike anything
they’ve done before, this year the troupe is
coming out with a movie: Women of Spoon River.
In being a series of monologues, the troupe
chose this project as it was a COVID-19 friendly
Thespians, much like any other extracurricular
group, has experienced difficulties in
maintaining community closeness on the same
level as pre-pandemic times. Delta senior Kyra
Muramoto explained that, “You really don’t get
the whole show bonding and stuff like that.”
Although not being in person takes away from
large scale community building, Thespians have
taken it upon themselves to find creative ways to
form ties between everyone.
“They’ve actually done a really good job with
that: We have something called mentor groups
where basically it’s led by a few seniors and then
people from all other grades. Basically you just
kind of answer weekly questions and you have
this set group of people that you can always
ask questions to,” said State High junior Emily
The rehearsal process is a vital stepping stone
leading up to the perfect production. Due to
the state of the pandemic, rehearsals have been
modified in order to ensure COVID safety. Last
year, the group held rehearsals after school in
the school auditorium. Now, everything is done
This year, for Women of Spoon River, Thespians
finished their rehearsals for the production
during the last week of October, and they held
them in both large and small meetings.
State High senior Anna Farris reflected on this
process. “We did Zoom rehearsals and then
coaching with groups of like two other people,”
This was a big change from last year, where
the cast would be able to rehearse in person,
collaborate, and build off of each other.
“We don’t get to watch each other and learn
from each other’s feedback, like in person, and
that’s really valuable,” Muramoto said.
Muramoto added that while there were negatives
to the virtual setting of rehearsals this year,
“there [are] also perks, I guess, to doing things
online: you get to see yourself, you have more
space to film yourself, and see exactly where you
As she commented on her last rehearsal, Farris
couldn’t help but smile.
“My last rehearsal was on Friday. I think it went
well. It was really cool because we did a full run
through and we got to see everyone doing their
monologues,” Farris said.
The costume crew, also known as “pretty crew,”
is a specialty which has had to adjust greatly
this year, due to COVID-19 restrictions and
Delta freshman Al Eburne, a member of
wardrobe design, explained what costumes
looked like for him.
“What happens is the cast members really get to
know their characters and share their vision for
them, and we kind of work to bring it to life,”
They also spoke on the artistic liberties he was
able to take with this production specifically:
“It’s our job to add like a modern twist to what
is a more traditional piece and that’s always
Farris commented further on the independence
that each cast member was granted, and how
creativity and collaboration were key factors in
this year’s costume design process.
“It was really much more of a partnership, I
guess, between pretty crew and each character to
come up with the costumes. Rather than how it
has been in the past where it’s more of like ‘oh,
this is my character, and pretty crew works on
it,’” she said.
While creativity is heavily encouraged, there are
limitations that come with the virtual setting.
“We would research the character. We would
research their personality and how they dress
and their class and such,” Muramoto said.
Rather than sewing costumes together
themselves, and making adjustments over long
periods of time, Thespians pulled costumes
from Penn State’s costume library.
“Sometimes we do pull costumes, depending
on the show, it’s just we used to have a lot more
freedom to make things for our costumes if we
wanted to, especially with props,” Muramoto
Despite having to step over unforeseen
boundaries this year, pretty crew managed to
get their job done, and done well. Without
them, the cast would be unable to bring their
characters fully to life.
The filming process for this production has
been drastically different than anything else the
Thespians have done, probably because they’ve
never filmed something before.
While talking about the filming process, State
High sophomore Madeleine Christopher spoke
on how it all started.
“I was actually the first person to film all my
stuff, so that was on Saturday the 14th (of
November) … I mean, it felt weird because I was
the only person there but it was fun to do it
even if it was just for Jill and the techies,” she
Despite not having the glamour of a live
audience she’s otherwise used to, Christopher
was content in knowing she was still putting on
Similarly, Frank Liu, senior editor of the
entire production, commented on his role in
“I’m editing monologues along with several
other editors, as well as helping Jill Campbell
supervise production,” Liu said.
Liu is in control of various different aspects of
the process, from directing what actors are to do
to explaining what emotions they are to portray.
Adding on to his observations of the process,
Liu noted, “[It] has been highly collaborative…
and has conscripted a lot of students that
wouldn’t necessarily work on a theater
production, including me. So that would be like
editors, musicians, sound designers, and so on.”
The editing of Women of Spoon River has been a
large bulk of the production as a whole. In the
face of the large workload, editors have found
themselves working together as they delegate and
divide the workload to finish the project.
21 | WINTER 2020
“We’re starting to get more organized because
all of the editors have assignments and a large
portion of the footage, score, and sound effects
have been compiled. Long email chains about
editing procedures and ensuring consistency
across different editors have been sent. At this
point, we’re in the thick of post-production,”
Seeing as Thespians has only ever done in
person productions, it’s only expected for their
editors this year to learn as they go. Liu added
on to this with the perspective of lead editor.
“Starting out, as on any project, there’s been
a lot of trial and error...but my role is kind of
digging stones out of the path will allow us to
traverse it more smoothly on this production,”
State High Thespians have met the everchanging,
swift pace of this year with
great resilience. By turning obstacles into
opportunities, they’ve begun a project that
otherwise may not have been considered
feasible. Women of Spoon River, as a film,
has given the cast and crew a chance to try
something new--and if it’s anything like the
rest of their work, it will be nothing short of
Starting Jan. 15 until the 17, you can watch
their hard work come to life alongside the rest
of State High by streaming Women of Spoon
River on ShowTix for $5. If these dates don’t
work--you’re in luck! In being a fully virtual
production, the film will be available for the
same price on-demand from Jan. 16-24 on
Over the past few months,
I’ve spent a lot of time
thinking about what life was
like before the pandemic. There
were so many days I chose to
spend my time at home when
I could have been out with my
friends-- oh the irony. While I
DISORDER: HOW TO COPE
DURING A PANDEMIC
BY GRACE JONES
was stuck at home and trying to
figure out how to adapt to this
new reality, I learned two things:
how much I depend on my
friends and how FaceTime can’t
compare to seeing someone in
person. The pandemic has taken
away moments we once took
for granted, and for those who
thrive off human connection,
digital substitutes can’t compare
to these lost moments. Still,
where there is darkness, there is
light. For many, the outdoors
have been a place of solace
throughout these difficult times,
and the changing of seasons
threatens the addition of new
Each year when the days
begin to get shorter, the weather
starts to get colder, and nightfall
comes earlier and earlier, there’s
always a dark cloud hovering
over people affected by Seasonal
Affective Disorder (SAD).
Despite SAD affecting 5% of
the U.S. adult population, it
is still a misunderstood and
misinterpreted condition. While
it shares certain similarities with
depression, seasonal depression
differs in two main aspects:
it occurs at the same time
every year and is most directly
affected by the weather. For
people suffering from SAD,
social interaction is important
in navigating the additional
stressors put on them during this
time of year.
Junior Anastasia Figart has
experienced SAD firsthand and
found that the main thing that
helped her through was being
with her friends.
“They remind me that even
though it may be gloomy, these
days are exactly like the rest and
I shouldn’t let these shadows
hold me,” Figart said.
For her and the thousands
of people that are experiencing
SAD right now, this option has
23 | WINTER 2020
been taken away. The pandemic
has trapped the majority of
us within the confines of our
house, and the little connections
that brought us together are no
I’ve always felt like the most
important moments are the
small ones that fill our days.
Giving your favorite teacher a
high five in the hallway, sharing
your morning Dunkin’ coffee
with your friends, or even
something as simple as passing
notes back and forth in class.
All these little things brought us
closer together even if for just
a second and, for people who
struggle to find happiness due
to SAD, it’s moments like these
that can mean a lot.
For several students at State
High, these little moments
that have been taken away have
made a big difference. Junior
James Dobson, who has been
experiencing SAD since he was
13, shared that COVID-19 just
heightened the feeling that he
was already experiencing.
“The cabin fever definitely
elevated it to an extent,” Dobson
said. “Staying inside with this
constant fear of going outside
made things so much worse.”
As we continue to stay in
remote learning, we spend eight
or more hours a day staring at
a screen. While the strain of
remote learning is undeniable,
the remote format can offer
a moment of relief for those
struggling with SAD. Dobson
found that being virtual allowed
him to fill more of his day with
things that bring him happiness.
“It was definitely helpful
because it allows me to do other
things that make me feel a little
better about the situation,”
It’s especially important to
check in on your friends now.
Since SCASD is fully remote, it’s
quite easy for students to hide
from their peers and teachers.
Symptoms that might start to
show in school can be hidden
now that students are learning
from behind a screen. Although
being virtual can give some relief
in a tough moment, it can make
it too easy for students to act like
For those who feel like they’re
struggling or developing SAD,
students shared tips that they’ve
Dobson recommends that you
try to do things that still make
you happy but follow COVID
“Take a long walk and listen
to music, take a warm bath, and
treat yourself with love--or at
least try to,” Dobson said.
Figart encourages students to
engage in wellness activities.
“Meditation or exercise to
help clear your mind,” Figart
said. She also shared that
planning something to look
forward to can help boost your
mood and get you excited for the
These are hard times for
everybody, so if you or anyone
you know is struggling or
feels they may be experiencing
SAD, please reach out to your
counselors, parents, friends,
and/or the SAMHSA National
Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP.
PAN DE JAMÓN
RECIPE COURTESY OF ISABELLA CACERES
“Pan de Jamón is a special Venezuelan dish my family prepares each
holiday. Its origin traces to the 20th century where it was first created in
a bakery in Caracas, Venezuela. It was originally made only with ham,
but throughout the years, the dish has added in other ingredients like
nuts, raisins, and olives. While this dish can still be enjoyed fresh from
the bakeries, many families, like my own, enjoy making them in their
households for celebrations with family and friends. I hope you can
appreciate preparing and enjoying this custom with us too!”
ILLUSTRATION BY MARISSA XU
1 TSP SUGAR
1 ½ CUPS HOT WATER
2 TBSP. YEAST
1 LITER MILK
250g UNSALTED BUTTER
½ TSP. SUGAR
1 CUP SUGAR (SEPARATE)
4.4 LBS FLOUR
3.3 LBS HAM
450 g GREEN
OPTIONAL: 250g SLICED
1. In a medium bowl, put your 1 ½ cups of hot water and mix
in 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of yeast. Let it sit
covered for approximately 15 minutes.
2. In a separate large mixing bowl, mix 1 litre of milk and 200
grams of melted butter. Add in and mix ½ teaspoon of salt
and the remaining 1 cup of sugar.
3. In the same bowl with the milk mixture, slowly add in small
amounts of flour all the while continuing to mix. Once your
mixture reaches a non sticky uniform consistency, add in
the rested yeast and sugar mixture. After adding in the yeast,
continue to add in the leftover flour and mix until that doughlike
consistency is reached again.
4. Take the dough out of the bowl, and knead until no longer
sticky to your. Be careful not to play with it too much. After
reaching desired texture, place it in a bowl and cover the bowl
with a rag or plastic wrap. Let it rise and sit for approximately
5. After letting the dough rise, slice the large sample into 4 parts. Before rolling each section out, place
some flour onto your workspace to prevent stickiness. After doing so, use a pin roller to stretch the
dough into a semi-thin rectangular shape.
6. At this point, melt a small amount of butter to spread on each rectangle of dough. This improves
cooking times and allows each ingredient to stick properly. Now, place the ingredients spread evenly
on the dough platform.
7. Once you are happy with the quantity and spread of ingredients, carefully roll and tuck the dough to
create an inner spiral. Make sure the ends of the roll are tightly closed to prevent a spill of ingredients.
8. After you’re done rolling, lightly poke the roll with a fork all over to allow the air inside when it cooks
an escape and prevent bursting. Repeat steps 6-8 with each roll.
9. Use a sheet pan covered with parchment paper to place the Pan de Jamóns in order to have a nonstick
10. Preheat the oven to 385°F and, once heated, place the product in the oven. Leave to bake for 30
minutes. Make sure to check throughout on the progress of the bread.
11. Let cool, slice, and enjoy!
26 | WINTER 2020
THE TOP TEN CHRISTMAS MOVIES
TO WATCH THIS SEASON
BY RACHEL FOSTER
1. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
George Bailey has spent his entire life dedicated to Bedford Falls in order to prevent Mr. Potter, a corrupt
richman, from taking over the town. But when his uncle makes a fatal business mistake and Potter
capitalizes on that, Bailey fears that he will take the blame and contemplates death. Believing that others
will be better off with him dead, Clarence, an angel, visits him to earn his wings and show George how
meaningful his life is. It’s A Wonderful Life is the epitome of a Christmas classic. It’s a story of love,
family, and how much you can affect people without even knowing it. It embodies fully the love and
warmth of the Christmas season and what the holidays are genuinely there for.
2. A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
Charlie Brown is depressed by the materialism of Christmas, and his friend Lucy suggests that he
steps up as the director of the school christmas play to rediscover the true meaning of the holiday. He
struggles to take on this role, and tries to improve his spirit by restoring a sad Christmas tree, but really
looks to his friend Linus to learn the true meaning of Christmas. Not only is its animated style so
charming, but A Charlie Brown Christmas has a really simple message: appreciate those around you and
don’t buy into the consumerism surrounding Christmas.
27 | WINTER 2020
3. HOME ALONE
The McCallister family is preparing for a holiday trip to Paris, France, but make a grave realization
as their flight departs: they left their youngest son, Kevin, at home. While he’s home alone, Kevin
unearths the schemes of two robbers, Harry and Marv, who plan to rob his house on Christmas Eve.
Armed with his own clever booby traps, Kevin must use his wits to protect the house. Home Alone is a
hilarious Christmas movie, and the silly antics of Kevin McCallister seem to never get dull. Upon first
watch and rewatch, the chase between Kevin and the burglars will never not be funny.
4. HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (1996)
The Grinch is heartless and despises everything about Christmas and how the Whos celebrate it.
With hatred in his heart, he disguises himself as Santa Claus and goes down to Whoville to steal their
Christmas away. With three adaptations of the story from the Dr. Seuss book, the original animated
1996 version is the best one. With fun colors and a great soundtrack, this film never disappoints. It feels
so authentic in a market that has been saturated with such similar Christmas stories.
5. NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION
The Griswold family always seem to be getting themselves into some crazy situations fueled by bad luck,
and this bad luck is heightened by the arrival of their extended family for Christmas. Clark Griswold is
just trying to survive the season and make it special, and he hopes that he will receive a Christmas bonus
to make the holidays special. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a hilarious family comedy and
is easy for those who feel they have a crazy and embarrassing family to relate to. The film relies on irony
to deliver jokes, and it works magic for the film.
28 | WINTER 2020
6. A CHRISTMAS STORY
A Christmas Story is told from the point of view of a young boy named Ralphie, and follows him as he
recounts his experiences through the holiday season with his family. Throughout the film, all he wants
is to persuade his parents and Santa to get him a Red Ryder BB for Christmas. A Christmas Story is the
movie that almost everyone has playing somewhere on Christmas morning. It’s another movie that’s
a popular family tradition to watch together, and the lack of story-line, besides what it means to be a
family on Christmas, really works for the film’s structure.
7. LITTLE WOMEN (2020)
An adaption of the classic 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women follows the journey of the
March family, but more specifically Jo March, as she strives to become an important writer. Jo and her
sisters experience everything from romance to family conflict in this coming of age story. Little Women
isn’t your traditional Christmas film. It’s definitely much more cinematic, and features a star-studded
cast. The story itself is timeless, and the film creates a sense of family unique to the holiday season.
8. WHITE CHRISTMAS
Following WW2, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis leave the army to pursue a successful career in show
business. While the pair are in Florida, they meet sisters Betty and Judy Haynes, who are interested in
show business as well and have a sister act together. Instantly attracted to Judy, Phil convinces Bob to
travel up to Vermont with the pair to perform a giant show at a dying ski lodge.
29 | WINTER 2020
9. RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER
Rudolph, a reindeer living in the North Pole, has a glowing red nose and is made fun of by the other
reindeers for his deformity. Feeling like an outcast, he runs away and meets Hermey the elf and Yukon
Cornelius, a miner, and the trio escapes the North Pole. As they are being hunted by an abominable
snowman who stalks the land, they run to the Island of Misfit Toys. When a great snowstorm hits on
Christmas, Rudolph must return to the North Pole and use his nose to help Santa guide his sleigh.
For anyone who has ever felt like a misfit, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer teaches us that our quirks
actually make us very special. The film also has fun musical numbers and is a family favorite all around.
Elf follows a man named Buddy who was accidentally taken to the North Pole as a baby and now
believes he is an elf. Buddy soon learns that his true father, Walter Hobbs, lives in New York City. After
discovering that his father is on the naughty list, he sets out to meet him to try and change him. Along
the way, he meets new friends, falls in love, and saves the Christmas spirit that has been lost around
the world. Despite the fact that Elf only came on the scene recently, it became a cult classic almost
overnight, with many tuning to see why it was so good. If you haven’t watched Elf, you must be living
under a rock.
FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM: @lionsdigest1
This year has been hard. Very hard. So incredibly
hard. All it takes is a quick look at social
media, and it becomes abundantly clear just
how much everyone is struggling right now. We’re all
dealing with the overwhelming stresses of a global
pandemic, which are only worsened by the stresses of
normal life. In the end, 2020 has been one really sucky
With that said, this school year should have been just
as awful. Just like 2020, this school year should have
been a sucky, monstrous, dreadful, good-for-nothing
school year. And yet, for me, it hasn’t been.
Yes, this school year has been hard. Yes, it’s been
stressful. But, it’s also been fun. It’s been goofy. It’s been
exciting. For me, it’s been a good school year. And of all
the reasons why I’ve enjoyed this school year, there’s
one that stands above the rest: all of you, the students of
I know this isn’t how you expected your high school
experience to go. This is a major let down. You’ve had
to sacrifice so much. From the ability to be in school
with your friends, to the traditions and experiences of
normal high schoolers, you’ve made sacrifices for the
safety of your community.
And yet, you’ve stayed resilient. You’ve stayed fun.
You’ve stayed yourselves.
And for that, I’ll never be able to thank you enough.
In a year that should be remembered for the stress
and overwhelmingness of it all, I’ll forever remember
it for you: the students who make it all worth it. You
show up every day and make class fun and enjoyable.
You smile and you laugh and you make the most of this
year. You provide happiness in a year of dreariness. You
help make the stress of this year fade away.
You amaze me, State High. Every day, you make me
so proud to teach at this school. We are so incredibly
lucky to have students like you.
Thank you for being you!
It is said that teachers inspire kids. And while that
may be true, kids also inspire teachers. You are
the lifeblood of the school. You remind us that
the world does not have to be cynical. You help
us remember that life doesn’t have to always be
serious. You make us laugh. You make us pause,
reminding us about the pain of break ups. You keep
us young. And, even though we don’t understand
them or appreciate them, you keep us up-to-date
on latest trends of the world. You give us the
energy to wake up everyday to do what we do. Most
importantly, you remind us that people are the
most important thing in the world. Thanks for
- Mr. Ruocchio
To all my Study Hall Students,
None of you seen to understand. I’m not locked in
here with you. You’re locked in here with ME.
Ever since last March, fully remote and hybrid
school learning plans have thrown many
cancellations and roadblocks our way, but thanks
to you, our students, we ‘virtually’ found new
ways to carry on. When classes started this fall,
I asked my ARTsmART students to sum up
how the pandemic has affected their art form of
choice. I was surprised by the positivity shared
in response. So many students talked about the
‘new’ ways we found to not just share, but produce
performances and gallery tours online. Words like:
creative, innovative, grateful, and enlightening were
shared. Last spring, Thespians, while sad about the
cancellation of our spring musical, set aside that
disappointment to focus on a virtually produced
online Cabaret. We stayed connected by setting up
Zoom meetings and online events and activities.
We found new ways of doing things ‘together.’ This
August, students came with experience and ideas.
Teachers sought out summer workshops and ideas
as well. By putting all of our collective creativity
together we are not only sharing our art forms,
but producing new works we would not even have
considered in the past. We are coming up with
ways to include everyone, hybrid, fully remote, and
virtual. We are staying involved and learning and
creating together. While nothing is the same, new
and different is filling the gap with new challenges
and opening doors we never thought about
entering before. Our community connections are
strong and getting stronger and we are finding
that by working together, we can do so much more
than we initially thought possible. Congratulations
State High. You are amazing!
“IT’S NOT WHAT YOU
CAN’T DO, IT’S ‘HOW CAN
OPEN UP A WHOLE NEW
A note to students from your favorite fan...
I am in awe of the way the students are handling this very
difficult time. In all seriousness, my students thus far could
be the BEST I have ever had in my 31 years teaching. That
is a testament to your resolve and ability to adapt and move
forward. What you are doing is NOT easy. You all want to
come to school and be with your friends and learn, but the
pandemic has other plans. The way you all are carrying
yourselves is incredible to me. They say adversity shows your
character and we have seen yours. I think it is important to
remember that all of this is temporary and in time we will get
back to normal. I AM SO VERY PROUD OF YOU ALL!!!
You GOT this!!!
To my past and present students,
2020 has been a year that I can’t describe adequately
with just words because I have experienced so many different
emotions. Many of those emotions are ones I am sure you
have experienced as well, such as sadness, frustration, grief,
and at times, even anger. However, the biggest takeaways from
this past year are rooted in happiness and joy. The shutdown
gave me an opportunity to slow down and take stock in what
I have and truly cherish. Even though I couldn’t spend face
to face time with family, friends, and my students, the virtual
conversations kept us connected. I even talked with people
that I had not talked to in years. I had some individual and
small group conversations with students that were real, funny,
and uplifting. I also spent more time outdoors than usual and I saw more people walking in the
neighborhood and at the local park than I had in a long time. But my biggest takeaway is that virtual
learning serves a purpose, but is no replacement for in-person learning. I miss seeing my students daily
in person, past and present. I hope that as you look back on 2020, you will choose to remember the
good times, the people that were there for you, and what or who you cherish most. My wish for you is a
safe, happy and in-person 2021!