Sleeptalking by Julia Schmitt-Palumbo

The other day, I was on the phone with a friend as we worked on a shared assignment. It was getting late and I hadn’t heard her speak in a while so I was getting ready to hang up when something rustled at the other end of the line. It was an odd rustle, not the typical paper shuffle one might expect from a hard-working student. So I didn’t hang up. She mumbled something I couldn’t quite catch and I turned up the volume as she whispered, “the door isn’t real, you have to take the stairs.”

So, heh, not at all concerning, much less so with the hardened fear lacing her voice. I sit up a bit in my seat, turn up my earbuds as she mumbles again, quieter. Something about a “her”. And, maybe, screaming? But I can’t be sure. I turn on my phone and open my notes app to transcribe what’s happening on the other end of the line. She speaks again, louder now that I’ve turned her up and chills run down my spine and up my neck at the tone of her voice.

“Nothing here is real except for the stairs.”

“Where are you?” I question on impulse, regretting the interference as it leaves my mouth. Her voice drops again.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” she whispers, sounding as confused as I feel. Then she falls silent. Seconds stretch into minutes and I feel so alone, so in the dark. Rationally, I know she’s fine, she’s just dreaming and sleep talking, but the seriousness and the fear in her voice as she whispered back to me scares me. She’s worried and I don’t know how to help. So, I sit, barely breathing, and I wait.

“Do you hear it, she’s not gonna stop.”

Didn’t have to wait long, it seems, as a quieter, more controlled tone in her voice takes over, sounding like she’s talking to me.

“What’s she doing?” I tentatively ask, not wanting to ruin the dreamscape she’s in but needing to learn more.

“Coming,” is the response I receive, and I don’t know what to think. She’s trapped somewhere, I can tell. There are stairs somewhere in there, and apparently nothing else in the place is real, whatever that means, including a door. There’s a woman coming, making some incessant noise. She seems to be with someone and I may be that someone, hard to tell. In my mind’s eye, it’s some dark building, some sub-human locale akin to the Underworld and something is wrong.

“The light’s not there.”

So I may have been right about the dark aspect, and about not being alone. She sounds like she’s in a hushed conversation, whispering quick and short sentences. I try to speak and she makes a “shh” noise when I do until I realize she’s shushing me. I stop trying to ask to describe her location, my mind’s eye will do for now, and she doesn’t speak again. Minutes later, I hear a clunk and more rustling, but much more muffled, and she doesn’t say anything. I let some time pass, awaiting a final strand of information on the weird hellscape she had just been in but I get nothing. Reluctantly, I hang up and head to bed, the conversation playing loops in my head.

I ask her about it the next morning at school and she gets a weird look on her face before telling me she doesn’t remember dreaming last night. I choose to believe her. But I can’t be sure.

note by note by emilia richter

I stand in a room of complete strangers. Heat rises to my face and I know I’m already blushing. Stares pierce through me as I place my hands on the keyboard below. My hands are sticky and trembling, like the rest of me. The silence in the room is deafening. I take a slow breath and open my mouth to sing the first note.

About six months before this, I had started playing the charango (a 10-string Andean guitar). There was nothing I loved more than working out the chords to my favorite songs and singing my heart out. There was a catch, though — I had to be alone. When my mom asked me to sing for her, I froze. My sister told somebody I liked to sing and I looked down, shaking my head. I knew I couldn’t deny it forever, but for a while, I only practiced in the attic or when no one was home. It was my little secret. 

On a Saturday morning in early April, I walked across the parking lot toward the YMCA. In a sudden burst of confidence, I had asked my mom to take me to group singing lessons, taught by a “Mr. Storm.” I shivered with dread as I climbed the stairs to the multipurpose room. Behind a keyboard stood Mr. Storm, a tall, older man with a thick beard. His electric eyes darted around the room, and the red poof on his beanie bobbed as he spoke. After warming up with the group, I felt more confident. As I sat up straighter, Mr. Storm announced that it was time to sing individually. I gulped. 

While deep, bellowing voices sang soulful tunes and high, thin ones sang gospel music, I listened in awe. Time sped by until it was my turn. From the front of the room, I stared at the faces around me. Before I knew it, I was exhaling in relief, enveloped in applause.

Then Mr. Storm told me something I will never forget. 

“You’re very lucky to have a gift like this. You can’t be shy about it — you have a light. Don’t be afraid to shine it.”

I had walked into class feeling terrified, thinking I would be the worst singer in the group. Mr. Storm’s words helped me realize that none of that mattered. Afterward, I sang for my mom. I sang in the car on the way to Canada. I sang for my grandpa in Peru. I even sang in the parking lot. A weight had dropped from my shoulders, and wings sprouted in its place.

My senior year, I decided to do something I never would’ve dreamed of when I joined Mr. Storm’s singing group. I thought to myself, I know what I want to do. Music therapy is my thing. Why can’t I just start already? And then I realized I could. I hopped on a computer and, a couple of Google searches, several emails, and a few phone calls later, I had created a music-therapy-inspired weekly program at three senior centers in Cleveland. 

As I explained to the directors at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, I was not certified in music therapy. I did, however, have plenty of experience playing music for seniors — during my summers in Peru, I frequented my great-aunt’s nursing home, charango in hand. Most importantly, I was eager to volunteer for the Institute, bring joy to senior residents, and learn more about my future field of study. 

The icky, sticky, scary feeling I suffered when I opened my mouth to sing is now a memory. During my music sessions, I feel energy, excitement, and compassion coursing through me. I talk to the seniors, sing, clap and dance with them. I am so grateful I found a way to shine my light.


Dreams by Kiara Patterson


How do they become our reality?

What do they all mean?

Sometimes I sit back and wonder if I’m the queen and it’s my king

To differentiate between fantasy and reality can be tricky

Like gum left on the bottom of your shoe, it can be sticky

Waking up each day, I have to question

What’s out of my control and what’s in my possession?

At times I wonder if my dreams are based off of something that has already happened

Or if I’m just walking the New York Runway for the first time, high fashion

I believe dreams are an alternate way of seeing things

Almost like picturing a pelican, without its wings

Are they our fantasy or do they have deep meanings?

It’s confusing the first few seconds coming out of a deep sleep

Your mind tries to put the pieces together before it leaps

Into reality that is, because the dream is over

Or maybe it’s just beginning to bud like a beautiful white clover

Dreams are usually pleasant unless it’s a nightmare

You may wake up sweaty and trembling with fear

The hours asleep may affect you when you are awake

It might mix with reality and give you a brain freeze like a milkshake

Dreams may create feelings towards others you never had in mind

Afterall, they do say love is blind

Although, dreams may make you dislike a thing or person you never knew 

They may make you hot and red or cold and blue

To dream is to speak

With your eyes closed and body weak

Dream for the future, past and present

You are your own agent, not your dreams peasant

Stop Sharing Test Scores- Julie Larick

The tests have been graded. 

You know, the ones we tried to pretend were a dream?  We all recognize the familiar lurch in the stomach that accompanies this dreaded announcement. Usually, we knew our scores before class because we shakily checked ProgressBook until our grade updated. Even if you managed to avoid the refresh button on our favorite website, you have to deal with the unpleasant side effects of a graded test. And then, when the test is passed back, there is the inevitable, innocent look of a friend followed by the words:

“So, what did you get?”

Even as I write this in the library, two people are not-so-quietly discussing their grades on a recent exam. It’s slightly painful to hear. What’s the point of it all? The process goes as follows: 

  1. You’re anxious about your grades due to the competitive college admissions culture in which our high school is fully immersed.
  2. You have a test. These things slowly determine if you get into a Good College or not.
  3. You take the test. You’re nervous; you kind-of knew what you were doing? But not really? But sort of? Maybe? It was too easy for you to be doing everything right, and now you’re panicking. 
  4. You have a waiting period for your grade that spans three business days to two weeks. You usually hate your teacher if the test isn’t in ProgressBook 20 seconds after you took it. 
  5. At home one weekend, you’re doing the usual: lying in bed, watching YouTube, thinking about what your life has become, when you casually check ProgressBook. Something changes. Your A- drops to a C. A 52% stares back at you. You knew the test was too easy to be true. 
  6. You frantically text your friend, asking what they got. They respond in 31 minutes; what could they possibly be doing for them to take this long for a reply?
  7. Your phone buzzes. “94, hbu?”
  8. You lose the will to live.

The initial shock of the test grade can sometimes be better than the expectant retelling to a friend. In the ever-changing world of high school, the only constant in a high schooler’s life is that grades are supposedly the main focus. But now, spilling scores to classmates is expected in the cutthroat AP/IB world. 

I know it’s tempting to see how you rank in your class, or maybe to humbly brag to seem smarter to your peers; we are all competing for college admissions and crave a social hierarchy that classifies people into boxes. You know them: the jocks, the popular kids, the drama nerds, and the smart ones. Being the smart one solidifies your importance in high school; you’re looked up to, you’re asked for help. You are essential to the constant cycle of school. 

We have all been in the place of the kid with the not-so-great test score. As we sit miserably at our desks, minds whirling with thoughts like, “How will this affect my grade?” and “Oh God, are there retakes?” the classroom practically explodes with people announcing their fantastic results as loud as they possibly can. That just makes everyone in the not-so-great group feel even worse for not doing as well as their classmates, who also love to throw in an “I didn’t even study” for good measure. Frankly, asking intrusive questions that are none of your business causes discomfort for those who did not perform well. Don’t assume that someone who doesn’t share their score did awfully; maybe they just don’t want to contribute to the overly-publicized school performance cycle that exists all throughout America. Maybe they did fabulously but are satisfied with keeping the score to themselves. Remember: a 70 for you might be soul-crushing, but for your friend, it could be the best they’ve ever gotten. 

Teachers: you need to do better. Don’t enforce this hyper-competitive environment of peer validation; the scores themselves are scary enough. How test averages compare amongst different classes, do not matter. Neither does sharing the average score, or the highest grade (or worse, announcing who got the highest grade). Teach students that you don’t need to compare yourself to each other to feel satisfied and that tests only exist to show improvement. Tell your students that sharing scores benefits no one, and to just keep it to yourself. Teach them that it’s okay to fail and that you will help them succeed on the next test. 

Parents: You might be grappling with the anxiety that nothing you say can change your independent teenager, but what happens at home counts. Students already face enough stress at school as is; do not add pressure by comparing your child to their classmates. Many of us are highly motivated and are making efforts to fix our not-super-great test scores; show your child compassion and help them study for the retake instead of yelling or degrading. 

Honestly, who loves sharing their test scores with their peers? As teenagers clumped into a tiny building for years at a time, we already have enough with which to compare ourselves. Don’t add meaningless numbers to the list; intelligence cannot be quantified. I was discussing the topic of test scores with a teacher who has worked in Shaker since the 90s; she told me that kids didn’t share grades as often as today. That was when college wasn’t the end-all-be-all of life, and your schooling didn’t crescendo into a brag-fest of who got into which college and who will be successful and who is going where. 

By sharing our test scores and grades, we are perpetuating a cycle of stress, college shaming, and a toxic, competitive environment that schools drill into our heads. Students, please stop sharing test scores. Mind your own business, because school is less miserable when everyone just keeps their grades private. 

Sightseeing is Great…But Only if You Can See by Lindsey Cicero

This past December I got to go on the trip of a lifetime. Packing my bags and signing out of school for two weeks I, along with my family, traveled to Rome, Italy. From Rome, we would meet my maternal grandparents and get on a cruise ship to travel along the European coast until we stopped in Lisbon, Portugal and flew back home to Cleveland. This trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I got to see so many beautiful cities, my favorite probably being Barcelona or Valencia, both in Spain. I truly ate and shopped my way along the coast, and didn’t even for a second think about the weeks of homework I had piling up. 

I will be eternally grateful to my grandparents for inviting us on the trip. Traveling is something I have always loved. However, prior to the cruise, I had only ever been out of the country once. And as much as I loved the band trip to Italy, going back to Europe without the restraints of a bunch of chaperones made the experience ten times better. Considering all the things that can go wrong when traveling, this trip was a breeze. No missing passports or luggage, no loud babies on the ship (I was the youngest person on the ship by easily 30 years), and no lost wallets or pickpocketing incidents. It sounds like a dream, and it mostly was except for one thing. I couldn’t see.

In the latter half of my eighteen years of life, I have developed rather aggressive motion sickness. Cars, planes, trains, it doesn’t matter. If I am on them too long I feel terrible. Knowing I would be living on a boat for two weeks was a bit daunting, to say the least. My mom assured me that I wouldn’t even be able to feel the boat move- which was a lie- and that we would get me some medicine to be safe. Typically for my motion sickness, I take some good old fashion Dramamine. However, given that it was going to be two weeks of motion, I went to the doctor and got prescribed some fancy motion sickness patches. Spoiler alert, this was a poor choice. The day we boarded the ship I slapped on a patch behind my ear following the instructions closely. In my very close reading of the instructions, however, I did not look at the side effects. About two days later, I sat relaxing on the boat scrolling through social media, probably sucking up all of the ship’s wifi, when I noticed I was struggling to read. Now, I have had glasses since I was thirteen, so I know my eyesight is not perfect but I have never struggled to see things close to me. It was at this point that I took a closer look at the motion sickness patches and their side effects. The common side effects are dry mouth (which I had also been experiencing), sleepiness (I am always tired), dizziness (seems a little counterproductive if you ask me), and you guessed it, blurred vision. I quickly removed the patch and settled for a Dramamine every night, But it was too late. Even with the patch gone, it would be another three days of squinting at everything I wanted to interact with until the medicine was through my system and my vision returned to normal. 

Although I couldn’t see for half of my cruise it is still a trip I remember fondly. Being the only person younger than 50, pretending I didn’t know my father when he stopped in the middle of the street to take tourist photos, dressing up every night for fancy dinners on the boat and dancing at the cruise ship’s bar late into the night. Looking back it all is a bit of a blur bother figuratively and literally, but a fun blur nonetheless.


Paying the Price by Lauren Sheperd

“Where are you thinking of going to school? Do you know what you’re going to study? What do you want to do professionally?”

We all get asked these questions junior and senior year, and usually even before then. And we all have our own way of answering. For me, I respond with, “I want to go to a city, I don’t know what I want to study, but I know I want to go to law school, and I want to do something like what Bryan Stevenson did; his work is amazing.” Vague, but specific enough for adults. I’m satisfied, they’re satisfied, it’s excellent.

These questions used to stress me out, but I’ve gotten used to them. I understand that adults are just curious, not trying to freak me out, and often have little to talk about with a 17 year old girl. Though the terror of being asked the college questions has diminished, my other fears have not. 

$66,000 for University of Michigan. $60,000 for DePaul. A huge sum of $75,000 for Northwestern, and they don’t even give merit scholarships. Now multiply each of these numbers by four. That’s the average cost of my higher education. And that doesn’t even count law school, something I’ve pushed so far away from my brain, hoping there will be change when I get to that point. 

Every time I sit in a college information session, which are all starting to sound the same, the massive bill slams me in the face. I know my realization of how much college costs isn’t profound, but I can’t even picture how much money a tuition costs. 

My brain started hurting when I came to the conscious realization that I might have to stay in Ohio because of the cost of going out of state. I flipped. Ohio is great, and there’s nothing wrong with going to a school in Ohio, but I have this NEED to get out of here, to be in one of America’s biggest cities, to truly experience a different type of life.

Yes, preaching to the choir, I know. But something needs to be done. No one is doing enough. I’ve thought extensively about the solution, and nothing. Everything that sounds amazing is impossible, but I know something has to be done. Until then, I’ll drown in the only $3000 I made from lifeguarding almost every day in the summer.

Coping with Senioritis By: Bronwyn Warnock

Wow. Senioritis is real. It hasn’t hit me, but many of my friends are starting to feel its wrath. I really never believed in this mythical realm of senior year. If you’re anything like me when I was a junior, sophomore, or freshman than you do not believe in senioritis. So, here’s ten tips for when it hits you during second semester senior year:

1.) If you’re a schedule setting person then make sure to have a calendar and a schedule for each day to eliminate procrastination.

2.) Set goals for yourself and make sure you treat yourself when you make those goals – go out to ice cream, dinner, or go shopping.

3.) Think in the long term and about your future endeavors.

4.) OR…. think in the short term (if it helps just to see the day to day).

5.) Wake up and fall asleep at the same time every day in order to set a sleeping clock within your body.

6.) Plan your outfits/meals/etc. in order to regulate and add structure to your life.

7.) Try, Try, TRY to not get behind or else you may fall into a deep, dark hole of homework, essays, and all of the above.

8.) Join study groups, start study circles, or even just do your homework with friends – this can help a million times over to just have people with you.

9.) Make sure that you make time for hanging out with friends and doing what you want. (BUT, make sure to only allow certain amounts of time to these activities so procrastination doesn’t set in).

10.) Remember that the end of high school marks an end. Cherish every moment and push it out – you’ve come so far already.


Image result for senioritis

Why Summer is the Best Season by Erica Smith

It’s reached that time of year again. It’s freezing cold and snowy and I want nothing more than to be on summer break. Every now and then, we’ll get a glimpse of warm weather and it only makes me want summer more.

As my vitamin D levels steadily fall, all I want is to be lounging outside in the summer heat with a cold drink in hand. Since I have been frequently fantasizing about summer time, I thought I’d take this opportunity to list out a few of my favorite parts of summer.

  1. Spontaneous plans. During the school year everyone is so busy. We have jobs, extracurriculars and an incredible amount of schoolwork. Weekends are spent going on college visits whenever we can. This doesn’t all to text our friends to go do something completely random. 
  2. Running in the warm weather. Winter and spring are track season. And it sucks. Don’t get me wrong I love my sport but having to be outside for two hours as snow and rain pour down on you is not the most fun feeling. When it’s warm, you can exercise and get a very cute farmers tan at the same time. 
  3. Finding new hobbies. There’s way more time to find things you enjoy doing. You have time to practice what you find fun whereas during the school year it’s seen as a distraction from your schoolwork. It’s so important to have time to do what genuinely makes you happy and there’s so little time for that during school.
  4. Late nights. Since school is a thing five nights of your week you need to be home by a certain time to get enough sleep for school. When summer comes around there are many more nights open to fun adventures and new experiences. 

Summer time just offers so much more time and so many more opportunities to go on fun adventures and do things you enjoy doing. I simply can not wait.

Summer Job by Jordan Green

As I’m beginning to look for a job this upcoming summer before I leave for college, I’m reminded of my past experience as a summer camp counselor working with five-year-olds. While I reflect on the many responsibilities that I had (e.g. noticing that the room smells like rotten eggs and having to ask each kid if they soiled their drawers eight times before finally finding the culprit), I’ve decided that being a camp counselor probably won’t be how I’ll spend my summer of 2020. 

To be fair, I gained a lot of useful insight from that job over the last two years. I learned about how many kids need to be taught the concept of empathy. I learned how to get along with coworkers that you don’t love. I learned how kids can become spoiled and entitled when they’re used to getting everything they want at home. I learned what it’s like to have a boss. Overall, it was a great first job (especially because they provided lunch). In fact, I even wrote my college essay about my time as a camp counselor and how I realized my own personal development and character growth through being reminded of what it’s like to be a five-year-old boy again.

That said, I wasn’t exactly asked to come back to camp for a third year either. Don’t get me wrong, I was a great counselor- the kids loved me, their parents loved me, I was always on time and never missed work. But, I did some things during my free time that probably didn’t put me on the best terms with the camp’s administration. Like “borrowing” my bosses golf cart without asking. Or eating chicken wings I found in the camp’s kitchen that evidently belonged to the chef. Or, my favorite, writing this article for the camp newspaper. You see, after our group went on a field trip, I was responsible for writing up an article that was put in the weekly news article and sent to campers parents. Below is the result (note that I changed the names of all campers for their privacy). 

The Coyotes’ trip to the North Chagrin Nature Reserve was one for the ages. With Mattew in Italy, and Nick nowhere to be found, we had only ten boys who would complete the trek. Upon the arrival of our transportation, Samuel proclaimed, “I will not be driving this bus.” As to why he felt the need to tell us that, I don’t know. Nonetheless, I felt reassured that my five-year-old camper would not be operating a moving vehicle. As we made the road trip down, Dennis was going bonkers- standing on the seat, banging his head on the window, spilling his water everywhere, etc. Amused by his excitement, but worried for his safety, I asked him if it was his first time riding a bus. His response? “No, I’ve ridden a bus like 200 times.” As to how he survived those other 199 rides is a miracle, but thankfully, with some gentle reminders of proper bus riding etiquette, Dennis made it there in one piece. Following the departure of our bus, I began to count our campers. While I did count all ten campers, I only counted nineteen shoes. That’s right; nineteen. Somehow Tanner managed to walk for a solid five minutes on a cement path without realizing that one of his shoes came off. Luckily we were able to find it, but these kids find new ways to amaze me every day. When we walked into the nature center, there were a ton of kids from other camps. Before I knew it, Kyle was chatting up a couple of girls that I had never seen before. Impressed by his popularity, but wary of stranger danger, I had to drag him away. Once we made it to the Owl exhibit, the boys were mesmerized. They learned tons of cool facts about all sorts of different owls. Max thought it was so cool, he tried to reach out and pet one! Thankfully we were able to knock his hand down before he made contact, otherwise he would’ve gone home with one less finger. Additionally, Calvin was exceptionally disappointed to find out that owls were colorblind because that meant they couldn’t see his fiery red hair. Poor kid. As the boys got a chance to explore the other animal exhibits, Jamie screeched, “Look, it’s a mouse with wings!” I told him it was a flying squirrel. The naturalist who works there told him it was a flying squirrel. The other campers told him it was a flying squirrel. But he didn’t care. Jamie had already decided that the new name for the creature was “a mouse with wings” and there was nothing any of us could do about it. Meanwhile, Kai came across a button that when pressed, makes the sound of an actual coyote. The first time he pushed it it was pretty cool. The second time was cool too. But after about the 40th time that he pushed the button, I told him that would be enough. I’m sure I’ll be hearing the sounds of howling coyotes in my nightmares tonight. Thanks Kai. On the walk back to the bus Ruban took a spill. Things weren’t looking good for him. However, once I told him that we were on our way to lunch (which would be including lemonade) he popped right back up and carried on. Overall, it was an incredible adventure. When all was said and done, I asked David, “What was your favorite part of the field trip?” His response: “The ice cream.”

This self-indulging satirical article was totally worth the fifteen minutes of scolding that I got from my boss in his office. I would love to share some quotes from that “discussion,” but they’re probably too explicit for this blog. In his defense, fair points were made about how this writing shines a poor light on both the camp and me as a counselor. Nevertheless, I became known as “Edgar Allen Poe” around camp by my fellow counselors who heard about the incident. I loved it. Sure I had a hard time looking my boss in the eyes again after the occurrence, but it made for a funny story. Now though, my camp counseling days are over and it’s time for me to find a new summer job- hopefully one that doesn’t involve soiled drawers or Barstool-esque journalism. I’m thinking becoming a car washer might be a good fit.   


Say Yes To The Dress by Tomasina DeLong

This past weekend I went on a college visit in Columbus, OH and it was super fun. I spent my Saturday in informational sessions and then we went back to the hotel afterward. My cousin lives in Columbus and when she found out I was visiting, she insisted that we meet up. (Side note; I had been to Columbus two other times in the past 6 months so I felt guilty for not seeing her those times…oops) We had dinner, which was a struggle in and of itself. First, we tried to go to a Mexican place, but it was National Margarita Day and they said they weren’t allowed to have anyone under 21 inside or they would get fined. (I don’t believe them. I just think that they wanted the tables filled with people buying alcohol…liars!) Then, we walked over to Cheesecake Factory and turned right around because the line was out the door. We saw empty tables inside Brio and figured that would be a safe option but alas, there was an hour and a half wait (they must have been really understaffed…sucks for them). We landed at Northstar Cafe and had great food and even better laughs. We reminisced about old family reunions and thanksgivings gone wrong (I swear we were so loud that the entire restaurant could hear us falling out of our seats).

After dinner, we headed to a store to look for prom dresses because I still haven’t found “the one” yet. We went to Macy’s and when we walked in, our jaws dropped. This dress section was GIGANTIC and stretched across the entire wall. We got there at 8pm, and at 8:45 my mom said it was time to get wrapped up because the store was closing at 9pm (or so she thought). It turns out that Macy’s didn’t close until 10pm so we had another hour!!! After trying on the entire department, twice, nothing fit or looked good. Everything was either too big or too small. Obviously, since I am only 5’3 they were all too long, but some of them were just unalterable. At the end of this, I was tired and confused. How can a women’s 6 be too big but a juniors 17 be too small? There is no continuity with dress sizing and it makes it so difficult to find something. We have some dresses ordered and hopefully, I will finally say yes to the dress.