How I Have Been Occupying My Time by John Stevenson

These last few weeks have been boring, to say the least. My daily routine is just so much different than it was before the pandemic. I have still been in close contact with my friends, as we are always debating when this crisis is going to end, and what life is going to be like after this. To occupy my time I had mostly just been doing my homework and playing video games, but then I had an idea. I wanted to organize a competitive basketball 3 v 3 for the summer, so I texted all my friends and they wanted in. This meant I could finally start practicing basketball again with my free time too, which I haven’t done religiously since 8th grade. 

Organizing the league was a long and rigorous process because we had so many people that wanted to be in it, and I wanted to make it the best league it could possibly be. I decided it was going to be called the SBA, the Shaker Basketball Association. I hosted the draft on a group facetime to kick the league off.  We had 24 players so I made eight teams with two divisions, the East and the West. Then I created a schedule by hand, which was very difficult because I had to make sure each team played the three other teams in their division twice, and have six away games. Each team then chose a “homecourt” which would be the best basketball court of one of the players on their team.  We then created an Instagram page to promote the league, as we hope to have fans for our championship game.

NCAA March Sadness 2020 by Isaiah Gundani

One of my favorite times of the year is NCAA basketball “March Madness”. The tournament this year has of course been cancelled (and rightfully so). March Madness is not only a tournament as it engulfs the news and popular culture for a month while millions of people compete to see who can fill out the best March Madness bracket. I take pride in my bracket-making skills and last year, with my bracket finishing in the 98th percentile on ESPN, was one of my best runs. Even more fun than making a bracket is watching the actual games. Many fans, including myself, love the surprising aspect of the tournament as you never know which teams will fall. Although the tournament is set up for the best teams to play the worst teams in the first few rounds, anyone can lose. This was proven is 2018 when Virginia (the number 1 overall seed in the tournament) lost to UMBC, the 16th seed. This upset sent the basketball world into a frenzy as it was the first time a 16th seed upset a 1 seed. Not to mention, it also busted millions of people’s brackets.

With no March Madness this year, basketball deprived fans like myself have found ways to cope. Bleacher Report did a simulated March Madness tournament using team’s efficiency as well as random number generator to add upsets to the tournament. I was shocked to see that Ohio State was the winner of the simulated tournament. I can’t complain though, since OSU is my favorite college team. In addition to following simulated tournaments, I have also resorted to YouTube and ESPN to watch games from past tournaments.

Although I greatly miss March Madness, it has made me realize how much we as humans take things for granted. I will make sure not to make this mistake in the future. For now though, I will social distance and continue to watch my March Madness highlights.


RuPaul’s Drag Race by Victoria Helmick

With everyone being on lockdown during these adjusting times I, of course, have stumbled upon many new series to watch while spending my leisure time. One show, in particular, that has caught my eye is nothing other than RuPaul’s Drag Race. Hosted by one of America’s most famous drag queens, RuPaul, 12 rising drag queens from across the country compete against each other in hopes of being the next “Drag Race Superstar!” 

The show itself centers on the 12 competitors who prepare for new challenges every week including fashion runways and fun musical entertainment. These challenges test the queens on their well-rounded talent. For example, some challenges are acting challenges, and the runway challenges have themes that each queen is expected to follow, but they can still think outside of the box; which can be risky. Each week one queen is eliminated after a lip sync battle between the two queens who under performed that week. The lip sync battles make the show, for they are practically the most energizing and nail-biting performances on television. The battles even bring to life RuPaul’s famous quotes.

Not only does Drag Race provide viewers with comedic relief on Friday nights, but the show also raises awareness for support to the LGBTQ+ community. Throughout the 11 seasons already aired, many of the competitors have praised RuPaul for how much he has done for the community and how they themselves have found a family through Drag Race. The show puts into perspective how amazing these Drag Race queens are in and out of drag, and focuses on how many had struggled through their childhoods and were not accepted by their families. 

Filled with guest judges from all corners of pop culture, RuPaul knows how to put on a show for his audience. If you ever feel the need for a good laugh, especially now, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a perfect show to escape from reality. And finally, as RuPaul always tells his queens before a challenge, “Gentlemen start your engines, and may the best woman win!”

The Case for Anime, and Other Things People Don’t Like By Aaliyah Williams

My earliest memory of anime was when I was maybe eight or nine years old hanging out with my cousin in his bedroom. Naruto was playing on his TV, and I remember having never heard of the show. Because he’s older than me and it was his room, he got to pick the show. The fight scenes filled with fog, masked people and ninja stars scared the literal life out of me. Since then, I believed that anime as a whole was a weird creepy genre watched by weird creepy people. It didn’t help that all the people in school that I disliked the most also ran leaning forward with arms flailing behind them, like the way characters in Naruto run.

One day, I was scrolling through Netflix trying to find a show to watch and I came across every season of Naruto. Of course, I had to watch it (as a joke) and see if it was as terrifying as I remembered it to be. The goal was to watch it until I found the one episode that made me scared of masked people to this day. But what I found instead was a heartfelt and well-written (mostly) show about a kid trying to beat the odds and be accepted for who he was. Of course the show is flawed (because the writer obviously spent about half as long developing complex and interesting female characters and made them constantly fight over boys, so half the characters were useless), but when every character was being utilized to their full ability, the plot thickened and things got really interesting, I forgot I was watching a show in Japanese. I was just reading the subtitles and watching and liking the show for what it was.

Since then I’ve been unashamed about the fact that I really like anime of all genres. People love to be disgusted with it, but the disgust always seems hollow to me. They never seem to actually dislike anime, but more the idea of it and the culture around it. I’ve never heard anyone tell me a reason they don’t like it besides, “the people that watch it are weird so it itself must also be weird”or “from what I’ve heard, it just seems corny.” I find that to be really fascinating.

I’ve found the same phenomenon to be present with a whole lot of things. Who actually cares whether someone pours the milk before the cereal? Both ways get you cereal in milk. Who really gives a crap whether someone has an Android phone versus an iPhone? Both get your information stolen and sold to make a quick buck off ads. And I’ve only heard a couple real reasons that IB is bad. Most of the time I just run into the usual, “it costs extra!” As if everything on this earth doesn’t cost money in some way, shape or form. We don’t live in a capitalist country that charges mothers money to hold their own babies skin to skin when they’re first born in hospitals, for crying out loud. Socialism? No one in America knows why they’re not supposed to like it. They just hear the word “socialism” associated with “evil China” and “evil Russians” and know it must be bad. There are so many things that people just decide are bad because someone else told them to. I exhibited this same behavior myself with being against sororities, but I realized my feelings of disdain for them came from movies with mean sorority girls that charge you extra money to call you fat and make you feel bad about yourself. I had to ask myself, “Where are your critical thinking skills?!”

I think everyone’s entitled to their own opinion and we as a human collective should be able to like what we like without being judged (as long as what you like isn’t harming someone else). But I think that we have a real mob-mentality when it comes to a whole lot of things. No one even knows why they don’t like things anymore. They just know they don’t like them. So, when someone brings up something that you “don’t like”, try it and really examine where your feelings are coming from. Did you form your own opinion? Are you being judgmental? Or are you just a sheep? Baa.

Senior Year is Cancelled? by Tomasina DeLong

As the pandemic of COVID-19 continues to spread, people are expressing their views about it on social media. This is the first time that I, personally, feel as though I have been affected by a crisis such as this. Often we read about wars and illnesses while feeling the security of privilege because we are fairly certain that it will not force us to make any drastic changes. This is where COVID-19 is different; it is closing our schools, canceling our concerts, and changing how we operate on a daily basis. I am conflicted in my feelings regarding the mandated closures. On one hand, I am a senior in high school and this is supposed to be the most carefree time of my life, but on the other hand, I am part of the at-risk populations so frequently referenced in media coverage. I have been working with a group of my peers on a project to bring a TEDx to Shaker Heights High School once again, a project that has been in progress since the fall of my junior year, a project which has recently been canceled until further notice. I can speak for the group when expressing great sadness upon hearing that the event had been canceled; however, at the same time, we had discussed this possibility during our meeting that day (several hours prior to this announcement) because we understand the district’s job in preventing community spread. These event cancelations are intended to limit large group gatherings and at the time the only people believed to be affected were the elderly and those with preexisting conditions or compromised immune systems and I am thankful that community officials are being mindful.–Pandemic - Typewriter image

Per recommendations from my doctors, I am only leaving my house for essential activities which almost led me to not vote in this year’s primary election due to health concerns. This means that during this 3 week “extended spring break” I am not spending time with my friends or going on my planned college visits, so it doesn’t feel like spring break to me. I would not be surprised if our prom were to be canceled, and the senior project I was planning on participating in has already been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. People joke about how the class of 2020 will graduate via Google Hangouts — and this is funny — but this possibility seems more and more real as the pandemic continues. Imagine that: no graduation? I mean, do people truly enjoy sitting in a cramped auditorium with potentially no air conditioning waiting 4 hours to walk across a stage for 45 seconds…I can’t be sure, but I feel like this is something I want to experience, no matter how dreadful it may be. 

I am frustrated, not at any person or organization because I understand they are simply taking necessary precautions for the safety of the public. I feel robbed of a traditional senior year filled with spring break trips, college visits, proms, musicals, and spontaneous gatherings. That being said, this is unprecedented and uncharted territory so in the spirit of positivity I need to remember that my senior year is unique and eventful in its own way. Additionally, the school and restaurant closures pose financial problems for people who cannot afford childcare or have been laid off due to corporations limiting hours. Long story short: everyone is being affected by COVID-19 and all we can do is partake in social distancing and hope that this blows over as soon as possible because it is a burden on the entire world…just remember you are not alone.

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.