The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

Dividing Lines

Gifted program embraces IQ endowed while making welcoming claim, but non-EEE students still feel disadvantaged

Some students are inherently smarter than others, and they know it. At least that’s the way the gifted program at RBHS appears to senior Emily Smith, who never tested for the Extending Educational Experiences program.

EEE “separates people by intelligence levels,” Smith said. “It can be so exclusive it can affect [non-EEE students] in a negative way.”

Most of the school’s approximately 240 gifted students started their educational tracks with an optional IQ test in second grade, on which they performed in the 97th percentile, a score of 128 or above.

At RBHS the gifted program corrals EEE students into Advisory+ with “high achieving MAC scholars … at the discretion of the EEE teachers and guidance” and others with teacher recommendations said Jake Giessman, district secondary gifted education supervisor and RBHS EEE teacher.

“Advisory+ has higher grade expectations to get supervised AUT second semester. We also have classwork at times,” Giessman said. “We have fun, too, but that’s no different from any other Advisory.”

But providing supplemental aid for students in Advisory+ puts other sophomores at a disadvantage, said junior Courtney Nowlin, who is not in EEE. This is especially unfair to those who would benefit from this extra guidance on standardized tests or college applications.

“Just because I’m not in EEE doesn’t mean I don’t want to better my education,” Nowlin said. “It just makes it seem like anyone who’s in [Advisory+] is superior.”

However, the separation of students caused by EEE starts before and even extends beyond this simple division. Once a week EEE students in grades three through five trek to a separate building to engage in classes of their choosing. According to Columbia Public Schools Center for Gifted Education, these students “are still responsible for continuing achievement in the regular classroom,” but “are frequently excused from standard classroom assignments and activities.” This elementary gifted program has now been extended to first and second graders.

If their child did not meet this requirement, parents could ask the program to reevaluate their child’s IQ. In middle school these EEE students could opt out of academic lab for a special enrichment class. In junior high they could select an elective.

But these academic divisions did not bother junior Jake Alden, who barely missed the required IQ score, as much as the separation from his friends.

“It was fifth grade, and it was every Wednesday. All my friends would go to EEE. … So I would just be left alone on the playground,” Alden said. In “middle school … they all went to the Renaissance Fair and had a fun time, apparently. The stock market game. All these stories that I heard that I never actively participated in.”

Although he felt envious of his EEE friends in elementary school, Alden said this feeling disappeared as he grew older. Staying close to his friends and taking many similar classes prevented the gifted label from separating the group, he said.

Though Giessman also said the distinction between EEE students and other high-achieving students disappears in high school, junior EEE student Charles Shang said the friendships gifted students build with one another can cause a barrier between EEE and non-EEE students that lasts into high school.

“I definitely have friends that were not in EEE but fit in just as well with us,” Shang said. But EEE “probably does look a little exclusive because most of the people in EEE have good relationships with other people in EEE.”

This tendency of gifted students to befriend other EEE students is common, said Enyi Jen, a graduate assistant at Purdue College of Education’s Gifted Education Resource Institute.

“In general, gifted students like to interact with their gifted peers. According to research about [the] adolescent crowd, only about five percent [of all] adolescents emphasize and value high academic achievement,” Jen said in an email interview. “People tend to hang out with the people with same interests as them. Gifted students are the same.”

However, similarities, rather than a sense of elitism, build these relationships, Jen said. According to a study from the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut, gifted students do not have under- or over-inflated “self-concepts” compared to other students. Another study at the NRC/GT revealed cooperative learning between EEE and non-EEE students can actually lead to a “significant decrease in social self-concept” for students of “average and lower ability.” Non-gifted children also have negative perceptions of other non-gifted children, seeing one another as “less smart, less helpful and less likely to be leaders than when they were grouped with other average ability students,” the study said.

Still, sometimes the label is not as defining as personal effort, said Vicki Vaughn, Ph.D., GERI Curriculum Coordinator and educator of 43 years.

“Many non-gifted students often do well in ‘gifted’ classes because they are extremely motivated and have a tremendous work ethic,” Vaughn said in an email interview. “On the other hand, many times those who have been identified as gifted choose not to work hard or choose to only do well in the areas of their interest.”

However, in the case of capable students who do not have the gifted label, Jen said educators should be willing to provide the same guidance they provide for gifted students.

“A famous theory in the field of gifted education … identified gifted people as [those with] above average abilities, creativity and task commitment. … Intelligence is not only criteria,” Jen said. “If the students who [were not] identified as gifted students … want to learn more, the educators can evaluate their capacity and … provide reasonable help.”

Giessman said the gifted program here provides this additional help to non-gifted students who want it. The EEE center is open to all students, he said. In fact, when he placed a “Get Well” card for elementary EEE teacher Dr. Tom Prater in the room, only one student knew the teacher at all — of all the kids in the room, this one was the only EEE student.

“We have a policy here that we don’t check your gifted ID at the door. Most kids that are listed in the computer system as EEE kids are listed that way because of their IQ score on a test they took in second grade. And that may have a lot or very little to do with how they’re achieving at this point,” Giessman said. “We would like this to be a space at Rock Bridge where anybody who cares about being bright and working hard can come and share resources and be social together.”

While the gifted program at RBHS encourages hard work and effort, Giessman added that neglecting the focus on innate ability would leave out intelligent but underachieving students, consequently abandoning the initial purpose of EEE. According to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 88 percent of high school drop outs had passing grades but were too bored to stay in school. Despite this, 73 percent of teachers said, “too often, the brightest students are bored and under-challenged in school,” according to the National Association for Gifted Children.

These are the statistics Giessman hopes to prevent.

“If we focused only on the high-achieving kids, then we’d also be neglecting really smart kids who are failing out of school,” Giessman said. “We want to make sure kids with that innate potential realize it.”
By Nomin Erdene-Jagdagdorj

Worth your weight: Body shape splits teenagers, leads to decreased self esteem

“I dare you to ask out Ray. It’d be funny because he’s so fat.”

Piercing laughter followed the taunt. Senior Ray Farris, an eighth grader at the time, tried to laugh along, but his friends’ jokes about his weight were becoming tiring. Though occasional, the snide comments alienated him from his peers.

“Sometimes [people] made jokes about my weight, like this time in eighth grade. … It was a joke because it would be almost an embarrassment to ask me out” because he weighed 190 pounds, Farris said. “There were times when some people might say something, like a little here and a little there.”

According to a 2008 University of Minnesota study, 33 percent of overweight teens reported either friends or family teasing them about their weight, and 48 percent reported both family and friends taunting them. This teasing oftentimes leads to higher rates of depression, anger and anxiety.

When teased, Farris began to feel inferior to his friends and like a misfit. He was embarrassed because of how he looked and dreaded activities where he had to reveal his body, such as swimming.

Sarah Mustillo, Ph.D., at Purdue University, has found timidness to be a common problem for overweight and obese teenagers; because of low self-esteem and a fear of taunting remarks, they are less likely to reach out and want to make new friends.

“Obesity is a stigmatizing characteristic in the U.S. for children, adolescents and adults. Overweight and obese children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the teasing, discrimination and poor treatment that result from having this stigmatizing characteristic,” Mustillo said in an email interview. “Peers are one source of teasing and poor treatment, but parents and teachers may also make hurtful comments or treat overweight kids differently as well, often inadvertently.”

Obesity statistics show two-thirds of United States adults to be overweight, according to Overweight Teen. Despite the medical conditions and stigma that come with being overweight, the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which provides financial aid for disabled people, does not cover obesity.

Junior Drew Rodgers acknowledges the definite division between overweight and healthy teenagers, but he said the blame usually falls on the overweight teen. He said if someone feels isolated because of his body, he should take appropriate actions to change it.

“If there is no physical reason for you to be overweight, then [an overweight person] should not have the title of being disabled. I guess they are disadvantaged because of their weight, but that’s their own fault,” Rodgers said. “When I was little, I was really chubby, but then I did something about it. I did track, and I lost 20 pounds. I was running a lot of miles for track, so I lost a lot of weight. … Half of my family’s overweight, so it probably falls into my gene pool that I’m going to be overweight when I’m older, so I’m going to try to put that off as long as possible.”

Rodgers also said if a teen can do something about his weight but chooses not to, then it is still his fault if peers tease him.

Rodgers doesn’t condone teasing but said he understands how people are annoyed when someone complains about weight, which could lead to hurtful comments.

A recent study by Mustillo found obese teenagers to believe most of the jeers about their bodies; she found most overweight teens thought their bodies deviated from the ideal body, furthering the division they feel from their peers.

“Obesity in adolescence is associated with lower self-esteem, poor body image and feelings of worthlessness,” Mustillo said. It “is [also] associated with decreased life chances in multiple areas of life, for example lower educational attainment, more mental health problems and lower income in adulthood.”

The psychological effects of being overweight are a problem for adults, too.

When English teacher Jennifer Cone began her career in 1985, she was five feet tall and 101 pounds. But after having two children, her body shape changed, and so did the way her students perceived her.

“When I put my weight on … it affected my energy and outlook. I am sure that affected the way students saw me. I was no longer the cool teacher with high energy,” Cone said. “I was the overweight teacher who looked like the stereotypical schoolmarm. No[t] feeling well also affected the way I reacted to my students. I did a great deal of barking.”

Because of her weight, Cone said she was unable to move quickly, sit comfortably or perform activities for long periods of time, leaving her incapable of being actively involved with her students. Farris felt a similar barrier develop, except with his family; his weight loss put a strain on his relationship with his mom.

“At first my mom was kind of worried because she thought I wasn’t eating right. I just told her that I wanted to lose some weight. Once I started to lose weight, she thought I was getting too skinny,” Farris said. “I would have to eat in front of her so she would know that I wasn’t” anorexic.

Cone’s high cholesterol motivated her to lose weight, and the unexpected benefits she felt were as good as the health problems disappearing, she said.

“I feel better than I have felt in 20 years. I can wear cute clothes again. I went to my 30th class reunion, and people said I had hardly changed,” Cone said. “Losing my weight has encouraged family and friends to join Weight Watchers and get down to a healthy weight. I stayed with Weight Watchers, and now I work for them; working for Weight Watchers allows me to help strangers. What a wonderful gift it is.”

The benefits of losing weight also appeared in Farris’ life. The barriers he felt when he was overweight were real and painful, but getting rid of them was a matter he solved by simply losing weight. Now he enjoys a new freedom in life.

“I always told myself I want to be in good shape and be able to walk outside and go to a swimming pool and take my shirt off without being embarrassed. After I lost my weight, I definitely gained a new sense of confidence in myself,” Farris said. “I have a better chance; if there’s a girl who I really like and want to ask her out, I have a better chance of her saying ‘yes’ than ‘no,’ and I have a new sense of pride.”

By Kirsten Buchanan

While blatant racism may feel extinct, many minority students still struggle with subtle biases

As senior Lela Pritchett was shopping, she glanced over her shoulder. Behind her, the store clerk was folding a pair of pants and placing them back on display. Pritchett continued shopping, moving down the aisle to another rack of clothes.

Out of the corner of her eye she noticed the clerk move with her. Thinking the clerk was simply going to ask if she needed help, Pritchett turned around.

“I don’t need help or anything; I’m just looking,” she said.

But as she wandered the aisles, Pritchett realized she couldn’t escape the clerk. Every time she turned around, he was right behind her, fiddling with nearby merchandise. Feeling paranoid, Pritchett decided to test the salesperson. She walked to another section of the store and then back to where she started. He stayed five steps behind her the whole way.

“Why are you following me?” Pritchett demanded.

The clerk, however, denied the allegations.

“I’m not following you,” he said.

Annoyed, Pritchett moved once again to the other side of the store. Even though the clerk now stayed behind, Pritchett caught him staring at her from across the store.

Store employees have followed Pritchett several times since. Pritchett thinks she knows why. Because she is African-American, some store employees were afraid she was going to steal merchandise.

While the civil rights movements of the 1960s are long past, racism and racial stereotypes still exist in more subtle forms. Modern researchers, as part of a research program known as Project Implicit, have determined an exam, the Implicit Association Test, to measure people’s subconscious prejudices towards Caucasians and African Americans.

The IAT found that 68 percent of test takers have a pro-white association. This means they have an easier time associating white people with positive concepts like success than they do with African Americans. Fifty percent of African Americans have the same pro-white association. A similar IAT measuring associations between white/black and weapons/harmless objects found 72 percent of test takers had a stronger association with blacks and weapons.

Kelly Hoffman, a graduate student at the University of Virginia who works on Project Implicit, said these prejudices are a culmination of both life experiences and what the media exposes to people. Hoffman said biases make sense from an evolutionary perspective but can develop into negative consequences.

Associations “allow us to quickly process information without using up a ton of time and resources,” Hoffman said in an email interview. “However, when these associations do not reflect reality and they affect our behaviors in negative ways (such as when we see discriminatory behavior), that’s when things turn negative.”

To Pritchett the pro-white associations are frustrating. She sees them manifested when her peers refer to her as a “white, black person.” This prejudice, one that asserts African Americans must act as another race in order to get good grades or be successful, angers Pritchett.

“If [African Americans] talk proper or if we do good in school or if we don’t get in arguments or fights, then suddenly we’re white. But if we act ghetto and, like, walk around and talk with a slang or we don’t understand or don’t have a really good grade in a class, then we’re acting black,” Pritchett said. “I don’t like that because I’m not acting black. I’m acting like a successful person. There is no color in success.”

Unlike Pritchett, senior Iyas Daghlas said he does not feel discriminated against. But as a Palestinian-American Daghlas said his race is still important to him and a part of him that makes him unique. He also believes neither he nor any person can be judged by others solely on his race.

“You can’t say I’m American and Palestinian. I’m just me,” Daghlas said. “My parts just make a whole. Together they’re not that much, but when they interact they create a different kind of person, so to define me just by an individual culture is missing the point.”

While Hoffman said prejudices are an inevitable consequence of having a diverse range of races within a single society, Daghlas said having that diversity was ultimately a good thing, one that can also help move society forward.

“If everyone was the same, we wouldn’t have any cultural advancements,” Daghlas said. “In the medieval ages, the Arabs had a whole different culture that was viewed as inferior [by the west], but from them we got some of the most important technological and intellectual advancements.”

But for Pritchett modern prejudices remain overwhelmingly frustrating; she must still overcome the glare from the store clerk on the other side of the store.

“People will make a comment about black people, and I’ll say, ‘I don’t do that stuff,’ and people will say, ‘Well, you’re the exception,’” Pritchett said. “Am I not defined as a black person? It’s not that I’m an exception; it’s that there’s a stereotype, and a lot of people judge you by the stereotype that stands.”

By Jack Schoelz

Quick judgements over sexualities leave lasting impact on individuals. 

In second grade, Katie Huddlestonsmith, 2010 RBHS alumna, lied about her family for the first time. During recess she and a classmate were talking about Ricky Martin when her friend mentioned the singer was gay. Huddlestonsmith jumped into the conversation, “So is my dad!”

After a shocked and appalled look from her friend, Huddlestonsmith quickly recovered with, “I meant happy! I meant happy!”

Throughout the years, Huddlestonsmith perfected the art of dodging questions and manipulating social situations to protect her complicated family. Her biological father, Dad, is gay and has a partner, Dave, whom she calls Co-Dad.

Her biological mother, whom she refers to as Pop, is transgender, having previously felt trapped as a man in a woman’s body. He underwent sex reassignment surgery when he married Huddlestonsmith’s biological dad’s sister, whom Huddlestonsmith calls Debbie. After her parents’ divorce and subsequent new partnerships, Huddlestonsmith spent a divided amount of time with each parent.

Though Pop was one of 40,000 to go through a sex reassignment surgery between the 1960s and 1990s, according to Gender Identity Disorder Advocates, Huddlestonsmith said after getting one look at her family many would judge her. She said the first grade teachers refused to teach her in her class in Harrisburg, Mo., because teachers assumed she would be a negative influence on other students.

“They went to the principal and threw me out of their classes. I guess [the teachers] thought I was contagious or something,” Huddlestonsmith said. “Like, ‘Oh there’s some gay disease on you. I don’t want it.’”

Angered with the situation, her father first met with the principal and then pulled his daughter from the school. The the elementary school did not contain the teacher’s fearful mentality, but it also infected one RBHS Physical Education class, too, as junior Isaac James stood alone morning after morning in the boys’ locker room.

He always rushed to get there before the other boys in his P.E. Class so he could quickly pull his white T-shirt over his head, yank some black basketball shorts on and leave the changing area.

When he began taking P.E. his sophomore year, he said there was no problem. He was friendly with all of the guys and didn’t feel too different from them, but that was before they knew he was gay.

When classmates realized his sexuality after a couple of weeks into the first semester, they migrated away from him to the other side of the locker room.

Soon this division became so apparent to James that he stopped changing with his peers.

“It wasn’t that I felt they were going to harass me, but I felt uncomfortable because I knew they were [uneasy] too.” James said. “They thought that I would look at all of them and be attracted to all of them. But just like straight guys who don’t like every single girl they see, gay guys aren’t attracted to every single guy they meet. But out of misunderstanding, people get mean and afraid.”

This almost small-minded mentality presented itself to Huddlestonsmith’s family after they moved from the accepting city of Los Angeles to the small Midwestern town of Harrisburg. To prevent inevitable conflict, they created roles for each member of her diverse family, labeling Pop and Debbie as her parents, her dad as her grandfather and her co-dad as her uncle. They also went to church on a regular basis, to comply with the small-town mentality, despite not believing in God.

“I have a lot of conversations with Christians. Some really accepting, some not. Pray away the gay,” Huddlestonsmith said. “That’s always my favorite.”

Sometimes it goes past just words, bullying has become a problem for many of the kids in the LGBT community. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network nearly 9 in 10 LGBT kids report being verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation, just like James was earlier this year by a couple of RBHS boys.

“They decided to harass me. They called me on the phone, and they left me messages. They kept calling me — Constantly. I was getting a lot of calls per week, and it just kept building up,” James said. “Finally, I tried to take care of it. … I ended up going to the police because it had gotten to the point where I got a death threat. The boy tried to say it was a joke, but it wasn’t. It was very direct, and I felt threatened.”

The division for junior Ara Priest, though, took shape in violence. Priest said after hearing she was a lesbian, men tried to force themselves upon her sexually to show her how to be a “real woman.”

“If I don’t show interest in men, they try to pressure me into liking them. They try to force you to have sex, basically rape,” Priest said. One guy “pressured me to sleep with him, and I did, and afterwards I felt terrible. Dirty. It was just wrong. I didn’t like it one bit, and I told him to stop.”

Both Priest and James count themselves lucky in some ways because the world is getting more accepting. They do not live in the “gay-bashing period” of America’s history as Huddlestonsmith’s father did. According to PBS Frontline, between 1990 and 1996 the FBI recorded more than 25,000 gay bashing incidents in the United States. During this time period, Huddlestonsmith said it was commonplace to carry a broom in the car to stick out the window and knock over the gay individual walking outside. But the more lasting pain came from a excluding mentality, which barred many gays from high positions.

Huddlestonsmith’s father said he was denied his medical boards based on a charge saying he molested his daughter, later the court found that the accusations to be fictitious, but he still was not granted his medical license for Missouri. The underlying cause, he said, was his sexuality.

“It just dismayed me that if you’re honest about who you are [in Missouri] that they are willing to get rid of you,” Huddlestonsmith’s dad said. “I had not expected such blatant hatred and misunderstanding.”

But no matter what the issues, Priest believes it is important to have someone to lean on when things get rough. Priest finds support in her long-time girlfriend, and 2010 RBHS alumna, Nikie Watson, sharing her daily frustrations with her. She first came out as bisexual, then a few years later as a lesbian. Priest said she always felt a strong connection to women’s beauty but had not accepted her sexuality fully until she finally admitted it to herself and others. As a same sex couple, though, Priest and Watson often face discrimination.

“I see all these straight couples holding hands, and it’s just quiet and sweet. But if you hold hands with your same sex partner, you get a lot of really unwanted attention,” Priest said. “All we want is to be treated equally, but we don’t. We get a lot of snarky remarks, a lot of rude looks, and it’s just hurtful.”

But Priest said she could handle the rude remarks and sideways glances, if she had the support of her family and friends. She continues to hide her sexuality from many family members, including a brother who lives in Louisiana and her grandfather, neither of whom she believes would be very accepting of her sexuality.

Worst of all for Priest, she said, is when she brings Watson over to hang out and her family, who knows of their relationship, calls Watson “her friend.”

“My partner is a big part of my life. So not being able to say, ‘Hey, this is my girlfriend,’ really hurts,” Priest said. “It minimizes what she is to me; she is so much more than a friend.”

To reach the level of intimacy in a relationship as Priest’s, though, one must first fight the battles against those who do not understand. One day on a school field trip in junior high, a boy effectively ended his friendship with Huddlestonsmith with, “You are going to end up just like your mom.”

Huddlestonsmith no longer needed to seek support from unknowing classmates after such incidents, as she found great friendship and understanding in her family. But it wasn’t always easy for her, for many years Huddlestonsmith refused to ride in the car with her Dad and Co-Dad because she believed their sexuality was apparent to all that drove past.

But as she grew up and came to accept her family’s quirks, she found a strong bond there. Soon her parents opened up to her, describing their difficulties in daily life. While going through with the “switch,” her Pop urinated through a funnel to experience the feeling of using the bathroom standing up.

She learned horror stories from the doctors office when her dad was one of the only physicians willing to help some of the first HIV patients in America. In the height of the disease he had 15 to 20 patients in the Intensive Care Unit.

“No one would come in the ICU, where I was … to help me do the biopsy because they were scared to death,” Huddlestonsmith’s dad said. “I went to pick up everything to put in the trash, I got stuck in the left palm. … I went for almost four years not knowing if I was going to get this thing — it was scary; it really was.”

As she heard more stories her family became a bigger part of her life. And having hidden her family and trying to be society’s version of normal through middle school and junior high, Huddlestonsmith was tired. During her first year at RBHS she decided there would be no more hiding or lies, and as she did, she began to see the divisions disappearing.

“People try to say, ‘Your Mom’ jokes to me, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t have one. And they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, did she die?’ And I’m like, ‘Nah, I just don’t have one,” Huddlestonsmith said. “Yeah, it took me a long time to be able to tell anyone. [But now] if you don’t want to be my friend, then you don’t have to be my friend. I’m not going to hide a big part of my life from you.”

By Maria Kalaitzandonakes

Students pursue their passions and dreams, miss other opportunities

Walking into the guidance office with a blue paper in his hands, junior Grant Flakne never dared to survey what was written on its surface. Reading might mean rethinking, and he was sure of his decision. He had filled out every block on the paper, projecting his decisions for his senior classes.

Orchestra. Jazz band. Marching band. Choir. Music Theory. An AUT which would be spent playing guitar and trombone in the practice rooms. Within the last few months, Flakne had decided he wanted to major in music education and planned to devote most of his senior classes to the art.

Coming from a long line of music connoisseurs, Flakne has learned to play an assortment of instruments: trombone, tuba, trumpet, French horn, mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass, drums, mallets and piano. This experimental variety has allowed Flakne to get a firm idea of where he wants to be in 10 or 20 years. He’s completely convinced that when college is said and done, he’ll hold a bona fide degree in music education. Music has become his passion — his everything.

Junior Mackenzie Ruebling, on the other hand, has selected a variety of classes, from a spattering of subjects. Her thick blue schedule lists College Algebra. Senior Mentoring. AUT. Senior Composition. Baking and Pastry. Choir. Her classes are open and indefinite. Yet, last year she was just as committed to a passion as Flakne. In Ruebling’s case, however, passion was not an instrument or an audition, but a single human being.

Scott Barry Kaufman, adjunct assistant professor of psychology at New York University, said there are two types of passion. Kaufman referred to the Dualistic Model for Passion, developed by Robert Vallerand, professor of social psychology at Université du Québec à Montréal, to explain the types as harmonious passion and obsessive passion. Both, he said, can be potentially divisive in society.

“Harmonious passion is when what you’re doing is for the pure, intrinsic joy of what you’re doing and not for external rewards,” Kaufman said. “People with harmonious passion know when to disengage. They don’t feel an obsessive need to keep working even when their ideas aren’t fully developed … But that type of passion isn’t like obsessive passion, where a person can’t just disengage. Their ‘job’ and what they’re doing follows them wherever they go.”

Flakne believes his passion is harmonious, stating he enjoys every second he spends creating music. He travels to bluegrass concerts, gathers advice from other musicians and daydreams of playing in symphonic orchestras. He balances this with a strong grade point average, a reputation for math and science skills and a group of friends who fondly refer to him as “Flak Attack.”

However, there are ways Flakne’s commitment is not-so-harmonious. Music often snatches control of his life without him noticing. His positivity toward the art blinds him to the aspirations he’s completely abandoned.

“I miss sports so much,” Flakne said. “I definitely have [missed out on opportunities because of music]. All the way through ninth grade, I played football and basketball. … But when I got into music at Rock Bridge and just devoted all my time to show choir and marching band and jazz band, I no longer had time to do football or anything.”

Not only has music stripped him of athletics, but it has also raised conflicts between him and others. Classmates have approached him, asking why he has chosen such an unstable lifestyle when he has the aptitude to try his hand at engineering. Flakne said many don’t understand his dedication.

Kaufman explained this was a rather common by-product of those who are “overly cheerful or enthusiastic” about their passion.

Passion “can get you in trouble,” Kaufman said, “especially if another person hasn’t found passion themselves, and they’re bitter that they haven’t found a purpose yet. … A lot of times, [passionate people] come across as ‘annoying,’ because they’re so excited. Sometimes the greatest problem with passionate people is that they have to disguise their actual enthusiasm levels.”

However, Flakne has done little to disguise his enthusiasm, already starting to learn keys for marching band this year, as well as auditioning for trombone and bass in jazz ensemble. Next year, he will rarely leave RBHS’ music hallway. And the year after that, he’ll be headed to college to keep on doing the same exact thing.

“A lot of people think [pursuing a career in music] is a little bit crazy,” Flakne said, “because of the instability of music, where you have no idea if you’re going to make any money at all. Honestly, you don’t know if you’re going to survive.”

Yet Flakne remains steadfast in the belief that his passion is beneficial, not detrimental. It may be his everything, but it’s his everything for a reason.

While Flakne searched for steady ways to pursue his dramatic dream, Ruebling immersed herself in something totally different. As a sophomore, Ruebling met a boy who caught her eye, whom later returned her affections. The resulting events were fast, extreme and, she acknowledges, definitely obsessive.

At first, Ruebling said, the relationship seemed like the perfect set-up. She wanted the “go-out-on-Friday-nights type of relationship,” Cinderella and the Prince, the happily ever after. With this boy, it seemed that was exactly what she was getting.

“I love those lovey-dovey stories and those types of movies. And since I’d never had that, whenever I thought I finally had it, I just got caught up in that,” Ruebling said. The relationship “made me happy, you know? But it wasn’t a fulfilling happiness. It was just temporary.”

Slowly, things began to change. Casual conversations turned serious, as Ruebling believed she was falling in love.

Her boyfriend suddenly became her focus in life. Her parents became distant apparitions rather than the comforting voices she trusted. Relationship worries were met with wild parties, where Ruebling and her new friends “started getting involved in things we shouldn’t have been getting involved in.” Her old friends faded into the background, replaced by temporary peers who clicked with Ruebling over common problems. As she spent her time trying to please her boyfriend, she saw herself becoming someone she wasn’t.

Her passion transformed from harmonious to obsessive in a matter of weeks.

According to an article by Medicine Net, passionate relationships become obsessive when one “cannot function as a person on a daily basis without thinking about an object of affection.” Ruebling eventually fit this definition, saying she “would come into class upset and go to musical rehearsals crying,” sitting with red, puffy eyes, wondering why her courtship wasn’t the picture perfect dream she wanted.

“I had gotten ahead of myself,” Ruebling said. “This [relationship] became so important that I forgot about everyone else that really mattered.”

So Ruebling slowly relinquished conversation with her boyfriend, tired of every word and every text message having a negative air. Her “temporary pleasures” drifted away one-by-one, and she started waking up in the morning pleased with her decisions, rather than sick, flustered and frustrated.

Kaufman said there’s a balance between harmonious passion and obsessive passion, where “one shouldn’t have to decide between their head and their heart.” There’s a way of combining the head and the heart, when passion is used so that “it is impossible to dream impossible dreams,” as Kaufman believes.

Both Flakne and Ruebling think their respective passions — whether obsessive or harmonious — led them to something better. Flakne is on his way to pursuing a career he loves, and Ruebling is back with friends who adore her. Even if that passion was misled or sparked initial conflict, Ruebling believes everyone has a particular passion at a particular time for a reason.

“You hear about people all the time who have the wrong passion and are addicted to stuff,” Ruebling said. “But then they find a new passion and when they get out of [the addiction], their whole life turns around … I think whether it’s a good or bad passion, the outcome you’re going to get in the end is going to be a much greater result than you had in the beginning.”

By Lauren Puckett

Political disagreements create schism between family members, self

Living in the same town and same street as her extended relatives, senior Lindsey Moreland’s childhood was filled with family dinners, traditional Thanksgivings and summer visits; she could not have asked for a more family-integrated childhood.

But that all changed when she began to understand politics at age 12; once she did, it didn’t take her long to realize her family tree was deeply rooted in republican ground. Moreland chose the hard path, deciding to be undecided instead of the expected ardent Republican because she felt supporting one party entirely without understanding each topic separately was not an effective way of utilizing America’s power of voting. Because her parents embodied the principle of party-line voting, Moreland frequently clashed with them while asking them to see her point of view.

“They don’t respect me, and they often say radical, sometimes prejudice, ideas in front of me,” Moreland said. “They constantly try to prove they’re right and I’m wrong, and it is hard sometimes to keep my mouth shut.”

She knows her parents will vote for the republican candidate regardless of who he is because they are party-line voters. Being a party-line voter, however, is not as simple as it sounds. Senior Julian Vizitei considers himself a firm Republican, but he still feels divided between the economical and social beliefs the Republican Party supports.

“The thing that’s happened to our political system is that we only have two parties that can really represent us,” Vizitei said. “You kind of have to go with the one that offers you the most of what you believe in, and you kind of have to stick with the bad in that sense.”

Vizitei supports the GOP’s economic policy but does not believe in all of its social ideals since some are based on a religious stance. Vizitei researches the candidates thoroughly each year so when the time comes, he can vote for the best. After deciding none of the candidates is perfect, Vizitei further analyzes the nominees’ undesirable image this season stems from “the most negative primary ever.”

Of the $103.1 million spent so far by all candidates in the running for president, nearly 72 percent have been ads aimed at degrading an opponent compared to the 24 percent of negative ads in the 2008 general-election campaign, according to The Washington Post’s “Post Politics” ad tracker.

These ads are because “campaigns inform voters about policy issues and help voters choose the candidate that is closest to their own views, despite all of their flaws,” said Matt Grossmann, political science professor at University of Michigan. “What we don’t like about campaigns is nontheless designed to get our attention.”

While Vizitei is still divided between his economic belief and his whole-hearted support of the GOP, the tactics of negative ads have made him more aware of the current candidates; he looks up statistics to see if those in the running are telling the truth or not, which helps him make the best decision about which nominee he should support, since even those who seem good in theory still have flaws.

But no matter how bulletproof people think their stance on certain issues are, they are still divided within themselves when it comes to ethics and logic, junior Andrew Hutchinson said. The best example, Hutchinson said, is when he sees protesters on street corners with signs declaring statements like, ‘Honk: make love, not war’ and ‘Bring the troops back home.’

“My emotions leap up, and I honk my horn and feel like a good, happy, pacifist hippie, but in reality, bringing the troops back home is not always a good idea,” Hutchinson said. “Each of us, I think, emotionally, wants the troops back home and want[s] the bloodshed to stop … but logically, we can’t end the war in two seconds … I think everyone is divided on every topic, but no one wants to admit [it.]”

Although Hutchinson realizes the commonality of division within everyone, it’s not a bad thing. He has had his share of heated political discussions at home, considering Hutchinson is “left enough to the point where my friends call me a communist,” and his father attended Glenn Beck’s Tea Party rally in D.C. despite living in Columbia. These experiences have helped him realize political discussions are an attempt to find compromise, Hutchinson said, and not necessarily to convince the other person.

Hutchinson, president of Young Moderates – a forum where people can discuss their views without having to belong in one party or another – has a chance to reach a middle ground on current issues with other students through the club meetings.

Young Moderates “is a place for everyone to talk about what they feel and know without fear of judgment,” Hutchinson said. It also aims “to bridge the gap between the Republicans and Democrats the best we can through calm political discussions.”

 By Daphne Yu