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It’s that time of year again. The decorations are up and the first flakes are in the forecast.

Based on two old standbys for winter weather predictions, Hendersonville should see more cold and snow than last year, which _ fingers crossed _ could mean more days off school.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac calls for a cold, snowy winter across Tennessee with snow throughout the winter months.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service expects a return to a more normal winter for our area compared to last year’s mild turn.

What’s normal for the Nashville area? About 6 or 7 inches of snow on average – meaning some years can see much more and some much less. Sumner County, especially northern Sumner County, typically gets more frozen precipitation than Nashville.

Whatever winter has in store, the school system should have more than enough snow days to handle it with 13 stockpiled.

Story by Katlin-Marie Grant and Megan Grandas

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The HHS Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Christmas for Commando Kids project is in full swing and will continue until Dec. 20.

The project anonymously provides gifts to needy HHS students and their siblings.

“The guidance office has been given 13 names of students (8 girls and 5 boys) who need assistance,” said HHS teacher Karl Wenzel, who oversees the program. “I am looking for 13 sponsors to take care of each of these kids.”

A sponsor can be a faculty or staff member, a student and his or her family, a class, a team, a club “or any other way you would like,” Wenzel said.

The school’s JROTC program is also assisting with the project.

If you’d like to participate, stop by the guidance office or see Wenzel in Room 146.

Story by Allyssa Hite and Hailey Gilley

 

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The HHS girls bowling team will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, today (Dec. 8) to compete in its biggest tournament of the season.

The girls team is 13-4 this season and ranked 15th in the state. The boys team is 7-10.

The bowling teams are coached by Anthony Butera and assistant coach Caitlin Hall.

Making the trip to Cincinnati are seniors Kerra Casteel, Megan Grandas and Jaycie Russum; juniors Nevaeh England, Alexa Janesh and Elizabeth Jones; and sophomores Katherine Ross and Sara Ross.

Story by Mason Mills and Camden McClister

For many students, it probably sounds like the ultimate Christmas gift: An early graduation from high school.

But for a handful of HHS seniors, it is reality; 18 will receive their diplomas this month instead of waiting until spring.

The county has a process for early graduation that requires students to complete all class credits, the ACT exam and the U.S. citizenship test, plus submit consent letters from their parents and the principal.

The Board of Education then must approve the request.

Students have different reasons for cutting their senior year short. Jeremy Boaz, for example, wants to “start college early and do more with jobs, like pay off college debt sooner than later.”

Cameron Gallina is also looking for a head start on life after high school, though he knows it will mean missing out on school activities.

“It just depends on who you are,” Gallina said of the decision. “I moved here freshmen year, so I don’t have as much attachment.”

When seniors graduate early, they are no longer considered part of the student body. They can attend school functions, but as guests rather than students.

That bothers Logan Whitney a little. She said she will miss seeing her friends every day, but she still plans to attend prom and the Snow Ball as a guest with her boyfriend.

And come spring, Whitney intends to walk the line with the senior class even though, technically, she will already be an HHS graduate.

Story by Sarah Kovach, Abbey Lewis and Kyra Hodge

When Isaac Perger was a sophomore, he was approached in the hall about becoming a peer leader for the drug and alcohol prevention program STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand).

“I had no idea what it even was,” Perger recalled, “but I figured, ‘This is what I stand for, so why not?’”

Two years later, Perger, now a senior, is glad he got involved.

As one of 26 peer leaders at HHS, he speaks with high school students already dealing with addiction problems and with middle school students who might in the future if no one intervenes.

Their work seems more relevant than ever given the opioid epidemic President Trump calls a “national health emergency.”

Sixty-four thousand Americans died from drug overdoses last year – a 21 percent increase from 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About three-fourths of all drug overdoses now are caused by opioids, which include prescription painkillers as well as heroin and potent synthetic versions like fentanyl, the CDC reports.

To put the numbers into context, more people died from drug overdoses last year than the 58,200 Americans who lost their lives during the entire Vietnam War.

“All it takes is one time to really affect you and ruin your life,” Perger said.

Many think young people absorb that message better when it comes from a peer instead of an adult, and that is where Perger and the other peer leaders come in.

 “I feel like from us they can relate more because we’re closer to the same age,” said Bailey Williams, another HHS senior and STARS peer leader. “They hear a teacher speak all the time, it doesn’t mean as much. When it comes from a peer, it means more.”

Not all STARS peer leaders come to the program as Perger did. Senior Laney Perry, for example, was encouraged to join by older friends.

“I didn’t know much about it at first, but I got more excited about it after I applied,” Perry recalled.

Debbie Sheets, head of STARS, said peer leaders often become role models to other students, many of whom are dealing with depression and anxiety as well as with drugs and alcohol.

Sometimes, the intervention is so effective that the counseled become the counselor.

“We even see some of the kids we counsel come and apply to be a peer leader after showing growth from their issues,” Sheets said.

If interested in becoming a STARS peer leader, see Sheets in the social studies hallway, across from Room 104.

Story by Kennedy Tilson, Caden Watterson and Peter Livesay

Plastic tables sat in a circle. Students stared intently as creative writing teacher Samuel Gilbert read a short story from one of his students. Once he finished, the group quickly came to life, voicing their opinions of how the story could be improved. Settling the class down, Gilbert led the discussion on how to enhance the student’s writing.

 

In the eyes of Gilbert, creative expression is a vital part of society. He believes “that a lot of times we are confined by tradition and a process of doing things -- not that traditions and processes are bad -- but some people have these amazing abilities and skills. Creative writing is able to be their form of expression when other things may not come as naturally.”

 

Gilbert, who also teaches English and songwriting at HHS, took over the creative writing class after teacher Kimberly Coyle left to teach in Uruguay. Teaching the course not only meant getting involved with a new group of students but also heading the school’s literary magazine, “Mosaic.” 

 

“Mosaic” is a collection of creative works from students at HHS. It is published periodically and available in the school library and through Gilbert in Room 202. In the past, the magazine primarily consisted of short stories, poetry and creative nonfiction as well as student artwork and photos. This year, Gilbert also plans to include songs written by students.

 

In hopes of making this year’s magazine the best yet, Gilbert appointed four writers to be editors: senior Kayla Delk, juniors Wrenn Arevalo and Katelyn Eddy and sophomore Sara Amos. They read all submissions and give advice on how to improve the work if it is selected to be in the magazine.

 

Amos said editing others’ work is a challenge that involves “reading through the first time marking grammar, then reading a second time focusing on structure and theme.”

 

Arevalo and Eddy advise anyone who is considering submitting to the magazine

to “be fearless and put your heart and your pencil on the page. Don’t write for others; write for yourself.”

 

To submit to “Mosaic,” email the work to Gilbert at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or hand a copy to any of the student editors.

 

Article by Kayla Delk (Kayla is also one of the editors of “Mosaic”)

“Use at your own risk. Refunds will NOT be given.”

HHS students better pay attention to this warning sign posted on some of the school’s vending machines because they are losing their money to the machines at a troubling rate, according to a recent survey by The Ville News

Twelve of 21 students who reported using the machines on a daily or weekly basis said they lost money this semester. Eight of the12 estimated that they lose money 10 to 20 percent of the time they use the machines. The four other students put that figure as high as 25 percent or more.

The informal, written survey was conducted Tuesday (Nov. 21). Eight students from each grade level were surveyed, but only results for students who reported using the machines either daily or weekly were tailed. If they reported “hardly ever” using the machines, their results were not included.

Dee Gaston, a senior, fell victim to the money-eating machines when she tried to use one next to the stairs in the main lobby. It ate her $1.25 without dispensing the Doritos she wanted.

Abigail Lawson, a sophomore, said something similar happens to her “about 30 percent of the time.” Byron Certeza, a senior, said he loses his money 25 percent of the time.

As a result, some students say they’ve either stopped using the machines or avoid using them as much as possible.

The HHS administration is well aware of the problem. Some students take their complaints to the office (three of the 21 said they told a school administrator about the issue; most reported doing nothing), though there is little administrators can do because the machines are owned and serviced by a private company.

“I call them (the vending machine company) every day,” said front office worker Missy Good. “They’re very quick to respond, but that doesn’t solve the problem.” 

Sadly, students who do choose to use the vending machines are simply taking a risk that may cost them a few dollars and an empty stomach.

Column by Bailey Guy and Carly Lancaster

HHS teachers and administrators aren’t exactly breathing a sigh of relief after this week’s EOC practice tests, but they do seem to be breathing a little easier.

“It went well with only minor glitches with some of the wireless devices,” Principal Bob Cotter said Thursday (Nov. 16). “Everyone did indeed get on to do their practice. We hope this holds true once every high school in the state that has block schedules gets on the servers to test.”

The state is requiring all high schools to take the End-Of-Course tests online this year, and the mandate is raising concerns about network capacity. Only two years ago, the EOC was taken online as well, and serious problems were reported across the state. Last year, school systems had a choice, and Sumner County chose to administer the high-stakes tests on paper.

Although the EOC practice run Tuesday and Wednesday went well at HHS with the computer network holding up under the strain, there is still anxiety about the actual testing that begins after Thanksgiving break.

The Ville News spoke to some teachers about the issue last week. Their edited remarks are below.

  • “I have some concerns because many of my students struggle with typing. We plan to spend time on computers getting used to the format of the test.”

  -Carmen Watts, English Department

  • “I am nervous.  Time and accuracy will be the biggest struggles.  It will be a challenge for my students to input their equations into the computer in a timely manner with the program. HHS students are very technologically oriented, so I do feel certain our scores will still be the best in the county.”

   -Heather Thomas, Math Department

  • “I think that it can make the process more efficient, but only if the technology (wifi, laptops, desktops, etc.) are up to the task. But it also might present problems for students who are not as proficient on computers and don't have the ability to type as quickly as those that had extensive experience on computers.”

     -Daniel Saylor, Social Studies Department

  • “I feel that more preparation could’ve been done; it’s not the school’s fault or the county’s fault. I don’t know if the testing company decided that we needed to take it online this year but most of my kids can’t even send an email, so I don’t know how they’re going to be expected to take a test online and to flip back and forth between the reference sheet and the questions. I don’t think it’s time yet to take the tests online, and at the very least they should not have the score count against them. It’s a lot of pressure on a student to have to figure out the computer system.”

 -Alicia Farrar, Science Department

Ready or not, Cotter said, online EOC testing is here. “I don’t really have a choice, the state says all high schools in the state of Tennessee have to do it online this year. We didn’t have to do it last year, it was a pilot and we chose not to do it. It’s just something we have to do.”

He also said school administrators have a backup plan in case the wireless system fails.

“We have a wireless plan in hopes that we can do testing in classrooms … and then we have a wired plan where we would have to displace the business department in order to use their computers the whole time we are testing.

“That’s what I don’t like about it,” the principal added, “the uncertainty of whether the wireless network can carry that many computers trying to get online at the same time.”

Cotter also warned that it will be really important for students to turn off their phones during testing times because the devices affect network capacity.

“We need people to not have their phones on,” he said.

Story by Giulia Giordani and Kelsey Dotson

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