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November 27, 2006

Glitches Aside, Homecoming was a Blast from the Past

Every year Hamden High holds an annual homecoming dance that takes place the Saturday before the Thanksgiving Green Bowl football game (Notre Dame versus Hamden). People from other towns usually take note that our homecoming is a little late, as a quarter of the school year has already passed by the time we come back home to HHS.

HH students doing the 1950s. Photos/Liz Braun

Anyway, the junior class is always in charge of putting together the homecoming dance for the seniors, and it usually takes lots of preparation. Last June, the students who were then sophomores met in room C301 to sign up for homecoming committees to work on when school commenced in the fall.

The theme for this year’s dance was decided last year by class officers and advisors. It was initially called “Back in Time,” but later renamed to the catchier “Dancing through the Decades.” The plan was to have hallways decorated with memorabilia from each decade from the 1930s until now. The music, as well, was to feature different eras of music instead of the contemporary tunes heard on the radio.

Many ideas were thrown around the table, such as having people dress in era clothing. This idea was ill fated, however, since everyone who wanted to go to homecoming didn’t want to be in an Afro or neon shorts.

Crews set up deals with restaurants, such as Subway, to supply food for room C107, which would be turned into a 1950s diner. The decorations committee made plans. Announcements asking for old posters and memorabilia were called over the PA system, and the posters started piling in.

The centerpiece to the gym, where the actual dancing would be held, was a huge cityscape outlined by Christmas lights. Words such as “groovy” were painted on the walls in the ’70s area, while lyrics such as “Mmmm, Bop!” were painted in the ’90s area. The committee worked hard for weeks, and it all came down to Saturday, Nov. 18, when the doors would open for all the kids.

As kids walked down the B-Wing hallway, they looked at the posters on the walls that reminded them of a time when President Clinton was in office, Nickelodeon showed sketchy cartoons such as “The Ren & Stimpy Show” and grunge was in full swing.

HH students doing the 1960s.

Walking down a little further, students saw decade-themed pictures taken by HH student Liz Braun that featured their fellow classmates. Braun scheduled each shoot, called each model and set up everything according to images in her head, and it was well worth it. The resulting pictures were fabulous. Kids’ jaws dropped when they saw how good their friends looked in decade costumes and settings.

Going into the gym, the lights were dimmed as flashes flickered to the beat of the music.  Crowds of kids were jumping and dancing to the music the DJ was playing. However, in the end, the only decade music played the whole night was for the Decade Dance Off, a competition where students made up a six-minute routine. The winner received a limo for the night and other amenities.

Many students felt betrayed by homecoming this year, because the promise that the night wouldn’t be dominated by rap and hip-hop was never realized. Rap raged on most of the time. After homecoming, kids said they wanted to hear the music they wanted, not what actually played.

Many problems occurred during the planning of the dance. First off, the price was raised to $30 per student ($5 more than last year). People felt that was too high, and therefore the sales of homecoming bids were fewer than in previous years. Other problems occurred during the actual setup. For instance, the committee put up decorations the night before, only to find everything back on the ground the next morning.

But in the end, the decorations impressed everyone. And all in all, homecoming was a success.

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at ABXY.org. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.

October 30, 2006

Please Keep Us Safe

Recently the news has been filled with school violence stories. America may remember the Columbine High School massacre of 1999, where classmates shot 12 students to death. Everybody should definitely remember the Amish school shooting that took place during the first week of October, where five youths were shot to death. School shootings as recent as last week in Asbury Park have pushed schools across the country to up their security and instate total lockdown safety procedures for students and teachers.

However, many people think that just because Hamden is where we live, it guarantees that nothing will ever happen here. But no one knows? Who would’ve thought that there would be a shooting at an Amish school, of all places? Just because it’s our home doesn’t ensure safety. The Hamden Board of Education has realized this and made a few changes to safety protocols.

Last week, Hamden High students were called to their respective homerooms after second period to get the lowdown on the upgraded lockdown procedure. The teacher told us that in the case of a drill, the words “Code Red” will be spoken over the PA system, and we are to immediately hurtle over to the corner opposite the windows. If a gym class is outdoors, students are to run to the equipment shed nearest to Shaw’s. If students are in the hall, they are to seek a classroom immediately. We are to stay in these places until the police deem it safe.

In order to enter the high school, a student who comes in late has to go to the D-Wing security desk and sign in, then he or she has to wait until the bell rings to go to class. Parents and visitors must also sign in at the D-Wing desk and wait for their names to be checked with the administration (according to the Green and Gold Guide, page 53). All students are required to carry the school IDs we received during English class. Although they’re never checked, we still get them year after year. Why do we need them if they’re not used?

At Beecher Road School in Woodbridge, families receive a photo identification key card that has to be slid through a lock in order to gain access to the school. Maybe Hamden should do this.

Hamden High does not have metal detectors in any of the entranceways. Why not? Most other high schools have instated this kind of safety enhancer. How much would it cost to install these near the main access ways?

While the Hamden BOE has improved security over the past few weeks, it’s still left with loopholes and details not thoroughly thought out. With the growing threat of school violence, more and more schools are not only increasing security efforts but also doing studies to find out what causes the rifts or anger to form that lead to violence. Hamden agreed to participate in a study about female adolescent aggression at the middle school (Curriculum Committee, September 6, 2006). This approval might’ve been provoked by the bullying of girls at HMS, but fights aren’t always among girls.

Still, I’m glad to see something being done about our safety. There will always be more crime and there will always be new technology and procedures to protect us. We no longer just hide under our desks during air siren calls.

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at ABXY.org. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.

October 23, 2006

Last Friday at HHS

Imagine for a second that you are a high school student who isn’t too thrilled about the long day ahead. If you take the bus, you will inevitably be dropped off at the back-left corner of the high school, which is called many things -- “The Box Office,” “The Lobby” or just the first floor B C wings.

You’ll walk in to see kids standing everywhere, wondering when their friends will arrive. Every once in a while, a group of kids will suddenly move outside or down the hall, while a school administrator chases after them because in Hamden High, groups in large numbers just have to mean trouble.

Sometimes kids will start clapping because maybe someone did something good, and they’re being congratulated. But no! Kids doing good stuff can’t happen in Hamden. An administrator will run over to tell the kids to stop.

Imagine how this makes everyone else feel. So you decide to go to your locker. You’re navigating between students who are convinced the halls are a lounge. You open your locker to put away your jacket, umbrella and whatever else you don’t need for the day, and then lock it and walk towards your first-period class. The advancement of time between you and the door of your class is close to 30 seconds away.

The other day we were forced to retreat from the classroom. To turn around. The fire alarm went off and 2,500 kids had to stand outside, cramped. How about we add pouring rain to the mix? That sounds about right.

What if this happened to you? Would you be mad?

I’m not exaggerating or lying here. Last Friday, the majority of students at Hamden High were cramped into the lower parking lot in the cold pouring rain while school administrators waited on firefighters to figure out what the problem was. While walking around the parking lot, you could hear such phrases as, “Now my SAT prep book is ruined!” Or “Whoever pulled the alarm is a …” I’ll let you figure out the rest of that one.

We were standing outside for 20 minutes. It was mass chaos. Usually during a fire drill, teachers meet their kids at a parking space or “landmark” in the parking lot where they take attendance. But not last Friday. Kids everywhere were getting wet, with no time to get their coats or put away books.

Who pulled the alarm? No one.

It was cold that Friday morning. The people at the top decided to turn on the heat. Apparently one of the air ducts had dust in it, and that dust blew out and passed a smoke alarm, which registered the substance as smoke.

So therefore, a malfunction in technology sent us all to the showers -- 2,500 students with an eight-hour day ahead of us. Just another miserable morning at Hamden High School.

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at ABXY.org. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.

October 16, 2006

Youth Want Bush Out

Photo/Liz Braun

It's not every day that a group of 200 or so people decide to march through your old school with the main purpose of trying to get you fired from the job you've held for a number of years. It's not every day that they denounce your name and scream it out as if you've committed mass murder.

But it's every day that people criticize or joke about your negative points in the media. And every so often, some take these criticisms and protest. The school is Yale University, the target was President Bush and the protest was Oct. 5.

During the first week of October, some Hamden High students passed out fliers for the Oct. 5 protest. Entitled “World Can't Wait,” this protest happened all over America. Every major U.S. city had some kind of event going on. A lot of students were intrigued, as most of Hamden High's students are Democrats (as is most of Connecticut).

Hamden High's cliques are numerous, some of them come straight out of Hollywood movies, but some are highly exaggerated. The clique that was passing out these fliers could be considered punks, rebels or in extreme cases Goths, by Hollywood standards. To us, we just see them as normal kids. Kids listening to the Ramones while wearing long black Keanu Reeves fit jackets.

These kids were everywhere passing out fliers that read:

On the corners of Elm and York Streets at 3:30 PM
Find Your Voice. Find Your Courage. Find Your Strength. “

Finally Oct. 5 comes. After two days of staying home sick from school, I got to my feet around 3 p.m. and decided to go to the rally. My friend Liz Braun and her mother picked me up and we drove to the New Haven Green and proceeded to walk up a few blocks to the intersection where the protest was going to happen. As we walked up, we -- being first-time rally-goers -- speculated what “street theater” meant. In the next few seconds, we found out.

A man with a George W. Bush mask was standing on a ladder on one corner. He was holding up a sign that listed reasons the president is a bad man: war, money and empire. At the bottom of his legs was a rope, which every now and then people would pull to get him off the ladder. And every time the man fell, people cheered.

College students, high school students and everyday people held signs facing oncoming traffic from the depth of York Square. Positive car honks were mixed with people yelling out of their windows. Everyone from the mailman to a car full of partying students approved of the rally. Drums kept the beat to people chanting: “World Can't Wait! Drive out the Bush Regime,” while a woman on flute played “Yankee Doodle.” A man came to the sidewalk with a guitar and a bunch of practice amps and started playing some kind of patriotic rendition of the song.

At about 4 p.m., we started marching throughout the Yale campus. A police escort was in front and in back of us as we walked around the outer parts of the Green. As we walked by, people in stores came out and shouted at us, saying that they approve. They all clapped. New Haven is definitely a Democratic city.

The political affiliation of a lot of kids and teachers is easy to guess after time. Most of the school is Democratic, making a Bush joke at every turn. Figuring out teachers' views is a little tougher. I know about two of my teachers' affiliations. Nods to which news channel they watch -- Fox News or CNN. Some even watch “The Daily Show” and Colbert.

The upcoming Senate race between Lamont and Lieberman is a discussion found around lunch tables and in classrooms at Hamden High. Some support Lieberman because of what he has already done, while some criticize his siding with Florida attorney Jack Thompson on laws against youths playing certain video games.

This election will be interesting to watch.

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at ABXY.org. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.

October 2, 2006

The Anguished & the Restless

About a week ago, a friend told me she wanted to see more angst in this column. Some older readers might think, “Angst? You're still a child! Wait until you're older. THEN you'll have stress and angst!” Well, let's take a minute here and see why a regular high school teenager's life is full of stress and angst.

Hamden High's first-period bell rings at 7:30 a.m. The bus ride from my house to school is about 15 minutes. My bus arrives at the end of my street at 6:45. That means that on a regular day, we arrive at school right when the doors are opening. Even before that, we have to wake up at an extremely early hour to get ready. Most high school students go to sleep around the time that Leno or Conan do their nightly monologues. According to an NSF poll, “Only 20% of adolescents report that they get an optimal nine hours of sleep on school nights, and nearly half say they actually sleep less than eight hours on school nights. “

So, the school day is an eight-period, 45-minute-per-class, seven-and-a-half-hour mess of tired students in the depth of adolescence. I admit that I slept through math class for the past two years. This year, when I have been getting enough sleep, I stare at the kids who have their heads down behind their backpacks to make it look like they're working. About 2,500 kids with mood-swing time bombs -- that could go off at any moment without warning -- walking around the halls. There has to be some kind of friction and trouble between us.

When we all wake up, we're still crabby. Drama comes out. Whether it’s someone pushing someone in the hall, or someone blocking the hallway, it all ends up in some kind of snicker or argument. A lot of kids show their anguish by making a “nnch” sound with their tongue. When you hear that, your self-esteem goes down. Some kids reply with a “not my fault -- watch where you're going” comment. A kid walking in the crowded line next to you might shake his head. A kid in back of you may laugh at the silly little argument.

Then we get to the end of the hallway, where both sides have to go one kid at a time because there’s not enough room for both sides to move smoothly. Across from one of the bathrooms, kids push and shove to get by, just because there is a table and a chair where a teacher sat during the last period for bathroom duty. No one ever thought that if you just moved the table into the indent where the bathrooms are, that the lines would move more smoothly. This would avoid a lot of the trouble between the lines.

During class, students usually share stories while not working. Stories of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll (or nowadays rap and R&B, which are very popular). Kids may feel not on par with each other, which escalates their need to want to do something. It escalates the feeling of being “not good enough.”

This all creates stress.

Events outside of school also seem to affect the way we act. Myspace.com is an online network where teens basically use the profiles on the site to boost their ego. If you're not on someone's Top 8, then you can't be in his or her close social circle. If you add someone, you're automatically that person’s friend in real life. But when you actually walk up to them and attempt to speak, they're nothing like their mask on Myspace.

We're all confused teenagers, torn between what's best for us in life and what we want now. We need to sort out our priorities, before someone ends up getting into trouble for fighting back in a hallway, or attempting something we've heard in a hallway story.

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at Dsmeet.com. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.

September 18, 2006

After-School Clubs Rock

According to a high school administrator, 800 students took part in some type of after-school activity last year. This information was relayed to us at an assembly that everyone (with the exception of seniors) took part in last week. Mr. Highsmith, the principal, walked onto the auditorium stage to urge us to take part after school.

He said he noticed the lack of spectators at a girls’ soccer game. (Before I move on, let it be noted that Mr. Highsmith has been very well received so far this year!) What the administrators were telling us is that the high school experience doesn't have to end at the 2 p.m. bell. Extra-curricular activities are provided so that people can become more well rounded, which is exactly what colleges look for when accepting students. Hamden High has a lot of very cool and enriching programs that help kids meet each other and build friendships.

So, what's there to do after school anyway? Well, for starters, there are the Green Dragons. When people refer to the Dragons, they usually mean the varsity football team. On Friday nights, the stands are crowded with students, parents and even normal citizens of Hamden, watching as our team fights for the win. Halftime comes and a bunch of Hamden High's clubs hit the field. The dance team excites the crowd with routines. The marching band peps up the game with blasting horns and melodies. And pretty soon the game is over.

The football team isn't the only group to hold the title of Green Dragons. Field hockey, soccer and cross-country are all fall sports. During the winter, there's hockey and basketball, and in the spring, there are lacrosse and baseball teams. I'd say that the athletic opportunities at Hamden are pretty well rounded.

What if you don't like sports? There are still things to do.

For instance, the Castle Building Club. It states that it is for “for castle enthusiasts and those of you who just can't accept that the Middle Ages are over.” A few Fridays every month, the club has castle-building competitions. Each contest usually has a building theme, like marshmallows. Every meeting is always crazy and everyone has fun. Other clubs include the Human Relations Club, SPEAK (Students Promoting Environment, Awareness, Kindness), Bridge Builders (filling the generation gap), the Asian American Club, the Gay Straight Alliance, and of course the Web Design Club, which recently redesigned the school's Web site.

News around school travels fast -- if by word. That's where The Dial comes in. The Dial is Hamden High's only newspaper. Written by students, it gives us the play by play about what's happening in our school. Usually, the Dial includes a teacher interview, a poll and sports recaps. Other media-related clubs include the Venture, which is for the yearbook, and the Video Yearbook, which stores all of your high school memories on a DVD.

There are plenty of after-school opportunities for everyone. Social clubs are a great source of knowledge that can never be taught in the parameters of a class. Social knowledge is what helps people survive in the real world. Experience can gain you a friend, or even help you out in a tight spot.

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at Dsmeet.com. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.

September 11, 2006

Juniors’ Playtime is Over

It's dawn outside and there's a light breeze. The yelling of kids at the end of the block awakes you. Why can't they just be quiet? It's like they haven't seen each other in a few months.

Oh, yeah, it's that time of year again. Schools have reopened their doors and kids are excited to see each other again. This year is going to be my first as an upperclassman (a student in either 11th- or 12th-grade). That means I have more schoolwork. Teachers need not remind us about doing our homework. By now we've all seen how not doing our homework affects our final grades.

Junior year is The Year. We really have to work hard. We take the SATs and pretty much decide our future. We work our butts off, ultimately shaping who we are by the knowledge we retain.

I entered Hamden High worried this year. That’s because I was one of those kids who slacked off and gained friends rather than A’s. Now it's a thorn in my side and I have to work the hardest I've ever worked to get back on top of my education.

I've been less social recently. I've stopped trying to breeze by, and decided to take a look around. Hamden High School is a school. No matter how much the Board of Education spends on refurbishing everything, from tiles to air conditioning, it's still an institution, where students enter every day expecting another boring day -- but come out with at least a little bit of knowledge.

Hamden High changes a little bit each year. A lot of students have already noticed the technology update. Every classroom now has a new Dell computer with an LCD display for the teachers. They are much faster and more efficient than the '98 computers we had for the past few years. Those computers were the slowest things ever. Sometimes, the computers took a half-hour just to load. Thank God for the new Dells in the computer labs. The BOE definitely got these cheap, as they aren't necessarily the best, but they still work proficiently and are a pleasure.

What I don't get, though, is that if the BOE is trying to save money, why did it replace the whole Mac lab? The Mac lab is a classroom that runs entirely on Apple computers. Before this year, there were very nice iMacs that worked as good as ever. Maybe one or two were down each day. They could've lasted at least three more years. I was shocked when I looked in the window, only to see Intel Duo Core Mac Pros. This was a dream to see. These models are the latest in a line of new Intel-based Macs. Each workstation has a cinematic 17-inch-wide screen display.

According to Apple.com's store, Mac Pros cost  $2,499 each. Where did the BOE get that money from? Maybe the state issued a grant, but even with that, it shouldn't cover a whole class set, should it?

Another thing that has bothered a lot of students is the hall passes. Chris Clark (former HDN “Guts Of Hamden High” columnist, who is now at college) once referred to these as little yellow slips. Well, now they're bright lime green. These things can literally blind you if you stare at them too long. I've already begun taping them to poles alongside my driveway so that I can see the barrier in the dark. Some students accept this change as a better alternative to the mustard-colored passes of the past.

Possibly the most controversial thing at Hamden High right now is something we've been promised year after year after year after year. During the HHS renovations in the 1990s, space was provided for air-conditioning on the B and D wings, but it was never put in. Nope, not until this year. And the company that was hired fumbled the job. Air-conditioners were being worked on every day after school from last April to the end of the year, and then during the summer. Students and teachers alike were excited for the air-conditioning that we were promised. Some teachers even put away or threw out their floor fans that had become so commonplace around the school.

Finally, the first day of school, Sept. 5. As we hurried into homeroom, we noticed it was considerably warmer inside than outside. We assumed that was because of the cluster of 2,500 students that just moved around to get to class. Before long, we started overhearing conversations between teachers. There was a problem with the a/c. Not only was it faulty and not working, but the heat had supposedly been turned on instead. My American lit teacher told us it was 80 degrees in the room, while Dr. Mel said it was supposed to be in the 60s all day.

Back to the beginning of this column. We upperclassmen are finally preparing for the future. This school year is about school. School always has its share of stories and mistakes -- and that's what I'm prepared to bring to you this year.

Ethan Long has attended the Hamden School System since 1995. He is currently an 11th-grader at Hamden High. He is also a news editor at Dsmeet.com. You may contact Long at Streetsim@gmail.com.


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