Artists sweep Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

The work of Mason High School’s art students is receiving national attention.

Ninety art students under Aaron Roberts, Audrey Gorman, Dale Conner, Daniel McKay, Tina Roberts, Pam Valentine, Karan Witham-Walsh, and Hannah Zimmerman were presented with Scholastic Art Awards and will have their work on display at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. The competition is open to middle and high school students with artwork ranging from Photography and Sculpture to Digital Art and Mixed Media.

Digital Art, Design and Animation teacher Aaron Roberts said students did extraordinarily well this year, with 25 percent of entries making it to the regional show.

“We’re usually maybe 40 or 50 winners, but I think we were around 90 this year,” Roberts said. “Usually about 15 percent of entries get in. We’re at 25 percent this year, marking an extremely successful year.”

The award winners are divided into three categories: Honorable Mention, Silver Key and Gold Key. Roberts said the qualifications for each level is determined by the judges each year but all are an honor.

“Honorable mention is often times given to works that they see being very creative or as the title implies, worth an honorable mention,” Roberts said. “Like they really want to give recognition to that piece even though it may not be as high up as a Silver Key or a Gold Key. The Silver Key is also a big honor. The Gold Key honor is like first place in the category.”

Screen-Shot-2015-12-09-at-2.51.07-PMThis cartoon by Madison Krell earned a Silver Key in the competition.

After entering for the first year, junior Lauren Fournier won a Gold Key for her piece Blue. Lauren said she was surprised because only a few people receive this honor.

“I was pretty surprised that I actually placed,” Fournier said. “I didn’t expect that at all. I checked the list of winners and I think it’s about 15 (students) that got Gold Key.”

All the winners will be featured in the regional art show, running from January 22 until February 6. Gold Key winners will have their artwork judged in front of a panel of judges in New York. Roberts said winners will be notified in the spring.

“Gold key category winners are also considered national qualifiers,” Roberts said.  “Those artworks are sent to New York to then be judged at the next round of judging by the national committee of judges. Usually over Spring Break we find out (who won).”


Effects of climate change felt on slopes at Perfect North

climate change

Statistics from USA Climate Change. Infographic by Madison Krell.

Recent anomalies in global climate levels have caught the attention of world leaders.

Beginning on November 30, 2015, the United Nations held Climate Change Conferences in Paris to discuss global climate change and course of action over the next few years to reduce the world’s pollution output and prevent catastrophic climate change.

The Paris Agreement includes a commitment to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees C (35.6 F). Countries are also expected to create greenhouse gas reduction targets, renewed every five years. The deal requires developed nations to give $100 billion annually to developing countries to combat climate change and promote greener economies.

The UN has high hopes for the Paris Agreement, but with the goal of a carbon-neutral world, Geology teacher Cody Kreager said global participation is necessary.

“If you really want to see a difference you need as many people on board as possible,” Kreager said. “If you’ve got five or six countries that are trying to do everything and then you’ve got five or six countries that aren’t doing anything, it’s going to cancel out. There would be no movement forward.”

Advanced Placement Human Geography teacher Caryn Jenkins said participation from all countries may not be feasible. As countries are developing, Jenkins said a debate has risen between nations on the need for fossil fuels.

“There’s a great point that India made,” Jenkins said. “India keeps saying ‘U.S., you had your chance. Britain you had your chance. You’re the ones who made the climate that we’re in. You need to give us the opportunity to develop. How are we going to do that without fossil fuels or carbon dioxide producing energy sources?’ I think that’s a great point.”

The United States as a whole has experienced warmer temperatures. Every state east of the 100th Meridian West is experiencing temperatures above average, and the rapid warming of Great Lakes have exemplified the problem.

Kreager said effects of global warming can been seen minutes away from Mason. The Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission said the Ohio River continues to be the most polluted body of water in the United States for the seventh year.

“Global warming is not just emissions, it’s also the other pollutants as well,” Kreager said. “The number one polluted place in the United States is the Ohio River. There’s a steel mill down there, and they pump all these toxins and stuff into the Ohio river.”

The Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) for the Ohio River recorded increasing mercury levels. In 2007, there were 61 pounds of mercury in the water. That number has risen over 500 percent, and as of 2013 there are 380 pounds in the river. Despite such a large amount, mercury is only the 48th most heavily concentrated pollutant in the Ohio River. The TRI has recorded more than 23 million chemicals that have been emptied into the Ohio River.

U.S Climate Data said Mason’s average temperature in December is 34 degrees F and 30.5 degrees F in January. Record high temperatures were recorded on December 23 when temperature rose to 69 degrees F.

While Perfect North’s season usually begins in November, this season the ski resort remained closed until late December. Marketing Director Ellen Perfect said recent warmer temperatures have prevented them from making enough snow to open the resort.

“This season, we opened on December 22 and 23 but had to close because of extremely warm temperatures and rain that melted the snow,” Perfect said. “This warm weather has had a negative effect on our business. We can’t make snow until the temperatures hit around 28 degrees, so the El Nino weather pattern has interrupted our snowmaking schedule.”

Junior Elijah Kelly has been recreationally skiing at Perfect North and said this winter’s unusually grassy hills have made skiing an impossible task.

“I knew it was going to be a risk when buying a pass in the summer it might not snow,” Kelly said. “By this time last year I’d have already gone three or four times, but obviously this year.”

A season pass at Perfect North costs $525 with daily admission costing $47. With the additional cost of ski or snowboard rentals, one would have to venture to the slopes 7 times to get their money’s worth. For Kelly and other adventurists, the possibility of getting this many trips in is becoming increasingly unlikely.

Record high temperatures and increasing levels of pollution across the globe have signaled to world leaders the dangers of the situation. Even so, the Paris Agreement won’t likely be implemented for several more years. Kreager said the further the situation is prolonged, the more negative its impact becomes.

“The earth’s still going to be here long after us,” Kreager said. “The only thing that we need to worry about is our perseverance in human beings. It’s not the earth that we’re hurting, it’s ourselves.”

Co-written with Alekya Raghavan.

Paris terrorist attacks felt in Mason

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 2.32.23 PM
Photo contributed by Dana Miller

Despite being 4,110 miles away, the Mason community continues to mourn the victims of the Paris attacks.

On November 13, simultaneous attacks were launched against the citizens of Paris, resulting in the death of at least 129 people. Three teams comprised of a total of eight terrorists, coordinated and executed shootings and bombings on six locations including a concert hall, the Stade de France, and at least two restaurants.

Lindsey McDowell, sister-in-law of Mason alumni Delaney McDowell, traveled to Paris from Riga, Latvia, to visit a friend on a business trip. McDowell arrived in Paris one week before the attacks, and said prior to the shootings, there were no suspicions that an attack was coming.

“Everything seemed normal the day of the attacks,” McDowell said. “I rode the train into the city center from the airport and didn’t feel unsafe or notice any suspicious activity. The streets were buzzing with tons of people out and about.”

Angela Randolph, friend of French National Honor Society advisor Abby Gist, has lived in Paris for four years, and hours before the attack she visited the café that would later be terrorized as part of one of the four locations that underwent attacks. Randolph said the attacks left a vivid impression on her mind.

“I remember everything vividly: the attacks, taking of hostages, and Kamikazes at the Stade de France,” Randolph said. “I knew it was a serious attack right away because I followed it on Twitter.”

The attacks immediately left 352 people wounded, 99 of them seriously. McDowell said the French government insisted pedestrians stay off the streets, and police officers directed people away from the shooting locations.

“I walked back to my flat at 1 a.m. because the restaurant I was at closed,” McDowell said. “They were not supposed to do this, and actually should have locked us in the restaurant since the French government had requested no one to be on the streets. When I walked back to the flat, there were streets barricaded and police with rifles instructing us not to go certain ways.”

World leaders grieved for Parisians, and on November 16, the Eiffel Tower lit up with the colors of the French flag, honoring victims. Shortly after, the Eiffel Tower at Kings Island followed suit.

Mason High School showed its support with a ribbon sale. Senior French Honor Society and French Club Member Kedi Hu promoted  “Peace for Paris” with the sale of black solidarity ribbons. While the ribbons are technically free, Hu said there is a recommended donation of 25 cents with each ribbon. Hu said the purpose of the campaign is to support the victims’ families. After watching news stories in class, Hu said the two clubs got involved, joining many other nations who have extended a helping hand to Paris.

“They covered quite extensively the things going on in France and not only France’s side of the issue but also how the world is coming together in order to support France,” Hu said. “They have filters of the French flag to show solidarity, like a community that is helping out another community in need.”

Yazmine Merkiled, who nannied for Gist’s children, now lives in Cincinnati but originally moved to Paris from her hometown Martinique. In the wake of the events, Merkiled said she would like to move back to Martinique instead of Paris because she is afraid. Like Merkiled, Randolph said she remains on edge after the attacks.

“I don’t take the metro or any other public transportation; there is so much craziness,” Randolph said. “I went to a mall the other day and three-fourths of the stores were closed, and that really didn’t reassure me. There are a lot of bag searches and searches done on people in public spaces.”

On November 13, attackers terrorized Paris, taking little consideration into the lives they were affecting. Their actions left many dead or unidentified, and in the aftermath of the attacks, MHS students rallied together to help a community in need. As for the City of Lights, McDowell said Paris is trying to regain its normal routine in this time of darkness.

“My friend had gone out earlier in the day and said cafés and shops were opening,” McDowell said. “Parisians were trying to resume their normal life and not allow the terrorism to deter them from living their lives.”

Festo hosts Innovation Night for third graders, showcases new technology

Robots are roaming Mason High School.

Throughout the past six months, Festo, a worldwide supplier of technology, has been working with Mason, Kings, the University of Cincinnati and Sinclair to devise a plan to make an impact in local students’ education. On October 27, as a gift to the city for its bicentennial, Festo showed off its latest robotic works in a night targeted at Mason and Kings third grade students and their families.

In the large commons, a video presentation featured “The Handling Assistant,” a new robotic development shaped like the trunk of an elephant that is designed to pick up and handle different objects. In the field house, kids and their families could walk around and look at several different robots during demonstrations lead by high school organizations. Michele Blair, head of Mason’s Economic and Development team, said the partnership with Festo allowed younger students to extend their learning while older students displayed what they’ve learned.

“(It) was cool to look at the pathways of connecting early education, high school education, and Sinclair,” Blair said. “All having that kind of robotics science teams, the waterbots and all those different types of things, gave an opportunity for students and clubs and the other educational partners to be displaying and learning and doing their thing along with Festo.”

Watch the Bionic Dragonfly in action. Video by Staff Writer Alekya Raghavan.

The night was filled with awe-filled faces as students watched the SmartBird fly for the first time in Ohio. Mason’s mayor David Nichols said he appreciates Festo exposing the youth to technology early on because it gets them to think outside the box.

“One of the things I love about this company and the reasons we wanted them here is they like to invest in youth,” Nichols said. “They know an investment in innovation and getting people to think outside the box, which I’m a firm believer in.”

While third graders may not have understood the science behind what they saw, Nichols said he was more concerned with installing the idea inside their heads that they can do something.

“I’m not worried if they understand it as much as their awe factor that they took into them because if you believe you can do something it’s half the battle,” Nichols said. “We don’t know if they’re going to be doctors, astronauts, maybe cure cancer, but if they think they can do it we’re halfway over the battle to stimulate that so where they sit there and say ‘I can do it! I can do it!’”


Photos by Alekya Raghavan

Click to view slideshow

Comet volleyball bests McCauley in straight set win on senior night

senior night2

Photo by: Blake Nissen

Senior year is filled with many firsts and lasts. For seven Comets, the game versus McCauley was their last time playing volleyball on their home court with “Mason” on their backs.

On October 12, players and coaches recognized seven seniors and thanked them for their dedication to Mason volleyball. These seniors then captained the team to a straight set win over McCauley, 25-20, 25-13 and 25-15.

According to head coach Tiann Myer, the program will miss the seniors’ positive attitudes and strong friendships.

“I think one of the things we’ll miss from them is the fact that there’s absolutely no arguing,” Myer said. “It’s truly a bunch of girls that care about each other, and that’ll be something that we’ll miss.”

After every tear had been shed, the Comets took to the court with the intention of adding another “W” to their 16-4 record. In the opening set, Mason took an early lead with the efforts of their all-senior lineup. A kill by Ellie Bruns and block by Leah Heffelfinger forced McCauley to take an early timeout, Comets up 10-4. McCauley proved to be a tough opponent after scoring six consecutive points, but Mason began to pull away after a block by Heffelfinger and sophomore Anna Brinkmann. An error by McCauley allowed Mason to claim its first set 25-20.

Myer said the effort by her seniors was a good one and that she enjoyed watching them on the court together.

“I think our seniors came out very ready tonight,” Myer said. “They came out very very up on their game, and they played amazing. So, it was great seeing them all get to play, and it was just super fun to watch them.”

The Comets opened the second set with an ace by senior Emily Malsch, setting the tone for the rest of the game. Despite a few errors, the girls maintained their lead throughout the set and won 25-13. Again, the Comets took an early 9-2 lead in the third set. After a dropped ball and consecutive scores by McCauley, the gap was lessened to 14-12, but McCauley was unable to hold onto the momentum and made costly errors. Mason took advantage of the opportunity with three consecutive kills by freshman Maggie King. McCauley handed Mason the victory after making two errors, allowing the Comets to win the third and final set 25-15.

Myer said her team played well and remained aggressive throughout the match.

“Overall, the entire team play great,” Myer said. “A little up and down, but we’ve kind of been like that all season, but they really went after it.”

Last night was the team’s last match at home, but there is still post-season to be played. Now aware of their matchups, Myer said it will be imperative that they focus and prepare for their final opponent in regular season, Oak Hills, and their first opponent in post-season, Withrow.

“We’re going to have to be very focused and ready for it,” Myer said. “We just have to go in and take each day one at a time, practice, and focus on our next opponent.”

Young Women’s Club sells bracelets to share Love for Liz, MHS alum battling cancer


Photo from the Love for Liz GoFundMe page.

Once a Comet always a Comet.

The Young Women’s Club is honoring Mason alum Liz Lothrop by selling bracelets to raise money for the Love for Liz GoFundMe campaign. Lothrop was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2008. She fought a hard battle with the disease and reached remission in 2011.

Before she was diagnosed with Leukemia, Lothrop babysat sophomore Delaney Turner. According to Turner, news of Lothrop’s diagnosis with a new cancer early this year shocked those close to her.

“She was in remission, then this summer she was diagnosed with stage-four Glioblastoma Multiforme,” Turner said. “My mom told me that in the car, and I was just in tears.”

Lothrop continues to study at Duke University throughout treatment. Turner said she often receives news of Lothrop’s condition and the status fight with her brain tumor.

“She’s an incredible fighter,” Turner said. “She already beat cancer once, and it’s so hard for her to have this again while she’s in college, but I see videos of her, (and) I hear about her through my mom.”

Tina Roberts, advisor of Young Women’s Club, said Love for Liz bracelets will continue to be sold in the upcoming weeks and can be bought during lunch and at some football games.

“The student body now doesn’t know her because she graduated a few years ago,” Roberts said. “I hoping that once they get to know her, we can start doing some sales at lunch time; maybe some future football games again if they have some special events going on.”

According to Turner, the support of friends and family throughout Lothrop’s battle has kept her spirits high.

“I saw this video of her the day after she had surgery, and her boyfriend came to surprise her and her face lit up,” Turner said. “The support of all her friends and family members really brings joy to her, and she’s such a fun-loving, caring person.”

While Lothrop still has lengths to go in her battle with the tumor, Turner said she recently received good news regarding the growth of the cancer.

“I knew that she was going to get through this,” Turner said. “I just heard news a few weeks ago that all the cancer cells are dying or (are) already dead.”

Sophomore Natasha Saputra performs piano at Carnegie Hall for the sixth time

Photo: American ProtŽgŽ Winners Recital; recital photographed: Friday, July 3, 2015; 7:00 PM at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine. PHOTO CREDIT - Richard Termine

Photo from

Sophomore Natasha Saputra is a Mozart-in-the-making.

Saputra stepped foot on the renowned stage of Carnegie Hall this July for her sixth appearance in her lifetime. Saputra has remained dedicated to the piano for 10 years and currently takes lessons at University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (UC CCM) Prep.

Saputra was in the fourth grade when she made her debut appearance at Carnegie Hall and has continued to improve in the art form, racking up five more appearances along the way. From the array of seats an audience may only hear a string of chords, but Saputra said she aims to tell a story in every piece, providing them with personal connections.

“When I play the piano, I also have a story in my head,” Saputra said. “I like to tell a story when I play each piece so that I can kind of connect to the audience while also connecting to myself and the music.”

Saputra has excelled on the keys, but she continues to push herself outside of the classic instrument. On Fridays, she can be found marching on the field alongside her fellow band members. Saputra said she manages the two demanding extracurriculars by constantly exercising her brain and her fingers.

“When I get home if I still have a lot of homework, I would do one class, and then I take little eight minute breaks,” Saputra said. “Even though it’s little eight minute bits that I’ve been practicing one section at a time, it really helps me in the long run.”

The pressure of performing well at Carnegie Hall is enough to make anyone’s palms sweat, but Saputra said she focuses on improving herself and not the hype of making it to NYC.

“I don’t really feel the pressure because I actually enjoy playing the piano,” Saputra said. “I want to get better for myself, so even though I do enjoy playing there, I want to keep pushing myself so that I can keep on getting better.”

PARCC Test Dropped by Ohio, Replaced with AIR


Illustration by: Madison Krell.

It was no walk in the PARCC, but now it’s over.

The 2014-2015 Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests have been removed across Ohio, changing the face of Common Core testing.

In the Spring of 2015, Mason was introduced to a new state test set to replace the Ohio Graduation Test. The online assessment called for students to take End of Course Exams in English, Math, and Physical Science.

After the conclusion of the school year, talks about replacing PARCC as the state test arose. Dr. Heather Sass, Chief Academic Officer of Mason City Schools said with the signing of the state’s budget bill came the removal of the tests.

“Because of the law that was passed in June, Ohio is now no longer apart of that partnership (with PARCC),” Sass said. “That left us with English and Mathematics testing needed, so we sought out the American Institutes of Research (AIR) to facilitate the development of our own test.”

The majority of PARCC testing was done online, quickly making issues with technology evident. According to Sass, PARCC was deemed unfit for state testing after schools expressed concerns with technology and the amount of testing.

“PARCC had some aspects of its registration and technology platform that were very awkward and cumbersome,” Sass said. “Our legislators also listened to the fact that having a performance-based and an end-of-course part of the test made for too many testing sessions.”

The Class of 2018 in Mason will be the first class not to take the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) their sophomore year. Last year, freshman students worked towards the new graduation requirement, sitting through 12 days of 90-minute testing sessions. Initiation of the PARCC tests immediately sparked frustrations with students. According to sophomore Gabi Renshaw, the extensive testing seemed out of place due to the outdated test material.

“The tests that we took—we didn’t do any of that stuff in school that year,” Renshaw said. “It wasn’t assessing us on what we learned freshman year when we took it.”

With the implement of AIR, improvements from PARCC are expected to be made. According to MHS Principal, Dave Hyatt, AIR’s two 90-minute testing sessions won’t require students or teachers to miss as many classes.

“It is less intrusive; you will have less instructional time lost,” Hyatt said. “Our teachers will be able to teach more, test less, which is a good thing.”

According to Sass, many aspects of last year’s testing will remain the same; however, the new science exam will assess students on biology, not physical science.

“Last year students may have taken a physical science (exam) and that test is no longer. It’s switched completely to biology,” Sass said. “But if you took the physical science test last year (the points) will count.”

Students are set to take the tests from April 4-May 13. Sass said she is pleased with what AIR has accomplished for the state, and expects the new tests to continue to be a part of Ohio’s state tests.

“I think it has a very good chance (of staying in the long run),” Sass said. “In Ohio it’s really good for us to have tests that are targeted towards our standards by our educators, and I think that’s what AIR has accomplished for us. In that way I think AIR is a good move for us.”

Lakota East outlasts young Comets in five sets, takes first in GMC

The Greater Miami Conference has a new leader, but it’s not Mason.

The Comet volleyball team took on Lakota East last night in a match-up that would determine the new conference leader. After five sets with scores of 25-17, 23-25, 25-23, 17-25, and 15-8, the Thunderhawks emerged victorious.

The Comets struggled to find their rhythm during the first set, resulting in a series of dropped balls and hits into the net. While the girls eventually tied it up, it wasn’t enough to make up for lost ground: East gained seven consecutive points, and the first set was theirs. According to head coach Tiann Myer, nerves and the team’s inexperience led to a shaky start.

“I think that they were a little nervous coming out,” Myer said. “We’re a very young team, so starting off they know that it’s a big hype.”

During the second set, things started to turn around for Mason. The athletes were more aggressive at the net and forced East to use both timeouts. According to Myer, the change can be accredited to the girls being more focused.

“We bounced back because we realized we could play with them,” Myer said. “We started focusing a little bit more on our game versus what they were doing, and things just started coming together for us in that second game.”

Mason hung with Lakota throughout the third set, but a few controversial calls ruled in East’s favor allowed East to take it 25-23. The two teams were point for point during the fourth set, but Mason pulled away after a series of kills and ended the set 25-17 with an ace. The deciding set was all Lakota. Mason exhausted both timeouts, but the breaks weren’t enough to prevent Lakota East from taking the match-deciding set, 15-8.

Myer said she was impressed with her team’s performance, and with only four returning varsity players, her young team has a lot of potential.

“Overall, it was a really good night,” Myer said. “I know the potential’s there; the talent’s there and they really showed that, so I was extremely happy with how we played.”

With the defeat, Mason’s undefeated GMC record is no longer intact, but Myer said with more than a month of volleyball left to be played, nothing is set in stone.

“If we keep playing the way we do, they might end up losing one; we could tie,” Myer said. “We’ll put together what we need to and then focus more on the post-season.”


Photo by: Blake Nissen

Students shed public speaking fears, build skills in MHS Speak Week

Fifth to ninth graders will be smooth-talking by the end of this week, thanks to coaching from Mason High School’s Speech and Debate team.

From July 27-31, the team is continuing their annual tradition of Speak Week, allowing students to practice public speaking skills.

According to rising senior Dominic Peraino, Director of Metrics for the Speech and Debate team, attendees will work on four main skills in classes throughout the week, building up to a final test of their new knowledge.

“Argumentation Refutation is one (class), Research and Speechwriting, Physical and Verbal Delivery, and Limited Prep,” Peraino said. “Every day, they rotate through one of the classes, and on the fifth day, there’s a tournament where they put all of the skills they’ve learned to the test.”

According to rising senior Andrew Gao, co-captain of the Speech and Debate team, the basics that students learn this week can be applied to settings beyond a heated debate.

“I’m pretty sure every single skill can be applied to (outside settings),” Gao said. “The ability to make a strong argument–the ability to persuade somebody about a topic–that’s a skill you can use in class presentations, jobs, when you’re trying to convince your parents. It’s everywhere.”

In addition to preparing youth for a lifetime of presentations, one of Speek Week’s benefits is the additional aid in funding it gives to the Speech and Debate team, Gao said.

“(Entrance costs) $110, and the money goes to the actual funding of our team,” Gao said. “When you want to fund clubs to pay for bus transportation to go to different tournaments–just paying the fees for tournaments–you have to raise money somehow, so in a way Speak Week is our creative way of raising money.”

According to Gao, if students showed interest in the activities throughout the week, there is a club for them at MHS.

“If the kids liked Speak Week, they should join Speech and Debate Team,” Gao said.