Top New Year’s Resolutions of 2017


The making of New Year’s Resolutions is a tradition practiced all around the world. It derived back during the time of the Babylonians, over 4,000 years ago, and still carries over into today. People often use the idea of New Year’s as a time to close the door on a certain chapter in their lives, and begin fresh with a new one, which is where the resolutions come in.

New Year’s Resolutions are typically a decision to do, or not do, something in order to accomplish a personal goal or break a habit. Usually almost everyone makes them, so we figured it would be an interesting idea to ask the students of Westlake High School what their New Year’s Resolutions are.

Here are the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions of 2017:

  1. Be Happy
  2. Eat Healthier
  3. Dress Nicer
  4. Get Better Grades
  5. Get Better at Organization
  6. Workout
  7. Surround Myself with Positive People
  8. Time Management / Less Procrastination
  9. Lose Weight
  10. Stay the Same / Not Change Myself

Whether people stick with them or break them, New Year’s Resolutions are a positive, happy trend that will live on through history. Hopefully reading some of these will inspire you. What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

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Black Friday: Saving or Scam?


It’s 6pm on Thursday, where are you? Most Americans are enjoying a Thanksgiving meal with friends and family while some are lining up outsides retailers doors hungry for savings. It makes you wonder, are the doorbusters deals saving you money?

Last holiday season, according to USA Today,  “An estimated 205 million Americans went shopping last year over black Friday weekend.” Black Friday is known for the having the lowest prices of the year, however, it is the worst time to shop because of the insane crowds of shoppers all searching for savings.

The retailer’s job is to attract customers into their doors by offering a few products at a low discounted price, while the majority of their items are left without a discount. By doing this, the retailers have dragged you into their stores for the “deals” you came in for; however, you still end up purchasing something else even if it is not on sale.

Black Friday retailers are known for offering deals with limited quantities. Some dedicated shoppers camp outside so they do not miss out on these doorbuster savings. Sometimes the retailers offer lower-quality merchandise for Black Friday called derivatives. These derivatives are made with cheaper materials in order for retailers to offer low prices. Not all products sold are derivatives, but you must always be aware if the product you’re purchasing is the real deal or not.  

A study conducted by the Wall Street Journal studied product pricing throughout the year and found out that “most items are offered below Black Friday price points at different times throughout the year,” Backman noted. It was found that the best time to buy a TV is not on Black Friday but rather the week before the Super Bowl, and the best time to buy jewelry is after Valentine’s Day for the lowest prices.

Stores may hand out discounts on Black Friday and throughout the Holiday season, but before checking out in stores and online, make sure you are only buying what you need and you’re not overpaying.

If you shop smart, you may just find a good deal.

Work Cited

Backman, Maurie. “Is Black Friday a Scam?” USA Today. Gannett, 17 Nov. 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

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A Woman’s Fight For Equality: How Islamophobia and Muslim Stereotypes Have Changed Her Life


Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is a 24 year old entrepreneur, writer, and activist. She has a new book out, runs a successful and popular website, and recently spoke at the UN alongside Gloria Steinem and other revolutionaries.

She also happens to be Muslim, which has made her the victim of stereotypes, Islamophobia, and prejudice against her Islamic faith.

Growing up in New Jersey, Al-Khatahtbeh was just a child when the attacks on 9/11 occurred, which, according to her, made her and her family the victim of constant discrimination.

Fifteen years later, the activist still receives “suspicious stares” and suffers from physical and emotional harassment by her fellow American citizens.

At the age of 17, Al-Khatahtbeh decided to put an end to this growing negativity towards Muslims, and especially Muslim women, by starting a website called

The site “seeks to de-stigmatize what it means to be a Muslim woman” and serve as a “safe space for women to ask questions about Islam, share inspiration, or discuss ‘random issues or girly topics,’” Sara Ashley O’Brien of CNN reports. has already logged 100 million hits in 2015, containing articles ranging from Donald Trump’s harmful influence on the Muslim community to “modest workout outfits,” Forbes Magazine captures.

According to O’Brien of CNN News, although Al-Khatahtbeh continues to inspire audiences, both Muslim and non-Muslim, around the world, she says that “it is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting to have to assert your humanity time and time again.” 

The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University reports anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 78% from 2014-2015, as Al-Khatahtbeh states she is “once again afraid to walk the streets of my American hometown,” captured in Time Magazine’s article.

Not only are Muslims a religious minority, but Muslim women are even more vulnerable to verbal and physical abuse, which fuels Al-Khatahtbeh’s fight for change.

“Our headscarves have become the lightning rods of anti-Muslim sentiment in our society,” the writer and entrepreneur explains.

Despite this astonishing reality, and Al-Khatahtbeh seek to unite all religions, races and genders as they continue to reach new heights.

Her new book titled, Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age, aims to show people how Muslim women and all followers of Islam lead normal lives but face extreme hatred and intolerance on a daily basis. Al-Khatahtbeh dedicates her writing “to all the little girls who ever cried in the dark.”

With the success of her website, rising popularity as an activist figure, and inspirational fight for an end to Islamophobia, Al-Khatahtbeh aspires to forever change the way the world views Muslims.

Works Cited:

Al-Khatahtbeh, Amani. “I’m a Muslim Woman and I’ve Never Felt More Unsafe in America.”

Time. Time, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

English?”, “Do You Speak. “ Founder on Islamophobia and the Election.”

CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

Forbes. “Amani Al-Khatahtbeh Is Shattering Muslim Stereotypes.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine,

n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

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Clown Craze


Every month brings a new phase in the social media world, and this October has been a craze over clowns. People have been dressing as killer clowns and stalking the streets and woods across America at nighttime.

In the article, “No clowns allowed: scariest Halloween costume of 2016 faces bans across US,” by Amber Jamieson, the author discusses how due to unprovoked clown attacks, any dressing up as a clown has been prohibited.

This is especially important at schools where many clown threats have been made threatening to come onto school campuses. Jamieson writes, “But clowns are turning Halloween from fun-scary to scary-scary by terrifying children so much that schools are banning them from Halloween parades.” The clown phase has turned into a dangerous craze where clowns have attacked and injured many people across the country. So, schools have decided to take initiative and ban clown costumes to prevent any actual problems from occurring regarding real clowns.

Clowns may also be pedephiles and looking to kidnap children. Jamieson writes, “The creepy clowns craze kicked off in Greenville, South Carolina, with two clowns trying to lure a little boy into the woods.”

All in all, the clown craze that began as a practical Halloween joke has actually turned into a serious problem involving possible child molesters and assaults. Stay safe this Halloween and remember that all clowns are not as friendly as Ronald McDonald.

Works Cited

Jaimeson, Amber. “No Clowns Allowed: Scariest Halloween Costume of 2016 Faces Bans across US.” N.p., 26 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

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Westlake Homecoming 2016


On Saturday October 8th, Westlake students cheered as they left the football field, winning their 6th game yet.

In the school week leading up to the big game, students all dressed up to show their school spirit in a collection of fun outfits. Wednesday was a day for all students and staff to showcase their American pride. On Thursday, freshman dressed up in cowboy boots and western clothes; sophomores dressed in their best tourist clothes; juniors dressed preppy and seniors battled in mathletes vs. athletes. These were just some of the fun outfits students wore to show their school spirit. Friday was the annual color day, representing each grade level, seniors taking the school color: blue. 

Amanda Rubeo, a photographer for the Westlake yearbook, took pictures during Friday afternoon’s pep rally. Rubeo exclaimed, “It was an amazing experience that captured the true heart of Westlake spirit.” Rubeo is right, for everyone at the pep rally was overjoyed to cheer on their school, fall sports teams and especially the football team.

Lauren Schneider, a Westlake junior, joyfully said, “I love Spirit Week! It makes school so fun and brings the students of all grades together.”

Westlake High School’s 2016 homecoming game and Spirit Week proved to all of the students that our school come together as a whole in order to support all fall athletes and showcase their school pride.

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Hard Work Pays Off


It’s 7:45 and the school day is about to start. Ms. Janet Matthews is ready to start teaching English yet another day at Westlake High School.

When Matthews started teaching, she was “learning the ropes;” but the longer she taught, the more natural it became. She knew that it was a career she wanted to continue because it was her calling.

Matthews has taught at Westlake for 30 years. Within those 30 years, she has created endless successful programs that run in the school, including English 9 Honors and Creative Writing. “I think those two programs define my character,” Matthews states.

She has made an impact on every teacher in the building, specifically her fellow English teachers. Vincent Iovane, English 11 and AP Literature teacher, states that Matthews has inspired him in every aspect of teaching: “She helped me become a better teacher and a better person.”

Lauren Muller, English 9 and Journalism teacher, states, “she is always willing and ready to learn something new. Many teachers in her position would be content with the amount of knowledge that they have acquired over the years; however, Mrs. Matthews continues to look for new experiences and ways to acquire more knowledge. She travels, takes courses, reads and then reads some more, attends conferences, all with the intention of bringing whatever she learns to her students. It is truly remarkable that every ounce of culture and knowledge she learns outside of the classroom she works into her lesson plans to make them more engaging for students. I admire that.”

Although she inspires many everyday, she is also inspired by the people around her.

Her students inspire her everyday. “Some of them still keep in touch with me,” Matthews states, and “they are so hard working.”

Students look up to Matthews more and more everyday, including one of her Creative Writing students, Jessica Kaplan.

Kaplan, from the Class of 2017, states that Matthews has “inspired [her] to become a writer by teaching [Matthews’s] Creative Writing students how writing can act as a form of expression as well as a career. Writing is art that can be for yourself or for an audience.”

Kaplan loves reading and writing. That’s why her and Matthews work so well together.

Kaplan adds that Matthews is “one of the only teachers [she’s] ever had who has challenged and pushed [her] more than [she’s] ever been pushed before. What was different about having Ms. Matthews as a teacher was that in her class it was never just about the grades. Ms. Matthews challenged her students to think differently, to step out of their comfort zones, to try new things and to achieve what they might not have thought possible.”

Without Matthews, Kaplan wouldn’t be the writer she is today. One lesson Kaplan will remember forever is “you cannot be afraid to take risks.” This is also how Matthews lives her own life.

Matthews isn’t afraid to take risks. She takes risks with her writing and the way she teaches, including dressing up and having parties, mostly with her 9H students.

In Kaplan’s eyes, Matthews is a teacher who is “challenging, brilliant, and enthusiastic.”

Muller notes Matthews’s “moxie” defines her most as a teacher. Her “passion, dedication, work ethic and endless optimism don’t hurt either,” Muller adds.

Iovane believes that Matthews’s sense of humor is most fitting to her teaching style. He adds, “How she’s willing to come into school dressed up as Beowulf shows how she wants to get students interested in what they’re reading.”

After all the years of teaching, her career is sadly coming to an end. Matthews has inspired many students and teachers throughout her career. She’s impacted many lives with her knowledge of life and literature.

“She helps students find their own love for English,” Muller states. “There is always one teacher in high school who has impacted a student’s appreciation for a subject area. In this case, she is the teacher who has aided students in finding their appreciation for English.”

Matthews will be missed at Westlake. She has done so much for the English Department and curriculum, but most notably for students. Westlake will not be the same after she leaves for new endeavors. “Her classes were always an adventure, and something different,” Kaplan states.

Matthews should be remembered for “her passion and ability to bring English to life,” Muller says.

Kaplan states that Matthews should be remembered for “being an incredible teacher. She should be remembered for changing the way her students think, for challenging [them] to achieve things [they] never thought possible, and for inspiring her students to overall be better writers and people.”

Matthews notes that what she’ll miss most is “definitely the students and my wonderful work family, especially my close friends and supportive colleagues in the English Department.  I have at least four boxes of letters and cards I have saved from my students; their notes continue to be a source of warmth and inspiration.”

Matthews “lives every moment to its fullest” and doesn’t want her teaching career to end. After she officially retires, she hopes to travel the world and visit the continents she hasn’t visited yet. She will be traveling to Croatia, and in 2017, she will be taking on Antarctica.

“I hope to read every back issue of the Smithsonian and The New Yorker that is on my coffee table; improve my forehand in tennis; master my yogic breathing; spend more time with my family; find the right color streak for my hair; continue my volunteer work; write, write, and write more; and welcome any adventure that comes my way!”

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Growing up in the “Boogie-down Bronx”


Adriana Aloia, Foreign Language teacher at Westlake High School, lived in the South Bronx from birth up until the age of 24; despite the trivial conditions living in one of the five boroughs of New York, she was able to reach high standards and gain many academic achievements.

Aloia, at the age of five, moved from Morris Avenue to Arthur Avenue and had “…only spoken Italian…up until first grade.” This was due to the rich Italian culture within Arthur Avenue. Aloia explains this area as “a little Italy in the Bronx…everyone in the neighborhood spoke Italian as well as my relatives.”  Although Aloia did not speak much English before she started school, she still managed to do her best.

“I am the product of public school education all the way,” Aloia says, and mentions that attending school was rough because of the racial strikes in the late 60s and early 70s. Also, growing up in the Bronx “you kind of had to toughen up and be assertive in most ways.”

Despite this, Aloia recalls that her teachers nonetheless “were very hardworking and pushed us to work to the best of our ability.” Thanks to her positive influences, she developed a very strong work ethic and valued her education, earning her way to the title of “a super achiever… always in the honors classes.”

Aloia has demonstrated her capability to exceed average expectations all throughout her life based on the environment she was exposed to at a very young age. Aloia says, “I grew up always living around immigrant families… I observed them always working hard, even when they were home they were supposed to be relaxing, but they’d be working in the garden, cooking, or cleaning… it seemed like they never stopped.”

Her dedication to hard work is clearly noted in her personality as Claudia Papazian, Aloia’s colleague and friend of 23 years, states that when she first met Aloia, she thought of her as the “consummate professional.” Papazian also mentions that for as long as she has known Aloia, Aloia has always proven to “not only go above and beyond, but go way way beyond…she is somebody who has a work ethic that is unmatched.”

Aloia has noted that her greatest academic achievements were only possible through all of the time and effort she has put into building her career. Aloia was the first one to receive a college education in her family. Her involvement in many academic foreign language communities has earned her the title of “President of the Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica for the past four years,” an honor society for high school students enrolled in Spanish.

Ironically, Aloia never planned to become a teacher; when she was younger, she actually wanted to become a stewardess thanks to her love of traveling the world. Instead, Aloia has granted the countless amount of students she has taught with the gift of travel through learning different cultures associated with the languages she has taught.

Aloia says, “I never would have thought I would have accomplished what I did in my career as a teacher.”  

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Goodbye, Mr. Ferguson


Mr. Ferguson, Westlake High School Assistant Principal, will retire after 14 years at Westlake and 21 years in total of dedication to learning and bettering students’ lives.

Ferguson is planning to retire at the end of the 2016 school year and expresses that he will certainly miss the atmosphere here, at Westlake. Ferguson says that what he will miss the most about working here is “ the interaction with you guys,” referencing his close, personal relationship with the students and “the interaction that I have with the faculty.”

Teachers new and old, English teacher Mr. D’Ippolito and Physical Education teacher Mrs. Groat, express that they will both miss the security and sense of safety that Mr. Ferguson brings to Westlake.

Mr. D’Ippolito said how he appreciates when Ferguson, “stops by to check in on the classrooms” and how “on the first day of school he came up to my classroom just to ensure that everything was okay.”

He adds, “Ferguson is supportive of kids and supportive of teachers,” two essential qualities of an assistant principal.

Mrs. Groat captures Ferguson’s best qualities as kind, caring, and really dedicated to doing what he thinks is right for kids here. Groat also says what she’ll miss most about Ferguson is “his availability and just knowing someone so well.”

Faculty and students alike believe that when Ferguson leaves this coming summer, Westlake will always remember his presence.

The qualities Mr. Ferguson wants to be recognized for most when he leaves Westlake are: “as someone who was always there, helpful, upbeat and positive; I guess I’d like to be remembered as the guy who helped out a student, the guy that helped me out of a jam one time.”

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Changing the World One Child at a Time


42 years of dedication, determination and success.

Mary Cunningham, a Special Education teacher at Westlake Middle School, has dedicated 42 years of her life to make other lives better. Cunningham was determined to make something of her life by helping students overcome their challenges to find success.

“I just love it,” Cunningham says. “It’s one of the few jobs where people will actually come back to you and let you know that you really made a difference.”

Cristian Lazo, former student of Cunningham, didn’t appreciate school when he had Cunningham but he appreciated everything she did for him.

“She helps students become who they are today,” Lazo notes. “She is a sweet caring teacher; she always wants her students to improve. She was on top of me, and she wanted me to get my work done; I was intimidated by her…in a good way; therefore, I wanted to get my work done. She may seem scary in the classroom, but it’s because she cares. When she is out of the classroom, she is funny. I knew everything she did was for my benefit in the long run,” he continues.

Cunningham is meant for this job because of her ability to make connections with kids. Behind her strict approach, her students and coworkers know that she is a “pot of gold.”

Mimi Byer, one of Cunningham’s coworkers and good friends, values how “caring she is and very thoughtful.” She adds, “as a teacher, I think I value the fact that she never gives up on kids.”

Cunningham has impacted many students with her honesty and consistently showing that she cares for her students. She is not a teacher who was just there for educational purposes; she doesn’t care about just the grades. She cares about helping students in an emotional and meaningful way and providing the support that they don’t always get at home, which is more beneficial to students than a 90 is on one test. She also realizes that it takes a village to help students progress.

“Reach out to parents. You really want to make contact with them. You want to make it a team effort and you have to have really high standards for kids – you have to push them,” Cunningham states.

Cunningham dedicates her life to helping students in her own classroom; little did she know, along her path, she has impacted the whole district of Mount Pleasant.

She supports her coworkers and makes sure that new teachers feel comfortable enough to go to her because everything is a team effort. The school environment will not function well if people are not working collaboratively. Cunningham ensures that all teachers and staff work together because she wants everyone to know that they are all at Westlake to improve students’ lives.

Cunningham has made a lasting impact on this school district with her humor and leadership. She is irreplaceable to Mount Pleasant; the district will never have another person as passionate about teaching, learning, or holidays as Cunningham.

“St. Patrick’s Day won’t be the same,” Lazo states.

This district is truly lucky to have had Cunningham for so many years.

“We are really going to feel a loss of leadership and a loss of fun and humor,” Byer says.

Although Cunningham wasn’t sure about originally becoming a teacher when she was a young woman, there couldn’t have been a better job for her. She is an everyday Superwoman: she does it all. Cunningham will continue to teach part time once she retires because it is a passion she is “not willing to give up.”

42 years later, Cunningham said, “I honestly haven’t lost that passion, I still love it.”

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Should Brazil Postpone the Olympics?


With the uprising of the Zika virus, many Olympic athletes are concerned with the spreading virus. There is no cure or vaccine for this mosquito spread disease, which makes the potential risk for the traveling athletes a shocking reality.

What’s even more shocking for these athletes is that after the symptoms pass, the virus can potentially stay in your body, and in most people, symptoms are not exhibited.

According to the article, “All Your Zika Questions Answered,” the virus’s symptoms are as follow: fatigue, fever, chills, loss of appetite, sweating, eye redness, headache, skin rash, and vomiting.

Although many athletes have yet to publicly voice their opinions, these symptoms give athletes cause for concern, specifically for their well being and performance in the future games.

According to Laura Vecsey of Fox Sports, crucial members of the US Women’s National team, including: goalkeeper, Hope Solo; forward, Alex Morgan; and coach, Jill Ellis have spoken out about their concern over the Zika Virus in Rio.

With the outbreak and the increased threat of the mosquito transferred disease quickly spreading in Brazil and posing a threat throughout the world, Hope Solo has stated that she is considering skipping the 2016 Olympics. Solo told that if she had to make the decision this very moment, she would not attend the games and that “competing in the Olympics should be a safe environment for every athlete, male and female alike. Female athletes should not be forced to make a decision that could sacrifice the health of a child,” Vecsey reported.  

Also according to Vecsey, Alex Morgan said, “Zika virus is a very scary thing that is very unknown for a lot of people, especially on the side of pregnant women and women who might want to get pregnant in the years following the Olympics.”

Solo and Morgan believe that potentially endangering the life of a child is unnecessary, and their coach, Jill Ellis is also sensitive to the topic.

Since this is only one team’s opinion, Brazil should contact and talk to teams of other nations. However, because the women of this team have indeed spoken out and expressed their concerns, Brazil should take their voices into consideration, especially the voices of potential mothers.

It seems apparent that Brazil should consider postponing or relocating to a different country. This would be beneficial seeing that the athletes would be more comfortable playing in a region that is not lurking with disease.  

Works Cited:

“All Your Zika Questions Answered.” ABC News. N.p., 30 Jan. 2016. Web. 8 June 2016. <>.

Vecsey, Laura. “USWNT stars Morgan, Solo address Zika virus concerns.” Fox Sports. N.p., 10 Feb. 2016. Web. 8 June 2016. <>.


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