Allegiant fails to live up to expectations

Story by: Sydney Shurman, Reviews Editor
Photos by: Mackenzie Carpenter, Photography Editor

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Allegiant, the second-to-last installment in the film adaptation of the young adult book series Divergent, hit theaters March 18th. I was finally able to see it, and I have to say that I feel very let down.

While I cannot say the book trilogy was the best series I have ever read, I did thoroughly enjoy it. It had a nice balance of action and romance, as well as character and plot development. However, the Allegiant movie had none of these aspects.

The most glaringly obvious mistake with the movie that lead to all of its other problems was the fact that for some reason, the people in charge of making it decided to split it into two parts. This seemed incredibly unnecessary because the book did not have enough content to create two movies.

Because of this, I found that the two hours I spent watching the movie dragged on. The plot developed incredibly slowly, and I felt that the majority of it was not that exciting. Most scenes just included talking and explaining, whereas the previous movies included more action scenes. I realize that explanation is necessary to explain the plot, but if the book had been made into only one movie there would have been a much better ratio of explanation to action.

allegiant 2I also felt that the plot was completely predictable. I did not find a single plot twist in the whole movie and every time something happened, I was not surprised in the least. The characters all made decisions that I could see coming a mile away.

These predictable decisions were probably due to the fact that the characters were also very one-dimensional, which was disappointing. In the books, they were far more complex and well-developed. However, Four was barely shown throughout the entire movie, and he spoke about ten words the whole time. Also, Tris did not have nearly the emotional appeal and strength that she should have had.

“I chose not to see Allegiant, because I did see Divergent and I didn’t think it was what I thought it would be,” said Mrs. Ballard, media assistant.”I also went online and saw that it had bad reviews, so I didn’t want to pay to see in the theater.”

In addition, the plot was not even that similar to that of the books. It was loosely based at best. All of these factors came together to create a great big disappointing mess. I can see why it got such bad reviews.

The truth about AP

Story by: Sydney Shurman, Reviews Editor
Photo by: Jennifer McGowan, staff photographer

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Many students at Mt. Vernon wanting to graduate with an Academic Honors diploma are all too familiar with AP classes. Some classes may be more challenging than others, but all are expected to be more demanding than normal high school classes, or even honors courses.

Since AP classes are considered college-level courses, students who pass the class and the AP exam can receive college credit. In theory, the concept sounds fantastic. Students receive credit before they even get to college, which means they do not have to spend as much money on that class and they have one less class to take in college. This equals more money and more free time. So why not pile on as many AP classes as possible?

The answer: that wonderful concept is not exactly the truth. Each college has its own policy on how many and what kind of credits it gives students, but for the most part, AP classes are not a one-way ticket to a perfect college experience.

Passing the AP exam does not mean that a student gets the exact number of credits required in the class that would be the college equivalent of their AP class. This does not mean that students do not get credit for their work, because they certainly do. However, it is not always in the form expected.

While each college decides what kind of credits a student receives based on their AP test scores, the College Board has a break down on their website. At IU Bloomington for example, getting a passing score of a 3 typically gives only an undecided credit in the area of the class. For some classes though, like Biology and English, it does earn three credit hours in a 100 level class. Most classes require at least a 4 to get a 100 level class or higher. Physics is the most rigorous, requiring a perfect 5 on the AP test to get anything more than an elective credit.

IUPUI is more lenient on giving specific class credits, with a score of 3 earning at the very least enough credits for one full elective course. Ball State is by far the best, offering at least a 100 level class for a 3 on the AP test.

That being said, it is definitely not impossible to earn satisfying college credits by taking AP classes. Certain colleges are always going to have different standards, and that might be a factor for some when choosing a university. However, all state universities do accept AP credits in some form, and they often provide enough credits for at least a full elective course.

By no means am I trying to discourage anyone from taking AP classes. I have taken three myself, and I can wholeheartedly say that they have all greatly benefited me in at least one way. They can provide a solid foundation for knowledge that students will need in college, and they can be a helpful snapshot of the rigor of college courses.

In some cases, AP classes can even do more than that. AP Literature helped shape me as a better writer and opened my eyes to truly amazing pieces of literature. Also, AP Government has made me so much more knowledgeable about politics, on top of the fact that it gives me the chance to express and listen to different opinions.

“AP Language is a lot of work, and it drives me insane, but I feel so much more prepared for college now,” said Ciera McCann, 12.

I think it is an excellent idea to take AP classes, even if they are not required to graduate. They have numerous positive qualities, but they are not easy. There is more work, and they are not a guaranteed “get-out-of-jail-free-card.” I highly encourage all students to take AP classes, but I believe in taking them for the proper reasons, and telling people the truth about what they are getting into.

The wonderful members of Mt. Vernon

Story by: Sydney Shurman, Reviews Editor
Photo by: Sameul Jobe, staff photographer

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Mt. Vernon has many amazing, highly-skilled staff and faculty members who go out of their way to provide a great education and learning environment for students. However, some may not be as well known as others.

Working in a high school is no easy task, so it is important to shed some light and recognition on the newer or lesser-known members of MVHS.

The technology department is a very specific part of our school because it caters to a particular group of students and does not include any required classes. Mrs. Bravard-Johnson does some truly amazing projects with her students that are engaging and personal. Some projects include programming robots, superhero website assignments, and animated music videos. The overall favorite seems to be the Commencement Program, which is also referred to as senior memory books. They are essentially what the name implies: scrapbooks full of seniors’ favorite memories and photos.

“Since each year this project reached not just every Mt. Vernon graduate, but impacted their families as well, it is difficult to not call it the most loved project,” said Mrs. Bravard-Johnson.

Aside from teachers, there are other staff members at Mt. Vernon who are not usually recognized, like the custodians. They work behind the scenes to keep the school clean and running, which is one of the most important jobs. Since the custodians are not often visible, many students are likely to forget about all of the hard work they do, and it is important to give them the credit they deserve.

“I’ve been helping for a while here,” said Crystal Doll, a substitute custodian. “My favorite part is mopping the floors and taking the trash out. We use a technique where we put a hole in the trash bag to prevent it from bubbling. I live close by, so I always love coming here when I get the chance.”

A new addition this year is Ms. Naum. She works in the guidance department as an intern. Ms. Naum has been especially helpful to seniors, sending out emails and taking care of important college-related duties like scholarships. With graduation approaching, this is an imperative role in seniors’ lives, and she always does her job with a smile.

Every staff member puts in far more effort than the average student sees, so taking the time to show appreciation is important. The amazing members of our school deserve all the credit they receive and more.

Star Wars gives women a lead they can look up to

Story by: Sydney Shurman, Reviews Editor
Photo by: Dakota Fisher, Sports Editor

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When people watch movies, they absorb the story and form an opinion about it, whether that opinion is good or bad. However, people rarely take away the small nuances that can actually speak volumes about where we are at as a society. Since Star Wars was the biggest movie of the year, any messages it sends will be heard loud and clear, and the feminist message practically screams.

Star Wars has a history of strong female characters, notably Princess Leia. However, Rey is in a class of her own. Not only is she the actual protagonist of the story, but it is made clear from the beginning of the movie that she does not need anyone to save her.

The truly amazing aspect of Rey however, is that during the movie, it is actually possible to forget about gender entirely. It is great that Rey promotes feminism by being the complete opposite of a damsel in distress. What truly promotes feminism though, is that her gender is not even important. She is a tough-as-nails, incredible, fully realized character who fights her own battles. Period.

Throughout the entire movie, the audience sees Rey simply trying to survive, and she does a pretty fantastic job of it. She remains modestly dressed the whole time, and people of all genders can find something to love.

There is no need for oversexualization, acting dumb, needing saving, or any other common female character tropes. Rey proves that society may just be changing for the better, and she provides hope for the future of all characters.

Cost of college is too high

Story by: Sydney Shurman, Reviews Editor
Photos by: Zoe Jenkins, staff photographer

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Across the U.S., applying for scholarships and student loans has become almost as big a tradition as Christmas. As a freshman in high school, college seems like an exciting but faraway wonder. Then, as graduation grows nearer, it begins to seem less exciting and a more stressful.

It is true that college is an exciting time, but it is also a time to learn information that will be vital to whatever career a person chooses. Whether someone wants to be a doctor, accountant, journalist or architect, their job is going to be important to society. However, none of those people got to where they are now without earning a degree.

While not everyone opts to go to college, it is becoming increasingly harder to find a job without having a college degree. So why are the costs of going to college rising?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 20.2 million people were expected to go to college in the fall this year, which is 4.9 million more than in 2000. Since so many people now go to college, it has become commonplace. Despite this, people are paying a fancy price for a commodity.

In its most recent survey of college pricing, the College Board reports that a ‘moderate’ college budget for an in-state public college for the 2015–2016 academic year averaged $24,061,” said collegedata.com. “A moderate budget at a private college averaged $47,831.”

cost of collegeJust 10 years ago, the average cost of a public university was $10,454. A private university was $26,908. The cost of college has gone up more than the cost of inflation. Yet these prices are looked at as normal.

USA today reported that the national student loan debt as of April 8th of this year was 1.2 trillion dollars. Across the U.S., Americans fresh out of college are paying those fees. Wealthy people who can afford to be in debt are not the ones having to deal with that. Average people who just wanted an education and do not even have a steady job yet are the ones bearing that burden.

Some people may argue that because higher education is such a valuable tool, it has to be so expensive. After all, professors have to be paid and there are costs of running a university. The U.S. has many great universities too, with 51 total universities on the top 100 list. However, this is relative to size. There are 2,618 colleges in the United States, only counting traditional 4-year programs.

Knowing this, some statistics courtesy of Business Insider may surprise some people.

The Netherlands has four universities on the list of top 100 universities around the world, and the average income is just over $28,000. This number refers to an average of every known income throughout the country, from people of all financial backgrounds. The typical cost of going to college there is $3,125 a year.

Germany takes it down quite a few notches, with the average cost of college being $933 a year. Just like the Netherlands, they have 4 universities on the top 100 list, with their highest-ranked university being placed at number 45. Even better, Germany recently passed a law saying that all American citizens get to study for free at any German university.

Finally, at an almost unfathomable price, Sweden’s average university cost per year is $600, with their average income being almost $21,000. Their highest ranking university places 32 on the top 100 list, and they have a total of 3 altogether.

“We pay way too much money for something that we’re not getting a good enough education in,” said Anna Grafton, 12. “On the one hand it’s kind of understandable, but on the other hand it’s just kind of ridiculous.”

The lesson to be learned here is that college does not have to be ridiculously expensive to be reputable, and it will always baffle me as to why college in the United States is so unnecessarily expensive.

Christmas traditions

Story by: Sydney Shurman, Reviews Editor
Photos by: Elizabeth Miller, staff photographer

Christmas treeOn Christmas morning, many children across America wake up early, eager to see which presents they have received from good old Saint Nick. What about other children who celebrate Christmas, though? What are they eagerly awaiting on Christmas morning, if anything?

Not every child pictures a jolly man in a red suit climbing down a chimney at night to deliver presents. On the flip side, some do not dread receiving coal in their stockings either. In fact, coal may seem like a pretty awful gift to receive, but punishments in other countries can be quite a bit worse.

For example, some children believe in a horned beast called Krampus, who is now becoming more well-known in America in light of the recent movie. The legend originated in Germany, but over the years has become popular in all of the Alpine countries. Krampus is a sort of anti-Santa, who instead of bringing a sack full of toys, stuffs bad children into a sack to take them away. He also carries birch sticks in order to swat at the misbehaving kids.

Greece also has some rather strange Christmas lore. According to their legends, there are goblins that live underground and saw away at the World Tree all year, which will eventually collapse and destroy the world. However, on Christmas, they forget all of their plans and come up to the surface in order to terrorize people. When Christmas is over, they return to their home to begin their mission again, creating an endless cycle.

On a more positive note, there are many festive and fun winter traditions too. St. Lucia is a festival of sorts which involves the oldest daughter in a household performing several simple but meaningful duties. She wears a white dress, red sash, and a crown made of twigs and nine candles. Then, she wakes up her family members and they eat breakfast in a candlelit room. Later, all of the people gather to have a parade with torches. At the end of the parade they all throw the torches onto a pile of hay to create a bonfire. St. Lucia originated in Sweden but is now celebrated in all of the Scandinavian countries.

Australians really mix it up by celebrating Christmas in the middle of their summer. People will even go to the beach or have a barbeque, in typical Australian fashion. Otherwise, the celebration is fairly similar to American traditions, with family gatherings, gift exchanges, and a nice meal.

Even within our own borders there is a wide variety of ways to celebrate Christmas. Some people opt out of putting up a Christmas tree, others go out to eat instead of cooking, the possibilities are endless.

holidays“We celebrate Chanukkah, which is a combination of Christmas and Hanukkah,” said Hailey Patton. “We celebrate it because my grandpa is Jewish, and the rest of our family celebrates Christmas, so for him we combined it and made it Channukkah. We still do the lighting of the candles on the Menorah and then we get ‘gelt,’ which is money, every night of Hanukkah. Then we also celebrate Christmas, but with an added Hanukkah gift to it.”

It may seem cliche, but everyone truly is different, and Christmas is made even more wonderful by all of the different celebrations. Whether someone says “Merry Christmas,” “Froehliche Weihnachten,” or “Feliz Navidad,” Christmas is a magical time of year.