Monthly Archives: February 2015

Dancing Through Walls in Northern Ireland

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This summer I had the opportunity to go to Northern Ireland with the Briarwood Ballet as a part of the Iona Project. Yes, there is a difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The whole nation was a part of the United Kingdom until 1922 when the southern part of the nation declared their independence. The northern portion is still a part of the United Kingdom to this day. Unlike America, Ireland has no concept of separation of church and state. The country separated partially due to the tension between the Protestants and Catholics. This tension goes back hundreds of years. The country was originally predominantly Catholic. During the great potato famine, Protestants began abusing the Catholics living in Ireland. They would offer food to the Catholics, but only if they would convert to Protestantism. This gave rise to a deep resentment between the two populations that is still felt today.

This hatred fueled riots and wars for years until finally the country separated. However, this did not completely solve the problem since there were still divisions within the now independent nations. So the people came up with ways to keep themselves separate. Even the schools became divided between Catholics and Protestants, and many schools remain that way today.

While the schools are Christian in name, the Christian classes the students take tend to lay out the beliefs of different religions instead of trying to show the true Gospel to the students. Since there is a lack of the true Gospel taught in both Protestant and Catholic schools, my team went in and performed in order to share the Gospel with the students. We mostly danced in Protestant schools since the pastors from the Protestant churches we were working with would not be accepted into a Catholic school because of the separation. The pastor would visit schools and minister to the children throughout the year, but until the Iona Project came, they were unable to go into Catholic schools because of the separation. However, they can allow dancers into the school even if they are affiliated with a Protestant church. Three years ago dancers from the Iona Project were allowed to dance in a local Catholic school. This opened the doors for the pastor to visit the school throughout the year. My team was also able to go into this Catholic school.

It was intimidating walking into a Catholic school in Northern Ireland since the church we were working with was Protestant. As we waited for the students and the school’s principal to arrive, we prayed that our dance would impact our audience. The students arrived and we performed a few dances. We were also able to share the Gospel by talking about the similarities and differences in American and Northern Irish culture. When we finished, the principal thanked us for our time, then gave us the most meaningful compliment we had received throughout the entire trip. He said that he was amazed at the way we were able to share our faith even though we were only teenagers. He was also moved by the music and the choreography which our director had chosen.

I was humbled by the way God had used my group to share the Gospel despite the historical hatred between the two churches. God showed me that his Gospel tears down walls and touches people despite their denomination or social status. God is moving in Northern Ireland in spite of the riots and wars between his people. Through the power of the Gospel, these two groups of believers are learning that they are indeed one in Christ.

Hannah Price, Class of 2017

The Great Depression: A First Hand Account

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Going through some old family records recently, I discovered an old paper my uncle wrote about the Great Depression. After reading it I discovered that it was actually my great grandmother’s personal account of America after the stock market crash in the 1930’s. My great, great grandparents, Joseph and Marie Panucci were immigrants from Italy with Marie’s father before the depression, and my great grandmother, Ange Panucci Certo was born an American citizen and lived through the Depression.

The following is an excerpt of my uncle’s interview with Ange Panucci Certo:

“Being one of sixteen children, my family was not affected by the Depression, in many respects, because we already knew how to do without. It meant learning that others too were in the same predicament. Most of our neighborhood, and other families could not adjust having to do without certain things, such as new clothing, toys or gifts at Christmas, and all the extras in life. We had only the necessities in life, and that which kept us from hunger. My grandfather owned the house that we lived in. He had it enlarged and remodeled. It also meant that my older sisters had to leave school and go to help supplement my father’s income. He was very fortunate to be able to work every day in those days. He worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a trackman; and walked to and from work, about ten miles. Many a cold wintery night, he was called out to clear the tracks of snow and keep the tracks in working condition, as traveling at that time was primarily by railroad.

“My sisters worked at an enamel factory, which they too, had to walk to. The factory enameled pots, pans and cooking utensils. My mother was a great one, who fortunately liked to cook and bake her homemade bread and made her own pasta. Her baking was done in an open-hearth oven, which was located in a small portion of a very small backyard. She fed many with her variety of foods. In the spring and earlier months of summer, my parents raised rabbits and chickens, a few, a enough for ‘special events.’ We had a vegetable garden in a plot of ground nearby which my grandfather owned. My parents always had a beautiful and bountiful vegetable garden. This kept food on our table and kept the food bill down.”

“Society, in general was at a very low period. You could actually see sadness in peoples faces, many out of work, no money for food or to pay bills. Many food stores allowed credit from pay to pay for many families. Welfare Programs began helping, some with food and used clothing. My parents were to proud, and would never apply even though our family was eligible. People could be seen walking distances-out of their area, looking for work, and begging for money. Even if you had a car, there wasn’t money for gasoline. We did not have a car. This meant many worn-out shoes, which at times had many layers of paper in them, to cover up the holes. People could not pay for coal to heat their home. My father purchased railroad ties for our heating. This made for dirty walls and curtains. It became an emotional period for some people.

“The Depression taught me to conserve whenever I did get money, not to be wasteful, appreciate the necessities of life, and not worldly materials. It taught me to share with my sisters and others, take care of what I have, to make the best of a less-than perfect situation, and standing firm in my faith as my parents did at that time.”

“I learned to look past appearances, such as a person’s clothes, etc., to love others unconditionally. At times, I remember embarrassing and emotional situations, when children from smaller families had more than we could afford; but it taught me not to be envious of others; but it taught me not to be envious of others, because they shared their feeling for me as a human being, and helped me to reach a higher goal, to help my family and others as best that I can.”

The final line of my great grandmother’s story of the Depression reads, “We can’t waste time looking backward when there is so much to look forward in each new day.” As a family of immigrants they had little to begin with, especially since there were sixteen children in the family. However, as sad as it is, their large family enabled them to live through the depression with little change, and even help others along the way. Every word written above is what Ange Certo told my uncle Matt Conley, who wrote it all down. It has been my honor to write down her words to share with the school, and I hope I do her memory justice. For she was a wonderful, courageous, Christian woman.              

Sara K. Hinton, Class of 2017





Disney World: Where Dreams Come True. . .Eventually

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Walt Disney World is known to all as the place where dreams come true, but is it? I have recently been to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and I can tell you, while there are many things that are “magical” about Disney, there is one very important problem that desperately needs fixing: the transportation systems.

The transportation at Walt Disney World is woefully inefficient. Though there are buses and boats and the monorail, I found that none of them worked well. The buses took too long to get anywhere. It took my family an hour and a half to get from our resort to the Animal Kingdom park one morning, which was not the best way to start out the day. The boats, though fun, are small, and if your family doesn’t fit in the boat, you’ll have to stand and wait for the next one to arrive, which takes around forty five minutes. And the monorail system? Though it seats many guests–up to three hundred a train–it only goes to two of the four parks, only three of the resorts, and does not go to Downtown Disney at all.

Overall, it truly was an amazing trip filled with “magic” and fun. But if Disney isn’t careful, the annoyance of the transportation will start leaving guests feeling more like Grumpy than Happy.

Abigail Mathis, Class of 2018

What Matters Most: A Reflection on Christmas Shopping

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As Helen Keller once stated, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Hellen Keller defines beauty as something emotional and not tangible. In other words, materialistic things are not worth nearly as much as feelings of love, joy, and thankfulness. Also, Keller acknowledges that the true key to happiness cannot be found in possessions.Despite the fact that no one can attain happiness by chasing after material things, we still convince ourselves that money, clothes, and shoes will make us happy, especially during the holidays.

The onslaught of marketing helps to further corrupt the true meaning of the holidays. It misdirects our priorities, romanticizes material things, and leaves people feeling discontent. By way of advertisement, the main focus of the holidays for many years has mainly been about buying more and more clothes, shoes, or electronics for oneself particularly on Black Friday. We have begun to start Christmas shopping the night of Thanksgiving when we should be spending time with those  we care for the most in the spirit of thankfulness.

Holiday advertising is all about buying gifts for oneself or others and rarely ever publicizes the real reason for the season. The joy of the holidays should not be based on how many items we purchase for sale on Black Friday; it should be based on the memories we create with family.

I admit, the huge sales on Black Friday seem like great opportunities to buy gifts for others. However, the constant shopping often turns into selfishness and greed. When the media advertises popular items to buy, people desire to receive that item from either a family member or friend. One tends to be disappointed and discontent at receiving a gift of lesser value than expected.

Christmas is a celebration of what Christ has done for everyone. This should not take a back seat to the modern tradition of high intensity shopping. Christ’s love should shine through us during this special time. In addition, remembrance and reflection are two extremely important aspects of the holidays. We should reflect on what God has blessed us with and especially be thankful for God sending his son to be born in this imperfect world to eventually cleanse all people of their sins.

DeAnna Lockett, Class of 2017