Asher speaks openly about “13 Reasons Why” controversy at Main Library

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On September 8, “13 Reasons Why” author Jay Asher came to the Main Library, a Cincinnati and Hamilton county public library, to speak about his book’s evolution and controversy.

Asher said his inspiration came from his relative, who attempted suicide when she was a junior in high school. He said when she was in that state of mind, she had nothing to relate to and nothing to depict how she was feeling, which gave him the idea to write.

“Having spoken to her over the years about how she got to that place where she thought that was the only solution to her pain, in her case at least part of it was that she didn’t feel comfortable opening up because she didn’t see anybody addressing these issues in a very honest way,” Asher said. “They would make fun of people dealing with things she was dealing with, not knowing that she was dealing with it. So when the idea came to me, I knew that it was going to be a bit controversial, but that’s why you need to write about this stuff sometimes, so that it is out there.”

Asher said the events that happened to main character, Hannah Baker, were inspired by what he knows to be true about bullying from friends and family rather than by events that happened to the relative who inspired him.

“Very little of it was actually inspired by things she went through. Most of it was the emotions: feeling alone, feeling like she didn’t know where to go for help,” Asher said. “So (those emotions) heavily influenced that side of it, as far as each individual situation. Some of it was just made up for things that I knew Hannah had to go through, other things were inspired by either things I had been through or my friends had been through. I also sat down with my wife and two female friends to talk about their high school years — things that affected them years later that they thought they would have gotten over by now. Then, I would just fictionalize it, but it gave me a sense of what were sometimes the smaller things that still had a big impact on people.”

Despite the heavy subject material, Asher said the book was intended for teens to try and eliminate problems that his relative experienced. Even for his first time writing for a teenage audience, Asher said it was necessary to convey the raw horrification of suicide and to provide something for them to resonate with them.

“Because my understanding of the issue was inspired by my relative, I think that while I knew it would be more controversial to write it for teens, the only alternative was to not, to make it an adult (novel),” Asher said. “But that still feeds into the problem in our society of because we are so uncomfortable talking about this stuff, specifically about teens, people are always looking for excuses not to. Any teen then, who isn’t ready to read an adult book, would again not see anything out there representing what they’re experiencing, so (writing for an older audience) would just contribute to the problem. With my relative, there should have been people around her talking about this stuff. But when there isn’t they need to have something available for that person, and that’s what I’ve heard so often: readers saying my book is the first time they felt understood, which is so cool to hear but also so sad to hear.”

Asher said he wanted to teach teens to be perceptive of other people, because they never know what someone else is going through. He said he witnesses bullying all too often that would not have happened had the bullies known the victim’s situation.

“Since the book came out, I’ve been of course more aware of suicides, especially highly sensationalized ones,” Asher said. “I remember there was this one in Massachusetts shortly after the book came out where it was the first time people were charged with a crime for bullying this person. It was this big (question of) when somebody takes their own life, can somebody else be held responsible for it? A lot of the bullies said ‘If we had known she had dealt with this, if we had known she had suffered from depression, if we had known she had attempted suicide in the past, if we had known that her parents were getting divorced, we wouldn’t have done stuff.’ That hit the nail on the head of what I was trying to say that you don’t know what someone’s going through. It shouldn’t matter; you shouldn’t be like ‘I’ll do this,’ and hope that everything else in their life was fine. You don’t know.”

Sophomore English teacher and yearbook adviser Kurt Dinan is the Main Library’s Writer-in-Residence, meaning he interviews authors who come to speak at the library. Dinan said listening to Asher speak proved to him that he wrote the book for the right reasons.

“I love talking to other authors because I learn about who they are and what their personality is,” Dinan said. “Jay Asher is a well-known figure because of this book and because of the television show, and I think people make judgements based on the topic and how it is handled in the show and in the book. After talking with him, and listening to him speak, I know he’s a genuinely compassionate person. He’s not trying to make a buck off of this; he truly cares about mental health issues and about teenagers who are having suicidal thoughts and he wants that not to be taboo in society, for people to speak about it, and for things to be done.”

Back in March, Netflix created a TV show titled “13 Reasons Why” that is based off of the book. Asher is not heavily involved in the production of the show aside from reading scripts and answering questions for writers and producers.

Dinan said while he understands the concerns parents would have by allowing teens to read this book and watch a show, he thinks they will benefit teens by showing them they are not alone, and showing other teens that their actions have repercussions.

“I understand parents who are reluctant to have their child read this book or watch the TV show, I understand their concerns,” Dinan said. “But more importantly, I think it’s vital that teens know they aren’t alone and there are people they can go to for help, but also that their actions have ramifications. I think the book makes that clear, and the TV show makes that clear.”

When Netflix produced the show, the production team made a few changes from the book, such as the way Baker dies. Asher said that he understands the reason behind every change because the medium of television depicts actions visually. With the combination of visual depiction and an increased time frame, the TV show made necessary changes that strengthened the message and contributed to reality, Asher said.

“They decided to not use pills because they didn’t want it to seem like an easy thing. They wanted to show it as emotionally horrifying as it is,” Asher said. “To show the parents finding her and how devastating that is. I’ve been hearing from viewers who say a lot of time when they are thinking about suicide they know it’s going to hurt people but at the same time, they feel that their life is such a burden to other people that even if they hurt them to some degree, they will be better off. And then seeing what it would be like to find them takes it and makes it this very realistic thing as opposed to however they romanticized the benefits to other people in their mind. So that’s been kind of frustrating when I hear controversy around it, when I’m the one hearing from others saying why it affected them in such a positive way. ”

Asher said that some of the scenes in the show, such as the showing of sexual assault, while graphic, are necessary for the majority of people to understand the seriousness and severity of the situation.

“We’re fine knowing that person got raped, but we don’t want to be made uncomfortable with it,” Asher said. “And sadly, there are people in this world who don’t have the imagination to understand how horrible something is until it’s put in front of them. We hear about that all the time — the way we like to talk about rape, especially with boys is ‘No means no. When a girl says no that’s it’ and that’s where the conversation ends. It doesn’t hit them the way making them uncomfortable by it would. When I wrote those scenes for the book, I wanted it to be read my males and females, but I wrote those scenes with males in mind. I wanted them to feel how uncomfortable that is, and if they’re not uncomfortable, they’re not getting it.”

Despite the criticism, Asher said he would not change anything about the book or the show because of the lives they have saved.

“The book has been banned a lot. And there has been a lot of controversy about the TV show,” Asher said. “Every specific thing people point out in the show or in the book that they think is inappropriate or done wrong, I’ve had so many people contact me and say ‘That was the scene that made me feel respected.’ There’s this temptation as a caring person who gets hurt to say that I would take out the parts that people criticize. But then, what would I be doing? I would be taking away the parts that really meant something to some people.”


Ventura brings awareness to disabled community at DD Advocacy and Awareness day

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Students arounds around the state of Ohio stood up to make their voices heard, and among them was an outstanding student from Mason High School.

On March 8, senior Jose’ Ventura represented Warren County at the Developmental Disability (DD) Advocacy and Awareness Day. This annual event is funded by a grant from the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (ODDC) and was held at the Ohio statehouse. At the event, the attendees spoke to senators and heard speeches from students and from Governor John Kasich.

Ventura said the purpose of the event was to make the government aware of the importance of funding services and facilities for disabled people.

“We talked to one of the (senators) about transportation for the advocacy group,” Ventura said. “(We also talked about) people who need transportation for their disabilities and medicaid waivers.”

This is Ventura’s first year going, and he said he enjoyed seeing his peers both within and outside his group.

“It was my first time, and it was awesome to be there,” Ventura said. “Each of the counties had some people there to represent them, (and) most of the people from the advocacy group that I’m in were there.”

Ventura said one thing that inspired him was hearing about how one student was able to play guitar and show that having a disability does not put a limit on what someone can do.

“There was one boy who gave a speech who also learned to play guitar and is in a band,” Ventura said. “(He played) two songs on his guitar, but he told us how he achieved getting there. He mostly did it by himself, but he also had parent (support).”

Work Study and Transition Coordinator Keri Thompson said the underlying purpose of the event is to educate the people who can help the individuals who are disabled by providing funding.

“The purpose is just to show that people with disabilities can do anything they want to do; it’s just that they may need some support to get there,” Thompson said. “And that was the whole point: To try to make sure the policy makers and the people in charge of funding realize that those policies and that money does go to do some good things.”

Thompson said she is proud of Ventura for attending and taking initiative at the conference.

“We’re very proud of Jose’ representing us there,” Thompson said. “He did a great job, and he approached Governor Kasich on his own and said, ‘Hey can I get a picture with you?’ So that’s a pretty big deal that he actually sought him out for a picture.”

Pasta for pennies campaign continues; Nerf Madness raises money for cause

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Forget about March madness, Nerf Madness is where everyone’s at.

On February 10, Mason students gathered in the Mason Intermediate 45 gym for National Honor Society’s annual event Nerf Madness to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Co-advisor Sheila Nimer said that this is their third year doing Nerf Madness, which was created by Connor McCormic, Jackson Brown, Sam Wendell, Dylan Bryant, Carver Nabb, and Connor Bryan.

Nimer said that this event raises money for a good cause in an interesting and fun way.

“I just think it’s a different way to get groups of people together and just another way to raise money for a great cause,” Nimer said. “Instead of asking for donations, it’s having fun, but the money goes to something near and dear to our hearts in Mason.”

NHS President Nathan Rodrigues said that they beat their turnout goal of 50 teams and beat last year’s total of $2,200.

“We had 75 teams, which is the most we’ve had ever,” Rodrigues said. “We’ve already exceeded everything we’ve done in the past, and we’re really excited about it.”

Junior Naren Singh said that he’s excited to compete with the school in a fun way after all of the work done during the school day.

“It’s a pretty big event,” Singh said. “So being able to compete in groups and having so much fun on a Friday while still doing schoolwork is pretty cool.”

Junior Lorayne Perez said that she and her friends are excited to try something new and become closer as a group.

“(We’re excited) for the new experience and to be closer and have more fun as a group,” Perez said.

Perez said that she was surprised to see that some of the people at the event were not high schoolers.

“I thought there were going to be less people,” Perez said. “I thought it was going to be just high school, so it’s a lot of people.”

Rodrigues said that he enjoys seeing the community come together and have fun while still supporting an important cause.

“My favorite part of Nerf Madness is getting to see the entire community come out and have fun while the money goes for a good cause,” Rodrigues said. “Basically anyone coming from the intermediate school all the way up to senior year (can come).”

Through determination and hardwork, bowler turns passion into successful career

For one Comet, bowling was once a mere hobby, but now, it is a career that is getting him noticed.

Junior Evan Haas is a varsity bowler on the Mason High School bowling team. Ranked second in Southwest Ohio, Haas has consistently averaged scores in the upper 200 range. Haas said family has well as his coach were big influences on his bowling career.

“My dad is the biggest one,” Haas said. “My uncle was also a bowler, and they’re both brothers. My bowling coach now, Joe Riestenberg, is also very influential to me because of how he’s brought me up and how I’ve always talked with him, and he’s been my friend for a while.”

Haas has memories of bowling with his dad when he was younger and said those memories inspired him to continue with bowling.

“I chose bowling because my dad was bowler,” Haas said. “I’ve always gotten up on Sundays and went bowling with him ever since I was three, so I just worked my way into it and kept on practicing, and that’s why I’m here now. He taught me how to do things and how to focus, and he was really the only coach I had ever had, so I had to learn on my own.”

Through being on varsity, Haas said he has learned more about the team aspect of bowling.

“Bowling is more of a team sport than anyone ever thinks,” Haas said. “Yeah, your scores get put into a website every time you go, but you have to have the rest of your team doing well and behind your back, so you don’t have to worry about anything else, and you can eventually win.”

Haas has gotten offers from colleges to bowl. While this makes continuing his bowling career after high school a possibility, Haas said he does not know whether or not this is something he will pursue.

“I’m still deciding between bowling and baseball, but I do have an offer to bowl at Wright State University, which is number three in the country,” Haas said. “I’m still thinking about it. I’m a junior, so I still have time to really figure out what I want to do, but it’s definitely an option for me.”

Haas admitted bowling does have it’s rough patches but said that even those can be equated with learning experiences.

“My favorite (memory) would be my 300 with my team watching and cheering me on,” Haas said. “My least favorite one was (when) I bowled one of my lowest games ever as freshman, because I just didn’t know what was going on. My teammates, the seniors, helped me through (and told me) that’s not really the end of the world because I got one low score.”

To young bowlers, Haas said not to be discouraged by initial low scores or afraid to get help from people.

“Once you start, you’re not going to be a professional or anything,” Haas said. “(Your scores) are going to start off low and occasionally get higher and higher, until you’re probably pretty good. I wouldn’t be afraid to get help from anyone, because everyone’s there to help you.”

Haas said that people should not underestimate bowling, because it is more fun than it looks.

“It’s a lot more fun than everyone thinks,” Haas said. “As you get better and better, it gets more and more fun, because you can show-off a bit as you’re practicing, because no one really knows how good you are until you go and show them, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Pasta for Pennies campaign continues; collection week gears up

The school is rallying together to save lives.

National Honor Society will be raising money February 6-10 during the Pasta for Pennies Class Collections campaign. While it is only the society’s 16th year doing the fundraiser, Mason High School has been doing class collections for over 20 years. Co-advisor Barb Shuba said proceeds from the week’s competition go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for childhood cancer research.

“Everything that we generate goes back to the Leukemia & Lymphoma organization, which is to promote childhood cancer education and research, ” Shuba said. “(Class collections) pit class against class, and the winning class gets and Olive Garden luncheon. The main reason for that is that the owner of Olive Garden’s son or daughter has Leukemia, and that’s his way of giving back to the organization.”

Every year, Shuba said students and faculty donate approximately $30,000 throughout the entire Pasta for Pennies campaign. Last year, NHS was able to raise over $60,000, but almost half of the proceeds came from their Lip Dub, which brought in donations from outside sources, including other countries, but Shuba said the society will not have the Lip Dub as a source of donations this year.

Co-advisor Deedee Messer said they don’t set dollar amount goals for fundraisers like this, because they do not want to take away from its underlying purpose.

“We never have a dollar amount (goal), because we never want to focus on the money as the main reason behind what we’re doing,” Messer said. “We tell the kids that we just want all of our events to be successful, we want students to have fun that are participating in those events, and whatever dollar amount we come up with is what we come up with that year.”

Senior co-chair Sharanya Vojjala said the money from last year was able to save a life, and she hopes that the app created last year will help bring in proceeds this year.

“Last year with the money that we got, we saved one kid’s life with the money that we raised, ” Vojjala said. “This year we have an app that students can download to check their standings and download on the website. It’ll just help our school in the competition (and raise more money for)  cancer research.”

Senior Emily Wang said the Pasta for Pennies app compiles information from a server into a database and displays it so students can see where their classes and pods stand in the competition.

“The app pulls all the information from a server, and what I have to do daily is update the information for how much money each teacher or classroom raised,” Wang said. “From there, (the database) compiles the information into how much each pod makes and that kind of stuff, and the app pulls all the information from the server and shows you.”

Wang said that the competition aspect that the app adds to the fundraiser will encourage student donations.

“It does act as a motivator for people who are donating because they can see (other classes) and be like ‘Oh wait, I want to beat that class,’” Wang said. “(It’s used to help students) donate more by making it a competition.”

Vojjala said she is most excited to hear how much of an impact the proceeds will make and to see NHS members and students come together to support a good cause.

“I’m really excited because the whole school comes together for a really good cause,” Vojjala said. “It’s really great to see all these NHS members going out to each of the classrooms, and all of these kids are really excited to donate. After seeing the end result, they tell us how all the money helped people, and it’s really neat to see all of that.”

New courses coming to 2017-18 school year

Mason High School’s course catalog is getting upgraded.

Changes in the course catalog this year include the addition of classes such as Filmmaking, Advanced Placement Comparative Government, and Engineering in our World. Assistant Principal Shanna Bumiller said courses such as Engineering in our World will give students a taste of a potential career in engineering.

“I think (many) kids are interested in going into engineering,” Bumiller said. “And we currently saw that as a gap. We don’t have an engineering course here at the high school. This is really meant to be an introductory course where kids say, ‘I want to go into engineering,’ but they really don’t know what that means, or all the fields that are in engineering. (This course would) give kids a broad survey of all the different types of engineering (and) peak their curiosity.”

Sophomore Corinne Mattingley said Filmmaking would allow students interested in video editing, writing, and acting to practice everything at one time.

“There’s an element of writing, with an element of technology, and a little bit of acting too,” Mattingley said. “So it’s kind of a combination of all three things. You can take a class where you learn how to edit videos, you can take an acting class, and you can take a writing class, but there’s not really a class where you can combine all three.”

Junior Seth Gerus said AP Comparative Government would allow students to deeply analyze America’s government and make connections about the world.

“I think it would be a great class, just so people know what’s going on in the world,” Gerus said. “So many people have so little knowledge on what’s happening outside of the U.S. and think that we live in a vacuum, but really, the U.S. is how it is because of how we interact with the rest of the world. You would not only learn about foreign governments and what goes on in their own countries, but how it affects America.”

Another change for next year pertains to AP Biology and AP Chemistry. Both of these courses next year will take up less space the students’ schedules. Bumiller said that one of the goals for this change is to make sure that only the students truly interested in science take the AP courses.

“We want students to pick (AP courses) because that’s where their passion lies,” Bumiller said. “We don’t want students to take it because it’s one and a half weighted credit, and if that causes a decrease in enrollment because kids looked at that as a pathway to increase their GPA, then so be it.”

Freshman Alishaan Ali plans to take AP Chemistry next year and he is concerned about learning the material in enough time.

“My main concern is (getting through) all of those labs,” Ali said. “And (if it is) going to become even a lot more work than it was this year.”

AP Biology teacher Elizabeth Coleman said that the AP Biology and Chemistry teachers are trying to make up with the substantial loss of time due to the course changes to make sure that the students benefit and all specific course requirements are met.

“Losing 100 minutes every week is going to be huge, because if you multiply that over the 36 weeks of the school year, that’s going to be a lot of lost time,” Coleman said. “So things have to be adjusted, and we’re working with the administration too, to see what’s best not just for students, not just for the whole building, but looking at some of the things going on that are unique to AP Bio and AP Chem.”

Coleman said that adjustments made for next year such as a proposed new schedule will help students stay more focused on each of their classes, and make their day less chaotic.

“The brain’s not really meant to stay engaged that often (seven times) throughout the day, and changing it that frequently,” Coleman said. “I’m hoping that with this change, what will be nice about it is that students can focus on a few of their classes, at least a couple days a week.”

Students awarded for work in Scholastic Art and Writing competition

These young artists have once again proven their talent on a grand scale.

The Scholastic Art and Writing awards released their 2017 art winners and this year, 38 artists from Mason High School won Gold Keys, Silver Keys, and Honorable Mentions.

Digital Image Design and Photography teacher Tina Roberts said that the number of students entered in the competition was lower than in previous years.

“(The amount of winners) was about the same,” Roberts said. “Although, I think we entered a little less this year than we have in past years.”

There are three regional awards a piece can win, and the highest scoring pieces move on to be judged nationally, Roberts said.

“Basically, there’s a gold key, a silver key, and an honorable mention,” Roberts said. “They get the key awards at the Regional level and at the National level they get the medals, and they get an actual medal. All of pieces that got gold key will then go on to national level judging.”

This is senior Emma Morrissey’s second year in the competition. She along with Lauren Fournier, Tasha Norris, and Jenny Wan earned gold keys this year. Morrissey said that she prepared long in advance and was excited to win awards again this year.

“I was really excited this year,” Morrisey said. “I knew (the awards were) coming and as soon as I got home from New York, (last year’s nationals) I was like ‘I want to do this again next year,’ so I got all of my pieces together. I submitted 10 in total and four of them won (awards).”

Morrissey said that she chose pieces to submit based on results from the previous year.

“You have to think about the judges, and pieces that won last year,” Morrissey said. “They like traditional work, but they also go for the oddball style, or something that’s kind of unique or provokes thought. (There are) a lot of applications of creativity that you normally wouldn’t see.”