By Zach Lichter
The 2020-21 school year was an impressive one for Mrs. Jill Alexander.
A nine-year veteran of Wall High School, she was named the 2021 Monmouth Arts Education Awards outstanding educator in visual arts, capping a year in which she has closed deals to create illustrations for a pair of forthcoming children’s books and became the first teacher ever inducted into the Wall National Honor Society. Not a bad year after she had to delay travel abroad, her other passion, due to the pandemic.
“I am so proud,” Wall Principal Ms. Rose Sirchio said in an email announcing the Monmouth Arts Education Awards, which honors individuals and organizations within Monmouth County that continue to inspire young artists in the community.
“What I enjoy most about being Mrs. Alexander’s student... is all of the fun we have together when we are in her classroom,” said Wall senior Karlie Sambade. “There is never a dull moment, she makes it a positive experience for each and every one of her students.
In her acceptance video for the Monmouth Arts Education Awards, Mrs. Alexander thanked her husband John as well as her late mother, her colleagues and Ms. Sirchio for their support and dedication to the art program. She also talked about the impact that her students made on her.
On April 26, Mrs. Alexander gave a speech at this year’s NHS induction explaining what her goal is for her students and how she demonstrates the four pillars of NHS.
“My first thought was ‘how did I get this?’” Mrs. Alexander said. “I learned that several students had nominated me in 2019. This was a pleasant surprise. I was very excited that I could share what the tenets meant to me.”
Growing up, Mrs. Alexander spent most of her childhood fascinated with art. She enjoyed the process of making art and spent a lot of time practicing, copying and imitating what she thought was good drawing and painting.
Mrs. Alexander went to The College of New Jersey but majored in business. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing and a minor in fine art. For her, studying art at TCNJ was an afterthought. She felt like her abilities weren't strong enough and said she didn't know how she would feel making a living studying art. It wasn’t until she met a college professor during the second semester of her junior year who encouraged her, along with a little motivation from her mother to apply to some prestigious art schools. She applied to the School of the Visual Arts and finished with a master's degree in fine arts. Two years later, she ended up getting her teaching license.
Mrs. Alexander said she never thought she would teach art. She feels like it is the perfect way to share her love of it with young people. A 1999 graduate Wall High School herself, she says that Mrs. Mychelle Kendrick and the late Mr. Joe Eichnger are sources of inspiration. Her other inspiration comes from traveling the world and she tries to apply what she sees from her journeys to her teaching style and when she is creating her artwork. Mrs. Alexander and her husband travel internationally each year. Among some of the exotic places she’s visited are Cuba, Morocco and Egypt. They were supposed to go to India last summer for four weeks.
“Mrs. Alexander travels the world and one thing that makes her teaching unique is the way she uses her travel to create her artwork,” Sambade said. “The outside world has influenced her teaching style in so many ways. The way she uses what she has seen in the outside world in her classroom is what makes her teaching so unique.”
Mrs. Alexander teaches Advanced Placement 2-dimensional art/drawing, materials & techniques, digital illustration and art experience. She also runs the art club. Sambade has had Mrs. Alexander, as her art teacher for three years and will be studying art education at TCNJ in the fall where she will look to follow in her footsteps. She cites Mrs. Alexander as the reason she hopes to become an art teacher.
“She teaches with so much passion and it comes from her heart,” Sambade said. “She is the perfect example of what every teacher should be. She goes above and beyond each and every day to make her classroom an exceptional learning environment. The art room is my favorite place to be.”
Mrs. Alexander said that her mission as a teacher is for her students to apply what they learn to important life lessons in the classroom. She also wants to help them with their problem-solving skills by avoiding artistic obstacles during the creation process. She notes that half of her AP students study at the college level.
Currently, Mrs. Alexander has been creating illustrations for two children's books with two different authors and a publisher. One is a Christmas book which will be released in the fall just in time for the holiday season and be sold nationwide with a heavy market presence in New York City, especially in boutiques around Rockefeller Center. The second book will be released in Spring 2022.
“I hope that young kids will feel the magic that I did when I used to watch animated films and read children's books as a child,” Mrs. Alexander said.
As the 2020-21 school year comes to an end, Mrs. Alexander looks to continue to touch more lives and inspire people to pursue a career in art. She hopes to provide comfort and a feeling of accomplishment wherever her students’ lives take them.
By Zach Lichter
The novel coronavirus has, obviously, dominated the news for the last 18 months since it began spreading. With that has come the loss of 3.3 million lives, 580,000+ of which have died in the United States.
Those statistics are abstract until you find out your family members have COVID-19.
On Jan. 3, my maternal Grandpa Lolo, a doctor, tested positive. His condition would soon deteriorate to the point he was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. He died a week later.
When my grandpa was in the hospital, I had a feeling he wasn’t going to make it because he was so unresponsive. It was really painful to see him on the ventilator via FaceTime two days before he passed away and my family in their most difficult moments. My grandma also contracted the virus and was discharged from the hospital the same day her husband died. My aunt tested positive after his funeral and needed to be hospitalized as well.
My grandma and aunt survived but to have three relatives get the virus and suffer such serious cases is hard to imagine.
After my grandpa’s funeral, I decided that I wanted to get the vaccine. My mom, who works in the case management department at Monmouth Medical Center, was able to squeeze me in April 7 thanks to a former coworker. I ended up getting the Pfizer vaccine and my arm was sore the next day. When I came home from Monmouth Medical Center, I decided to announce my vaccination on Facebook and Instagram and dedicate it to my grandfather. I feel like I did my part by protecting others as well as myself. I received my second dose April 28 and am now fully vaccinated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about a third of American adults are fully vaccinated and a little under half have received at least one dose. As of early April, anyone over the age of 16 is eligible to be vaccinated and they can go online and book an appointment.
Some people are nervous about getting vaccinated. They think something might happen to them and they don’t know how their body is going to react to it. Other people want to get the vaccine so they can protect others and themselves.
“I got the vaccine because I work at a health care center and it was a requirement,” said Wall High School senior Hunter Pappas. “I was not nervous getting the vaccine. It was like getting the flu shot, nice and easy.”
Like me, Pappas received the Pfizer vaccine and he said he hopes things get back to normal. Depending on the person, some people may experience side effects from their first or second dosage. They can include headache, tiredness, fever, nausea and muscle pain. The side effects are normal and many doctors say that they let people know the vaccine is working. Some people may not even react at all.
“The only reaction I had from the vaccine was a slight headache from the first shot, but the second shot I didn’t feel a thing,” Pappas said.
For people looking forward to the day when things will go back to normal, getting vaccinated is a start and will help protect yourself and others from COVID. Everyone should do their part by going online and looking for a vaccination appointment. Let’s all get vaccinated so everyone can be together sooner.
By Matt Johnson
The events of Jan. 6, 2021, have drawn comparisons to the attack on Pearl Harbor, which the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, described as “a date which will live in infamy.''
Before all of America's eyes hundreds of protestors stormed into the U.S. Capitol, destroying windows and assaulting police officers. The actions resulted in the loss of five lives, including a member of the Capitol Police.
For the first time since the War of 1812, the U.S. Capitol fell under siege Jan. 6. The event led to 26,000 National Guard troops being stationed there until Inauguration Day due to the fear of another attack.
And with President Joe Biden preparing to address a joint session of Congress tonight, the Capitol is once again on high alert.
As many politicians spoke out about the events that unfolded at the Capitol Jan. 6, all their feelings about it were relatively the same regardless of party.
“January 6, 2021, was a dark day in American history and will live on in infamy,” former Democratic presidential candidate and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey responded in an email request for comment. “Incited by the former president of the United States, our Capitol was attacked by a violent mob seeking to overturn the results of our election. They failed, but in the days and months ahead we must work to hold those responsible accountable as we work to repair our democracy.”
“I unequivocally condemn the assault on Capitol Hill, and those who committed the vandalism and crimes should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” longtime Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey said in a statement released by his office. “Special thanks to the Capitol Police for their brave and decisive action to mitigate and then end [the] crisis. There needs to be good enforcement of those who did this so it has a chilling effect on future acts like this.”
“Despite its many flaws, the U.S. Congress continues to be a marketplace of ideas and differing opinions,” Smith added. “(It) requires robust debate and genuine respect for one another even -- and especially -- when there is fundamental disagreement.”
That both Booker, a Democrat, and Smith, a Republic, denounced the storming of the Capitol in the strongest of terms speaks to the violation that occurred Jan. 6 and the need to come together in its wake. Both parties have been open about the event and agree that it was a terrible day which will forever be remembered for the wrong reasons.
The events of Jan. 6 show the division in the United States. Americans need to learn how to look at each other with respect and decency regardless of political beliefs, race, gender and so on. What people believe in should not stand in their way of a nation of peace.
By Matt Johnson
Attention former Kmart shoppers: your blue light specials are turning into red bullseyes!
Target is taking over the vacant Wall Township Kmart, expanding the store into a 91,000-square-foot spot, just the latest change to the area as the ShopRite moves across the intersection of Route 35 and 18th Avenue to a much-larger building left by Foodtown and Dunkin’ Donuts is constructing a state-of-the-art store next to Five Guys to replace its Foodtown Plaza location.
The construction will save many Wall residents the trip to Ocean Township for Target or Neptune for Shoprite and boost the local economy. With it will come job opportunities for township residents and students who lost them during the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic downturn. Target and Shoprite will upgrade the existing spots into so-called “mega stores,” meaning they will have more products than many other stores around.
“I think it's a good idea, so I don't have to drive out to [Ocean] all the time,” said Wall High School senior Hellen Schlosky. “And Target always has some clothes that I like to buy."
Target signed a lease in Wall toward the end of the summer. Attempts to reach out to the Target Corporation went unanswered, but the store is believed to open in 2021.
The new Shoprite will have a number of Wall residents applying for jobs there, like Wall sophomore Dylan Itri, who already works at the Shoprite store on Route 34 in Manasquan.
“Well, I really just needed to make some money so I thought the best place to go would be the one that can't be closed because of COVID-19,” he said.
There are some, however, who are concerned about a potential rise in traffic in an already-busy part of town. As it is, Route 35 in Wall is known to have traffic back up. Will these stores create more traffic?
According to 94.3 The Point, "It is exciting to have Wall turn into such an exciting shopping location, but it is seriously dangerous to get across the highway at spots."
All in all, the opening of these two mega stores should have a great impact on Wall's economy and help out unemployed people as the pandemic ends.
By Zach Lichter
For those who will cast a ballot for the first time ever this November, this is probably not the way they thought it would happen.
The 2020 election will be unlike any other in the nation’s history mainly because the American people will be voting in the middle of a pandemic. The 2020 presidential election is one of the biggest in our lifetime. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are finishing up their campaigns for the White House and soon the voters will decide. The coronavirus, racial inequality, crime, the economy, healthcare, the Supreme Court and foreign policy are all at stake in this election, among other things.
The biggest thing that is on American people’s minds is getting out to vote. And then there’s the lack of experience but eagerness of first-time voters.
“I’m excited to vote because as an American citizen I have the right to vote and I decide who I vote for,” said Wall High School junior Steven Stansfield, 18.
This election will mainly be conducted by mail-in ballots in the state of New Jersey, as in many states. Voting by mail is considered a better alternative for people who don’t feel safe going to polling places Nov. 3.
“I felt more comfortable doing the mail-in ballot because I feel that there is less exposure and I feel safe doing it by mail,” said Wall senior Karlie Sambade, also 18. “Plus I want to keep my family safe."
If you plan on voting by mail, you can drop off your ballot at the Wall Township Municipal Building. All registered voters should have already received a ballot in the mail. If your ballot has been misplaced, damaged or you have not received it, you can contact the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office at (732) 431-7790 or visit www.monouthcountyvotes.com to receive a replacement ballot.
For people who feel more comfortable voting in person, the Glendola Fire House, the Municipal Building and the South Wall Fire House Ballroom will all be open Nov. 3 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters with disabilities will be allowed to use the voting machines on Election Day. All other voters will be given provisional paper ballots if they decide to vote in person. Those ballots will be counted last after all the mail-in ballots are tallied.
“I would rather do in-person voting for future elections,” Sambade said.
This 2020 presidential election will be one we will never forget. It could change the way we vote in the future and pave the way to see more people vote by mail for elections to come.
By Ryan Sy
Each person has their own taste in music and style, however, one Wall High School alumna’s knack for music has propelled her to a Guild of Music Supervisors award for one television show she works on.
Jen Malone, a 1994 Wall High School graduate, is continuing to make her mark in television and film. She has worked on many different television shows such as FX’s “Atlanta,” which was created by and stars Donald Glover, also known as by his musical alias Childish Gambino. In February, however, Malone won an award from the Guild for Music Supervisors in the category of Best Music Supervision for a Television Drama. The show she is the music supervisor for that won the award is HBO’s teenage drama “Euphoria,” headlined by former Disney star Zendaya, who plays MJ in the “Spider-Man” film series and appeared in the movie “The Greatest Showman.”
“Zendaya is one of the kindest, professional, talented actresses I have ever worked with,” Malone said. “She comes with focus, yet a sense of humor and warmth to the set. Playing a character like Rue is not easy, but she nails it!”
Malone does not just work in television. She also has worked on movies which include “Creed II,” which is a spinoff sequel to the “Rocky” movies, which she partnered with Michael B. Jordan of “Black Panther” fame.
Currently, Malone is working on several new projects which include season 2 of “Euphoria,” season 3 of “Atlanta,” “King of Staten Island,” which stars comedian Pete Davidson, who is famous for his work on Saturday Night Live, AMC’s newest show “Dispatches From Elsewhere,” which features Jason Segal, one of the stars of “How I Met Your Mother,” and a new Amazon show called “The Wilds.” Malone continues to make a name for herself out in Hollywood after sitting in the same desks and walking through the halls that current Wall students roam today.
“It is incredible for all my hard work to be recognized by my peers for the award,” Malone added. “I’m so grateful to be able to work on such amazing projects that value music and are truly up for anything.”
“I was not aware! That’s really cool,” said Wall senior Nicole Pinnella, who exercises her musical talent for the songwriting club, and also hopes to make a career of it. She is also in the middle of a statewide contest for writing songs about drug use. “I plan to attend Elizabethtown College next year to study Musical Therapy. Musical Therapy uses music to help people who have disabilities, such as autism, dementia, and PTSD. I’m very excited to keep music in my life!”
By Ryan Sy
The streets of Wall Township might not paved with gold, but a former Wall Township Public Schools’ student who grew up on them helped to land some Oscar gold on Sun., Feb. 24.
Sean McDermott did the set design for “Skin,” which won for being the best live-action short film.
McDermott graduated Old Mill Elementary School and Wall Intermediate before going onto Christian Brothers Academy for high school. He was a Wall resident until the fall of 2016 when he moved to Los Angeles.
“It so happened that I was working on that set or that shoot and it is a cool little thing, my little claim to fame and it looks good on my IMDb profile,” McDermott said.
McDermott’s involvement in an Oscar-winning film extends a notable streak over the past two years when former Wall students have been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and an Emmy Award.
“That is an incredible honor for a film and its cast and crew, and a very hard feat to achieve. I am so proud of him,” said Wall High School graduate Ryan Hutchins, a former classmate of McDermott at the Intermediate School and a director working in LA. “Sean and I go back to when we were both at the Intermediate School. We both had a passion for film and so we became great friends and started making videos to put on YouTube together.”
McDermott and Hutchins both went to film school together before they ended up in LA. They also work together for AwesomenessTV on a bunch of different projects.
“Skin” tackles the tough topic of racism in America. McDermott worked on the set in a key role in keeping all of the props together and making sure they were clean and in pristine condition so they were able to be used during filming. Having clean and intact props is important because the budget for the film might be small and cannot afford to buy more props if something gets damaged.
“My job was to maintain props and, specifically, what the actors handle, things like a gun, paper, pens and whatever they touch, I make sure they get organized and do not get lost,” McDermott said.
The success of “Skin,” and McDermott’s contribution toward it has helped them earn much-deserved attention.
“Most things you work on out here you do not see most of the stuff that you do,” he said. “I only saw the movie once because they did a special screening for the cast and their families.”
By Madison Clayton
Wall Township Public Schools lost a legend in December.
Mrs. Eva Applegate, who dedicated nearly 28 years to the Wall Township Board of Education, passed away on Dec. 30, at age 80. She had been hit by a car while crossing a street in Manasquan in early October and had been transported to Jersey Shore Medical Center in critical condition.
Mrs. Applegate was a woman who dedicated countless years to Wall High School, especially the music department. Even after her retirement from the Board of Education, she still continued to attend almost every concert and volunteered her time to help.
“It was always her mission to save the arts,” said Mrs. Ellen Hollander, a vocal and theater teacher at Wall.
Mrs. Applegate was a stalwart fixture of the music department, attending every concert and marching band performance. Due to her love and dedication to the arts, the Wall High School Theater was dedicated and renamed “The Eva Applegate Theater” in her honor in 2014. A special seat was even assigned to her so she had a good place to watch every performance.
“She always wanted to keep opportunity open for students to explore arts,” said Mr. Les Hollander, director of the music department at Wall.
Mrs. Applegate was always there to help out with instrument inventory, fitting band students for their uniforms and chaperoning the band on the buses to football games.
In addition to her helping out with the music department, Mrs. Applegate was a tireless volunteer on Project graduation for many years.
Mrs. Applegate’s dedication and time over her life led her to receive many honorable awards such as the Wall Township Community Relations Alliance Committee Volunteer Award, the New Jersey School Board Associate Milestone Award for 20 years of service, be inducted into the Wall Foundation for Educational Excellence Hall of Fame, earn an Honorary Lifetime Membership to the Tri-M Music Honor Society and the JFK Valor Award for her service to her community.
Mrs. Applegate is greatly missed by many of the Wall High School students and staff, but her love of the school and arts program will never be forgotten.
By Ryan Sy
Alumnae of Wall High School have now been nominated for two prestigious awards in consecutive school years.
This summer, Jennifer Malone, Class of 1994, joined Suzy Hansen, who was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her book “Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World,” when she was nominated for TV’s highest honor, the Emmy Award in the category of music supervision for the Donald Glover show “Atlanta.”
“When you are making a TV show, you are kind of in a bubble and you are just so in deep and it is so fast and you have no time to think about anything else and, when the show comes out, it is an amazing feeling but, to be nominated as well, it is surreal, it is unbelievable,” Malone said.
This marked just the second year that the Emmys recognized music supervision. Malone’s contributions make her a pioneer of the profession and the importance of the role is growing more and more each year.
Malone did not start her career as a music supervisor but began working with rock bands in Boston. She started her own company before becoming a music supervisor.
“I went to go see ‘Ironman,’ the credits rolled by and I saw music supervisor and I was like ‘huh, that’s a job? That’s what I want to do.’ So I moved out to LA not knowing anything about this business.”
Malone interned with Dave Jordan, who was the music supervisor for such Marvel Studios’ movies as “Avengers: Infinity War, “Black Panther,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor.” She had to compete with kids fresh out of college while she was starting her second career, trying to catch up to the students who, from the beginning, wanted to become music supervisors and had the upper hand in education.
“I networked with anyone I could and took meetings and coffees and lunches and went to this industry mixer and I was introduced to Dave and we hit it off,” Malone said. “I told him I wanted to intern for him and he was like ‘why did you want to intern, you were in music before?’ I told him you have to learn, start from the bottom and work your way up and he was like, ‘you start on Monday.’”
One of the challenges Malone overcame in the second season of “Atlanta” was for an episode titled “Teddy Perkins” that she needed to get a Stevie Wonder song cleared. The controversial nature of the episode made it necessary for Malone to bring Glover and Wonder together to talk. The artist ultimately allowed the use of his song, “Evil.”
“I respect the people I work with and I can’t rest,” Malone said. “You do a good job, they will invite you back. Keep working, keep hustling and do a great job and maintain relationships.”
Currently Malone is working on the music for “Creed II,” the sequel to “Creed,” which is a continuation of the famous Rocky movies. Also she is working on “The Resident” on Fox, “Step Up” on YouTube Red starting Naya Rivera, and “Are You the One?” on MTV, which is in its second season. She is continuing to create a bigger name for herself in Hollywood making an imprint on TV and film through her talents in music.
While “Atlanta” ultimately lost out for music supervision to this year’s Emmy darling “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Malone has cemented herself in her calling.
“This is what I wanted to do and I put the pieces of the puzzle together to do,” Malone said.
By Ryan Sy
For the first time in Wall High School history, a former student was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Suzy Hansen walked the same hall as current students do and has now received international recognition for her writing. The Pulitzer, which is bestowed by the Columbia University School of Journalism, is the most coveted award for writers. Her first book, “Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World” garnered the nomination this spring.
“Book writing is hard, and I knew I had to really want to do it,” Hansen said. “Well, I was shocked! I had no idea I was even nominated until the day they announced the winners and the two finalists. It feels amazing because this book really meant a lot to me. And I am feeling very grateful and lucky that the committee chose to recognize this book this year.”
Hansen’s book’s message was to show people the influence of America on many foreign countries. In the book, she used foreigners’ points of view and experiences towards other people about America to show how much influence America has on the rest of the world.
“She was a dedicated athlete and mature academic student and I am very happy for her,” said Advanced Placement English teacher Mrs. Robyn Dyba who was Hansen’s 11th grade English teacher. “She had a unique maturity and composure for her age. She was quiet and humble and she did great work.”
During high school, Hansen was editor in chief of the Wall yearbook in 1995. She was also a member of the National Honor Society. Additionally, she was on the senior class homecoming court and a class officer for the Class of ‘95.
“She was a terrific student-athlete who attacked every situation with purpose and enthusiasm,” said former Wall field hockey coach Ms. Nancy Gross who was Hansen’s coach when she was an all-state player. “A happy person, she made each day better for everyone around her.”
As a field hockey player, Hansen was a Group III All-State second team selection.
“She was always well liked by everybody in the school, she was definitely a popular person, but she was also very kind and very nice,” said Wall English teacher Mrs. Kara Kniffin, a classmate of Hansen’s. “I think that she is the type of person that is worthy of it (a Pulitzer nomination) just because of her kind nature.”
Today, Hansen is freelancing for magazines like “The New Republic,” “Harper’s” and “The New York Times Magazine.” She is currently living abroad in Istanbul, Turkey. Her next book that she is currently working on is about Turkey.