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.
By Ryan Sy
A seventh grader at Wall Intermediate School has been diagnosed with two brain tumors and the Wall Township community is giving support to a future Wall High School student by donating hundreds of dollars.
Her name is Nina D’Apolito and the Wall community had a fundraiser for her and the Class of 2018 made it a competition between the other classes to see who could get the most money and the reward was a pajama day Fri., March 2. The senior class won the day for raising the most money.
“It is best when the students take the lead,” said Wall Assistant Principal Mrs. Kristen Scott. “The seniors were leading by the first day and never stopped leading.”
The total amount that was raised in the contest between the classes was $291.53 and 100 percent of the proceeds go to D’Apolito and her family during a time of hardship.
Another fundraiser was the pie-eating contest which took place on Thurs., March 1, during unit lunch in the North gym as another part to the fundraiser. The pies were donated by Sunburst Pie Company in Manasquan. It was another piece of the fundraiser as a whole and a fun way to raise money for a good cause. It was an event to get the school community together for someone who needs the help.
The winner of the pie-eating contest was Wall High School science teacher and varsity swim coach Mr. Greg Grober.
“The response of the students and faculty was outstanding,” said senior Maggie Wishart. “We truly go to a great school where everyone is willing to help in any way they can.”
“Our goal was just to raise as much money as we could and to really get out there there and support Nina,” said senior Morgan Knight. “Together we raised over $500 for Nina and her family.”
The support for D’Apolito sent the message that the school cares about her and wants her to make it to the high school and beyond.
By Jack Meyer
Wall High School Class of 2008 graduate Kortney Spencer was attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 when disaster struck. A gunmen opened fire on the audience and Spencer was shot in her right leg. The response from her friends, family and even random strangers to the tragedy has been hard to believe as they have banded together, raising over $46,000 on an online campaign on the website “GoFundMe” to help aid her recovery.
Spencer grew up in Wall, going through Wall Public Schools, and the majority of her family still lives in New Jersey, as her little sister Kayli Godek is currently an eighth grader at Wall Intermediate School. After graduating Towson University, she moved to California where she finished her degree and is now a speech pathologist near Los Angeles. An avid supporter of country music, Spencer took a trip to see some of her favorite country artists at the music festival along with her boyfriend Dominic Rabanal and friend Kerrie Kendzierski. During the festival, she said she heard strange “popping noises” and the three began to walk away. A spray of bullets rained down and one struck Spencer in her left leg.
Unable to walk, Spencer was carried by her boyfriend and piled into a taxi with several other people in the back. She said the driver was hysterical as he drove the victims to Sunrise Hospital only minutes away from where the shooting took place.
“Once I got to the hospital, I felt so relieved,” Spencer said. “They brought me inside and I just thought I’m safe and going to be taken care of.”
Spencer described the scene inside the hospital as horrific where she joined many other victims sitting on the floor waiting for medical treatment.
“All of the beds were taken and I was put on the tile floor and left there for five hours without pain medication or any kind of medical attention,” Spencer said. “It was just this little hospital. I mean who would have ever thought they would have 500 patients? I don’t think any hospital is ready for that.”
After five hours, Spencer finally received pain medication and was told by a surgeon that she needed emergency surgery, but the surgeon didn’t return for four more hours.
“I’m sure she just got called into another surgery that was more life-threatening and I didn’t get operated on until early Monday morning,” Spencer said.
Spencer was diagnosed with a shattered tibia. After spending 11 days at the hospital in Las Vegas, she returned to her home in California where she currently remains on bedrest unable to get around on her own. Different members of her family have been staying with her periodically such as her parents. She will be periodically checking in with surgeons as she continues her recovery. The shooting has completely changed Spencer’s day-to-day life.
“I was never, ever home,” Spencer said. “I was that person who was just always on the go. So going from that kind of person to just being bedridden, it’s just a huge lifestyle change and just learning how to cope with that.”
Spencer participated in many activities such as yoga, surfing, snowboarding and going out for dinner with friends, all of which are put on hold in her current condition. Spencer has received a huge response from her friends, family and even complete strangers and the doctors are optimistic she can make a full recovery.
“It’s amazing to see how many people can come together and make such a big difference,” Spencer said. “Obviously family and friends [have helped], but also acquaintances and complete strangers and it’s just amazing that they would donate from their own pockets to somebody that they really don’t know at all. I think it’s really special and I think the feeling is unreal because you can’t imagine how many people are willing to help you.”
A GoFundMe.com campaign, started by Spencer’s sister, Jodi Spencer Goldberg, has raised almost $49,000 in donations to aid in Spencer’s recovery.
“You never think this kind of thing would and could happen to you,” Spencer said. “You read it in the newspaper and they’re happening all over the world, and then it happens to you and it really hits hard.
Many of the donations have come from the Wall community, and many students, teachers and Wall residents have been keeping Spencer in their thoughts, including teacher Mr. Joshua Tennant, who graduated from Wall with her in 2008.
“While I didn’t know Kortney that well, she had a reputation of being a kind, and caring person,” he said. “When you treat others as you'd like to be treated, people remember that. I'm sure for that reason, people will rise to the occasion and help support her as she recovers.”
Mr. Tennant also added that he believes a lot of times people don’t realize how widespread tragedies and other events like this tend to be. He said that many people will hear that things like this are not local and immediately shrug it off as not affecting them but, in reality, they are impacted.
“Kortney was a sweetheart,” said Wall English teacher Mr. Thomas Dill, who had Spencer in his English class both junior and senior year. “She was a really good kid, hard worker, very kind to everyone. Just a very nice person and I really have nothing bad to say about her so when I heard about what happened obviously I was very upset. I think when you saw the outpouring of things that happened since like the Go Fund Me page and the attention she’s received, I think it kind of just goes to show what kind of person she is because she affected a lot of people in a positive way and they were just trying to give back to her.”
Donations will continue to be accepted for those who would like to donate on the Go Fund Me under the campaign titled “Kortney's Road to Recovery.” Spencer also mentioned she hopes to return to Wall in the near future after she has recovered.