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Campus Connection: volume II

A Q&A with some of the newsmakers on campus

February 8, 2016

Freshman Rachel Guo's background in traditional Chinese dance lends her a different background for dancing on the drill team.

Freshman Rachel Guo's background in traditional Chinese dance lends her a different background for dancing on the drill team.

Leaping across dance cultures

For many girls, making the Red Rhythm drill team, means a focus on jazz, military and kicks to perform and compete. But for freshman Rachel Guo, a background in Chinese dance was what got her on the 2016-17 team after just half a year of learning varieties of techniques. To find out more, Wingspan’s Janet Nguyen sat down with Guo.

Wingspan: How long have you been dancing?

Guo: “I’ve been dancing since I was 5.”

Wingspan: What made you want to try out for drill team?

Guo: “My friends Janet and Amy encouraged me to try out and it seemed like a lot of fun.”

Wingspan: How is jazz, military, and kicks different from Chinese dancing?

Guo: “Chinese dancing doesn’t really incorporate any of those techniques needed for drill team, but in my class we do a few jazz techniques and we do kicks for part of our warm ups.”

Wingspan: Do you like drill team dancing or Chinese dancing better?

Guo: “I like drill team better so far because you form a bond between the girls which you don’t have to do in Chinese dance.”

Wingspan: How did you feel during tryout week?

Guo: “During tryout week I felt very nervous and anxious, but at the same time it was a lot of fun.”

Wingspan: What are you looking forward to being on Red Rhythm next year?

Guo: “I am looking forward to making new friends and learning new dances.”

Wingspan: What are you least excited about Red Rhythm?

Guo: “The least excited thing about drill is the amount of time you have to put in it.”

Wingspan: What’s your favorite style of dance in drill team? Why?

Guo: “My favorite style is jazz because I like all the techniques and how it’s very sharp but at the same time you can express yourself.”

Wingspan: What’s your least favorite style of dance in drill team? Why?

Guo: “My least favorite style is kick because it’s very tiring and there’s a lot of aspects that I must think about in order to get a sharp and good looking kicks.”

Wingspan: Who helped you the most with drill team techniques?

Guo: “Ms. Nothe and drill team class helped the most because that’s where I learned all the technique and where I learned what they were looking for during tryouts.”

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French teacher fluent in four languages

Born in Senegal, French teacher Dina Baalbaki is fluent in multiple languages.

Keegan Williams

Born in Senegal, French teacher Dina Baalbaki is fluent in multiple languages.

Born in Senegal, French teacher Dina Baalbaki is fluent in multiple languages. Her early life in Africa and her ability to speak several languages caught the attention of Wingspan’s Olivia Womack who sat down with Baalbaki for this Q&A.

Wingspan: What was it like where you grew up?

Baalbaki: “It was beautiful, everybody liked everybody. The community was very close, the school system was divided in two sections: private schools and the other ones; the public ones. Senegal is in West Africa and we’re surrounded by beautiful beach resorts and nice people. The official language spoken is French but there’s many other sub languages and I am fluent in the main one spoken across the country called Wolof.”

Wingspan: What made you want to move to the U.S.?

Baalbaki: “I came to this country because my ex-husband graduated from college here and had his job here.”

Wingspan: Was it hard to adjust?

Baalbaki: “It was, I didn’t have any family.”

Wingspan: How many languages can you speak?

Baalbaki: “I speak four languages fluently, and I’m proficient in Spanish, which is my 5th. I can’t wait to learn Portuguese.”

Wingspan: What’s your native language?

Baalbaki: “French and Lebanese is my language.”

Wingspan: Are your kids able to speak French as well?

Baalbaki: “Yes, my kids speak French and many other languages.”

Wingspan: Do you miss Senegal?

Baalbaki: “Oh, I miss it dearly. This is the time of year besides summer where I wish I was there.”

Wingspan: What made you want to teach?
Baalbaki: “I wanted to help kids be better at my language, understand the culture of French and all other Francophone cultures, and be a good role model to our students and community.”

Wingspan: What’s your favorite thing about teaching?

Baalbaki: “When I hear students speak in French and when they do it with self-confidence, that is priceless!”

Wingspan: What is your best experience here on campus?

Baalbaki: “Building stronger classes of motivated kids, and the experience and fun we all get from it.”

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A cop life

Spending the school year here on campus, school resource officer Jerry Varner is a full time Frisco Police Department officer.

Amber Holt

Spending the school year here on campus, school resource officer Jerry Varner is a full time Frisco Police Department officer.

Everyone knows him, but not many people know too much about him. Wingspan’s Daniela Iturrino sat down with School Resource Officer Jerry Varner to discuss the in’s and out’s of being a police officer.

Wingspan: How does your day usually play out?

Varner: “It’s about a 12 hour day that starts with arriving at school making rounds and looking for anything out of the ordinary and also concentrating putting on a smiling face.”

Wingspan: What do you do all day?

Varner:  “I usually make sure that I’m visible, not so much to the students but to the outside world. I’m a resource for anybody who needs anything.”

Wingspan: What do kids usually come to you for?

Varner:  “Some come asking questions about future careers in law enforcement, some struggle with an un balanced family life at home, and some just want somebody to talk to that’ll listen.”

Wingspan: What’s the craziest thing you’ve had to do as a cop here on campus?

Varner: “Probably getting a snake out of the school.”

Wingspan: What do you love most about your job?

Varner: “Being around young people, it’s kind of energizing.”

Wingspan: What do you love least about your job?

Varner: “Seeing young people make bad decisions.”

Wingspan: What made you want to work in this industry?

Varner: “I kinda came across it by accident, it was suggested by a supervisor and at the time i didn’t think i wanted to do it but it turned out to be one of the best jobs I ever had.”

Wingspan: How are kids supposed to know when they’re in a type of situation where you’re needed?

Varner: “I try to spread the word and communicate with the kids but usually a student will be in a situation where a friend suggests that I’m needed.”

Wingspan: Has a teacher ever come to you asking for help?

Varner: “All the time, I’m here for everybody.”

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A love of Spanish inspires new teacher

Spanish teacher Makenzi Ep

Dea-Mallika Divi

Spanish teacher Makenzi Ep

Learning a second language can look good on transcripts for college and give a student an advantage in the long run. Wingspan’s Prachurjya Shreya sat down with Spanish teacher, Makenzi Epps to talk about how majoring in Spanish may take a lot of work but can be worth it.

Wingspan: Why did you pick Spanish out of all the other languages?

Epps: “I picked Spanish out of all the other languages because when I was in junior high my mom went to study abroad in Barcelona and she took us with her. I remember standing there and listening to all the Spanish and I said ‘Spanish makes my ears want to dance.’ Ever since then, I decided that I love Spanish and that’s what I want to study.”

Wingspan: Why did you decide to teach high schoolers?

Epps: “I decided to teach high schoolers because I worked at the college level previously and all of my intro kids,my starting students, who were just starting Spanish in college told me that they had high school Spanish but they didn’t know anything so they had to start all over. My goal was if I could go back and see how a high school functioned and how that worked then maybe I could help at that point so there would be more Spanish majors or ultimately, more people fluent in Spanish.”

Wingspan: Why do you think students should take Spanish?

Epps: “I think students should take Spanish because it helps your critical thinking skills, helps you understand people differently and be more empathetic. It also helps you learn how to learn things in a new way and it helps you be able to communicate with a huge group of people that you otherwise couldn’t. And as a perk, most of the time if you’re at least minoring in Spanish, you get paid more.”

Wingspan:What are the requirements to be a Spanish major?

Epps: “The requirements to be a Spanish major are different in every college. Most of the time, it’s under the bachelors of arts degree so there are a lot of English classes, history classes, and other things that go with it. Usually, you have to take a certain number of higher level Spanish classes to get the major. The best way to do that is if you take all of the high school Spanish you can test out of most of it and you can’t actually finish your major early. I finished mine my Spanish major in three years, instead of four.”

Wingspan: How did going to Spain change your perspective on the language?

Epps: “Going to Spain changed my perspective on the language in that, I realized I would never be fluent and that was okay. That my idea of having to be perfect at Spanish was ridiculous and that the goal is communication, not perfection. Once I was able to let go of that, my Spanish got a lot better and I was able to communicate effectively with a lot more people.”

Wingspan: What is your favorite memory of Spain?

Epps: “My best friend flew out to Spain and we went to the theater because in Spain, they have this great program where if you’re under 26, you can get last minute tickets to the opera and the ballet and to whatever for like ten euros, which is ridiculous because they’re like 100 euro seats so she came in and we went to see The Ballet: Romeo and Juliet and it was amazing.”

Wingspan: How hard was it to always talk in Spanish?

Epps: “It was not that difficult to talk in Spanish all the time because I was surrounded by people that were only speaking Spanish. The only time it was difficult was when I had people that wanted to learn English that would want to speak to me. One of the apartments that was next to mine, there lived a person who wanted to practice their English so that was the only time that it was difficult.”

Wingspan: How does Spanish influence your everyday life?

Epps: “Spanish influences my everyday life in that I always see two sides of everything. Through learning Spanish, I started looking at words differently, thinking about the way people said them, and what it meant underneath the words. Thinking about how saying ‘hello’ in a different tone of voice means one thing to someone and something else to somebody different and how different cultures respond. It’s definitely affected my personal relationships. And I also can’t read anymore in English without seeing half of it in Spanish.”

Wingspan: While majoring, what were some obstacles you faced?

Epps: “Well I triple majored so mostly I just overloaded myself and that was the hardest part. I just tried to do too much at one time. The other thing was in Spanish, the better you get, the longer it takes to get a little bit better. I think when I got to a higher level of Spanish,  it was hard to see improvement until much later and that was difficult for me.”

Wingspan: What advice would you give to high schoolers that are pursuing Spanish all four years?

Epps: “ My advice would be to make sure to take the AP exam and prepare well for it. To really get into the literature of it because a lot of your Spanish classes in college are going to be literature based. The more you can read ahead of time, the better. There a lot of colleges that publish book lists and if you can get a head start on those, you’ll be in amazing shape. Also, make sure you’re placed correctly when you get into college and you do take all of the exams they require so you don’t end up missing out on credit that you could get.”

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