practice and passion

I first dipped my toes into photography in the summer of 2016.

I knew next to nothing, the rule of thirds being the only important information I retained from eighth grade technology class. Despite this, I was going through what I now call “a phase”. I picked up drawing, stole my friend’s pastels for two months and did everything to immerse myself in art.

It started with pulling out my old calligraphy set andbinging on Instagram calligraphy videos. I must have written my name 100 times last summer. Gaining confidence in my drawing and lettering skills (ones which quickly faded into disuse with the start of the school year) I started sharing my art with some friends. In turn, they showed me an art form I had always been fascinated with, but never actually tried — photography.

Photographer’s eye. This artistic view of my fish was something I had never noticed, despite seeing it every day.  Photo by Anna Kemper

Like I said, I knew nothing about it; but I had a Canon sitting in the corner of my room, given to my sister by a family friend. Both of my friends had amazing photography accounts on Instagram and neither had more than a semester’s worth of photography knowledge. Anyone could be a photographer, given time and practice.

I wanted to try it out.

July 5, 2016. My fifteenth birthday. I grabbed my camera, my bike and we set out.

Success. I had found my new passion. I started a photography page on Instagram and got every artsy picture I could of the sunset, the trees, the sky. For a period of time I annoyed everyone I went out with, insisting on stopping to take 5 or 10 pictures if the clouds looked cool. Or leaning over my sister in the airplane to get a cool picture of the sunset on our flight over the ocean. 

As most of my hobbies tend to do this at some point, I was expecting the excitement to fade. Luckily for me, it hasn’t happened yet. While I don’t go on photography expeditions as often, the way I see the world has changed. Now, when I look around I see potential pictures — the glare of the sun at an interesting angle, an abandoned house behind a bridge, the rocks beneath a miniature waterfall.

I still don’t know what aperture means. Shutter speed is a thing, but don’t ask my to tell you the significance. I don’t know these things, but that is part of what I love about photography. I don’t have to know everything, to enjoy it.



Childhood Disappointments

Harry Potter is my culture.

All my life I have been surrounded with the Harry Potter universe. One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the couch watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with my grandma.

The Harry Potter series was the first chapter book I ever read. Harry Potter has shaped my reading, and if you know me you know reading is a huge part of my life. I don’t want to sound cliche but Harry Potter has changed my life. I grew up reading the tales of school age children accomplishing amazing things. As the movies came out they were the primary source of my childhood games and costumes.

Even past adolescence I have watched the actors that brought Harry Potter to life step out of their robes and continue their journey in the real world. Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in Harry Potter, brought me role models and the image of who I aspire to be as a woman.

Harry Potter is a children’s book and yet millions of adults are ensnared in the magic of the universe. The themes and morals — love, family, loyalty — are applicable to people of every age.

The Harry Potter universe was supposed to stop expanding in 2012 with the release of the last movie. To the joy of many (including myself) it hasn’t. Through the interactive website JK Rowling has brought short stories and continuations of the wizarding world.

This, as well as the wild and entertaining theories that circulate Tumblr, have sustained my hunger for new material for four years. Until now.

In this year alone there is a play and a movie (the first of five) extending the Potterverse further into the past and the future. To say I was excited was an understatement. Not only do I have a new book to read, there are now five more movies for me to relish in.

The book/play came out in the summer and to say I was disappointed is an understatement.

I didn’t read it. I got 50 pages in and I. Stopped. Reading. I was so thorughly disheartened by the direction JK Rowling took the the Harry Potter world that I couldn’t continue. I still haven’t finished reading it and to be honest I don’t plan on doing so. I read enough. I know that Harry became a bad father and to me that is an outrageous lie. It may be just a book series but I can’t believe that these heroes that shaped my childhood turned out to be bad people.

Harry Potter was the dream and Cursed Child is waking up.

I’ve waited for nine years since the last book came out for me quality reading material in the Harry Potter world. I finally get it and it changes all of my theories, ponderings, fantastical dreams of what expected to happen. Not only that but it changes how I perceive a series that was a monumental building block of my life.

On Thursday I am I going to the theaters to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This is the new movie taking place 70 years before the original Harry Potter series occurs. I am extrememly excited but I’m also worried. What other monumental changes will this bring to the Harry Potter world? How will this change my perception even more?

Whatever happens I will stand by this series. I will encourage young readers, old readers, any in between to read this amazing series. Whether you read all seven or only watch the movies it’s an amazing experience and those who never do are truly missing out.

Read the books. Watch the movies. Experience the magic.

Yes, we are just racist.

The country is racist. That isn’t a little known fact, but until this project, I didn’t really see how much of the country this mindset had pervaded.

What I found is that in the unemployment rates, in income levels for married and unmarried families, in poverty levels for minority children. For all of these, the minority group was at the disadvantage.

According to, a higher percentage of minorities earned less than $50,000 a year when compared to the amount of white people. There was a higher percentage of minority children that grow up in poverty than there were white children. Unemployment rates for minorities were higher than those for white people.

I think the hard part of solving this issue is this question:

Is the financial disadvantages that are given to minorities caused by racism in the current workforce or is it caused by residual effects of the poor economic conditions offered to minorities in the early 1900s.

Let me explain:

So if it was caused by racism in our current system that would mean that the prejudice people have now is preventing opportunities from arising for minorities. This could include: not being hired, being paid less, worse working conditions.

I could see this being true in some circumstances. If underlying stigma influenced people to act this way. However, there are laws in place that prevent this kind of discrimination in the workforce and while I’m sure those laws don’t prevent everything I don’t think they could be responsible for such overwhelming statistics we can see in the economy.

The other reason that I think is more likely is that the statistics are residual from the time of the civil rights movement and before.

In those times of segregation black people weren’t hired for certain jobs, the conditions they lived in were awful. After the Reconstruction many African Americans were still working as basically slaves in sharecropping situations.

Basically during these times the majority of African Americans and other minorities were living in poverty. How this translates to current times is that, with the stigma that I mentioned earlier, they weren’t able to easily climb out of poverty even when more job opportunities presented themselves.

Also, in many cities there is a high population of African Americans. If they are poor and the city they live in is poor, their education will not be very good and their children will often grow up to stay in poverty as well.

It’s all a circle of past prejudice and present stigma that translates to the bad economic conditions for minorities. To solve any of the problems we have to take one of these factors out. It all connects back to ending racism in our country. It is more than just a social issue. It’s an issue that matters in many aspects of our country.


High School Leaves Us Unprepared for Future

Over the summer I took Financial Literacy. Unsurprisingly, it discussed debt. Credit card debt and especially college debt.

It gave shocking numbers and one that stuck with me is that the average amount of debt of college students is 29,000 dollars. I don’t remember the exact percent but there were also a ton of students that had to drop out of college to work so they could pay for the college debts.

The problem with debt from college is that you can’t get rid of it. If you declare bankruptcy you are still expected to pay off your loans and all the time you are working up the money the loans are gaining interest against you.

So, why are college students so in debt?

It may seem obvious (college is expensive) but there’s more to it than that. Credit card companies specifically target college age students. They entice them with low upfront fees and seemingly good deals. College students can either get trapped in contracts of the credit card, can be unaware of the high fees associated with credit cards if they don’t pay off the debts, not be able to pay off what they spend on the card, overspend, etc. The list could go on and on.

There are multitudes of ways for college students to get in debt. And to me, it seems like that is partially the fault of the high school system. I don’t know how it is in other schools but I doubt it is very different. In Mason we only have to take on class on financial education. One class before you graduate, and it’s usually taken in your sophomore year, and you are expected to know how to navigate the world of finances, taxes, and debt.

I already finished the course and to be honest I have no idea how to do taxes. There seem to be 100 forms to fill out and you have to know specific information. I’m at a loss and that is the only help I am going to get because there isn’t anything else for me in high school. I could take banking and investing or one of the elective classes but I’m not going to because 1) I don’t have room and 2) I’m not interested in that field so I don’t want to waste my time on a non-required class.

You could blame me for my uneducatedness (is that a word) in this field. I might agree with you. That I’m doing it to myself. But what about the other schools? The ones that are nearly as fortunate as Mason is and only have one class that teaches finance. The schools that don’t have as good teachers as Mason and whose students walk out of high school with a diploma and no understanding of how to live a fiscally responsible life.

It is because of this that they average college student has twenty-nine thousand dollars in college debt. It is because of this that college students have to drop out and give up on their future because they weren’t prepared in high school for the real world.

In high school we’re given standardized testing and memorizing equations. we’re given calculus and chemistry and history of the universe. We’re given all that but where and when will we be given reality? When will we learn how to live as an adults?

Will we ever or will we all just become another average of students that dropped out or gave up because they didn’t have the knowledge to try?

American History

Welcome to the first post of ten in my new history series. (Yes, it was required for school, but I can still act excited about it. Also, pardon the title, my creative juices were having trouble flowing today.)

Okay back on topic. So in class my group has been researching discrimination against economically disadvantaged. I didn’t really know that was a thing until now (yeah, yeah ignorant millennial right here). What I’ve found so far, is that the discrimination is very subtle. Lowkey discrimination if you will. It is also very much tied into racism and the civil rights movement.

In the 60s when Martin Luther King Jr. and others were fighting for equality for racism they were also fighting for economic equality regarding better opportunities, jobs, etc. President Lyndon Johnson helped out with that a little with his War On Poverty *cue dramatic music*.  I’m not going to go into a bunch of details on what this war consisted of (mainly because I’m not quite sure) I will say that a lot of people didn’t believe that his efforts made a difference.

In consideration of the short term I would agree with that. In that long term however it is a different story. What his efforts towards economic equality led to was a lasting effort of helping the economically disadvantaged with programs like welfare, medicade, food stamps and others. These programs are in place to help the less fortunate and ease the financial burden and some other stuff. I plan to talk about that in my next blog post so Ill stop there.

The main thing I noticed was that, while the efforts have helped, there is a HUGE disparity income and economic stability between White people and African Americans, Mexican Americans, and other minorities. From my research I have seen this has been the case since the civil rights movement and before.

So what it seems like it all boils down to is that economic prosperity has been either a result of discrimination or something used to keep discrimination in place. Racism and poverty are intrinsically linked. We cannot rid the country of one until we get rid of the other.


Thank you for reading my semi-coherent thoughts, I hope I didn’t sound like a fool and have a great day!


Originally posted on on September 23, 2016

Lack of treatment causes patients to seek unorthodox relief

Calista Busch | Staff Writer
Juliana Discher | Staff Writer

Lightning bolts zapping your head, hands wrenching your brain, nails being driven into your skull – for students with migraines, this excruciating pain is common.

Migraines are painful, recurring headaches, usually accompanied with adverse symptoms like flashing lights, nausea, and sensitivity to light, noise, or smell. They are different for each person that has them, varying in length, intensity and side effects.

Sophomore Delaney Durham said her migraines feel like someone is twisting her brain.

“It feels like someone stuck their hands in my brain and is cranking it around,” Durham said. “(It’s) like someone knocking on my brain.”

According to the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute (MHNI), approximately 10 percent of children experience migraines by late childhood. Despite this, there are still very few concrete methods for migraine prevention or relief as the cause of migraines is generally unknown. As a result, patients that experience them find their own techniques to help relieve the headaches. Sophomore Taylor Kling uses art therapy to reduce her migranes.

“Doing art reduces stress and contributes to less horrible headaches,” Kling said. “It just gets your mind off things.”

Senior Nihar Rama suffers from migraines along with his mother, Priya. Priya uses her art to express the pain of migraines because according to Nihar, the two feel the field has been neglected with research.

“Some people see things when they get migraines, and my mom is one of those people,” Rama said. “She sees distorted images. She takes what she sees and paints. There has to be more research done – there is some, but not nearly to the extent of some more commonly discussed diseases.”

Though the specific cause of migraines is unknown, it is thought to be the result of a constriction in the vessels of the head. It can be exacerbated by stress or a genetic predisposition. Kling said when she stresses, she experiences worse and more frequent migraines.

Research coordinator for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Janelle Allen has intensely studied chronic migraines in adolescents. Allen said her research has found social and academic experiences can be negatively impacted by migraines.

“What we see is people who have suffered from headaches and migraines, their performance at school sometimes goes down,” Allen said. “Their ability to focus and retain information sometimes goes down. Being present in social settings is diminished.”

According to MHNI, approximately 37 percent of children that experience migraines note poorer school performance and trouble focusing in class and on homework. Rama said his migraines were so severe in eighth grade that he had to be homeschooled for two months.

“I was getting migraines three to four times a week, so I was missing school consistently,” Rama said. “My parents decided to pull me out for a bit because they thought it was something in the middle school environment that was giving me migraines. Now in high school I don’t have them as often; I have them only around two or three times a month.”

Kling said her migraines have affected her productivity.

“It’s hard to concentrate when you feel like your brain’s going to explode,” Kling said. “It hasn’t affected my grades, but it has affected my ability to work for long periods of times on things and stay on track. It does affect how easy it is to complete assignments.”

Students have learned to adapt to their migraines. Rama said he now accepts his limits.

“I had to understand that you can’t do all the things you did before,” Rama said. “You can’t be so active.”

High School: the sequel

It’s four weeks into school and I’m finally feeling like a sophomore. Actually, that’s not true. I do, and always will, feel like a freshman but at least I’ve semi-gotten used to the notch that has been raised by school this year.

For most of my life, I’ll be honest, I skated through school. I never studied that much for tests, I did my homework but I rarely spent much time working on it. I had it easy and boy, how has that changed.

In my last blog post I emphasized how much stress I’m under right now with school, and planning for the future and all the clubs I’m in. That’s still true but I have to say that I’m enjoying the challenge this year is bringing me. At least, some days I do.

Staying up till all hours of the night doing homework isn’t so fun but being in classes that actually provoke my learning and thinking process is definitely nice. The classes I’m taking this year are a wide range of topics. From Honors English to Principles of Biomedical Science I’m learning in all different fields.

Take biomed: in this class we learn pretty much everything throughs labs and experiments. This is a hands-on way to learning that I’ve never really experienced before but definitely appeals to the kinesthetic learner in me.

From there I go to Chronicle. This class is basically my rock in the school day. It’s definitely no less challenging than any of my other classes, and is probably the most difficult. However, being surrounded by people who are as passionate about writing as I and people who are so driven to do their best… it’s really just the best experience I could have in high school.

This year is definitely something new, it’s different than any year before. It seems better and as I start to get a better grip on the challenges this year is posing I can only hope that I don’t end up having a mental breakdown.