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Q&A with President of the LDA of Indiana Patty Useem

By: Natalie Clare

Bagpiper: What is the LDA?

Patty Useem: LDA, the Learning Disabilities Association, is a national association, and we have state affiliates. So, I’m the president of the Indiana state affiliate. It is a nonprofit that is led by individuals with learning disabilities, parents of individuals with learning disabilities, and professionals. We strive to provide information and workshops and support to promote individuals with learning disabilities reaching their potential.

BP: What do you do at the Indiana branch?

PU: I answer questions about learning disabilities that people either phone in to our national office or they email me from our state webpage or the national webpage. I’m one of the principle players of organizing the state conference. I’m also sort of the bridge to the national conference. So, every year the organization sends me to the big national conference, where I gather new ideas or new printed materials, or I find new keynote speakers for our conference. I run our board meetings, and I also have a now monthly E-newsletter. I write articles monthly for that.

BP: What resources are at the LDA for students with learning disabilities? Is it a place students with learning disabilities can go to?

PU: In Indiana, it isn’t. In Indiana, we’re kind of a virtual board of directors, so we don’t really have a physical place. Our information is written information and, in Indiana, we have a state conference every year. In the present time, it’s taking place in Carmel. People can also access a lot of information on our national website and support. People also write in questions, and they get forwarded most times if they’re people from Indiana who have questions about services, or the rules about kids who have special education. They’ll come to me and I’ll answer them, and also give them referrals of maybe they want to get testing done if they’re looking outside the school to do testing. But we don’t provide direct services like help kids with learning disabilities or anything like that. We’re just an information and like I said we have a conference. Some other states provide services, but very few do. Most of it is information.

BP: You said you refer people for testing, but the LDA doesn’t do any testing?

PU: Correct, correct. Sometimes, people are also going to college, so there are rules on how to get services at college. Sometimes, universities have clinics where they can get testing done as well. It’s all referral.

BP: Does the LDA set up events for kids with learning disabilities?

PU: Sometimes we will promote other agencies presentations, but we will do presentations. If people want us to come and talk or be involved in doing presentations to families or to kids about their learning differences and give them some strategies. We’re trying, actually, to do those kinds of services. As a nonprofit, as you can imagine, all those things take money. There are some grant opportunities, where, in fact, we presently have a grant that helps us pay for mileage etc and printing to be able to get information out to people. Sort of not just in the major cities, but more statewide. But that’s something that we’re really interested in doing much more outreach. People don’t have a clear understanding that people with learning disabilities have at least average, if not higher, thinking abilities, they just have a specific weakness in something like reading or writing or in the field of math and number knowledge or organizational skills. Even though the field has been well established since the 1940s, people still think that when kids struggle with reading, they’re just not trying, or they’re not paying attention. That shouldn’t be happening. Part of our difficulty, or part of our challenge, is to get that kind of information out across the state so that teachers and parents realize that these are weakness that can be worked on and can become not such a learning problem. Our outreach is really something we’re working hard trying to develop.

BP: What challenges do students with learning disabilities experience?

PU: I work with a lot of students who have learning disabilities, and one of their biggest challenges is convincing people that they really are trying and that they really do need to have specialized help. That they really are going to go to college and they are going to be successful, so their disabilities aren’t going to limit them.

BP: How would describe a learning disability to someone who doesn’t have one?

PU: I’d say that, and I do this a lot, that the individual has an intellectual ability of at least average and they have a problem or difficulty in a specific set of skills. Probably the most common learning disability is a reading disability, sometimes called dyslexia. In a reading disability, many times the learner has a really hard time, and not really successful, in linking all those letters with specific sounds, so as a hard as they can try when a regular teacher tries to help them, they need special instruction. So, people with learning disabilities often need to have accommodations, such as having extra time, having things read to them, as well as them reading the material themselves. They also need remediation, and that involves specialized teaching. So, for people with learning disabilities, it’s not that they can’t learn because they have the intellect to learn, but they need to have specialized instruction. Sometimes that involves one-on-one.

FC beats Providence 30-17 in Friday night’s football face-off

Photos by Sophia Perigo


Senior Will DeVary stars in ‘Richard III’ at Walden Theatre Conservatory

By Hannah Tarr

On Payne Street in Louisville, an inconspicuous building stands above the residential buildings it surrounds. This three-story brick building l may not look like much, but inside is a world of theatre magic. This Commonwealth Theatre Center has been a huge part of senior Will DeVary’s life for the past five years.

DeVary has been involved with the Walden Theatre Conservatory at the Commonwealth Theatre Center since January 2013. That was his 7th grade year, and he had just finished A Christmas Story at Actors Theatre of Louisville. He was looking for a place to do theatre and specifically Shakespeare, and a friend in A Christmas Story recommended Walden to him.

The rest is history: “Yeah, I fell in love,” said DeVary.

It is easy to see why DeVary would enjoy Walden. According to DeVary, theatre classes are offered for people as young as three years old up to 18 years old. Younger children are introduced to theatre through improv classes, and high school students get to explore and perform plays at the Commonwealth Theatre Center. In the fall, those older students explore a rotation of playwrights. In the spring, they zero in on Shakespeare for the annual Young American Shakespeare Festival. In fact, Walden was the first theatre conservatory for young people in the world to perform the complete works of Shakespeare, a feat which they achieved last year. When they’re studying a play, Walden students are taught to consider movement, voice, and scene analysis. Students also learn stand up comedy, improv, and other general theatrical skills.

DeVary sums up all of this which Walden has taught him as “everything. Everything about everything.”

But there is one lesson that was never in the curriculum, which DeVary nevertheless considers to be the most important thing he has learned from Walden: the importance of being honest.

“I think the most important thing that it taught me was that it’s more important to fail and be honest than to succeed and not be honest. You know what I mean?” he said. “If you’re not true to yourself, then anything that you have is worthless and meaningless. But if you’re true to yourself, then you can fail, and you can have a glorious catastrophe of a failure, but you were yourself.”

DeVary said this was a difficult lesson for him to learn. He thinks that honesty is the scariest thing in the world, and it only gets worse when you’re onstage being honest for an audience. But thanks to Walden, he was able to strip away everything else and become honest, both in his real life and onstage.

Onstage, he is currently performing in one of the biggest roles possible: Richard III, who has the third most lines in Shakespeare. DeVary finds this role infinitely fascinating.

Richard III is a villain. But DeVary says he isn’t a classic villain. Instead, he frequently addresses the audience, so he makes the audience complicit in his crimes. DeVary’s voice grows even more animated than it usually is when he talks about this unique characteristic of the show.

“He falls in a Machiavellian tradition of hiding himself in public in order to achieve private goals and private ends to become a king,” said DeVary. “But he tells the audience exactly what he wants, always completely truthful with them, which creates one of the most fascinating relationships in all of theatre because the scene partner that he shares the most time with is the audience.”

DeVary said that because his character talks to the audience so much, that makes them complicit in his crimes. Their willingness to be so reveals a lot about human nature.

“He is an incredibly charming devil who makes the audience laugh and really gets the audience on his side, and the audience forgets that he’s doing these really terrible things until it’s too late,” he said. “Which I think is such an incredibly fascinating thing because it shows just how susceptible we are at being controlled by these nefarious populist figures who come in and try to take over.”

The show is an examination of power, and the lengths people go to attain power. Richard III begins the show set on stopping at nothing to win the crown. But he changes throughout the course of the show.

“There’s a wonderful quote that talks about the fact that he is a man who doesn’t have a conscience but gains one throughout the show, which is incredibly interesting to try and play and discover,” said DeVary.

DeVary has been discovering the character of Richard III for a while now. He calls it a role that has haunted him because he has played it before, in Henry VI Part 3. In fact, a scene from Richard III was the first scene he ever did at Walden. And now, it is the last role he ever gets to perform there.

“I haven’t processed it whatsoever,” he said about the fact that this is the end of his time at Walden. He’s done more than twenty shows there, so it’s been a huge part of his life. He’s fallen in love there, had his heart broken there. And between it all, he’s grown as a performer, advancing from bit parts without lines to Richard III.

This fall, DeVary leaves Floyds Knobs to travel to Ithaca College in New York. He can’t believe he’s leaving Walden.

“I’ve felt every conceivable type of emotion there, and it’s really like leaving behind my home,” he said. “So it’s absolutely, incredibly scary and sad, because that place has just really been everything to me.”

But at the same time, he’s looking forward to the future that going off to college is going to give him.

“David Bowie has this wonderful quote where he talks about if you ever want to grow as an artist, you can’t stay in the small end of the pool,” he said, referencing one of his favorite musicians. “You have to put yourself somewhere just a little bit out of your comfort zone and that’s where you grow, so that’s hopefully what I’m doing. Going to the deep end and either sinking or swimming and lord help me, hopefully I’ll learn to swim!”

Thanks to all that DeVary has learned during his years at Walden, he is surely prepared to learn to swim.



By JD McKay

I know I have said this a lot throughout this year, but this has been a historic year for FC. Our sports teams have torn up the competition and rivals Jeffersonville, New Albany, and Providence.

Boys’ cross country season was respectable, finishing in fifth sectionals, and sophomore David Heinemann finished eighth. The girls had more success. They won sectionals behind a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth place finishes from senior Faith Barba, senior Kyley Sorg, senior Erica Batliner, and freshman Natalie Clare, respectively. The girls beat both New Albany and Jeff in sectionals. In regionals, Sorg finished first, and sophomore Sydney Liddle finished third. They won the regional, with all seven runners finishing in the top twelve.

The football team performed above expectations. The Highlanders were expected to have a pretty average season, but ended up finishing 8-3. The team was injury plagued but fought through and eventually finished second in conference. Losing to Louisville Male and state champion Columbus East twice. However, the Highlanders beat beat Jeff once, thumped New Albany twice, and destroyed Providence once.

Girls’ golf had another good season. Senior Jillian Moorefield’s sectional victory helped boost the Lady Highlanders to a sectional championship, beating New Albany, Jeff, and Providence in sectionals.
The Lady Highlander soccer team also won sectionals. The girls soccer team beat New Albany in the sectional championship because of a shootout goal from sophomore Marlea Ferber after finishing regulation at 0-0. They beat Jeff 5-0 and tied Providence 0-0. Boys’ soccer lost to Columbus East in the first round of sectionals, but beat New Albany 5-1, Providence 2-0, and tied with Jeff.

Volleyball had a solid season, but came up short against Providence in the second round of sectionals. However, they beat New Albany in straight sets twice, and beat Jeff in straight sets twice.

Boys’ tennis had a sectional title winning season. They won three straight matches in straight sets to advance to regionals, where they lost in the second round. However, they had  a winning record this season against Jeff, New Albany, and Providence.

Girls’ basketball was the one sport that didn’t have a great season. Injuries plagued the Lady Highlanders for most of the season. However, they won the Southern Lady Trojans Holiday Jamboree.

Boys’ basketball had a year rivaling the Superhicks or Pat Graham-led teams. They went 7-0 in conference and were conference champions. However, didn’t win sectionals, but had an excitement revolving around them the whole season. They beat New Albany at home by two because of 17 points from senior Luke Gohmann and 14 points from junior Cobie Barnes. They lost to New Albany in sectionals, to finish 1-1 against the Bulldogs, swept Jeff, and beat Providence once.

Boys’ and girls’ swimming both had undefeated seasons. Boys won sectionals by 211 points over Jeff, 332 points over New Albany, and 455 over Providence. The girls won sectionals as well, but their results were much closer. They beat Jeff by 24 points, New Albany by 306.5, and Providence by 424.5 points.

Wrestling piled on to our successful winter sports. They won sectionals and beat New Albany in sectionals by 68.5 points. Freshman Gavinn Alstott lost in the first round of the state meet, and senior Tristan Sellmer finished fourth in state.

Softball is having a season similar to the rest of the teams on here. They beat Jeff and New Albany and won conference. They are currently on path to win sectionals and play in regionals.

Just a few weeks into baseball season, it looked liked the baseball team was going to have bad year. But, they beat New Albany 3-2 behind a complete game gem from junior Adam Spalding two weeks ago and could use his performance to spring into the postseason.

Boys’ golf is having a perfect season. They won conference and could potentially win sectionals over New Albany, Jeff, and Providence.

The girls’ tennis team won sectionals again this season. The Lady Highlanders also won conference over New Albany and Jeff.

The track seasons for both boys’ and girls’ is going almost as planned. The girls’ team lost conference to New Albany, but beat Jeff. Then, one week later, they beat the Bulldogs and Pioneers in sectionals. Yesterday, the Lady Highlanders won regionals over New Albany by seven points.

The boys have performed above predictions. The boys went into the conference meet predicted to lose to Jeff by 20 points, 143 points later, and the Highlanders were conference champions by 20 points. Then, a week later, the Highlanders won sectionals over New Albany and Providence with total control.

Unified track is having a season similar to the other track teams. They finished second in sectionals, and are advancing to regionals. They beat the New Albany team by 30.5 points.

This has been a great year to be a Highlander. We have dominated our big three rivals in almost every sport, and have won several conference and sectional titles. Hopefully this success will carry over into next year.

‘Love, Simon’ resonates with LGBT youth

By Eleni Pappas

Meet Simon Spier. A teenager just like everyone else, trying to figure out their identity, drinking too much iced coffee, watching awful ‘90s movies, hanging out at Waffle House dreaming of college and devouring carbs. A quarterback father, a valedictorian mother, and a younger sister he can actually stand. He leads a perfectly normal life. Except this teen has one huge secret: nobody knows he’s gay. He’s hasn’t told his family or his friends, but he’s fallen in love with someone anonymous online. Now he quickly has to find out who this mysterious “Blue” is before a blackmailer reveals their relationship and scares him off for good.

Love, Simon is directed by Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash) and inspired by the book, Simon vs The Homosapien’s Agenda by Becky Albertalli, starring Nick Robinson (Everything, Everything) as the title character. The film also casts more recognizable names such as Katherine Langford and Miles Heizer (13 Reasons Why), Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash), and Jennifer Garner (Alias) and Josh Duhamel (Safe Haven) as Simon’s parents. Since its theater release on March 16 this year, thousands of articles have been written for it and has received a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie begins with Simon’s narration that his life is that of a regular teenager, identifying himself as “just like you.” He relents the only difference between him and the audience is that he carries a big secret. Just as he is supposedly about to reveal that secret, he finds out there’s a closeted gay kid, calling himself Blue, via his school’s gossip blog. Immediately Simon opens an email to send a message to him, and then hesitates before typing that he is just like Blue, and quickly getting on a roll telling him all about himself. Simon signs the email as from Jacques, and from there the two begin a back and forth that grows to a blossoming online relationship. Clues from conversations in school leads him to suspecting multiple of his classmates of being Blue, but is seemingly disproven every time. The real conflict begins when someone catches Simon sending the emails, and blackmails him to get closer to one of his female friends. So Simon starts spinning a web of lies to protect his secret and remain “normal” just a little while longer.

There is much to praise about Love, Simon. It is a groundbreaking LGBT film for its portrayal of a relatable protagonist. Simon keeps his secret because he doesn’t want things to change, not because he’s ashamed or thinks his family won’t accept him. However, there are issues. Some audiences think the movie doesn’t quite fit the LGBT genre. However, it is still a great film. As a Flash fan, Lonsdale’s role was thoroughly enjoyable for the limited screen time he received. Robinson’s delivery as Simon was hilarious and heartfelt, as was Duhamel and Gardner. The scenes where they, the parents, each have a talk with Simon were very touching.

On the whole, Love, Simon was a wonderful movie which featured a teenager coming to terms with his sexuality and finding love in the modern era. Even if audiences can’t relate directly to Simon’s story, they can understand the subplots and themes within it. It can be hard for any teen to figure out who they are and find genuine connections to their peers. Just as it is for Simon, it can be very scary to be faced with great and imminent change. While not just anyone will perfectly understand Simon’s struggle, it is a movie that all people should give a chance.