Taylor’s Version

by Neve Kelley

Renowned pop singer Taylor Swift is wowing fans across the nation with re-recordings of her earlier albums. “Fearless,” originally released in 2008, was re-released on April 9, 2021, this time titled “Fearless (Taylor’s Version).” Fans adored this album, feeling nostalgic for the classics and loving the new additions. On November 12, 2021, Swift released “Red (Taylor’s Version).” Fans are not only loving the tribute to Swift’s journey and how far she has traveled as an artist, but are also seeing the “golden age of something good and right and real.”

The distinction of these albums as “Taylor’s Version” is an attempt by Swift to regain ownership of music released earlier in her career (CNN). Swift’s old record label, Big Machine Records, had been sold to music manager Scooter Braun, and with the sale, Braun received the rights to all the master recordings of Swift’s music. This means that anyone wanting to use one of those songs in a TV show, movie, or advertisement had to ask Braun’s permission in addition to paying him a fee (Vox). Swift was devastated. In a Tumblr post she made discussing the situation, Swift said, “All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at [Braun’s] hands for years.” She was given the opportunity to “earn” back her albums one at a time but refused to have her future sold away in such a manner. Since then, she has made it a goal for all of her music to be released on her terms.

“Taylor’s Version” albums do not only include re-recordings of Swift’s old songs but also songs “From the Vault,” that were previously unreleased. Devoted Taylor Swift fans who were already listening to “Fearless” and “Red” on repeat would now have something even more special to enjoy. Since her split with Big Machine Records in 2018, Swift has released five albums—”Lover,” “Folklore,” “Evermore,” “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” and “Red (Taylor’s Version).” Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone Magazine describes Swift as being in her “fiercest creative peak.” Earlier this year, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” hit number one on the Billboard 200 chart; this album also made her the first woman ever to have three number-one albums in less than a year (CNN). Swift’s “Song All Too Well (Ten Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)” debuted atop the Spotify Top 50 Global chart. Given her consistent success, we can anticipate that Swift’s most recent album will achieve similar honors in the coming months. After the release of two major albums and two re-recordings amidst a pandemic, Swift seems unstoppable. 

Fans everywhere have been blown away by Taylor Swift’s incredible work throughout the past year. Her songwriting talents, directorial abilities (as demonstrated by “All Too Well: The Short Film’’), and ambition are awestriking. Those watching are excited to see the next steps Swift will take. They know her journey is far from complete. 

About Neve Kelley

Neve Kelley a senior in the International Baccalaureate Program at Richwoods High School. In addition to being in an academically rigorous program, she is also heavily involved in community and school theatre productions. She takes private voice lessons and has been involved with choir and madrigals at Richwoods. Kelley is the co-editor in chief of her school paper, sits on the executive board of student council, and is in various school clubs. She also spends much of her time working as a barista at Leaves ‘n Beans in Peoria Heights. 

About Qaasaani Little

Qaasaani Little is a freshman at Richwoods High School. Little is a member of Student Leadership Team and Student Council. She has loved art for as long as she can remember, including painting and drawing. Little’s artwork is for sale. She also loves animals, after school activities, and is inspired by her mom for always pushing her to do my best. 

Basketball is Back

By Gabe Gross

After a year of quiet, fans are ready to cheer on their favorite teams.

How have you been recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic? Have you been having people over, or going to live sporting events? When COVID-19 took over our lives during the past year we weren’t able to do the fun things that we usually do. People were stuck inside forgetting the normal ways of life. Personally, I am looking forward to going to a Bradley University basketball game. During the start of the virus last year, nobody knew what was really going on. The outbreak interrupted many players’ training schedules. The season is now underway and there are real fans in the stadium—not cardboard cutouts! I can only imagine what some of the players are going through because last year their arena was as quiet as a mouse, but now with fans cheering, it must be a huge change for them.

I can relate to Bradley basketball players because my basketball games were streamed just like theirs during the first year of COVID-19. All my fans would tune in online watching and cheering me on. It wasn’t what we wanted, but it worked. The pandemic definitely disrupted sports but it never stopped them. My basketball season is starting up now, too. When I walked into my school’s basketball gym, I was amazed to see so many people in one place. There were moms, dads, grandparents, cheerleaders, coaches, and little kids. Even though masks are required, it still feels like a gathering that hasn’t happened in a long time and it’s good to be back.

About Gabe Gross 

Gabriel Gross is an eighth grader at St. Thomas school in Peoria Heights. He is the Student Council president. He plans to go to Richwoods and apply for the IB program. He loves baseball, basketball, and traveling. He also enjoys learning about history and how much it has changed our lives today.

The Impact of Information

by Izaak Garcia

When bias is present in our media sources, we must question what we are hearing. 

From small newspaper shops lining the side of the street, to mainstream news outlets in our homes and pockets, the growth and spread of information is pivotal in connecting people. But, in today’s world, information may not always provide what we seek. Many news outlets, with various political and social agendas, are reporting on events happening around the world through their own lenses. The general public is almost guaranteed to come across stories that do not provide the entire picture, and some that are entirely false. So how can we, as people who would like to be “in-the-know”  about the events of the world, ensure that we are, in fact, being well informed? While these news outlets claim to present a fair and balanced narrative, we, as truth-seekers, have an obligation to be skeptical enough to question the information given to us by the media, and diligent enough to ask ourselves: Is this what we want to hear, or what we need to hear?

Information is something that affects the lives of every single person on this planet, from choosing items for a grocery list to examining statistics on the current COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, information doesn’t travel alone. It can bring bias, underlying political views, and possibly, hidden agendas. Even the news outlets that are deemed reliable when it comes to the integrity of their stories can be subject to information bias. With this, another problem presents itself: where is the line between unconscious bias and misinformation? How does the presentation of facts become so twisted that it instills anger and resentment towards a differing belief or ideal? We know harsh truth can often make people upset, but in today’s world, there are cases where the truth isn’t being told at all, which can mean two things. One, the media is unintentionally omitting elements of the story, which may mean that they are not qualified to do an adequate job reporting the news. Or two, they are knowingly misrepresenting the facts. Recognizing these faults isn’t an attack on anything or anyone. It is the responsible act of spotlighting the problems that have plagued and divided us, causing constant conflict among ourselves. This conflict occupies our attention, blinding us to the endeavors of entities that may have ulterior motives or underlying agendas.

We all live in this chaotic world, with its fair share of ups and downs. More often than not, we find ourselves getting lost in the chaos and misinformation. This leads us to turn on each other in anger or spite. If we stop for just a moment and try to learn and understand together, wonderful things could happen. We should read from as many sources as we can, take in multiple sides of a story, and learn all the details possible from the most recent world events. If we all try, as one, we might be surprised with how great the benefits can be.

About Izaak Garcia

Izaak Garcia is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California, majoring in Cinema and Media Studies with a minor in Applied Cybersecurity. He has played soccer with FC Peoria, Dunlap, and Richwoods for over a decade combined. Garcia has also played tennis for 4 years, securing a spot on both junior varsity and varsity teams. Along with this, he has competed with the Richwoods Worldwide Youth Science and Engineering team for Biology and English for 2 years and earned multiple awards for the school. Garcia is also heavily involved with the arts. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has played the saxophone for 8 years and piano for 2 years. During his junior year of high school, he was involved in theater at Richwoods as stage crew and manager. He helped with two productions and was being trained to be stage manager for senior year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted school. Outside of school activities, Garcia is involved in Jack and Jill of America (an organization for young African American men and women to serve the community). He served as his chapter’s treasurer during his freshman year of high school. Along with Jack and Jill of America, he enjoys coding, learning new languages, and playing video games.

About Faith Marie

Faith Marie is a homeschooled senior in high school who dreams of being an artist entrepreneur one day. She fell in love with creating at a young age and now experiments with all kinds of mediums. You can find her on Instagram at @faithmariedraws.

Our Black Skin

by Kamia Fair

Our BLACK SKIN

We shall not hate our BLACK SKIN,

We shall not let our BLACK SKIN

Define our character.

Our BLACK SKIN we shall love 

Why not love our BLACK SKIN?

They call us ghetto, but hello 

Our skin is in.

Put him in one room with 

fellas with different skin 

Watch him shine cause he’s a

BLACK MAN!

A black man with nappy hair

That’s a BLACK MAN.

We’re loud and clear, 

of course you can hear

When a BLACK HUMAN being is coming

You stare as if you never seen our BLACK SKIN.

We’re different, can’t you tell? 

We’re colored

Our heart is filled through

Our flaws in all 

We shall not hate our BLACK SKIN

We shall not let our BLACK SKIN

define our character

We are who we are 

And cannot change

To our nappy hair to our black toes

We cannot change who we are.

About Kamia Fair

Kamia Fair was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, and is a senior in high school at Manual Academy. Fair loves nature and R&B music. She has many personalities—one is a free spirit and another is closed in and shy. She loves anything that has a true meaning. Fair’s book is her voice and freedom. She likes to write about things like her past, present, and future, as well as the things she lives around. What inspired her to start writing poetry was trauma that happened in her past. It began as an every day journal, to finally bringing it out her inner self. Fair hopes to bring more people like herself from her community to write— or at least more people from her community to read what she speaks, and hope for it to inspire them and hope for them to hear her voice to feel where she is coming from.

Using Your Voice: Howard Students Protest Against Poor Housing Conditions

by Kianna Goss

When students work together, real change can happen.

On October 12, 2021, students from Howard University began protesting at the school’s Blackburn University center for better housing conditions. Since the start of the fall semester, students have been raising concerns about mold in the dorm rooms and the lack of COVID-19 testing, according to Jonathan Franklin, a journalist for NPR.

Howard Vice President of student affairs tweeted that the well-being of their students is their top concern. Howard’s board of trustees said that they are taking the concerns of their students seriously and are welcome to all viewpoints from Howard students.

One student, @ReddisAri, posted a photo on Twitter of black mold found in the bathroom. This user also posted a video with the hashtag #Blackburntakeover, to highlight the protest by students sitting-in until Howard meets their demands. Searching this hashtag shows more content and provides updates from the students on how the problems are still not solved.

Some tweets mentioned how the students believe the university was attempting to freeze them out of the Blackburn building to end their protest because the thermostat was cut off. A few students even slept on the ground in front of the university because administrators would not speak to them. 

Being a college student myself, these living conditions are unacceptable. We pour money into our universities and expect to receive a quality education and good housing conditions in return. When students raise concerns and the administrators don’t respond, it makes the university look money hungry.  

The social media strategies the students are using are smart because social media is a great tool to increase awareness—especially with a university. When issues like this occur, it puts more pressure behind the board of a university to fix the issues. Strategies like using hashtags helps individuals find out more information about the issue at hand. 

However, when protesting, university students must take precautions. Here are a few suggestions for a successful and safe protest from the University of Michigan:

  1. Learn your rights. You must know how to handle yourself if police become involved. 

2. Carry a first aid kit. If the protest changes and becomes violent, it is important to have bandages or items to help anyone that is hurt. 

3. Bring food and water. During a protest you may not be able to use resources around the facility. 

Overall, the most powerful tool you can use is your voice. When issues occur on your campus, students should feel comfortable speaking up. After a month of protesting, Dr. Frederick, the university’s president, released a video message addressing how the school would improve housing conditions.     

About Kianna Goss

Kianna Goss is a senior at Bradley University, majoring in journalism with a double minor in sociology and advertising with public relations. The importance of community involvement is to use your voice. Kianna’s voice is one of the strongest platforms she has, and utilizes it through her writing. Being a Black woman, Kianna often writes to give a voice to the Black community to gain control over the media that portrays them in a negative way. Kianna is a writer with different form expressions. She has written poetically, through blogs, newspapers, and opinion pieces. Kianna always looks for more opportunities to grow as a writer and person. Kianna is currently the social media director for Her Campus, works as a peer mentor for Bradley’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and is a team leader/caller at the Bradley Fund. Being able to explore her creativity is what she loves most about Bradley. The Communications department is molding her into the journalist she aspires to be.

Art by Aryanne Westfall

Ary Westfall is a junior Interactive Media major and Theatre Arts minor attending Bradley University. She is the social media manager for DAT, creates webcomics in her free time, and enjoys all forms of sequential art. Ary hopes to break into the comic world or find work in pre-production art for television. 

Community: A Reflection the Past Year

By Estrella Gutierrez

What makes a community strong is how much we look out for one another.

What I saw in the community this year was that even though we weren’t together physically, we could connect digitally through social media. In my school we had socially distanced contact with each other, and we got all the help we needed. Sports were really popular—they distracted the kids from everything that happened in the last two years. I saw people help each other however they could. 

Something I didn’t see in my community was everyone protecting each other when we needed to the most… especially last year when we needed to quarantine again. Some of us attended online school and passed a grade, but still didn’t know a lot of things we should have when we went back to school. Another thing we didn’t do was show respect to other people who were just trying to protect themselves. 

Some things that people could take note of is that we should follow orders even if we don’t like it so we can protect others who need to be protected.

About Estrella Gutierrez

Estrella Gutierrez is a middle school student at Lincoln K-8 School. She likes writing music lyrics—a passion that made her love writing. The Harry Potter book series is her favorite thing to read. She is involved in AVID at her school, a college readiness and success program that stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. Gutierrez is also involved in MathCounts, a competitive mathematics program, and has received awards for her knowledge of math. She works on her school’s yearbook. Her personality is as bright as her favorite color, yellow, and her goal is to spread love and awareness to everyone through her writing. Guitierrez speaks Spanish and loves cooking with her family, as well as listening to K-Pop.

Build Back Better—We Hope

By Anna Gross

A brief guide to President Biden’s Build Back Better plan and why it is so important. 

If you’ve listened to the news over the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard of President Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) act that he is trying to pass through the Senate. The President’s bill is packed with legislation that he argues will promote a better future for all Americans, not just the wealthiest among us. Although its critics claim the BBB is extremely expensive, its supporters believe the costs to be worth it as it will invest in children, provide health coverage for all Americans, and more. 

One of the biggest selling points of President Biden’s bill is the Child Tax Credit. According to WhiteHouse.gov, most families are already receiving $250-$300 per child every month. But if they qualify for the Child Tax Credit, parents and guardians will start receiving $3000-$3500 per child a month. The Child Tax Credit is not a new idea. It was first passed in 1997 by President Ford and later expanded by President Reagan. Since it was passed in March of 2021, the newest version of this bill has been known to decrease hunger amongst children by 30%. Passing the BBB will also give children two years of high-quality preschool. According to WhiteHouse.gov, every dollar spent on childhood care and education produces three to seven dollars in the future. Children who do better in school are more likely to graduate high school and college, leading to higher earnings as adults. 

Universal healthcare is another part of the bill that has been discussed heavily for years. The BBB is estimated to provide healthcare options for 3 million people who aren’t insured. The new bill, if passed, aims to improve home care services for the elderly and those with disabilities. Those who are hired to work in homes will be paid more, hopefully resulting in greater care. Providing healthcare keeps lower income families from having to pay huge medical bills out of pocket which can create a healthier society we can all benefit from.

Along with the benefits of the Build Back Better Act previously discussed, the bill also includes money for affordable housing, job training programs, and college grants with an increase in funding for HBCUs and tribal colleges. It’s original plan was even more ambitious, providing two free years of community college, paid family leave, and lowering the costs of prescription drugs. These items were taken out to make the bill because of bipartisan negotiations. Our nation spends $731 billion on defense per year which adds up to 3.41% of our annual GDP. In perspective, Build Back Better amounts to $1 percent of our GDP. From my perspective, BBB is an investment worth making.

About Anna Gross

Anna Gross is a Sophomore in the Pre-IB program at Richwoods High School. She is involved in Student Council, Student Leadership Team, speech, tennis, and Spanish Club. Outside of school she loves to travel, bake, and perform as a singer, dancer, and actress!

About Terri Silva

Terri Silva is a 20-year-old sophomore at Bradley University pursuing a major in Television Arts with a minor in Interdisciplinary Film Studies. For Silva, art is a hobby in addition to a potential career, and she takes it very seriously. Silva thrives when she tells stories in all forms: drawings, films, writings, and more. Silva thinks of herself as a creative mind that wants to share ideas with others, while also taking in what they have to offer as well.

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