The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders


Stars of the Court: A Look at the Tennis Team

Sofia Duarte (8) takes her tennis racket out of her duffel bag. Photo by Sammie Seamon

The tennis team has always been a bit of an anomaly; it’s only available to middle school, it’s smack in the middle of major high school seasons like track and soccer, and we don’t get booming announcements every Monday about recent stats.

However, the tennis team is fully operative and has been competitive with other middle school teams since the beginning of the program with Coach Jill Dicuffa. Coaching duties were then handed to Coach Carey Warner three years ago.

The team has had to practice earlier this season; their competition season doesn’t start until a week after Spring Break, but practices had to be pushed up due to the construction of the new school. The nets on the present courts were suddenly taken down on February 22nd because they needed the courts for the groundbreaking ceremony, causing the tennis players to call parents and head home. Presently, the team is looking for a place to practice until the competition season starts.

“We started early, and we’ve been hoping to find an off-campus site that we can play at during the season,” Coach Warner said. “Maybe another school will let us use their courts a little bit. I’m pretty hopeful about Crockett, maybe we can start bussing out there once a week or something.”

Tennis courts are not part of the new building plan, so the possibility of a high school team is still low. The tennis team will have to find a permanent place to practice until courts are hopefully added to the new building in the future in order to keep the sport at Ann Richards.

“[The building of new courts] might have to be through another bond or Austin ISD budgeting allocation in the future,” Coach Warner said. “I know at one point there were talks about doubling the parking lot as a tennis court, which might be a good solution for us… or rooftop tennis courts!”

Most high schoolers are oblivious to what happens in tennis, and this is because Ann Richards has never had the facilities or the coaching staff to allow for a high school team. As a result, tennis lacks the school-wide attention that other sports receive, and the present players don’t have a high school tennis career at ARS to look forward to.

“We haven’t been able to promote it, and with two courts, we’ve really maxed out how many people can play at once. So we’ve always been at a deficit, from what I’ve seen,” Coach Warner said. “But I also know it’s a little discouraging for students to begin a sport and know that it doesn’t exist as a high school team.”

Eighth grader Sofia Duarte adds, “Since there is no high school tennis team here, I’m probably going to go back to my [non-school affiliated tennis] club after this year… I love it so much, it’s so much fun and it’s such a good workout.”

Sophomore varsity volleyball player Emme Veselka was on the tennis team in 7th and 8th grade, and believes that it has given her skills that have carried over into high school athletics.

“I think it’s helped me with hand-eye coordination, which is important for volleyball too,” Veselka said. “You know, when you’re playing singles, you learn how to take care of plays by yourself but also how to work with someone else.”

The players are hopeful that a middle school team will continue to exist next year despite the lack of courts on campus, and many expressed how important it is to them that they can continue to play the sport at Ann Richards.

“I was not very good at tennis when I joined the team, and once I joined the team, I developed friendships with people that I didn’t know. I have gotten much better since I joined,” Jen Castner (7) said. “It’s kind of like home away from home, being on the tennis team, like I know that sounds weird but it’s just really nice to be part of a team of people who you can relate with.”

Our Voices/Showcase

Through The Atmosphere: Exploring the Theories of the Universe

A man by the name Albert Einstein loads a tram-car on the way home from work. The scientist sits in his seat as it rolls away from the station, watching a tower clock turn. He moves farther and farther away, his eyes still fixed on the clock. He theorizes that if he were to recede from the clock tower at the speed of light, then the hands would appear to freeze. However, he knew that back at the cite of the tower the hands would proceed to turn. This theory was time-dilation, the idea that the faster you travel through space, the slower you pass through time. This theory stems from Einstein’s published theory of relativity in 1905, and of general relativity in 1915.

Stemming from this idea, I have always been fascinated by the rules of time and space, how different elements can create different effects and how it affects me. Every other week when pounded by existential crisis, I fall into a deep hole in youtube where I nearly break my brain trying to understand genius’ theories. My “recommended” bar is full of astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, media based educator VSauce, and a questionable source called RealLifeLore that explores different theories such as “What If We Drained the Sea?”

While these videos are fun to watch, I can’t help but circle back to the terms theory of special and general relativity, spacetime, and time-dilation. These terms are all very relative to each other, and intersect with their effects on the universe.

To begin understanding Einstein’s theory of time-dilation, we have to know certain vocabulary that affect it. He discovered that unlike Isaac Newton’s ideas that space, time, and gravity were separate equations and affects, they would rather become relative to each other and form dimensions. Time, a one dimensional field, and space, a three dimensional field fuse together to create the 4D continuum of spacetime. Involving spacetime, the equation E=mc^2 created by Einstein suggests that energy and mass are relative and interchangeable which create a basic understanding of his theory of special relativity.

The term time-dilation fits into special relativity. The formula (E=mc^2) along with formulas discovered by both scientists James P. Maxwell and Isaac Newton helped form Einstein’s theory. According to this theory, he predicted that the spacetime around a specific mass can be warped and twisted under this massive energy. Most importantly, it states that the speed of light (while constant) can appear different to individuals traveling at different speeds. This is where the term “relativity” comes to play.

Time-dilation: Gravity affects time.
Imagine two clocks, one on earth and one on the International Space Station. If you were to shine a flashlight from Earth, the clock on the Space Station would measure the speed of light of this flashlight faster than the one on earth.

How is this possible? Well, light always travels at the speed of light (299 792 458 m / s), so the only possible way for light to lose energy as it travels farther from the origin is for the wavelength to stretch out. For the sake of this analogy, we will simplify the speed of light down to 1 foot per nanosecond. As the light waves travel farther away from the origin, it loses energy. If the clock on Earth near the flashlight measures on foot per nanosecond, then by the time it reaches the Space Station, the wavelength has been stretched out three times the original length. If the clock must tick on Earth the same frequency as the clock in space, then the clock in space has to tick 3 feet per nanosecond. This results in the Earth clock still ticking one foot per nanosecond, and the space clock three feet per nanosecond. Therefore, the gravity of a mass is actively affecting the frequencies of light wavelengths all around itself, essentially bending spacetime.

Have you ever stood outside and looked at the sky, thinking about how you are just standing on a rock? Craned your neck to look up straight above you into stars? Next time you are outside at night, think about the energy that passes from one mass to another and the energy that passes through you. Know that you are a part of this universe, and the laws such as special relativity need you to function as well. While this subject is hard to wrap your head around, I urge readers to do your own research on the topic and find something that interests you. Space exploration is a field that needs contribution from younger generations, and just educating yourself is taking a step in the right direction.

ARS News/Showcase

Where There’s a Weld There’s a Way: The Start of the Welding Club

In high school, classes can feel creatively limiting to students. With curriculum benchmarks,AP and STAAR tests to prepare students for, there’s little time to learn anything else. This creates a learning environment where students have little opportunity to explore their identity and passions, or learn practical, real-world skills. . In some cases, students decide to educate themselves in topics they are interested in, which is exactly what juniors Kate Singer and Amelia Bagnaschi did.

Singer and Bagnaschi founded the Ann Richards School Welding Club in the early months of the semester. When placing the orders for their letterman jackets earlier this fall, they noticed the Welding Club patch and decided that welding was something they both wanted to learn how to do and earn a patch for.

“Clubs and activities look really good on college applications,” Bagnaschi said. “I felt like I hadn’t participated as much as I wanted to in school. Kate and I just had the idea and saw the patch and felt like a welding club would be a really good time.”

Singer and Bagnaschi met with Principal Kristina Waugh, Mr. Oren Connell, and Mr. Matt Smith to get a sponsor for their club and get approval from administration.

“We were in the Makerspace talking about forming a club,” Singer said. “Mr. Smith overheard us and said ‘I want to be your sponsor!’ and then the club was born.”

Throughout the whole experience of founding the Welding Club, the girls were met with immense support from the Ann Richards teachers, administration, and foundation.

“They’ve welcomed it wholeheartedly,” Bagnaschi says. “When we were pitching the idea for this club our teachers and admin really wanted to see it prosper.”

Clubs are not only a great way to have fun and learn a new skill, but also to gain leadership experience and learn management skills. As a club founder, Kate Singer must frequently think about the Welding Club from a logistical standpoint.

“Next year, once the club is more in place and set up, we want to have more members,” Singer said. “Although, there is a lot to learn and prepare for before you can actually start welding so a smaller club is more manageable and safer.”

Bagnaschi and Singer also plan and guide projects, organize meetings, and arrange storage for welding equipment.

“We’ve just been finding little nooks and crannies to store all of our stuff,” Singer said. “In the art room and in the Makerspace; underneath tables, on top of air conditionings, and outside of bathrooms.”

The club keeps their smaller materials and tools in a wagon that they transport around the school, but as the club develops further they hope to have a more organized and permanent space. The welding club currently has seven members, one of which is junior Emily Doucette.

“In Welding Club you get to hang out with cool people and also play with hot fiery things,” Doucette said. “Soldering is fun, and welding is just like extreme soldering”

As the club grows in size and in skill level, the members have big dreams for the future.

“I envision us doing a lot of art projects,” Singer said. “We may also get really good at maintenance welding so that if anything around the school breaks we can fix it, and have a lot of fun.”


New Teacher, New Beginnings: An Interview with the New 9th and 10th Grade Teacher

Every single year there are new teachers joining the Ann Richards family. They are welcomed with new names to learn and new learning styles. Normally teachers are introduced to students in the beginning of the year; however, this year, a new teacher was introduced to the ninth grade physics class and tenth grade biology class in the middle of October. This new teacher was Ms. Kimberly Desautels, coming to replace Ms. Sierra Dixon who left after the first semester.

Before coming to Ann Richards and becoming the physics and biology teacher, Desautels was teaching at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls where she taught Biology, Anatomy and Physiology. Desautels is from a small farming community in the panhandle called Seymour, Texas where she taught at Seymour High School, Western Texas College, and Vernon College.

“I’m not from Austin, I’m from North Texas from a really really small town. I miss my co-workers from up there, my family is up there but the people in Austin are also really friendly, so I like the people that I’m getting to know here too. It was kind of scary from living in a small town to living in Austin. The people here are really awesome and it actually does feel like home,” Ms. Desetal said.

Whenever someone comes to Ann Richards, they can tell there is something special about the community and the environment of the overall school. Some of these special things about the school are the unique methods of teaching, the challenging course load and the standards of the school. This was something that Desautels had to get adjusted to.

“The routines here are really different than at other schools, there’s not that many textbooks here [and] that’s really different for me. Some of them are little things like that,” Deautels said. “A lot of the things are just things that you don’t know about, and they are not written down anywhere so it’s hard to learn what’s going on.”

Every teacher wants to help their students as much as they can, if this is by adding a new way of learning into the classroom so the students understand lessons better or simply answering as many questions to the best of their abilities. Teachers are always looking to contribute something to their students learning. Because Ms. Desautels taught at a college before coming to Ann Richards, she has a unique experience that is useful to her students.  

“Since I’ve taught at a college for a few years I feel like one of my huge contributions is knowing what students need in a college science course so that kind of helps me plan objectives for our course here,” Ms. Desautels said.  

Students had to get accustomed to a new teacher after just having a different one before and an already known teaching style. Desautels adds just how challenging it was for students and herself to get accustomed to the new environment.

“At first it was hard but a bunch of the students were still really friendly with me but they had to get used to me and I had to get used to them, so at first it was really really really hard,” Ms. Desautels said. “After Christmas break, I made some changes in my classroom, and I think my students were ready to adjust to a new teacher finally then too, so then we all just adjusted to each other and so far this semester is going by so much better.”

Ms. Desetal says that her most challenging transition period was around Christmas Break. Not knowing if students were going to get adjusted was one of her main challenges.

“At Christmas there were moments where I thought I couldn’t make a difference here and just wasn’t going to be accepted,” Desetal said. “But during Christmas, several students wrote notes in Christmas cards to me saying how much they appreciated me and what I was doing, and that was just a turning point in where I realized that I was doing better than I thought I was, that the students were open to changes after all.”

Getting adjusted to a new school is difficult, and is even more difficult at Ann Richards where the community is so tight knit. Desautels gives some advice for new teachers in the future that she has learned through having had a difficult first semester.

“Take a deep breath and just hold on. That as rough as it is to get started and get adjusted to all these routines and new ways of doing things that it does truly get better.”

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