Hi! I am the editor for Sophomores Speak Out this year. This week our articles discuss problems both on the Island and in the United States. Sometimes teenagers and children are belittled and our views and ideas may be considered less important. In my opinion, they are very important. It may be a cliche to say that we are the future, but we are. Many universal issues will affect our generation. Our opinions will shape our direction, so it is important that we, the younger generation, are opinionated and state our opinions. By hanging up posters and writing in the Gazette our global studies class is speaking up and being heard.

— Kristen Parece

Wall Street Crisis Affects Island

By Alicia Oliveira>

The Wall Street crisis really allows the average person to understand the true value of a dollar. This crisis is affecting the whole country. Here on the Island we have been affected. Sovereign Bank saw a plunge in stock prices. Vineyard banks also noticed a softening in real estate and construction. Some Islanders now believe that huge purchases like houses are a little too risky. I think the most devastating effect on the Island is the drop in charity donations. Companies and large businesses here on the Island that give to charity are being a little more conservative. Vineyard banks report they are still strong. People are moving money out of investments and putting it where it feels safe. There are fewer stocks being bought and more bonds. Banks are trying to be safe and trustworthy. We may be surrounded by water, but we are still affected by the mistakes of the mainland, a.k.a. “the real world.”

A Different World?

By Anabda Rise>

Buying a house on the Vineyard today can cost close to and sometimes more than $1 million. You can get a $2 million house on Island that’s a nice piece of property, but look at the same piece of property off-Island and you can get it for $700,000, $800,000 or $900,000. At least that was before the present financial crisis. Living on the Vineyard, we don’t feel the effects of the war in Iraq or the poverty in New Orleans. We live in a different world. Well, the new question to ask yourself is will we feel the effects of this financial crisis here? Almost everything sold here was shipped to the Vineyard. The companies pay a shipping fee. This is why everything costs so much more on the Island.

Being an Island, we have an off-season and an on-season. During the off-season it’s calm and quiet and business is slow but good enough to help the business owners make it through. On-season is when all tourists come from all over and spend loads of money and take up all the parking spots. This is when the Island makes big bucks. Well what happens when all these people, with the financial crisis coming into play, can’t afford to come to the Island? When they can’t afford to bring their yachts here because of gas prices, or their cars? What happens when the boat ticket prices go up because fuel is so expensive? Or when restaurants start to up the prices because business is slow? Here are the answers. There will not be as many tourists coming to the Vineyard next summer. The harbor will be empty because people won’t be able to afford the gas. Houses will be sold because of heating expenses. Restaurants will go out of business. Lastly, people won’t even come to the Island because of the price of boat tickets.

Is this where we want to see the future of the Island and the future of our economy? I say we keep the reputation of living in another world on this isolated Island and try to put a stop to this crisis while we can.

An Alternative to Expensive Oil?

By Richard Conover>

Oil is now very expensive. It is controlled by countries we are not friends with. Some of those countries are even our enemies. Oil is also running out. We need to look at alternatives and we need to look at them now.

One of the alternatives is wind which is something that will always be here. It is an inexpensive energy source that will never be used up. Wind would be the best way to decrease our dependence on oil. Opponents feel that windmills interfere with both the view and the ecology of wherever they are put. Windmills in the ocean would change the environment. Some people feel that people would have trouble navigating and that fish would be killed or leave the area. This would not help the fishing industry. Some people believe that windmills are also ugly; they do not want to see windmills sticking out of the water or woods. To them, this would ruin the view.

Although there are many opinions against windmills, the pros outweigh the negative arguments. I believe we need to do something to correct our overuse of nonreusable energies like oil and give serious thought to wind energy.

School Enrollment Slowly Declining

By Samantha Billings>

In Vineyard public schools, the rate at which enrollment is declining actually slowed from 2.3 per cent last year to 1.8 per cent this year. Island elementary school enrollment has remained fairly stable. Last year they had 1,354 students and this year the number is 1,326 students. However, the regional high school’s enrollment fell about six per cent, dropping by 47 students.

The high school went from 766 students in 2007 — the first time enrollment fell below 800 in five years — to 709 students this year. The Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School enrollment is at an all-time high since the school opened in 1996, at 179 students. The three towns that are showing the largest percentage decrease in enrollment at the regional high school are Chilmark, Tisbury and West Tisbury. The number of Chilmark students at the high school dropped from 33 in 2007 to 27 in 2008; Tisbury declined from 186 to 170 and West Tisbury dropped from 130 to 109. Edgartown was the only town that showed an increase in the number of students enrolled in the high school, going from 182 in 2007 to 191 this year.

School officials are predicting that the declining numbers will affect school budgets in terms of staff, class sizes and curriculum. During a meeting at the high school Mr. Nixon, the principal, described the balancing act that happens while trying to determine the right number of staff and teachers. “Once enrollment goes into the 600s, there will be a classroom effect,” he said. Dr. Weiss the superintendent, Mr. Nixon and his administrative cabinet will look at the census numbers and work with the school advisory council in addressing class size, curriculum and staffing issues.

Walking the Trail

By Tova Katzman>

It was a dreary  day when our class walked the African American Heritage Trail. We first visited William A. Martin’s house and gravestone on Chappaquiddick. We saw the memorial to Rebecca Amos, a plaque honoring the Wampanoag Tribe and another in honor of the five women who took action in order to register African American voters. We traveled all over the Island and eventually stopped for lunch at the tribal center.

It was so surprising to find out about all this history on Martha’s Vineyard. I had no idea the Island was such a significant spot in African American history. William Martin was the first African American whaling captain, and he is buried here. I hear the Wampanoag tribe mentioned all the time but I never knew that they disobeyed the Fugitive Slave Act by providing runaway slaves protection. The Heritage Trail is particularly informative and it was an interesting experience. Anyone with a passion for history would find the trail very enlightening.

Learning Real History

By Chris Costello>

Recently we went on the Heritage Trail with my global studies class. We visited multiple sites all over the Island during the school day and learned about different African American people and their houses and inns. I thought the history we learned on this trip was extremely interesting. One fact that I learned is that Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech was written at the Overton house in Oak Bluffs. I had no idea that he even visited the Island and I find it extremely interesting that probably the most famous speech, known all over the world, was written on our little Island.