The Rocket Flame

JBHS Graduation 2020

Graduation for the Class of 2020 was anything but ordinary. The class spent their final months of high school at home and away from their classmates. Although everyone hoped that we would be back in school and back to normal life in time for graduation, that was not the case and the school had to find alternative ways to honor the years’ seniors and their accomplishments. 

“I did not think we would get here. I was not sure if we would ever get to this point… it took a lot of work to get here” says Mr.Chip Dickey (Principal).

The administrators of the district had to work night and day to assure that the 2020 graduates would not be let down and that they would get the recognition they deserved.

“None of us will ever forget March 13th, 2020; the day when all our expectations and plans for the school year were put on hold. We had to reimagine our year and how we go about this thing called school. This year, more than any other, has been about the importance of innovation, collaboration, perseverance, patience, and work as a team. It wasn’t always perfect but all of us, no matter what our role, students, parents, teachers, and staff rose to the challenge, and pushed through to the finish of what certainly would go down as one of, if not the most challenging school year of our lives, “ says Dickey.

The ending of the year threw everyone for a loophole, and left everyone changing plans and working to solve problems.

“Two graduation ceremonies were held this past summer.  The first was a “Graduation Parade” where each student arrived in a vehicle with family members, accepted their diploma, walked inside the building for a professional photo taken in front of their Class Gift and the JB Rockets and received a Class of 2020 Graduation yard sign. The second ceremony more closely resembled a traditional graduation ceremony.  Each student was seated with 2 adults of their choosing who were permitted to escort the student to the stage so the student could receive his or her diploma,” said class advisors Ms. Beeler and Mrs. Rife.

Not every graduate attended both ceremonies, but each ceremony allowed the graduate to receive their diploma with their friends and families watching.

“Most especially though we didn’t expect for us to not be able to break it down one last time on the dance floor for our senior prom, or to have our last moments with each other cut short. We thought the musical would go on, the class trip would endure, and that our graduation ceremony would be a bit more normal than it has been,” says Valedictorian Sarah Kimmel.

The class had no idea that they would never get to experience some of the simple things that they looked forward to most throughout their years in high school.

“My graduation impacted my view on high school by teaching me to never take anything for granted and that everything can change in the blink of an eye. I realized I shouldn’t have complained about waking up and going to the class I hated or complained about how I just wanted to be done as soon as possible,” says 2020 graduate Mallory Peck.

The pandemic changed the views of many people, but affected students directly because of the loss of all the things they took for granted such as Prom, sports, extracurriculars and graduation.

“When I realized that I would not be returning to the school for the remainder of the year, my initial reaction was what was going to happen to all the extracurricular activities that I was involved in. All the work and time I spent into these activities was all of a sudden put to a halt. Even though I did not know what would happen to these events that I looked forward to all year, I knew that we would all adapt and come together to overcome these difficulties,” said an anonymous 2020 graduate. 

Every person throughout the school district was impacted by the spring school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but seniors had a special moment in their life taken away from them. Despite those losses, our district managed to pull through with new innovative ideas to honor the seniors. Although not every loss was made up for, the work that the James Buchanan High School put in for the 2020 graduates left everyone feeling grateful.

Benches for the Community


Some students from the James Buchanan High School Art Club recently took on a new project to give people a colorful place to sit in the Mercersburg community. 

The Art Club was given the task by Dr. Elizabeth A. George, who is working alongside the The Mercersburg Area Council for Wellness and many others, to paint benches for a local trail in Mercersburg. The project includes four benches from James Buchanan, as well as four from the Mercersburg Academy. The benches were fabricated by Kyle Burdette of Burdette Ironworks in Mercersburg. Painting the benches allows the students to show their painting skills to a larger group of people other than just students at the school.

Kyla Shoemaker (11) a member of the Art Club, has taken on one of the benches by herself to benefit the community. 

“I’m painting a nature scene with local wildlife from the area, such as different types of trout and frogs” said Shoemaker. “I volunteered to paint the benches so that I could show my art and to give joy to the community.” 

Shoemaker spends a lot of her free time down in the art room working on the benches so that they will be done for the public by spring so that people can enjoy them when they start to go outside more.

“I’ve been working on the bench for almost six and a half hours already and I think it might take me up to eight by the time I am done with it,” Shoemaker said. 

There are a total of 13 students working in four groups on the benches. The project is entirely done by students like Shoemaker, with a little guidance from Mrs.Kayla Chambers-Matulevich (Faculty), the Art Club teacher and advisor at JBHS. The main goal was to illustrate local plants and animals.

“It’s mostly the students doing everything by themselves,” Chambers-Matulevich said. “The only thing I asked is that they do local wildlife to showcase local flora and fauna.”

Chambers-Matulevich, also thinks that the benches are a new and creative way for the students to demonstrate their talents to the community as a whole.

“When I was contacted, I thought it was a great project for the community,” said Chambers-Matulevich. “It’s a nice way to show the students’ talent and ability to people in the area.”

The students started painting the benches around the first week of February and are hoping to have them done by mid-March, so that everyone can enjoy them for the spring and summer months to come. The benches will be located at the Johnston’s Run trail on Oregon Street in Mercersburg once completed. The trail is open to anyone everyday of the week and is also handicap accessible.

A Day in the Life of an AP Student


Being in high school can be difficult for anyone, but when you add AP and Honors courses in the mix, you really have to be on top of your game to get the best grades. Brynn Taulton (11), an AP and Honors student definitely has some difficulties, but she manages to get A and B grades.


 Brynn arrives at school around 8:10 and waits in the gym. Then she goes to homeroom to get her stuff ready for the day and to watch the morning announcements. She also uses this time to make sure that she didn’t forget anything. When the bell rings again, she starts her day. 

“The night before, I make sure I have no assignments I haven’t done, said Taulton. “Then I go to school and in homeroom I get my folders and work ready.”


Brynn starts her day by going to gym class. Exercise can be beneficial to get the brain ready for the day. She then starts her academic classes by going to her first AP class, AP Language and Composition. The class teaches her about writing techniques and how to take the AP test, which she hopes to score a 3 or above on. 

“My first AP class of the day is AP Lang and we are reading a book right now,” said Taulton, “so I make sure I read the book and did the journal that goes along with it.”


She continues her day to her next class, also an AP class, AP World History. She is also aiming to score a 3 on the test for this class. The class teaches her test taking skills that she hopes will be beneficial to her on test day. It’s one of her easier AP classes, but still not something to be taken lightly.

“We have a lot of projects in that class, but overall it’s an easy class,” said Taulton. 


Next is activity period, a time that gives students a chance to ask their teachers questions and to get caught up on homework. Taulton likes to go to her teachers to ask questions so she can better understand the material she is working on. 

“I use this time to study and do homework, especially reading the book for AP Lang. I also go to Mrs. Snyder’s a lot because Biology is a difficult class,” said Taulton.


She then moves on to her next AP class: AP Biology. For this class she isn’t aiming for a 3 on the test, but a C in the class. If she gets a C or above she will get college credits from Hagerstown Community College through the Essence program. Biology has many different concepts within it, but right now Taulton is focusing on one to finish her literature review paper. 

“The paper is a behavioral analysis [of] serial killers and how Biology has made them into who they are and the way they think,” she said.  “I’ve already spent multiple hours on the paper and still have a lot to go.”


Then she gets a break in the day for lunch. This break allows her brain time to cool down before more classes. She also gets to eat some food and chat with friends.

“I like having lunch at this time,” said Taulton, “It gives me a break before my afternoon classes.”


Her afternoon classes are next and it is an easy way to end her day. She has Spanish 3 and Algebra 2 to finish the day, and, to her, these are her easiest classes.

“Those are my easiest classes of the day, but I still have to work hard to get good grades in them just like any other class,” said Taulton.


With the school day over Brynn goes home. She doesn’t start her homework right away though, she usually gives herself some time to chill out and take a break from school work. Then she likes to start homework sometimes taking her 3 hours.

“When I get home from school I take an hour or 2 to chill and then I spend about 3 hours doing homework with a few breaks in between,” said Taulton.

AP classes aren’t for everyone, but for the people who do take them, it can be very helpful. Getting college credits early can save you time and money in the long run, and the classes can also teach you life skills. Taulton has gotten both from taking the classes and according to her it’s worth it.

“AP classes are really hard sometimes, but they’re worth it,” she said.

No eXCuses


Cross Country is not a sport to be taken lightly: many runners will run six days a week for almost five months.  Working hard is something that every Cross Country runner knows well. But with Districts, and States coming up, some may be working for almost a month longer. 

Going to States has always been a dream for Hailey Embree (11). Embree joined Cross Country when she was a freshman and has worked for three years towards her dreams. She is making her dreams come true this year with some very impressive times. 

“I went to all the pre-season practices and I did stuff on my own too, such as running around my development,” said Embree.

Hard work is what it takes to do well in this sport and this has allowed Embree to compete well and place at many meets this year. At the Enos Yeager Invitational she placed 13th out of almost 200 runners. Based off of the performance Embree was hopeful for the upcoming season.

“I hope good. I mean it’s a little bit shorter, but hopefully good,” Embree said.

And that’s exactly what she did.  A few weeks later, at the Clear Spring invitational, finishing with an impressive time of 21:55 she placed 3rd out of hundreds of runners. 

Another runner getting awards this season is Claire Kriner (12).  Kriner has battled for many years triumphing and overcoming adversity.

“I was having issues with my hip. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to run or not,” said Kriner,” You just kind of have to push through it.”

Kriner has been battling with a hip injury for years, but that has not stopped her from putting up amazing times. She credits adrenaline for pushing her through every race and allowing her to compete. Her future races will depend on her hip injury. 

“I do hip exercises basically every night to help with my hip”, said Kriner. “Before meets I try to visualize the course and then when I’m running I remind myself of the little things.”  

Experience goes a long way in Cross Country and Kriner uses that to her advantage. She is able to utilize tangents on the course from her past experience, cutting seconds off of her time, and in Cross Country any time is valuable.

Both runners are competing in Districts next week with 10 other runners with the hopes of making it to the State running meet in Hershey, PA. Three teams of five to seven make it to States and then 15 other individual runners. The District race is set to take place on Saturday, October 26. 

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Kace Dorty