Justin Mariner

Sophomore Year

Memories and Metaphor

Tenth grade was definitely the start of something new for me, for better or for worse. This year I decided that I would rise to the high expectations set by the Math and Science Academy (MSA) and take multiple AP classes. This quickly turned out to be a mistake and a blessing: on one hand, I struggled through AP European History, further growing my disinterest for history; on the other hand, I flew through AP Computer Science with so much ease that I tended to forget it was an AP class and aced the exam with a 5 despite feeling I had done worse. My struggles in AP Euro were not in vain, though: I learned that if I’m going to take an AP class, I need to make it something that interests me or else I might end up giving less than my best effort. I kept to this trend from this point on, even choosing a college that specializes in technology and doesn’t force uninteresting topics such as history. Similarly, this was my first year with the option to take 8 classes due to the new day schedule that was created, and once again, feeling pressured by the high standards of the Academy, I opted to fill all 8 spots, not giving myself any study block time. Another lesson learned: I work best at school, so I definitely regret not giving myself some room in my schedule, especially with the 2 AP classes. This was also a very important year for the MSA: the Academy created mandatory classes that were intended to better prepare us for our eventual senior Capstone project. This showed me that my class, the class of 2016, is a very important one to the Academy: we were the lab rats; we were the Freshman class for the first Symposium and now we were testing the waters for a brand new mandatory class. I also continued my trend of doing some random programming whenever possible: with the extremely-popular (at the time) webpage game 2048 blowing up everywhere, I took a suggestion from a few friends and made a modified version of it. This served as my introduction to website development and I definitely retained that interest for sure.

None of the stories from this school year really stand out in my memory more than any others; those memories are swamped by my favorite english project from all my time in high school, which will be detailed later. Most, if not all, of the stories this year were novels, so there wasn’t too much variation in reading material. This year, though, I did complete my summer assignment, which was to read the novel My Stroke of Insight. This novel, along with Oedipus Rex, are the only stories that somewhat stand out in my memory. The former because of the name being memorable to me and the latter because of the project based on it. Also this year, I ended up reading less often in my free time and instead prioritized homework whenever possible. This was partially due to not having a study block and partially due to the extra workload this year.

Two of the projects I had to complete this year really stand out, one for being my all-time favorite English project I’ve ever done and the other for being one of my worst. My favorite English project ever was a “remix” of Oedipus Rex, which is a popular Greek tragedy. For this “remix”, we had to create an original story that follows the structure of a tragedy and create a skit of the story. My group - consisting of Spencer Plutchak, Amanda Hall, Tyler Crissman, Harry Haveles, and myself - decided to create a video at Spencer’s house for our story. At this point in my life I had been very uncomfortable with presenting or being in front of a camera, so I handled the recording of all but one single scene. In order to make up for this, I also edited the video together afterwards, spending more time than I necessarily needed to making sure it was perfect. Naturally, everybody had plenty of mistakes during recording, so I was able to make an entertaining blooper reel as well. On the other hand, my worst project was a persuasive essay and presentation, in which I decided to argue between smartphone companies. I feel the essay came out alright but the presentation… was bad. Arguing a topic such as this added greatly to my nervousness, and combining that with the length of my essay, I struggled to even present it.

Regardless of the struggles this school year, I really enjoyed most of my teachers, including my English teacher Mrs. Scheible, who kept English class entertaining enough for me. I definitely learned a lot of lessons this year, and from this point on I became much more comfortable with the high school life.


The original assignment was an essay with a given prompt questioning why totalitarian leaders choose to separate children from their families that was to be answered using Any Rand’s novel, Anthem. The first thing that had to be done in order to write this essay was to decide on three major answers to the question to write about, with each point being introduced at the beginning and being detailed in a separate paragraph. Then, a rough and eventually final draft were written. I chose this particular work since I felt it wasn’t my best work and could be reflected upon very well.