This spread is dedicated to the emotions we feel here at 1436 Norfolk Street.
This spread is dedicated to the emotions we feel here at 1436 Norfolk Street.
Itzel Sanchez

Teenage turmoil: Mustang minds turn inside out

Many of us love the 2015 Pixar class “Inside Out.” As you may recall, the movie focuses on emotions and how they impact us in our everyday life. Much like the movie “Inside Out,” we experience many emotions.
Math Department Chair Phil Culcasi joins DGS for the 2023-2024 school year.
Math Department Chair Phil Culcasi joins DGS for the 2023-2024 school year. (DGS Yearbook)
New ‘Phil’ in for math sparks joy

Dopamine, endorphins and serotonin: the key fundamentals of the feeling that we know to be joy. Moments that represent bliss and overall happiness can be seen in various areas at DGS. Joy is found amongst teachers, students and anyone who plays a part in the community.

Joy is a crucial part of staff and student relationships and their success within the building. The connection they establish can be the determining factor in school-specific accomplishments.

Math Department Chair Phil Culcasi was hired last year to begin his position during the 2023-2024 school year. His role in the math department entails ensuring students succeed in their math courses and receiving help from staff if needed. Culcasi has made it his goal this school year to create a more comfortable atmosphere in which students can reach out for assistance, which builds a bridge that promotes positivity.

“I feel like I’m learning a lot of new things, and I really love math to begin with so that’s part of the reason why I’m here,” Culcasi said.

Culcasi was also excited to be a part of the school’s community, as he had lived in the area for a long time prior to being hired. Having a sense of belonging to something larger than oneself can be a fundamental factor in living a joyful lifestyle.

“Downers Grove South is the high school that my kids went to, and it’s the high school in my community, and I really, really wanted to be a part of it,” Culcasi said.

An article from says that “A major component of happiness is the feeling that community brings – safety, belonging, support, giving, understanding, like-mindedness. Community gives you a sense of purpose, a sense of place.”

The feeling of joy is contagious to students throughout DGS as well. Whether it be academically, athletically or socially, attendees of the high school have opportunities to attain and pursue goals that help them achieve contentment.

Senior Nurjina Batalova has experienced a sense of community by exploring different social settings. She prioritizes widening her perspective to feel joyful over the past three years of her high school career.

“It’s important to try and branch out because you never know who you might end up becoming friends with and just to keep an open mind. I feel like the connections I’ve experienced have overall been pretty positive because I’ve been able to meet a bunch of new people and gain a new perspective on things,” Batalova said.

Katherine Klaeren with her seventh period EL class including Liubomyr Labinskis and Alicia Kpeglo.
Learning new language conjugates fear

The feeling of entering high school for the first time and only knowing some people- that’s the feeling of fear. But look at it from the perspective of an foreign student not even remotely knowing a single person? Now that’s true fear.

Liubomyr Labinskis, an international ninth grade student from Ukraine, expresses how his initial fear of coming to America was the language spoken.

“All the language said was very difficult for me to speak to other people,” Labinskis said.

Adjusting to the language is a common fear to any foreign student, even if they have some background knowledge. Students who take a world language class in school know how hard it is to even practice the language, but rarely do they face a real-life situation where they need to speak it.

Guillermo Andres Olivernos Arocha, an international junior from Venezuela, reveals how speaking English without having any background was a fear of his coming to DGS.

“At first, like a year ago, I didn’t know any English at all. I was kind of scared of everything a little bit,” Arocha said.

DGS has teachers for international students to help guide and teach them new ways to communicate with their community. Expeditionary Learning (EL) teacher, Katherine Klaeren, is one of those staff members who work with foreign students.

“My first period class is called EL Lifeskills 2; that class is based on speaking and listening in English and basic vocabulary. Then it leads up to academic vocabulary, so that means conversational language. So next year they can take a science class, but they need to go on the language first so it’s comfortable,” Klaeren said.

Arocha points out that he learned the language quickly and is now taking more advanced classes.

“I learned English pretty fast, and then I started getting into better classes and making new friends,” Arocha said.

Katherine Klaeren with her seventh period EL class including Liubomyr Labinskis and Alicia Kpeglo. (Olivia Velazquez)
No cell phone zone leaves students with anger
Many teachers become angry at students using their phones during class. (NB Bandera)

The bell rings, signaling the start of class. The teacher starts talking and one student remains focused on their phone screen. Noticing the distraction, the teacher warns them to put their phone away and says if they don’t, they’ll get a detention.

This year, a new phone policy at DGS states that students are not allowed to have cell phones out unless a staff member allows them to or the instruction has ended.

French teacher Stephanie Peterson started a new tactic that enforces the policy: red, yellow and green signs. Red means no phones, yellow allows phones while on task and at a student’s desk and green allows phone time. Peterson gives insight into how she feels about the policy.

“I thought it was a really good idea because especially Covid-19, cell phones have become a huge distraction in the classroom. It was very frustrating and it made me feel like I couldn’t do a good job because kids were constantly on their phones. …I am very much for it, even though I know it’s a challenge especially because it is a change–a new change is always difficult to adapt to,” Peterson said.

Although teachers can still feel frustrated that students aren’t following the new policy, senior Mason Mungerson has a mixed view about the rule.

“I think that kids are going to sneakily take their phones out– you can’t just take the kids’ phones away; it’s not going to do anything but make kids more sneaky. I feel annoyed about the policy like it’s useless. I kind of think that it’s the start of the school really cracking down on everything you bring into the school or do in classes,” Mungerson said.

The new policy has given students and teachers different experiences and views about whether it is making improvements in students’ phone habits, causing feelings of anger and frustration.

Choral director Joy Belt-Roselieb reflects on her time teaching with Hernandez.
A ballad of sadness: Saying goodbye hits all the low notes

Last year, the DGS fine arts program lost choral director Belford Hernandez. Hernandez worked alongside choral director Joy Belt-Roselieb and choral director Ricardo Pedroza. Together they ran the DGS fine arts program by teaching classes, picking out music and keeping everything organized.

At the end of last school year, the school laid off Hernandez due to low numbers. Losing one of the directors sent a wave of sadness over choir students. People believe that his leaving took a toll on the choir program and students, mainly his coworkers.

“We made magic and we would just feed off of each other so incredibly well. You can’t have a good music program without a team of adults who know how to work together musically…so we had a dream team that no one could possibly understand and the loss of him from this building,” Belt-Roselieb said.

Losing a helping hand alters the nature of the classroom. During Covid-19, the numbers of kids in choir dropped greatly. Since then, Belt-Roselieb, Hernandez and Pedroza have been working hard to rebuild that sense of choir community.

“It’s not a short game and if you want to support programs you have to have excellent teachers in place and be patient and let it grow. We just cut off the tree before the branches began to grow,” Belt-Roselieb said.

Overall, the laying off of Hernandez has brought sadness among the choir students and teachers and continue to feel the absence of him during this year.

“District 99 prides itself in seeking excellent, quality teachers. Hernandez was the epitome of quality, excellence, musicianship, a good human and awesome for kids. At a time in our social world where we need great people in our schools, the sad part is we let one of the best teachers get away,” Belt-Roselieb said.

Choral director Joy Belt-Roselieb reflects on her time teaching with Hernandez. (Sebastian Blanco)
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About the Contributors
Taylor Beattie
Taylor Beattie, Entertainment Editor
Senior Taylor Beattie is an Entertainment Editor and this is her first year on the Blueprint staff. At DGS, Beattie has participated in tennis and band; she previously was a member of their concert and symphonic ensembles. Beattie had taken Journalistic Expression her junior year of high school and decided she wanted to join the Blueprint after thoroughly enjoying writing entertainment-based articles. Beattie wanted to see what more she could do with her journalistic knowledge, but this time on a larger scale than just classroom assignments. She considers herself to be proficient in language arts courses, as she has been an honors student in the subject since freshman year of high school. Beattie is excited to have the opportunity to research topics and share findings with Blueprint readers throughout her community. She plans to study business after graduation and pursue a career in sales, hoping to use the skills gained from journalism to guide her to success.
NB Bandera
NB Bandera, Entertainment Editor
NB Bandera is a senior at DGS and a second-year staff member in Blueprint. Bandera was a Video Editor her first year, and now she is an Entertainment Editor. Other than Blueprint, Bandera participates in girl’s varsity badminton and directed a IHSA film in a competition of 2023 for the state of Illinois to represent DGS with other directors that noticed her filmmaking. As a determined student and athlete, Bandera aspires to be a detective because of her interest in criminal justice in college. She loves learning about the psychological side of true crime and diving deep into cases, showing her critical thinking. Outside of school, Bandera is always keeping herself updated with social media and new trends that are popular amongst teens.
Olivia Velazquez
Olivia Velazquez, News Editor
Junior Olivia Velazquez is a first year News Editor for the Blueprint. Velazquez was inspired to take Journalistic Expression in her sophomore year and loved every minute of it. She enjoys writing because she gets to express not only her opinion, but others' as well. She has a curious mind and a passion for researching new things that come up in the world. She previously played softball, but unfortunately had to quit due to injuries. Velazquez loves to hang out with her friends and family in her spare time as well. Outside of school Velazquez works at a salon in Oak Brook as a receptionist. She enjoys reading a good book; her personal favorite is “November 9” by Colleen Hoover. She is looking forward to being on the staff this year.
Grace Rerucha
Grace Rerucha, Features Editor
Senior Grace Rerucha is a Features Editor for the DGS Blueprint. Rerucha is a member of the Fillies, as well as dancing at her studio, DLD Dance Center. In addition to her roles as student council vice president and orchesis officer, she participates in National Honors Society, madrigal choir, the spring musical and PE leading. Rerucha’s interest in journalism sparked after taking Journalistic Expression her Junior year. She immediately fell in love with the class and wanted to continue to share other people’s stories through journalistic writing. While she has always enjoyed English, the class allowed her to explore a brand new style of writing. In her free time, Rerucha loves to hang out with friends, spend time with family and shop at her favorite store, Target. She enjoys dancing at football games this fall and prom in the spring. This year, she hopes to showcase her creativity and develop her own unique style of journalistic writing.
Sebastian Blanco
Sebastian Blanco, Features Editor
Junior Sebastian Blanco is a Features Editor in his first year on the DGS Blueprint staff. In addition to journalism, Blanco is a member of the DGS varsity speech team, Madrigal choir and is deeply involved with the drama department as a whole. While he did not take Journalistic Expression, his love of writing and encouragement from friends enticed him to take the course. When not at school (which is almost never), you may find Blanco playing Magic: The Gathering at a local game store, out driving with friends or rewatching Glee for the eighth time. While the school year doesn’t offer much time for a job, Blanco loves spending his summers working at the Brookfield Park District as a camp counselor. While Blanco has always loved entertaining others through performance, he is excited to put that passion down on paper as a member of the Blueprint Staff.
Itzel Sanchez
Itzel Sanchez, Graphics/Photo Editor
Itzel Sanchez is a senior, and this is her first year working on the Blueprint staff as a Graphics/Photo Editor. In 2023, they started making editorial cartoons for the Blueprint and qualified for the IHSA journalism state competition for Advertising shortly after. Sanchez’s love for the arts started when she would get in trouble for scribbling on the wall and on her crib as a child. Their main inspirations are the Spiderverse movies, LAIKA Studio films and animated shows such as "RWBY" and "Infinity Train." They hope to continue pursuing art as a career and hope to make their own comic or animated series someday.

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