Wesleyan Students Celebrate Christmas Traditions from Around the World

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    Many Polish people celebrate Christmas with the midnight mass service, called pasterka.
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    Traditionally, the people of Cuba use the Cajachina to cook the pig.
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    The Spring Festival is widely celebrated in China.

Why travel to different countries for Christmas when you can experience all kinds of unique Christmas traditions right here in the Wesleyan community?

The first stop is in Cuba. The Cuban festivities begin with the Parrandas which is a festival including many floats and huge fireworks. Many Cubans also attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, better known as “Noche Buena” in Cuba. Another important aspect of Christmas in Cuba is the food. Gabby Hernandez, who is of Cuban descent, said that on the Noche Buena, “We have the whole family go to my grandparents where my dad, uncle and grandpa cook a pig in something called a Cajachina, which is basically a big grill.” She said that they also have a family dinner with rice, black beans and bread.

The next stop is in China. According to junior Richard He, because the Chinese government does not encourage religion, Christmas is not a widely-celebrated holiday in China. He said, “My family did not do that many things during Christmas. My parents always bought me presents. Since we do not have school holidays during Christmas, we had to stay at school and study for the final. If Christmas day was on weekend, we went shopping as a family.” He said that in China, there are two New Year celebrations. The first is on Jan. 1st which follows the Western calendar. The second Chinese New Year which is in late January is called the Spring Festival.

The last stop is in Poland. One of the main Christmas traditions in Poland is the sharing of the oplatek, a thin wafer, during the Christmas Eve dinner called the Wigilia. The breaking and sharing of the oplatek symbolizes peace and prosperity to the family. In Poland, Christmas Eve is the most important day of the year because it is the day waiting for and celebrating Jesus. On this day, the women in the house start cooking for the Wigilia early in the day, while the men and children decorate the tree, the choinka, and set the table. High school English teacher, Monica Tarnawski, who is Polish American said, “Wigilia is especially important in our family, both for preparing the meal and enjoying time together. There are always twelve dishes to symbolize the twelve apostles. Examples are pierogi, fish, salad, and vegetables; no meat is consumed during this meal.” The family can only start eating the meal once the first star of the night, the gwiazdka, can be seen. Before eating, the family prays and shares the oplatek. After the meal, the family exchanges gifts and sings Christmas carols, koledy, under the tree. Then, the family goes to Midnight Mass, called pasterka.

Girls and Boys Cross Country Teams Perform Well Under Tough Conditions

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For the sixth year in a row, both the Boys’ and Girls’ Wesleyan Varsity Cross Country teams made it to the state meet. After a state championship for the boys and a runner-up finish for the girls in 2014, the runners were hungry for another solid performance. The races were held at Carrollton Elementary school on a five kilometer course under very muddy conditions. “Today we faced the toughest state course that I have ever seen. I feel like we rose to the challenge and attacked it head on,” said Head Coach Chad McDaniel.
This year, the boys finished third out of 31 schools with a fifth place finish from junior Bailey Renfroe, a 13th place finish from senior Mikey Olson, 16th from senior Henry Collins, 25th from sophomore Peter Hess and 26th from senior Clay Tyler. Times were slowed substantially by course conditions. Ahead of the Wolves were state champions from Bleckley County and runner-up finishers from Pace Academy. Collins has struggled with a back injury for the majority of the season which had a significant impact on the team. Renfroe has consistently led the team and typically finishes with sub-18 minute times.
The girls finished runner-up for the second year in a row out of 29 schools with a fourth place finish from senior Ellie Bradach, seventh place from senior Kylie Reed, 19th from senior Beck Coxhead, 20th from freshman Quinn Kaloper and 28th from junior Sophia Kidder. Lovett came in first. Solid senior leadership has been a big factor for the girls.
Wesleyan’s cross country program has consistently contended for state championships over the last 15 years, and draws enormous participation from the student body. This year, well over 100 high school students participated. McDaniel leads the team with the help of six other coaches. “I believe that we are able to compete at a high level every year because our athletes are willing to endure a great deal of pain day after day for a greater cause. They are doing it for each other,” said McDaniel.

Swim and Dive Makes Big Splash in Competition

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    Photo: Brian Morgan // Coaches Trotter and Bufton
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    Photo: Brian Morgan // Captains: Ben Buckley, Chandler Marsh, Kyle Rappe, Abby Gardner, Ellie Bradach, and Sydney Weissman

The swim team at Wesleyan is ready to take over Davidson Natatorium for the winter season once again. With large meets on the horizon and stiff opposition, head coach Kevin Kadzis knows that his team must be prepared both mentally and physically. Looking to improve on last year’s strong showing at state, the Wolves have been working hard in both the gym and pool to increase the overall endurance and strength.  Kadzis is very excited for the season. In an interview he said, “We are looking forward to a great season.” A great season it will certainly be.

Kadzis also named off a few of the key swimmers saying, “Certainly our captains will be important. Ben Buckley, Kyle Rappe, Chandler Marsh, Ellie Bradach, Sydney Weissman, and Abby Gardner.”  If this year is to be at all similar to past years, captains will play into the direction of this team.  Although talent is deep and young, the captains will have to lead their team with good attitudes and good spirit.    Senior swimmer Grant Sauer has a very interesting way of describing swimming.  The sport is difficult, and is like “riding a bike, except the bike has square wheels.”

Swimming is not meant to be easy, and all of the swimmers know that, but a love for the sport and the drive to win fuels their efforts every day. With the common goal of a state championship, the swim team know that they must be prepared to train the hardest that they ever have to achieve it. With a great senior class, the team is prepared for many records, personal bests, and Wesleyan top ten times will be broken.  Already this season there have been top ten times from Ethan Moon (500 free and 200 IM), Ben Buckley (200 Free and 200 IM), Joseph Berney (Diving), and Kate McCahan (Diving).  Although there have been many new top ten times, there will surely be more on the way as the season goes on.  Senior captain Sydney Weissman is very encouraged by how the team is looking thus far this season.  She said, “We have a lot of strong swims from younger swimmers.  It is very encouraging to see them improving so much in practice and in meets.  We are hoping to continue to see similar drops in time throughout the meets this season!”

Looking ahead on the season, the Wet Wolves will have a tough schedule with big meets against tough opponents coming up.  Big meets this season include an away meet against GAC in January, Holiday Splash Invitational against many high classification schools in early December, and the Metro Meet in January.  With large opponents, fast swims, and many lasts for the seniors, the Wet Wolves would love your support as a student body at upcoming meets and events.

Wesleyan Alumnus Wins $20,000

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    Schroer and two fraternity brothers won $20,000 for their invention at a Georgia Tech sponsored competition.

Georgia Tech student and Wesleyan alumnus Scott Schroer recently won the Georgia Tech InVenture competition with a $20,000 prize for his innovative grill alert system. Schroer graduated from Wesleyan in 2010. He played on the state championship football team as a junior in 2008 and was crowned homecoming king in 2009.

Schroer and his fraternity brothers Alex Roe and Will Sweet started a company called FlameTech, and the Grill Defender is their product. The Grill Defender is designed to alert grillers when gas levels around their grill become dangerously high. The device can be easily fitted to any grill.

The three students entered the InVenture competition and came in first place. Schroer and his partners applied their studies at Georgia Tech in a practical way. Their experience has taught these entrepreneurs that resourcefulness and a willingness to learn are vital for success. Schroer’s major is in mechanical engineering, so his studies were very applicable to his invention, but he found that there was still a lot to learn.
“When you start out with an idea, even if you think you know a decent amount about the subject, you will inevitably run into something that is completely out of your wheelhouse,” said Schroer. For these three, the electronics proved to be more complex than they could handle without some help. YouTube videos, articles, talking to friends with more experience in that area and trial and error finally equipped the inventors with what they needed.

Schroer’s high school career at Wesleyan helped prepare him for college and entrepreneurship. “Wesleyan is where I feel my solid foundation in persistent and resourceful problem solving comes from which, I think, is the key to success in any professional field,” said Schroer. Wesleyan helps students develop time management and resourcefulness that are tools for success well beyond high school.

In regards to advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Schroer said, “Just jump in with both feet, be willing to be persistent and acquire subject knowledge however you have to and ask for help.”

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