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posted: Tue, May 17th, 2016

MOHS Lip Dub Success

On Thursday, May 19th, 2016 Mount Olive High School completed its first-ever lip dub. The lip dub video consisted of over 1500 MOHS students and faculty dancing and lip-synching to songs, while a continuous camera shot followed them around the school grounds. All of the MOHS clubs, activities, and sports teams got in on the action, representing their organizations throughout the video. The purpose of the video was to foster school pride and showcase our students' talents.

Put together by the TV 4 students, with the help and support of TV teacher Mr. Chris Praml, the lip dub video was a huge undertaking. The video director was Amanda Hull, the SteadiCam operator and music and video editor was Johnny Liccone, the drone operator was Alex Maya, the assistant director and "hype-up" man was Danny Antonacci, the music and speaker carrier was Alan Anagnostos, and the behind-the-scenes camera operator was Christian Humphrey.

Liccone said the idea for the lip dub formed around this time last school year. He said, "It was just an idea at the start, and we talked about it with Mr. Praml, Mrs. Bolen, Mr. Stansberry, and Student Council. We then formed this idea into a class project and starting planning it in greater detail March of this year."

On coming together to produce the video, Antonacci said, "TV 4 had different roles but we all planned as a team. We each had our own responsibilities to make the Lip Dub work, but Amanda as the director had the most responsibly. She handled all the stress and problems and deserves recognition."

Antonacci said his role during the lip dub consisted of going through the path to make sure everyone was lined up and in their designated positions. He then had to sprint ahead of the camera while avoiding being in the shot.

Maya's responsibilities were a little bit different as drone operator. He needed to fly the drone and get the opening and closing shots for the video. During the planning stages he helped with the school-wide decorations and figuring out the path of the video. Humphrey also helped with some of the staging aspects of the video.

Erica Anderson, one of the lip synchers in the video said, "My favorite part was when everyone was down on the field and we started chanting. It's what we usually do for basketball, and everyone was doing it. All of the students from different clubs were doing it."

Arelys Chaparro, who was also a lip syncher in the video agreed, and added, "It was a really great experience and opportunity for our classes to all come together."

Justin Savastano, a member of the boys soccer team, said he enjoyed how all the sports teams made their energy and drive for the school shown in the video.

Max Wagner, a freshman who was part of the video, said, "As a freshman to know that it might be possible to do this other years, is exciting. It was an experience that brought the school together to make the video, and it gives us a goal of what we might want to produce and accomplish in the future."

After the video premiered during the student's TAG homeroom on Friday, 5/20 it was then shown later in the day on the local news broadcast on NJ News 12. There was also a segment on ABC News about the lip dub, as it received Trend of the Week recognition on 5/23.

Anagnostos is proud of all the hard work the students put into the event. He was excited for, "The whole school coming together and showing how much school spirit we have. Some people in our school doubted us, thinking it wouldn't be as good as other schools that have produced similar videos. In the end, the final production came out a lot better than expected. Getting all of this positive feedback and compliments about the final product and its success is what I am most proud of."

Looking back on the experience, Hull said, "We all worked really well together to get the jobs done. Each TV 4 member took on a different aspect of what needed to happen and worked on each part to make sure everything was going to be successful. I am most proud that everyone participated and you could feel that sense of Marauder pride in the air. Making the news was an extreme accomplishment I would have never expected something we planned to be this big!"

Mr. Praml couldn't be more proud either. He said, "My TV 4 students exemplified all the skills that they have learned in the program over the years and displayed their incredible ability to work with so many people and roll with the punches. I am also proud of the entire student body for bringing so much energy to the event and showing their MO pride."

As for plans for a future lip dub, Mr. Praml is waiting for the end of the school year to settle down before any decisions are made about future videos. Congratulations to all involved!

Bending the cycle: Students' project brings light to social issues

Pictured above, Mike Tanious and Abdul Saeed in the commons of Mount Olive High School.

Mike Tanious, an Egyptian-born Mount Olive High School junior, has a message he wants young people everywhere to hear: If I can succeed, you can too. It might take perseverance and sacrifice, but you can do it.

That message has begun resonating throughout the school community and even across the nation thanks to bendthecycle.com, a website that the 16-year-old created. At the heart of the site is Mike's free e-book that provides inspiration and advice for kids ages 13-24, particularly ones who are growing up in lower-income communities.

Far from the pop psychology of motivational books and the fortune cookie wisdom of social media memes, "The Cycle Of Poverty And How To Bend It" is chock full of practical information and hyperlinks to external resources. It's the sort of straight-up info about school, life, and planning for the future that Mike wishes someone had dished out to him when he was younger. The ever-evolving guidebook addresses topics such as living in poverty, standardized testing, health, motivation, jobs, college costs, and typical salaries of various occupations.

Mike's story

Mike's personal story is inspirational. He and his mother, Mervat Maher, emigrated from Egypt when he was still in diapers. It was September 8, 2001 – just days before the horrific attacks that would fell the Twin Towers and change not just America but the entire world.

He and Ms. Maher never really settled down and moved from community to community. Then, three years ago while living in another New Jersey county, Mike became disillusioned with the quality of the school system he was in. Understanding that education is fundamental to bettering your life, he hit the Internet and soon discovered the opportunities available at MOHS. It didn't take much to persuade his mother to leave their old town and head to Mount Olive.

At MOHS, he found teachers who care, friends with similar interests, and a school environment that allowed him to grow and excel.

"Coming to Mount Olive High School was a rebirth for me," Mike said.

With his mom owning and running a small grocery store, Mike had what might be considered a dream life to those in the impoverished and politically turbulent streets of Cairo where he was born. The family wasn't rich, quite the contrary, but they were happy and making it on their own.

Then things took a turn and what happened next is a reminder that the lives of most of us are just one shaky domino away from collapsing in a chain reaction. Ms. Maher became ill, which forced the family business to close. With no income coming in, Mike had to navigate through the murky waters of public assistance and begin working 30 hours a week to help the family make ends meet – all while enrolled in honors and AP classes at MOHS, participating in an internship, and taking business courses at County College of Morris (CCM).

Those trials and tribulations, which most kids would keep deeply private, made Mike realize his experiences gave him the power to help young people faced with similar challenges. The bravery to be so forthcoming about his circumstances is undoubtedly one of the reasons why he and the site have been garnering such attention.

With a feature article on the national news site "The Daily Beast," interest from the Ellen DeGeneres show, and school districts wanting to use Mike's e-book as a resource, Bend The Cycle has experienced an incredible amount of success and notoriety in its initial six weeks of existence.

"I just want to give kids a chance," Mike said. "I want them to take their futures into their own hands and make a difference in their lives. Bend The Cycle can help them and show them how."

The future

No one can be sure what the future holds for Bend The Cycle. It's in the process of becoming a registered non-profit organization and recently distributed its first donations – $200 to a school in Camden for STEM supplies.

Down the road, Mike and Abdul Saeed, a member of MOHS' Class of 2015 who serves as the organization's manager of social media, would like to see the website serve as a forum where young people can share experiences about all facets of life.

The message of education as a key to bending the cycle of poverty, however, will remain the cornerstone. The fact that the message is trumpeted by an immigrant and his right hand man who spent his middle years in Pakistan, however, should not be lost on anyone.

"In Pakistan, I saw kids begging on the side of the road and digging through garbage to find something to eat," Abdul said, who is studying business at CCM. "These kids would give anything for one day in the educational system we go through for 12 years. We are that privileged. We just take education for granted. I can't see people giving away the gift that they've been given. Education is the key to it all and we have to get that message across."

Danielle Kulawiak and Susan Steinhardt, MOHS language arts teachers known for their caring and professionalism, serve on Bend The Cycle's board of directors.

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