Stories From Rustin

  • Karisma Jaini signs copies of A Teenager's Guide to Feminism.


    Karisma Jaini is standing at a crossroads. The Rustin High School senior will be graduating in roughly two months and is trying to decide where life will take her next - Virginia Commonwealth University or the University of Richmond. One thing that she will take with her no matter where she goes? The fact that she is a published author at the age of 18. 


    Karisma's essay, titled "To You, Women, I Am Eternally Grateful" is featured in A Teenager's Guide to Feminism (Pear Shaped Press, December 2020). 


    The collection of essays, poems, and stories "is aimed at helping today's youth navigate the necessary but sometimes controversial topics surrounding what it means to be a feminist or a woman in modern society." 


    While brief, Karisma's essay is rich with emotion, focused on her father's illness, heartbreak, self-harm, and the women who brought her back from those dark places.


    "In a lot of my pieces prior (to this one,) I touched upon some of the things that had happened to me in the past," said Karisma. "This piece is a turning point in my writing where I started using writing to heal the traumatic things that happened in my past."


    Karisma's observations of the world around her and a warped view of beauty perpetuated by Western culture led her down a slippery slope.


    "I went through a really bad period of self-harm," said Karisma. "I was so sad all the time. I was ashamed of myself. It's important to talk about (self-harm) because I think it's something that a lot of people go through but kind of shift around. It's a hard topic to talk about, but writing is a way of forgiveness. I forgave myself."


    "Growing up being brown and ambiguously raced in predominantly white much of my experience is centered around that. I don't want that aspect of my writing to ever be forgotten," continued Karisma.


    Karisma's insight into life at such a young age is remarkable. 


    "I looked at happiness as this thing that I could never attain versus when I started living to the point where I was like 'alright, what can I do to make every single day bearable?'"


    "Happiness isn't a destination. It's having something to look forward to when you wake up in the morning. Make every day bearable. Talk to one person you know who loves you. Verify your existence and keep going."


    And, that's what Karisma will do, keep going. She plans on majoring in environmental science next fall, all while continuing to write.


    A Teenager's Guide to Feminisim is available on Amazon and through other booksellers.

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  • 16-year-old's Christmas light display helps animals in need in West Chester


    Gavin Snyder, a sophomore at Rustin High School in West Chester, Pennsylvania is a little more than your typical 16-year-old with his passion for animals, decorating, and charity.


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  • Rustin High School Senior Art Showcase

    The annual Rustin Art Slam may have interrupted by COVID-19, but that doesn't stop the students from celebrating their works of art. We obviously can't celebrate with them in person this year, but teacher Lisa Bryan put together this video of their work to share with the community.

    "Some of these students have worked through multiple classes and spent all four years in our department, " said Bryan. "We miss them dearly!"

    Congratulations to all of our senior artists!


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  • Rustin Orchestra Students Learn From Members of the Philadelphia Orchestra

    The Rustin High School Orchestra with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra

    Members of the Rustin High School Orchestra recently had the opportunity to work side by side with members of the world-famous Philadelphia Orchestra.

    The young string students spent part of their school day collaborating with the quartet, learning new rehearsal skills and techniques to advance not only their own performance abilities but the orchestra as a whole. They also gained valuable insight into pursuing a career in music.

    The quartet, featuring violinists Daniel Han, Yayoi Numazawa, violist David Nicastro, and cellist Priscilla Lee also performed for the group and shared their personal journies to becoming professional musicians.

    Students agreed that one of the biggest takeaways from the workshop was the importance of listening to each other during their performances to produce the best sound.

    "Especially when you are playing with a soloist, just listen as much as possible for what the soloist is doing," offered David Nicastro, who has played with the Philadelphia Orchestra for the last 25 years. "It's basically a form of multitasking. You have to do what's on your page, but at the same time, pay attention to what is happening up front and then support that in the most musical way that you can."

    "I thought that was really helpful advice to hear," said 11th-grader Ryan Murnane, who was the featured soloist on one of the selections the orchestra performed during the workshop. Ryan has played the bass since third grade.

    The Rustin Orchestra performed a couple of pieces for their guests that they have been working on since February. Many of the students were surprised to learn that the Philadelphia Orchestra performs a new program weekly, with only three practice sessions and a dress rehearsal prior to the performance.

    "We have multiple months to prepare. I can't imagine putting on a concert in just one week," said concertmaster Nicholas Hsieh, a junior.

    All four of the professional musicians stressed the importance of practicing at home.

    Hsieh, who has played the violin since the age of five, said he practices, on average, an hour a day.

    Liz Shafman, Rustin's orchestra director, said the professional musicians really made an impact on her students. She plans on taking her students to Kimmel Center soon to watch the Orchestra rehearse.

    "The workshop provided the Rustin Orchestra students with an opportunity to make connections and apply their musical knowledge at an advanced and professional level," said Shafman. "It left us all feeling inspired and ready to expand on the music we create every day in the classroom."

    The Philadelphia Orchestra Master Class was made possible thanks to a grant from the West Chester Area Education Foundation.




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  • Rustin HS Hosts 2nd Annual BSU Knowledge Bowl

    Participants of the second annual Rustin High School BSU Knowledge Bowl

    The Bayard Rustin Black Student Union hosted the 2nd annual African American History Knowledge Bowl at Rustin High School on Wednesday, February 19, 2020. The Knowledge Bowl was designed to challenge and expose the students of the West Chester Area School District to the many achievements and lasting contributions of African Americans to American history and culture.

    Two teams of six students from Rustin and Henderson High Schools prepared for the competition by studying historical and cultural information. After two rounds of exciting and close competition, Rustin was victorious with a final score of 44 to 43. Participants were presented with certificates highlighting the experience.

    The event was organized by Henderson BSU advisors, Shirley A. Wilson and Dr. Korey Bell, along with Rustin advisors, Paul Chambers and Marya Graham. The advisors hope to grow the event to include more students and schools in this celebration of African American heritage.


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  • Rustin Students Perform at District 12 Orchestra Festival

    District 12 Orchestra Students

    Jack McDougall (Front left,) Katie Kelly, Nicholas Hsieh, Ms. Shafman, Matthew Ferguson (back left,) Ryan Murnane, Hinrich Paetzmann

    Congratulations to Rustin High School's Nicholas Hsieh, Katie Kelly, Jack McDougall, Hinrich Paetzmann, Ryan Murnane, Matthew Ferguson, who performed in the District 12 Orchestra Festival at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center on January 31 and February 1.

    Led by Mr. Joseph Caminiti, Symphony Director from West Chester University, District 12 Orchestra is comprised of the highest-level musicians from high schools in Chester and Delaware County.

    The Rustin students rank among the highest in their instrument sections.

    "They represented Rustin in a mature manner and with the highest caliber of music on their individual instruments. It was a pleasure to sponsor these students over the weekend. The weekend ended with a phenomenal concert that included music by Khatchaturian, Borodin, and Saint-Saens," said Ms. Liz Shafman, orchestra director Rustin High School and Peirce Middle School.

    According to Ms. Shafman, Hsieh, Murnane, and Ferguson will advance to the Regional Orchestra Festival, which takes place this March at Neshaminy High School. The Regional Orchestra Festival features the top student musicians from Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Bucks County. After regionals, students may audition to be part of the All-State Orchestra, All-Eastern, and Nationals.


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  • Rustin High School Senior Shines at Young Composers Workshop

    Christopher Palmer

    Christopher Palmer


    Life for Rustin High School senior, Christopher Palmer is pretty typical for someone his age. He goes to school, spends time with friends, and dreams of his future, but he possesses a talent that is atypical for the average teenager. Palmer spends a great deal of his time analyzing the works of the great composers and writing his own musical masterpieces.


    The 17-year-old recently participated in the Young Composers Workshop at the Brandywine River Museum of Art. 


    Palmer was accepted into the workshop last spring along with three other aspiring composers ranging in age from 13 to 17. The workshop is the creation of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania native and award-winning pianist and composer, Jennifer Nicole Campbell.


    "I loved going to museums as a kid and always loved the connection between art and music," says Campbell. "I really wanted to help out young composers, because they don't have many opportunities to have their works performed. And, I thought to do it at the Brandywine River Museum of Art would be great."


    Campbell challenged the young composers to write an original piece of music based on artwork at the museum. 


    "At the start of the workshop, I did a tour with all of them," says Campbell. "As we were going through the museum, it was interesting to see how quickly some of them were able to figure out which painting they wanted to choose and how they were able to talk about the form of their piece very quickly. It's amazing." 


    For Palmer, the process took a little longer. He didn't find inspiration until he visited the museum a second time and saw a book featuring the artwork of N.C. Wyeth in the gift shop. In particular, a series of paintings depicting the life and death of King Arthur caught his attention. He had found his muse.


    Palmer describes the composing process as "a series of sporadic work, leisurely work, and no work at all." He wrote the first movement, based on the overture to George Frideric Handel's Messiah, in a matter of hours. The third movement was completed on the same day.


    The second movement took several days to finish. Palmer drew inspiration yet again from Handel, specifically Suite no. 2 from Water Music.


    The fourth movement, a double fugue inspired by the Kyrie movement from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem, proved to be the biggest challenge.


    "That one was hard. I'd write, erase, cry. Write, erase, cry. Eventually, I got it to the point that I liked it. That one took at least three days."


    Once he finished the fourth movement, the fifth, which drew influence from the Lacrimosa movement from Mozart’s Requiem, was completed in a matter of hours. 


    Palmer says that as a composer, you progress as you work and that it is a "gradual learning process." He receives a lot of feedback from his parents.


    "I think both of their opinions are the most valuable that I can get because they are the audience. They are biased, obviously, but I like to think they listen to it honestly and try to decide if they really like it or not."


    The workshop culminated in August with a performance of all the works by the young composers. Christopher Palmer & Jennifer Nicole Campbell


    "Christopher's piece came across very well," says Campbell. "The people that performed in the quartet loved it. It was thoughtfully written, considering I don't think he had written for a string quartet before and he wasn't familiar with how to write string parts. The balance between all the instruments was super. You could envision the whole story. He really brought the story to life through music." 


    "He really understands musical form. He's far ahead in his ability to analyze music and create something unique using old, traditional structures in a sense," added Campbell.


    Palmer's love of music developed at an early age. He credits music teacher, Mr. Jim Morrison from Starkweather Elementary School, with sparking his interest.


    "I started composing music in fourth-grade when Mr. Morrison introduced us to Noteflight, an online music notation program," says Palmer.


    "I wasn't a good enough musician back then to write with pen and paper. With Noteflight, I could playback and hear what I was writing. Mr. Morrison's class really encouraged composition, among other things. It was just one unit, but it was a unit that stuck with me."


    Palmer says he didn't start seriously composing music until he was in seventh-grade at Stetson Middle School.


    "It was then I considered it a discipline of mine."  


    The young musician and composer says all of the music teachers in the West Chester Area School District have been wonderful.


    "Mr. Kelley named me 'Outstanding Musician of the Year' when I was at Stetson."                                                                                                                                                                                                        

    Palmer also plays the piano, sings baritone in the choir, and plays the French horn in the wind ensemble, and mellophone in the marching band at Rustin High School. He has taken Music Theory I and II at Rustin and is enrolled this year in AP Music Theory. He also studies composition and piano at the Bryn Mawr Conservatory of Music under Mr. Andrew Desiderio and Mr. Marcantonio Barone, respectively. In addition, he studies vocal performance at the Kim Russell Voice Studio in West Chester.


    Palmer hopes to major in music composition in college. 


    "I wouldn't last as a performance major," he jokes. "I'm too lazy!"


    Palmer is applying to Penn State University, West Chester University, and Westminster Choir College. He is also considering applying to The Julliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music.


    If music doesn't pan out, Palmer has a back-up plan - computer science. He is passionate about blockchain technology, the record-keeping technology behind bitcoin. He actively writes blog posts on Steemit, a social media platform that rewards users with cryptocurrency for their content.


    See a video of the world premiere of "King Arthur" string quarter by Christopher Palmer -


    Visit Christopher Palmer's blog -


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  • Rustin Graduates Spotlight Human Trafficking in Chester County

    Walk Her Home Club Rustin High School Walk Her Home Club with Susan Ingram (seated left)

    Human trafficking is not the type of crime that the residents of Chester County tend to focus their attention on. For most people, their knowledge of it is limited to Hollywood creations like Taken, starring Liam Neeson. Or, they believe it only happens outside of the United States and that victims are foreign-born individuals with no money. Delve a little deeper, however, into this often hidden crime, and you will find that it exists in every state - and, not just in urban areas, but right here in idyllic Chester County.

    For recent Rustin High School graduates Anna Hagenbuch and Lena Harnish, the mere thought that girls boys their age and even younger are victims of this horrific violation of human rights forced led them to action. Together, the two of them launched the Walk Her Home Club this year at Rustin to raise awareness about human trafficking and funds to support survivors. Anna Hagenbuch & Lena Harnish

    Hagenbuch first learned about human trafficking as part of an eleventh grade English project. While researching the topic, she interviewed representatives from the Chester County Anti-Trafficking Coalition. It was through the coalition that Hagenbuch met Susan Ingram, the president of Walk Her Home. Ingram founded the Chester County-based organization in 2017 with the mission of raising awareness of the factors that drive demand for trafficking and support the restoration of victim-survivors of sexual exploitation.

    Ingram expressed to Hagenbuch that the organization needed volunteers to help with their first ever 5K walk. A percentage of the proceeds from the event would be given to organizations that work to end human trafficking and support survivors. That was all Hagenbuch needed to hear. She partnered with Harnish and they recruited other students to help with the event. The group quickly realized they could do more and they decided to form a Walk Her Home Club. 

    "We clearly had an interest here at Rustin," said Hagenbuch. "Students are really happy to help out our community. Mainly what Walk Her Home does is raise money for other organizations, so the part that we are affecting is the restoration of survivors."

    "The most shocking thing I learned was that it is happening here," said Harnish. "When most people think about human trafficking, they think about other countries. There are 25 hubs in our county alone." 

     The club organized an outdoor movie night on May 25 at Rustin and raised about $3,000 that was given to the National Trafficking Sheltered Alliance, one of the various organizations Walk Her Home partners with.

    What does human trafficking look like?                                                                                             

    Human trafficking is defined as using force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. According to the Department of Homeland Security, it can happen in any community, and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality.

    "I offer a quote from Alan Borowsky, assistant District Attorney from Delaware County," says Susan Ingram.

    "A girl or boy living in a million dollar home is just as likely to be a trafficking victim as a child in the inner city."

    How does one become a victim?

    According to Ingram, there are many different ways in which someone is pulled into human trafficking, one of which plays off their vulnerabilities.

    "We have all gone through those years of doubt, lack of confidence, questioning and needing affirmation," says Ingram. "That is what a trafficker exploits. A trafficker is not a stereotypical evil guy that you see depicted in the movies. It could be a 21-year-old young man who recognizes he could lure in a 12, 14, or 16-year-old girl by giving her a lot of attention, proclaim love and tell her that he understands her better than anyone else. He grooms her and builds her up until she is attached and bonded to him. Then he talks about financial concerns and worries, and all he needs her to do is this 'one thing.' He tries to convince her that if she really loves him, she would do it."

    "Human trafficking is literally the fastest growing criminal enterprise," continues Ingram.  "It is surpassing drugs in terms of sales and revenues. A trafficker can make $100,000 - $200,000 a year off of one girl."

    "It really is very telling and revealing about the type of men that are purchasing girls, boys, and women. It goes across every single demographic area of this country. And, the victims are skewing younger and younger."

    Ingram says she launched Walk Her Home with the purpose to raise funds to support safe houses across the country and restore the survivors of human trafficking.

    How does restoration work?

    "The first thing people need to know is that the average life span for someone being trafficked is seven years," says Ingram.  "There is malnutrition, a lack of health care, physical abuse, emotional trauma, drug addiction. Twelve to 24 months is the length of a typical program. There are emotional therapies and proper health care; we help to get them off drugs, give them job training and life skills. Then they move to semi-independent housing and get a job."

    "The trouble is, prostituted women are often jailed, not the buyers. One woman was arrested 51 times before getting help. Their records need to be expunged in order for them to get a job. So, we are now developing this national network of best practices. How do we best rehabilitate them?"

    What can the average person do to help?

    "We need the public to be the boots on the ground," says Ingram. "It is not our job to determine if there is criminal activity going on, but it is our responsibility to report it if we see something suspicious. You cannot look away. If you choose to look away, you are potentially putting your children at risk."

    Ingram is working with Hagenbuch and Harnish to help start Walk Her Home Clubs in high schools across the country.

    "When Anna came to me, I had no clue in my mind that Walk Her Home would move into high schools. What she and Lena have started is the prototype for launching these clubs in high schools, not just in Chester County, but beyond these boundaries. It brings tears to my eyes watching kids care about this and sharing it with other kids. That's how we are going to work towards eradicating human trafficking."

    Hagenbuch will attend Marist College in New York this fall, majoring in pre-medicine. She plans to start a Walk Her Home club at the college.

    "Stop keeping your nose down," says Hagenbuch. "Look at people, look for the signs."

    Harnish plans to obtain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Pittsburgh and wants to be a neonatal intensive care unit nurse. She too plans to start a Walk Her Home Club.

    "Right here, right now, it is our concern," says Harnish. "It (human trafficking) runs rampant, but you don't see it."

    Although Hagenbuch and Harnish have graduated from Rustin, both say Walk Her Home will continue next year under the leadership of senior Hope Geissler, and Harnish's sister, sophomore Susanna Harnish.

    For more information on Walk Her Home, visit If you or someone you know, is a victim of human trafficking call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.


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  • Rustin Assistant Principal Recognized for his Work in Fight Against Domestic Violence

    Dr. Chris Lunardi Dr. Chris Lunardi

    Dr. Chris Lunardi, assistant principal at Bayard Rustin High School, received the 2019 Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence Excellence in Male Leadership Award for his work supporting the growth and development of the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County’s Coaching Boys Into Men Program.

    The award ceremony, held at Citizen’s Bank Park on June 11th, kicked off the Phillies’ game with Lunardi throwing an impressive first pitch to Phillies’ Manager, Gabe Kapler, as his family looked on. “It was an amazing and humbling experience to be able to step on the field at Citizen’s Bank Park alongside so many incredible advocates. The work that the folks at PCADV and DVCCC are doing is crucial, necessary, and deserving of recognition,” Lunardi said of the evening.

    Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM) is an educational program which trains the coaches of high school athletic teams to have regular conversations with their athletes about several important issues, based around the program’s basic tenants of respect, integrity, and nonviolence. The Domestic Violence Center of Chester County is proud to have their CBIM Advisory Board Member recognized for his work with this program. 

    In the spring of 2017, Dr. Chris Lunardi was the first Athletic Director in Chester County to begin implementation of the CBIM curriculum with his coaches and athletes. Since then, the program has been implemented in multiple high school athletic departments throughout Chester County. Of the program, Dr. Lunardi added, “I am so glad that Amelia Rayburn, Joe Henson, and the team at DVCCC were able to bring Coaching Boys Into Men to Chester County and thankful that Coach Matt Taglang and Coach Shaz Brown brought it to our student-athletes at Rustin. They blazed a trail that other coaches at Rustin and throughout Chester County have been able to follow. Our coaches understand that these values can and should be taught within the context of the aggressive, physical, and competitive culture of interscholastic athletics. I look forward to continuing to see the impact this program has on our communities.”

    Since the initial 2017 implementation, teams across Chester County have seen an increase in their athletes’ awareness of what constitutes abusive behavior friendships and relationships, as well as the skills to intervene when they see violence or disrespect occurring in their schools or communities. If your school or athletic organization would like to get involved with DVCCC’s CBIM program, contact them today: (610) 431-3546.


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  • Slain Rustin High School Graduate Lives on Through Memorial Scholarships

    Recipients of the Bianca Roberson Memorial Scholarship

    Marissa Orlando (left,) Michelle Roberson, Miyah Thomas-Mazyck, superintendent Dr. Jim Scanlon

    Two Rustin High School seniors received scholarships this year in memory of Bianca Roberson, whose life was tragically cut short after her graduation from the school in 2017. Miyah Thomas-Mazyck received the Rustin High School Bianca Roberson Memorial Scholarship. Marissa Orlando was awarded the Bianca Roberson Memorial Scholarship through the Bianca Nikol Merge with Mercy Foundation. Bianca's mother, Michelle Roberson, was on hand at the Rustin High School senior assembly on May 31 to present the scholarships.

    The Bianca Nikol Merge with Mercy Foundation was created by Roberson to give her a new purpose in life after the death of her daughter due to a senseless act of gun violence. Roberson also lost her son Mykel Rowley in 2013. The foundation's mission is to raise awareness about the impact of gun violence, providing emotional support, educational assistance, advocacy, and ongoing outreach initiatives. The organization also holds fundraisers to be able to offer scholarships to Rustin seniors attending college and youths who want to attend summer camps.

    "I was a mom to two wonderful children, and now they are both gone. I didn't know what else to do. I feel as though the world today is out of whack and Merge with Mercy came about because we should be able to merge with other human beings without feeling that we could lose our lives just by coming into contact with another human being," said Roberson.

    The scholarships are awarded to the Rustin High School students who share many of Bianca's qualities; specifically, students who have successfully overcome personal challenges to find academic growth and responsibility, as well as display a positive, friendly, and upbeat attitude and loyalty to their friends.

    Students had to write an essay describing the challenges they had overcome during their high school academic career.

    "Bianca lost her brother to muscular dystrophy when she entered 9th grade. Mykel was her best friend, and when she lost him, she really didn't know what to do, but she persevered. She figured it out and made it through," said Roberson.

    Roberson would like to see common sense gun laws put into place so that no other parent has to suffer the same heartache. "How many more kids do we need to bury? How many more mothers or fathers will stand over the coffin of their young child?"

    "They were the loves of my lives. They both had hearts of gold. They were pure. It's a void. It's the biggest void in my life. I miss them so much. I ache so badly inside. They both would've made such a big impact on this world. Bianca wanted to be an FBI agent. She wanted to take care of this world and make it a better place. She wanted to help to try and get rid of bad people, but bad people took her out before she had the chance to do what she wanted to do."

    The Merge with Mercy 2nd Annual "Walk for Me" 2.5k walk to end gun violence will be held on Sunday, August 4, 2019, from 8:00 am - 2:00 pm at East Goshen Township Park. For more information, visit


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  • 2019 WCASD Senior Walk

    Congratulations Class of 2019  Class of 2019

    On Tuesday, May 28, 2019, the Class of 2019 took one final walk through the hallways of their elementary and middle schools in celebration of their graduation from the West Chester Area School District. There were smiles and hugs, cheers and tears, time spent reminiscing and reflections on the future.

    They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it also took a village to put together our Senior Walk Highlights video! Thank you to all of the teachers, staff, administrators, students, and parents who submitted videos and photos.

    Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

    Please click here to see a highlight video of the WCASD 2019 Senior Walk.


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  • Rustin Science Olympiad Team Advances to National Competition

    Rustin Science Olympiad Team

    Front row (left to right) – Aidan Dempsey, Yonatan Sklansky, Aravind Kavuturu, Anya Koyner, Jacob Klanica, Andrew Welter
    Middle row (left to right) – Cassandra Hung, Emily Houck, Patti Curtis, Eirlys Barbara, Cindy Le
    Back row (left to right) – Ryan Apostolico, Aidan Lefebvre, Ryan Hoffmann, Nick Gentile, Kim Le
    *Not pictured – Dean Jones, Dilan Kuders, Nathan Podgurski, Birju Patel, Molly Wade

    Rustin High School's Science Olympiad Team has once again earned the opportunity to compete in the National Science Olympiad Tournament. The 35th annual Science Olympiad National Tournament will be held May 29-June 1 at Cornell University. Rustin is one of 60 high schools across the country to advance to the national competition.

    Science Olympiad is an organization that focuses on enhancing student education in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Competitions are hosted each year, beginning at the local level and advancing to the national competition. There are 23 team events featured at each competition with topics that include astronomy, the planet, invasive species, wind power, air trajectory, and chemistry.

    For Rustin, the road to nationals included a 3rd-place finish at regionals, medaling in 17 of the 23 events, and a 2nd-place finish at states, medaling in 16 of the 23 events.

    According to head coach, Jaime Suarez, winning truly takes a team effort, and the upperclassmen go out of their way to work with the underclassmen to strengthen the team.

    "Individually, students can medal in their events, but in order for the team to do well, all 23 events have to do well. We can't just have one person be the most amazing anatomy person, for example, because that's not enough. We need to have a whole group that is amazing."

    While many members of the team pursue a science major in college, not all do. According to Suarez, no matter what their focus is in college, Science Olympiad prepares them for higher education.

    "A lot of the things that they come away with is less about science, and more about studying independently which no matter what they study in college is so helpful," added Suarez.

    For many of the students, the bonds the form from working so closely together are unbreakable.

    "It's more of a family than a club," said senior Aidan Dempsey. "We worked hard all year to earn this. Pennsylvania is one of the most competitive states in the nation. Mr. Suarez makes sure we're teaching the freshman how to build and run devices well, which is what keeps us competitive each year. We're ecstatic to make it to nationals after losing last year and very thankful, Mr. Suarez is our coach."

    Mr. Suarez, who has taught physics for the West Chester Area School District for the past ten years, first became involved with Science Olympiad as a seventh-grader and continued it throughout middle school, high school, and college. Chemistry teacher Tanna Whitton also serves as an advisor the team.

    The Rustin Science Olympiad Team was founded in 2006. The year marks the fifth national appearance for the team.


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  • Rustin Teacher Awarded for Excellence in Teaching

    Theodore Harrison

    Rustin High School technology education teacher Theodore Harrison was recently selected to receive Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union's (FMFCU) Delaware County Excellence in Teaching Award. FMCU bestows the award on educators they deem to be outstanding and innovative, who have made a positive impact through their work, dedication, and disposition.

    Mr. Harrison has been with the West Chester Area School District (WCASD) for the past 11 years. He received his bachelor's degree in technology education from Millersville University.  When the district first hired Mr. Harrison, he split his time between Fugett Middle School and Rustin High School.

    Harrison, a graduate of East High School, says his middle school technology education teachers at Fugett and East, inspired him to become a teacher. He has also served the Goshen Fire Company for the last 20 years as a volunteer firefighter and runs the Goshen County Fair.

    "Ted Harrison is a consummate professional who is dedicated foremost to his students," says Dr. Paul Joyce, WCASD supervisor of science, health and physical education, family and consumer Science, and technology education.

    "He provides students with an atmosphere of professionalism as they engage in skill development in the areas of literacy, numeracy, and STEM. He is innovative and creative, always moving education forward into the future. WCASD is very fortunate to have such a well established and respected teacher providing leadership for our technology education department."

    Recipients of the award will receive a $500 cash grant, commemorative plaque, and $1,000 grant for their school.

    "After discussing it with my students and Rustin principal, Dr. Marano, we are going to use the grant money to purchase a drum sander," says Mr. Harrison. "This machine will cut down on the time students spend sanding large flat parts, especially ones that can be used in our CNC Router and or Laser Engraver."

    Mr. Harrison, along with the other 17 outstanding educators from across the area, will be honored at FMFCU's annual Partners in Education Celebration at the Drexelbrook Catering & Special Events Center in Drexel Hill on May 2.


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  • 2019 Rustin High School Speaking Contest

    Winners of the 2019 Rustin High School Speaking Contest Capri Mancini (left), Jenna Walls, Aubrey Eason

    Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 Rustin High School Speaking Contest. The contest, which is one of the West Chester Area School District's longest standing traditions, highlights students' public speaking skills. The first contest was held at West Chester High School nearly 100 years ago. Civil Rights activist, Bayard Rustin, for whom Rustin High School is named after, won the competition in 1931.

    To prepare for the contest, each of the eleven competitors worked with a faculty member who coached them on their selections. The students performed before a live audience consisting of students, teachers, parents, and community members on April 26. They were judged on their audience awareness, projection, inflection, diction, pacing, and movement. There is no amplification system used.

    This year's first place winner was senior Capri Mancini who recited an excerpt from David McCullough’s Wellesley High School commencement address. Second place went to sophomore Jenna Walls who talked about the need to set boundaries as described by Sarah Smith. Junior Aubrey Eason won third place with a selection from fellow Rustin student, Kim Le's speech, entitled “Reaching Out to Save Lives: Destigmatizing Mental Health Disorders in America’s Youth Through the Lens of a High School Student.

    Last year's winner, 2018 graduate Caroline Franco returned from her freshman year at Northeastern University to host this year's event.

    Please click here to watch a video recap of the 2019 Rustin High School Speaking Contest.


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  • Rustin Musicians Hone Their Craft with the Help of the US Army Field Band

    Members of Rustin High School's jazz band receive advice from the US Army Field Band  Rustin High School choir students perform with Sergeant Wright from the US Army Field Band

    Rustin High School students recently had a unique opportunity to perform for the US Army Field Band Jazz Ambassadors.  The musical group brought their "Greatest Generation" show to Rustin on March 13 for a special community performance. The next day they returned to the school to work with the students.

    Members of Rustin's jazz band and choir performed some of their musical selections and received valuable feedback from the seasoned performers.

    "What is your concept of section balance? What does that mean to you? How do we balance all of the parts of a section?" asked Staff Sergeant Zachary Steele who plays lead trombone for the Jazz Ambassadors.

    "Everybody should listen to the lead player," one student replied.

    Staff Sergeant Steele went on to explain how the entire section must work together to support the lead player.

    "My argument is, the second player, you are going to feel like you're playing louder than the lead player.  The third player, you can probably play as loud as you want - it's never going to be a problem. It's all going to make the lead player's job easier. It's kind of weird if you think of it that way, but acoustically, it works."

    Master Sergeant Liesl Whitaker plays lead trumpet for the Jazz Ambassadors. She joined the Army Blues in 2000 and is the first woman to win a lead position in a premier U.S. military jazz ensemble. Master Sergeant Whitaker joined the U.S. Army Field Band in 2012 and is one of two women currently serving in the Jazz Ambassadors. She listened intently as the young musicians performed and then talked to them about their placement in the group.

    "The reason I'm asking where the players are is that you want to keep everyone in a line so when you're switching parts, you want to make sure you're keeping that line," said Master Sergeant Whitaker.

    Next to director Mike Shoremount's band room, Ann Ellis's choral students were learning from Sergeant First Class Randy Wright, the vocalist for the Jazz Ambassadors. They were shocked to learn that Sergeant Wright doesn't read music and he learns everything by ear.

    "You don't read music?" one student asked in disbelief.

    "No, but I highly recommend learning," laughed Sergeant Wright. "I'm in the process of refining my skills."

    The students performed Bridge Over Troubled Water and Valentine for Sergeant Wright. He joined in on their performance and offered some advice afterward.

    "How do you teach a kid to be loose with their performance?" Mrs. Ellis asked. "I'm Miss Exact. That's my problem!"

    "Well, I guess there's that fine line between reading the notes on the page and depending on the context, maybe we need to do exactly what's on the page. There's no improvisation if you're performing Rachmaninoff. But, to be looser with stuff, that comes from improvisation," said Sergeant Wright.

    Wright then sat down at the piano and proceeded to riff off of Valentine's chord progression. The students' mouths dropped when he transitioned and played several bars from Your Song by Elton John before transitioning back to Valentine.

    "That's getting loose with it, right? You're just doing your thing," said Sergeant Wright.

    The Jazz Ambassadors is the United States Army’s premier big band. The 19-member ensemble, formed in 1969, has received great acclaim both at home and abroad performing America’s original art form, jazz.


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  • 3rd Annual Spike the Rock Tournament

    The 2019 Rustin High School Spike the Rock Champions

    For the third year in a row, students at Bayard Rustin High School participated in the Spike the Rock Volleyball Tournament to support Bringing Hope Home, a local cancer charity.

    Rob Durbano, Rustin Health & Physical Education teacher was in charge of the event and said the students far exceeded fundraising expectations.

    "Last year, we raised $3,600. This year, through raffles, donations, and crowdfunding, students raised $13,036. We annihilated it this year!"

    Twenty-eight teams battled it out for bragging rights and the opportunity to call themselves Spike the Rock Champions. As in past years, the teams received support from Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders and mascot Swoop. Eagles offensive tackle, Lane Johnson also lent a hand, serving as a line judge.

    "I loved it. This was really something to see. Seeing the energy in the community and the eyes of the students - it was a lot of fun!" said Johnson.

    Not only was the gymnasium at Rustin filled with infectious and philanthropic energy, but the event provided one student with the opportunity to deliver his “promposal.” With the help of the Eagles cheerleaders, Swoop and fellow classmates, Ethan Mullin asked Lily Seagraves if she would go to prom with him.

    “She said ‘Yes’,” Durbano screamed into the microphone. A chorus of cheers from the audience followed the announcement.

    Bringing Hope Home is a non-profit organization that provides financial and emotional support to local families dealing with cancer. The organization provides a one-time grant to pay essential household bills. For more information, visit

    For more information, visit

    Lily and Ethan after the "promposal."  The students battle it out during their game.  Student spikes the ball.

    Click here to view a video recap of the event.


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  • Rustin High School Students Help Cultivate Global Kindness

    Rustin Students display their Memory Project portraits

    Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated that "every artist was first an amateur." While that may be true for students in Ms. Bryan's Studio Art 1 class at Rustin High School, these young artists were recently challenged with a project that successfully pushed the boundaries of their artistic abilities.

    The Memory Project is a charitable nonprofit organization that invites art teachers, art students, and solo artists to help cultivate global kindness by creating portraits for children around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, war, extreme poverty, neglect, and loss of parents. Ms. Bryan first worked with the Memory Project years ago when her students created portraits of children from the Peoples Republic of Congo. When she learned that this year's Memory Project involved children living in the United States she knew she had to be involved again.

    "We do a lot of equity work with students and teachers in our district, and I felt that this was a great way to talk about those subjects in the high school classroom and also allow the students the opportunity to do something small about it," says Ms. Bryan. "I talked to them about how opportunity gaps exist everywhere, including in Chester County and explained what that meant. Every student was excited to be a part of the project."

    Ms. Bryan showed her students videos of children receiving their portraits from previous Memory Projects.  She said they were shocked at the living conditions of the recipients, but at the same time, they were delighted to see the positive reactions on the faces of the children, clearly moved by their portraits.

    The students creating the portraits know very little about the recipients. The Memory Project takes every precaution to protect the identities of the children. Each student in Ms. Bryan's class received a picture of their subject, with their name, age, and favorite color. Armed with limited information, the students, in grades 9-12, got to work.

    "It took them three weeks to complete the portraits," says Ms. Bryan "They had a real sense of commitment to ensure they did their best. They wanted the portraits to look like the child they chose. 

    When the portraits are delivered, each one will include a photograph of the young Rustin artist who created it. Representatives from the Memory Project will be on hand to film the children receiving their portraits. Ms. Bryan says she will share the video with her students when she receives it at the start of the next school year. While the project was a challenge for the Studio Art 1 students, it was a rewarding one.

    "This project was a way for me to show them how one can learn how to communicate through an understanding of the fine arts.  It taught them that art is personal, has meaning and is inherently connected to the greater society."


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  • ELD Students Celebrate Diversity and Tradition

    Rustin High School's About Me and My Homeland Presentations  Rustin High School's About Me and My Homeland presentations  Rustin High School's About Me and My Homeland Presentations


    Diversity and tradition were the focus of presentations delivered by English Language Development (ELD) students at Rustin High School. Fellow students, teachers, administrators, and other Rustin employees were the audience for the digital presentations entitled "About Me and My Homeland." Students practiced their skills in all four language domains (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) and gained experience with various presentation programs. They shared traditional, homemade food with their guests, and answered questions about their homeland and culture. "About Me and My Homeland" is an excellent example of how the staff and students at Rustin High School and the West Chester Area School District value student diversity. 


    Rustin High School's About Me and My Homeland presentations  Rustin High School's About Me and My Homeland Presentations  Rustin High School's About Me and My Homeland presentation


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  • Members of Rustin's Art Honor Society Help Spread Some Holiday Cheer  

    Screenshot of Adam Joseph's tweet


    Members of the Rustin High School Art Honor Society helped spread some holiday cheer at the West Chester QVC Christmas Parade through their annual Art of Giving. For the past three years, students have created an original work of art or prints of their work to donate to spectators at the parade.

    "Each piece is made into a holiday card that can be cut apart and framed," said Rustin art teacher, Lisa Bryan. "Each card is signed by the artist and gift-wrapped. The students met at the parade and handed out bags of cards at random."

    This year Rustin junior, Mara Connell created a special colored pencil and pen illustration for the Master of Ceremonies, 6 ABC's Adam Joseph. Joseph proudly tweeted about his new artwork!


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  • World-Renowned Jazz Artist to Perform at Rustin High School

    Jon Faddis Quartet

    The Jon Faddis Quartet is scheduled to perform at Rustin High School on November 16 at 7:00 pm. Faddis, a world-renowned jazz trumpeter and protégé of the late Dizzy Gillespie, will also spend some time prior to the evening's performance mentoring Rustin jazz band students.

    "I have been a fan of Mr. Faddis for years and have always played recordings of him for my students and talked about his incredible talent. The Rustin Band Boosters and I are thrilled to be able to bring Mr. Faddis not only to perform for the West Chester community but also to work with our students. Mr. Faddis a trumpet player of incredible talent and unbelievable range. He is also a direct link to American and Jazz History." said Mike Shoremount, director of bands at Rustin High School.

    Shoremount added that Faddis has performed for heads of State and US presidents in addition to performing alongside countless numbers of jazz legends.

    The concert is open to the general public. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.


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  • Rustin High School Receives Historical Marker from Westtown Historical Commission

    Dr. Marano and representatives from the Westtown Historical Comission display Rustin's historical marker.

    Erica Reilly (left), Chair of the Westtown Township Historical Society, Rustin principal Dr. Mike Marano, David Walter, Westtown Township Historical Society, Robert Pingar, Westtown Township Manager display the Commission's historical marker at Rustin High School.                                                                                    


    Students at Rustin High School may not know much about the piece of land that their sits upon, but thanks to the Westtown Township Historical Commission, they soon will. Members of the commission recently presented Rustin principal, Dr. Michael Marano, with a historical marker that details this history of the land. The marker will hang in the lobby of the school.

    Rustin High School, located at 1100 Shiloh Road in West Chester, was originally Maple Shade Farm. Marshall Jones, Sr., purchased the farm in 1913. Jones Sr., along with his son and grandson, also named Marshall, operated the farm which provided milk and produce to the region according to the Historical Commission.

    "Whenever there is a large development going on of historic property, which Rustin was, we came up with the idea to put up signs so that people know what used to be there," said Historical Commission member David Walter. "I thought maybe the students here at Rustin should have a sign in the lobby too so that they know what used to be here. This sign is a replica of what is going to be installed along the walking trail in Rustin Walk which was also part of Maple Shade Farm."

    Erica Reilly, the chair of the Westtown Township Historical Commission said the developer of Rustin Walk, NV Homes, pledged $3,000 towards the historical marker that will be located in the housing development.

    The Westtown Township Historical Commission was created in March of 2013 with a mission to foster a community appreciation of the rich and varied history of the Township. The Historical Commission educates residents about lands, buildings, and sites of historic, architectural, archaeological, or cultural significance and the people who worked, farmed, and lived in Westtown Township.


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  • Memorial Bench Installed at Rustin HS in Honor of Bianca Roberson

    Bianca Roberson's graduation picture.

    A grieving mother wants to see that her daughter’s name is not forgotten. Recently Michelle Roberson donated a memorial bench to West Chester’s Bayard Rustin High School in memory of her teenage daughter, Bianca Roberson, who was killed during a road rage shooting last June, just days after she graduated from the school. Click here to read the Daily Local News article.


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  • Rustin Senior Receives Girl Scout Gold Award

    Rustin senior Jocelyn Licwinko receives the Girl Scout Gold Award

    Congratulations to Rustin High School senior, Jocelyn Licwinko, who recently earned the prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award. The award recognizes a commitment to excellence as one develops the skills and values to meet present and future challenges in life.

    To earn the award, a Girl Scout Senior or Girl Scout Ambassador must design and carry out a project that fulfills a need within the community, creates change, and is sustainable. The project must be completed with a suggested minimum of 80 hours of work. Only about 5 percent of eligible girls earn the prestigious Gold Award.

    For her project, Licwinko worked with Rustin Band Director Michael Shoremount to devise a way to keep track of the musical pieces that have been performed over the years by Rustin's various instrumental music groups. The idea was to help Shoremount avoid repeat performances and duplicate purchases of sheet music, as well as improve the musicality of the bands based on previous performances.

    Licwinko assembled a team to assist her, and together they painstakingly sifted through every piece of music purchased since the school opened in 2006 and separated them by instrument. All of the music was categorized, boxed, and labeled. Licwinko documented all of the information on an Excel spreadsheet for easy reference.

    Licwinko will be attending the University of Alabama in the fall as a Fine Arts major. She feels that the planning, communication, and execution of the project will continue to help her grow as a member of her community. She plans on participating in philanthropic programs in Tuscaloosa.

    Girl Scouts of the USA is 1.8 million girls strong. Its focus is to meet the needs of all girls (ages 5-17) from diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Today’s Girl Scouts not only enjoy camping and crafts, but they also explore STEM programs, develop life skills, promote entrepreneurship, while fostering positive self-identity, diversity, good citizenship, leadership, and teamwork. Licwinko is a member of Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania (GSEP). GSEP is the council for nine counties and has a membership of close to 40,000 girls.


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  • Rustin High School Senior to Attend Prestigious Art School

    Grace Mox's painting "School Bus"  Grace Mox's painting Refrigerator Reflection

    Much like her paintings that come to life with each stroke of her paintbrush, Grace Mox sees her future starting to take shape. The Rustin High School senior recently won an Excellence in Art Award at the Chester County High School Art Show and will attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in the fall.

    After Mox received her acceptance to PAFA, she was given the opportunity by school officials in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, to enter a "Challenge Portfolio" for the chance to win one of the school's two coveted Maguire Scholarships. Mox was one of ten students invited to participate in the challenge. PAFA's arrangement with The University of Pennsylvania enables students to take liberal arts classes at Penn, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from two of Philadelphia's most prestigious higher learning institutions.  Founded in 1805, PAFA is the oldest art museum and school in the United States. 

    "In 22 years of teaching, I've only had two students asked to participate in this prestigious competition, both from Rustin," said Lisa Bryan, Mox's art teacher at Rustin.

    Mox recently received the good news that she won the Challenge Portfolio and Maguire Scholarship, which covers tuition in full based on artistic merit.

    The soon-to-be Rustin graduate enrolled at the high school for her senior year after being homeschooled. Her homeschool experience was the source of inspiration for the two pieces she submitted for the Challenge Portfolio.

    Her first piece titled "School Bus" was based on American artist Jane Dickson's "Laundromat."

    "The piece inspired me by how she (Dickson) used bright yellow and green; how the woman is facing away from the viewer; and how Dickson chose to paint a mundane activity in the normal routine of this woman," said Mox. 

    "Since I wanted to paint a self-portrait, I chose to portray a regular activity in my own life that also shared that same vibrant yellow as Dickson’s piece. I also wanted my self-portrait to be different from a straight-on view of my face, so I found the figure’s position very interesting. Taking a bus is a monotonous part of my school day now, but before September, I had never ridden on one or gone to a physical school. It was that simple and overlooked act of stepping up the bus steps on the first day of school this year that brought so many new opportunities and friends my way."

    Mox's second Challenge Portfolio submission "Refrigerator Reflection" paid tribute to her childhood.

    "The canvas is just a couple inches off of the exact real-life proportions of my refrigerator. I didn't add or subtract any magnets or papers for the piece, just rearranged the existing ones a little. Some of these items are older than I am and some are very recent."

    "We all have a collection of magnets that make up our experiences: some we intentionally put on our refrigerators, some are given as gifts to us, some are forced on us, some we made by ourselves, some we made with others. I can't wait to buy my own refrigerator and put my own magnets on it. I might miss the old ones,  I may be happy that they're gone, but either way, I'll have them focalized in this piece so I can remember all of it – the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful."

    The Challenge Portfolio indeed proved to be a challenge for Mox who said it was well worth it.

    "I couldn't think of good ideas for the assignments until five days before it was due," said Mox. "I painted for more than fifty hours to finish the paintings while still having school a couple of those days!"


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  • Rustin ELD Teacher Named a Hero by the National Liberty Museum

    Christina Salazar at Rustin High School

    Mrs. Christina Salazar

    Students who move to the West Chester Area School District from other countries find themselves faced with the challenge of navigating a completely new way of life. Fitting into a new culture and country can be scary, but teachers like Rustin High School's Christina Salazar help to make that transition easier, and she has been recognized for her efforts by the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia. Salazar was named a 2018 "Teacher as Hero" winner and was one of 11 teachers honored at a ceremony at the museum on May 5th. 

    Salazar is an English Language Development teacher who has worked with students from more than 30 countries around the world. She works with students and their families to tackle everything from accessing legal documents to mastering public transportation - and everything in between. Salazar also goes to extreme lengths to help her students find their way through the complicated college application process, guiding them academically along the way.

    According to the National Liberty Museum, Salazar was selected as a 2018 "Teacher as Hero" because of her compassion and commitment to her students and their families.

    Christina Salazar accepts her award from the National Liberty Museum   Christina Salazar displays her award from the National Liberty Museum


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