In our latest installment of Feature Friday, we shine the spotlight on Union Catholic sophomores Casey Arias and Alana Beardsley.
Arias, who lives in New Providence, and Beardsley, who lives in Scotch Plains, are co-founders of the American Politics and Social Justice Club. Both are Honor Roll students who recently started a political magazine at the school, The Gavel.
Here is our Q and A with Arias and Beardsley -
How exciting was it to see the recent publication of the first issue of The Gavel? Must have been a great feeling to see all your hard work pay off!
AB: It's extremely exciting to finally have our first issue out to the public! We have been working hard with both the writing and layout teams to create something that is both informative and enjoyable. To have it out is extremely refreshing!
CA: The publication of our first issue was a very meaningful moment. Our club members were able to see the fruits of their hard work and read the magazine we have been working on so diligently. We are excited for our upcoming publications and future club-related endeavors!
You two are the co-founders of UC’s American Politics and Social Justice Club. How did you come up with the idea-what made you decide to start this club?
AB: Casey came to me at the beginning of the year asking what clubs to go to during Club Periods, noticing a lack of something centered on politics, something we are both extremely interested in. Shortly after she began brainstorming ideas for a club of her own, asking if we could work together on something. We then decided that a politics and social justice club centered on a political magazine would be best,
and began the process of creating the club!
CA: The idea had been brewing in my mind for quite some time, but I decided to act on it following the very first club period of sophomore year. I realized that I wanted to help create a space where students could openly discuss American politics and learn about social justice. I reached out to Alana and she agreed to co-found the club with me. As two very politically active individuals, we were excited by the prospect of bringing together political youth and constructing an educational magazine together.
What is the mission of your club and how many members are currently in the club?
AB: Our mission is to create a space during club periods, and produce a magazine that informs on how to practice social justice, promotes healthy discussion on political issues, and educates on current events
pertaining to politics and social justice.
CA: The mission of our club is to create a space for students to express themselves politically in a respectful and intellectual manner. We want to promote inclusivity, understanding, and involvement in the political world. Our club currently has 15 very active members. We are always welcoming new members and we sincerely appreciate the members we currently have.
As for The Gavel, what made you decide to start a Political Magazine, and what are some of the topics you plan to address and cover in the magazine?
AB: We decided that a Political Magazine would be the best outlet for our goals of educating and learning more about politics and social justice initiatives, as the work could be done remotely during the pandemic
due to its educational nature. Our issues are planned based on topicality, for instance our Black History Month issue was created during Black History Month to give club members an opportunity to
learn more about Black History during February. We also ask for feedback from club members on what topics they would like to cover, and create issues that can allow for them to explore topics they are
interested in. Some of these upcoming topics include Women's History and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
CA: The political magazine idea came from a session of brainstorming between Alana and I. We wanted to create something concrete that could serve as our club’s centerpiece. We realized it would be absolutely brilliant to have a direct outlet for students to share their political and social justice-related knowledge with the UC community. We have covered topics such as redlining, reparations, and the school-to-prison pipeline. We plan to address and cover topics of importance that pertain to different disenfranchised communities.
Who else besides the two of you wrote stories for this issue of The Gavel?
AB: Adrian Hou wrote "An Opinion on Reparations" for this issue, providing insight into what reparations are, and his opinion on the subject. Xavier Santangelo contributed "The Use and Banning of the Confederate
Flag," explaining the history of the Confederate flag, and the recent motions to ban its use. We are excited to have expanded our writing team for future publications, and are extremely grateful to have worked with them on the Black History Month issue!
CA: We have wonderful articles written by freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Our sophomore writers are Xavier Santangelo, Adrian Hou, and Caitlin Wong. We also have Bella Capati as our freshman writer and Yvonne Agyapong (Junior) and Brandon Espinal (Senior) as writers as well! Our other members work on the layout of our magazine.
Tell me how important you feel it is for the UC Community to have a magazine like this that looks at Social Justice and Political issues, and what type of impact you hope your magazine has on people?
AB: Being educated on current events, politics, and social justice issues is extremely important to better understand each other and be a positive part in both your local and global community. Having such a
diverse community at Union Catholic, being aware of Social Justice and Political issues through our magazine and otherwise allows for better compassion and cooperation. We hope to educate both our club members
and readers on important current events to help add to the already welcoming nature of the Union Catholic community.
CA: I think it is important for every community to have some sort of insight regarding social justice and political issues from the point of view of America’s younger generations. Our main goal is to inspire people to use their voices and abilities to speak up for what they believe in and become more well-informed about the political and social justice issues of this nation.
What are your thoughts on Union Catholic supporting your club and magazine.? You must be very grateful that they have given you this great opportunity
AB: I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to create a political magazine and facilitate the American Politics and Social Justice club. Having an outlet to discuss political issues required trust to do so effectively, which made our approval from administration extremely exciting and meaningful. We are excited for all that has come out of the club thus far, and for everything we have planned for the future.
CA: Union Catholic’s support has been fantastic. I am extremely grateful for the encouragement the school has shown us and for the opportunity to have our club in general. I appreciate how UC is so willing to allow students to create their own clubs. The school motivates us to pursue our passions.
When is the next issue coming out and what are some of the topics?
AB: Our next issue is completed, and hopefully coming out soon! Our upcoming topics include Women's History Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
CA: We hope to have our next issue out in early May. Some of the topics in our upcoming Women’s History issue include The Violence Against Women Act, the pink tax, and women in STEM. We also have an interview with a diversity specialist! We are also starting to work on our Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month issue!
Besides the American Politics and Social Justice Club, what are some other things you are involved in at UC (clubs etc.)
AB: I am on the varsity debate team, soon to be team leader. I am also a varsity gymnast, and a member of the Students for Human Dignity Club.
CA: Besides having co-founded the American Politics and Social Justice Club I am an executive board member of the Students for Human Dignity club, a member of UC’s book club, and a member of UC’s speech and debate team.
Can you list all the awards/honors you have received at UC? Honor Roll, academic awards etc. or anything else?
AB: I am a first honor roll student with a certificate of accomplishment for my varsity debate wins thus far, and my varsity letter for gymnastics. I am also grateful to be a recipient of the scholarship for the scholarship exam.
CA: I am a first honor roll student, a recipient of the Principal’s scholarship, a recipient of certificates of award in all my classes, a two-time NCFL Nationals qualifier, and a two-time medalist (bronze and gold) in the National French Exam. I have different awards from speech and debate competitions such as first in NCFL tournaments and third in George Mason University’s Patriot Games.
Can you explain how the balance between academics, and extracurricular activities has helped you become a better student, and how important it is to be involved in some many different things?
AB: Becoming involved at Union Catholic has served me in many ways, academically and otherwise. Establishing what I enjoy academically and within my extracurriculars has helped me form what I want to do later
in life, opportunities and experiences I am extremely grateful for. Learning to manage my time between all that I am involved in has allowed me to become more organized. And of course, the community made within classes, clubs, and extracurriculars, has also become an extremely significant part of my time here at Union Catholic.
CA: Finding balance between academics and extracurriculars has helped me become a more dedicated person and student. It has also helped me with time management and it all keeps my mind very busy! I think it’s very important to be involved in a number of activities because it encourages you to explore different possibilities and fields of study. It also allows you to meet new, interesting people.
What do you love the most about being a student at Union Catholic?
AB: I love the opportunity to expand my interests, and learn from both wonderful teachers and classmates I know are preparing me for any future endeavors. The community and compassion present at Union Catholic makes being a student much more than academics, and allows for a well rounded high school experience.
CA: What I love most about being a student at Union Catholic is being a part of the community as a whole. The friends and teachers UC has provided me with are incomparable. UC is full of great characters.
Why and how did you decide that UC was the place for you to be? What was it about UC that made you want to be a student here?
AB: I decided on coming to Union Catholic following my Freshman For A Day visit and witnessing the welcoming atmosphere Union Catholic provides for its students. I knew after that day that going to Union Catholic
would allow me to succeed in academics and extracurriculars, leaving me well prepared for college. Moving from public to private school was much easier due to the uniquely strong community at UC, which makes
being a student here extremely fulfilling.
CA: It’s hard to explain the feeling UC gave me when I toured the school as a Freshman For A Day. It just felt right to me, like I was supposed to be there. I felt at home at UC and I immediately knew that that feeling could not be replicated elsewhere. The connection I felt with the school and the stellar teachers I met instantly made me want to be a student at UC.
What kind of advice would you give to younger students who are considering attending UC? Why should they come to UC and what will UC give them that they won’t be able to find at other schools?
AB: There is a unique community, filled with kindness and compassion that you won't find anywhere else. While maintaining a commitment to academics, fun events and activities allow variety into the school
year. I would advise becoming involved, and trying new clubs to try and find what you enjoy, which has allowed me to make friends and learn more about myself.
CA: To any students considering UC, I advise you to participate in the freshman for a day program and other immersive events our school offers. That way you can see first-hand how our school functions and experience all the wonderful aspects of the UC community. I can honestly say that there is no community like UC’s. We are all strengthened by UC’s core values and given the opportunity to flourish not only as students but also as individuals. There’s no shortage of great opportunities, friendships, and educators at our school. UC’s one of a kind!
I know you’re still only sophomores, but have you thought about your future as far as what you’d like to major in when you get into college, what type of career you’d like to pursue?
AB: I know that I would like to major in history, pursuing a career in either education or history.
CA: For as long as I can remember I have wanted to major in Political Science. Following that, I will attend law school and become a lawyer. After some time practicing law I would like to enter the political scene. I would also like to become a published author.
What is something about yourself that most people don’t know? Maybe a hidden talent or hobby?
AB: I like to needlepoint and cross stitch as a hobby, something my mom taught me when I was little.
CA: Not many people know that I am always listening to music! My favorite artists include Clairo, Mitski, and Lorde. I also enjoy biking.
Favorite thing to do in your spare time?
AB: I read a lot in my free time! I am currently reading When We Were Liars by E. Lockhart and it is very good so far.
CA: My favorite thing to do in my spare time is definitely reading! I am currently reading Emma by Jane Austen and I am annotating a collection of Sylvia Plath poems entitled Ariel. Both have been amazing!
Favorite class and teacher at UC?
AB: Dr. Sagendorf for APUSH
CA: My favorite class at UC is a tie between APUSH with Dr. Sagendorf, and French with Madame Ciringione!
Favorite UC moment?
AB: My time on the Debate team.
CA: My favorite UC moment was my very first forensics meet. Meeting the team and placing in the top 3 felt euphoric.
Favorite UC event?
AB: The Grandparents Breakfast.
CA: My favorite UC events are the pep rallies we have.
Favorite UC Core Value and why?
AB: Community, as the people I've met at Union Catholic have taught me lessons I will take with me forever.
CA: My favorite UC Core Value is respect. We have a duty to treat each other, nature, and ourselves with great respect.
AB: Work every day to be patient and kind.
CA: “Forever is composed of nows.” - Emily Dickinson
One word to describe your UC experience?
Share one tip for members of UC’s Class of 2025:
AB: Get involved as much as you can!
CA: Do what you are passionate about, and go outside your comfort zone whenever you can. You might learn something new about yourself.