Student writers taking over Observer's Summer School Zone

For the summer, the Observer newspapers will feature stories written by students that are of interest to their peers.

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The Observer writers are taking a small break this summer to allow local students to contribute content to the Observer School Zone section of the newspaper. We are turning the focus to the students themselves, and they will be writing features on topics and issues that are important to them.

Get to know our 2020 Summer Observer School Zone journalists.



Ruby is a 15-year-old Foundation Academy sophomore who lives in Winter Garden. Her favorite subject at school is history.

“I find it fascinating to be able to learn about our past and how we can learn from it to impact our future,” Ruby said.

She would like to write about history and compare it to events that are happening right now.

“Especially this year,” she said. “How it kind of connects and how certain aspects of what we’re doing now causes it to make history repeat itself.”

Aside from classes, Ruby participates in the Drama Club, has played basketball and is a member of the school’s dance team.

She is drawn to the arts and has been part of many plays and musicals, including “A Christmas Carol,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Little Prince.”

Ruby said her passion is the arts — drawing, painting, making music and dancing. Her favorite book is the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and she said the Beatles are her favorite band. Her choice of restaurants is Chili’s, and her most-loved meal is Haitian rice and chicken. She enjoys going to the movies and hanging out in downtown Winter Garden, and her best vacations are when she and her family go to Walt Disney World each summer.

Ruby took journalism as a freshman and enjoyed the class.

“It was really interesting going around the school and interpreting stories for the school,” she said. “I went to different groups, like clubs … and looked up the events and interviewed the heads of the organizations for those events. If there was a robotics tournament, I interviewed the robotics teacher.”



Gabe is known locally as The Masked Reader, who films his book reviews and posts them on his YouTube channel. He will be a seventh-grader at Horizon West Middle School in the fall. The 11-year-old lives in Windermere.

His favorite subjects in school are math and language arts, but he is a huge football fan and hopes to be able to write about the sport. He dreams of becoming either a football player or astronaut, or both, he said.

Gabe’s hobbies are diverse — he enjoys playing the piano, riding his bike and playing video games.

“I have a huge passion for video games,” he said. “We have football games, obviously. I like to play Fortnite. I want to be a professional at that. I also play some games made by Lego.”

His favorite book genres are adventure, action and comedy, and his favorite movie is “Avengers: Endgame.”

His free time is spent filming his lively book reviews as The Masked Reader and posting them to social media, and hanging out with friends.

“After all this social distancing thing and after the corona goes, my family and I like to go to Disney, Hollywood Studios,” he said.

He’s a big music fan of Christian performers Jordan Feliz and Hillsong. His favorite vacation was a trip to Japan with his family and celebrating his birthday while they were there. If he had his choice of meals, he would choose Brazilian, rice and beans, chicken and barbecue.

Gabe is excited to be part of the Summer School Zone team.

“I think it would be a nice opportunity to be able to write for a newspaper,” he said. “My mom was a journalist, so it would be rewarding for the experience, the uncharted territory (for me).”



Riley Goodman, 15, is a student at Foundation Academy. Her interest in writing comes from her love of language.

“My favorite subject is English, because I like to read and write, and learn about the history of our language and where words come from,” she said.

At Foundation, Riley is active in Student Leadership Institute and National Junior Honors Society. But her passion? Music.

“I love to sing and dance, and like to hear about other people's stories and experiences through their songs,” Riley said.

Riley said her favorite food is pesto pasta, and when she’s not studying for school, she loves to hang out with family and friends, watch movies, listen to music, and swim. And, although some people prefer to spend their vacations in exotic locations or embarking on crazy adventures, Riley’s favorite spot is a little closer to home.

“My favorite vacation has probably been going to Blue Ridge, Georgia,” she said. “It is a beautiful, small town in northern Georgia, and my family and I have rented a cabin up there for the past two years during spring break. It is just nice to be able to get away from everything and just relax in the mountains with my family.”

As for Summer School Zone, Riley said she is excited to use her writing talent to do something positive in the community. 

“I am interested in journalism because I like to write, and I also like to inform people about what is going on,” she said. “I feel that journalism is an important part in our society and helps people stay in touch with what happens in our world.”



Julia, a resident of Windermere, will be a junior at Windermere Preparatory School in the fall. The 16-year-old is drawn toward U.S. history and loves reading about history.

“I really enjoy all sorts of history, but for some reason, U.S. history has always been interesting to me,” she said. “When we study about it in school, we concentrate on one country and can go in-depth. The state of our world now, you can always find a direct event in history.”

“And right now we can’t do any traveling. I love road trips and traveling. … My dream is to travel the world.”

Two of her favorite family vacations were to Montreal, for skiing and touring the city, and to Hawaii. They family has traveled several times to Washington, D.C., as well as to Philadelphia.

Her passion for learning other cultures and languages has led her to study Spanish inside and outside of school for a few years.

Politics and keeping up with world news interests Julia, too. She is involved in Student Government — she served as freshman class president and is rising class president.

Julia competes on the varsity track and girls weightlifting teams, and she founded her school’s book club.

“We’re hoping to turn it into … more of some outreach in our community, maybe some free tutoring,” she said. “I’m also involved in Model U.N. — it’s more of like a team, high- and middle-schoolers. We go to conferences, including one in Mexico, within our family of schools.”

Julia is interested in writing about social justice issues and wants to talk to local youth activists and get their opinion.

“I feel like sharing student voices,” she said. “I think it’s a really good way … to have an opportunity to speak up myself on things … I feel like high-schoolers are overlooked. And I think it’s a really super opportunity and it’s important to high schoolers.

“I’m just excited to learn and gain writing experience and share my voice,” she said.

Julia’s favorite book is “Native Son,” by Richard Wright, and she loves the 2015 movie “the Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Her favorite hangouts are any good restaurant and the library. She said her favorite music artist is the inspiring H.E.R.



Julia, 14, lives in Windermere and is a rising freshman at Windermere Preparatory School. She has a passion for theater, having participated in musicals and acting summer camps since she was 5.

At school, she has participated in basketball, piano and junior thespians.

“I want to be an actor,” she said. “But I also want to be able to write my own things to perform. I think it would be cool to do that. Whenever I can, I like to be creative with writing, and … I’ve wanted to do more personal writing, too.”

She said she is interested in the arts and would like to explore how theater has had to adapt during the coronavirus.

When Julia isn’t working on her academics or the arts, she occasionally helps take care of her twin brother, who has autism. She wants to write about having a family member with special needs during the pandemic.

Julia’s favorite movie is “The Color Purple,” and her top book is “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“I think so much of it is justice and society, and you think about what’s right and what’s wrong and seeing the struggles that African-Americans went through, and I think it’s a great thing to see that you can be empowered and stand up,” she said.

She enjoys walking with her mother and going to the movies.

“I find characters interesting, what struggles they had to overcome,” she said. “I think there’s so much you can learn from movies and plays.”

Queen is her favorite band, her favorite vacations have been to North Carolina and New York City, and her favorite restaurant is the Melting Pot.




Sixteen-year-old Emma will be a junior at The First Academy in the fall. She lives in Orlando.

She considers English and language arts her favorite subjects in school, and she plays volleyball and sings during chapel time at TFA as well.

Emma enjoys photography, travel, visiting Universal Studios and going almost weekly to the beach.

“I like the city, too, but I’m a beach gal,” she said.

She likes going the mall with her friends and go boating paddleboarding or wakeboarding.

Her favorite books are the ones in the Divergent series, and she owns the movies, too. Another favorite movie is “The Notebook.”

She said Khalid and One Direction are her favorite musical artists, and her favorite restaurants are Chipotle and Chick-fil-A.

Emma said she would love to write about fashion, movies and, possibly, an article about her frequent visits to local theme parks.

One of her favorite trips was taking a multi-day mission trip to the Bahamas in December to help the residents paint a children’s home that sustained damages during Hurricane Dorian. The group also drove around Freeport to access the damage.

She said she is looking forward to writing for the newspaper.

“I wanted to participate in this Summer School Zone because I love reporting and my teacher (Casey) Vaughn really inspired me to do this, and I thought it would be exciting,” Emma said.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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