West Orange-area student writers present Summer School Zone

Nine local students ranging in age from 10 to 17 will be writing stories that are of interest to their peers and the community.

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  • | 1:30 p.m. June 16, 2021
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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You may notice the content in our Observer School Zone section of the paper looks a little different over the next few months.

That’s because the Observer writers are taking a summer break of their own to allow local students to contribute their own content. 

This year, we have nine students from three West Orange-area schools — Horizon West Middle School, The First Academy and Windermere Preparatory School — ready to grab their pens and write about topics and issues important to them. Meet our 2021 Summer Observer School Zone journalists.


Gabe Gomes, Horizon West Middle

Gabe Gomes
Gabe Gomes

You may recognize Horizon West Middle School eighth-grader Gabe Gomes from our Summer School Zone team last year. The 12-year-old is better known as The Masked Reader, his YouTube alter ego that reviews books.

Although Gabe loves reading and writing, his favorite subject is math.

“Although I really like the other subjects, I love doing calculations, working on tough problems and feeling exhilaration when I finally solve one,” he said.

Gabe is passionate about books and has a voracious love of reading, but he also enjoys playing video games and participating in sports like basketball and football.

If he could visit anywhere in the world, Gabe would choose France because he wants to experience the food, see the culture and visit iconic tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower. He is looking forward to writing for Summer School Zone and sharing his thoughts on books he has read.

“I am excited to join because I believe that kids and adolescents have a lot of potential, and we can do and write great things when given a chance to demonstrate that to the public,” Gabe said. “The Summer School Zone would also give me a challenge, and I like that.”

Hailey Holbdy, Windermere Prep

Hailey Holbdy
Hailey Holbdy

Hailey Holbdy is a 16-year-old rising junior at Windermere Prep. Her favorite subject in school is math “because I always start to think I am really smart when I know how to do it.”

Hailey loves playing sports or spending time with friends and family. If she could go anywhere in the world, she would like to visit Africa, because she’s always wanted to go on an African safari.

This summer, Hailey hopes to write about sports and breaking news. She also loves writing and reading reviews on entertainment and current trends.

“I love talking and writing about all sorts of things, but I am mainly excited to be on this team because I just moved to Florida, and I thought this would be a good introduction into my new life here,” she said.

Hannah Nixon, The First Academy

Hannah Nixon
Hannah Nixon

Hannah Nixon, 17, will be a senior at The First Academy this upcoming school year. She is excited to be exercising her writing skills this summer but says her favorite subject is science.

Hannah is also an athlete who plays lacrosse and volleyball, although she also enjoys reading and going to the beach with her friends in her spare time.

If she could visit any place in the world, Hannah said she would choose Italy, because of its beautiful beaches and a desire to experience the culture there.

This summer, Hannah hopes to write about topics such as service-hours opportunities for teenagers to meet college and scholarship requirements.

“I am excited to be a part of the Summer (School) Zone team, because I want to learn more about the community around me as a writer and experience writing for a publication,” Hannah said.

Emma Pastis, The First Academy

Emma Pastis
Emma Pastis

Emma Pastis is a 17-year-old rising senior at The First Academy. This is Emma’s second year participating in Summer School Zone. Her love of writing stems from her favorite subject in school — English.

“I love writing, and being in yearbook class has really helped me explore and discover this interest,” Emma said. 

In her spare time, Emma enjoys playing volleyball, going to the beach, hanging out with friends and working at Jeremiah’s Italian Ice. If she could go anywhere in the world right now, she would pick a tropical place such as Hawaii.

“I hope to visit there in the next few years,” Emma said. “I have never been, and it seems to be such a cool, beautiful place.”

Emma hopes to write about a variety of topics this summer ranging from high school and college sports to service projects, TV shows, movies and the community.

“I am excited to be part of the Summer School Zone team because it is such a great way to connect with the community,” Emma said. “I’m also excited and thankful to have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a real journalist and get to write during the summer.”

Sofia MacMaster, Windermere Prep

Sofia MacMaster
Sofia MacMaster

At just 10 years old, Sofia MacMaster is one of our youngest Summer School Zone writers. Sofia will be starting sixth grade at Windermere Preparatory School this fall, and her favorite subject is science.

“I also love how science lets me question everything and try things that I’ve never done before,” Sofia said.

She loves to travel and hopes to visit Singapore one day, because it’s one of the only places in the world where street vendors have Michelin stars. Her passion for food and cooking means she enjoys trying new foods at restaurants, and she looks forward to writing about those experiences. She also loves nature and wildlife.

Sofia likes to stay busy and is involved in extracurriculars ranging from tennis, swimming and chess to fencing, piano, cooking and crocheting/sewing. 

“I am so excited to be a part of the Summer School Zone team, because I get a chance to share my opinions and ideas with people in my community,” Sofia said. “I could also write about how the pandemic has affected so many kids like me over the past year, and how we are moving forward from my perspective.”

Isabella Bakker, Windermere Prep

Isabella Bakker
Isabella Bakker

At 10 years old, Isabella Bakker will be in fifth grade at Windermere Prep this fall. Her favorite school subject is drama/theater, because it’s fun for her to pretend that she’s in a different life or a different person. 

She loves singing and acting in her spare time. In fact, she has held multiple lead and supporting roles in musicals, including Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty” and Elsa in “Frozen.” She has won the school’s W Factor competition two years in a row. The young artist hopes to visit the place where stars are born someday.

“If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to Hollywood because there is more opportunities to become a singer or actress,” Isabella said.

Isabella enjoys writing about a person’s biography or about their life, and it’s something she hopes to be able to do this summer.

“I’m excited to be on the Summer School Zone team, because I love writing, and I think there will be many new and cool stories to write about,” Isabella said.

Khloe Ehrhard, Windermere Prep

Khloe Ehrhard
Khloe Ehrhard

Another young writer, 10-year-old Khloe Ehrhard will be entering fifth grade at Windermere Prep this fall. Her favorite subject is writing because she likes to create her own worlds that most people don’t get to live in.

“I like making my own stories up and writing biographies,” Khloe said.

Khloe is a dancer and enjoys it because she gets to show her emotion and work hard. In her free time, she likes to hang out with her friends.

If Khloe could go anywhere in the world , she would choose to visit Paris, because she wants to learn about the people who live here. Khloe also wants to see the Eiffel Tower “as it glistens in the moonlight.”

“I am super excited to be in the Summer School Zone team, because I love to write, and it is a great opportunity to write for a paper that other people will read besides my classmates and show off my skills,” Khloe said.

Asha Sharma, Windermere Prep

Asha Sharma
Asha Sharma

Asha Sharma will be going into sixth grade at Windermere Prep this fall, and her favorite subject is art.

“In art class, you get to create whatever you want and you have so much freedom — nothing feels wrong,” she said.

In her free time, Asha enjoys playing tennis and piano, swimming, crafting, painting, and playing with her cat and dog.

Asha would love to visit Tokyo, Japan. 

“I would like to go to Tokyo to try all the cool foods, learn about ancient cultures, go to the Tokyo DisneySea and ride the Shinkansen bullet trains,” Asha said. “The Shinkansen bullet trains are super fast trains that run all over Japan.”

Asha also loves trying new foods and hopes to be able to write about food this summer.

“I am excited to be part of the Summer School Zone team, because I always had a passion for writing, and I can’t wait to see my article in the newspaper,” she said.

Lily Redman, Windermere Prep

Lily Redman
Lily Redman

At 15 years old, Lily Redman is heading into her sophomore year at Windermere Prep. Her favorite school subject is English because it broadens her understanding of the writing process itself and the deeper, thought-out concepts behind any text. 

“Creative writing is my favorite area of writing because it solely relies on my imagination and the way I see things,” Lily said. “Entire worlds can come from nothing and turn into something real. It’s magic in a completely real form.”

In her free time, Lily likes to write, bake and spend time with family and friends at Disney. She’s also a very creative person who is passionate about the arts — specifically photography and performing on stage. She loves reading because it’s calming and allows her to transport herself somewhere she couldn’t just get in a car and go to.

“My favorite book (right now) is ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’ by V.E. Schwab,” Lily said. 

Lily would love to be somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She visited the mountains a couple of summers ago and said it was one of the most beautiful places she has ever been. In the meantime, she is looking forward to writing for Summer School Zone.

“I am excited to be a part of the Summer School Zone team because I get a chance to branch out and experience a different writing style that I don’t frequently use,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for me to grow in ways that I may not expect.” 


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