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Sport and Physical Education Students Team Up with School Counseling

Recently, SOE’s Sport and Physical Education students collaborated with School Counseling students to help understand their role as mentors in their field. as well as provide suggestions for dealing with difficult situations.  Armed with potential 10 scenarios, EDPE students took turns acting as struggling “students/youths” or “adults,” or as a mentor offering advice and support (coach, trainer, teacher, etc.). School Counseling students observed the interactions and offered probing questions or extra assistance if needed, as well as giving feedback on verbal and nonverbal communication.

Scenarios included:

  • Student “A” has not been playing well in their sport over the last few months, there is added stress from taking advanced placement courses in high school and the pressure from their parents to do well enough in their sport to get a full ride scholarship. The student meets with his/her coach to talk about the stresses that are affecting their performance.
  • You are working with a new client at your gym, they have expressed that they have never really worked out in the past and they are very nervous to get started with a workout plan. They tell you that they would like to lose 20 pounds and the struggle has been that they have used unhealthy food to help them through a divorce over the past year. What are some ways you can create a welcoming environment for the client and assist them with starting their workout plan?
  • You have a boss that is a very poor communicator. He/she never says what they really want from you and does not allow you the time to ask questions. Therefore, you asses each project on your own and do they best you can, but you are constantly being reprimanded for not doing things “the right way.” You set up a meeting wth your boss to try to create a better work environment and lines of communication. What are some things you would say to your boss about the communications challenges?

Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Pierson, MA School Counseling, ’17

What is your name, which degree did you earn, & what year did you graduate?

My name is Melissa Pierson and I received a master’s degree in school counseling in 2017.

What is your current occupation or role?

I am currently a middle school counselor at Kamiakin Middle School in the Lake Washington School District.

Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

While selecting graduate programs, Gonzaga stood out to me because of its sincere to commitment to holistic education. To me, the field of education is more than teaching basic skills like math or English. I believe education is a cornerstone of our democracy and has a responsibility to prepare students academically and socially for the opportunities they pursue in the future. Gonzaga embodies this belief and I knew the program would prepare me to

What, or who, influenced you the most at Gonzaga? 

Without a doubt my advisor, Dr. Addy Wissel, was my biggest influencer, supporter, and challenger the program. She challenged me to think critically about my role as a school counselor and helped me develop the skills to serve my school and community with honesty and integrity. Even after graduating from the program, Dr. Wissel still encourages me to seek opportunities to grow and learn.

What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga?

The greatest lesson I learned and continue to learn from Gonzaga is the importance of taking care of myself in order to care of my school community. The role of a school counselor is rewarding and demanding and in order to serve community with a happy and grateful heart, I need to take care of my body, soul, and mind.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

The most rewarding aspect of this field is being able to work with goofy middle school students all day, every day. They are the most honest group of people I have ever met, almost to a fault, but I get a surge of adrenaline every time I earn a new student’s respect. Just the other day a student told me I should play Fortnite because I’m cool enough. Even though video games are not a part of my self-care routine, I knew this invitation was a stamp of approval from this student.

The most challenging part of my job is the limit of support I can provide students. I spend a lot of my days working with students in crisis and it is challenging for me to accept the reality that the student’s crisis may not subside. As hard as it is to know a student’s trouble may not dissipate, I have the privilege of helping the student feeling safe and connected at school.

What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field?

Critical issues that need continual attention in the field of education are mental health and addressing the ever-persistent achievement gap. There is so much meaningful work taking place in addressing mental health and the achievement gap. In addressing both topics, educators must first look within to understand their own biases and how their experiences shape how they teach and interact within the walls of a school. Personal reflection, understanding and compassion from the community, and commitment from out legislatures will continue to support this important work.

What advice do you have for future education professionals?

The field of education needs passionate, mindful, and caring adults to support the internal growth of students. Some days are blissful and other days may feel like you’re caring the world on your back. Find your accountability buddy to remind yourself why you chose to be an educator. My accountability buddy reminds me that I love the goofiness and earnestness of middle schoolers.


Student Spotlight: Angela Maccarrone, M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

What is your name and which degree are you pursuing?

Angela Maccarrone, Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

What inspired you to pursue this degree and field, and why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

I graduated from Gonzaga with my B.A. in psychology in 2016 and knew I wanted to work in the mental health field. After learning about Gonzaga’s CMHC program, I knew the Jesuit and humanistic values aligned with my values of the type of counselor I wanted to be and that this program would be a perfect fit.

What, or who, has influenced you the most at Gonzaga? Please share as much as you are willing.

My experiences with University Ministry both as an undergraduate and graduate student has influenced me significantly and has molded me into the person I am today. Through University Ministry, I have been inspired to spread God’s love and grace and serve others with my gifts.

If you have worked or are currently working in the field (e.g. student teaching or internship), what is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

I am a counseling intern at Catholic Charities Counseling and love it! I love sitting with my clients in session and hearing their life stories and being present with them.  As an intern, I constantly have a thirst to learn more. I have to remind myself I am still learning and some skills come with experience over time.

What goals do you have as a future education professional?

I plan on getting my PhD and work in the rehabilitation counseling world. Based on my own personal experiences, I want to work with others with chronic illness and disabilities to give them hope and meaning in their lives despite their adversity.


Learn more about our MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program here.

Student Spotlight: Samantha Seward, M.A. Marriage and Family Counseling

What is your name and which degree are you pursuing?

Samantha Seward, M.A. in Marriage and Family Counseling

What inspired you to pursue this degree and field, and why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

I wanted to help couples and families work through issues, with the hope of keeping couples and families united. I received my Bachelor’s degree at Gonzaga University, and I was not ready to leave Gonzaga’s community.

What, or who, has influenced you the most at Gonzaga?

I love the Gonzaga community. I have made incredible friends at Gonzaga and I am grateful for the many memories I have from my time at GU. Throughout my time at Gonzaga, I have had experiences that have helped me be a better counselor and better connect with my clients. I have had the opportunity to learn from many incredible professors in my undergraduate career as well as in my Master’s program. Each one of these professors has been instrumental in shaping me as a person and a counselor.

If you have worked or are currently working in the field (e.g. student teaching or internship), what is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

The most rewarding part about my counseling internship is seeing the look of excitement on my clients’ faces when they walk into my office. I have been able to walk alongside my clients and help them in their journey, and my work is such a privilege. The most challenging part about my internship is reminding myself that I am an influential person for my clients, but that I am not the only person advocating for them. I want to help my clients, but I am aware that there are limits to my role as their counselor.

What goals do you have as a future education professional?

I hope to continue working in the field of counseling as a mental health counselor working with children, families, and couples. I also hope to one day work as a supervisor or teacher to fulfill my dream of educating future counselors.


Learn more about our M.A. in Marriage and Family counseling here.

Alumni Spotlight: Justine Litzko, M.A. School Counseling, ’15

What is your name, which degree did you earn, & what year did you graduate?

My name is Justine Litzko. I graduated from Gonzaga University in 2015 with my Master’s Degree in School Counseling.

What is your current occupation or role?

I am the school counselor at Twin Lakes Elementary in Rathdrum, Idaho. This is my third year at Twin Lakes, and I continually feel blessed to be working at this school and in this community.

Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

I live in and grew up in North Idaho. When I was looking at graduate schools for school counseling degrees, I wanted to stay in the area.  However, I knew nothing about the local school counseling programs.  At the time, I was working for a local school district.  I started asking around and talking to school counselors and teachers.  When asking about the best program for school counseling degrees, Gonzaga kept coming up- even by professionals who hadn’t attended Gonzaga.  It had, and still has, an amazing academic and extracurricular reputation.  After talking with various professionals, and researching what Gonzaga had to offer, I was extremely excited about the prospect of attending Gonzaga University.

What, or who, influenced you the most at Gonzaga? Please share as much as you are willing.

The school counseling program at Gonzaga utilizes a cohort model. That model was very influential during my time at GU.  The other students in my cohort became my friends and they were individuals I could turn to, bounce ideas off of, and collaborate with during my program.  Even now that we’ve graduated, there have been times we’ve turned to each other for advice.

Another extremely influential person during my time at Gonzaga was the Director of School Counseling, Addy Wissel. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be my instructor and mentor.  She was a support person through the entire program, helping me to learn and grow.

What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga?

My greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga was that learning does not stop at the completion of the program; rather professional growth, development, and learning continues long after the completion of the program. Because of this mindset, I continually strive to keep up to date on research, techniques, and trends in order to better myself- as an individual and as a counselor.  In addition to this, I’m involved with providing ongoing professional development to staff, so that they can grow professionally, as well.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

The most rewarding part of my job is getting to build relationships with all the students in the school, as well as their families. I believe this relationship, that I work very hard to build, is the most fundamental and foundational part of any counseling that I do.  I feel lucky to be a part of the students’ lives each day- being present for the good times, as well as the hard times, and seeing their growth.

A challenging part of my job is the emotional weight that comes with it and the emotional weight that I take upon myself. I always feel there is more to be done, more helping to do, but there’s not enough time in the day or resources available.  It’s difficult seeing students go through incredibly hard life occurrences.  It’s also very difficult when situations can’t be fixed or changed, like with death and loss.  However, I try to go into every day fresh, with a smile on my face, ready to do my best for the students- to be a listener, a helper, an advocate, and the best counselor I can be.

What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field?

There needs to be more resources for, and more emphasis on, social-emotional learning and related mental health services. Education no longer includes just math, reading, etc.; education also needs to include social-emotional learning.  I am the only counselor at my school building, which serves approximately 340 students grades pre-k through 6th.  I am accessible to all students in my school, and that’s a lot of students for one person to serve.  The American School Counselor Association actually recommends the ratio be 250 students to 1 counselor.  If we were able to get more resources and were to integrate more social-emotional learning into the learning environment, we would see positive, long-lasting effects.

What advice do you have for future education professionals?

The education field, and specifically the field of school counseling that I am a part of, can be emotionally taxing and draining. All day long, educators are on their toes, giving what they can to the students.  I would highly recommend setting aside time for self-care.  When putting so much time into others, your own person can go by the wayside. Put aside time for whatever resets and re-energizes you- exercise, reading, you name it.  That “you time”, I believe, is so important.


Celebration of Catholic Schools Recap

On March 19, students, faculty, and administrators from all 16 schools in the Spokane Catholic Diocese gathered on campus for the 14thAnnual Celebration of Catholic Schools. This annual event brings Catholic schools together with Bishop Daly and other Diocesan staff, Gonzaga employees, and friends of Catholic education to celebration a mutual commitment to Catholic education in our area. The event featured an interactive education fair during which students from Diocesan schools demonstrate their most recent projects, activities and initiatives. The group shared lunch together and St. Mary School concluded the Celebration with a choral prayer service.

SOE Associate Professor, Suzann Girtz, Recognized by American Educational Studies Association

Dr. Suzann Girtz, School of Education Associate Professor,  has recently been recognized by the American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Book Awards. Girtz, alongside her coauthor Dr. Keith Lambert, contributed a chapter to the 2017 winning recipient, titled Teacher Performance Assessment and Accountability Reforms: Impacts of edTPA on Teaching and Schools by Julie H. Carter (editor) and Hilary A. Lochte (editor).

The book earned publishing in 2017 and targets an audience including individuals of higher education, policymakers, regulatory bodies, and pre-service and in-service educators. It sheds light on the effect of edTPA (educational teacher performance), a rigorous exam created by Stanford’s SCALE, conducted by Pearson, overseen by the Professional Educator Standards Board, and required by Washington State Law. Essentially, prospective educators can maintain excellent standing during the entirety of a teacher preparation program, but will fail to obtain his or her teaching certificate unless the cut score for this exam is achieved.

In its analysis, the book presents diverse perspectives on the impact of edTPA and the conflict that exists for teacher educators struggling to understand edTPA while also preparing their candidates for the exam. Beyond that, the book dives into a historical overview of the neo-liberal interest and influence that has dominated the realm of public education.

Girtz has expectations for those involved in her profession to be advocates, and to communicate with state and federal bodies to help ensure that whatever regulatory decisions are made, that they are done so with proper understanding. It was toward this effort that she wrote her chapter. Her colleague from Whitworth University along with Girtz herself arranged and hosted a panel to inform legislative representatives about the effects of edTPA. They were invited to listen in on their constituents’ experiences and collaborate on ideas for future opportunities and possibilities. The two then wrote a chapter about that experience and how it worked to influence a future of justice.

Girtz discusses that in most cases, people exit the teacher prep program for a variety of reasons. However, this new need for an additional assessment now forces candidates to have their worked judged from afar, and for a cost-often impacting his or her presence in a teacher prep program.

“Candidates are expected to show that they are ready to enter the profession by doing this assessment, usually at the beginning – not end – of student teaching,” Girtz said. “For us in this book chapter – it is the assessment policy that we had the greatest issue with: the timing, the administration, the lack of acknowledging all of the other professionals’ judgements on the candidates’ performance, and more.”

For even longer than Girtz has been in the teaching field, an assessment has existed. But the edTPA was an attempt to increase validity and reliability of the results. She loosely compares it to a “bar exam for teachers.” The book tries to point out that it “disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable, while often selecting for characteristics that may or may not be most needed in our schools,” Girtz said. And regarding the teacher shortage, she argues that these new regulatory additions play a particular role.

“We have failed to lift up teaching as a desirable occupation in this culture, and every regulatory addition makes it seem less tenable, more costly and difficult, and simply less appealing as a career,” Girtz said. “If those additions were substantively shifting the classroom culture for the better, I would be the first to advocate for them. But this book paints a different picture.”

Girtz believes in vocal advocacy for any sort of significant changes to occur. Nonetheless, this book is used in various teacher preparation programs, outside of Gonzaga. She does believe that it provides a strong context for future work.

“Teaching is a joyful, challenging, fulfilling career that provides classroom opportunities as well as a host of others for a person looking for a career,” Girtz said. “Never has it occupied such an important role in our society. The perils of discouraging people from the field are numerous, and the way in which we do so is informed by a societal perception of teachers that will only change when people become more informed and vocal about the unintended impacts of well-meaning policies.”

Alumni Spotlight: Alexis Spies, School Counseling, ’15

What is your name, which degree did you earn, & what year did you graduate?

Hello! My name is Alexis and I graduated in 2015 with Master of Arts degree in School Counseling.

What is your current occupation or role?

I currently work as a High School Counselor at Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, WA (about a half hour North of Seattle).

Why did you choose a program in the School of Education at Gonzaga?

When I was entering into my senior year of under-grad at WSU (Go Cougs!), I began to research the School of Education, and specifically Counselor Education, it immediately felt like where I was supposed to be. The emphasis on developing the whole individual spoke to my soul as I am, by nature, a very self-reflective and personal development geared learner.

What, or who, influenced you the most at Gonzaga? Please share as much as you are willing.

I am having a hard time being concise, but in the spirit of Type A personalities I will break it into a list and try to be brief.

  1. ADDY WISSEL! Okay, I have to be honest, I’m a total Addy fan-girl. The respect, appreciation, and gratitude I feel towards her exists on so many levels. She is a talented professor, dynamic advocate for change/growth, courageously humble, approachable, honest, silly, and just an all-around bad ass. I absolutely love her.
  2. My other professors- I remember feeling a heart-wrenching sadness the day I graduated knowing that I wouldn’t get to see them on a regular basis. Michelle, Paul, Mark, Lisa, Tom, Patty, Kirsten, Crump, Mona (I hope I haven’t missed any)- it is an honor to know you and to have learned from you.
  3. My cohort- My fellow peers became my family and helped shape me into the person and professional I am today.

What was your greatest lesson learned at Gonzaga?

Self-care is not a luxury- it is a necessity.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working in your field? Most challenging?

Most rewarding? Being not-needed. In other words, watching students grow and change to a point where they are able to accomplish things on their own that they either hadn’t done before or hadn’t known they could do.

Most challenging? As a Type A personality myself I am constantly working on taking on the unexpected (which there is a lot of) with a calm and grounded mindset. Because ultimately, it’s going to be okay.

What critical issues do you see that need to be addressed in your field?

– Resiliency: Helping students practice finding things to look forward to and be hopeful for on a regular basis. Hope is so powerful and can be a game-changer in getting us through the hard days… hard days, weeks, seasons, etc.

– Embracing “failure”: What I want more than anything is for students is to recognize that taking risks are what make a full and colorful life. There seems to be such a debilitating fear of failure in this day and age and I would love for my students to see that boldness and effort can lead to failure but the important factor is that they are trying.

– Joy: Can we please also start teaching joy as a necessity in life and not a luxury?  Joy is often seen as a point that will come “Once we’ve achieved this…” or “Once we’re at this point…” Joy and gratitude are the greatest feelings and we tend to pass up opportunities for both because they are not typically priorities or seen as being possible “right now”.

What advice do you have for future education professionals?

Give yourself grace and try not to take things too seriously. I mean the messy stuff. Laugh at yourself, be genuine, be transparent, and know that everyone is just trying to do the best they can.

The Importance of Networking – Part III

This is the final part of a three-part series. To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here.

Gonzaga students in the “Sports and Fitness in the Digital Age” class concluded their fall 2017 semester with a video project in collaboration with the Kansas City Royals. The project required students to choose from a variety of American cultural norms and create a video guide for Royals baseball players recruited from the Dominican Republic. The objective is to help players undergo a smooth transition to the United States.

Students worked in small groups, choosing one topic per group. Senior Caitlyn Glenn, along with her groupmates Sydney Scott and Ben Willis, chose to cover the topic of navigating Ubers and taxis.

“We chose to do this topic because most of the players that are placed at the different affiliates of the Royals, generally very few of them have cars,” Glenn said. “We felt it would be good for them to understand a couple different ways that they could get around if they needed to.”

To create their video, Glenn’s group combined information and graphics from a previous project in the class. Earlier in the semester, students did a project called the “How-To project,” in which they created interactive PowerPoints for the Royals players to access and read up on various topics.

“We decided that we wanted to use these PowerPoints in the video, so we voiced over them,” Glenn said. “Once we did this, we realized we needed an intro and a bit of a storyline to follow along with so we wrote the scripts for the video clips that will be paired up with each of the ‘How-To PowerPoints.’ After, we video-taped all of the different clips we would be using, we put them all together and decided the best transitions to use.”

During the actual video-making process, Glenn’s group had difficulty operating the editing software. Since her group combined the “How-To PowerPoints” with different video and audio elements, it was a tedious process to align each component.

“The most challenging part of the whole process was learning how to use the different applications and get them to all work together,” she said. “We had several issues with this so it ended up being even more difficult than we thought it would be in the first place. This meant that it was the most rewarding part when we were finished and saw it all working together, specifically the audio and visual components working together at the correct times.”

Justin Marquis, Gonzaga’s Director of Instructional Design, teaches the class and introduced the project this year. To edit the videos, he has students use Adobe Premiere, a professional video editing software. This allows students hands-on experience with a program that would be used if they were to work at a broadcast news channel.

He intends for the “Sports and Fitness in the Digital Age” course to challenge students’ social media capabilities, and help them develop skills that are constantly building on of one another. For instance, a student’s graphic design skills will translate into video skills. Then into audio, interviewing, and editing skills, all leading into the final video project. He believes that social media skills are a defining quality in a candidate entering the work force.

According to Marquis, there are many more topics to be covered and the Royals are committed to having Gonzaga students generate videos for the players until they have exhausted them all. Marquis started the project with his spring 2018 class as well.

“For me one of the biggest takeaways of this particular class is a real concrete skill and ability in understanding and using social media. The course itself is skill-based, so I want them to know how to do graphic design, how to conduct and edit an audio interview or a podcast, how to plan a video and how to edit it,” Marquis said. “And this really applies to the video project.”

That is why the Royals collaboration is so beneficial to the class. From student Caitlyn Glenn’s perspective, learning how to efficiently operate different editing tools, as well as doing a project in conjunction with such a renowned organization showed her the value in both the project and the class itself.

“We were continually learning about tools that would help us in this [final] project, and then we were able to put it all together,” Glenn said.  “My biggest takeaway for both the Royals video project and the class as a whole was learning how to use all of these different programs and seeing the different ways that I will be able to use all of these differently in my future career.”


The Importance of Networking – Part II

This is the second part of a three-part series. To read part I, click here. To read part III, click here.

Gonzaga University’s “Sports and Fitness in the Digital Age” class has teamed up with Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals for an exclusive project to help Royals’ baseball players make a transition from the Dominican Republic to their United States affiliates.

The “Sports and Fitness in the Digital Age” class is taught by Gonzaga’s Director of Instructional Design, Justin Marquis. He was connected to the project through Dr. Jimmy Smith. Marquis teaches these students to use different skills that over time build on one another. For example, graphic design skills will help students use social media effectively, and then improve audio skills, interviewing, etc… Developing these skills paves the way for a final video project at the end of the semester. Typically, students choose something they enjoy and use that to create a video that promotes fitness and healthy lifestyle.

However, the final video project was adjusted thanks to this new collaborative opportunity with the Royals. This year, students will create videos for the Latin American baseball players filtering through the Dominican Baseball Academy and coming to the United States. The hope and aim of these videos is to help players better understand basic elements of American lifestyle.

“It’s a great opportunity for students because it gets them a real professional portfolio piece, and one of my objectives for the class is that they will walk out with a portfolio of real projects,” said Marquis.

Though students are responsible for the content and direction of the videos, Jeff Diskin, Director of Cultural Awareness for the Royals, gave a list of potential topics to guide them.

“There is a huge list of topics – like how to respond if the police pull you over, how to go grocery shopping, how to date – and the students have picked topics that are of interest to them,” Marquis said. “We allow some freedom to choose what they want, but now that they have a real client, it’s a lot of fun.”

From this list, students narrowed it down to eight topics to create videos: Safe and Unsafe Driving; Professionalism: How to be professional; How to Cook 5 Basic Meals; Popular Tourist Attractions; Overview of Affiliates; Drug Restrictions; Social Media; and Nutrition. The class divided into groups of about three students each and chose one topic per group.

In class, the students will learn how to interview. From there they learn how to storyboard, then to write a script and beyond. Their job outside of class is to conduct necessary interviews and carry out the filming production. After gaining the raw footage, the final production work is done in class.

“We reconvene once they have the recording to do the editing because that part will be hard,” Marquis said. “We’ll sit down and do the basic layout and do cuts and figure out how to add music, and add all the pieces that are challenging.”

This class aligns so well with this type of project because it is centered on a solid comprehension of social media skills. The focus is to prepare students to enter a line of work and be capable and confident in their social media abilities.

“I had a student last semester who sent me an email saying that he was interviewing for an internship and it was going badly, he was not getting this internship,” Marquis said. “But then the conversation turned to social media and he started talking about the projects we did in class and how we engaged in social media. He got the internship and it was awesome.”

“I believe that students coming out of Gonzaga are going to be more management-type students, particularly in this program,” Marquis said. “I want to give them a real understanding of what the tools look like. If somebody asks them, ‘What’s the resolution for the graphic?’, they should understand what that is and why it’s important.”

The Royals project combines the understanding and skills-based aspects of the “Sports and Fitness in the Digital Age” class. The students use Adobe Premiere, a professional video editing software, to create the videos. This means they get an experience using a professional tool while also acquiring the planning and project management skills required to complete these types of projects in the real world.

Besides management skills, the project promotes the development of leadership skills as well. The students participate firsthand in efforts to ensure that these baseball players do not face significant problems when they arrive to the United States.

“We are helping other people engage and acclimate to American culture,” Marquis said. “This is really a way of helping guide them.”

This project is also an exclusive one: Gonzaga is the only university involved. There are plenty more topics that need to be addressed, and the Royals are committed to having GU fulfill them over the upcoming years.

And Marquis believes that these videos have the potential to help other teams besides the Royals. It is not proprietary information, so he hopes these student-made videos will reach a wider audience.

“It never hurts to have your school associated with professional sports,” Marquis said. “In a sports administration and management program, to say, ‘Oh yeah, our students work with the Royals every year’, is pretty cool.



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