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Fa-la-la-la-la, Friday 🎄

December 24 — Good morning and Merry Christmas! It’s Khushi, Amy’s intern, holding down the Draft while the team gets some rest. Only ONE day 'til Christmas! And, Kwanzaa starts Sunday.

I'm the editor of The Westminster Bi-Line, and you may know me from this profile in Rough Draft, or the story that I wrote in October about a
box turtle research project at Lovett.

⛅ It'll be partly cloudy today, with a high of 62°. Dashed hopes for a white Christmas as tomorrow will be more of the same.

📪 Since Christmas falls on a Saturday, today is the official federal holiday. If you're running errands, remember that most banks and the post office are closed. Need a last minute gift? Here's our list from Monday or  Lucian has cool books and is open 'til 4 p.m. 


🔮 Amy asked notable locals for their crystal ball projections for 2022. The mayors of Brookhaven, Dunwoody, and Sandy Springs share their thoughts here. Look for more business and civic leaders in the coming days. 

🎵 The 95th-annual Spelman-Morehouse Christmas carol concert premiered last Wednesday and is available online if you’re in the mood for some Christmas music to lighten up your holidays, which, as we chronicle below, are feeling a bit heavier than expected.    

On the heels of Rivian's move to build a manufacturing plant in Georgia, the Department of Education just added a new Electric Vehicle Career Pathway to expand workforce preparation for my generation. 

🚶Thanks to an $80 million gift from the Woodruff Foundation, the BeltLine has secured the $300 million in funds it needs to complete the trail by 2030. 

🕖 Today's Rough Draft is  stories ➼

• Another COVID Christmas
• Teen tunes
• Friday sports
• What's doin' in Roswell

• A local nonprofit addresses the mental health of students

Enjoy your
Christmas, stay safe, and see you Monday!
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1. COVID causes Christmas crisis

😷 Cases of the Omicron variant continue to rise. Yesterday, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported almost 9,000 cases in the state. Glimmers of hope arrived wrapped as FDA-approved, Emory-developed, Merck drug molnupiravir, and Pfizer's Paxlovid pill. Both received emergency use authorization.

Most confirmed cases are in the 18-29 age group, and the highest concentration of cases within the past two weeks have been in metro Atlanta and Chattahoochee County, outside of Columbus.

✈️ Even Delta is feeling the pain from Omicron. Atlanta's hometown airline has canceled about 90 flights for today. United and Jet Blue are also impacted. Check your Delta flight status here.

🎅 Many of us were looking forward to a "normal" Christmas this year, but that seems less and less likely. Collin previewed restaurants that had planned to be open for Christmas Day, but many continue to announce closings due to staffing shortages and COVID outbreak fears, so make sure to double-check what’s open along with their safety protocols.
⛪ Many churches, including Ebenezer Baptist Church, have canceled in person services and will go remote for Christmas.

🗒️ In a reprise of their actions almost two years ago, several colleges just announced that their fall semesters would finish remotely, and others are considering delayed starts for the spring semester.

⚕️As you probably know if you've been trying to get tested, the surge of Omicron has triggered a shortage of home-test kits and long lines at testing sites. This article details where available testing can be found.     

➡ ➡ If you’re looking to get vaccinated or are eligible for a booster, find the nearest place to you at this link.
2. Teen tunes: Taylor Swift to Twenty One Pilots

🎸 On to happier topics: the soundtrack. Westminster senior Sophia Rackliffe, opinion editor and frequent music columnist for my paper, shared her top five albums of 2021. 

“My favorite time of the year is the day that Spotify Wrapped is released. To see how many minutes I listened to (97,362 to be exact) and the songs and artists I spent the most time with is fascinating. With this many minutes of listening, I am confident in my ability to rank the Top 5 albums of 2021.”

“Scaled and Icy” by Twenty One Pilots: I am a proud member of the top 0.005% of Twenty One Pilots listeners for good reason. Short for “scaled back and isolated," this quarantine-created album pushed the duo away from alternative music and into pop.  Although it’s not as sonically consistent as their others, the album still delivers some happier tracks like “Mulberry Street” and “Formidable,” along with some heavier ones such as “No Chances” and “Redecorate,” my personal favorite. (Photo via the band's Instagram.)

Red (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift: Since these were the hits that played on the radio on my way to elementary school, I grew up listening to the original version of Red, so it was a little weird to think that there was a new version for my senior-year self. The tracks “from the vault” are definitely the highlight, but “All Too Well (Ten Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” is a personal favorite. 

SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo: Much like every other teenage girl, this album was on repeat all summer after its May release. Having watched both of Olivia’s shows (Bizaardvark and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series), I had been anticipating SOUR’s release for a very long time, and from the catchiness of “good 4 u” to the angst behind “brutal,” this album did not disappoint.

Happier Than Ever by Billie Eilish: As the singles from the album (“Your Power,” “Therefore I Am,” and “Lost Cause”) were released, I was unsure whether Billie would be able to top her debut album, or even come close. While I do think that the debut album is still better, Happier Than Ever is cohesively an amazing album from the angelic aura of “GOLDWING” to the full-genre 180 in the title track, this album is worth a listen. 

Life Support by Madison Beer: This debut album from up-and-coming star Madison Beer has been long-awaited. With most of the tracks having under ten million streams, give it a listen before she blows up, because it is destined to happen. She has all of the elements to be a great pop star: the vocals, the stage presence, and the songs.

💥 Here's a playlist with selections from Sophia's picks.
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3. The Sports Section

On Friday we dig into sports, because it’s typically a nice break from the craziness that is daily life. Alas, there is no shelter from the storm this week, as what once looked like a glorious holiday sports schedule is now in complete disarray thanks to Omicron. 

🏒 The National Hockey League has put its season on ice and suspended all games until after Christmas. The league and the players association also announced that no NHL players would participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics in China. 

🏀The NBA, meanwhile, continues to try and play, though some teams, including the Hawks, are having to rely on minor league players.The patchwork Atlanta team beat Philadelphia last night.

They are scheduled to play the Knicks in New York on Christmas Day at noon (TV: ESPN). It's one of five games that the NBA planned for the holiday.  

🏈College football's bowl season continues, though the powers that be at the College Football Playoff threw a wrench in the works when they announced the four-team playoff was now basically a battle to stay healthy. 

💔The local high school football community is reeling from the news that Roswell High School quarterback Robbie Roper died after complications from a routine surgery.

Roper was 18. Roswell principal Robert Shaw said, "Robbie was a respected, well-liked student, and a leader in our football program. This is a very difficult time for our RHS family.”
4. Checking in on Roswell High

I'm sending extra ❤️❤️ to the Roswell High community this holiday weekend.

From one school newspaper editor to another, I wanted to shout-out the staff of their student newspaper, the Sting, for their work this year. Here are three interesting stories they’ve covered this semester. 

🅐 Their ultimate feature this year was a story about a local restaurant Rhea’s, whose history and warm atmosphere has helped unite the local community since its creation. Definitely worth a read and a meal from Rhea’s when you’re in the area!     

🅑 The Opinions team at the school is also pulling their weight. If you’re looking for a deep dive into my generation’s icons, you should read this article which compares Paris Hilton of the 2000s to 2021 YouTube sensation Emma Chamberlain.  

🅒 Lastly, I’d check out this story from September 23, where Krysta Shwab details Atlanta’s rising crime rates and the school’s reaction.
5. Talking it out: Hopebound

🕊️ Today, we highlight local nonprofit Hopebound, which is focused on offering mental health resources to Georgia students.

Dealing with students experiencing burnout and often severe mental illnesses, Hopebound focuses on helping those who can't readily access therapy or mental health aid by connecting them with their medically trained staff. From monthly caregiver resources to weekly teletherapy sessions, the nonprofit gives underprivileged students the materials they need to heal. 

“Hopebound isn’t too good to be true,” said founder Christina Guilbeau. “We provide our services at no or very low cost because our supervised clinicians are pursuing licensure. Our mission is to make mental health support more accessible to adolescents in need.”

Using funds from the 2019 Stanford Social Innovation Fellowship, the service has helped 42 students and counting, with clients reporting an average 21% increase in mental health functions. Hopebound will work with a virtual group at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta this January. 

Read Clare S. Richie's story at this link to learn more about Hopebound’s efforts. 
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