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Dedication of Mantegna Court Set for January 26

Blair Academy will honor veteran boys' varsity basketball head coach Joe Mantegna and his wife, Shelly, on Friday, January 26, at the dedication of Mantegna Court. The event begins at 6:45 p.m. in Hardwick Hall's performance gym and will be followed by an exciting basketball matchup as the varsity boys take on Phelps School at 7:30 p.m. The entire Blair community is invited to attend this spirited athletic evening; please register here.

"Coach Mantegna has played a pivotal role in the lives of the many students and athletes he has worked with throughout his time at Blair," said Director of Athletics Paul Clavel '88. "He is not only passionate about the game of basketball but also about instilling good work ethic and character in all his players. We are proud to take this opportunity to recognize him."

The naming of Mantegna Court is part of the School's ongoing fundraising efforts on behalf of Blair's boys' basketball program. Commitments from generous donors totaling more than $140,000 toward a $150,000 goal will fund the Blair Boys' Basketball Endowment and locker room upgrades, in addition to the naming of the court for a coach who is deeply respected by the entire Blair family.

Coach Mantegna joined Blair's faculty in 1999 and has since built the boys' basketball program into a national prep school powerhouse. During his years as varsity head coach, Blair has won nine Mid-Atlantic Prep School (MAPL) titles and has competed 12 times in the New Jersey prep "A" state finals, earning state titles in 2009, 2011 and 2014. More than 40 Blair players have gone on to compete at Division I schools, and three former Bucs, Royal Ivey '00, Luol Deng '03 and Charlie Villanueva '03, advanced to careers in the NBA.

Beyond Blair, Coach Mantegna is highly regarded on the national and international basketball scene, having annually run and lectured at camps in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. In 2014 and 2016, he served as defensive coordinator for the U.S.-Select U-18 team in the U-18 World Championships at the Albert Schweitzer Games in Germany. This year, he is head coach of that same U.S.-Select squad. Additionally, Coach Mantegna serves as coaching consultant for the Luol Deng Foundation, and he teams with his former player to run the basketball instruction at both the Deng Top 50 Camp in London and the Luol Deng Invitational Camp for student athletes of South Sudanese descent, which is held in different venues around North America. He also hosts the annual College Coaches Roundtable each June on Blair's campus.

A 1991 graduate of Ithaca College, Coach Mantegna serves as Blair's associate dean of college counseling and director of testing. He and Shelly are the proud parents of Jake '19, Lula '20 and Xavier.


International Weekend Celebrates Blair's Global Community

On January 13, the Blair community embraced its diversity by sharing cultural and culinary delicacies and traditions at International Weekend. Saturday evening's festivities once again included a buffet featuring a wide range of ethnic foods and a fashion show highlighting music and apparel from around the globe.

This year, 15-plus countries were represented during the festivities, coordinated by Blair International Awareness Club (BIAC) leaders Brandy Zhang '18 and Rachel Ninomiya '19. New additions to the evening included the Classics Club hosting a food table showcasing Greek culture and cuisine, as well as the West Indian Dance Club instructing students in dance following the fashion show.

"International Weekend is special because students bond over the creation of dishes from their cultures or home countries," said language teacher and BIAC advisor Maria Bowditch, who is helping to organize the event for the 23rd year. "The evening is such a collaborative affair, one that would not happen without the enthusiasm of the language faculty and students. Many other faculty members kindly open their kitchens to students who want to cook that Saturday. I am also grateful each year for the numerous parents who host tables with delicacies to share and artifacts to view."

International Weekend 2018 was a great opportunity to see "beautiful traditional clothing that we don't see everyday worn by their own friends and faculty," added Samantha Tsang '19, who coordinated this year's fashion show. "The apparel aside, my favorite part of the International Weekend festivities is all the exotic food that the community prepares for dinner—there are so many different kinds of cuisine from all around the world."

Going around the various food tables and sampling cuisine from different countries is also the aspect of the Saturday-night bazaar that Rachel has most enjoyed during her time at Blair. She has also appreciated the personal nature of the fashion show. "It is special because all of the models are from the Blair community—not just students, but also cute faculty children!—and spectators have the chance to support their friends as they share with the community their native-country clothes."

Junior Parents Visit Campus to Learn about College Admissions

Saturday, January 20, marks Blair's annual Junior Parents' Day, during which parents will be introduced to the college admission process and learn about Blair's college counseling philosophy.

Parents of the class of 2019 will be welcomed by Head of School Chris Fortunato and Lew Stival, Blair's veteran dean of college counseling who has guided hundreds of students through the college admission process over the last three decades.

Guest speaker Kate Jacobson, who has served as associate dean of admission at Franklin & Marshall College since 2010, will take the stage in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts' DuBois Theatre to discuss selective college admission and answer questions from the audience.

Junior parents will also have the opportunity to hear from Evan Wessler, a representative from Method Test Prep, about the School's online test prep offering. Members of the class of 2019 will also meet with Mr. Wessler on Friday, January 19, to learn about the program.

Both guest addresses will be livestreamed for parents who are unable to make the trip to campus to attend Junior Parents' Day. To watch these events online on Saturday, January 20, click here. Ms. Jacobson speaks at 9:10 a.m., and Mr. Wessler will join the audience at 10:15 a.m.

Next, a student panel of current Blair seniors will convene in Armstrong-Hipkins to discuss their own experiences in the college admission process before parents attend breakout sessions with their child's college counselor to discuss the details and logistics of the applying to college.

"Most of all, we want parents to know they can use us as a primary source of support throughout their child's college admission process," said Mr. Stival, who added that there can be many competing voices and opinions that complicate the admission process for students and parents. "We can provide helpful, Blair-specific information. Because we know our students and understand their unique situations, we are best suited to guide them."

Seminar Brings Class of 2021 Together to Talk Wellness, Character, Design & Fabrication

As the class of 2021 returned to campus following winter break, students resumed their usual campus routines, including twice-weekly meetings of the Freshman Seminar, a new program designed to educate students in three modules: health and wellness, "Blair 101," and design and fabrication.

Formerly known as CHAT, the Freshman Seminar is a unique offering at Blair that exposes ninth-graders to a host of eclectic topics: how to live well and take care of yourself, navigate campus life, develop your character, explore your values, and achieve a basic comfort level with design and "making." Perhaps what students like most about the year-long class is that they learn with the same peer group as they switch modules from September to May. The class also includes a Monday-evening study hall component designed to provide students with the skillsets necessary to be efficient and resourceful learners at night.

"Our goal is to instill in freshmen an understanding of how to live healthy lives, get to know themselves better and succeed at Blair," said Andee Ryerson, associate dean of students, who team-teaches the health-and-wellness module with Erin Fortunato, wife of Head of School Chris Fortunato. "And, this year, with the opening of the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration (CIC), we incorporated a new design-and-fabrication module so that every student has a fundamental understanding of how to use maker space equipment. The goal is to ensure student makers are prepared for future class assignments that utilize the CIC's cutting-edge technologies."

In the maker space, freshmen are given multiple opportunities to explore their creativity and independence in projects that use design software, the vinyl cutter, t-shirt press and laser cutter. "My freshman seminar cohort has really bonded, and I've gotten to know people I wouldn't otherwise have had an opportunity to become as close to," said current health-and-wellness student Kaki Jacobs '21, who completed the design-and-fabrication module this fall and credited the CIC's "encouraging environment" with making everyone more productive.

Being paired with classmates for specific projects, like November's Peddie Day banner-making competition, has also deepened her relationships across campus. "I ended up becoming really good friends with all the other students in my group," she said. "This task is just one example of the seminar giving us the chance to meet other students we might not usually hang out with."

Promoting Well-Being & Offering Support

Whereas the idea of "making" may be new to some students, the seminar's health curriculum touches on a number of basic wellness topics, including mental health, sleep and stress, sexual health and identity, physical health, nutrition, and substance use and abuse. Mrs. Ryerson and Mrs. Fortunato also educate their classes about the resources the School offers to support students over the course of their Blair careers and who to turn to in the event they need guidance or counsel (advisors, housemasters, mentors or Health Center staff).

"Our ultimate goal is to provide clear and concrete health information, so we give students many opportunities to ask us for more information about the topics we cover, either in class or in private," said Mrs. Fortunato. "Because some issues are more sensitive than others, we offer students anonymity at the end of each session, encouraging everyone to pose any question related to health and wellness that they would like answered. And we then provide answers during the next class."

Equal emphasis is placed on considering and defining personal health values and identifying adults in the Blair community and at home who can help students figure out what is important to them, what they want in their lives, and what they are willing and unwilling to accept from others—all incredibly important determinations that Mrs. Fortunato and Mrs. Ryerson hope will help students know themselves better and set them up for success throughout adolescence and into adulthood.

Learning to Communicate & Build Relationships

Of course, each module has its own takeaway, and "Blair 101" takes a different approach in its focus on study skills, public speaking, conflict resolution, relationship building and character development.

"My goal is to help freshmen succeed at Blair while also becoming good people who are strong students, confident communicators and good friends," said veteran faculty member Carolyn Conforti-Browse '79. "Throughout the year, juniors and seniors occasionally help during planning and coaching sessions. Through this process, we get to know them better, encourage them to explore their beliefs and values, consider those held by others, and understand and accept people from different backgrounds."

That individualized approach makes students feel known and supported. John Hadden '21 credits Mrs. Ryerson, Mrs. Fortunato and Mrs. Conforti-Browse with creating a "comfortable environment where anyone can talk freely without being judged," which he says has been an essential part of the Freshman Seminar experience. Having completed the health-and-wellness module this fall, John is now taking Blair 101.

A Flexible Facility for Learning

The fact that the seminar takes place in the CIC is no accident: Faculty members and students alike have embraced the new academic facility's Collaboration Forum as an excellent gathering place for both large and small group sessions.

"Being in the CIC for class has definitely made the Freshman Seminar experience better," said Tess Whitehead '21, who is in John's cohort. "There are so many resources in the CIC that we don't have anywhere else on campus: an amazing maker space, great design labs and so much more."

In completing the health-and-wellness and Blair 101 modules, Tess has embraced the opportunity to get to know fellow students and faculty members on a deeper level, while at the same time better understanding how to take care of herself mentally and physically. She looks forward to taking the seminar's final module this spring with fine arts teacher Wendy Schiller and computer science teacher Michael Garrant.

That module will take place in the CIC's state-of-the-art maker space, where ninth graders are learning to think like innovators as they practice using design-and-fabrication tools. "A lot of this work focuses on whetting their appetites about what they can do with design and prototyping," said Ms. Schiller. "Our goal is to train students early in their Blair careers so that they know how to use the CIC's software and equipment, making it easier for teachers to get right to work as freshman advance across grade levels."

More broadly, Mr. Garrant hopes that the Freshman Seminar will generate excitement about "making" inside and outside of class. "I am most excited for the 'maker' mentality to take hold across campus," he said. "I will know that has happened when students begin to come to me with projects they want to independently execute."

Peer Tutors: An 'Added Resource' for Academic Success

A passion for teaching and a desire to harness the student-to-student aspect of teaching and learning at Blair catalyzed Apaar Anand '18 to establish the School's peer tutoring program during the spring of his junior year. Since then, the senior prefect and his co-leader, Pierce Forte '18, have devoted many hours to growing and managing the activity, and, as the spring 2018 semester gets underway, they are pleased that the program is being well-used by younger students and that more than a dozen upperclassmen have signed on as volunteer tutors.

"Blair offers a truly collaborative learning experience, and having more-experienced students work with kids who are struggling to understand a certain subject or concept reinforces that sense of collaboration," said Apaar. "I'm grateful to older students who worked one-on-one with me when I needed help, and the peer tutoring activity is the perfect way to give back for the assistance I've received."

Apaar and Pierce rely on Dean of Academics Nathan Molteni for advice to keep the activity running smoothly, as well as for communicating with teachers and housemasters about the program. Other than that, the co-leaders work independently as tutors and also as recruiters, organizers and supervisors of their fellow volunteers, all of whom are "busy people who are willing to sacrifice hours of their own study time to help others."

Most evenings, two volunteers are assigned to structured study hall and to the Insley Hall and Locke Hall dormitories. In each location, tutors provide one-on-one assistance to any student who needs help in any subject, although math, physics, chemistry and languages are the ones that come up most often. Last semester, Apaar also matched three tutors with students who requested help in specific subjects, and each pair met for an hour on a weekly basis.

Acknowledging that Blair teachers are generous with outside-of-class help, Apaar described the peer tutoring program as an added resource for students. "There's a comfort factor with a peer tutor," he said. "Sometimes it's easier to learn from a person closer to your own age, who may have struggled with the same concept you're having difficulty with not so long ago. Peer tutors are also excellent check-in resources—when you feel like you're in the mud, they can go over your notebooks and schedule and help keep you organized."

Apaar had words of encouragement for students who might be reluctant to work with a peer tutor. "The most important thing you learn at boarding school is to ask for help when you need it," he said emphatically. "This is a life skill and, the sooner you master it, the better. Blair is not cutthroat—we want you to ask for help, and we are there for you! Juniors and seniors want to see younger students succeed. In my experience, doing well academically is the key to feeling content at school. I've found that once my schoolwork is better, my whole life is better."


'Living Legend' John C. Bogle '47 Featured in Philadelphia Magazine

Chairman Emeritus of the Blair Board of Trustees John C. Bogle '47's illustrious career as founder of The Vanguard Group, Inc., is the subject of a six-page feature in the January issue of Philadelphia magazine. In "The Cult of Saint Jack," writer John Marchese traces Vanguard's growth from a "28-person investment outfit headed by an intense, crew-cut, 45-year-old Jack Bogle in 1975" to a "giant money supertanker" on track to have $5 trillion in assets by the end of 2017. He also touches on an interesting question: "Has Vanguard simply gotten too big?"

Interspersed with nuggets of wisdom from Mr. Bogle, who retired as Vanguard's chairman in 1999 and now heads up the firm's affiliate, Bogle Financial Markets Research Center, the article highlights "Saint Jack's" modest lifestyle and inherent frugality. It also includes an account of a recent gathering of Bogleheads in Philadelphia, where 200 "devotees to Bogle's investing philosophy of simplicity, diversification, speculation-shunning, and a long-term perspective" had the opportunity to meet and talk to their hero.

Mr. Marchese observes that Mr. Bogle is in a "peculiar situation" at this point in his life: "After he'd staked his career and reputation on an untested notion that was the financial world's version of sailing against the wind, the wind reversed. Now he's lionized as a financial sage, and the company he started has grown and prospered beyond anything he might have imagined when he reluctantly handed over control two decades ago. Yet he's unable or unwilling to quell his contrarian nature and a strong moralistic streak, and he can't help but question whether Vanguard is shipshape to weather its own phenomenal success."

The feature concludes with discussion of the challenges Vanguard faces today, and some final—and characteristically candid—comments from Mr. Bogle. Read the full story here. (Photo above courtesy of Adam Jones.)


Photography Exhibition Focuses on Mystical Element of Water

The Romano Gallery's first exhibition of 2018, opened on January 8, featured the nature photography of New Jersey artist Danielle Austen. In Echoing Cascades, the award-winning fine-art photographer focuses on the mystical element of water, exploring its movement through the interplay of light, patterns, tones and the abstract imagery it creates. Highlighted by image pairings that demonstrate the correlation between the vibrancy of color and the drama of black-and-white elements, the series will be on display through February 3. An artist's reception was held on January 11.

Having always been drawn to nature, Ms. Austen described how her nature photography reflects a desire to capture the many tranquil aspects of her journeys that are often missed by the casual observer. "I focus on documenting intimate portraits of the environment with the intent to communicate to the viewer the spirituality I envision in each moment," she said. Her investigation into the movement of water has revealed results that "can be surreal and even ethereal," she continued. "I believe these images are pathways into an unexpected depth of the natural world."

Ms. Austen received her bachelor of fine arts degree from Cornell University and worked as a graphic designer for seven years before attending the master's program in photojournalism at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Her editorial work for newspapers and magazines has been published locally, regionally and nationally, and she has exhibited her fine-art photography in dozens of juried shows in the United States and abroad.

The recipient of a host of awards, Ms. Austen garnered "honorable mentions" for the past two years in the International Photography Awards and was named a national winner of Canon's "Project Imaginat10n" photo competition in 2013. She has attended six artist-in-residency programs, including five at national parks, and her work is included in corporate and private collections.


Blair Wrestling Wins Geary Invitational


The Bucs completed another successful weekend of wrestling as they won the Geary Invitational in Oklahoma and crowned nine Blair wrestlers as champions:

106 lbs: Ryan Miller '20
113 lbs: Trevor Mastrogiovanni '20
120 lbs: Michael Colaiocco '19
126 lbs: Chris Cannon '19
132 lbs: Travis Mastrogiovanni '21
152 lbs: Willy Kaiser '18
170 lbs: Julian Ramirez '19
182 lbs: Leo Tarantino '18
220 lbs: Owen Trephan '19

Blair's second-place winners included Malcolm Robinson '18 (138 lbs.), Andrew Merola '18 (160 lbs.) and Peyton Craft '21 (195 lbs.), while Michael Madara '19 (145 lbs.) placed fourth and Kraig Correll '18 (285 lbs.) placed fifth.

"We are proud of how hard the guys competed through long travel and a different wrestling environment," said Brian Antonelli '93, Blair's head wrestling coach. "It was impressive to put all 14 wrestlers on the podium, 12 of whom were in the top two. Congratulations to Mike Colaiocco who earned another Outstanding Wrestler award. Geary was a great event as we prepare for a demanding three-week grind of wrestling ahead."

Blair wrestling's next challenge takes place on Saturday, January 13, as the team travels to Bergen Catholic for the Who's #1 Duals.


Dancers Bring Stories to Life on Blair Stage


The Blair community enjoyed an impressive performance by the Blair Academy Dancers before departing for Thanksgiving break in November, the first in a series of events that will showcase various dance styles the girls have been studying since school started in September. English teacher and trained dancer Stephanie Nicolard joined a handful of students onstage for a contemporary performance set to "To Build a Home" by the Cinematic Orchestra. In keeping with the theme of the music, the performers also assembled a small-scale cardboard house onstage.

The dancers will return to Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts later this winter to wow audiences, a feat that fits into students' schedules more easily now that dance is recognized as a team sport that fulfills Blair's athletic requirement. Since Ms. Nicolard revived Blair's dance program in 2016, the group has tripled in size: The company now has 20 members who attend daily practices and who will share their craft with the larger Blair community at a season's-end, school-wide performance.

Blending Art & Athleticism

Each dance class taught by Ms. Nicolard is a combination of technique-building exercises, choreography and performance rehearsal. The class always starts with stretching and a warm-up routine, followed by a focus on footwork, turns and jumps—a sequence that builds a solid foundation of mobility and skill. The last portion of each class is devoted to learning new choreography or rehearsing their performance as a group.

"A good dancer is a balanced dancer," said Ms. Nicolard, who began dancing at a young age with a competition dance company in southern California. Ms. Nicolard takes classes regularly at the New Jersey School of Ballet, but also tries to incorporate a variety of dance styles—from ballet and tap to hip-hop and jazz—into her own instruction at Blair. The girls will practice in each of these styles throughout the winter to build on their dance knowledge and skillset, and Ms. Nicolard plans to pull elements from each of these styles for the dancers' winter performance choreography.

"Dance is unique because it's a blend of athleticism and artistic expression," she said. "A dancer's instrument is her body, and dance requires an intense level of physical fitness to execute the movements properly."

Jasmine Mustafa '19, who began dancing at age 8 and is now on an elite competition team for a studio in West New York, New Jersey, is enthusiastic that Blair's dance program is being recognized as an athletic sport and is getting more time in the limelight this year.

"Dance is just as hard as the next sport," Jasmine said. "Everyday, we try to push ourselves more than the day before. I feel many people have this idea that dance is in some way easy, but I'd like to think that it's because when dancers perform, we have to make it look easy."

While there is a core group of advanced dancers, many of the girls who joined the dance team this winter are less experienced. Jasmine is eager to dance with a new group of girls and to share her experience and knowledge with newer dancers, and she especially enjoys how the girls "progressively get more comfortable dancing with each other" with every class and rehearsal. Most importantly, Jasmine tries to mentor the amateur dancers and impress on them the importance of confidence in the studio and on stage.

"I've come to learn that confidence is essential when it comes to performing, and this also translates to my life outside of dance," she said, noting that Ms. Nicolard reiterates this point every class.

"Dance can be freeing," Ms. Nicolard added. "People may be afraid to look silly, but there's a sense of liberation when you're able to put aside your own fears, and just dance."

A Culminating Performance & More

With a love for literature, as evidenced by her bachelor's and master's degrees in English, and teaching the subject at Blair, Ms. Nicolard plans each dance performance to tell a story. "As an English teacher, I am always looking for meaning or symbolism. If a dancer knows the story behind the movements, the performance is inherently more powerful."

"Whenever I listen to song, I automatically choreograph a dance to it in my head. After so many years of dancing, it's second nature," continued Ms. Nicolard , who envisions a dance to an acoustic version of "99 Red Balloons" for the final 2018 winter performance.

With its message that creating a community is a team effort, "it's a great analogy for a dance performance, but also for what we see happen at Blair everyday," she concluded.

Most of all, the students will be eager to showcase their dedication and hard work over the winter months at the final performance, and show the audience how much Blair's dance program has grown over the last year.

"We're not seen as much as other athletes because we don't have games or tournaments," Jasmine said, "but we're passionate about what we do, and we want to share it with our friends and teachers."

Skeptics to Welcome One of Worth's 'Power 100,' Blair's Own Vikram Mansharamani '92

It is not every day that the Blair community comes together to hear from a celebrated academic, investor and author who has lectured at Harvard and Yale and also appears among Worth magazine's 2017 "Power 100" alongside presidents, prime ministers, Supreme Court justices, and CEOs of the world's leading commercial and investment banks.

To be grouped with visionaries such as Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett, world politicians like Chinese president Xi Jinping and leading entrepreneurs including PayPal founder Peter Thiel is, of course, a huge honor, and one of many that Vikram Mansharamani '92, has received over the course of his eclectic career.

Dr. Mansharamani will return to Blairstown on January 9 to speak at the Society of Skeptics. During his presentation, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration's Collaboration Forum, he will "connect seeming irrelevant dots to help us understand and navigate the world's uncertainty." He plans to lay out the global pressures and trends that dominate today's interconnected world.

His remarks will detail his journey from Blair as a Bogle Brothers Scholar to Yale University as an undergraduate to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned two master's degrees and a PhD. More recently, Dr. Mansharamani has served as a faculty member at some of the world's most prestigious universities and an expert on global markets. He is also the bestselling author of Boombustology: Spotting Financial Bubbles Before They Burst (2011) and is currently completing another book that offers advice for "harnessing the power of a generalist approach in a world full of specialists."

His personal story is an interesting one, in part because he practices what he preaches: Worth magazine lauded Dr. Mansharamani for his "global generalist approach" and the way he uses it to "understand how worldwide trends create winners and losers." This allows him to offer advice through speeches and in a wide range of written commentary on topics ranging from geopolitics and cybersecurity to supply-and-demand trends in the salmon trade and art markets.

His ability to explain complex ideas in an easy-to-digest way led LinkedIn.com (the 500-million member online professional network) to name Dr. Mansharamani their #1 top voice for both 2015 and 2016 on the topics of money, finance and global economics.

"Although my professional work focuses on high-level trends, I am going to talk about how my work relates to Blair students," said Dr. Mansharamani, a former Harvard Kennedy School senior fellow who started the Kelan Global Opportunities Fund in 2017 to invest in the long-term trends that he has spent his career analyzing and sharing. "I want to help young people think about the future in a way that may lead them in different directions."

The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon.'65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.


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