Wednesday, September 30, 2020
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Student news roundup, Florida, Sept. 1

Zooming in style back “at” school

Many schools in Florida are in a virtual learning mode as the 2020-21 school year opens. This means students and teachers are becoming proficient with online tools such as Google Meets and Zoom. At Gulliver Preparatory in Miami, where a school uniform and dress code ordinarily apply, school from home comes with a few bonuses. “There are a few silver linings to this, one of them being that students will have the opportunity to dress comfortably and express their personal style in the online classroom,” writes Sabrina Bierman, social media editor for The Raider Voice, the student newspaper at the school.

But there’s a downside to the pandemic as well. School staff, students, and their parents have had to undertake a massive effort to ensure learning continues whether students are online or in a school classroom that looks like something no one alive is likely to have ever seen. Ansley Morris at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton writes in The Gauntlet about all the new things students will see: everybody’s wearing masks, hand sanitizer is everywhere, and lunchroom workers have an entirely new way of preparing meals for students.

But if anything is true of high school students , they face uncertainty about online school with excitement, despite how the whole virtual reality takes a lot of the fun out of learning. “We had been off for so long after three months of summer and some months of virtual school, [that] even though we were coming back virtually, I was pretty excited,” Danny Amron in The Catalyst quoted one sophomore at Ransom Everglades School in Miami as saying. “And then I realized after the first three days of school that there is absolutely nothing to be excited for. Ransom is doing a great job, but the virtual thing is really not fun.”

Black Lives Matter and student activism

The Black Lives Matter protests may be the largest movement in US history, The New York Times reports. Madeline Kwan and Samantha Malcolm in The Oda Bolt, the student newspaper at Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota, provide a perspective on two students at the school, a junior and a senior, who say the BLM movement and demands for racial justice inspired their participation in the protests. “I do understand that when you put yourself out there in the public eye, when you are voicing your opinions, people will disagree,” they quoted one student as saying. “But the ignorance, the anger in these people, the complete lack of respect for human life, that is where I draw that line. My experience in these marches was overall beautiful and exciting; they gave me a look into a world that I hope one day we will have, a world where we can all come together and fight for the right thing, even against hatred and anger.”

The movement inspired a mural in Miami, reports Lucas Giron in The Chat, the student newspaper at Pembroke Pines Charter High School. But Paula Lillquist reports on a student at the school, an activist who prepped herself for the protests, who knows there’s more to it than a piece of art. “Going to a protest isn’t something you do for an adrenaline run or to take Instagram pictures for,” she quoted one student activist who had attended BLM protests as saying. “These are people marching for our lives. This isn’t and will never be fun. Actively educating yourself and people around you makes so much more of a difference than posting a black square and logging off.”

Being an activist and a teenager can be challenging in normal times, but during the pandemic, a whole new set of challenges presents itself. But, “the world has seen our generation take charge and make a difference in many areas, including the Black Lives Matter Movement, Lebanon relief, and the Yemen Crisis,” reports Shea Brandau in The Seminole Newspaper at Seminole High School in Sanford.

And while activism is challenging, Arielle Germeus, a Black student at Miami Country Day School, a predominantly white school, writes in The Spartacus about her anxiety that she will suffer from both racism and misogyny. “Fear is what I feel. It’s the type of ancestral fear passed down from generation to generation. It’s the type of fear no other group of people will feel. It’s the type of fear for my younger brother who will get his license soon. It’s the type of fear I feel for my mother whose pain may be ignored when she goes to the hospital. It’s the type of fear I feel for myself when I fall asleep in the comfort of my bed in my own home and I wonder, Am I next? Will I just end up being another name?”

Profiling new school leaders

“Education is a beautiful field, and it is so rewarding to be able to have so much impact on children and adults,” says Addison Davis, the new superintendent for Hillsborough County Schools, for a feature story by Anna Woodward, online managing editor for RHS Today, the student newspaper at Robinson High School in Tampa. Instead of going to work in the family business—construction and roofing—Mr Davis was inspired by a teacher as a freshman in college to pursue a career in education. “We’ve all been touched by that [special teacher]—one that helps us … not only inside the classroom but outside the classroom as well.” He told the paper he wants to “be a life coach, help [students] navigate through barriers and find true consistent pathways that help them become efficient, effective citizens within society.”

There’s a new principal at Coral Gables High School, and the Language Arts Department has a new head, report Chase Bagnall-Koger and Natalie Abrahantes in two separate stories for The Cavs Connect student newspaper.

NASA launch blasts into history

NASA made history this summer with the launch of two astronauts in a rocket built by SpaceX, a commercial aerospace company. With the Kennedy Space Center being in Florida, we expected to find coverage of this historic accomplishment, and we did. Sara Ward writes about her personal experience at Cape Canaveral on the day of the launch in The Greyhound Growl at Lyman High School in Longwood.

On the other side of the peninsular state, the two astronauts splashed down into the Gulf of Mexico on August 2. Martin Gonzales reports on the splashdown in The Blue and Gold student newspaper at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach.

Summer cheer and other entertainment

The cheerleading squad at Immaculata-La Salle High School in Miami brought back the first state championship in a team sport last year and hopes to continue the new tradition this year, reports Victoria Betancourt in the Royal Courier, the student newspaper. In order to boost their chances, the squad continued working out over the summer using—what else?—Zoom. “My favorite part about this was that it was a fun way for the girls to get to know each other in a fun way asking some random questions,” head coach Coral Buxeda was quoted as saying about a truth-and-lie game the squad played in breakout rooms on the platform one night.

The internet is also good for streaming movies, of course. Disappointed with the offerings on subscription-based services like Netflix, some students at Hagerty High School in Oviedo turned to free-download sites, which don’t take high school students in search of entertainment long to discover. Complete with an infographic about movie and music piracy, Zoey Young quotes one student as saying that “Netflix is alright, but I’d say like 90 percent of the shows and movies on there are garbage. It’s a huge money sink and not worth it at all.”

So, some students turn to books. At Oviedo High School in the same city, entertainment editor Elliott Siress considers the “Arc of a Scythe” trilogy, which includes Scythe, Thunderhead, and The Toll, all by young-adult fiction author Neal Shusterman. The trilogy, he writes, is “a gripping utopian/dystopian story which throws the ever-looming threat of death out the door, distorting our modern understanding in order to tell a story of ethics, beliefs, morality, and the consequences of societal perfection.”

The changing of certain traditions

Writing about the changes from COVID-19 during this, her senior year at Cypress Creek High School in Wesley Chapel, Lauren Stallworth recalls the first day of school. “Perhaps even stranger than these new rules such as wearing masks and not being allowed to hug and touch one another, is the fact that in all but one of my classes, half of the students were Zooming in,” she writes. “It felt very strange for some of us to be together, while others were simply one of many electronic squares. Friends I’ve sat in class with for years, now miles away.”

At Palm Harbor University High School, seniors are accustomed to buying their own private parking spaces, and tradition has it that they can paint those spaces as they would like. Except this year, the school didn’t really have a chance to dole out the parking spaces, so when seniors drove to campus, their parking spaces still had the work of last year’s seniors, writes Erin Behrmann in The Eye, the student newspaper. And what can Homecoming at Palm Harbor University High be expected to look like for these seniors? Allyson May asks that question and wonders whether there will even be a Homecoming in “The Mystery of Homecoming.”

Finally, eating lunch used to be something students at West Shore Junior/Senior High School in Melbourne looked forward to: They could pick the lunch period, which meant they would choose to have lunch around a table with friends who would make the same choice about lunch. But having tables that are distanced from others is just one part of the problem, reports Aytek Abdulla in the West Shore Roar. Because of the pandemic, students can’t choose their own lunch period but are assigned a lunch period based on their third-period teacher. Those assignments aren’t often with the friends they would have chosen. “It’s pretty dumb because it’s not actually accomplishing anything except separating friends,” one freshman was quoted as saying. “That may be the point, but most people are still sitting with others and are not socially distanced.” One more piece of social contact that COVID-19 has suspended in our lives!

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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