Sunday, August 14, 2022

Student news roundup, Illinois, Sept. 21


Student carjacked at gunpoint

A student at Niles West High School, who remains unidentified because of the nature of the incident and his status as a minor, was sitting in his parked car, in the driveway of a friend in the town of Morton Grove, when he was forced at gunpoint to turn over his wallet and Mercedes to an armed man wearing a mask and a hoodie. The carjacking, reported by Paul Karabatsos in The Niles West News, occurred on September 3, and the car was later recovered in Chicago with bullet holes in the passenger side door. “I didn’t want to test a stranger,” the victim was quoted as saying. “I was in a state of shock and wasn’t really afraid. What had just happened didn’t really hit me until after.” Morton Grove Police are asking anyone with information to give them a call.

US Marshals bring back lost kids

Another segment of law enforcement, the US Marshals Service, in addition to tracking fugitives, has also been engaged in the work of recovering lost kids, many of whom have been victims of human trafficking. Thousands of missing children have been reunited with their families by US marshals, thanks to Operation Safety Net, reports Kyra Schmidt in The Tiger Tales, the student news site at Joliet West High School. “When we track down fugitives, it’s a good feeling to know that we’re putting the bad guy behind bars,” she quoted Darby Kirby, chief of the Missing Child Unit, as saying in a statement. “But that sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to finding a missing child.”

Wildfires made worse by environmental carelessness

A social studies teacher at Antioch Community High School—who’s also the Environmental Club advisor—opines that the impact of the California wildfires could have been reduced if people were more careful with the environment, reports Lila Heilig in Sequoit Media. “We’re cutting down a lot of trees, and we are moving into areas that have historically been more pristine wildlife,” she quoted Stephen Rose as saying. “As we do that, we get rid of some of the natural barriers that hold things like wildfires in check.” Hoping to make things better, a Democratic representative and senator have proposed the Green New Deal, a plan with the goal of reducing net carbon emissions to zero through a tax on the wealthy.

Thoughts on virtual learning, teenage isolation, etc.

But the biggest story in our schools is still virtual learning due to the pandemic, a venture fraught with “high, lows, and optimism,” writes Katrina Viloria at Metea Valley High School in Aurora in Metea Media. “I really like the split schedule, where you have the A and B days,” one junior said. “[But] I think some classes should balance the work more because we end up not really doing much in class and then we get all kinds of homework.” An English teacher at the school added, “My favorite part of teaching has always been the students. It’s always been getting to work with people. Teaching is a profession of people, connections, and relationships.”

Can relationships like that form or build online? Laure Schulders at St Charles North asked that question in The Stargazer student newspaper. “I think the virtual environment is an obstacle for people to make connections,” one biology teacher said. It’s especially tough when students turn their cameras off. It’s tough for students, too. “There’s almost no point in being in the same class as your friends,” one student said, as those “quick chats before class” just don’t happen online. As a result, the relationship-building that is so much a part of high school has little chance to thrive online.

And when social interactions are reduced, it takes a toll, not only on learning but on the mental health of students, writes Lily Coleman in The Forum at the Latin School in Chicago. “As the school year begins, I still feel that loss of social connection: waving to people in the halls, introducing myself to someone new, or collaborating on school work,” one freshman said. That is, while content can be presented by teachers and perhaps learned by students online, maintaining social connections is not really possible.

But students and teachers do what they have to do. From learning to manage their time a little differently to dealing with internet or WiFi glitches, students and teachers at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates say they are adjusting to remote learning in a sort of survey article by Diya Thomas in The Conant Crier. “I also have three dogs and they bark at anything that moves, so it can be tough to focus sometimes,” one junior said. “I would say that the most surprising thing I’ve seen so far is the incredible adaptability and patience from the teachers, just because I know that they have so much going on in their own lives. To couple that with being responsible for so many kids every day is awe-inspiring.”

Being responsible for others includes wearing masks to stay safe and keep others safe. Anti-maskers are “ignorant … selfish … inconsiderate to everyone around them,” opines Sreelikhi Vangavolu in The Bear Facts at Lake Zurich High School. “By opting to not wear a mask because you lean a certain way, you are jeopardizing others’ health for the sake of supporting a certain political party,” she writes.

Express desire to return to school

And with the added stresses of remote learning and the social connections it strips from students’ and teachers’ lives, parents in some school districts are actually organizing rallies to petition school boards to resume in-person instruction:

  • Huntley High School, by Amelia Pozniak and Ellie Armstrong in The Voice
  • Naperville Central High School, by William Tong in The Central Times
By Fiona Kogan (student newspaper)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

Tributes to and thoughts about the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg abound in the student press these past few days. She was a “trailblazer,” wrote Simone Garber and Fiona Kogan in an article entitled “Notorious everlasting” in The Blueprint at Jones College Prep in Chicago. “The dawning realization that a girl raised on the streets of Brooklyn could rise to fight for Americans everywhere gave young women like us something to believe in.”

RBG was described as “a fierce and fiery champion for fairness and equality for all” by Gov Ned Lamont of Connecticut, reports Dana Balmas in The Echo student newspaper at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. RBG’s high school, James Madison in Brooklyn, New York, posted on Instagram: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of JMHS alum Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her advocacy and dedication to civil liberties, and her tremendous legacy, will live on in the hallways of Madison through our Law Institute.”

For many students (and older adults), Justice Ginsburg will forever live in history because of the sharp dissenting opinions she wrote in so many cases. In more than one case, including Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, her dissent formed the basis for new laws passed by Congress and signed by presidents. With a fond list of accomplishments in The Parker Weekly, Emma Manley remembers the “Notorious RBG” for students at the Francis W Parker School in Chicago.

And from west-suburban LaGrange, Claire Williams at Lyons Township High School says in The Lion Online that although she and her family mourned the passing of RBG deeply, they also feel great “anger and fear. Despite the fact that RBG’s ‘most fervent wish is that [she] will not be replaced until a new president is installed,’ President Donald Trump has already announced his plans to push the appointment [of her replacement] through ‘without delay.'”

Following on what RBG gave this great nation

RBG fought for women’s rights, which are really civil rights, part of which came in the passage of the 19th Amendment, which turned 100 this month. At St Charles East High School, Katie Kempff remembered that historic amendment in The X-Ray. “If we want to see change, we are going to need to be the ones to cause it—and that means using our voices and our votes to stand up and fight for what we believe in,” she quoted one junior as saying.

Framing civil rights in a new generation: police reform, BLM

Civil rights in America has often taken the form of racial equality, but never has a movement been so big as Black Lives Matter, which has been made demonstrably bigger by calls for police reform. For police officers in schools, known as school resource officers, or SROs, this is a somewhat touchy subject. At Northside College Prep in Chicago, one recent grad has been leading the fight to get SROs out of Chicago Public Schools. “Though I never experienced any harassment or abuse by SROs at Northside, I knew that Black and Brown students who had negative experiences with police felt threatened by their presence,” Aaron Cohen quotes Resty Fufunan as saying in The Warrior, the student newspaper at Lane Tech. “I felt compelled to advocate for those marginalized by police, not just at my alma mater, but all across the city.”

Indeed, Nathan Sundell at Homewood-Flossmoor High School opines in The Voyager that defunding the police would not be such a radical idea:

While defunding the police to the unknowing sounds like eliminating them altogether, that is not at all the actual nuance of the issue.

Police funds often go to their supplies and weapons they use on the job. Police forces, especially in big cities, often have high capacity assault rifles and even tanks.

When the police obtain weapons that are military grade, they often see the public as an opposing country they are at war with, instead of the people they are supposed to protect.

One school resource officer at Prospect High School in Mt Prospect, and certainly more across the state, believe that “defunding” the police because of only a few bad officers is not the right solution. Officer Lisa Schaps compared the situation to cutting healthcare because a few doctors have been sued for malpractice. She was quoted in a video news story filed by Jacob Siciliano in The Prospector Now.

Yet no one can deny the force of the BLM Movement across America, including at Hinsdale Central High School, where students, graduates, and teachers are getting involved with the movement in many ways, ranging from social media posts, to supporting Black-owned businesses, to educating and protesting. “I think the role of an ally is to daily practice and make it a habit to support, uplift, and protect Black lives through activism, action, and their attitude,” one student was quoted as saying in The Devil’s Advocate by Aminah Ahmed. “Show up to the fight and most importantly be actively anti-racist.”

And when it comes to educating oneself about racism in America, Lucia Labarre at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn discovered the bestseller Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, which was re-written based on the 2016 National Book Award winner, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. Authors Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds “shine a light on a topic that a lot of people may not be educated on and isn’t often discussed,” Lucia writes in The Raider Reports. “By informing the younger generations, we can work towards building a better tomorrow with a fully inclusive society.”

Governor declares budget will be a nightmare

Turning the focus a little more toward Illinois, Gov JB Pritzker announced a “nightmare scenario” with pending budget cuts across the board if the state doesn’t get an influx of federal money, reports Noah Range in The Tiger Times at Edwardsville High School. A large contributing factor to the budget crisis has been the decrease in revenue due to the pandemic. “This is about support for our nation’s economic recovery that only the federal government can provide, just like it did for the corporate sector already,” the governor said.

Advanced Placement deadlines and content unchanged

But school life marches on, even under a global pandemic that reached another milestone this past weekend: 200,000 deaths from Covid-19-related causes in the US. In The South Blueprint at Downers Grove South High School, Annie Le talks about one particular aspect of school life that seems to be pushing forward, unabated by the pandemic: The College Board still has a November registration deadline for AP tests this spring and has decided that all material that would normally be taught throughout an AP course is fair game. “To do it in a school year in which half of the country’s students are still required to follow a remote learning schedule is thoroughly tone deaf,” she writes. “Many students under remote learning schedules must cope with unstable internet and connectivity issues, which hinder their ability to immerse themselves into the class; even at its best, remote learning cannot match in-person learning.”

New grads create a new college application help service

In one northern suburb, four graduates from Lake Forest High School have launched a service aimed at helping students complete their college applications in a way that shines the most favorable light on who they are, reports Grant Huebner in The Forest Scout. “Colleges want to see what you’ve been doing with the last four years of your life,” one of the company’s founders, who’s now a freshman at Dartmouth, was quoted as saying. “We and they want to see service, clubs, research, family responsibilities; who you really are.”

Girls’ tennis is on a roll

One big part of who many students are during the four years of high school includes participating in athletics (a brief history of RBG’s involvement in an early Title IX case in New Jersey, when she was an ACLU attorney). Although Illinois has postponed seasons for many sports this year during the pandemic, a few sports are enjoying interscholastic competition, as reported by Joselind Manzano at Grayslake Central High School:

Editor’s note: Girls’ volleyball is in the spring, not boys’.

Girls’ tennis seasons, in particular, are in full swing this fall. Recently, the team from Naperville North defeated cross-town (and intra-district) rival Naperville Central, report Adam Oppenheim and Maggie Berry in The North Star at Naperville North. “It’s sort of difficult because we don’t get to do stuff like pasta parties or bagels before our matches, but it’s still nice to be out here with my friends and I’m glad the season still happened,” one senior was quoted as saying after sweeping their opponents, 7 matches to 0.

The team at Normal Community, a few hours south of Naperville, has the season off to a winning start, having won 7 of 8 meets so far, report Eli Schneider and Olivia Plangger in The Inkspot. Their match Thursday recognized seniors Varsha Naraharasetty and Lexie Wells. Wells is a second-year varsity player who came to Normal after being an MVP at Evanston Township. “This team has made me more supportive, outgoing, and team-oriented. I would not be who I am today without them all,” she was quoted as saying.

But there is not a single aspect of school life that hasn’t had its normal routines upended by Covid-19 this year, including girls’ tennis. Grayslake North head coach Jill Tomasello said, “Everything takes just a little bit longer than what we normally would do,” for an article by Varun Gullapalli in The Knight Times. “When students come, we have to do their thermometer checks; we have to ask them a series of questions; we have to record all those answers; we have to make sure that we’re sanitizing before we enter the courts; we have to make sure that we sanitize every 15 to 25 minutes before we’re back on the courts.”

Fall play will be an all-remote one

Like athletics, fine arts programming in schools has made just a few adjustments. The fall play at Lakes Community High School in Lake Villa will be a fully remote production, live-streamed on October 15, 16, and 17, reports Lilly Hoy in Lakes Student Media. She Kills Monsters, which is about a high school student who adjusts to high school life after the death of her sister, was “actually written specifically for a virtual format,” director Daniel Esquivel was quoted as saying. “I’m happy that we were able to produce this show in a way we never would have been able to before. The actors will perform in their own homes, except for one final pre-recorded scene where we needed a little bit more magic.”

A French foreign exchange student

Meridan Senior High School in Macon welcomes a foreign exchange senior from a suburb about 30 minutes from Paris, France, reports Haley Grimes in The Meridian Daily. “I decided to be an exchange student in America because it was my dream for five years,” she was quoted as saying. “Actually, I wanted to improve my English level, discover a new way of learning, a new culture, and a new way of living the daily life and thinking.” Of course, the pandemic will keep her away from what would be a typical football game, with all its high-fiving and less-than-sanitary concession stands, or Homecoming dance. But “we travel not to escape life, but for life [not] to escape us” is one anonymous quote that inspires her, and at the end of all this, we may discover that our lives have been forever and unpredictably marked by the inescapable virus, protests, and election.

Phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere may be a sign of life

Finally, scientists have discovered phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus, which might possibly be a sign of microbial life on the planet, reports Kian Pfannenstiel at Orion High School in The Scarlet Ink. “The thing about phosphine is that the only way we know how to make it is biologically. There are certain microbes that produce the gas, but there seems to be no other way to produce it, which leads us to believe that these microbes may exist on Venus,” Kian writes, somewhat incredulously.

Paul Katula
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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