Friday, September 17, 2021

Student news roundup, Illinois, Sept. 8


Alleged Kenosha shooter doesn’t attend Antioch Community

The town of Antioch, in northern Lake County, Illinois, is about as close to Kenosha, Wisconsin, as an Illinoisan can get. A 17-year-old who during the protests in Kenosha allegedly shot three people, killing two, lives in Antioch. But, as Kaitlyn Howe reports in Sequoit Media, he is not a student at Antioch Community. Students were advised to expect an increased police presence as the school year opened, though, around the school and in their communities.

The shooting exacerbated ongoing protests around the country, not all of them peaceful, including a protest by professional basketball players, as reported by Daniel Garrison at Edwardsville High School in The EHS Tiger Times.

Yes, it’s an election year

Leaders in both political parties have spoken at great length about the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet that movement isn’t the only subject that reveals deep hypocrisy within each party. Brendan Burke took note of the pettiness in “The Rise of Partisan Hypocrisy” in the student newspaper at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect.

We have just two months until the election, one that will decide the future of the nation, opines Jack Garrigus in The Prep, the student newspaper at Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

A decision pending in the current administration—banning the app TikTok, which “allows you to express yourself in many different and creative ways”—doesn’t sit well with some young people, who have used the app to find their passion. “TikTok has changed my life for the better to just lighten up the mood a little and not take myself or life too seriously sometimes,” reporter Vasi Urs-Juffa quotes a chemistry teacher at Rolling Meadows High School as saying in The Pacer student newspaper.

Performing arts during the pandemic

Yet others find their passion in the performing arts, which have assumed new places in our lives during the pandemic—crowded theaters have been frowned upon or outlawed since March. “We as a department are not planning on holding any live performances anytime soon,” the chorus director at The Latin School in Chicago said. The school will not allow musical instruments to be played inside the building, so the band director said she would use the computer program Smart Music to allow musicians to “play and record themselves with professional musicians.” McLaine Leik has the full story in The Forum.

Or, you could try adapting your performing arts programs in a more comprehensive way. At St Charles North High School, drama students will be putting on a fall play, just as they would in a non-pandemic year. But given the pandemic, it’ll be a radio play, reports Ryan Halston in The Stargazer student newspaper. “The stories feature spies, murder, love, and other trademarks of Hitchock’s films, and each story is told in the style of an old 1940s radio broadcast, complete with vintage commercials,” said Natalee Hryniewicz, who will be directing the play.

Other new things

There’s always something new to discover. For example, a new class in iOS coding, using the SWIFT programming language, will be offered at Lake Zurich High School, teaching students to develop iPhone apps, reports Jane Yu in Bear Facts, the student newspaper at the north-suburban high school.

Downstate, Mount Vernon High School welcomed a new superintendent this year: Melanie Andrews, who is also the president of the Greater Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. “I want to build on the business community connections MVTHS already has in place and strengthen those. I also want to continue to build upon the great sense of pride and community that MVTHS students, staff, parents, etc., have with this great school,” Kaylee Lemons quoted her as saying in Vernois News.

Minor downsides of the pandemic

Two student-athletes at The Latin School in Chicago tested positive for COVID-19 using a rapid test, which tests only for the presence of proteins related to the coronavirus in a nasal swab. Yet the more accurate tests for genetic material came back negative about a week later. This created a “window of opportunity,” writes Peter Jones in The Forum, for the company that makes the test to rake in $150 per test for every person those student-athletes came into contact with as they waited for the results of the more accurate but more prolonged test. Although no motive for the false positives is assumed and health officials consulted for the story treat any positive test, whether rapid or not, as an infection, it seems unlikely that two false positives would happen at the same school if quality control measures are in place.

Then, there’s the “Zoom bomb,” which is when an uninvited person hacks in to your Zoom meeting or class session. Zoom bombings are indeed a new class of classroom prank, a new level of classroom distraction. “Last year, many teachers claimed that the biggest distraction in a classroom was a cellphone; now it’s a random person joining your online class and flashing everyone,” writes Teagan Smith in The Blueprint, the student newspaper at Downers Grove South High School. The district took steps to prevent Zoom bombing, but those steps require students to go through a more extensive credentialing process.

Libertyville High School’s student newspaper, Drops of Ink, also has a Zoom bombing report by Pavan Acharya. The District 128 head of communications was quoted as saying the Zoom bombings “contained very disturbing racial slurs and graphic sexual language.”

Zoom bombings aside, WiFi issues, both in students’ homes and for teachers working in the school building at York Community High School in Elmhurst, disrupted online learning every day during the first week of school. But despite expressing a general discontent with the inability to “connect” with teachers and fellow students, both over the internet and interpersonally, and the unavailability of resources, such as industrial tech equipment, computer labs, or music rooms, many students surveyed said they enjoyed being able to sleep in, take classes in their bedrooms, and finish the school day just after noon, according to a summary by Lucy Valeski in This Is York.

Similar reactions to eLearning were reported from Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. “I don’t like it as much as being in a classroom because it’s a lot harder to focus,” reporter Diya Thomas quoted one sophomore as saying in The Conant Crier. “There are more distractions at home. It’s also harder for me to put my phone down or not be watching Netflix. The plus side is how much more free time I have, though.”

Summer camp with masks

One student at the Francis W Parker School in Chicago wrote about her experience at a summer camp that included “daily temperature checks, an altered dining situation, and having to wear a mask while walking around camp.” Mia Bronstein writes in The Parker Weekly that she felt lucky that the camp was even open during the pandemic—many camps just shut down for the summer. She “wouldn’t change my experience of camp life with the coronavirus for anything,” she wrote.

Pandemic effect on economy

While camps had a tough time opening this summer, many businesses have closed for good or significantly curtailed operations. This means people who once worked in those businesses have seen a reduction in their incomes, writes Maddie Johnson at Minooka High School in The Peace Pipe Chatter student newspaper. “My paychecks were short about $200,” she quoted one recent graduate of the school as saying.

The economic impact has also hit students, many of whom are accustomed to finding summer jobs when school gets out. One place students at Niles West High School in Skokie often find summer jobs is at a local pool, where lifeguard hours have been scaled back because of the much lower occupancy and use rates for the facilities. “On a regular summer day, we would be scheduled to work six- to 10-hour shifts, sometimes 13 hours,” Davis Mati quoted one student who was working as a lifeguard as saying in Niles West News. “But to limit the chance of getting sick, we now only work three- to six-hour shifts. Sometimes 10 on a weekend.”

Financial literacy: return on college investment

Just a few years down the road, many students will graduate from college. Ensuring they have enough earning power to cover student loans is exercising sound financial literacy, writes Justin Klonoski in The Prep at Loyola Academy. Many options are available for those who might want to pursue their passion in college and still give themselves an opportunity for high-paying jobs thereafter, he writes.

Stars among us

Finally, even during the pandemic, we find reports of two performing arts celebs in Illinois schools. Sylvia Kollasch is a 17-year-old senior at Lake Forest High School, and she just released her debut album, reports Carley Walker in The Forest Scout. “Honestly, it really depends on the mood I’m in,” she said when asked about the process she uses to write her own songs. “I don’t set aside time once a day to write songs. For me, a song idea really just comes out of nowhere. I could just be sitting in my bed watching Netflix, and all of sudden I get this idea. Then, I grab my guitar or go to the piano and start playing some chords. It’s mostly about inspiration I get in a moment; the moment usually comes out of nowhere.” She says one of her inspirations has been Taylor Swift, who dropped a surprise album entitled “Folklore” in July.

And Alexa Tan, a senior at Palatine High School, auditioned for and got a part in The Chi, a Showtime coming-of-age series that is set in a Chicago south side neighborhood. She told Elyssa Reed in The Cutlass that she pulls a lot of all-nighters to balance acting and schoolwork and that her auditions downtown were somewhat cutthroat, especially in front of the director. “At auditions when you see all the other girls sitting in the waiting room for the same job you’re going for, it does get a little bit intimidating,” she was quoted as saying, “especially because you’re up against people with a lot more experience.”

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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