Here’s our weekly roundup of stories published in Illinois student newspapers for the seven days ending Monday, November 30.
Pause to in-person activities
Claire Williams reports that officials at Lyons Township High School in LaGrange have suspended all in-person activities, including winter sports. “I was really disappointed to hear that winter sports were cancelled because a lot of athletes have been working very hard for their season and have been really hopeful this whole 2020,” she quoted a junior girls’ basketball player as saying. “But I think overall it was the right call for the safety of everyone.”
- “To maintain compliance with the most recent mitigations issued by Governor Pritzker that take effect on November 20, the IHSA Board issued guidance to pause all IHSA winter sports and activities by November 20,” the Illinois High School Association, which governs athletic activities at most Illinois high schools, announced.
Virtual but innovative creativity
Tinley Park High School will produce Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol as a live radio play, available to the public on December 23, the day before Christmas Eve, Jenna Skanberg reports in the student newspaper at the southwest-subruban school. “Trying voice acting out was so much fun,” she quoted an actress in her third year of Drama Club as saying. “We’re always trying new things out at drama, and this was an especially awesome experience. It was exciting to do something new, interesting, and fun with our club during Corona time! Loved everyone’s voices. Everybody worked hard, and it shows.”
The Guitar Ensemble at Oak Lawn Community High School will present a concert on Tuesday night, December 1, reports Ashley Argueta in the school’s student newspaper. (Here’s the link.) “Students were put into bands of five and they selected a section of a song they wanted to play together,” the ensemble’s director was quoted as saying. “Each student either composed or transcribed their part from the original recording. Everyone recorded a video of themselves performing their part, along with a backing track, and the videos were stitched together to showcase their arrangement.”
Watching movies has also become fundamentally different during the pandemic, William Fisher reports from Mundelein High School. But Film As Literature teacher Ryan Buck told him that he still watches movies—on streaming services, of course. “I like the escape because along with the pandemic and everything happening socially, it’s just kind of frustrating times for me personally to witness everything that’s going on in reality,” Mr Fisher quoted an English teacher at Mundelein as saying. “So to have those escapes, the escape from reality that movies provide, is helpful.”
- Gov JB Pritzker has ordered all cinemas to shut down as part of his statewide stay-at-home “advisory” on November 20, according to a report by Amon Gray at the University of Chicago Lab School.
- The companies that manage cinemas are experiencing financial woes, and AMC in Woodridge has closed its doors for good, bemoans Megan Sawatzky at Lemont Township High School.
Celebrating Thanksgiving during a pandemic
Kayla Casiano at Whitney Young Prep in Chicago tells us 18 things Puerto Rican families, such as hers, eat during the Thanksgiving holiday. Turkey is still common, as are many of the mainland sides, she notes.
- Read “The Real Story Behind Thanksgiving,” by Lauren Packard at Hinsdale South High School in Darien
At Niles West High School in Skokie, reporter Celina Saba interviewed a few students, asking how they planned to spend Thanksgiving. Most said they were planning to stay home and celebrate with their families, while one senior said she was heading to Mexico. “There was some hesitation on whether or not we should still go with Covid cases rising, but we ultimately decided to go,” she was quoted as saying. “Of course, we will be keeping all the safety precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing.”
- An Illinois State University health expert told Jonah Kramer at Normal Community High School that people should celebrate Thanksgiving only with members of their own household.
- More social distancing advice for the Thanksgiving holiday comes from Mackenzie Evans at Oak Forest High School.
- Here’s an infographic of the do’s and don’ts during the pandemic from Peter Harrison at Naperville North High School.
Editors at West Chicago Community High School warn us that “the holidays are only the beginning of the dark winter ahead,” referring to the expected surge of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. “All of these deaths could have been preventable and the millions of COVID-19 cases would have been little to nothing if we had just listened to scientists,” they write. “This dark winter ahead of us will be the beginning of another storm if the American people don’t start taking this pandemic seriously.”
During the feast (the best and worst Thanksgiving foods, by Michael Nelli in The Blueprint at Downers Grove South High School; mac and cheese won a “Best of Thanksgiving Food” contest at Homewood-Flossmoor High School), many students on restricted diets have trouble following them, especially when the same restrictions don’t apply to other family members, Maddie Cox reminds us from Plainfield Central High School. “My diet definitely affects my eating around the holidays, because at my family gatherings there are few vegan options,” she quotes one senior as saying. “My mom usually makes me my own special meals that I can bring to different holiday parties.”
Many families have found new ways to celebrate the holiday and even started a few new traditions, writes Sloane Shabelman at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview. “Honestly for our family, the food was always kind of secondary; it was all just about being in the same space with everybody else,” one student told the paper. “I know that’s going to be hard to replicate over Zoom, but we’re going to acknowledge that this [year] is different and [that’s] okay; and when we get back to things the way they were, we’re going to appreciate it that much more.”
- Similar stories from students at Riverside Brookfield, by Sadie Springer.
- Among the traditions being left behind during the pandemic is the rush to bust down the doors of shopping centers at 6 AM Friday, writes Madison O’Connell at St Edward High School in Elgin.
- Another tradition that is experiencing a pandemic-induced hiatus is the Thanksgiving Morning Exercise at the Francis W Parker School in Chicago, where students normally assemble in the auditorium on Wednesday to sing “Simple Gifts” at the “top of their lungs,” reports Benjamin Kagan.
Yes, it’s truly a “Plan B” year for those many traditions, writes Jada Harris at Deerfield High School. “There is no denying that Thanksgiving this year will be unlike any other,” she writes, “but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Families can still enjoy their turkey and pumpkin pie—even if they find themselves sitting around a smaller table than usual this year. Happy Thanksgiving!”
Balance in politics
Presenting both sides of the argument over the role the Electoral College plays in electing the US president, Paul Proteau at Riverside Brookfield High School discusses the issue in his essay titled “Should I stay or should I go? The Electoral College dilemma.”
And at Plainfield Central High School, Raven Easterly opines in her essay titled “Respect disregards political opinions” that some issues can’t be settled in a “wrong versus right” debate. “The trend we’re seeing now is that if you don’t think the same way as someone else does, you are almost ridiculed for it rather than just owning that thought and owning your perspective and agreeing to disagree without the feeling that you have to hold it in because something might happen to you if you don’t,” she quotes one guidance counselor at the school as saying.
Training future educators
Many people have left the education field during the pandemic, including hundreds of thousands of teachers. But some students at Galena High School attended an Early Childhood Education conference at Illinois State University on November 13, reports Allison Garcia, which is good news for future professionals. “I liked all the advice that the teachers gave, and how much they talked up teaching,” one junior was quoted as saying. “It showed that they enjoy what they do and their passion for it.”
At Carbondale High School, the Educators Rising Club, which gives potential teachers a feel of being a part of the teaching field, plans to spread a little “glee” this holiday season, reports Malikia Tucker in the student newspaper. Club members are using newsletters and videos to “show their peers and teachers that there is always a brighter picture to things,” she writes. “With the shortage of teachers everywhere, I thought it would be important to start generating and piquing the interest of high school students while they are still exploring career opportunities and options to go into the field of education,” she quotes the club’s sponsor as saying. “The education field needs diversity, creativity, and I believed if we expose students who are interested in working with children at a young age, we could help or provide them with experience and guidance that could make them excellent teachers.”
A passion for equality
Neha Doppalapudi at Barrington High School writes about juniors Abigail Bergan and Zach Meyer, who started a student-run club at the school called “Student Advocacy.” The club, which is mostly independent but has had some guidance from similar organizations and from one of the school’s associate principals, seeks to recognize the importance of critical thinking, or to build a foundation for critical thought, in truly understanding the “equity-related hardships that many people face on a daily basis”: The group, the two juniors hope, will create “intentionally uncomfortable” conversations and inspire others to be a “catalyst for change.”
Although not from Illinois, a piece by four separate authors at Shawnee Mission East High School in Kansas, entitled “Not a Moment, A Movement,” describes how students at a school that has a higher percentage of white students than the national average—and only a 2 percent African American population—view the Black Lives Matter movement. The authors recount several different perspectives and suggest that by looking at the movement through a different lens, we can “Listen and Unlearn.” Authors are Catherine Erickson, Rose Kanaley, Kelly Murphy, and Riley Atkinson. The Harbinger student newspaper at the school earlier this month won awards for student publications from the National Scholastic Press Association.
Election poll work
Many students stepped up to work at polling sites during the November 3 general election, filling in for older workers whose lives are more at risk during the pandemic. One such student was Julia Meyers at Guilford High School in Rockford. She volunteered with her mother, working with memory cards from scanning machines in Winnebago County. “Once we took the cards out of the machine, we placed them in a small plastic bag and they were taken to another volunteer to run the numbers. That is when all the votes were tallied,” she wrote, describing her experience. Thank you, Julia. The election, with the most votes cast in the history of the republic, was the most secure election in history (reporting by Musa Ajmeri at Glenbard West in Glen Ellyn). And it’s because people like you stepped up!
- Update (12/1): Three students and a government teacher at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire also served as election judges this year. Lily Jiang has their story in The Statesman student newspaper.